Veterans

Camille Phillips/St. Louis Public Radio

If the latest counts are accurate, the population of homeless veterans in the City of St. Louis is now zero. The city gave 51 veterans the keys to their own apartments Wednesday, providing housing for the last group of known homeless vets in the city.

At an event announcing Operation Reveille, St. Louis Department of Human Services Director Bill Siedhoff said homeless veterans have been a focus for his office.

Joseph Leahy / St. Louis Public Radio

The American Legion is looking for St. Louis-area veterans who need help getting medical services from the VA Health Care System.

The Legion has sent members from its “System Worth Saving Task Force” in Washington, D.C., to relay concerns directly from St. Louis-area veterans.

The three-person task force is meeting with the director of the local VA system today to bring up problems raised by veterans at a town hall-style meeting that it hosted Monday night, said Verna Jones, director of the Legion's Veterans Affairs Rehabilitation Division in Washington.

Eric Shinseki
Veterans Affairs photo | Wikipedia

Too often governmental scandals become couched in blaming an administrator for the problem. Critics seldom look at a bureaucratic organization for its failings or how bureaus channel the behavior of their employees. One element that should be examined is how success is judged.

In the case of the Veterans Administration and Gen. Eric Shinseki, we see staff at VA hospitals responding to how they would be evaluated. Such evaluations affect compensation and promotion and hence behavior. Employees also tend to go along to get along.

Shinseki sowed the seeds of his own demise.

Blunt – Flickr/Gage Skidmore; McCaskill – Flickr/SenatorMcCaskill

On Friday, U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill is releasing the latest results of a survey of Missouri military veterans who have received care at Veterans Administration’s facilities around the state, including Cochran and Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis.

While not disclosing any details, McCaskill told reporters Tuesday that “every year we’ve done it, the VA has done a little better. I’m particularly pleased this year because we’ve had even more responses this year than we had last year.”

Missouri’s U.S. Senators are seeking answers from the Department of Veterans Affairs  about reports of lax mental health services in St. Louis’s VA hospital system.

The inquiry stems from allegations by the system’s former Chief of Psychiatry, Dr. Jose Mathews, regarding an “artificial backlog” of patient care created by staff who treat veterans for only a fraction of the workday.

According to the Associated Press, Mathews claims in a federal whistleblower complaint filed last year that he was demoted after his efforts to make employees work harder and more efficiently.

(Shula Neuman/St. Louis Public Radio)

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster today announced criminal charges against a St. Charles man accused of falsely collecting donations for the Wounded Warriors Project, a national nonprofit organization that assists wounded American veterans. 

(Courtesy AnthemUSA)

Plans are coming together for Oasis Residential@Emerson, a new supportive living community in St. Louis for veterans and other individuals with mental health issues, said business partners Sherman Strong and Kendall Brune.

Robert Peterson / St. Louis Public Radio

Officials with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs were in St. Louis today in an effort to get homeless veterans off the street and into housing immediately.

The outreach to veterans was part of the required winter count of homeless people in the city. Officials with the VA went out with teams, conducting the count to be able to offer immediate help to chronically homeless veterans. It was part of the Obama administration's efforts to end homelessness among veterans by 2015.

Mary Delach Leonard|St. Louis Public Radio and the Beacon

Wanda Pierson was 500 miles from home on a wintry December morning waiting to visit her son who was undergoing treatment in the spinal cord injury unit at the Jefferson Barracks VA Medical Center.

(Courtesy Marleah Leslie & Associates)

In "Beyond Glory," actor and playwright Stephen Lang takes on the roles of eight men awarded the Medal of Honor, the country's highest military honor. The one-man play will be performed in St. Louis on Saturday, November 16 at Washington University's Edison Theatre.

Lang, whose credits include "Avatar," "Conan the Barbarian" and the Broadway production of "The Speed of Darkness," adapted the play from a book by the same name written by Larry Smith in 2003.

Joseph Leahy

Salutes fired in downtown St. Louis this morning at the Soldiers Memorial Military Museum in honor of the sacrifices made by U.S. armed service members for their country. Parades, ceremonies and speeches in the St. Louis area over the three-day weekend marked the 95th anniversary of the end of WWI, known previously as Armistice Day.

(Courtesy Six String Heroes)

For veterans struggling to adjust to civilian life, playing music can provide a means of focus and escape. That's the founding idea of Six String Heroes, a non-profit organization based at Jefferson Barracks. The organization connects St. Louis area veterans with guitar lessons as a means of music therapy.

After six lessons, veterans can earn a free guitar. So far, more than 170 guitars have been awarded.

(By Minesweeper [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

Updated after today’s show.

Backlogs in disability claims.  Over-prescription of opiate narcotics. Exposure to blood-borne pathogens. Loose spending habits. In the last few years, the VA health care system has received a lot of negative media attention.

But according to Lynn Welling, that doesn’t mean veterans are receiving poor quality care. He is the chief of staff for the St. Louis VA Health Care System and a former Navy doctor.

(Bernt Rostad)

On day two of the government shutdown, it continues to cause headaches, including for a group of Missouri and Kansas veterans that flew to Washington. 

The nonprofit Heartland Honor Flight organized the trip and the closed National World War II Memorial was the first stop Wednesday. The group was met by many Missouri and Kansas lawmakers, who helped them get inside the memorial where barriers had been set up. 

(Flickr/807MDSC)

A 65-year-old Vietnam War veteran from St. Louis County received a Purple Heart medal more than 44 years after he was wounded overseas.

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill's office says it helped secure the award for Walter Sitzwohl after his wife contacted the senator's office this summer. McCaskill is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Sitzwohl was first assigned to the A Company, 158th Assault Helicopter Battalion and deployed to Vietnam with that unit. He later transferred to D Company, 101st AHB in March 1969, based out of Phu Bai.

Jerry Tovo (Courtesy Missouri History Museum)

 During the Vietnam War, Jerry Tovo was a drill sergeant, training soldiers to go to war. After he left the military, Tovo became a professional photographer, specializing in advertising. But in 2011, he took his photography in a less commercial direction--photographing homeless veterans across the country.

Tovo's motivation for the project originated with an understanding of the problems that can lead to homelessness  among veterans.

(via Flickr/U.S. Army Garrison, Miami)

At first glance, veterans of the post 9/11 wars and St. Louis youth in high crime neighborhoods don't have much in common. But two things unite them: both are considered at-risk and both can have a tough time finding jobs.

Tim Lloyd / St. Louis Public Radio

Military veterans from across the nation are in St. Louis this weekend to receive training and take part in community improvement efforts.

The more than 80 veterans were joined by hundreds of community volunteers on Saturday to spruce up the Boys and Girls Club in north St. Louis City, building a picnic area, installing a new track and putting a fresh coat of paint on community areas. 

(via Flickr/KurtClark)

Memorial Day is one of just a couple days a year in which attention is brought specifically to veterans.

While the remembrance earlier this week is a reminder of veterans’ service to the country, the issues and needs associated with returning veterans is an ongoing issue.  Many veterans struggle with health and emotional issues such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), have difficulty finding jobs and trouble finding a new normalcy in civilian life.

(UPI/Bill Greenblatt)

According to the Center for Investigative Reporting, the wait time for veterans to receive benefits has skyrocketed from 116 days in 2009 to 330 days now. In response, US Representative Bill Enyart is sponsoring legislation to try to reduce that wait.

What the bill would do is pay partial, provisional benefits for veterans whose cases aren't handled within 125 days after they are submitted. Currently, that would apply to more than half a million veterans.

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