American Veteran News 07.01.16

VA PRIVATIZATION DEBATE TO HINGE ON COMING REPORT — S&S — WASHINGTON — The coming week could be a watershed moment in the volatile debate over privatizing more health care at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

A panel created by Congress to overhaul the VA is expected to release final recommendations July 6 that are two years in the making and will likely include the option of private care for the millions of veterans who now use the federal system of hospitals and clinics.

It will come amid controversial proposals to give all veterans a card to access private doctors and to turn the VA into a not-for-profit corporation. Those efforts to push the department toward privatized care caused near universal blowback from national veterans groups. Unionized VA employees were staging opposition rallies across the country due to fears over privatization in the lead-up to the commission’s VA report



VETERAN UNEMPLOYMENT AND THE RAND STUDY — MILCOM — The nonprofit RAND Corporation recently released the results of a 15-year study it conducted that looked at Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. The study covers multiple areas, and is summarized in the article titled “10 Things We Know For Sure About Modern Veterans.” One specific part of the study that will be examined here focuses on military transition, and veteran unemployment.

The study asked three main questions regarding veteran unemployment:

1. How widespread is veteran unemployment?

2. Why are so many veterans on unemployment?

3. Are tax credits for hiring veterans useful and cost-effective?



SHOULD VA VIOLATE CONSTITUTION TO DESTROY PHYSICIAN LED CARE? — DISABLED VETERANS — To solve the wait list problem, VA now proposes to trump state laws that prohibit nurses from treating patients without supervision of a physician. Do you agree?

I generally oppose any move by any federal agency to trump state laws when those laws focus on the policing powers that each state should be allowed under the Constitution.

But under former President Bill Clinton’s Executive Order on Federalism, agencies currently have an opportunity to run rough shod over the interests of each state so long as they coordinate with the state. But what does that mean exactly, and what if an agency decides to merely coordinate only with the group of state citizens who would benefit from the decision, as VA has done here? (view Petzel’s letter at bottom)

Normally, each state has the right to police its professionals including physicians and nurses. That is a Constitutional right. VA wants to take that right away when it comes to caring for veterans with VA.

Scary times.

Or was this whole thing manufactured from the beginning? Create the problem to then propose your own solution?



WWII VET SUES HAWAII FOR NOT ALLOWING HIS WIFE TO LIVE WITH HIM — S&S — FORT SHAFTER, Hawaii — A 95-year-old World War II veteran of the famed Japanese-American 442nd Regimental Combat Team is suing the state of Hawaii for not allowing his wife to live with him in his nursing home.

Noboru Kawamoto and his 89-year-old wife, Elaine, filed suit Thursday in federal district court in Hawaii, naming Gov. David Ige and two other state agency heads as defendants.

The lawsuit argues that a Hawaii state law preventing their cohabitation due to Medicaid regulations is unconstitutional under the Fourteenth Amendment, which guarantees equal protection.



AS HOMELESS VET GETS PLACE TO LIVE, COMMUTERS THANKED FOR HELPING OUT — S&S — The sign says it all.

A homeless Army veteran who used to collect donations from passing motorists now has a place to live, according to the sign at an entrance ramp underneath the Long Island Expressway in Queens, N.Y.

“I have been waiting for housing for 6 months! June 26th is now my ‘move in’ day,” the sign read.

Motorists passing the sign are assured of the veteran’s appreciation. “ I wouldn’t have made it without your help. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.”



LAWS ENCOURAGE ALTERNATIVES TO PRISON FOR VETERANS WITH PTSD — FOX NEWS — RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Defenders of a former Army sergeant say he truly believed he was fighting the Taliban bomber who blew off his friend’s limbs when he emptied 24 rounds from his 9 mm handgun at police and firefighters who were responding to a fire in his apartment.

Psychologists testified that Joshua Eisenhauer returned from Afghanistan with post-traumatic stress that made him a paranoid, hyper-vigilant insomniac, and so delusional that he drew his weapon whenever anyone came to his door in Fayetteville, North Carolina.

They say untreated PTSD could scramble his mind beyond repair if he spends the rest of his sentence, up to 18 years, in Raleigh Central Prison.

“The only place where he belongs is one where he can get treatment for his PTSD,” said Eisenhauer’s father, Mark. “That was what caused all of this. This never should have happened in the first place.”



GI BILL RECIPIENTS AT ASHFORD U. RECEIVE TEMPORARY STAY OF BENEFITS — S&S — SAN ANTONIO — Thousands of student veterans attending Ashford University will temporarily avoid cuts to their GI Bill benefits, the school announced.

The Iowa Department of Education approved a 90-day delay of a decision to revoke the ability of the Department of Veterans Affairs to pay for tuition, books and housing for more than 5,000 student veterans and military dependents attending Ashford, according to a recent Facebook post by the school.

Students attending the online, for-profit school were in jeopardy of losing access to their benefits by July 1. The issue stemmed from Iowa announcing the termination of GI Bill payouts after the school decided it would close their campus in that state and move their operations to California, where it would need approval from state officials there.

Iowa granted the delay of withdrawal through Sept. 18, or until California makes a decision on their certification, according to an email from the VA sent to Ashford students and obtained by Stars and Stripes. The California State Approving Agency for Veterans Education will determine whether the institution is qualified for approval by July 8, June Iljana of the California Department of Veterans Affairs wrote in an email.



VA COMMISSION HEALTH CARE REPORT — CONTENTIOUS UNTIL THE END — MILITARY TIMES — The release of a report next week on the future of Veterans Affairs health care is not likely to end debate over what is the right mix of services provided to veterans by VA medical facilities or the private sector.

The Commission on Care is expected to release recommendations Wednesday that call for VA to strengthen its performing hospitals and clinics, shut its underutilized facilities and establish nationwide networks of private providers that veterans could use instead of going to VA.

But some panel members say the commission’s deliberation process has left them without a voice, charging that chairwoman Nancy Schlichting has quashed opposing views by refusing to call for a vote on the final report or allowing any supplements or addenda.



LAVISH FEATURES CUT FROM OVER-BUDGET DENVER VA HOSPITAL — AP — AURORA, Colo. — Imported Brazilian wood has been scratched from the budget-busting design for a veterans hospital under construction outside Denver, eliminated to save money.

A planned $10 million landscaping scheme has been slashed to $2 million, and subcontractors who find a way to reduce costs get to keep 30 percent of the savings, according to the Army Corps of Engineers, which took over management of the project after the cost nearly tripled.

Corps officials said Wednesday they’ve been looking for ways to save money since taking over construction management from the Veterans Affairs Department last year.

But Col. John Henderson, commander of the Corps’ Omaha, Nebraska, district — which includes Denver — said it’s too soon to know whether the builders can finish for less than the nearly $1.7 billion contract cost because some other expenses are rising.

“It would be creating a false expectation,” Henderson said while leading Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman and others on a tour of the suburban Aurora site. Coffman’s district includes the hospital.



CALIFORNIA WOMEN VETERANS LEADERSHIP COUNCIL ESTABLISHED TO SUPPORT WOMEN VETERANS — ORANGE COUNTY BREEZE — As our country celebrates its 240th year of independence, Americans remember our men and women who have served in the Armed Forces to protect and secure the very freedoms our founders sought in the drafting of the Declaration of Independence.

Women are now and have always been an important part of securing our freedoms. Two million women nationwide, and 170,000 women in California served in the Armed Forces. However, many do not identify as Veterans. For this reason and others, women are not inclined to access the state and federal Veterans benefits they earned at the same rates as their male counterparts.

According to a Veterans Affairs (VA) Women’s Health program overview, the VA has found that women Veterans underutilize VA care, largely due to a lack of knowledge about VA benefits and available services and their eligibility to them. Women also experience gaps in services as cited in a women Veteran study conducted by Disabled American Veterans (DAV), which found current reintegration services fail to embrace alternative family structures.



HOTLINE WORKERS LEAVE SUICIDAL VETERANS IN SILENCE — USA TODAY — An “under-performing workforce” is always an issue. But it’s especially problematic when the workers are helping veterans in crisis. More than a third of veterans calling the Department of Veterans Affairs’ suicide hotline aren’t getting through. Why? Some workers handle only a handful of calls per day and leave early, according to emails obtained by USA TODAY. Why does it matter? A 2010 calculation by the VA estimates that 22 veterans kill themselves each day. (The VA, which has not updated that estimate, says the hotline “rescues” 30 veterans from suicide each day.) Then again: Just four veterans were responsible for 5,619 calls in May, tying up phone lines with abusive and even vulgar comments.



‘AMERICAN SNIPER’ KILLER ARGUES FOR NEW TRIAL — COURTHOUSE NEWS — EASTLAND, Texas (CN) — An attorney for the ex-Marine convicted of killing “American Sniper” Chris Kyle and a friend in 2013, spent Thursday morning arguing for a new trial, but backed away from claims that Eddie Ray Routh suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.

A Texas jury convicted Routh, 28, on February 25, 2015, for the murders of Kyle and Chad Littlefield. The two friends had been trying to help the troubled veteran with a therapeutic outing at an upscale shooting range before the day turned deadly.

Routh was sentenced to life in prison without parole and his attorney J. Warren St. John appealed the sentence.



CONSIDER VETERANS WHEN USING FIREWORKS — CALIFORNIANS — As Independence Day approaches, Phantom Fireworks would like to remind its customers, friends and all those who use consumer fireworks to be mindful that some veterans can be startled and upset by the noise of fireworks.

Chelsey Zoldan, M.S. Ed., a licensed clinical mental health counselor and special consultant to Phantom Fireworks, advises that there is a the potential for some veterans to be reminded of combat situations when they hear the loud sounds of gunfire and/or fireworks.

Combat veteran Henry Jiminez, on a broadcast news piece aired on KABB-TV in San Antonio, indicated that he found the unexpected blasts to be the worst. He said sometimes upon hearing unexpected fireworks blasts, he drops down and puts his hands over his head. Ms. Zoldan indicated that the startle of the unexpected fireworks booms can cause some veterans increased anxiety, which could be difficult and challenging to them.

Phanton Fireworks suggests that those who intend to shoot consumer fireworks should contact their neighbors to let them know what they plan so those combat veterans who might be affected have the opportunity to avoid the unintended consequences.



HEALING AMERICA’S HEROES: PROSTHETIC ALTERNATIVES ALLOW MOBILITY, INDEPENDENCE — FOX NEWS — Lounging by the pool or waking up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom aren’t what most able-bodied individuals would consider to be complicated tasks, but for bilateral amputees, the process of changing into their prostheses for these activities can be cumbersome. For injured soldiers— a record number reported major limb amputations in 2011— the transition back to civilian life also includes learning how to manage their new limbs.

Prior to the start of the conflict there wasn’t a large bilateral amputee population, and their level of care typically ended with an adaptable wheelchair, Dave Laufer, director of orthotic and prosthetic service at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, told FoxNews.com. But as more soldiers returned home with missing limbs, Laufer and his team were inundated with requests for something better than what was available.

“When you and I go home from work… you take your shoe off,” Dave Laufer, director of orthotic and prosthetic service at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, told FoxNews.com. “An amputee shoe is attached to his leg. When bilateral amputees take their shoes off they’re now sitting on a chair and they’re stuck.”



VA SAYS IT DID NOT COLLUDE WITH UNION IN OPPOSITION TO REFORMS — DAILY CALLER — The Department of Veterans Affairs countered claims that it has colluded with organized labor Thursday in opposition to those trying to reform the agency.

The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) has held dozens of protests opposing lawmakers and critics who have sought to reform the agency, and the Cheyenne VA Medical Center in Wyoming sent out an email which appeared to promote an upcoming union protest July 6.

Veterans Affairs has been under increased scrutiny for systematic issues that left dozens of veterans dead.

“Once our union decided to do this I decided to let our community partners know,” Cheyenne VA Public Affairs Officer Samuel House told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “I am not colluding with anyone. I was just letting our community partners know.”

The Washington Free Beacon first reported Wednesday that House sent an email June 24 which seemed to promote the event. House notes the intent was merely to inform employees, partner organizations and community members so they wouldn’t be taken by surprise when the protests occurred. He adds the union re-sent the email to its members.



THE IMPORTANCE OF HONOR, ACCOUNTABILITY: LESSONS FROM A FORMER VIETNAM POW — TOWNHALL — Lee Ellis has a message to give the public: Honor and accountability are absolute necessities for any successful leader.

Lee Ellis is a former Vietnam POW, an award winning author and leadership consultant. Ellis has been awarded two Silver Stars, the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star with Valor device, the Purple Heart and the POW Medal for his service in the United States Air Force.

In his new book “Engage with Honor: Building a Culture of Courageous Accountability,” that releases this September, Ellis outlines his secrets to leadership success.

“This book addresses specific problems. One: The issue of honor and the issues of dishonor in today’s [society] …Two: The lack of accountability … When leaders do a bad job with their own accountability their people lack in accountability,” said Ellis.

Throughout the book, Ellis refers back to his experiences in the different camps overseas. Using different examples of leaders he worked with in the military and the pressures of retaining honor while in vulnerable situations.

“[Using POW examples] makes the point in a different way that can apply to today’s workplace,” said Ellis.

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