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SGT. SHAFT: Dog tag tracked to deceased veteran

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

In a previous column, Detective Douglas Scheller of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Police Department wrote that he had been asked to try to locate a person whose dog tag was found. The markings are as follows:

MELVIN
OSCAR
PARTEN
T9/42
USNR
-O-

I found his and his wife's grave at Earthman Resthaven Cemetery in Houston, Texas, and posted it on Findagrave.com.

He died in 1974 in Houston. He was the son of Albert A Parten and Willie Polk, and husband of Helen J.

Richard H.
Cypress, Texas

Dear Richard H.:

Thanks for sharing this information with my readers.

Shaft notes

• Family and friends will be bidding a sad farewell to Jack Kujawski on the morning of Aug. 23 at Arlington National Cemetery. My good friend and fellow veteran Jack was the beloved bartender at the National Press Club.

After graduating from Shenandoah Catholic High School, Jack joined the Army, serving as a Cryptographic Communications Center specialist. His first overseas military service was in the Philippines, and then to Tan Son Nhut Air Base in Vietnam. Along with his assigned duties, Jack drew the admiration of many for his volunteer duty: protecting a school for U.S. dependents from terrorist attacks. Sadly, it was in Vietnam where Jack was exposed to Agent Orange, which was thought to have seriously affected him in the later years of his life.

Jack was assigned to the Army reserves in Oakland, Calif., following his service in Asia. While there, he began a brief acting career, auditioning for the lead in "Gunsmoke"; actor James Arness prevailed. When he relocated to Washington, D.C., Jack spent 25 years serving the club members and his colleagues in many ways: He was a bartender, concerned friend and storyteller of the great experiences in life.

• The House Committee on Veterans' Affairs recently heard testimony concerning the apparent disconnect between Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) mental health programs and disability compensation in helping veterans heal from the invisible wounds of war. Witnesses were called to bring forth a diversity of suggestions to better assist veterans seeking mental health treatment, while examining the coordination of that treatment between the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) and the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) toward a goal of recovery and wellness.

"I felt ashamed of needing help, especially when there were others more deserving. Plus, why would I get help when my VA checks went straight into the bank. At the VA, I was another number in a revolving door," stated Daniel Hanson, a Marine Corps veteran, before the committee. "At the program I checked myself into, Minnesota Team Challenge, I was a person and they wanted to see me get better."

Mr. Hanson served in Iraq where his unit lost 35 Marines. When he returned home, he began to experience symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, heightened by the suicide of close friends and his brother, also a Marine. Mr. Hanson turned to VA for help, but found no incentive in receiving outpatient treatment. He checked himself into a full-time private, inpatient facility in Minnesota, where he spent 15 months. Today, he is married, has children and works as an advocate for fellow veterans suffering from mental trauma.

The committee is currently exploring the concept of a holistic approach to mental health treatment at VA, incorporating incentives, family support counseling, and education and employment benefits customized to each veteran's needs.

"On one hand, we have a medical system that boasts of evidence-based therapies, improved access and high quality of care. On the other, we have data from VA indicating that veterans with mental illness only get progressively worse. There is something very wrong with this situation," said Rep. Jeff Miller, chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs. "We need to move beyond numbers that simply tell us how many veterans use the system and get at the fundamental question of whether they are on a road to leading full, productive lives."

• Another significant issue for the VA is its major initiative to reach out to women veterans in order to solicit their input on ways to enhance the health care services.

"We are taking a proactive approach to enhancing VA health care for women veterans," Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki said. "We are seeking the input of women veterans so that VA can continue to provide high quality health care to the growing numbers of women veterans."

Representatives at VA's Health Resource Center (HRC) are placing calls to women veterans nationwide, asking them to share their experiences with VA and suggest potential enhancements that will further VA's mission to provide the best care anywhere.

Women veterans are one of the fastest-growing segments of the veteran population. Of the 22.7 million living veterans, more than 1.8 million are women. They comprise nearly 8 percent of the total veteran population and 6 percent of all veterans who use VA health care services.

VA estimates by 2020 women veterans will constitute 10 percent of the veteran population and 9.5 percent of VA patients. The HRC, which started placing calls on June 1, is contacting women veterans who have enrolled, but have not begun using VA services.

"Through this contact center, we are placing friendly, conversational calls to women veterans," said Patricia Hayes, chief consultant of the VA's Women Veterans Health Strategic Health Care Group. "We want these veterans and their caregivers to talk candidly about why they are not using VA, whether they are aware of the gender-specific services we offer, and what additional services they would like to see VA offer."

The HRC representatives making the calls are also informing women veterans about the services VA offers and quickly connecting them with appropriate departments if they are interested in trying VA health care. Veterans who have complaints about VA are connected to a patient advocate who helps resolve issues.

For more information about VA programs and services for women Veterans, please visit: www.va.gov/womenvet and www.publichealth.va.gov/womenshealth.

Send letters to Sgt. Shaft, c/o John Fales, P.O. Box 65900, Washington, D.C. 20035-5900; fax 301/622-3330, call 202/257-5446 or email sgtshaft@bavf.org.

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