Health care ruling won’t hit Tricare, VA

WASHINGTON – Thursday’s Supreme Court decision upholding the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act could have far-reaching effects on American health care policy and politics over the next few years. What it won’t do is affect any Tricare or Veterans Affairs health care coverage.

Lawmakers specifically exempted those systems from the health care debate in 2010, in response to concerns that the new rules and regulations could upset their patient care efforts. Congress also passed the Tricare Affirmation Act that year, adding an extra layer of exemption and protection.

In an effort to reach vets, VA turns to their families

WASHINGTON — Mental health experts from last week’s suicide prevention conference noted that often friends and family members of veterans are more likely to see signs of depression and stress in those former troops than the veterans themselves. As part of post-traumatic stress disorder month, VA officials are trying to remobilize those caregivers in their outreach effort.

As part of a national media campaign, the department is highlighting its Coaching into Care program, which gives callers advice and ideas on ways to “encourage the veteran to seek care while respecting his or her right to make personal decisions.”

VA hopes for an increase in remote conference appointments

WASHINGTON – Veterans Affairs officials are hoping changes to the department’s remote health care consultation policies will boost the number of appointments conducted by remote conference and provide both easier and faster care for veterans.

Mental health officials in the department have set a goal of 200,000 such appointments this fiscal year, an increase of 30 percent from fiscal 2011. The department’s 800 community-based outpatient clinics currently offer the off-site, online video appointments when local providers are not available.

Despite expectations, research shows obesity decreases suicide risk

WASHINGTON — Research shows that depression can increase an individual’s risk of committing suicide. And researchers know that obesity can increase an individual’s likelihood of developing depression. But a new study shows veterans who are obese are significantly less likely to kill themselves than those at ideal weight or underweight.

Confused? So are mental health experts looking for answers on why some combat veterans can return home without any problems, while others contemplate ending their lives.

A bond across generations helps GI find his future

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — We enlisted in different generations of the same Army, fought in different wars and met for the first time as designated drinking buddies in this harbor town on the Chesapeake Bay. This is not a story about reunions. This is about transitions.

We all have memories. Trying to remember what it feels like to be needed shouldn’t be one of them.

Service Documentary

Documentary looks at post-service challenges of female troops

WASHINGTON — Alicia Thompson is proud of her Army service and the work she did in Afghanistan. But she doesn’t think many Americans really know about it, or the struggles she still faces in her post-military life.

“I don’t know if they’re naïve to the challenges that women veterans face, or they just choose to look past them,” she said. “The story isn’t getting out there.”

Report: Hiring veterans is good business

WASHINGTON – Lawmakers and White House officials for months have been espousing the virtues of hiring veterans, saying they make exemplary civilian employees. Now, a new study suggests that companies are getting the message.

A survey of 69 businesses released by the Center for a New American Security this week found that most corporate officials believe hiring veterans is “good business.” They listed veterans’ reliability, loyalty, discipline and character as reasons they look to veterans to fill open positions.

Lawmaker wants memorial for first Gulf War

WASHINGTON – More than 20 years after the end of the first Gulf War, veterans of Operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield don’t have a national memorial honoring their war experience. Now, one Tennessee lawmaker wants to change that.

Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., on Friday introduced new legislation to create a memorial “dedicated to the valor and sacrifices” of troops who fought in that conflict. The measure would establish the National Desert Storm Memorial Association, to handle fundraising, planning and construction for the marker.

Lawmakers scramble to stop vet pension scams

WASHINGTON – Lawmakers are searching for ways to protect veterans from pension scam in the wake of a Government Accountability Office report saying those payouts are being targeted by unscrupulous financial firms.

Certain disabled veterans and older low-income veterans are eligible for thousands of dollar annually in Veterans Affairs pensions. The GAO report found that some firms are charging veterans thousands of dollars to navigate the pension process, even though such services aren’t needed.

Study: Even slight head trauma increases risk of PTSD

WASHINGTON — Last month, researchers in Boston found that exposure to even a single, powerful bomb blast can predispose military personnel to serious degenerative brain disease. This week, researchers from University of Rochester in New York are reporting that those roadside bomb attacks can also predispose troops to post-traumatic stress disorder as well, even if the injuries are slight.

The research, released Wednesday, used brain scans of 52 combat veterans to search for axonal injuries, a type of neuronal damage that occurs during a concussion. Investigators found the severity of those injuries correlated with the severity of the troops’ PTSD.

Recent veteran jobless rate climbs

WASHINGTON – Unemployment among recent war veterans surged 3.5 percent from last month, according to data released Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The rate of unemployment for veterans who served after Sept. 11, 2001, jumped to 12.7 percent in May after falling to 9.2 percent in the April report. It also climbed half a percentage point higher than May 2011.