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WASHINGTON TIMES — The Trump administration faces renewed scrutiny in the new year over a trio of the president’s resort-club acquaintances who allegedly tried to influence the Department of Veterans Affairs‘ overhaul of electronic health records for more than 9 million veterans. The Government Accountability Office is expected to complete a review of the actions of the so-called “Mar-a-Lago council” sometime next spring at the request of Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Brian Schatz of Hawaii, who warned of the potential for “corruption and cronyism” to influence VA policy decisions.
FEDERAL NEWS NETWORK — Both the House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committees are concerned perpetual turnover among the top and middle leadership ranks at the Department of Veterans Affairs is putting the agency’s key priorities, including upcoming changes to VA community care and suicide prevention programs, in jeopardy. VA has nearly six months to set the parameters for how and where veterans can receive community care in lieu of treatment from the agency. The VA MISSION Act, which President Donald Trump signed into law over the summer, gave the department until June to implement the new veterans choice program.
THE GUARDIAN — For Sgt Russell Carter, the first sign that something was wrong came when he was still serving in Afghanistan and the sound of friendly aircraft overhead sent him diving under a truck for cover. For Specialist Craig McNabb, his flashbacks took him to the days he was surrounded by death as an army military police officer, filling and stacking body bags at the World Trade Center after the 9/11 terror attack. “I’d see all the bodies in my head,” he said. “Then I was deployed to war.” For Cpl Derek Butler, after returning from Iraq, sleep became terrifying because of the recurring nightmare about an ambush when his buddy was shot in the neck and took three minutes to bleed out and die in his lap.
WAVE NEWSPAPERS — Construction of a $32 million supportive housing complex for homeless veterans in Exposition Park began Dec. 14. The RISE Apartments, at 4050 S. Figueroa St., is intended for those making 30 to 50 percent of the area median income and transitioning into a supportive housing community. “The groundbreaking for the RISE apartments was yet another giant step in the city’s effort to eliminate homelessness and ensure our most vulnerable people have a shot at living a life of dignity and respect,” said Councilman Curren Price, who represents part of downtown and South Los Angeles.
SIERRA SUN TIMES — The holiday season can be full of fun, friends and family, but the season can also be a source of stress for veterans. Stress can affect your health and become a problem when the stress begins to feel overwhelming. Here are some tips that can assist you when the seasons stress starts to take over.
THE TAKEAWAY — An average of twenty veterans die by suicide every day in this country, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. And a new report just out from the Government Accountability Office says the VA has failed on a massive scale to address the problem. Among other failures, the report shows that only 1 percent of the $6.2 million set aside for advertising the VA crisis hotline was actually spent.
REBOOT CAMP — Nearly 42,000 disabled veterans are eligible to have their federal student loan debt dismissed. But only about 18 percent of them have applied to do so, according to the Department of Education. And making matters worse, around 25,000 disabled veterans have already defaulted on their student loans.
RECORD BEE — In 2017, charitable donations set a record, but consumers also reported losing a record $905 million to fraud. Today we look at our nation’s giving trends and offer tips to make sure your donations are going to a worthy cause. This is the season when generosity in America rises to its peak. But be careful of those attempting to take advantage of your favorite cause. In 2018, fraud cases in the U.S., particularly those claiming to help the military and veterans, were so prevalent that regulators from every state joined the Federal Trade Commission to carry out Operation Donate With Honor. In July, California had 514 veterans charities listed as “delinquent” on the attorney general’s Registry of Charitable Trusts.
MILITARY TIMES — Many disabled veterans are better off financially than they were four years ago, according to a recent Wounded Warrior Project survey of post-9/11 veterans. Despite multiple service-connected injuries or health problems, more disabled vets have their own homes, jobs and college degrees. “We’re continuing to see that positive momentum and realizing that when they transition, it’s not the end of the road, but it’s the beginning of a new journey,” said Melanie Mousseau, metrics director for Wounded Warrior Project, which conducted the 33,000-person survey with research partner Westat this year. “That’s really promising seeing that coming out of the data.”
KPBS — A San Diego Iraq War veteran with two small children is spending the holidays in jail after the VA San Diego Healthcare System pressed charges against him. Erik Benson, who suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, has been in federal custody since November 27, after he left angry, threatening voicemail messages for his doctor and staff.
KCAL 9 — Every Christmas, local Army veteran Sgt. Jeanne Buchanan — who is battling terminal cancer — walks the neighborhood outside her downtown Los Angeles apartment to hand out items — such as socks, blankets, food and flashlights — that she has collected for the homeless. Lesley Marin reports.
LODI NEWS SENTINEL — For nurse Fritzie Pascual, there was one veteran in particular who touched her heart. She was working in a medical respite center one day when a sick veteran told her “Please don’t let me die a homeless man.” Moved to action, she was able to find a home for the man. However, he was too sick to move into the home, and in an appeal for compassion Pascual asked the homeowners to let her give him the key. They did, and with the key to his own home in his hand, the veteran died.