American Veteran News 05.09.16

FIVE SUE VA HOSPITAL DOCTOR OVER SEX ASSAULTS — ARKANSAS ONLINE — KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The number of lawsuits accusing a former physician assistant at a Veterans Affairs hospital in Kansas of sexual abuse has grown to at least five.

Josh Hutchison, 38, who lives in the Kansas City area, said in a federal lawsuit filed this week that Mark Wisner conducted unnecessary and improper genital examinations at the Leavenworth VA Medical Center. The Associated Press generally does not identify people who say they have been sexually assaulted, but Hutchison said he wanted his name used because he believes it will help other soldiers.

“A lot of these guys don’t want to come forward because they feel embarrassed and emasculated,” Hutchison said Friday. “By somebody taking a lead and stepping forward, I feel like it will help a lot of other soldiers.”

The hospital, which is accused of failing to properly supervise Wisner, said in a written statement that it has barred Wisner from seeing patients and that it started investigating after learning of the allegations.

OVERLOOKED IN THE WOUNDED WARRIOR PROJECT SCANDAL: FAMILIES WHO RELY ON ITS HANDOUTS — MILITARY TIMES — As Wounded Warrior Project battles allegations its former executives violated public trust, they face the real fear that donations will start to dry up.

Tracy Keil worries that will leave her family with more than $50,000 a month in healthcare expenses.

Her husband, Matt, is an Army veteran who requires 24-hour assistance ever since an Iraqi insurgent’s bullet left him a quadriplegic. The couple lives in Colorado with their five-year-old twins — and a massive in-home care bill that’s covered by the WWP’s Independence Program.

“Veterans Affairs covered some costs, but it wasn’t really enough,” Tracy Keil said. “Now, he can go out. He can do things with the kids. My family is better. There is more smiling in our house.

VETERAN’S SUICIDE PROMPTS SOUTH JERSEY VA CHANGES — PRESS OF ATLANTIC CITY — NORTHFIELD — South Jersey’s veterans clinics will no longer be overseen by the Wilmington Veterans Affairs Medical Center, as part of reforms designed to address long waiting times and staffing issues at area facilities.

All South Jersey community-based outpatient clinics will now be overseen by the Department of Veterans Affairs under the direct supervision of the Veterans Integrated Service Network 4. There are three VA clinics in South Jersey: Cape May, Northfield and Vineland.

U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo, U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez and representatives of U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, along with Janet Murphy, Veterans Affairs deputy undersecretary for health for operations and management, announced the reforms Friday morning at the Stillwater Building on South Shore Road.

JOHNSON, FEINGOLD POINT FINGERS OVER TOMAH VA TROUBLES — WISCONSIN PUBLIC RADIO — Problems at the troubled Tomah Veterans Affairs Medical Center have become the latest political cudgel in Wisconsin’s 2016 U.S. Senate race, showing up in attack ads that see both incumbent Republican Ron Johnson and democrat Russ Feingold blaming each other for not acting on a whistleblower’s complaint about the high level of narcotics prescribed to patients.

During a campaign stop at a Madison coffee shop Friday, Feingold hit back at spots that claim he didn’t respond to complaints about prescription practices that were linked to the death of Jason Simcakoski, a 35-year-old U.S. Marine Corps veteran from Stevens Point.

“I find it shocking that a United States senator who is in trouble in his re-election would use the death of a veteran as a way to get political advantage and I assure you it is a completely false claim,” Feingold said.

He maintains his office never saw the whistleblower’s complaint and, in turn, criticized Johnson for not acting fast enough when his office got the information. Johnson said that once he found out about the complaint, he initiated a thorough investigation.

FORUM TO FOCUS ON AGENT ORANGE HEALTH ISSUES FOR VETERANS — KNOXVILLE NEWS SENTINEL — Forty-five years after the U.S. military ceased using the chemical compound nicknamed “Agent Orange,” questions about its legacy remain. The Tennessee State Council of the Vietnam Veterans of America and VVA Chapter 1078 hope to offer some answers.

The organizations will cosponsor a program to explain Agent Orange’s history, its related diseases, its possible effects on children or grandchildren of veterans, and the claims and benefits that may be available to Vietnam veterans, dependents and their survivors.

The free meeting will be 6-9 p.m. Monday at Washington Pike United Methodist Church, 2241 Washington Pike. The program will be followed by a question-answer period. Claims assistance will be available.

Although Agent Orange — a mixture of two herbicides used to kill crops — was used by the military during the Vietnam War, information for veterans of all conflicts will be available at the meeting. Don Smith, president of Chapter 1078, will present “History, Diseases and Available VA Benefits.” Tom Humphries, Knox County veterans services officer, will discuss the Gulf War and other issues. Also present will be members of the Vietnam Veterans of America and officials of Knox County Veteran Services and the Tennessee Department of Veterans Services. For information, call Smith at 931-335-0477. Studies indicate various illnesses, diseases and serious health problems more common in veterans could be linked to Agent Orange. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has determined some veterans can file for compensation.

VETERAN AFFECTED BY CONTAMINATED WATER AT CAMP LEJEUNE SEEKS HELP — WDAM — D’IBERVILLE, MS (WLOX) – A Mississippi veteran is in the midst of a battle. However, he’s not fighting the enemy – he’s fighting the Veteran’s Administration.

A.J. Jackson is trying to get help for a neurological condition, but says can’t see the doctors who can help him. Like hundreds of thousands veterans and their families who lived at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, 76-year-old Jackson was exposed to contaminated water for 34 years.

Jackson says he didn’t know anything about the water issue until 2003, when he received a letter from the VA. The letter stated that Marines, their families and people working at the Camp Lejeune Base from 1953 until 1987 may be suffering from various ailments caused by water contamination from two on-base water supply systems.

Jackson said, “I have three or four of the symptoms already in my medical record from other doctors, and I have copies of those statements.”

Some of the diseases and conditions that have been identified include breast cancer, lung cancer, kidney cancer, leukemia, bladder cancer, skin disease, liver problems and neurological problems.

VETERANS’ HEALTH PLAN COMES WITH A PRICE TAG — MONTGOMERY ADVERTISER — A showpiece of the Veterans First package that the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee unveiled last week is a multi-billion-dollar initiative to phase in for older generations of severely injured veterans robust caregiver benefits first enacted in 2010 only for the Post-9/11 generation.

Though it’s only part of a huge omnibus bill containing many veteran reform measures that senators previously introduced as separate bills, the plan to expand caregiver benefit coverage carries the biggest price tag. The early estimate is $3.1 billion over its first five years.

For in-home caregivers of thousands of vets with severe physical or mental injuries, it would mean cash stipends for their time and effort, health insurance if caregivers have none, guaranteed periods of paid respite to avoid caregiver burnout and training to enhance patient safety.

AGENCIES HIRED 6,000 MORE VETERANS IN FY 2015 THAN PRIOR YEAR — FEDERAL NEWS RADIO — Executive branch agencies hired 6,000 more veterans in fiscal 2015 than they did the year before. Nearly 32 percent of new hires to the federal workforce in 2015 were veterans. They made up nearly 31 percent of the workforce last fiscal year. The Office of Personnel Management now uses a new Veteran Employment Performance Model to rate agencies’ abilities to hire and retain new veterans. Acting OPM Director Beth Cobert said 67 percent of agencies on the Veterans Employment Council scored a rating of effective or higher in 2015. (OPM)

FEDERAL BILL WOULD JAIL THOSE WHO PREY ON FORMER SOLDIERS — HIGHLANDS TODAY — SEBRING — Vicki Hicks controlled her father’s financial affairs for over 13 years. She was supposed to use his money for his benefit.

Instead, Hicks, the former secretary to Sebring Police Chief Thomas Dettman, is accused of spending more than $100,000 of her father’s veteran’s benefits on herself while he wore tattered clothing, shoes with holes, and at times had to eat without dentures.

A new federal bill would levy fines and five years of prison on people who defraud veterans of their benefits.

Nearly 20,000 veterans live in Highlands County, and 75,000 in the 17th Congressional District, said U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Okeechobee. He sponsored HR 4676, which unanimously passed the House in April.

Now assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee, the bill specifically outlaws, “a despicable breed of financial predators (who) have been advertising themselves to the veterans community claiming that, for a hefty fee paid by the veteran, they can speed up the claims process with the Department of Veterans Affairs.”

VA CRISIS LINE FAILURE LEAVES LOCAL OLYMPIA VET TEETERING ON THE BRINK, GUN IN HAND — KOMO — OLYMPIA, Wash. — Every single day in this country, 22 veterans commit suicide. The KOMO Investigators discovered that despite an overhaul, the National Veterans’ Crisis Line is still failing some veterans. And those continuing problems led one local vet teetering on the brink; gun in hand.

We spent an afternoon recently with Jim Cusumano as he paged through a photo album he keeps of his two tours in Vietnam. He was in the Marine Corps and returned from the war in 1967.

“There’s one of me.”

Cusuman’s memories are as sharp as yesterday. Harsh memories.

“Actually these three girls got killed about two weeks after I took this photograph,” he says.

He recalls they were shot trying to smuggle explosives through the barb wire surrounding the military post: “So they shot ’em in place in the satchels and blew ’em up.”

They’re harsh memories that he recalls with the nonchalance of a man who will tell you – he’s seen a lot of bodies.

“They shot this guy right afterwards for trying to steal the garbage,” he said.

Despite the nonchalance, Vietnam left indelible marks on Jim’s soul.

5 THINGS YOU DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT 100% DISABILITY RATINGS — T&P — A 100% disability rating can mean different things in at least five different types of service-connection claims.

The phrases “100% disabled” or “total VA disability ratings” get thrown around a lot in veterans disability benefits claims.

Problem is, that phrase doesn’t always mean the same thing to everyone. In fact, it can mean several different things in at least five different types of service-connection claims.

Let’s see if we can clear some of the confusion up.

There are many paths to a 100% rating.

LOUISIANA HOPES TO ELIMINATE CONCEALED CARRY FEES FOR VETS — T&P — Louisiana legislators want to create a statewide exemption on concealed carry permit payments for veterans.

Louisiana lawmakers recently passed a bill through the state legislature that will eliminate the fees for veterans seeking licenses to carry concealed weapons.

Sponsored by Rep. Tanner Magee, a Republican, the proposed legislation would do away with concealed carry permit fees for veterans entirely.

The bill is now awaiting gubernatorial approval after passing through the state senate with a 37 to one vote on May 3.

Currently, a five-year concealed carry permit costs $125 and a lifetime permit costs $500, but veterans only pay half for either.

INJURED VETERANS COMPETE IN INVICTUS GAMES AT DISNEY WORLD — FOX — ORLANDO, Fla. – After suffering a noncombat injury during a motorcycle accident in 2014, Gabby Graves-Wake found herself at a crossroads during her recovery and rehabilitation.

The Marine, who suffered injuries to her legs, lower back and head, could have either been filled with self-pity or found the inspiration to push through during the recovery. She chose the more challenging path, joining up with the Wounded Warrior Regiment and Military Adaptive Sports Program to use sports as part of her rehabilitation.

Graves-Wake will be among 500 participants in this week’s Invictus Games, an international Paralympic-style multisport event, at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. She will participate in wheelchair track, seated shotput and discus and cycling.

“I do this because it means I have no excuse to sit down and say, ‘I feel sorry for myself. I can’t come back from an injury,'” said Graves-Wake, 22. “What this means to me is that I’m better than my injury, I’m better than I was before and I will continue to thrive, go on new adventures and experience new things and meet new people and have the time of my life.”

MCCAIN SLAMS UPCOMING VETERANS AFFAIRS BILL — WASHINGTON EXAMINER — Sen. John McCain said Friday that upcoming omnibus legislation meant to help veterans is “very, very bad” because it does not address longstanding problems within the Department of Veterans Affairs.

“All I can say is, I’m deeply concerned about the legislation that is now being formed,” McCain said in an interview with a local radio station in Phoenix.

The Arizona senator criticized provisions in the bill aimed at increasing accountability within the scandal-plagued agency, arguing that part of the legislation lacks teeth.

House Veterans Affairs Committee staff have begun raising concerns about the legislation before it has even been introduced in the Senate.


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