Newswatch

Take a look at the latest veteran news from California and beyond.

FRIDAY

kate_o_hare-palmerPutting a spotlight on women veterans and the country’s failures to serve them

KRCB RADIO — Today – the third and final part of our conversation with Army nurse Kate O’Hare-Palmer. She went from denying the trauma of her Vietnam experience to becoming an activist, fighting for women veterans from her time and ours, as she told news director Steve Mencher.

This institute believes in veterans and families. See how.

FORBES — It is no secret that the transition for veterans and their families from active duty to the civilian sector can be intense. Translating years of specific job duties into everyday language to make you marketable can take months, not to mention possible relocation, and navigating health care. But the truth is, veterans and their families do not have months to wait for a job in most cases. They have bills to be paid, kids to support and a calling to continue to be needed for the better of society for a more prominent purpose.

USDVATrump nominates former Army captain as new top benefits official for VA

MILITARY  TIMES — After a nearly two-and-a-half-year wait, the Veterans Benefits Administration is poised to get a new permanent leader. President Donald Trump on Wednesday nominated Army veteran Paul Lawrence as the next under secretary of Veterans Affairs for benefits, a post that has been manned by a series of acting officials since Allison Hickey stepped down from the job in October 2015. Lawrence is currently a vice president at Kaiser Associates, an international consulting firm, where he specializes in organizational efficiency. For the last three decades he has worked in a variety of accounting firms in roles focused on federal government practices and effectiveness.

VA loans and new construction: When, and how, it can work

MILITARY TIMES — One often-asked question about the VA home loan process skips over the “home” part entirely: Can veterans use the benefit to buy land? The short answer: No. The long answer is more complicated. VA-backed loans are designed solely to help a veteran purchase a primary residence, so if there’s no residence, there’s no loan. But an eligible veteran can apply for what VA calls a “construction/permanent home loan” that includes money to purchase the land in addition to funding the new home’s construction.

Shulkin VASenators troubled by VA secretary’s response to IG report, ask for transparency

STARS AND STRIPES — Four Democratic senators said Thursday that they are troubled by Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin’s response to findings of ethical violations connected to his taxpayer-funded trip to Europe last summer. In a letter to Shulkin, Sens. Jon Tester, D-Mont., Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc., and Bob Casey, D-Penn., asked for more transparency from Shulkin, which they said is necessary to regain the trust of Congress, veterans and taxpayers.

Senate accepts push toward privatization of VA care

BENEFITS PRO — The Senate has added a change to a VA Choice program that moves care for veterans closer to privatization. According to a Modern Healthcare report, after “months of work by the Trump administration, a key senator and even the Koch brothers,” the bipartisan Senate bill has seen the addition of a change to the VA Choice program that would require VA facilities to meet certain standards to qualify as preferred treatment centers.

Nurses to face murder charges for laughing as dying WWII vet begged for help

TASK & PURPOSE — Two nurses and an aide were indicted Tuesday on multiple charges, including one charge of felony murder, in the Feb. 27, 2014, death of James Dempsey, a World War II veteran and patient at the Northeast Atlanta Health and Rehabilitation in Georgia. The 89-year-old Navy vet, who later retired from the Army National Guard, died as he gasped for air and his pleas for help went ignored by the staff, according to Georgia NBC affiliate 11Alive, which first broke the story.

Military Traumatic Brain InjuriesThis new blood test can detect traumatic brain injury in troops

MILITARY TIMES — A new type of blood test is being used to detect mild traumatic brain injury, Army researchers have announced. It is the first blood test for use in evaluating mild TBI to be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, according to a Feb. 14 release from the Army Medical Materiel Development Activity.

U.S. jobless claims near 45-year low as economic outlook brightens  

TODAY ONLINE — The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits fell to a near 45-year low last week, pointing to strong job growth in February and solid momentum in the economy. The economy’s brightening prospects were also underscored by other data on Thursday showing a gauge of future economic activity increasing for a fourth straight month in January. Labor market strength should continue to underpin consumer spending, despite a drop in retail sales in January.

veteransaffairs new yorkInfrastructure, artificial intelligence and other congressional efforts you may not have heard about

FEDERAL NEWS RADIO — Budgets, immigration reform and gun control may be sucking up all the oxygen on Capitol Hill right now, but some lawmakers are still carving out time to address issues that federal agencies and contractors are confronting, like infrastructure, veterans’ access to health care and artificial intelligence. Here are three bills to keep your eye on.

ZPower’s rechargeable hearing aid batteries help veterans and environment

VENTURA COUNTY STAR — One of Ventura County’s fastest-growing employers is making a name for itself with rechargeable microbattery products, and its work is not going unnoticed. Rep. Julia Brownley toured ZPower, a Camarillo-based battery manufacturer, on Thursday afternoon to survey the work the company does for veterans. ZPower’s primary clientele is hearing aid manufacturers. The company creates rechargeable microbatteries that can power certain kinds of hearing aids, which typically run on disposable batteries.

CalVet_2400wRincon Band chairman receives first 2018 CalVet Coin

VALLEY ROADRUNNER — The Chairman of the Rincon Band of Luiseño Indians, Bo Mazzetti, received the first issued 2018 CalVet Coin during his recent trip to the State Capitol.  The symbolism of the CalVet coin honors all California veterans. “As an Indian veteran, I was deeply humbled and honored to receive the first 2018 CalVet coin issued by Secretary Vito Imbasciani in the state,” said Mazzetti. Note: Dr. Imbasciani  is Secretary of the California Department of Veterans Affairs (CalVet.)

THURSDAY

Holderman-HospitalYountville receives low-water advisory for Rector Reservoir; officials concerned but not ready to order conservation

NAPA VALLEY REGISTER — Even with California’s lengthy drought in the rear-view mirror, the reservoir feeding Yountville and the Veterans Home of California is running low. Just how low may determine what the town – and state regulators – do to curb water use and boost supplies as the dryness of summer approaches. New monitoring equipment at Rector Reservoir northeast of Yountville suggests water levels are falling at such a rate that the state Department of Veterans Affairs, which owns both the reservoir and the Veterans Home, should plan for a possible shortfall in the middle of August as a precaution, according to CalVet Secretary Vito Imbasciani. The reservoir level “is not dire; it’s about the direction we’re going in,” he said, pointing to measurements at the Rector Dam that started at 352.9 feet on Feb. 1 and have steadily drifted downward through three weeks of dry weather.

Ashford U. faces new setback in battle over GI Bill funds

CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION — California regulators have shot down Ashford University’s request for GI Bill eligibility — dealing the for-profit college a significant blow that could reverberate nationwide. Under federal rules, colleges that serve veteran students are supposed to be approved by the veterans agency in their home state. That one state’s approval then allows a college to serve veteran students from all 50 states. Ashford University’s parent company, Bridgepoint Education, is based in San Diego.

IMG_0217Affordable housing for veterans coming to Oxnard next year

VENTURA COUNTY STAR — Vietnam veterans, advocates of affordable housing and local politicians gathered Wednesday morning in Oxnard to celebrate the groundbreaking of an upcoming project that will house Ventura County low-income veterans. Many Mansions, a Thousand Oaks-based provider of affordable housing and services, will begin construction on the Oxnard property next month, with an estimated completion date of May 2019. The project, Ormond Beach Villas at 5527-5567 Saviers Road, will include 40 units for veterans and their families.

White House offers faint support for embattled VA Secretary Shulkin

MILITARY  TIMES — White House officials on Tuesday gave no indication of imminent action against Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin, but they also declined to give strong support to the embattled Cabinet official’s work leading the department. Shulkin has been under public scrutiny for the past week, since the release of an inspector general report that found multiple ethics violations during his trip overseas to Denmark and London last summer.

Vietnam War AnniversaryVA continues commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War

VA.GOV — In 2017, President Trump signed the Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act designating March 29 of each year as National Vietnam War Veterans Day. Our nation’s Vietnam War Commemoration is an opportunity for all Americans to recognize, honor, and thank our Vietnam Veterans and their families for their service and sacrifice during one of the longest wars in our country’s history. As a commemorative partner, VA joins nearly 10,000 organizations across the nation supporting the Department of Defense in this mission to honor and thank our Vietnam Veterans.

White House intends to meet with leading veterans groups amid drama at VA

WASHINGTON POST — White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly intends to meet with the nation’s leading veterans advocates next week amid ongoing anxiety that there is a desire by some of President Trump’s political appointees to oust Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin, according to people familiar with the matter.

VA study shows that close-range blast exposure affects cognitive functioning

VANTAGE POINT — Bomb blasts cause an estimated 78 percent of combat injuries from Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom and New Dawn (OEF/OIF/OND). A group of 333 Veterans who returned from these operations participated in a VA Boston study that evaluated their cognitive functions, psychiatric diagnoses and history of military and non-military brain injury. Boston VA Healthcare System doctors Regina McGlinchey and William Milberg led the Translational Research Center for TBI and Stress Disorders (TRACTS) study that investigated the relationship between close proximity to detonated blast munitions and cognitive functioning in OEF/OIF/OND Veterans.

On the WireArtist soldiers: Their self-expression and humanity in WWI is revealed in exhibit

ARMY TIMES — In underground quarries, spanning for miles underneath the surface of the quiet French countryside, abandoned, make-shift cities hold touching remnants of World War I. Sleeping quarters, places of worship, even tables still littered with mess kits, are hidden 50 feet underground, unknown to many people and even historians. Accompanying these artifacts are drawings, carved into the walls of these cavernous quarries, signatures of the individuals, on both sides of the fight, who came together to serve in the war.

VA partners With DeepMind to build machine learning tools to identify health risks for veterans

LAKE COUNTY NEWS — The Department of Veterans Affairs has announced that it has approved a medical research partnership with DeepMind to address the global issue of patient deterioration during hospital care, which accounts for 11 percent of in-hospital deaths around the world. The partnership will focus on analyzing patterns from approximately 700,000 historical, de-personalized health records to develop machine learning algorithms that will accurately identify risk factors for patient deterioration and predict its onset.

veterans visionSome veterans’ groups still support Shulkin

FEDERAL NEWS RADIO — Despite facing recent scrutiny, Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin does have support in his corner. Both the American Legion and AMVETS released statements in support of Shulkin, and the work he’s done so far to improve veterans’ access to care, expansion of mental health care and collaboration with VA stakeholders. The Legion says Shulkin “remains the best person” to lead VA. The statements come in light of several reports describing efforts to unseat Shulkin and Deputy Secretary Tom Bowman. (AMVETS) (American Legion)

Investing in America’s veterans

CITIZEN TRIBUNE — One of the greatest privileges I’ve had since coming to Congress is chairing the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. Over the last year, we’ve made great strides toward reforming the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), but there is still hard work ahead. One of the most important items on our agenda is ensuring veterans get access to timely care, regardless of whether that care is at a VA hospital or a facility in the community. As the Committee works to improve the quality and timeliness of care that veterans receive, my priority is ensuring benefits are never delayed, dismantled or reneged upon. With that said, reforms that ensure timely access to care are not without cost, which is why I am in the process of closely examining the president’s budget request.

Tech fixThis simple technological fix helped veterans get health benefits

WASHINGTON POST — The U.S. Digital Service has taken on the task of helping the federal government adapt to new technologies. I interviewed Matt Cutts, the head of the service, about what the organization does. HF: So where did the U.S. Digital Service come from?

Here’s why veterans groups are circling the wagons around embattled VA Secretary Shulkin

MILITARY TIMES — Leading veterans service organizations met Tuesday to mount a joint response in the face of a troubling inspector general report alleging “serious derelictions” in expensing on the part of the Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin and his top staff during a Europe trip last July, multiple sources told Task & Purpose. The groups — including the largest VSOs, dubbed the “big six” — were prepared to call for the Trump administration to retain the embattled VA secretary, but have so far held off on sending a formal letter.

The real VA scandal: No will to help veterans

THE HILL — The scandal that engulfed the Department of Veterans Affairs these past few weeks was sordid and sad. More disturbingly, it has only gotten worse, illuminating the deep-seated problems that still plague the VA. Our veterans deserve better, starting with a full house-cleaning. The VA’s current round of problems began with VA Secretary David Shulkin and his wife, Dr. Merle Bari, a dermatologist in private practice. Dr. Shulkin, along with some top staff people — and, most problematically, his wife — went to Europe last summer to attend the International Ministerial Conference on Veterans’ Issues in London. In making travel plans, Shulkin asked his staff to arrange legitimate business meetings in Copenhagen during the trip.

Trump and ShulkinTrump plans to nominate Army veteran Paul Lawrence as undersecretary for VA benefits

STARS AND STRIPES — President Donald Trump announced plans Wednesday night to nominate a longtime management consultant to fill a top spot at the Department of Veterans Affairs that’s remained unfilled for nearly three years. Paul Lawrence, vice president of the consulting firm Kaiser Associates in Washington, will be the VA’s new undersecretary for benefits if he’s confirmed by the Senate. First, the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs will hold a public hearing with Lawrence. As of Thursday, it was uncertain when the hearing would take place.

Deported veterans continue to struggle on other side of border

INLAND EMPIRE COMMUNITY NEWS — A clean cut U.S. Marine stood alongside fellow veterans at the Deported Veterans Support House last December to welcome a recent delegation of state and federal legislators. Jose Luis Alvarez, with his perfect English and stoic physical presence, appears as American as any proud veteran. Except, he’s not. He’s a Mexican national whose world was turned upside down a month ago when he was given deportation orders.

PD Editorial: Dying veterans shouldn’t face eviction

SANTA ROSA PRESS DEMOCRAT — With about 900 ex-soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines living in mission-style buildings on a bucolic 500-acre campus pressed against the east slope of the Mayacamas, the Veterans Home of California in Yountville is the largest facility of its kind in the United States. A state website says the Yountville vets home, which opened in 1884, and seven sister facilities spanning the state from Redding to Chula Vista honor “the tremendous sacrifice California veterans have made and recognizes them for their noble service to our nation.”

American-legion-Blood-driveSons of American Legion begin another year of ‘loving service’

INLAND EMPIRE COMMUNITY NEWS — It’s a new year of service for Sons of American Legion 155 Commander John Mejia and volunteers. On February 20 the Sons of American Legion held a blood drive in conjunction with the American Red Cross–the organization’s latest efforts to provide a lending hand to help and save others. “We have to remember that one pint of blood can save up to 3 lives,” said Mejia. “Maybe tomorrow someone you know may be a recipient.”

TUESDAY

Yountville receives low-water advisory for Rector Reservoir; officials concerned but not ready to order conservation

NAPA VALLEY REGISTER — A reservoir supplying Yountville and the nearby Veterans Home of California may be running low despite the end of a lengthy statewide drought, town officials said Monday, citing an advisory from state water authorities. An email notice last week from the State Water Resources Control Board cautioned both the town and the state Department of Veterans Affairs, which owns both the Veterans Home west of Yountville and the 4,500-acre-foot Rector Reservoir northeast of town, of potentially low supplies into the summer months, according to Town Manager Steve Rogers.

VA-battle with ShulkinVeterans groups rally behind David Shulkin

STARS AND STRIPES — Major veterans organizations are reinforcing their support for Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin amid internal strife at the agency that emerged following findings of ethical violations last week. The American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, AMVETS, Disabled American Veterans and Vietnam Veterans of America – groups that regularly advise VA leadership and lawmakers on veterans issues – backed Shulkin on Monday and decried any attempt to undermine or replace him.

Who is in charge at the Department of Veterans Affairs?

MILITARY  TIMES — fter a week of scandal and internal turmoil at the Department of Veterans Affairs, veterans groups and agency employees enter this work week wondering exactly who is in charge of the nearly $200 billion bureaucracy. Is it VA Secretary David Shulkin, who in the last few days saw his reputation tarnished by a withering inspector general report, his top deputy threatened by political rivals, and his chief of staff abruptly resign?

ap_114891912604The Trump administration goes to war — with itself — over the VA

PROPUBLICA — David Shulkin, the secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, showed up to what he thought would be a routine Senate oversight hearing in January, only to discover it was an ambush. Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., was the sole holdout among members of the veterans affairs committee on a bill that would shape the future of the agency. The bipartisan bill had the support of 26 service groups representing millions of veterans. But Moran was pushing a rival piece of legislation, and it had the support of a White House aide who wields significant clout on veterans policy. Neither proposal could advance as long as there was any doubt about which President Donald Trump wanted to sign.

Congressman requests Justice Department review of ‘spoof’ account for VA chief of staff

STARS AND STRIPES — The top Democrat on the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs appealed to Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Thursday to initiate a review of claims by Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin that his chief of staff’s email had been hacked. Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn., said the allegations were “very serious” and merited a review by the Justice Department into whether fraud, computer intrusion or other cyber crimes had been committed.

VA cardsShould you get the new veteran ID card?

MILITARY.COM — In case you haven’t heard, the VA is offering veterans a free ID card which can be used to prove your veteran status when needed at businesses and other locations. The free ID card, which originally rolled-out in late November, was ordered by Congress in 2015 as a way to give veterans proof of service at businesses without carrying a copy of their DD-214 forms. It is available for all honorably discharged veterans, regardless of era or time in service.

Rick Perry’s concern for veterans sparks effort to reshape nation’s healthcare

WASHINGTON EXAMINER — Energy Secretary Rick Perry is big on coal, natural gas and nuclear energy, but he also has a passion for veterans that he wants to use to change the face of U.S. healthcare. The energy agency is typically seen as being “about promoting fossil fuels, we’re about doing our duty to the country from the standpoint of promoting [liquefied natural gas], to be a part of a civil nuclear energy program that has global implications from the standpoint of making energy, and clean energy, available around the world,” Perry told the Washington Examiner in an interview.

Tech_at_machineNew blood culture ID system improves care for veterans

VANTAGE POINT — VA Tennessee Valley Healthcare System (TVHS) doctors recently rolled out a new method to detect infectious agents in Veterans’ blood. The newly-acquired BioFire Blood Culture Identification (BCID) system allows TVHS doctors to detect harmful microorganisms in blood samples in just a few hours after blood cultures become positive. The previous method could take three days.

The knives are out for VA Secretary Shulkin

TASK & PURPOSE — It’s been a tumultuous week for the Department of Veterans Affairs, after a scathing inspector general report surfaced detailing abuses and errors in VA Secretary David Shulkin’s 10-day trip to Europe last summer. But the fall-out from the investigation hints at a power struggle over the department and its priorities. The VA Office of the Inspector General report released on Feb. 14 detailed “a number of serious derelictions” in expensing a $122,000 trip Shulkin, his wife, and a small group of VA employees took to Copenhagen and London last July.

Burn pits downrange caused lung disease in service members, court rules

MILITARY TIMES — Service members and private military contractors who worked around “burn pits” downrange, and later suffered from lung and respiratory issues, may soon get a breath of fresh air. A January court ruling by a judge under the U.S. Department of Labor determined that open-air burn pits are connected to lung disease, according to the decision by the department’s Office of Administrative Law Judges.

Park ServiceLawmakers ask Park Service to stop harassing vets visiting war memorials

MILITARY TIMES — Lawmakers want promises from the National Park Service that veterans can take pictures at war memorials without getting harassed over permit issues. In a letter to service officials this week, a pair of House Veterans’ Affairs Committee members — Rep. Elizabeth Esty, D-Conn., and Mike Bost, R-Ill. — asked for clarification of parks rules and handling of past complaints from veterans groups over conflicts with parks personnel.

Troubled transition: Tricare changes endanger autism therapy services for military families

STARS AND STRIPES — The letters, as if coordinated, began going out the third week in January. First Anchorage, Alaska, then Jacksonville, Fla. Soon military families in Texas and Alabama hubs received notices too. Despite months of preparation, the 2018 overhaul of the military health insurance company Tricare was not going smoothly, the letters from service providers explained. Tricare’s new management companies were not reimbursing providers and not responding adequately to phone calls, emails or online submissions.

Visions of Warriors.pngVisions Of Warriors – a feature documentary that raises awareness about the rise of veteran mental illness

NEWS SHOOTER — Visions of Warriors is a feature documentary by filmmaker Ming Lai that tells the stories of four U.S. military veterans from the Vietnam War era to the Iraq War who participated in the Veteran Photo Recovery Project at the VA Menlo Park in California. The Veteran Photo Recovery Project uses innovative photography therapy to treat mental illness.

While this deported U.S. Army veteran from California waits to come home, his advocacy for those like him continues

SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS — Hector Barajas, a deported U.S. Army veteran from Los Angeles, thought he’d be home by now. But since he isn’t, he’s still working hard to help others in his situation. Barajas, 40, was deported in 2010 after he spent time in prison for shooting at a vehicle. Gov. Jerry Brown pardoned him in 2016, but Barajas still hasn’t been allowed to return to the United States. He’s currently waiting for a U.S. naturalization hearing.

Thomas BegayHe was one of the first. Now, the last: A Navajo code talker remembers Iwo Jima

SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE — Swirled in cannon smoke from a 21-gun salute and washed in the applause Iwo Jima’s survivors have come to anticipate during their annual reunions at Camp Pendleton, one of the 27 veterans stood out. Wearing a crimson garrison cap, his chest spangled with a giant silver medal rimmed in turquoise, Thomas Begay stared at the wreath commemorating the scores of dead from that World War II battle 73 years ago, but his mind wasn’t fully on the spectacle.

New facility helping get homeless vets back on their feet in Stockton

CBS SACRAMENTO — A group from Stockton is preparing to open a unique facility aimed at helping homeless veterans around the community.

Mobility Matters matches Contra Costa County seniors, veterans with transportation providers

EAST BAY TIMES — Contra Costa County’s Mobility Matters serves as something bigger than a rides program, the nonprofit operates as a mobility management center, helping to close the gaps in transportation for seniors and veterans all across the county through its help-line and two volunteer driver programs. Its biggest role is to help with collaboration and coordination between public and private transportation providers; if someone cannot take a public bus, Mobility Matters offers an alternative.

Paws for VeteransPaws for Patriots supporting veterans

BAKERSFIELD NOW — or many veterans, returning home can be rough. Dogs are a man’s best friend, but to a veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, a dog can also be a lifesaver. Paws for Patriots gives a helping hand, or in this case, a helping paw. “I struggled with it, I struggled a lot,” said former service member Robert Villaneda. “I got heavy into drugs and alcohol. I couldn’t figure out what I was doing.”

Free legal service available for veterans at LBCC

THE GRUNION — A legal clinic will be available for veterans twice a month at Long Beach City College Liberal Arts Campus thanks to Mental Health Advocacy Services (MHAS), a nonprofit organization that provides free legal services to people with mental disabilities in L.A. County.

FRIDAY

Chief of StaffVA secretary David Shulkin’s chief of staff retiring amid travel report findings

USA TODAY — The third most senior official at the Department of Veterans Affairs is stepping down amid findings she misled ethics officials to secure approval for VA Secretary David Shulkin’s wife to accompany him on taxpayer-funded trip to Europe. Vivieca Wright Simpson, Shulkin’s chief of staff, told colleagues Friday morning that she is retiring after 32 years at the agency and more than two years as Shulkin’s most senior aide.

Intrigue at V.A. as Secretary says he is being forced out

NEW YORK TIMES — The secretary of veterans affairs, David J. Shulkin, for a year enjoyed rare bipartisan support in Washington as he reformed his department, but now officials in the Trump administration are trying to replace him. An email sent in December by Jake Leinenkugel, the White House senior adviser on veterans affairs, expressed frustration with Dr. Shulkin and listed ways to topple the leadership of his department once key legislation was passed.

VA_SealStatement by VA Press Secretary Curt Cashour on departure of VA Chief of Staff

VA.GOV — Today VA announced that the department’s Chief of Staff Vivieca Wright Simpson has elected to retire following the release of a VA Inspector General investigation on Wednesday. VA also announced that it has opened a formal investigation into her actions identified in the IG report. President Trump has made clear that he expects VA leaders to hold themselves and other employees accountable when they fail to live up to the high standards taxpayers and Veterans deserve.

VA chief of staff Vivieca Wright Simpson resigns after damning IG report

STARS AND STRIPES — After two days of turmoil within the Department of Veterans Affairs, the VA chief of staff has resigned, following findings that she misled an ethics official into approving expenses for the VA secretary’s wife on a taxpayer-funded trip to Europe. VA Chief of Staff Vivieca Wright Simpson called VA Secretary David Shulkin on Friday morning and informed him she was retiring, Shulkin told Stars and Stripes. In addition to the ethical violations, her retirement comes amid reports of internal strife at the agency between a White House appointee and longtime civil servants.

Secretary Shulkin VAEmbattled VA Secretary Shulkin pledges to ‘make things right’

MILITARY.COM — VA Secretary Dr. David Shulkin fought to keep his job Thursday by pledging to “make things right” in a travel expense scandal over a top aide doctoring records to pay for his wife’s airfare and tennis tournament tickets on an 11-day trip to Europe. “I do regret the decisions that have been made that have taken the focus off of that important work” of caring for veterans, Shulkin said at the opening of a House hearing on the VA’s fiscal 2019 budget.

House votes to gut the Americans with disabilities act to nip ‘abusive lawsuits’

NEWSWEEK — In a 225-192 vote Thursday, most House Republicans and a dozen Democrats passed a bill that makes it harder for disabled persons to sue for discrimination, in an effort to prevent opportunistic attorneys from taking advantage of business owners. But many disability and civil rights groups fear the bill will weaken incentives for businesses to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), which mandates equal access to public accommodations.

PaperworkHere’s where troops and military retirees can go for free tax help

MILITARY TIMES — Military taxpayers can save money in a variety of ways when it comes to tax preparation and filing thanks to expert guidance and free services provided by the Defense Department. Active-duty members, retirees and their dependents are eligible for free, in-person tax preparation services at 139 military Volunteer Income Tax Assistance locations around the world. VITA tax preparers save their clients an average of $250 compared to what they’d pay for a private-sector tax-prep service, said Army Lt. Col. David Dulaney, the executive director of the Armed Forces Tax Council.

VA Secretary David Shulkin regrets travel errors, reimburses government for wife’s airfare

CNBC — Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin said he regrets mistakes he and others made during travel planning and ethics clearance processes that led to findings by the VA inspector general that he had misused taxpayer resources during a European trip last year. The inspector general found Shulkin improperly accepted Wimbledon tickets and taxpayer-funded airfare for his wife for the 10-day trip in July, and he and his chief of staff misled VA ethics officials while seeking official approval for the tickets and flights.

homelessveteran1500Op-Ed: What can be done to prevent veteran homelessness

MILITARY.COM — When we consider how to address veteran homelessness, we must first consider the individuals comprising this vast population. Currently, up to 80 percent of homeless veterans suffer from mental health and/or substance abuse disorders, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. These veterans require and deserve housing first or service delivery in order to return to civilian-life and become self-sufficient.

Public invited to free musical tribute to veterans

PATCH.COM — The 50-member Symphony Orchestra of California Baptist University will honor our nation’s veterans with a musical tribute at the Rose Garden at Empire Polo Club at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 21. Admission and parking to the performance, A Patriotic Musical Salute to Veterans, are free of charge. The Empire Polo Club is located in Indio at 81-800 Avenue 51. Signs will direct parking from Monroe Street, south of Avenue 50.

THURSDAY

VA Marina clinicVeterans fuming after VA says $1.9 million pharmacy in Marina clinic will never open.

MONTEREY COUNTY NOW — On Dec. 12, about 100 veterans gathered for a town hall meeting in a shiny new conference room, with a sweeping view of Monterey Bay, on the third floor of the Maj. Gen. William H. Gourley Veterans Affairs-Department of Defense Clinic in Marina. The $100 million facility opened for business on Aug. 14, but four months later the pharmacy doors were still shut. The vets thought that the brass from the VA Palo Alto Health Care System – including director Tony Fitzgerald – were there to tell them an opening date.

VA Secretary on $10B health records contract: ‘We have to get this one right’

NEXTGOV — Embroiled in allegations that taxpayers improperly paid for his wife’s travels, Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin promised to Congress that the agency responsible for caring for more than 9 million veterans would be better stewards of taxpayer dollars. Shulkin, testifying before the House Committee on Veterans Affairs Thursday, told lawmakers he would follow recommendations made by the VA inspector general and personally reimburse the Treasury for several thousand dollars’ worth of expenses accumulated by his wife, who accompanied him on a trip to Europe last year.

Sec. ShulkinAmid travel scandal, Shulkin vows to root out division within VA leadership

MILITARY TIMES — A day after an inspector general report accused him of wasting taxpayer funds and lying about it, Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin promised to get rid of individuals within his own department who may be working to undermine his leadership. “We need this department to be functioning well,” a frustrated Shulkin told reporters on Capitol Hill Thursday. “Everybody needs to know their job is taking care of veterans. “If that’s not the case, we’re going to root that out and we’re going to make sure this is a department we’re all proud of.”

VA audit: Aide expensed Shulkin wife’s European travel under false pretense

POLITICO — Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin’s chief of staff altered an email to create a pretext for taxpayers to pay for Shulkin’s wife to accompany him on a 10-day trip to Europe last summer, the agency’s inspector general reported Wednesday. Amid some calls for his resignation, Shulkin said the email may have been sent by a hacker. The report by Inspector General Michael Missal also claims that Shulkin improperly accepted a gift of Wimbledon tickets during the trip, and a VA employee’s time was misused planning tourist activities for Shulkin and his entourage.

John and JerryThis 100-year-old gay veteran finally got his happily ever after

NEW NOW NEXT — After a lifetime in the closet, a pair of elderly veterans have finally found happiness together. During a recent Storycorps interview, 100-year-old World War II veteran John Banvard and his husband, 72-year-old Vietnam vet Gerard “Jerry” Nadeau, revealed that although they’ve been together for almost 25 years, their relationship never quite felt legitimate until they made it public.

Worthiest goal: No more veteran suicides

LIFEZETTE — An app that links struggling troops and veterans with people who can help them has been used more than 2,600 times. The Military Times Service Member of the Year – 2017, Maj. Chris Mercado, is one of the co-founders of Objective Zero, an app that aims to help prevent veteran suicide. Recalling the helplessness he felt after several people he knew took their own lives, Mercado said, “I always kind of felt powerless. I never knew what I could or should do.”

Female VetFor Women’s History Month, VA to showcase stories of 10 women veteran athletes

VA.GOV — From distance runners to cyclists, the stories of 10 women Veteran athletes will be displayed at VA medical centers around the country in March, to coincide with Women’s History Month. “The Women Veteran Athletes Initiative will highlight the strength, diversity and resilience of women who served our country,” said VA Secretary Dr. David Shulkin. “With this effort, our goal is to increase awareness of women Veterans, both in VA and in the public, and to encourage women Veterans to choose VA to support their health and wellness goals.”

Cooper kids put new writing skills to work in Valentine’s Day cards

VALLEJO TIMES-HERALD — The capital letters were correct. And the exclamation point was in the right place. Getting it all perfect isn’t always easy when you’re in kindergarten. Of course, when there’s Valentine’s Day cupcakes within sniffing distance, it’s a welcomed reward. And the students in Monique Rountree’s class at Cooper Elementary School in Vallejo couldn’t help but be tickled red with Wednesday’s activities … Most of the 520 Cooper students did a Valentine’s week assignment, either cards for parents, to seniors or to the Veterans Home of California in Yountville.

Simmons and Stanley-Rock-and-BrewsKISS member Paul Stanley to honor veterans at Vacaville restaurant

ARMY TIMES — KISS front man Paul Stanley will honor about 200 local veterans and active military Tuesday at Rock & Brews, 200 Nut Tree Parkway. It is an invitation-only event. The rock-inspired restaurant recently opened in Vacaville, the first of the chain to call Northern California home. The concept is designed to engage people of all ages with entertainment, comfort food, local favorites and a selection of craft and international beers.

Central Valley Senator Andy Vidak introduces measure to help California veterans with professional licensing awareness

SIERRA SUN TIMES —  Senator Andy Vidak (R-Hanford) has announced that he has introduced Senate Bill 1137, which would require the California Department of Veterans Affairs (CalVet) and the California Department of Consumers Affairs (DCA) to increase awareness and notification for veterans regarding professional licensing benefits that are already available to them. Professional licenses are required of persons employed in numerous occupations such as healthcare, trucking, security, construction, and carpentry. The bill specifically directs CalVet and DCA to create and execute awareness and outreach campaigns designed to notify veterans of these professional licensing benefits.

Navy veteran fights fluSan Diego Veteran Survives Flu After Weeks In ICU

PATCH.COM — A San Diego County veteran who was admitted into the intensive care unit after catching the flu was finally released from the hospital. NBC reported Shawn Burrough was released Tuesday after 43 days in the hospital. “It was hard every day,” Burrough, who served in the U.S. Navy, told NBC. “They had me written off. Now, that I’m back, it’s ‘You’re looking good.'”

Whittier plans memorial for Jose Ramos, former Army medic who rode bike across U.S. twice to honor Vietnam veterans

WHITTIER DAILY NEWS — Jose G. Ramos, a former Army combat medic from Whittier who died last year, worked for more than a decade to see a day honoring veterans of the Vietnam War recognized. Now, his hometown plans to recognize the man himself — Whittier will soon build a memorial dedicated to Ramos and the pair of cross-country bike rides he undertook as part of his lobbying effort. Councilman Fernando Dutra called Ramos “a local hero.” “We want to create a memorial everybody can be proud of,” Dutra said.

For past Newswatch articles, please click here

%d bloggers like this: