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ND Veterans Affairs News

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - House and Senate negotiators have reached an agreement on the amount of funding to help identify and provide services to Vietnam veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange.

Foreman Democratic Rep. Bill Amerman says the conference committee voted 6-0 on Monday to fund the program at $50,000 over the next two years. Both chambers still must approve the recommendation.

Democratic Sen. Richard Marcellais says there are about 15,000 Vietnam veterans living in North Dakota, and many of them may have been exposed to the jungle defoliant.

There are 8 Veteran Affairs clinics across North Dakota, but only one hospital, and it's all the way on the east side of the state.

Often times, it's too difficult for many of our vets to travel to Fargo, but now they're offering a more high-tech option.

Brittney Jacob is the Bismarck VA Clinic's TeleHealth technician, and helps around 3,800 patients meet with Fargo doctors through computers and cameras.

So rather than driving 3 hours every few months, they can make an appointment and connect with physicians in seconds.

We're still reminded to never forget those missing in action or any prisoners of war from the Vietnam conflict, but there's one other issue that still stands out.

Senator Richard Marcellais has been wearing orange to bring awareness to the need for more funding for Vietnam veterans exposed to agent orange during the war. He says there are approximately 15,000 veterans of that war in North Dakota, including himself, who served there from 1968 to 1969.

WASHINGTON — A handful of World War II veterans were the center of attention Wednesday at a ceremony marking the 70th anniversary of the long, fierce Battle of Okinawa. At the National World War II Memorial in the nation’s capital, a wreath was presented to honor the 183,000 allied servicemembers who fought in the 82-day struggle on Okinawa that began April 1, 1945.

MINNEAPOLIS -- Trista Matascastillo remembers arriving at the Minneapolis VA Medical Center in 2010 for an exam and thinking the hospital didn't quite get the needs of female veterans.

The exam room, for instance, opened onto the patient waiting area, she said. She had to ask that the door be closed. It was a tiny detail, one Matascastillo said staff fixed quickly. But the 16-year veteran keeps the story close by now that she is part of an effort to help the center improve care for women.

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter plans to push a series of proposals, including a 401(k)-style pension plan and incentives for cyber warriors, aimed at attracting and retaining troops with the skills needed to fight modern wars.

Carter, who took office last month, intends to move quickly to enact changes before the Obama administration leaves the White House in early 2017, according to a senior aide who was not authorized to speak publicly. Carter has identified building a new force capable of dealing with new threats and retaining top performers as a key priority.

Military veterans who served since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks are more likely to be unemployed than their peers involved in earlier conflicts. The jobless rate for the most recent group of veterans was 7.2% in 2014, the Labor Department said this week. The figure is down from 9% in 2013—matching with steady improvement in the overall labor market—but remains elevated compared with other jobless measures. The jobless rate for all veterans was 5.3% last year.

The Senate passed two amendments to the Republican budget Tuesday aimed at helping veterans.

Senators passed by voice vote an amendment by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) that would create a deficit neutral fund to bolster the Veterans Affairs Department (VA), allow for the VA to hire additional mental health care workers and ensure veterans get timely access to care.

NEW YORK — The first stair-climb race at One World Trade Center - the nation's tallest building - will raise money for military veterans struggling with combat-linked disabilities, two foundations formed after the 9/11 attacks announced Monday.

Officials of the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation and the Captain Billy Burke Foundation detailed plans for the athletic event at Burke's firehouse, Engine Company 21 in midtown Manhattan. Burke lost his life on 9/11 along with Firefighter Stephen Siller from Squad 1 in Park Slope, Brooklyn.

The number of Vietnam veterans affected by the chemical Agent Orange is astonishing. Roughly 300-thousand veterans have died from Agent Orange exposure -- that's almost five times as many as the 58-thousand who died in combat.

“Did it save lives? No doubt. Over there it did, but nobody knew it was going to be taking them later,” said Dan Stenvold, President of the North Dakota branch of the VVA.

The Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) define Agent Orange as a highly toxic herbicide used by the U.S. military to kill vegetation during the Vietnam War.

The Department of Veterans Affairs is updating the way it determines eligibility for VA health care, a change that will result in more Veterans having access to the health care benefits they’ve earned and deserve.

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.

Senator Delivered Speech on Senate Floor Last Week Kicking-Off Series to Recognize & Honor the Lives of 198 KIA/MIA Vietnam Servicemembers from ND

BISMARCK, N.D. – As part of her push to recognize North Dakota servicemembers who gave their lives in the Vietnam War, U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp today met with Bismarck High School students to discuss their new collaborative effort to gather information and stories of these fallen men in efforts to honor their sacrifice and service to our nation.

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.

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