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IAVA | July 31, 2020

IAVA Weekly SITREP

As the leading voice for the post-9/11 community, IAVA continues to create awareness on issues and topics impacting our community.  Below are articles and news sources from the past week:

7/27

IAVA NEWS COVERAGE

Pennsylvania Capital-Star: Women are patriots who serve. The VA’s motto needs to reflect that. Right now, it doesn’t

By Aryanna Hunter

The history and data is there to support a change to the VA’s motto. It will not only make the VA more welcoming to women but honor the service that they’ve given to this great nation. Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) surveyed veterans about changing the motto to be more inclusive and the vast majority of men and women who have served are ok with the motto being updated with 68% of respondents agreeing and or being neutral to changing the motto.

VETERAN NEWS COVERAGE

ConnectingVets.com: Body cameras would be required for Veterans Affairs police under new bill

By Abbie Bennett

Department of Veterans Affairs police would be required to use body cameras and significantly increase conflict resolution training under a bill introduced in Congress July 24.The VA Improvement and Accountability Act is an effort to “increase transparency and reform” on VA’s police force, which has come under fire in recent years after episodes of police brutality. Reps. Kathleen Rice, D-N.Y., and Chris Pappas, D-N.H., introduced the bill, the latest in a building series of suicide prevention in the House.

*Also reported in Military Times 

Federal News Network: VA moving too slowly to address sexual harassment failures within its workforce, Congress says

By Nicole Ogrysko

Roughly one in four employees at the Department of Veterans Affairs has experienced sexual harassment in the workplace in recent years, the Government Accountability Office said in a recent report. The numbers are likely higher, GAO said, because VA doesn’t have a centralized system to collect and track harassment complaints. Individual managers aren’t required to report instances of sexual harassment to a central VA office.

Military.com: Back From the Brink: 4 Veterans Who Beat COVID-19 Tell Their Stories

By Richard Sisk

James was one of three recovered veterans and the wife of a recovered veteran who spoke with Military.com this month. Hailing from different parts of the country, their treatments and experiences varied; some still face painful and taxing aftereffects of the virus. All four veterans are over age 65 and have underlying conditions that may have made them more susceptible to COVID-19.

Military.com: Effort to Change VA Motto Triggers Heated Exchange in Hearing

By Richard Sisk

At a House hearing that at times turned combative, Republicans and Democrats pressed Acting Deputy Secretary Pamela Powers on the urgency of dealing with sexual harassment in the aftermath of the murder of Army Spc. Vanessa Guillen at Fort Hood, Texas. Powers engaged in testy exchanges with Rep. Kathleen Rice, D-New York, who has sponsored a bill to change the VA’s motto.

Washington Examiner: VA takes ‘drastic measures’ to protect veterans from coronavirus

By Abraham Mahshie

“We are not immune to what is happening in the rest of the country,” Wilkie said. “The reason that number is so low is because we took drastic measures long before the rest of the country woke up to this.” The VA quickly cut off visitors and family access to protect the large number of World War II and Korean War veterans at their nursing homes. It also sent teams of doctors, nurses, and gerontologists to 46 states to assist at state and community veterans nursing homes.

The Hill: We need to focus on veterans in need of service dogs

By Rory E. Riley-Topping 

Several studies, including one released this past week from Purdue University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, have shown that service dogs can greatly benefit veterans with PTSD. Specifically, the most recent study found that service dogs could interrupt episodes of anxiety, proving to be the most useful, and most often used task the dogs performed. However, despite this research, the use of service dogs for veterans with invisible wounds remains a controversial topic.

The New York Times: A ‘Wall of Vets’ Joins the Front Lines of Portland Protests

By Mike Baker

A week after federal officers in Portland, Ore., brutally struck a Navy veteran who said he had approached them simply to ask a question, a group of military veterans on Friday joined the front lines of the city’s growing protests. “Our veterans are here specifically to support the rights of the protesters to protest,” said Mr. Obermeyer, who said he had deployed three times during a decade in the Marines.

Military Times: House passes largest VA budget ever, but partisan fights threaten its future

By Leo Shane III

House lawmakers advanced the largest budget in Veterans Affairs history, but the spending package faces an uncertain future in the Senate and even tougher odds if it reaches the White House. That’s because the $241 billion VA funding measure — which also includes about $10 billion more in appropriations for military construction projects — includes language blocking President Trump from transferring certain funds to his controversial military wall project, and money to begin renaming military bases currently honoring confederate leaders.

Military Times: Veterans Affairs police would be required to use body cameras under new proposal

By Leo Shane III

Veterans Affairs police officers would be mandated to wear body cameras to record interactions on department campuses and dramatically increase their conflict resolution training as part of a slate of new suicide prevention bills being introduced in the House.

7/28

VETERAN NEWS COVERAGE

Military Times: More than 2,000 Veterans Affairs patients have now died from coronavirus

By Leo Shane III

More than 2,040 VA patients have died from complications related to the virus since early March, when the first death at a department medical center was reported. That total translates into about 17 patient deaths a day for the last four months. Despite recent increases in states like Texas, Florida and Arizona, VA hospitals in New York and New Jersey have still seen the most patient deaths from the fast-spreading illness.

Washington Examiner: Sick K2 veterans left out of Senate NDAA bill

By Abraham Mahshie

Post-9/11 veterans sickened by toxic chemicals and radiation at an Uzbek airbase used for staging the war in Afghanistan are again absent from must-pass defense legislation, Senate aides told the Washington Examiner. “There was no comparable amendment offered to the Senate NDAA by any senators,” a Senate Armed Services Committee aide told the Washington Examiner of the $740.5 billion legislation.

Associated Press: Trump welcomes ‘The Walking Marine’ to White House

President Trump welcomed a Marine veteran to the White House as he completed his 300-mile walk to the nation’s capital to raise awareness about the problem of veteran suicide. Terry Sharpe, 69, was met at the Washington Monument by Karen Pence for the final leg of his journey from Summerfield, North Carolina, to the White House grounds where he was greeted by Trump, and Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie.

Military.com: Better-Fitting Prosthetics for Female Veterans Funded in $241 Billion VA Proposal

By Patricia Kime

A $241 billion Department of Veterans Affairs funding bill passed by the House requires VA to buy prosthetics designed to fit women veterans and conduct research on medical devices more suitable for women. The issue has been a priority for Reps. Chris Pappas, D-N.H., and Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., who sponsored legislation to solve the issue of female veterans who have encountered pain and mobility limitations by being fitted with prostheses made for men.

Military Times: Ruling on major GI Bill benefits case won’t come in time for fall classes

By Leo Shane III

Student veterans hoping for resolution in a court case which could open an extra year of GI Bill education benefits to hundreds of thousands of individuals won’t get any resolution before the start of the fall semester.

Austin American-Statesman: Air Force Veteran Shot and Killed in Austin Protest Remembered for Devotion to Fiancée, Racial Justice

By Katie Hall and Danny Davis

Garrett Foster, who was shot to death during a downtown Austin protest Saturday night, was remembered as a man dedicated to exercising his Second Amendment rights, stamping out racial injustice and caring for his fiancée. Foster worked in the Air Force as a flight mechanic until he was 19, when he was discharged to be Mitchell’s full-time caretaker, his family said.

7/29

VETERAN NEWS COVERAGE

New York Times: Report Slams Doctor at V.A. for Dismissing Suicide Risk of Patient Who Later Killed Himself

By Jennifer Steinhauer

The internal watchdog for the Department of Veterans Affairs said that a veteran who came through the department’s medical center last year seeking psychiatric treatment died by suicide a few days later, after a doctor there ordered him forcibly removed and was heard saying that she did “not care” if he killed himself.

Washington Post: VA inspector general exposes breakdown at D.C. hospital that preceded veteran’s suicide

By Lisa Rein

A veteran, in pain and out of medication, turned last year to Veterans Affairs’ flagship hospital in D.C. for help. Instead of receiving aid, a report says, a cascade of failures by the medical staff resulted in him being forcibly expelled. The veteran shot and killed himself six days later.

ABC Virginia: Senate expands list of conditions caused by Agent Orange in Vietnam War

By Mike Gooding

The Fair Care for Vietnam Veterans Act of 2020 adds bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, and Parkinson’s-like symptoms to the list of presumptive medical conditions, paving the way for those veterans to now receive critical care and benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

ABC Tulsa: Oklahoma officials address coronavirus outbreak at Claremore Veterans Center

By Staff

State officials said Tuesday that there’s been an outbreak of coronavirus at the Claremore Veterans Center. Since the beginning of July, more than 60 residents and 21 staff members at Claremore Veterans Center have tested positive for COVID-19.

CBS Tennessee: VA Secretary: Only two veterans are currently COVID-19 positive in all VA nursing homes

By Staff

The total number of patients currently in Department of Veterans Affairs nursing homes nationwide who’ve tested positive for the virus can be counted on one hand.“We have two veterans who are positive in our nursing homes out of 75-hundred,” said Secretary Wilkie.

CNN: A 75-year-old Vietnam veteran was pepper-sprayed in the face during protests in Portland

By Christina Maxouris and Hollie Silverman

A 75-year-old Vietnam veteran was seen on video getting pepper-sprayed in the face as he stood in front of a line of armed law enforcement in camouflage gear during protests in Portland, Oregon.

Military.com: $29 Billion in Military Funding Tucked Inside Proposed Coronavirus Relief Package

By Oriana Pawlyk

The Republicans’ proposed coronavirus relief package in the Senate includes $29 billion for the Pentagon, including nearly $8 billion in procurement and acquisition funding for major weapons and aircraft programs.

Military Times: Trump says he didn’t raise issue of bounties on U.S. troops during phone call with Putin

By Leo Shane III

In a new interview, President Donald Trump said he did not raise the issue of Russia paying bounties on U.S. troops in Afghanistan during a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin last week because the intelligence behind the claim is suspect and he doesn’t believe Russia wants to “get involved” in the region.

7/30

VETERAN NEWS COVERAGE

Stars and Stripes: Lax VA oversight led to coronavirus outbreaks at state veterans homes, House lawmakers say

By Nikki Wentling

House lawmakers criticized the Department of Veterans Affairs on Wednesday for its lax oversight of state veterans homes, arguing the department was partially to blame for deadly outbreaks of the coronavirus at some facilities.

Military.com: VA Facilities Continue to Hide Doctors’ Misconduct, Probes Find

By Patricia Kime

A Department of Veterans Affairs hospital in Richmond, Virginia, rehired a pathologist who had been previously fired for failing to diagnose or misdiagnosing cancer in at least a dozen patients, the VA Office of Inspector General reported Wednesday. The report is the second in two days from the VA OIG to expose physician failures at VA hospitals that went unchecked by administrators.

Ripon Advance: Barr proposes bipartisan bill to improve how veterans receive disability benefits

By Staff

U.S. Rep. Andy Barr (R-KY) on Monday introduced bipartisan legislation to improve the ability of U.S. military veterans to access and submit U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) disability benefit questionnaire forms, which are used by medical providers and others assisting veterans to submit evidence supporting VA disability claims.

Task and Purpose: A new bill would give thousands of vets a second chance by expanding special courts nationwide

By Jame Scott Baron

A new bill on its way to the president’s desk would give thousands of veterans a second chance after being charged with certain nonviolent crimes. The Veteran Treatment Court Coordination Act of 2019 directs the Department of Justice to establish a program that provides grants and technical assistance to state, local and tribal governments to develop and maintain veteran treatment courts.

Washington Post: The Health 202: The pandemic has closed the window for fixing the drug pricing system in 2020

By Paige Winfield Cunningham

A new Veterans Affairs inspector general report unveils failures by staff members at a D.C. hospital that preceded a veteran’s suicide. The report “revealed not only poor communication and poor judgment by multiple mental health and emergency room staff, but it exposed an insensitive call by the emergency department’s attending physician.

Military Times: House women veterans caucus wants action on Vanessa Guillen murder, sexual misconduct reforms

By Leo Shane III

The House women veterans caucus is demanding congressional hearings into the killing of Fort Hood soldier Spc. Vanessa Guillen and broader inquiries into solutions to the military’s problem of sexual assault.

ABC Florida: Department of Veterans Affairs brings services to veterans virtually during pandemic

By Jennifer Munoz

Out of the 134 nursing homes run by the Department of Veterans Affairs, there are currently two positive COVID-19 cases according to the U.S. Secretary of Veteran Affairs Robert Wilkie. “We started testing people, trialing them before they even walked through the facilities. We cut off our facilities to friends and family, which in our nursing homes was a drastic step,” said Wilkie.

7/31

VETERAN NEWS COVERAGE

Stars and Stripes: House panel advances bill to change VA’s motto to be gender-inclusive

By Steve Benyon

The House Veterans Affairs Committee on Thursday passed the Honoring All Veterans Act, which would change the VA’s motto. It would read, “To fulfill President Lincoln’s promise to care for those ‘who shall have borne the battle’ and for their families, caregivers, and survivors.”

MyChesCo: VA and Partner Agencies Announce COVID-19 Insights Partnership

By Staff

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, along with the Departments of Energy and Health and Human Services, this week announced the formation of the COVID-19 Insights Partnership, an initiative to coordinate and share health data as well as research and expertise to aid in the fight against COVID-19.

Times Record: Legislation pitched to reduce VA disability claim backlog

By Staff

U.S. Sen. John Boozman of Arkansas introduced legislation Thursday to reduce the backlog of pending Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) disability claims by expanding eligibility for health care providers who are allowed to conduct the required medical exam for veterans applying for benefits.

Washington Post: House lawmakers probe patient care, hydroxychloroquine use, in state homes for veterans

By Alexa Mikhail and Dan Rosenzweig-Ziff

House lawmakers pressed top officials at the Department of Veterans Affairs about staff shortages, the lack of covid-19 testing and infection-control lapses at state-run nursing homes for veterans and called on the administration to take a leading role in oversight that’s typically left to the states.

Tampa Bay Times: FEMA: Florida veterans hospitals can admit non-veterans during pandemic

By Ileana Najarro

Florida veterans hospitals are able to admit non-veteran patients if requested by the Florida Department of Health to assist community hospitals in treating patients with or without the coronavirus, according to Mary Kay Rutan, spokeswoman for the Veterans Affairs network that oversees medical facilities in Florida.

CBS Atlanta: Veterans endure delays to get doctor appointments at the VA

By Bobeth Yates

The scathing report shows the Atlanta VA is performing below guild lines. According to the investigation by the VA Officer of Inspector General, in 72% of the cases they reviewed, veterans did not get a doctor’s appointment within the 30-day time frame required; some veterans even waited more than 200 days before being seen by a physician.

NPR Charlotte: 36 Veterans Die Of COVID-19 In NC State Veterans Nursing Homes

By Thomas Goldsmith

North Carolina’s state-owned veterans nursing homes became the place where 36 ailing men caught COVID-19, then died, after surviving tours in places such as Pearl Harbor and Korea, according to federal records.

According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the death totals mean North Carolina ranks third nationally in COVID-related deaths in state veterans nursing homes.

Military.com: 1 Marine Dead, 8 More Missing After AAV Accident Off California Coast

By Hope Hodge Seck

Marine Corps, Navy and Coast Guard assets are searching for eight missing troops following a deadly Marine amphibious vehicle accident that took place Thursday afternoon off the coast of southern California.

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