American Veteran News 03.04.2016


Veteran Kills Himself After Call To VA Suicide Hotline Goes To Voicemail — DC An Illinois veteran in distress called the Department of Veterans Affairs’ suicide hotline in July 2015, but no one picked up. So, he laid down on nearby train tracks and waited for death. The body of 30-year old Thomas Young was found July 23, 2015 after being struck by a Metra train outside of Chicago. The next day, the veteran’s phone rang — it was VA’s emergency line returning his call. Young had returned from his second tour of Iraq in 2004 with severe PTSD. He tried to go to the Hines VA hospital in Illinois for help with a drinking problem, but they turned him away, saying they didn’t have any space available since he wasn’t suicidal. His brother said he believes Young called the VA hotline on July 22 or 23. He laid down in front of a train on July 23, leaving behind a wife and two daughters. He had previously tried to kill himself by passing out on train tracks, but someone always carried him off the tracks before he was hit. He tried to go back to Hines, but was put on a wait list. The incident was revealed in a hearing Thursday by Sen. Mark Kirk , chairman of the subcommittee on VA appropriations.

VA Crisis Hotline Puts Suicidal Chicago Vet On Hold — CBS CHICAGO (CBS) — Every day 22 veterans kill themselves, and every day some of them reach out for help. But recently, as CBS 2’s Jim Williams reports, that help wasn’t there when they needed it most. Chicagoan Dedra Clady, an Army veteran, honorably discharged, was facing unemployment and mounting bills and the haunting memory of a sexual assault that happened shortly before she joined the service. Clady said her family made her feel like it was her fault, making her think there was only one way out. “I went to my kitchen, retrieved a small knife went back to my living room, sat on the floor and contemplated slitting my wrist,” she said. Clady, desperate, called the Veterans Crisis Hot Line. She said she was put on hold twice and insists an agent was never put on the line. “I’m in need of help and there’s no one here,” she said. It’s a story all too familiar to veterans’ advocates.

Legionella bacteria a deadly stain on VA — When Nevada State Veterans Home resident Charles Demos Sr. died in April 2015 with Legionella in his system, an investigation by the Southern Nevada Health District found the deadly bacteria present at the facility and in his room. A cleanup was ordered, according to health district records. And that might have been the end of the story. When news of the Demos family’s lawsuit surfaced early this year, raising the issue of whether the incident was isolated, the administrator of the Boulder City veterans retirement center was defensive and argued that the facility has more than earned its five-star rating. The local civil case is in its early stages, but one fact isn’t in question: Veterans Affairs continues to be plagued by Legionella-linked deaths at retirement homes and medical facilities across the country. That fact alone ought to at least be acknowledged by local officials who spend so much of their time defending a facility designed to offer a safe and respectable quality of life to the region’s retired military service personnel.

Wilmington VA wait times manipulated — DO A report by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ internal watchdog found scheduling errors and excessive wait times for patients seeking care at Delaware facilities, with some staff members manipulating appointment times to hide how long it was taking for patients to get seen. The 11-page document released this week was one in a series of investigations prepared by the VA Office of Inspector General in response to allegations of excessive wait times for veterans to get medical treatment. The investigations were done in 2014, in response to the controversy surrounding the Phoenix VA center, where as many as 40 patients died while awaiting care. The documents were made public following increasing pressure from federal lawmakers to improve transparency.

Connecticut Korea veteran waging long fight for Agent Orange benefits — NHR A Connecticut veteran who has spent years trying to gain Agent Orange benefits for veterans who served in Korea in 1967 has persuaded the Veterans of Foreign Wars and two other veterans’ organizations to take his case before Congress. On Wednesday, VFW National Commander John A. Biedrzycki Jr. will ask Congress to pass a law requiring the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to grant VA health care and compensation to veterans who served in Korea in 1967 if they have illnesses linked to Agent Orange. Biedrzycki’s prepared testimony states that current VA rules exclude many veterans “who now suffer from diseases and illnesses that have been directly linked to the chemical defoliant.” Carlos Fuentes, VFW senior legislative associate, said documents provided by Army veteran Eugene Clarke of Redding swayed the national organization to seek the benefits change through Congress. The documents include proof of test spraying of defoliants in Korea in 1967 and of veterans’ exposure to Korean government spraying. Fuentes said VFW efforts to convince the VA to change its policy have been unsuccessful. The VFW claims 1.4 million members.

Post Falls man wants to be ‘Atomic Veteran’ — KREM POST FALLS, Idaho – Jeff Fortin of Post Falls wants to become an “Atomic Veteran.” Right now, These are U.S. Military service members exposed to radiation in the 40’s and 50’s during nuclear testing and at bomb sites in Japan. The federal government eventually acknowledged those veterans had high incidents of cancer as a result of their service and provided extended benefits and compensation. But Fortin isn’t classified as an Atomic Veteran. He’s part of a different group of veterans claiming they’re getting sick, too. They’re service members who came in years after nuclear testing to clean up the radioactive debris. In the late 1940’s and 50’s the U.S. military tested scores of nuclear bombs in the tropical Enewetak Atoll in the South Pacific. The nuclear contamination would remain until the late 1970’s when the U.S. government hauled in service members to cleanup Enewetak and surrounding islands, including Fortin.

House appropriator casts doubt on VA funding increase — MT A key House appropriator hinted Tuesday he may block another funding increase for the Department of Veterans Affairs next year, noting more than a decade of steady spending boosts for veterans programs. Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pa., who chairs the Appropriations veteran affairs subcommittee, called the White House request for a $3.6 billion hike next year “a real heavy lift in the current environment” and “a non-starter.” He also questioned the department’s overall strategy of trying to build up staffing and infrastructure to deal with increased health care demands from veterans. “In my view, the VA would serve veterans better if it contracted more with existing private providers, rather than try and establish an in-house capacity,” he told department leaders at a budget hearing Wednesday. “It seems like VA has chosen the route of increasing everything … without a long-term strategy defining what these approaches should be.” House Republicans and VA leaders sparred for most of last year over similar fiscal issues, with lawmakers advancing a spending plan $1.4 billion below what White House officials insisted was needed to keep pace with programming needs. That money was eventually restored in the final budget deal.

New program to help veteran’s families obtain benefits — WT TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) – State health and Veterans’ Affairs officials are teaming up in a new program aimed at helping veterans’ families obtain benefits. The Department of Health said Wednesday that Florida is one of the first states to develop a program giving funeral directors the ability to notify the certifying physician that the decedent may have a service-connected disability. The veteran’s spouse or other family members may be entitled to VA compensation and other benefits if the service-connected condition was the underlying cause of death or a contributing factor. Survivors need a death certificate indicating the cause of death was service-connected when applying for the benefit. Florida has one of the largest veteran populations in the U.S. with more than 1.5 million.


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