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ND Veterans Affairs News: Federal

A year after the Veterans Affairs Department was rocked by findings of hidden patient wait lists and manipulated records, House Republicans are accusing the department's new leadership of doing little to fix the transparency problems.

In a rare evening hearing on Monday, conservatives on the House Veterans' Affairs Committee accused VA officials and investigators at the independent VA Inspector General's office of withholding information from Congress, evading elected officials' requests and obstructing lawmakers' efforts to uncover problems.

Some troubled Los Angeles veterans are getting help through an unlikely source: orphaned parrots.

The West L.A. campus of the Department of Veterans Affairs has an exotic-bird rescue facility on its sprawling 387-acre campus. It houses 21 aviaries with nearly 40 parrots that are part of a unique animal-assisted therapy program for veterans coping with post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, alcoholism and other ailments.

The Feathered Friends program at the VA Medical Center gives veterans a chance to work through their issues by caring for orphaned exotic birds.

WASHINGTON — President Obama will visit the Arizona veterans' hospital that prompted an overhaul of veterans' health care and led to the resignation of the VA secretary.

The White House says Obama will travel to Phoenix on Friday to discuss veterans' issues. He will be joined by VA Secretary Robert McDonald, who filled the post following the ouster of Eric Shinseki.

The VA came under scrutiny last year following reports that dozens of veterans died awaiting treatment at the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Medical Center and that records were manipulated to hide delays.

Thanks to a new bill veterans won’t have to worry about paying out-of-state tuition at any public university. Provisions in the Veterans’ Access to Care through Choice, Accountability, and Transparency Act of 2014 will require all public universities to offer in-state tuition to veterans making use of their GI Bill.

The unemployment rate for post-9/11 veterans dropped to 6.7 percent in February, government data show, mirroring a drop in the nation's unemployment rate.

The country added 295,000 jobs overall, as unemployment fell from 5.7 percent in January to 5.5 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

For the newest generation of veterans, the unemployment rate was down more than 1 point from January's 7.9 percent mark. Large month-to-month changes are common in this measure, which has a small sample size that is prone to fluctuation.

A fifth of all service members who served in Iraq and Afghanistan suffered concussions, mainly from being close to explosive blasts from roadside bombs. Doctors often refer to sports injuries to seek treatment options for the so-called signature wound of the long wars.

But new research signals that war-zone concussions are much different from concussions than happen playing football or hockey. Most athletes quickly recover brain function. Most soldiers and Marines do not, according to a study released Wednesday in Brain: A Journal of Neurology.

Veterans can now track the status of most of their prescriptions online, thanks to an innovative idea by a Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) employee. The new 24/7 service allows online tracking for most prescriptions mailed from the VA Mail Order Pharmacy.

The Prescription Tracker was recommended by VA employee Kenneth Siehr, a winner of the President’s 2013 Securing Americans Value and Efficiency (SAVE) Award. Siehr’s idea focused on the use of technology as a way to save money and improve the services VA provides to its patients.

The debut novel by Silver Star recipient Elliot Ackerman might be one of the first works of fiction about the Afghan war to be published by a veteran who fought in it — but he expects more will follow.

By Kathleen Curthoys
Army Times
Published: February 27, 2015

“You won’t be punished for your anger. You will be punished by your anger.”

A new online course developed for and by ‪#‎Veterans‬ to help Veterans to understand and combat their anger triggers is available at http://www.veterantraining.va.gov/AIMS

By Heath Druzin
Stars and Stripes
Published: January 22, 2015

The effort to clear a massive backlog of veteran disability claims is hurting efforts to address a similar backlog in appeals of denied claims, say advocates demanding reforms to an onerous “hamster wheel” system that leaves veterans languishing for years.

Posted 5:11 pm, January 20, 2015, by , Updated at 10:31am, January 21, 2015

DENVER — Veterans Affairs executives in charge of four hospital projects currently over budget and years behind schedule were given bonuses, despite the administration admitting failures in their jobs.

By Dawnthea Price | The Free Lance-Star
© Tribune News Service

January 19, 2015

Wounded service members are learning new ways to protect the nation through the intricacies of cybersecurity training.

Representatives from the Federal IT Security Institute and its Wounded Warrior Cyber Combat Academy were in Stafford County Monday to mark the program’s progress.

January 14, 2015 | 3:18 AM ET
Steve Walsh, NPR

NPR — along with seven public radio stations around the country — is chronicling the lives of America's troops where they live. We're calling the project "Back at Base." This story is Part 2 of a three-part series about veteran benefits.

By DAVE PHILIPPS | JAN. 7, 2015
New York Times

COLORADO SPRINGS — Nearly 200 sick and wounded soldiers in a gym at Fort Carson last month listened silently as Lt. Col. Daniel Gade offered a surprising warning: The disability checks designed to help troops like them after they leave the service might actually be harmful.

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