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Nation in brief

VA alters mail-order rule, easing exam wait

By Times Wires
© St. Petersburg Times
published July 24, 2003

WASHINGTON - About 200,000 veterans will be eligible to receive drugs prescribed by private doctors from Veteran Affairs mail-order pharmacies under a new policy.

Under the previous system, veterans had to seek an exam and prescription from a VA doctor to get prescriptions filled by VA pharmacies.

"This policy should ease the minds of veterans with pharmaceutical needs who have been waiting too long for their first appointment," VA Secretary Anthony Principi said in a statement. A VA official said the department planned a formal announcement of the policy today.

To be eligible for the new benefit, veterans must have enrolled in VA health care or requested their first primary care appointment with VA by July 25 and must have been waiting more than 30 days for their first appointment with a primary care doctor as of Sept. 22, when the program will being filling prescriptions.

Office shooter kills 2

SAN ANTONIO, Texas - A man on Wednesday walked into the real estate office where he worked and fatally shot two women and critically wounded another, authorities said.

The shooter later killed himself while he was driving a sport utility vehicle being chased by police near Temple, about 135 miles northeast of San Antonio, officials said.

San Antonio police Sgt. Gabe Trevino said those killed were shot multiple times.

No names were released.

Elsewhere ...

FIREFIGHTERS KILLED: Two firefighters were overrun by flames and killed soon after they were dropped by helicopter to battle a fast-moving blaze in central Idaho, officials said Wednesday. The fire in the Salmon-Challis National Forest about 130 miles south of Missoula, Mont., was caused by lightning. Hot temperatures and wind blew it up from 120 acres to about 1,000 acres Tuesday night, officials said. Jeff Allen, 23, of Salmon, Idaho, and Shane Heath, 22, of Boise, Idaho, are the eighth and ninth firefighters to die since February nationwide.

HELICOPTER CRASH: A tour helicopter crashed Wednesday on Mount Waialeale on the Hawaiian island of Kauai, killing all five people on board, authorities said. The wreckage was spotted about noon at 4,300 feet, police said.

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