EVIDENCE POINTS TO TAINTED NAVY WATER SUPPLY — WFLA — NEW PORT RICHEY, Fla. (WFLA) – Fifty years ago they were warriors, America’s military fighting a war in Vietnam. Today these veterans are parents and grandparents, and many like Mike Kvintus of New Port Richey are sick.
“I would fight for this country today,” Mike said. He suffers chronic kidney and heart disease, along with neuropathy in his arms and legs, conditions he claims are connected to Agent Orange exposure.
Mike and 90,000 other sailors who served on ships in harbors and waters off Vietnam are now fighting the Department of Veterans Affairs to reinstate benefits it stripped away 14 years ago.
“It just eats at me because I still support the country,” Mike added.
The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2015 would restore those benefits. 8 On Your Side contacted Senator Bill Nelson, D-Florida, to ask where he stood on it. He then signed on.
HOW THE VA DEVALUES VETERANS — DALLAS MORNING NEWS — If you’ve fought to protect this country, you probably couldn’t be faulted for thinking this country isn’t quite as willing to do the same for you. After two full years, we’re still discovering shocking facts about how badly the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs lets down those who need care. Recently published reports confirm that VA medical centers throughout Texas — including here in Fort Worth — used inappropriate scheduling practices that left veterans waiting too long for the treatments they needed.
Veterans’ biggest concern with the VA is whether it can be trusted with their lives. The short answer is no. This organization has fought to hide the truth and protect its image, even if it means letting veterans suffer and die.
And this is an ongoing trend in the way our country treats its heroes. Whether it’s unreliable, unaccountable healthcare or crippling debt that weakens the very national security we fought for, veterans’ sacrifices are constantly devalued.
VETERANS CHOICE LEGISLATION PROGRESSING THROUGH SENATE — MONTANA PUBLIC RADIO — Legislation aiming to fix the troubled Veterans Choice healthcare program made progress in the Senate today.
“Veterans Choice” was supposed to make it faster and easier for vets to get care close to home if they live more than 40 miles from a VA health facility, or if they’ve had to wait more than a month for a healthcare appointment.
But, more than a year after it was launched, there’s widespread agreement that Veterans Choice isn’t working as intended. Montana Senator Jon Tester, who is on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, has been pushing to change Veterans Choice.
In March he told MTPR that he wants the Veterans Administration to rely less on government contractors, and more on the Veterans Administration itself, to make Choice work.
“All I want to do is make sure the VA has the ability to provide the healthcare that their veterans need. We’ve talked to the VA extensively, we think this is a solution, I think the VA thinks this is a solution.”
THERE’S MOMENTUM TO IMPROVE VA, NOW WE NEED ACTION FROM CONGRESS — THE HILL — There is massive support in this country for improving care and services for our Veterans, their families and survivors. But goodwill isn’t enough. The time to take action is now to better care for those who have “borne the battle.”
VA is doing everything in its power to transform the Department to better meet the needs of Veterans and beneficiaries. While the Department is making significant progress, VA needs Congress’ help to achieve all of the breakthrough priorities on behalf of Veterans.
VA is in the midst of the largest reorganization in history, a transformation called MyVA. There are 12 breakthrough priorities set with clear end-of-year goals—including improving Veterans’ experience with VA, increasing access to health care, improving community care, modernizing our contact centers, and developing a simplified process for appealing benefits decisions, among others.
VA has already begun growing a high-performing organization by consulting private sector experts who bring cutting-edge business skills like Lean Six Sigma and Human Centered Design. Cross-functional teams are focused on spreading enterprise-wide best practices in the Leaders Developing Leaders program and updating our outdated IT systems and sprawling supply chain—all to create a more efficient organization that better serves Veterans.
But, Congress is needed to pass legislation, particularly in three pressing areas.
VETERAN EMERGENCY MEDICAL TECHNICIAN SUPPORT ACT PASSES THE U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES — NAEMT — Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 1818, the Veterans EMT Support Act, by a vote of 415 to 1. The legislation assists military medic veterans to efficiently transition their military medical training into the civilian workforce and addresses the shortage of emergency medical technicians in states.
This has been a key legislative priority of the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians (NAEMT), as well as other national and state EMS organizations. H.R. 1818 directs the Department of Health and Human Services to establish a demonstration program for states with a shortage of emergency medical technicians to develop a streamlined transition program for trained military medics to meet state EMT licensure requirements.
BILL WOULD ADD OVERSIGHT TO VA MENTAL HEALTH AND SUBSTANCE ABUSE TREATMENT — AL.COM — Inspired by a federal Alabama lawsuit and the scandal that ensnared the Veterans Health Administration, U.S. Rep. Martha Roby, R-Montgomery, introduced a bill late last month that would add an extra layer of oversight of the VA’s mental health and substance abuse treatment services.
The bill, dubbed the Protection and Advocacy for Veterans Act, would create a pilot program authorizing state protection and advocacy agencies to investigate the quality of such services. Protection and advocacy agencies currently have the power to inspect medical records, make recommendations to healthcare providers and take legal action on behalf of patients at state hospitals and clinics.
LAWMAKER FIGHTS COCKROACH INFESTATION AT VA HOSPITAL — WASHINGTON EXAMINER — Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., introduced legislation Friday that would force kitchens at Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals to undergo rigorous health inspections.
The legislation came in response to recent whistleblower reports of a cockroach infestation at a VA hospital outside Chicago, where “roaches routinely crawl across kitchen countertops and have ended up in veterans’ food.”
“The VA is allowed to conduct its own internal inspections without consequences which has resulted in substandard conditions that private hospitals would never be allowed to have,” Kirk’s office said in an announcement for the legislation.The Requiring Accountability and Inspections for Dining Service Act, known as the RAID Act, would require the VA to maintain its hospital kitchens at the same standards as private hospitals.
“It’s deplorable that this infestation at the Hines VA has gone on for years and that our nation’s heroes are forced to share a plate with cockroaches,” Kirk said of the Illinois hospital that was allegedly teaming with vermin. “The substandard treatment of our veterans has to stop. The RAID Act will keep VA kitchens clean and our veterans’ food away from roaches.”
RELATIVELY NEW BRAIN TREATMENT HELPS PTSD VICTIM FIND HOPE — TACOMA WEEKLY — Nick Naccarato was about 25 when his brain began to mess with him, and 26 when it shut his life down.
He could still think – for a time he maintained a security job at Microsoft and attended Tacoma Community College. Then one night he drove through a series of red lights near his Tacoma home.
“I realized it was a panic attack,” Naccarato said. “After that, I started having them daily.”
A veteran of nearly two years with the National Guard in Afghanistan, where he was a fire team leader, Naccarato tried to deal with his stress but could not.
“One day I just didn’t wake up for work,” he said. “I realized I didn’t want to work anymore. I knew something was wrong, but I’d been trained to deal with my own problems.
“I spent the next two years house-bound.”
His parents, restaurateur Stan Naccarato and teacher Elizabeth Gettel, went from concerned to overwhelmed to frightened.
“I wanted to help my son, but I don’t have the understanding to deal with it,” Stan Naccarato said. “It was a helpless feeling. Parents are supposed to have those answers.”
About a month ago, Gettel called a retired military physician whose children she had taught and asked for help. The doctor was working pro bono for a new clinic in Seattle – the Brain Treatment Center (BTC).
Founded in 2009, the group uses Magnetic Resonance Therapy to treat areas of the brain that aren’t operating normally.
SENATE PANEL ADVANCES VETERANS REFORM PLAN — INCLUDING GI BILL CUTS — AIR FORCE TIMES — The massive and controversial veterans omnibus bill is headed to the Senate floor after Senate Veterans Affairs Committee members unanimously backed the measure as a critical step forward in reforming VA operations.
The hastily organized vote came two weeks after committee leaders unveiled the plan, which and could become the most significant piece of veterans reform legislation in two years if it can survive an expected fight with House members in the weeks to come.
Committee Chairman Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., praised the unanimous vote as a sign of strong support for the measure and downplayed growing criticism about the provisions.
FEMALE VETS SEE IMPROVEMENT IN VA CARE — THE TELEGRAPH — DUBLIN — When Air Force veteran Heather King first entered the VA health care system 16 years ago, she was not impressed. But in recent years, she has seen significant improvements.
King was among about 70 women at the Carl Vinson VA Medical Center’s annual tea party for female veterans Thursday.
“They’ve gotten better at what they’ve done,” she said. “I’ve gotten away from student doctors and gotten actual medical doctors.”
The tea party is in its third year and is planned in conjunction with National Women’s Health Week. The hospital’s Women’s Health Clinic uses the tea party to educate female veterans about the services available to them at the center.
Maryalice Morro, the director of the medical center, welcomed the women and offered health advice that ranged from wearing seat belts to having a positive attitude. She then helped serve refreshments.
INVESTIGATION: HOW THE VA FAILED TO PROTECT HUNDREDS OF DISABLED VETERANS’ FINANCES — ABC CLEVELAND — STOW, Ohio – Our exclusive 5 On Your Side Investigation has uncovered serious concerns about a U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs program meant to protect disabled veterans.
When a disabled veteran can no longer manage their affairs, the VA appoints a fiduciary to oversee the veteran’s benefits, pay their bills on time, and balance their budget.
Our investigation found, since 2012, the VA has barred 752 fiduciaries after finding they misused disabled veterans benefits, including a Northeast Ohio prosecutor.
SAN ANTONIO LEADERS ANNOUNCE END TO VETERAN HOMELESSNESS — KENS — SAN ANTONIO — San Antonio has ended veteran homelessness. That’s the declaration made Friday morning on the steps of city hall, as Mayor Ivy Taylor announced the completion of a city-wide pledge.
The pledge, made in January 2015, specified the city would offer housing to all homeless veterans. It doesn’t guarantee everyone will take up the offer, but does imply that those who do take it up will be given not just a roof over their heads, but a lease, furniture, bill assistance, and other services.
It’s a promise that National Guard Staff Sergeant Frederick Gardner says he saw first-hand when he moved into his apartment two months ago.
“When I walked in here, I had the feeling of, I’m home. I’m home,” Gardner said.
Gardner served as a Staff Sergeant in the Army in Iraq. After returning, he transferred to the National Guard, where he came to San Antonio on orders. The still-active guardsman says his job came to an end and, with it, his source of income.
HOUSING PROGRAM WILL BENEFIT NATIVE AMERICAN VETERANS — KEVN — Oglala Sioux Lakota Housing has been selected to participate in a program led by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to bring better housing to Native American veterans who do not have a permanent place to live.
Many Native American veterans who return home from military service struggle to find housing. As a result, Congress has appropriated millions of dollars for better health care and housing on Native American reservations. One of the places where they are building homes is Fragile Rock Housing in Pine Ridge.
Oglala Lakota Housing CEO Paul Iron Cloud says, “Some of the veterans, they were always trying to get homes, but had a hard time doing it, but we were the first tribe in the nation to put a veteran home out there for veterans. We moved one in today.”
Richard White Eyes, who has served in several countries including Afghanistan, was the recipient of a home free of charge.
White Eyes says, “When they announced my name, it was definitely a surprise, that’s for sure. I honestly didn’t know I was going to get the house. I put in the application for it, and it was pretty much just a waiting game to see and when they announced my name, it was definitely something else.”
This was the first home given to a Native American veteran in Pine Ridge, and there will be four more given away as part of this program.
HERE’S WHY VETERANS MAKE GREAT TECH STARTUP FOUNDERS — MILCOM — What is noticeably missing from the ranks of most top-tier tech companies in the United States is the presence of military veterans. Over the last decade, many of the technology companies that have come to dominate the consumer and enterprise markets were not founded by veterans. There are likely many reasons for this trend, but contributing factors include a lack of entrepreneurial role models in the military community and a military transition process that is optimized for helping Veterans become employees, not entrepreneurs.
Current transition support programs offer educational experiences that are dominated by exercises in composing resumes, tailoring cover letters and rehearsing for job interviews. Topics like venture capital, bootstrapping a business, and finding cofounders are noticeably absent from the Department of Defense’s Transition Assistance Program.