Veterans Affairs | KUOW News and Information

Veterans Affairs

A New Jersey Air National Guard member checks the blood pressure of a homeless veteran
Flickr Photo/New Jersey National Guard (CC-BY-ND-2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/TDycb7

Kim Malcolm talks with Marine Corps veteran Josh Penner and Navy veteran Rebecca Murch about the potential impact of privatizing healthcare services provided by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

The “Mobile Mouth”, a 42-foot long mobile dentist’s office, will stop in Portland and Spokane this week as part of a nationwide tour to provide free dental care to veterans. 

Fired Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin tells NPR's Morning Edition that political forces in the Trump administration want to privatize the VA — and that he was standing in the way.

"There are many political appointees in the VA that believe that we are moving in the wrong direction or weren't moving fast enough toward privatizing the VA," he said. "I think that it's essential for national security and for the country that we honor our commitment by having a strong VA. I was not against reforming VA, but I was against privatization."

John Zimmerman, a nurse anesthetist for the Veterans Administration in Minneapolis, leans over a patient. Under a new rule, some nurse practicioners are allowed to work independently rather than under a physician's close supervision.
Association of Veterans Affairs Nurse Anesthetists

The VA is giving more some nurse practitioners more autonomy to treat patients, but not all of them will be free from physician oversight.

Transgender veterans hoping the veterans administration would cover their sex reassignment surgery were dealt a setback after the administration dropped the plan.

Stephen Coning, a 26-year-old former Marine, took his own life this summer, leaving behind a wife and a 2-year-old son.

By chance, it was the same week the Department of Veterans Affairs released conclusive data showing that the rate of suicide for those who served is now much higher than for civilians.

Despite that connection, the VA does not presume all suicides to be "service connected."

An analysis of veterans suicides by the Department of Veterans Affairs sheds new light on high-risk groups of veterans.

The report, billed as the most comprehensive analysis to date, examined completed suicides between 2001 and 2014.


John Zimmerman, a nurse anesthetist for the Veterans Administration in Minneapolis, leans over a patient. Under a new rule, some nurse practicioners are allowed to work independently rather than under a physician's close supervision.
Association of Veterans Affairs Nurse Anesthetists

Nurses may soon do work doctors normally do at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

This includes nurses performing work that anesthesiologists have been doing – and that has some physicians irate.

Local Veterans Affairs officials met with reporters this week to talk about some of the steps they're taking to improve accessibility and quality of care for veterans. 

One of the Seattle VA's new initiatives is to help veterans deal with chronic pain -- a problem that can often lead to opiate dependence and addiction. Another critical initiative addresses the 11 percent growth in VA Puget Sound's patient load. 


Marine veteran Jack Kegley and UW Assistant Professor Jeremy Watson enjoy the new healing garden built by UW students.
KUOW Photo/Patricia Murphy

A dull empty space outside Puget Sound VA’s emergency room has been transformed into a serene space for sitting.

When I first met Shaun Tullar, he was locked up in the Vista Detention Facility in San Diego County, Calif.

He was being held in what the jail calls the vets pod — a ring of cells for veterans to live together like a military unit. We met in a room that felt like a school classroom, but with military flags on the walls, and guards at the door.

Department of Veterans Affairs
Department of Veterans Affairs

The number of VA Puget Sound patients waiting for home health care soared over the space of six months, making the facility’s wait list the second longest in the nation.

That’s according to a report from the Department of Veteran’s Affairs Office of Inspector General.

Gloria Hoeppner holds her VA choice card with her husband Earl Kornbrekke at their home in Friday Harbor, Washington.
KUOW Photo/Patricia Murphy

Twice as many veterans in rural areas will be able to go to a doctor near their home after a policy change made Tuesday by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The change follows a scathing report less than 24 hours earlier on "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart," which featured a KUOW story.

When Clay Hunt left the Marine Corps, he struggled with post-traumatic stress and he also tried to help other veterans who were in the same boat. He also battled the red tape many of them were trying to claw their way through to get mental health care. And it became too much. He locked himself in his apartment and killed himself in 2011. He was 28.

Since then, his parents, Richard and Susan Selke, have been outspoken advocates for suicide prevention and today they will be at the White House when President Obama signs the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act.

Veterans Affairs Puget Sound will get $22 million over the next two years and plans to hire more than 120 additional medical personnel for specialties like mental health and geriatric care. 

The money is part of more than $15 billion set aside by Congress to fund the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act. The bill is designed to help veterans access health care more quickly. 

NPR — along with seven public radio stations around the country — is chronicling the lives of America's troops where they live.

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 is the first of a three-part series about veteran benefits (Part 2 / Part 3).

More than a hundred veterans turned out for a town hall style meeting hosted by Veterans Administration Puget Sound as an effort to improve care at regional hospitals.

Embattled Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki has resigned his position, hours after saying he would work to fix "systemic" problems in the VA's health care system.

President Obama said Friday that the decision was made so Shinseki wouldn't be a "distraction" from efforts to address the agency's wide-ranging problems.

Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki met with President Obama at the White House to talk about the response to the ongoing scandal involving health care for veterans.

It started at the VA facility in Phoenix where there were allegations that vets there died while waiting for health care. There are also charges that some VA employees cooked the books to make it look like veterans were being seen promptly.

Anybody found to have manipulated or falsified Veterans Affairs records "will be held accountable," President Obama said Wednesday. The president condemned the reported widespread problems at the VA, defending Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki.

Obama spoke after he and Shinseki met in the Oval Office Wednesday morning with White House deputy chief of staff Rob Nabors, who since last week has been detailed to work with the VA. Neither of those men attended the president's news conference.

For Some Vets, Growing Old Triggers PTSD

Apr 25, 2014

As veterans from World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam age and enter hospice, we’re learning that some of them, who seemed totally fine all their lives, are experiencing late in life post-traumatic stress disorder.

One study shows that as many as one in three vets have experienced Late Onset Stress Symptology (LOSS).

KUOW Photo/John Ryan

Ross Reynolds talks with journalist Aaron Glantz about preventable deaths at Veterans Affairs hospitals. Glantz covers veterans and military issues for the Center for Investigative Reporting.

B. Braun training video on YouTube.com

Editor’s note 2/7/2014: This story has been edited to remove references to VA officials’ incorrect claim that a Seattle VA nurse saw the Infusomat recall at the FDA website in March 2012. While manufacturer B. Braun sent the VA and other customers its recall notice in March, FDA did not post information about the manufacturer’s March 23, 2012, recall letter until August 1. The story has also been edited to attribute to medical records the statement that, the night Eddie Creed died, a doctor asked his sister if she wanted an autopsy to be done. Creed's sister claims the VA never asked her about an autopsy. The content in the edited story differs from the audio in the original broadcast.

When Eddie Creed, a Seattle jazz musician, died at the Veterans Affairs hospital on Beacon Hill last year, his death certificate said throat cancer had killed him.

But a KUOW investigation reveals what his doctors knew: A medical device called an Infusomat, which had been recalled the month before, ended his life. Still, nobody knows why.

KUOW Photo/John Ryan

After Army veteran Eddie Creed died at the Seattle VA hospital in April 2012, his loved ones awaited official word: Why had he received a lethal overdose of morphine in his sleep there? The VA still hasn't released the independent investigation it commissioned concerning his accidental overdose.

Courtesy of HUMV/Sarah Koopai

For Tom Jenkins, a senior at the University of Washington and a veteran of the Air Force, the partial government shutdown has caused double stress: He has been furloughed from his part-time job as a reservist, and he may not receive veteran’s benefits.

VA’s Opiate Overload Feeds Veterans’ Addictions, Overdose Deaths

Sep 30, 2013
Courtesy of Center of Investigative Reporting

Before dawn, a government van picked up paratrooper Jeffrey Waggoner for the five-hour drive to a Department of Veterans Affairs hospital in southern Oregon. His orders: detox from a brutal addiction to painkillers.

Courtesy Sgt. Koetje

For soldiers who are injured or wounded, the process for determining whether they’re eligible for medical retirement is long.

Many, including the Government Accountability Office, say too long.

In a 2012 report to the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, the GAO found that soldiers at Washington’s Joint Base Lewis-McChord and other military installations were waiting nearly 400 days to get through the system.