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A Variety of Veterans News from a Variety of Sources
Partnership improves care, prosthetics for wounded warriors: With a goal to improve prosthetics for wounded warfighters, the Extremity Trauma and Amputation Center of Excellence, or EACE, fosters research, collaboration, and innovation. “Our role is to build collaborative initiatives to maximize benefits for our service members and veterans,” said Jason Highsmith, a Department of Veterans Affairs employee who serves as deputy chief of research and surveillance for the EACE.
Defense News McCain to White House: No more top defense industry nominees. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain, a key congressional gatekeeper for Pentagon nominees, said he does not want the Trump administration to nominate any more executives from the top five defense firms to run the Pentagon.
Defense News US Army missile defense system destroys target in test. The U.S. Army’s missile defense system capable of taking out targets in the last phase of flight intercepted a threat target on Tuesday in a Missile Defense Agency test out of Kodiak, Alaska, according to Lockheed Martin, the system’s manufacturer.
Associated Press Events that led to arrest of Army soldier on terrorism charges. After years of red flags and reprimands by the U.S. Army, the FBI took an active-duty soldier into custody on terrorism charges over the weekend. The yearlong federal investigation that led to his arrest involved multiple undercover agents and confidential informants. Sgt. 1st Class Ikaika Kang made an initial appearance Monday in federal court.
Navy Times Navy eliminates seven collateral duties. The Navy is eliminating seven shipboard collateral duties, effective immediately, the office for Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson announced Tuesday.
Marine Corps Times Top general for aviation says the Corps needs more aircraft maintainers. Just hours before the worst Marine Corps aviation crash in more than a decade, the Corps’ top general for aviation released a retirement letter that outlined his concerns about the troubled state of the aviation fleet and the struggle to keep its planes and helicopters flying.
Stars and Stripes: Senator Calls for Emergency Funding for VA Choice Program. Tester, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, and Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., the committee chairman, called the funding shortfall a crisis during a hearing on veterans health and Tester introduced the “Veterans Access to Care Act of 2017,” which would provide $4.3 billion for the Department of Veterans Affairs to fund the Veterans Choice Program through Sept. 30, 2018, the end of the next fiscal year.
Stars and Stripes: Lawmakers: Veterans’ credit damaged by slow VA reimbursements. Forty House lawmakers signed onto a letter Monday criticizing the Department of Veterans Affairs for slow reimbursements to private-sector doctors that they say harm their veteran constituents’ credit reports. Thousands of veterans who use the Veterans Choice Program, which allows VA patients to use outside health care that is paid for by the VA, have complained their medical bills are sent to debt collectors when a timely payment is not made, according to the letter.
Bloomberg (Video): U.S. VA Secretary on Veterans Reforms, Health Care. U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Dr. David Shulkin discusses the transformation of Veterans Affairs being undertaken by the Trump Administration and offers his views as a practicing doctor on how to reform U.S. health care. He speaks with Bloomberg’s David Westin on “Bloomberg Daybreak: Americas.”
WNYC (NPR-93.9, Audio): VA Secretary David Shulkin Fights For Transparency. Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin is one of the few cabinet holdovers from the Obama administration. Shulkin — a private medical doctor who left his practice to become under-secretary of health for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs — was named by President Trump to head the organization with a rare unanimous confirmation from Congress.
New York Post: Firing hundreds at the VA should be just the start. On Friday, the Department of Veterans Affairs posted a list of hundreds of VA employees fired or punished for misconduct since the Trump administration took over on Jan. 20. It’s a good start. But not enough. The VA, which left vets to die on waiting lists for care, is a glaring example of what’s wrong with the entire civil service. It’s become a federal-employee protection racket.
Washington Business Journal: VA disciplines 66 employees in Washington region as part of new accountability effort. The disciplinary actions, made since Jan. 20, were released publicly last week following President Donald Trump’s signing of the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act. According to the list, 47 people were fired and another 19 were suspended in the service districts that encompass Virginia, D.C. and Maryland. The list is expected to be updated weekly moving forward, officials said.
Government Executive: Lawmakers, VA Eye More Civil Service Reforms After New Firing Law. Just weeks after President Trump signed into law an overhaul of how the Veterans Affairs Department fires employees, Congress is taking another crack at major civil service reforms at the agency. The proposals focused primarily on recruiting and hiring changes, such as giving the secretary greater latitude on onboarding and creating new pipelines for students and recent graduates to join VA’s ranks.
SFGate (AP): Service dogs help Iraq War Veteran in Wyoming deal with PTSD. One of the frustrations that James has with the Department of Veterans Affairs is that it won’t cover expenses for service animals for PTSD. The federal agency does pay for service animals for veterans with visual, hearing or mobility disorders, but not for former service members whose only disability is PTSD. The VA has studied the potential benefits of service animals for PTSD patients, but the agency has said that research has been inconclusive.
The Fiscal Times: Why Some Gulf War Veterans Are Being Turned Down for VA Benefits. A remarkable 44 percent of the nearly 700,000 U.S. military personnel who served in the 1990-1991 Persian Gulf War suffer from chronic symptom that include fatigue, headaches, joint pain, memory loss, neurological disorders, skin problems and respiratory disease. Yet according to a new Government Accountability Office report, these veterans are finding it considerably more difficult than others to process their claims for benefits and treatment at Department of Veterans Affairs health centers.
WWSB (ABC-7, Video): VA Launches Effort to Prevent Veteran Suicides. According to a study from the Department of Veterans Affairs an average of 20 veterans commit suicide every day. Now the VA is launching an initiative called “Reach Vet” to help prevent suicides and be more responsive to the mental health needs of patients. Kim Gillespie is just one of nearly a million veterans living on the Suncoast who aren’t getting the mental health care they need.
AZ Family: VA to end funding to shelter’s Veteran program. The largest provider of shelter and supportive services in the Phoenix Metro area appears to be losing its funding for its veterans program. The Central Arizona Shelter Services, CASS, has been helping homeless veterans since opening its doors in 1984. For many years, CASS has received funding from the Veterans Administration Grant Per Diem (GPD) program.
ExecutiveGov: GSA, VA Partner to Boost Visibility of Veteran-Owned Firms via Online Procurement System. The General Services Administration and the Department of Veterans Affairs have partnered to help VA buyers identify verified veteran-owned small businesses on GSA’s VA Advantage online acquisition platform. GSA said Monday VA Advantage will begin to show “VIP Verified Vendor” icons on products sold by veteran-owned and service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses that are listed under VA’s “Verified Veteran Vendor” database.
U.S. News & World Report Man Sentenced to 16 Months for Veterans’ Benefits Fraud. A Maine man has been sentenced to 16 months in federal prison for conspiring to illegally obtain more than $48,000 in veterans’ compensation benefits for a relative. Fifty-six-year-old David Watson Sr., of Madison, was sentenced in Bangor on Monday. He also has to pay back the money. Court records say he submitted documents to the Department of Veterans Affairs on the relative’s behalf, claiming she had suffered from mental disabilities that were connected to her service in the U.S. Army and told her how she should falsely describe her condition to VA doctors.
The Hill: Week ahead: Defense spending, Trump nominees top agenda. Congress returns from its July 4th recess on Monday and must tackle several fiscal 2018 defense bills and Pentagon nominations before the month-long August recess in three weeks. The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, the House Rules Committee and the Senate Appropriations Committee will all move forward legislation, starting with a markup of the Senate VA bill Tuesday.
Stars and Stripes Trump presses Congress on health care bill: Get it done. President Donald Trump pressed Congress on Monday to get health care done before leaving for its long August recess, even as Republican senators say the GOP effort so far to repeal and replace the nation’s health law is probably dead.
Stars and Stripes Pentagon moves to shut foreign firms out of its supply chain. The Pentagon is taking initial steps to more closely enforce so-called “Buy American” laws, elevating a series of Depression-era statutes that require manufacturers to rely on U.S. materials when they make guns, equipment, uniforms and food for the nation’s military.
Marine Corps Times The PFT and CFT can be gender neutral. Here’s how. For years, the Marine Corps has set fitness standards lower for women, a gesture of fairness based on the belief that women are inherently less strong and would be unable to meet the more rigorous requirements set for men.
New York TimesA Bipartisan Congress That Works? Veterans Committees Show How It’s Done. Magnanimous hearings. Bipartisan votes. Substantial legislation on its way to becoming law. This is Congress? Something strange is happening in the staid hearing rooms of the House and Senate Veteran Affairs Committees here this summer, though few have taken notice. As the rest of Congress fights over the health care overhaul and looming budget deadlines, the committees responsible for writing legislation affecting veterans are quietly moving forward with an ambitious, long-sought and largely bipartisan agenda that has the potential to significantly reshape the way the nation cares for its 21 million veterans. It could also provide President Trump with a set of policy victories he badly wants.
WAGM (FOX-8): Bipartisan Legislation Introduced to Streamline VA Workforce Acquisition. Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Chairman Jack Bergman (R-Mich.) and Ranking Member Annie Kuster (D-NH), along with Rep. Bruce Poliquin (R-Maine), introduced bipartisan legislation to streamline VA’s processes for workforce acquisition. “I’m proud to join Rep. Poliquin and Ranking Member Kuster in supporting this legislation that takes critical steps to improve the methods by which the VA trains, recruits, and retains top professional talent in acquisition career fields,” said Bergman.
The Hill: Humane Society pushes bills to connect wounded Vets, service dogs. The Humane Society of the United States is urging lawmakers to pass a package of bills to make it easier for veterans and service members to get therapy dogs. The bills have bipartisan support, but animal rights advocates are making a new push to get the legislation through Congress, with lawmakers nearing their August recess with an already busy docket.
Hartford Courant (Video): Service Dogs Provide Lifeline For Disabled and Veterans. Charles returned from a tour in Kuwait with PTSD and a brain injury suffered when he was thrown out of an armored truck — “invisible wounds,” he called them. He had planned on getting a master’s degree in social work at UConn and working at Veteran’s Affairs, but he couldn’t concentrate, couldn’t rid himself of flashbacks from tours in the Middle East and Bosnia in the ’90s. The nightmares were happening three to four times a week, he said.
Military.com: Quick Action Needed From Congress on VA Choice Program. Congress is returning this week from the July 4 recess under deadlines for action on an array of budget issues, including authorizing funding for the Veterans Affairs Department’s Choice program. Funding for Choice, which allows veterans flexibility in seeking private health care, will likely run out by Aug. 7 unless lawmakers act to provide a fix, according to VA Secretary Dr. David Shulkin.
Austin American-Statesman: VA releases list, but is mum on why employees were fired. The Department of Veterans Affairs last week released its first public list of fired and disciplined employees, an initiative of its newly created Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection. The list, which includes job descriptions, but not names of disciplined employees, is meant to increase transparency and accountability at the VA, which came under intense criticism for failing to adequately discipline employees responsible for secretly manipulating wait times…
Breitbart: VA Under Trump Admin Fires More Than 500 Employees, Suspends 200 for Misconduct. The Department of Veterans Affairs fired more than 500 employees and suspended nearly 200 for misconduct since President Trump’s inauguration in January, keeping true to campaign promises to clean up the agency. The VA’s accountability report released Friday noted that the agency removed 526 employees, suspended 194 employees for more than two weeks, and demoted 27 employees.
WFED (AM-1500): What VA’s now public adverse action reports don’t say about employee accountability. Some federal employee groups and experts are scratching heads over the Veterans Affairs Department’s recent decision to publish a weekly list of all major disciplinary actions for its workers. VA is the first federal agency to publish such information, and it described the decision as a step toward improving accountability and transparency at a department which has long struggled to use governmentwide disciplinary procedures to tackle entrenched cultural challenges.
Dayton Business Journal: VA cuts 70 positions across Ohio, as part of new accountability effort. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has implemented a new accountability practice whereby poor-performing employees can be removed from their jobs. And since January, the VA has fired more than 500 people across its extensive footprint. That’s the word from the VA’s adverse actions report, which was released last week.
Knoxville News Sentinel (USA Today Network – Tennessee): Veterans’ health care data could lead to rapid medical breakthroughs. Scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory are developing a secure platform for researchers to access the healthcare data of 22.5 million military veterans, accelerating the timeline for medical research breakthroughs. Scientists from ORNL’s Computational Sciences and Engineering Division started building the platform as part of the laboratory’s involvement in a national partnership between the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Energy Department.
Circa (Video): Veterans want pot and more accountability as the VA battles the opioid epidemic. In the U.S. millions of people are addicted to opioids, and the veterans’ community is no stranger to the epidemic. A recent report found the guidelines the VA had recommended to manage addiction risks when prescribing opioids had not always been followed, and though progress has been made since, some veterans think there is still a long way to go.
Managed Healthcare Executive: ICER, VA join to work on drug value, price negotiations. The Institute for Clinical and Economic Review (ICER) will work with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Pharmacy Benefits Management Services office (PBM) to facilitate their integration of ICER reports into VA’s formulary management process of evaluating the comparative clinical effectiveness and value of drugs.
The Washington Times: VA denies claims for Gulf War illness more often, study finds. Veterans claiming “Gulf War illness” are about three times less likely than other veterans to have their disability claims approved by the Department of Veterans Affairs, according to a new watchdog report Monday that recommended the agency beef up its response to the illness. The Government Accountability Office said the VA handled about 11,400 claims for Gulf War illness (GWI) in fiscal 2015, more than double the number of claims filed in 2010.
Stars and Stripes: Report: VA claims for Gulf War illness denied 80 percent of the time. The Department of Veterans Affairs denies more than 80 percent of veterans’ claims for benefits for Gulf War-associated illnesses — an approval rating three times lower than all other types of claims, according to a Government Accountability Office report released Monday. From 2010 to 2015, the VA approved 17 percent of claims – or 18,000 of 102,000 — for health care and disability compensation for veterans suffering from Gulf War Illness…
U.S. News & World Report (AP New Food Pantry at Salt Lake’s VA Already Serving Dozens. A food pantry that recently opened to help veterans in Salt Lake City is already serving dozens of people a month. The Salt Lake City Tribune reports the food pantry that opened in March at the George E. Wahlen Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center serves close to 100 veterans and their families every month.
Mount Vernon Celebrates Purple Heart Day – Monday, August 7, 2017. You are cordially invited to celebrate National Purple Heart Day at George Washington’s Mount Vernon. It is our honor to have you join us as we commemorate the oldest military decoration in the United States at the beloved home of its founder. Here is information you might find helpful in planning your visit. http://us2.campaign-archive1.com/?u=2313d2141f19dbc004908589e&id=04795fbcf8&e=
14th Annual Elite SDVOB National Conference, August 16 – 18, 2017, Orlando, FL. Convention website here: http://www.sdvobconference.com/ Go here for Hotel Information and Reservations: