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Iraq Veteran finds out VA has declared her dead

Iraq Vet Declared Dead


ASHEVILLE, N.C. (WLOS) — A Candler Veteran who was trying to get medical treatment through Veterans Affairs found out the agency has declared her dead.

"I said, 'I look pretty well preserved for being dead for 26 years,'" Judith Herren, an Iraq War Veteran, said.

Herren said the problem started back in November when she decided to consider getting treatment at Charles George Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Asheville.

"They couldn't process anything because I was listed as ‘deceased’ in September of 1991," Herren said.

Herren served in the military for eight years -- four in the Army and four in the National Guard, where she found herself in Iraq.

"We were the first units in Desert Shield and Desert Storm, and we really didn’t know what to expect," Herren said.

What she also didn’t expect is having to prove she was alive when she came back.

"I finally got listed as ‘non-deceased’ back in April of this year," Herren said.

But then another problem came up.

"It took another three months to get my ID card,” Herren said. “Because I was listed as ‘deceased’ on that system, too."

Which leads us to now, where Herren said she wasn't able to renew her 12 daily prescriptions because she was also listed as "deceased" on that system.

"It shouldn't have happened the first time, much less three times," Herren said.

Herren said she is thankful for all the help she’s received from Charles George VAMC employees.

This is a statement sent to News 13 by Armenthis Lester, Public Affairs Officer at Charles George VAMC, regarding Herren's case:

"The issue Ms. Herrin is having originated with the Health and Eligibility Center in Atlanta, GA. This is a national office separate from Charles George VA Medical Center. However, our administrative office staff worked with the Health and Eligibility Center to assist this Veteran, and as of Monday, August 27, 2018, her issue is resolved. We honor Ms. Herrin's service to this country and our desire is for Veterans to get the care they need, when they need it."

News 13 also reached out to the Health and Eligibility Center with the VA to find out what initially led to the problem. We're still waiting to hear back.


Women Veterans’ health training on the move

Women Vets Health 001


Treating women Veterans

Patty Axtell, RN, and Suzanne Rainforth, LPN, (pictured above) practice pelvic exam supply setup with instructor Jonna Brenton, RN, at Grand Island VAMC. The number of women Veterans is increasing rapidly. Consequently, the number of women Veterans receiving health care from VA tripled from between 2000 and 2016, growing from 160,000 in 2000 to 475,000 in 2016, driving an increase in need for high-quality, gender-specific health care.

As of May 2017, 26 percent of enrolled women Veterans lived in rural and highly rural areas. These are areas in need of more trained primary care providers designated as Women’s Health Primary Care Providers (WH-PCPs) and nursing staff trained in women’s health.

Since 2008, the Women’s Health Services (WHS) has developed and delivered a comprehensive education and training model for clinical staff, called the Women’s Health Mini-Residency, to address gaps in knowledge and skills in women’s health topics. This training is traditionally a three-day, face-to-face program offered 1-2 times per year in Orlando, Florida.

Although more than 3,500 PCPs and 1,200 primary care nurses trained in this mini-residency model, additional training needs persist, including for staff in rural VA facilities.

WHS understands that rural VA clinics, with fewer staff, may face challenges sending staff off-site for training without disrupting normal clinic operations. Travel from rural areas also means more time away from clinical care.

Bringing the training to clinic sites

To better support women Veterans’ long-term health and well-being, address staff training need and minimize the burden on the clinic and staff, WHS, funded by the Office of Rural Health (ORH), launched a blended learning approach to the Women’s Health Mini-Residency intended for providers and nurses at rural Community Based Outpatient Clinics (CBOC) and VA medical centers (VAMC) by bringing this training program directly to clinic sites. This modified mini-residency includes:

  • Core women’s health courses on topics such as abnormal uterine bleeding, contraception, breast issues and intimate partner violence offered via the Veteran Affairs’ Talent Management System (TMS) and done independently in advance of the one-day training delivered directly at clinic sites
  • Tailored one-day on-site training includes interactive portions of the program such as facilitated case discussions, simulation equipment for hands-on activities, videos of gynecologic procedures and exams, and live models for breast and pelvic exam instruction

Patient-Aligned Care Team (PACT) providers and nurses train side-by-side in this inter-professional training program, which aligns with how care is provided. In all, each provider and nurse will receive more than 18 hours of accredited medical training. Launched June 2018, in partnership with ORH, WHS will provide this mini-residency for rural providers and nurses in up to 40 rural clinical sites per year to support the highest level of care for women Veterans in rural areas.

If you have any questions about the Women’s Health Mini-Residency for Rural Providers and Nurses, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Veterans Legacy Program: Rear Adm. Alene Bertha Duerk, Navy’s first female admiral

Alene B Duerk


Rear Adm. Alene B. Duerk had a long military career and was a trailblazer for women in the Navy. She is a Veteran of World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam War. In 1972, she became the Navy’s first female admiral.

Duerk was born on March 29, 1920 in Defiance, Ohio. She attended the Toledo Hospital School of Nursing and graduated in 1941. During World War II, the American Red Cross needed nurses and frequently contacted Duerk because of her education. She quickly grew a desire to want to help during the war which prompted her to join the U.S. Naval Reserve.

Her first assignment was at the Naval Hospital in Portsmouth, Virginia. She spent about 6 months there before transferring to the hospital in Bethesda, Maryland.

In April 1945, Duerk boarded the Navy hospital ship USS Benevolence. She departed on the ship from New York, passed through the Panama Canal and headed towards the Pacific. The ship spent time at both Hawaii and Guam before joining the Third Fleet in preparation for the invasion of Japan. However, the war ended before the planned invasion took place.

The mission of the USS Benevolence changed. Instead of participating in an invasion, the ship docked in Tokyo Bay and evacuated two prisoner of war camps in August 1945. For the first 36 hours, Duerk and her shipmates processed nearly a thousand American prisoners of war before transferring them onto other ships going back to the United States. Duerk remained on the ship in Japan which served as a hospital for the fleet until November 1945.

The following year, Duerk left active service and attended Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. In 1948 she earned her degree in Ward Management and Teaching, Medical and Surgical Nursing. She then began teaching nurses at Highland Park General Hospital and joined a Naval Reserve unit in Detroit.

The Navy called her back into active service in 1951 during the Korean War. She was assigned to the Naval Hospital Corps School in Portsmouth, Virginia where she trained hospital corpsmen for about 5 years. In 1956, Duerk became an education coordinator at Naval Hospital in Philadelphia, and later served at the Naval Recruiting Station in Chicago until 1961.

For the next ten years, Duerk served at multiple locations and held many different positions in the Navy. She served in hospitals in Long Beach, California; San Diego; Yokosuka Japan; Subic Bay, Philippines; Chicago; and Washington, D.C. She held supervisory positions at each of these assignments.

In May 1970, the Navy appointed Duerk as the director of the Navy Nurse Corps. She helped push the recruiting effort to draw more women into the Navy and became a symbol of opportunity for women. Duerk’s continuous climb in the Navy served as an example to other women showing what they accomplish in a military career.

On April 26, 1972 President Richard Nixon approved her selection to Rear Admiral. She was promoted on June 1, 1972 and became the first woman selected to flag officer in the Navy. Duerk continued to serve as the director of the Navy Nurse Corps for the remainder of her career. She retired from the Navy in 1975.

After her military career, Duerk remained involved in nursing and continually advocated for advancements in the profession. She served on the board of the Visiting Nurse Foundation for 25 years and established the Admiral Alene Duerk Endowed Scholarship at the University of Central Florida in 2006. To date, the scholarship has been awarded to 69 students in the university’s College of Nursing.

Rear Adm. Alene B. Duerk passed away on July 21, 2018 at the age of 98. She is interred at Cape Canaveral National Cemetery in Mims, Florida.

Please join us in honoring the long service and lasting legacy of Rear Adm. Alene B. Duerk.


VA may have fumbled over 1,000 sexual trauma claims, report says

Sexual Trauma


Washington (CNN) - The Department of Veterans Affairs incorrectly processed hundreds of claims related to military sexual trauma last year -- a breakdown in procedure that may have "resulted in the denial of benefits to Veterans who could have been entitled to receive them," according to a report from the VA's Office of the Inspector General released Tuesday.

Impact of sexual assault and combat trauma on fertility in Veterans

VA Qtrly Rsrch Udate


Investigators at the Iowa City VA Health Care System in Iowa, are investigating the relationship between sexual assault, combat-related trauma, and infertility in male and female Veterans. Her team will interview by telephone a nationwide group of reproductive-aged Veterans. They will then use statistical models to analyze the association between sexual assault, combat-related trauma, and infertility.

How intimate partner violence affects women Veterans

Partner Violence


Dr. Katherine Iverson is a clinical psychologist and researcher in the Women's Health Division of the National Center for PTSD. She is also a researcher at the Center for Healthcare Organization and Implementation Research (CHOIR); both centers are located at the VA Boston Healthcare System. In addition, she is an associate professor of psychiatry at Boston University School of Medicine. Her research focuses on women's health and trauma—in particular, interpersonal violence and intimate partner violence. In 2014 she received the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) for her research into the effects of violence on women's health and associated health care needs.

VA’s Center for Women Veterans to highlight, connect and inform women Veterans through outreach and social media

Women Veterans Center


The women Veteran population is growing and VA is stepping up to meet the need through innovative programming and services specifically designed to serve women. But, once the programs are deployed, how do we get the word out? How do we ensure that women Veterans self-identify and take advantage of the benefits they’ve earned and deserve? And, how do we capture the sentiment and reality of what women Veterans are experiencing so we can raise those voices to drive effective policy?

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