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Category: Veterans issues


Senate passes Murray measure to reform Defense suicide prevention programs

The Senate this week passed an amendment that would reshape the Defense Department’s behavioral health and suicide prevention programs, compelling each service to adopt common practices.

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., submitted the provision to the $631 billion defense authorization bill. Her amendment mirrors a bill she submitted in June.

“This is a major step forward in Congress really focusing on the issue of mental health of our service members, and it has not been done before,” Murray, the chairwoman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, said today.

Her proposal seeks to standardize the Defense Department’s varied suicide

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Sen. Murray seeks to leave leadership post on Veterans Affairs to take up Budget chairmanship

Sen. Patty Murray plans to leave her bully pulpit as chairwoman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee to seek a greater role shaping federal spending as the leader of the Senate Budget Committee.

We’re planning to speak with Murray later today. She intends to remain on Veterans Affairs, a committee that she used to draw attention to long waits for patient services in the VA and to push for improved behavioral health services in the active-duty military.

She told Politico she wants to leverage her new role on Budget Committee to shape discussions about investing in the country’s future.

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Sen. Murray nudges Panetta to speed up Pentagon review of PTSD diagnoses

Sen. Patty Murray today nudged Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to provide more information about what resulted from his call for a military-wide review of post-traumatic stress diagnoses.

Panetta called for that review in the wake of a controversy last winter at Madigan Army Medical Center in which veterans complained that a forensic psychiatry team at the hospital changed their post-traumatic stress diagnoses in such a way that soldiers received fewer disability benefits. Some veterans feared the hospital was changing diagnoses to save money.

The Army has since reviewed hundreds of cases of soldiers who passed through Madigan, revising some diagnoses to post-traumatic

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“You have the feeling you don’t belong here” – What we heard at JBLM stand down this week

The tough part covering this week’s suicide stand down at Joint Base Lewis-McChord and Soldier 360 leadership retreat for noncommissioned officers was knowing I couldn’t include all the forthright observations service members were sharing about the health of the force.

“I don’t think they expected this (period of war) to go this long, and they didn’t have a plan,” said one burly noncomissioned officer at the Soldier 360 retreat.

He shared with his peers his frustration at finding an Army doctor who would hear him out about his anger management issues without handing him a prescription for medication

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Big days for job seeking veterans: JBLM holds one fair Thursday; Hire America’s Heroes set for Friday

One last reminder: The annual Hire America’s Heroes job fair at Safeco Field in Seattle is set for Friday. You can register here, or walk in starting at 8 a.m.

Today, we attended a college and apprenticeship fair for soldiers and Army spouses at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. We found hundreds of soldiers gathering information for the plans they’re making to leave the military down the road.

Some were just beginning their military careers. They were dabbling and making long-range plans. “When I’ll get out, I’ll be fine,” said Spc. Kaleel Salmon, 20.

We met other soldiers who know when they’re

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Study shows VA claims backlog growing despite scrutiny, investments

A new analysis of backlogs at the Department of Veterans Affairs shows that former service members in the Puget Sound are waiting an average of 235 days to get their disability claims resolved.

The project by the Center for Investigative Reporting shows that the delays are greatest in urban areas, such as Oakland and San Diego. Check out the C.I.R. interactive map on wait times here.

Veterans are more likely to have their claims resolved more quickly in places like Boise, Idaho and Missoula, Mont.

The Center for Investigative Reporting’s Aaron Glantz points out that:

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Cantwell in Tacoma today to promote tax credits for hiring veterans

Sen. Maria Cantwell is in Tacoma today to promote a bill that would provide tax credits to businesses that hire veterans.

She’s speaking this afternoon at J.M. Martinac Shipbuilding, a growing business that says veterans make up 40 percent of its payroll.

Cantwell is promoting an extension of the Returning Heroes and Wounded Heroes Work Opportunity Tax Credits through 2013. According to her office, the bill gives businesses a tax credit of up to $9,600 for each qualified veteran they hire. The credits are due to expire at the end of this year.

Her office cited figures from the Washington

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Defense secretary again expands review in military PTSD diagnoses

The Defense Department on Wednesday announced that it again would expand its review of post-traumatic stress diagnoses dating back to the start of the war in Afghanistan.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta today said the review would include all branches of the armed forces. Previously, the review was to focus only on the Army.

Panetta’s announcement is the latest investigation into PTSD diagnoses since the Office of the Surgeon General began investigating a team of forensic psychiatrists at Madigan Army Medical Center that sometimes changed behavioral health diagnoses among soldiers who were seeking medical retirements. Some of those soldiers

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