American Veteran News 04.04.16

VETERANS GROUPS CRITICIZE SECRET PROPOSAL TO END VA HEALTHCARE — MILCOM — Several of the largest veterans’ service organizations in the US are criticizing a proposal drafted in secret to shut down veterans’ hospitals and clinics across the country and turn over veterans health care to the private sector.

The proposal was circulated outside the normal process by several members of a congressionally mandated Commission on Care created to study how VA will provide health care over the next couple of decades.

“We are greatly alarmed by the content of the ‘proposed straw man document’ that was developed and drafted outside the open Commission process by seven … of the fifteen members — without the input or even knowledge of the other Commissioners,” states the letter to the panel’s chairwoman, Nancy Schlichting.

It was signed by the heads of Veterans of Foreign Wars, The American Legion, Disabled American Veterans, Paralyzed Veterans of America, AMVETS, Military Order of the Purple Heart, Vietnam Veterans of America, and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

The 34-page proposal would privatize veterans’ health care and completely eliminate the Veterans Affairs Department health care facilities over the next 20 years, they said.


VETERANS FACING CANCER HOPE THAT ‘ATOMIC VETERAN’ BILL BECOMES LAW — MILCOM — Congress is considering a bill that would create a special “atomic veteran” designation for the men and women who worked to clean up nuclear waste from a South Pacific atoll nearly 40 years ago, a move that Maine veteran Paul Laird says was a long time coming.

But Laird, a 59-year-old from Otisfield who served with the U.S. Army’s 84th Engineer Battalion on Enewetak Atoll and who is a three-time cancer survivor, said that the bill has only a slim chance of becoming law — and that is not acceptable to him. As of now, only 30 co-sponsors have officially signed on to the bill, which is a number the Mainer said does not seem like enough.

“We are not seeing people jump up and down to get on board,” he said earlier this month. “We’re a little disappointed. We’re trying however we can to get the word out, but people just don’t seem to think it’s very important.”


U.S. MILITARY SUICIDES REMAIN HIGH FOR 7TH YEAR — USA TODAY — The Pentagon reported Friday that 265 active-duty servicemembers killed themselves last year, continuing a trend of unusually high suicide rates that have plagued the U.S. military for at least seven years.

The number of suicides among troops was 145 in 2001 and began a steady increase until more than doubling to 321 in 2012, the worst year in recent history for servicemembers killing themselves.

The suicide rate for the Army that year was nearly 30 suicides per 100,000 soldiers, well above the national rate of 12.5 per 100,000 for 2012.


WWII VETERAN AWARDED 5 MEDALS FOR SERVICE 70 YEARS AFTER WAR — FOX NEWS — HERMISTON, Ore. – A 92-year-old Oregon man has been honored for his military service 70 years after he returned home from World War II.

The East Oregonian reports that William Jones on Saturday was presented with five medals including a Presidential Citation, Good Conduct Medal, campaign medals for the American and Euro-African-Middle-Eastern campaigns and the World War II Victory Medal.

Jones says he didn’t apply for the medals after returning to the United States in 1945 because he believed he would be reassigned to Japan. When that conflict ended, he forgot about metals as he slipped back into civilian life.


VA PROCESSING ERROR HELD UP BENEFITS TO 14,000 VETERANS — S&S — The Veterans Affairs Department has discovered claims processing errors affecting about 14,000 veterans and survivors — a problem that goes back as least 15 years.

The errors occurred when veterans and survivors filed claims but, because of disability or age, were deemed unable to manage their benefits without assistance, VA officials said. The VA then failed to appoint a representative for the veteran, a family member in most cases.

The department became aware of the issue when it received inquiries in June and July from affected beneficiaries or their families, said VA spokeswoman Meagan Heup.

In a March 14 statement, VA officials said they caught the error using an information technology system called the Beneficiary Fiduciary Field System that was first deployed in 2014. Until then, they used an “antiquated, stand-alone database that did not interact with any other VA programs and allowed for only minimal workload management with virtually no oversight.”


FUNCTIONAL MR STUDY SHOWS MINDFULNESS TRAINING EASES PTSD SYMPTOMS — HCB — Veterans with PTSD can use mindfulness training to manage memories caused by war, according to a new study conducted with functional MR by researchers at the University of Michigan Medical School and VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System.

Dr. Anthony King, a University of Michigan Department of Psychiatry researcher who led the new study in collaboration with VA psychologists, and his team, studied 23 veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars with PTSD, and discovered how the veterans’ brains changed in ways that may help them find their own “off switch” to those war memories.


CROW TRIBE ELDER JOE MEDICINE CROW DEAD AT AGE 102 — FOX NEWS — BILLINGS, Mont. – Joseph Medicine Crow, an acclaimed Native American historian and last surviving war chief of Montana’s Crow Tribe, has died. He was 102.

Medicine Crow died Sunday, Bullis Mortuary funeral home director Terry Bullis said. Services will be announced Monday, he said.

A member of the Crow Tribe’s Whistling Water clan, Medicine Crow was raised by his grandparents in a log house in a rural area of the Crow Reservation near Lodge Grass, Montana.

His Crow name was “High Bird,” and he recalled listening as a child to stories about the Battle of Little Bighorn from those who were there, including his grandmother’s brother, White Man Runs Him, a scout for Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer.


VETERAN WHO WAS DENIED VA BENEFITS HAS DIED — AZ FAMILY — There has been a devastating development in a story we first reported a month ago.

Army veteran John Marshall was fighting terminal cancer while at the same time, fighting the Phoenix VA for service-related benefits for his time served. Sadly, Marshall died this week. He was only 31 years old.

Marshall left his hospital bed to share one of his dying wishes back in late February. “I just want the benefits for my family and for the kids and that’s why I’m doing this so it’s very tough,” he said.

Sadly, the husband and father of two young children lost his battle with soft tissue sarcoma on Tuesday night. He was still waiting to be granted benefits from the VA healthcare system.


SEPARATING MYTH FROM FACT AT THE VA — THE HILL — Hardly a day goes by without another headline about problems in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs health-care system and the veterans suffering as a result. But in recent weeks, a number of politicians and journalists have downplayed or even denied the need for reforming the VA, instead accusing those calling for change of “manufacturing or vastly exaggerating” its deficiencies.

These denials fly in the face of everything uncovered in the massive wait-list scandal at the VA nearly two years ago, and the tens of thousands of veterans still waiting months for care.


VETERAN RETURNS TO COCKPIT 75 YEARS AFTER WWII — KSAT — SAN ANTONIO – Six veterans from World War II, the Korean and the Vietnam war flew aboard a military training plane at Stinson Airport on Thursday as guests of the nonprofit Ageless Aviation.

The organization’s founder, Daryl Fisher, is a pilot. He said providing flights for vets aboard his old military training plane, a Boeing Stearman biplane, is his way of giving back.

“The folks that we fly, in their 80s and 90s, they’ve given so much to us, and it’s taught me an incredibly deep appreciation for the sacrifice and service that everybody of that generation has given to us,” Fisher said.

One of Thursday’s veterans was Leo Slief, 91, who trained in a Stearman 75 years ago during World War II. Thursday was the first time he’d flown in since then.


HIRING OUR HEROES PROGRAM ANNOUNCES TRUCK GIVEAWAY FOR MILITARY VETERANS — OVERDRIVE — To boost the Trucking Transition program for U.S. veterans, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring our Heroes Program, Kenworth and FASTPORT announced a contest today to give away a fully-loaded T680.

“We’re going to a young veteran driver… who has a tremendous record and really set that young driver off on their own entrepreneurial journey,” said Eric Eversole, president of the Hiring our Heroes program, at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Ky. “It’s really a golden ticket for that young driver.”


VA STILL PLAGUED BY PROBLEMS TWO YEARS AFTER SCANDAL — WASHINGTON TIMES — If you thought the Obama administration had put its problems with veterans behind it, think again.

Two years after the scandal emerged over phony waiting lists for patients at the Department of Veterans Affairs facility in Phoenix, the department is still beset with problems ranging from fresh accusations of falsified waiting lists to a system-wide failure to discipline wrongdoing.

“The VA is still struggling with a lack of accountability, an inability to properly manage a budget rapidly approaching $200 billion, and a failure to provide veterans with timely access to care and benefits,” said John Cooper, a spokesman for Concerned Veterans for America. “The VA is broken, and if we want veterans to be assured of a VA that works, we need to systemically reform it.”


RETIRED FUNERAL DIRECTOR ADMITS DEFRAUDING VETERANS ADMINISTRATION — BUFFALO NEWS — A retired funeral director pleaded guilty to submitting fraudulent claims to the Veterans Administration, seeking payment for death benefits that she knew had not been provided to veterans or their families, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced Friday.

Karen Schlager, 60, of Snyder, was the funeral director at Schlager Funeral Home in Amherst. She submitted fraudulent claims to the Veterans Administration for such items as transportation costs, burial services and funeral costs valued at $13,800, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney MaryEllen Kresse, who handled the case. Details about when this happened were not available.

The charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Sentencing is scheduled for July 7.


USDA HELPS MILITARY VETERANS EXPLORE AGRICULTURE AS A CAREER — USDA — Before serving in my current role at USDA, I served eight years in the U.S. Army and the Iowa National Guard, including a 15-month mobilization and deployment as a combat engineer in Kandahar, Afghanistan. During my tour, I saw firsthand the tremendous scope of unique skills, experiences and perspectives held by those who serve in our armed forces.

Those exact same skills can be an excellent fit for farming and ranching, which is why USDA is increasing its efforts to introduce agriculture as a career possibility to the 1,300 new veterans and their families who return to civilian life each day.


4 TACTICS TO HELP VETERANS TRANSITION TO CIVILIAN LIFE — HUFFPOST — Truth be told, I never envisioned joining the Marine Corps. In fact, I was leaning strongly toward the Air Force, at least initially, because I wanted the best technical training the military had to offer.

But I quickly realized that the Marine Corps was my true calling. There was something nostalgic, even primal, about it. Something deep down said it was the right choice for me. Yet as hard as it was to be a Marine, reintegrating into society as a civilian proved much harder.

There’s a saying that’s drilled into Marines: Improvise, adapt, and overcome. Failure is never an option, and every Marine is taught to understand that. It’s more than just our programming; it’s our way of life.


ERRORS DELAYED CLAIMS FOR AGING, DISABLED VETERANS — MILCOM — I’ve been getting complaints for years about how slow the government is to appoint fiduciaries to manage veterans benefits for former service members or their spouses who are old or disabled.

It seemed as if the Department of Veterans Affairs had forgotten about them.

In some cases, it did.

The agency sheepishly announced a few weeks ago that about 14,000 fiduciary claims, some dating to 2000, didn’t get processed because they weren’t transferred properly within the agency’s bureaucracy.

The delay could have cost veterans and their families thousands of dollars. If a veteran dies before a fiduciary is appointed, benefits that have been withheld pending the appointment aren’t always paid. Uncle Sam profits from its tardiness.


WOMEN VETERANS GATHER TO SWAP STORIES, GAIN EXPERIENCE — MILCOM — NEW ORLEANS — Air Force veteran Liz Skilbeck recently got a new license plate for her vehicle that identifies it as being driven by a female veteran. Before that, the license plate just identified it as being driven by a veteran, causing people to thank her husband for his service.

“It was ‘Thanks for your support. What did your husband do?’ And my husband didn’t,” Skilbeck said.

Skilbeck is one of 50 female veterans coming together this weekend in a conference put together by The Mission Continues, an organization that connects veterans with public service projects. The conference aims to bring together the women — all volunteers with The Mission Continues — to share their unique experiences, inspire them with some strong role models and help them learn new skills.


CARE COMMISSION SHOCKER: THE PUSH TO END VA HEALTHCARE — THE MILITARY ADVANTAGE BLOG — Seven of 15 outside health advisors appointed to recommend ways to improve veterans’ health services over the next two decades have proposed shutting down all VA medical centers and outpatient services, and having its nine million enrollees get their medical care in the private sector.

The 34-page “straw man” document released by the congressionally-created Commission on Care, calls for an immediate halt to construction of new VA hospitals and clinics, and launch of a “BRAC-like process” to begin closing existing facilities. Shuttering the largest medical system in the country would leave the VA to be “primarily a payor” for the care veterans would receive from civilian community doctors and health facilities.

To entice these physicians and facilities to accept more veterans as patients, the straw man document proposes that VA reimbursement rates be set five or 10 percent higher than Medicare pays.


VA FOUGHT PRIVATE CARE FOR VETS, NOW DOCS GO ‘MYSTERIOUSLY’ UNPAID — DAILY CALLER — A free-choice program implemented to get veterans crucial medical care is under siege because the Department of Veterans Affairs has not paid millions of dollars owed to the doctors providing it. Now, the VA employee union, which opposes letting veterans get care outside their system in the first place, is citing VA employees’ failure as the reason to abort the fix.

Congress approved the Choice Card program in 2014 after a flood of media reports of veterans dying as VA facilities across the nation manipulated official data to conceal long delays in scheduling appointments.

The Choice Card program allows veterans to seek private medical care if VA is unable to provide it within a month of being requested, or if there is no VA facility near their homes. Not long after the program began, however, non-VA doctors and hospitals began complaining they weren’t being paid for their services.

A survey of non-VA hospitals in Florida, for example, found VA owed more than $100 million in unpaid claims for services provided to veterans under the Choice Card program. Sixty percent of the hospitals described the problems in getting paid as inexplicable, with their claims mysteriously getting “lost.”

To THE VETERANS VOICE

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