VETERANS SUICIDE: ‘WE MUST AND WILL DO MORE,’ VA SAYS — Veterans Affairs Department officials said Tuesday they will make several changes to the department’s suicide prevention programs as part of ongoing efforts to reverse the tide of suicides among military veterans. Following recommendations made by veterans advocates and suicide prevention groups at a veterans suicide summit in Washington in February, VA officials said they will improve mental health services to include providing same-day evaluations and access to care for veterans who need immediate help. According to a press release on the changes, the VA also will establish three regional telehealth hubs focused on mental health treatment and provide additional resources to the VA suicide prevention program office.
VA GIVES DEADLINE TO VETERANS WHO HAVE APPLIED FOR HEALTH CARE — The Veterans Affairs Department has figured out how to fix a backlog of health care applications that dates back at least four years: Enforce a law requiring veterans to furnish the necessary paperwork, or the applications will be closed. In a press release issued on Monday, VA officials said the department will “extend the healthcare enrollment application for one year” to 545,000 veterans who have applied for VA health care to allow time for VA to contact them and for the veterans to furnish the required information. By law, VA must notify applicants with incomplete applications, and if the veteran receives the notice but does not provide the information, the department closes the request.
WITH MORE FUNDING, VA TO COVER VETS REQUIRING HEPATITIS C TREATMENTS — The Veterans Affairs Department said Wednesday it will now be able to cover the costs of caring for all veterans with hepatitis C for the current fiscal year, regardless of the stage of the patient’s liver disease. VA Under Secretary for Health Dr. David Shulkin said the expanded care is the result of increased funding from Congress as well as reduced drug prices. The department last year allocated $696 million for new hepatitis C drugs, accounting for 17 percent of the VA’s total pharmacy budget. In fiscal 2016, which began Oct. 1, the VA expects to spend about $1 billion on hepatitis C drugs. “We’re honored to be able to expand treatment for Veterans who are afflicted with hepatitis C,” Shulkin said in a statement. “To manage limited resources previously, we established treatment priority for the sickest patients.” With the expansion, the VA now expects many more veterans will be started on hepatitis C treatment every week through the current fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. The department statement did not address 2017 costs, though it has requested $1.5 billion in its next-year’s budget for the hepatitis C treatments and clinical resources.
FORMER STOCKBROKER’S ONLINE DIGGING COULD BRING AGENT ORANGE BENEFITS TO MORE VIETNAM VETS– Using the iPad his wife gave him as a retirement gift, Gene Clarke was surprised by all the online documents he found showing U.S. soldiers who served in Korea during 1967 may have been exposed to Agent Orange. A harder task has been convincing government officials that Agent Orange was in fact used before 1968 in the narrow demilitarized zone between North and South Korea where about 55,000 U.S. soldiers served during the mid- and late-1960s. Clarke’s breakthrough came last week, when the commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, supported by two other veteran’s organizations, asked Congress to extend medical benefits and compensation to veterans who served in Korea in 1967 and have one of the illnesses linked to Agent Orange.
BRAIN BLEED RISK FROM WARFARIN MAY BE HIGHER THAN THOUGHT — The widely used blood thinner warfarin — also known as Coumadin — may raise the risk of severe bleeding inside the skull by much more than previously thought, a new study suggests. Researchers examined data from nearly 32,000 U.S. veterans, aged 75 and older, with a common heart rhythm disorder called atrial fibrillation. The investigators found that almost one in three suffered an “intracranial” bleed while taking warfarin for the condition. “Atrial fibrillation (“a-fib”) is a common heart rhythm disorder in elderly patients. And in patients with a-fib, treatment with the blood thinner warfarin reduces the risk of stroke by nearly two-thirds,” explained study lead author Dr. John Dodson.
CALIFORNIA ATTORNEY GENERAL ASKS VA SECRETARY ABOUT VETERAN VICTIMIZATION — California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris has sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, along with seven other states, asking the VA secretary to help restore educational benefits to veterans allegedly victimized by for-profit schools like Corinthian Colleges Inc. (Corinthian). “We honor the service and sacrifice of our veterans by ensuring that when they return home, they have access to benefits that will help them transition to civilian employment and build lives for themselves and their families,” Harris said in the letter. According to multiple allegations, many veterans were defrauded out of their education benefits. Harris wants VA Secretary Robert McDonald to use his authority to restore benefits and ensure veterans receive accurate information about risks associated with using them at certain schools.
DOES A WORLD WAR II-ERA CIA SABOTAGE HANDBOOK EXPLAIN WHAT’S HAPPENING AT THE VA? — Ever since former Secretary Eric Shinseki with the Department of Veterans Affairs was outed in 2014 for overseeing alleged misconduct that involved false waiting lists which were connected to dozens of veterans’ deaths across the United States, many had hoped to begin seeing an improvement of issues within the VA. It appeared that even before Shinseki resigned and current VA Secretary Robert McDonald stepped in, President Barack Obama was on board to see to it that veterans would finally get the care they had been promised.