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South Carolina editorial roundup

Associated Press Updated: November 12, 2014 at 1:47 pm

Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:

Nov. 12

Post and Courier, Charleston, South Carolina, on cleaning house at the VA:

The Department of Veterans Affairs' systemic, protracted failure to provide former military members adequate health care is a national outrage.

That makes the task facing Robert McDonald as the new VA secretary an urgent national priority. And the former Procter & Gamble CEO is taking fittingly forceful steps to restore the agency's credibility. For example, he reported Monday that an ongoing, comprehensive VA restructuring has already removed 5,600 employees this year, and that more dismissals will soon follow.

Of course, federal regulations drag out the firing process.

So by all means, get on with it.

The secretary correctly explained on Tuesday - Veterans Day - on CNN: "We can't change this department unless we change the culture. Primary to changing the culture is holding people accountable when they violate our values."

That violation happened at the VA with the rampant falsification of records showing how long veterans had to wait for medical care.

The appalling practice didn't just betray America's veterans. It unfairly sullied the reputations of the many VA staffers who have been dedicated to working hard - and honestly - for veterans' well-being.

While concerns initially centered on the widespread doctoring of records at the VA facility in Phoenix, Arizona the self-serving pattern of deceit extended across the system. There have even been confirmed cases of false documentation about long waiting times here in Charleston.

And as reported by our Lauren Sausser in the Nov. 2 Post and Courier: "Two nurses who work at the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center say their managers have for years ignored and covered up how veterans are forced to wait months for appointments - echoing the scandal at VA hospitals across the country earlier this year."

Those nurses, Linda Heyward and Laura Bauer, said problems persist despite their efforts to alert their superiors.

A spokesperson at the Johnson facility responded to that story by saying the administration was unaware of those allegations.

However, Secretary McDonald is acutely aware of the VA's image problem. He should also be aware that blaming the messengers further taints it.

Fortunately, Secretary McDonald has generally struck the right tone in his first three months at the VA.

Unfortunately, though, he gave this utterly wrong answer Sunday night on CBS' "60 Minutes" when asked how long it would take to hire the 28,000 medical professionals he says the agency needs: "Well, it's going to take time. Because every adverse outcome that gets amplified by the media doesn't help me."

Actually, if the media had not "amplified" such "adverse outcomes" as patients dying while waiting for treatment, Mr. McDonald's VA secretary predecessor, Eric Shinseki, would not have been forced to step down on May 30.

As for requests for more funding, Congress has a moral obligation to supply sufficient resources to the VA.

Yet before assuming that the agency's disgrace has stemmed from a lack of money, consider that its total budget has more than doubled (from $73 billion to $154 billion) since 2006.

Consider, too, the immense debt, transcending financial measure, that America owes to its military veterans.

So we owe Secretary McDonald a fair chance to fix what's been so terribly wrong for so long at the VA.

But as he takes on that critical mission, Congress - and the nation - should fully scrutinize his progress while demanding that he succeed.

Online:

http://www.postandcourier.com

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Nov. 12

Aiken (South Carolina) Standard on tuition laws benefiting veterans:

Existing South Carolina law is keeping college out of reach for too many student veterans.

As it stands now, a one-year wait time exists for service members leaving the military to receive in-state tuition. A bill introduced in the General Assembly this past legislative session by S.C. Sen. Tom Young, R-Aiken, would have made it easier for veterans to pay in-state tuition, but unfortunately, the measure didn't receive approval before the end of the session.

Such a measure needs to find new life in the upcoming session. These are the men and women who have fought to protect us. They shouldn't be shut out from receiving a quality education merely because they haven't lived in our state quite long enough.

Take the case of Jonathan Lubecky, who spoke in favor of changing the current law during a state Senate panel earlier this year.

According to the Post and Courier in Charleston, Lubecky, a retired veteran, decided to make South Carolina his home, but it took him nearly two months to prove he intended to stay in the state, which is necessary to receive in-state tuition rates.

The process now is too cumbersome, and needs to be changed to reduce the number of hurdles veterans have to face. Also, as it stands now, the only exception for veterans to receive in-state tuition is if they have full-time employment in South Carolina. Lubecky, who served in the U.S. Army and Marine Corps, explained that most veterans who receive education through the GI Bill - a program where newly enlisted personnel pay into a fund they can later use toward a higher education degree - don't work full-time, disqualifying them from the waivers.

Similar problems have been faced by students at USC Aiken, according to Robert Murphy, director of the Veterans and Military Support Center at the school. Murphy noted that while a federal law will provide students with in-state tuition starting in 2015, only those who have been discharged within the past three years actually qualify.

Young's bill would have made it so that any person using the GI Bill for post-secondary education purposes qualifies for in-state tuition. This would be a step in the right direction for South Carolina. Such military-friendly legislation gives back to those who have given our state and our nation so much.

We urge the legislature to bring this issue back to the forefront when they return in January.

This should be common-sense legislation. Our state and country are already in debt to members of the armed services. This would be a relatively small gesture in return to show our appreciation for all that they have done.

Online:

http://www.aikenstandard.com

Nov. 10

The Times and Democrat, Orangeburg, South Carolina, on dementia:

Whether it's Mom, Dad, Grandma or Grandpa — or your spouse — the "holiday quarter" can present special challenges for families with a loved one suffering from dementia.

"We have an expectation that loved ones should never change from the person we've perceived them to be for years, but everyone changes significantly over an extended period, especially those diagnosed with dementia," says Kerry Mills, a sought-after expert in best care practices for people with dementia, which includes Alzheimer's. November is Alzheimer's Awareness Month.

"Dementia encompasses a wide range of brain diseases, which means it's not the fault of a Grandma if she has trouble remembering things or gets flustered. Empathy for what she's experiencing on the level of the brain will help your relationship with her. Do not expect her to meet you halfway to your world; you have to enter her world."

Spouses have a particularly difficult time coping with their partner's dementia, Mills says. A spousal relationship is a team and is central to the identities of both people. So, while you're paying special attention to a parent's or grandparent's condition, extend it to his or her spouse, she says.

Families tend to have a hard time coping with a loved one's dementia during holiday gatherings. Mills, co-author with Jennifer A. Brush of "I Care, A Handbook for Care Partners of People with Dementia," (engagingalzheimers.com), offers tips for how to interact with a loved one whose brain is deteriorating.

— Do not get frustrated. "First, do no harm" — the excellent maxim taught to medical students, is also a great first principle for those interacting with Grandma, who may be experiencing a level of frustration and anxiety you cannot comprehend adequately. She simply doesn't have access to certain details, but she is still a conscious and feeling person who has plenty to offer. If you get frustrated, she'll pick up on it.

— Dedicate someone to Grandma during the gathering. Of course, loving families will want to include Grandma in the group, but be careful not to overwhelm her with attention. Her brain, which has trouble processing some information, could use assistance — a liaison to help her process things. Grandpa could probably use a break; her son or daughter may be the best handler during a gathering.

— Give Grandma purpose; give her a task in the kitchen. Keep Grandma, who may've been prolific in the kitchen in the past, engaged! Simple tasks, such as mashing potatoes or stirring gravy, may be best. Engage her in conversation about the food. If it's Grandpa whose suffering dementia, include him in a group. Give him a cigar if the other men are going outside to smoke. Engage him in a conversation about football, which may allow him on his own terms to recall details from the past.

— Use visual imagery and do not ask yes-or-no questions. Again, asking someone with Alzheimer's to remember a specific incident 23 years ago can be like asking someone confined to a wheelchair to run a 40-yard dash — it's physically impossible. Don't pigeonhole her. Direct Grandma in conversation; say things to her that may stimulate recollection, but don't push a memory that may not be there. Pictures are often an excellent tool.

— Safety is your biggest priority. Whether during a holiday gathering or in general, Grandma may commit herself to activities she shouldn't be doing, such as driving.

"She's been driving for decades, and then she develops a memory problem, which not only prevents her from remembering her condition, but also how to drive safely," Mills says. "This major safety concern applies to any potentially dangerous aspect to life."

Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia have become an increasing reality as people are living longer. Improving the ways we deal with what is a devastating health issue is vital.

And in making said improvements, there must be a change in attitude.

As Mills says, "Currently, there's a stigma with the condition, but I'd like to change the baseline for how we regard dementia. As with other medical conditions, Alzheimer's should not be about waiting to die — patients often live 15 years or more after a diagnosis. It should be about living with it."

Online:

http://thetandd.com

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