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Bill looks to protect ‘sanctity’ at military funerals. The Senate passed an omnibus veterans affairs bill Wednesday that includes additional restrictions on protests near military funerals and tougher penalties on groups that violate the law.

House backs spending millions for military sports sponsorships. In spite of budgetary woes and calls for defense programs to be slashed, the House of Representatives on Wednesday voted to let the U.S. military spend millions of dollars to continue sponsoring sporting events, most notably NASCAR.

Air Force chief of staff nominee: Deeper cuts at Europe bases needed. The prospective new Air Force chief of staff said service officials must look into further base consolidations in Europe as part of the larger effort to trim military spending and stabilize the national economy.

Efforts to combat military sex assaults are failing. Efforts to stop military sexual assaults are not working, and officials need to spur a culture change, the presumptive Air Force Chief of Staff told Congress on Thursday.

Retired military officers: Lazy summers threaten national security. Hundreds of high-ranking, retired military officers have joined the chorus of summer school proponents, arguing that what children do in the summertime is a matter of national security.

Surgery Can be Avoided for Men with Early Stages of Prostate Cancer. Counsel & Heal The research was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the National Cancer Institute, and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Researchers had 731 men across the country with early prostate cancer have the gland surgically …

VA Cites Progress In Fixing Disability Claims Process. Washington Post “The Department of Veterans Affairs’ efforts to transform its broken disability claims process is yielding concrete results, despite a growing number of cases, a senior VA official told a House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee Wednesday.” Allison A. Hickey, VA’s undersecretary for benefits, “said training initiatives and a new paperless system being introduced are yielding faster and more accurate decisions on pending claims.” But the man who chaired Wednesday’s hearing, US Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) “dismissed…VA’s claims of progress,” stating, “We’ve heard it before.” Also speaking at Wednesday’s hearing was Joseph A. Violante, national legislative director for the Disabled American Veterans, who said VA’s “backlog of claims is staggering, and the quality of the claims decisions remains far too low.

Hickey Comments On Dealing With Pentagon. NextGov “To evaluate disability claims, the Veterans Affairs Department needs a bunch of information from the Defense Department on individual cases, which in an ideal world would get digitally zapped from one department to another. This is far from an ideal world, particularly when it comes to the Defense/VA nexus, as Allison Hickey, undersecretary for benefits at VA, told” lawmakers at Wednesday’s hearing. Brewin adds, “The VA claims backlog stood at slightly over 900,000 this Monday, and I guess we should now blame the Pentagon for this sorry state of affairs.”

VA Says It Has Improved Online Access To Benefits Information. Aerotech News And Review “Nearly 1.7 million veterans and service members have registered for the Department of Veterans Affairs-Department of Defense web portal, eBenefits, which provides online information and access to a wide variety of military and veteran benefits resources.” A news release from VA “issued July 18 says about 1.67 million users have signed up, and notes the strong pace of registrations for the site since its launch in October 2009 has allowed VA to exceed its fiscal year 2012 agency priority goal of 1.65 million user. That puts it on track to meet the 2013 goal of 2.5 million.”

Lejeune Health Care Bill Is Unstuck In Senate. Military Times “A stalled veterans’ bill is now on track for Senate passage this week after a small change was made in a landmark program under which the Veterans Affairs Department would provide health care to people suffering from long-term effects of drinking contaminated water at Camp Lejeune, N.C.” According to the Times, US Sens. Jim DeMint (R-SC) and Patty Murray (D-WA), the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee chairwoman, “reached agreement Wednesday to add a section allowing VA to deny health care if ‘conclusive evidence’ is available to show the individual’s disability or disease had a different cause than exposure to the contaminated drinking water at Lejeune. This is similar to a provision that applies to other presumptive VA benefits, such as problems related to exposure to Agent Orange and Gulf War illness.”

Sexual Assault Victims Struggle For VA Benefits. Military Times “Victims of sexual assault have more difficulty getting” Veterans Affairs “benefits than veterans suffering other service-connected trauma disabilities, a former military officer told a House panel Wednesday.” In testimony before the House Veterans Affairs Committee’s disability assistance panel, Anu Bhagwati, executive director of the Service Women’s Action Network, or SWAN, “said there also are signs of gender bias in the disability rating provided to PTSD victims.” But VA “officials said the process is being improved.” Stars And Stripes “Thomas Murphy, director of the Veterans Benefits Administration’s compensation service, said officials are working to adjudicate all claims ‘compassionately and fairly.’” Murphy “said officials have relaxed rules to allow more evidence to be allowed proving a PTSD-sexual assault link, including statements from friends or family, records of tests for pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases, and outside medical appointments.

House Includes Kucinich Amendment Doubling Gulf War Illness Defense Medical Treatment Research Funding. 91 Outcomes On Wednesday, the US House of Representatives “included an amendment to this year’s Defense spending bill that would add $10 million in medical treatment research for Gulf War Illness.” The amendment, which was authored by outgoing US Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), “represents a major victory for 250,000 ill Gulf War veterans after a series of setbacks in recent months” with the US Veterans Affairs Department. Hardie adds, “The Defense spending bill is expected to pass the House this week, though prospects for action in the Senate are reportedly dim until after the November elections.”

For Veterans, An Alternative To The Nursing Home. New York Times 95-year-old Wesley Ottis Furr and 79-year-old Booker Lovett, who live with the Bastia family in Mount Airy, Pennsylvania, are “participants in the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Foster Home program, which places veterans who need round-the-clock care in private homes.” Now “operating through 73 VA sites in 36 states, the medical foster homes program is scheduled to expand to 10 more states within two years. Eventually, the VA hopes to introduce the program to all 153 of the agency’s medical centers, said Dan Goedken, national program analyst.” Dr. Thomas Edes, VA’s national director of geriatrics and extended care operations, says that because medical foster homes operate for half the cost of nursing homes, it is “quite likely” that the program will save VA money “and taxpayer money and veterans’ money.”

Overwhelmed VA Late With July GI Bill Funds. Military Times “Volume – not systemic problems – appears to be the cause of a delay of living stipends and tuition payments for thousands of veterans using the Post-9/11 GI Bill.” Josh Taylor, a Veterans Affairs Department spokesman, noted that the volume of veterans education benefits “has increased 13 percent this year alone – over last year’s record volume of 3.4 million claims.” Taylor was “responding to complaints, many posted on Facebook, from student veterans enrolled in summer courses who had not received their living stipends to pay rent.” After noting that Taylor apologized for any problems caused by delayed payments, the Times adds, “VA officials are working on the problems and said most should be resolved by the beginning of August.”

Healthcare: March Pursues Veterans Medical Clinic. Riverside (CA) Press Enterprise “With proposals due Friday, July 20, from those interested in selling more than 36 acres within San Bernardino County to the Department of Veterans Affairs for a health center, the developer of a proposed medical campus near Riverside and his supporters have drafted letters to the federal agency urging it to consider a location in Riverside County.” But a VA spokeswoman “said the proposed three-story 275,000-square-foot clinic needs to be close to the existing Loma Linda VA hospital.” Kristin Hall, acting public affairs officer with VA’s “Loma Linda facility, said the medical center is supposed to be a supplement to the Loma Linda hospital, with pharmacy and clinical staff likely moving between the two as well as patients with appointments in both.” She added, “We are serving our Riverside County veterans” with four community clinics in Blythe, Palm Desert, Corona and Murrieta.

Symptoms Of Traumatic Brain Injury Can Persist For Years. New York Times A “new study out of the University of Oklahoma suggests that the symptoms of combat-related traumatic brain injury can last for years without decreasing in intensity. The study, which was presented at the annual meeting of the American Headache Society last month, looked at 500 veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who, between June 2008 and April 2011, had screened positive for traumatic brain injury during deployment.” Vets in the study “were being treated at a special traumatic brain injury clinic at the Oklahoma City Veterans Affairs Medical Center.”

Alcohol Harms Thinking In Older Adults, Researchers Say. Bloomberg News “Certain types of alcohol use after age 65 may affect memory and thinking, according to two studies that raise new questions about earlier research that suggested drinking may stymie cognitive decline. People 65 and older who regularly consumed four or more alcoholic beverages at a time, a situation described in the study as binge-drinking, were more likely to have the highest drop-off in brain function and the most memory decline, according to one result.” A second study, led by Tina Hoang, the clinical research coordinator at the Veterans Affairs hospital in San Francisco, “reported that women who indulged heavily early in life or were moderate drinkers after 65 were more likely to have cognitive impairment.”

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