Saturday, October 20, 2007

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PTSD is rapidly rising

In this news story it explains on the numbers of veterans seeking help and does not even address the active duty soldiers and Marines still serving.

A startling number of war veterans are seeking treatment for post traumatic stress disorder. According to the Department of Veterans' Affairs, claims are up by 70-percent. Those numbers represent soldiers who fought in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and as one local veteran explains, those servicemen are dealing with some serious hidden wounds.

"You know it never goes away. Never. It's with them forever," says Vietnam veteran, Art Nottingham.

Americans turn on the TV everyday and see images of war, but for our nation's troops who serve overseas, those images are all too real.

"These guys here you can't identify the bad guy. It's very difficult, like in Vietnam we couldn't either," say Art. He now works with the Arizona Department of Veterans' Services. He says back when he was a soldier, getting help for mental issues was uncommon.Meanwhile, Art says if it goes untreated, PTSD can take over your life.

"They kill themselves a lot of them do. They go through four or five marriages, they lose their family, they lose their job."

Stats provided by the VA do not include active servicemen who have been diagnosed or the many veterans who do not come forward for help.

I can attest to this later part of Art's statements, I am on marriage number five, some lasted months, one lasted 13 years (mother of all three children) all of whom now refuse to see me or to let me see my 7 grandchildren due to my PTSD symptoms. I can't blame them, my new wife and my VA Mental Health doctor are working on a reunion for the family to see if we can start to repair some of the damage. I have lived with PTSD since 1975 and I have to admit, I have dealt with it like most veterans, quite badly. I refused to admit I even had a problem with mental health issues until January 2003 when I finally sought help after a month of sleepless nights, from the nightmares and cold sweats, you can NOT function on 20-40 minutes of sleep a night, my coping methods had run their course, drinking myself to sleep was not the answer anymore, illegal drugs had quit being an answer decades ago, the only help available to me was thru mental health, after months of interviews and MMPI testing and other VA tests, the panel of three doctors explained the tests and the results to Dori (wife #5) and myself, I don't know who was more surprised by the diagnosis myself or my treating psychiatrist, and since then we have worked to get the medications right, counseling and other medical problems under control. I am one of those men that unless it's bleeding or falling off, I don't need to see a doctor. Well old age is catching up, and if I had not been so stubborn in refusing help decades ago, my problems might not be chronic now, seeking mental health in the 70s was a career ender in the Army, you learned to suck it up and drive on, as a Squad Leader and later as a Platoon Sergeant I taught hundreds of men the same attitude, to them I apologize, and all I can hope and pray is that I did not screw your life up as bad as I did my own.

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Good News for 2 families, shame on the VA

Two stories that I will focus on today one was the Washington Post October 14 article about the Turner family and how the government was failing to care for the husbands TBI and PTSD injuries from the invasion of Iraq.

The other is a story of a Vietnam Veteran diagnosed decades later with cancer caused by exposure to Agent Orange and how the VA Regional Office dealt with this family. It should bring tears to your eyes it did mine, but I should be immune to these stories by now, but I am not. I learned of this one by reading Jim Stricklands regular article in the VA Watchdog

In the Turner's case the Washington Post story got the VA head office off it's proverbial ass, and they got into gear, the job they are supposed to do anyway. But they sent one of the hiearchy into the filed to personally handle the situation. The follow up Washington Post story published today it details how the VA jumped to action.

Turner, 38, and his wife were visited this week by Antonette Zeiss, deputy director for mental health services for the entire VA system. Zeiss spent about 90 minutes inside the Turners' mobile home in Hardy County in rural West Virginia, assessing Turner's needs and treatment program. Zeiss was accompanied by a PTSD counselor from the Martinsburg VA facility.

Acknowledging that not all disabled veterans get their compensation doubled overnight or receive house calls from VA's deputy chief of mental health, Lisette M. Mondello, VA's assistant secretary for public affairs, said yesterday, "It was an opportunity to take one person's experience to see how we are handling it, and translate it to see if there are more things that can be done for other patients."

After the Turners' story appeared in The Post, there was an outpouring of responses from readers. Some sent large donations; others sent small checks and handwritten letters. Evelyn Mitchell, 74, of Riverdale, Md., sent two $25 gift cards with a note that said: "In honor of my late husband, who was a WWII vet -- James J. Mitchell -- a gift for the Turners."

Turner served with the Third Infantry

The former infantry scout acknowledged yesterday that VA's decision will help him, but he expressed concern about others caught in the backlog of claims and appeals. "I just hope they do it for the rest of them," Turner said. "Not just for me, but for all of us."

The other story that got my attention was the story of the Nam Vet and his wife's ordeal with cancer caused by Agent Orange

The letter from his VARO told Don, “A CT scan of your head revealed a mass located in your right frontal lobe, the lower thalamus and upper mid brain. A CT scan of your chest revealed multiple enlarged, enhancing lymph nodes within the mediasteinum, concerning for metastatic are diagnosed with lung cancer (and brain cancer). Since there is a likelihood of improvement, the assigned evaluation is not considered permanent and is subject to a future review examination. An examination will be scheduled at a future date to evaluate the severity of your service connected brain cancer associated with lung cancer.”

Subsequently, a repeat examination was scheduled for February 2009.

I'm well into the second year of my volunteer activities at the VAWatchdog site, writing as a Veterans Advocate. I've seen some decisions from VBA as well as complaints from Veterans that bordered on the absurd. This award letter now tops the list.

As I read this award letter from the Durham, N.C. VARO, it seemed like it was intentionally written by some mean spirited, sadistic VBA employee and meant to be a cruel joke. This letter could not have been written by a thinking, caring human being.

This man, this Marine had been definitively and precisely diagnosed by VA doctors at a VA Medical Center with lung cancer and brain cancer. The VBA ceded that his cancers were associated with his exposure to Agent Orange while he fought for his country in the jungles of Vietnam.

He wasn't going to heal. There was no “likelihood of improvement”.

When you hear the words, “lung and brain cancer”, your heart sinks because you know that person won't be here long. How was it that the Durham VA Regional Office could get this one so terribly wrong? What criteria or logic could be used in making such a terrible decision?

In May 2007 I got to know Don and Jane. They were shocked to learn that the Durham VBA had assigned his cancers a temporary rating because of that “likelihood of improvement”. They learned that a temporary 100% rating would give them a few dollars each month but nothing else. Most importantly, as Don wasn't able to work, there was no health insurance covering Jane.

A Veteran who is rated as 100% Permanent and Total with “no future exams” scheduled gets CHAMPVA health coverage and other benefits for dependents. A Veteran who has future exams scheduled gets nothing for those dependents. For the most part, that also applies to the Dependents Indemnity Compensation (DIC) benefit for the widow. Without the “no future exams” verbiage, life is tough.

I didn't understand why my friend in Pennsylvania was reaching out to me for help. As I started to investigate and collect facts, it seemed the family was happy with their VSO. I'm not anxious to jump in when a Veteran has a relationship with a VSO. I encouraged them to stay in constant touch with this man and lean on him for some answers.

But that wasn't working. I detected an undercurrent of mistrust that was hard to define. I suggested that a Notice Of Disagreement (NOD) needed to be filed quickly so that the “temporary” status could be soon brought up to the deserved “permanent” classification that Don's conditions clearly were entitled to. But the family waffled and couldn't bring themselves to face the VSO and tell him they wanted some action.

I made recommendations that I believed would have moved things along. I continued to suggest that they should work with their VSO. My suggestions weren't being followed. In my subsequent emails I heard, “I spoke with Don, he's afraid of stepping on (The VSO's) toes, I don't know what the hell to do.” “Don received the 100% rating and it only took 3 months.” “I never get to talk to the docs concerning his condition, they tell me the HIP rules.” “I've decided to give him (VSO) a little more time. He is highly regarded in the area as I've spoken to other vets.”

I was concerned that Don and Jane hadn't been advised that they should be proceeding with details like getting a power of attorney for her. During May 2007 I urged them to seek the assistance from that VSO and get those affairs in order. But it was also in May I discovered that the NOD I'd suggested earlier had never been filed. It seems that the VSO had bluntly told them it wasn't necessary or desirable to do such a thing.

During the month of May, it was also becoming more apparent that Don was getting sicker. He was spending entire days in bed, on the couch and had lost a lot of weight. No further treatments were offered by the VAMC. During a recent CT scan Don had a bad reaction to the x-ray contrast and days later was still fighting the effects.

A call from Jane to the VSO to check on any progress resulted in her message to me, “Apparently he didn't look at his file on Don and mentioned something about how he's sending Don a form he needs to fill out to give permission and ask for physical exam by VA Board doc. So I guess we're still waiting. Not sure how long we wait. Only thing I worry about is that his file was 'lost' by the VA board since they 'lost' it twice before since we began all this.”

Our emails dropped off through most of July. There wasn't much I could do to help. I'd offered my advice but it seemed that the fear of upsetting the VSO was so intimidating that the family was unwilling to listen to me. Then in August I received, “Sorry to bother you, but, you're the only one that I feel has the knowledge of this VA maze. I fear, that due to the VA maze he will not have the P&T rating in time.” Don was in dire straits. There was no word from the Durham Regional Office and no further help coming from the VSO.

Then, the first week of September was this, “Ok, need a little advise. My main decision helper is my 40 yr old son...I truly need help with decisions which will affect my future financially, eg: VA benefits. My son felt that I should have the letter you mentioned stating Don's prognosis so (the doctor) can sign it. Here is his and my main concern. If we do this, the VSO is such an egomaniac (My son was with me when I went to our VSO last week and he was apalled at how the VSO reacted to my getting 'outside help' and threatened to give my case to his superior in Raleigh and be done with me) then who will have help me in future dealings with VA, like DIC, burial, etc. My son said he'd like to talk with you via telephone in regards to that situation.”

Jane wrote again, “The VSO later mentioned if I wanted 'outside help' that I should not deal with him again and said he'd give my case to his superior in Raleigh, he would be done with me. I started crying and he said he would keep the case in his office. My son was with me at that meeting.”

I spoke with the son September 9th, a Sunday. It was our first conversation and I finally heard it all. When he accompanied his mom to a visit with the VSO a week or so before, he'd been shocked at how degrading that experience was. He recalled that their “advocate” had been angry and defensive. At some earlier point, the family had made a call to their Congressman's office and the VSO was extremely upset about that. He was also very unhappy that they had contacted a chaplain of a Veterans Service Organization and berated her for doing that. There wasn't time to bring up my name before they left that office, his mother crying and extremely upset.

It seems that they had been led to believe that without that VSO, they had no access to the VA. He left the impression he worked for the VA, he was the VA and he held the keys to the gate.

I was surprised. In most professions, an outside or second opinion is welcomed. If a surgeon suggests an operation to you, most would encourage you to go ahead and visit another doctor. It makes good business sense to work with others to solve complex problems.

In any case, as the family discussed my conversation that I'd had with the son, the decision was made that I should lead the charge. My advice would be followed and given attention.

I sought the advice and counsel of a most trusted VA Insider, a long time employee of the Veterans Benefits Administration read my quick email of this terrible situation and told me, “I can't remember a case that is more deserving of Congressional intervention.”

Then Don had his first big seizure. EMS/Fire Rescue took the call and came to his home. He had settled down by then and there was really no need to transport him to any hospital. A seizure in a man with terminal brain cancer isn't going to get much interest from EMS...there's not much to be done.

There had been no progress with getting Don his Permanent and Total (no future exams) benefits. Jane had no health insurance. Don was rapidly showing signs of paralysis and he had not been afforded Special Monthly Compensation (SMC) benefits. His VA medications were far behind, he had no medical care to speak of, there was no VA home health, no hospital bed, no bedside commode...not even a urinal that a dying man could use.

With the family's permission, on September 10th 2007, I contacted the office of Congressman Walter Jones, Don's Representative to our federal government.

I don't like calling a Congressman for help. I much prefer to use the system as it's intended. All too often calling your Congressman only brings about a rubber-stamp inquiry and a form letter telling you your claim is being processed routinely.

I got lucky that morning. A courteous staff quickly connected me to Mr. Jason Lowry. Mr. Lowry is the Military and Veterans Liaison in the office of Congressman Walter Jones. I knew Jason couldn't comment to me...privacy laws prevent that. But he could listen and he listened closely. He promised his help and Congressman Jones' support. We agreed that we needed “the letter”, a letter from a doctor stating clearly that Don would die of his disease.

I had written that letter, Jane had it and it was now time to get it signed. She hand carried it...twice over 2 her local VA outpatient clinic and each time she was turned away. A clerk rudely informed her, “Do you no how many of these we get every day?” and let her know that Don's doctor might get to it in a couple of days, he might not. Her request to speak with the clinic manager was denied. Even though she told the staff the letter needed to get to Congressman Jones' office quickly, that infamous VA attitude was firmly in place.

On the morning Tuesday the 11th, I informed Mr. Lowry of our impasse at the clinic. Don had been taken by ambulance to a local emergency room and returned home. He was largely unconscious and non-responsive.

I had hit a dead end. It was too late in the game and there was no more I could do.

Then, later that day Jane let me know she had gotten a call from the local VA clinic. That all important letter had been transcribed onto VA letterhead and faxed to Congressman Jones. Home health was planning a visit, a hospital bed was being delivered, hospice was notified and appointments were being made.

Within the next 3 days, all of the things that should have happened months before were done. On Friday the 14th of September, Jane received a call to inform her that Don had been declared as Permanent and Total with no future exams scheduled. Her eligibility for CHAMPVA was established. Don was granted Special Monthly Compensation for his paralysis and retroactive benefits were granted.

Home health nurses were there to care for Don as he rested at home in his hospital bed. Pain medicines and counseling came from a hospice. It was all as it should be.

I was traveling Thursday, September 27th 2007. I stopped for a sandwich and as I settled in at a table at the Subway shop, I opened my Blackberry to check emails while I ate.

My first message read, “Don's service will be on Monday October 1st at 11 am at a Funeral Home in Jacksonville, and then off to the Veterans Cemetery in Jacksonville a few minutes from the funeral home.”

Some 12 days after the VBA had acknowledged the seriousness of Don's service connected conditions, he was gone.

The funeral services were as good as that sort of task can be. It was a sunny day with enough of a strong breeze to keep the flags flying. My North Carolina Patriot Guard Rider friends had come and we escorted the procession and stood a flag line in his honor. The USMC, as always taking care of its own, performed a full military honors service for Don.

As usual, Taps, a flag presentation to the widow and a gun salute left me with tears streaming down my face.

I wasn't alone.

The VBA system had turned its back on Don.

When pressed for action, his VSO advocate chose to humiliate Don's wife in front of her son. By then, Jane was a frightened and broken hearted woman who weighed in at barely 100 pounds. I wonder if that VSO would have bullied Jane and reduced her to tears had Don been there healthy, in his camo fatigues smelling of the sweltering Vietnam jungle, locked and loaded.

In spite of the blatantly obvious diagnosis made by VA doctors, the Durham VA Regional Office stubbornly refused to recognize that Don was going to die and he was going to die soon. That Durham RO decision maker never looked up long enough to see the human being that was was just more annoying paper for him to push around.

Even though the system abandoned Don, Don was never alone.

In the end he had steadfast friends in the office of Congressman Walter Jones. I'll never know what calls were made or who made them. I don't need to know. It's enough knowing that at crunch time there are men like Jason Lowry and his boss who we Veterans can depend on. I've never experienced a more responsive, courteous and professional group than at that office. There was little talk and a lot of action.

Don wasn't alone. His family was by his side every minute. Don wasn't alone as the Patriot Guard Riders mobilized to be with him. The USMC...those young Marines of his honor guard...weren't going to allow Don to be alone.

Today Don isn't alone. There will be no man left behind as each Veteran, every one of you who ever donned the uniform, is there standing with Don.

I know this, so did Don.

Fortitudine Vincimus

As to the three paragraph rule for copying, I have permission from Larry Scott of the VA Watchdog to use his websites material freely and widely.

Go for always have my permission........

Larry Scott
Founder & Editor
VA Watchdog dot Org

"It is illogical to put a cap on VA funding when it is
impossible to put a cap on the number of those
wounded and injured in service to their country." wrote:
I have a new Blog and have stopped the rants about the experiments I am just now dealing with South Carolina politics and veterans issues titled Military & Veterans: Politics for the deserving when I find stuff you write is it still okay for me to post it on my blogs on this one and at Daily Kos I use your quotes totally and link them back to VA watchdog and the newspaper articles I quote 3 paragraphs and link back to your site and the newspaper article.

If you object I will stop. I have a nice bunch of regular readers and you have some great commentary on these issues.


Now to my commentary, why does the VA only REACT to veterans who manage to get front page stories in papers like the Washington Post, New York Times, LA Times, Seattle Times etc.

What about the other 800,000 veterans who have claims on appeal and in some cases have been waiting as long as 10 years for adjudication of their claims?

Why is the Bush administration pushing for a two tier compensation system for veterans, they want the terror war veterans, those discharged since 2001 to be treated differently than all other veterans from wars past? Do not all veterans deserve the same treatment?

Even Senator Bob Dole under testimony to the Senate VA Committee stated "All veterans should be treated the same, it doesn't matter how or where they sustained their injury either in training for combat or in combat they should all be treated the same, the only veterans he stated that should be treated differently are those with self inflicted injuries from drug use or drunk driving, which I agree with and has been law for more than 30 years.

Veterans are veterans, none are better than the rest, all military service is the same, it's all 24/7 for all the years you serve this nation.

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

How does SC elected officials support the troops?

Being that South Carolina is a state where many military bases make up a large part of our economy and many military retirees settle here after their active duty service and then many native sons return home after completetion of their military service as veterans and some of them are disabled veterans, hurt while in the military. So the votes these politicians make affect our wallets, and our lives, so how do they really stack up in the votes to "support the troops"

Disabled American Veterans

Year: 2006
Issue: Veterans Issues

807 Maine Avenue, Southwest
Washington, DC 20024
"Formed in 1920 and chartered by Congress in 1932, the million-member DAV is the official voice of America's service-connected disabled veterans -- a strong, insistent voice that represents all of America's 2.1 million disabled veterans, their families and survivors.

The votes listed under the Key Votes section of the DAV web site are recorded roll call votes. They are related to important issues, such as:

* Budget
* Appropriations
* Amendments to increase funding
* Emergency supplemental funding for VA

In most cases, with recorded votes, we have notified members of Congress of what our position is, how we wanted them to vote, and why.

It is possible that elected officials supported other veteran-related issues that have not been recorded on our site. Our site is not a comprehensive voting record.

DAV is a non-partisan organization. It is not our intent to be political or to endorse or oppose any candidate for public office by posting these votes; simply to report the facts—how they voted on issues important to us and our members, and that, in most cases, we have made our interest known."

The following ratings indicate the degree that each elected official supported the interests of the organization in that year.

SC U.S. Senate Sr Lindsey Graham Republican 40
SC U.S. Senate Jr Jim DeMint Republican 60

SC U.S. House 1 Henry Brown Republican 66
SC U.S. House 2 Addison Wilson Republican 66
SC U.S. House 3 J. Gresham Barrett Republican 66
SC U.S. House 4 Robert Inglis Republican 50
SC U.S. House 5 John Spratt Democrat 100
SC U.S. House 6 James Clyburn Democrat 100

Disabled American Veterans

Year: 2005
Issue: Veterans Issues

SC U.S. Senate Sr Lindsey Graham Republican 42
SC U.S. Senate Jr Jim DeMint Republican 33

SC U.S. House 1 Henry Brown Republican
SC U.S. House 2 Addison Wilson Republican
SC U.S. House 3 J. Gresham Barrett Republican
SC U.S. House 4 Robert Inglis Republican
SC U.S. House 5 John Spratt Democrat 100
SC U.S. House 6 James Clyburn Democrat 100

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America

Year: 2006
Issue: Veterans Issues

770 Broadway, 2nd Floor
New York, NY 10003
"The mission of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America is to ensure the enactment of policies that properly provide for our Troops & Veterans, keep our military strong, and guarantee our national security for the purpose of a stronger America. We uniquely empower Iraq & Afghanistan combat veterans to use their credibility and experiences to speak truth to power, shape public opinion, and place a priority on these issues."

The following ratings indicate the degree that each elected official supported the interests of the organization in that year.

SC U.S. Senate Sr Lindsey Graham Republican D-
SC U.S. Senate Jr Jim DeMint Republican F

SC U.S. House 1 Henry Brown Republican C
SC U.S. House 2 Addison Wilson Republican C
SC U.S. House 3 J. Gresham Barrett Republican C-
SC U.S. House 4 Robert Inglis Republican D
SC U.S. House 5 John Spratt Democrat A
SC U.S. House 6 James Clyburn Democrat A-

I don't know about the rest of you but, I would really like to hear why the republicans have such dismal rating records by the DAV and IAVA after all these are votes that are supposed to be "supporting the troops" why do the Democratic officials all have excellent voting records supporting the troops, and the Republicans appear to care less about veterans?

I am willing to hear why the total mismatch in the rhetoric by the Republicans who proclaim to love our "troops" then why vote against helping them?

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Senator Grahams' fiscal problems

This is not the first time an employee or aide to an elected official has stuck their hand in the bosses cookie jar to enrich their own lives. But as a voter of South Carolina there are a few questions I feel the need to ask. I will lay them out below.

The newspaper article in our local paper The State shows how she was fired in June, on the 19th to be exact, so why is it just now making it into the news, and why has Senator Graham just now sent out a letter to explain this to his contributors?

Was he embarassed to admit, that his own book keeping methods were less than ethical, or his oversight on campaign expenditures were not up to the standards required by law?

SLED and federal election officials are investigating the alleged embezzlement of $215,000 from U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham’s campaign funds.

The investigations come after Graham fired one of his most trusted and longest-serving aides, who is named in documents filed with the Federal Elections Commission. The documents detail dozens of alleged “unauthorized payments” made to the woman.

Jennifer Adams, 49, was removed from her post as a campaign bookkeeper in November, and “she was fired from the Senate office in June 2007,” said Kevin Bishop, Graham’s communications director.

Her employment ended June 19, aides said.

Why did it take five months for Senator Graham to make this public knowledge? Was it the release of this letter dated October 15 2007

October 15, 2007
Dear Supporter:
I appreciate the generous financial support you have given to my campaign for the United
States Senate. You have entrusted us to be good stewards of your hard-earned donations,
and I take that responsibility very seriously.
Our campaign recently conducted an intensive internal review of our financial records.
During this review, we uncovered numerous unauthorized disbursements made by a
former employee. While we are still conducting the review, it appears the unauthorized
payments for personal use totaled approximately $215,000 over a period of four years.
Our campaign contacted the Federal Election Commission upon discovering the
suspected misappropriation of funds to make them aware of the situation and to seek
appropriate guidance on how to proceed. Based on their direction, we have begun filing
amended financial reports and turned the matter over to law enforcement for
investigation. We have stressed to the FEC throughout this process that we are
committed to complete and accurate information for the public record.
Finally, the individual in question has been terminated from employment, and we have
implemented strict internal controls governing all financial activities of the campaign to
ensure nothing like this ever happens again. I am hopeful we may be able to recover
some of the funds and am determined to pursue our legal options to the fullest extent
I am sorry to say that events like this happen far too often in campaigns. Some of my
friends like Senator Elizabeth Dole, Senator Trent Lott, and Representative John Boehner
have experienced similar situations.
As an important and valued member of our team, I wanted to inform you personally of
this matter.
Lindsey Graham
United States Senator

Paid for by Lindsey Graham for Senate

Did this just come out in the newspaper due to the "letter" to donors, or has the State known about this and just held the news until the letter forced the publishing of the news article.

If he can not be open and honest about malfeasance in his own office by his own employees and trusted aides, how am I supposed to trust this Senator to be open and honest about matters that are vital to me as his constituent? Is he also taking the same personal care of business for the residents of South Carolina and the nation when he conducts the "people's business"?

I would like to hear more about how the Senator plans to correct "this mistake" and the sloppy way it has been handled for the past five months.

How about it Senator, don't we deserve to know the "truth" or as one of South Carolina's most famous citizens calls it the "Truthiness". It is something voters like to hear, the truth.

cross posted on Daily Kos

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Why I Joined Veterans for Hillary

I have been a member of General Wesley Clark's WESPAC for a few years now, I have known Wes Clark since he was a Colonel at NTC Fort Irwin back in the 80s and then served under him again at Fort Irwin during Desert Storm during the largest troop rotation in NTC history. A full mechanized Corp Task Force, instead of the normal Brigade size element. I have admired his leadership for half of my life, he earned my respect the old fashioned way, by his actions and his work ethics and how he led his men under his command.

He has decided not to run again for President and has thrown his support to Hillary Rodham Clinton as the best choice to lead America into the future after the mess the past Presidency has left us. He also trusts her to care for America's veterans and keeping the "Promise" made to them when they enlisted to serve. To correct the msitakes of the past 20 plus years of Republican leadership or rather "lack of leadership" in helping America's wounded soldiers and the nations disabled veterans.

I expect that the Hillary Clinton administration and the new Democratic Congress, the expanded majority in the House and the Senate in January 2009, to make major overhauls into the Vterans Administration. I am listening to the Senate VA Committee Hearings on the Dole/Shalala Commission now as I type this, I fully expect a President Clinton to endorse and ask our Congress to fund the necessary changes, if this nation can afford wars, then it must properly care for this nations veterans and specifically the disabled veterans of all our our wars and military service.

If you care to join me in supporting Hillary Rodham Clinton please go to this link and donate whatever you can from a one time gift of 10 dollars or more if you can afford it, some of us disabled veterans have plenty of time to help work the campaign we just don't have enough funds to make large donations from our small monthly compensation checks Donate to Hillary Rodham Clinton for President I have joined the Veterans for Hillary Group at her campaign Hillary

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Captains 12 speak out on Iraq

In another guest editorial in the Washington Post 12 ec-Captains from the Army speak out on their view of the "occupation" or the progress of the war, now that we as a nation are at the five year mark since the authorization was given by Congress

Against this backdrop, the U.S. military has been trying in vain to hold the country together. Even with "the surge," we simply do not have enough soldiers and marines to meet the professed goals of clearing areas from insurgent control, holding them securely and building sustainable institutions. Though temporary reinforcing operations in places like Fallujah, An Najaf, Tal Afar, and now Baghdad may brief well on PowerPoint presentations, in practice they just push insurgents to another spot on the map and often strengthen the insurgents' cause by harassing locals to a point of swayed allegiances. Millions of Iraqis correctly recognize these actions for what they are and vote with their feet -- moving within Iraq or leaving the country entirely. Still, our colonels and generals keep holding on to flawed concepts.

U.S. forces, responsible for too many objectives and too much "battle space," are vulnerable targets. The sad inevitability of a protracted draw-down is further escalation of attacks -- on U.S. troops, civilian leaders and advisory teams. They would also no doubt get caught in the crossfire of the imminent Iraqi civil war.

Iraqi security forces would not be able to salvage the situation. Even if all the Iraqi military and police were properly trained, equipped and truly committed, their 346,000 personnel would be too few. As it is, Iraqi soldiers quit at will. The police are effectively controlled by militias. And, again, corruption is debilitating. U.S. tax dollars enrich self-serving generals and support the very elements that will battle each other after we're gone.

This is Operation Iraqi Freedom and the reality we experienced. This is what we tried to communicate up the chain of command. This is either what did not get passed on to our civilian leadership or what our civilian leaders chose to ignore. While our generals pursue a strategy dependent on peace breaking out, the Iraqis prepare for their war -- and our servicemen and women, and their families, continue to suffer.

There is one way we might be able to succeed in Iraq. To continue an operation of this intensity and duration, we would have to abandon our volunteer military for compulsory service. Short of that, our best option is to leave Iraq immediately. A scaled withdrawal will not prevent a civil war, and it will spend more blood and treasure on a losing proposition.

America, it has been five years. It's time to make a choice.

This column was written by 12 former Army captains: Jason Blindauer served in Babil and Baghdad in 2003 and 2005. Elizabeth Bostwick served in Salah Ad Din and An Najaf in 2004. Jeffrey Bouldin served in Al Anbar, Baghdad and Ninevah in 2006. Jason Bugajski served in Diyala in 2004. Anton Kemps served in Babil and Baghdad in 2003 and 2005. Kristy (Luken) McCormick served in Ninevah in 2003. Luis Carlos Montalván served in Anbar, Baghdad and Nineveh in 2003 and 2005. William Murphy served in Babil and Baghdad in 2003 and 2005. Josh Rizzo served in Baghdad in 2006. William "Jamie" Ruehl served in Nineveh in 2004. Gregg Tharp served in Babil and Baghdad in 2003 and 2005. Gary Williams served in Baghdad in 2003.

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Monday, October 15, 2007

WAPO Editorial by Bob Dole and Donna Shalala

A Duty to the Wounded
Our Newest Veterans Need Help Now

By Bob Dole and Donna E. Shalala
Tuesday, October 16, 2007; Page A19

It is time to decide -- do we reform the current military and veterans' disability evaluation and compensation systems or limp along, placing Band-Aids over existing flaws?

It has been more than 2 1/2 months since our commission presented its six pragmatic recommendations to improve the system of care for our injured service members and their families. Our recommendations are eminently doable and designed for immediate implementation. While progress has been made, more work remains. And the clock is ticking.

The vast majority of the steps needed to implement our recommendations must be taken by the administration. Since unveiling our report, we have met frequently with officials from the White House and the departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs. We are pleased that they are moving forward with several critical changes, including the development of recovery plans and assigning coordinators to oversee the care of our most seriously injured troops.

We have also testified before Congress and met individually with lawmakers. Overall, we are buoyed by the strong bipartisan support being given to the proposals.

Despite this support, however, it is clear that our recommendations are being swept up in a decades-long battle to reform the entire disability system for all service members. It is important to remember that our commission was tasked with improving care and benefits for those returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. While we hope that our recommendations will help many others, our mission was to make the system work better for this new generation of veterans.

The current systems of disability and compensation are convoluted, confusing and dated. Modernizing the disability system was of great importance to our commission. Four of our nine commissioners are disabled -- including two who sustained serious injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan -- and one is the wife of a soldier severely burned in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

According to research our commission conducted among wounded and evacuated service members from the current conflicts, the disability rating system at both Defense and Veterans Affairs is poorly understood and is a source of major dissatisfaction. Almost 60 percent of the service members had difficulty understanding the disability evaluation process. Our recommendations would update and simplify the disability determination and compensation system; eliminate parallel activities between the two departments; reduce inequities; and provide injured veterans with the tools to return to productive life.

We would create a system that allows the departments to focus on their separate missions. Under our system, Defense maintains authority to determine fitness to serve. For those found not fit for duty, payment would be provided for time served. Veterans Affairs then would establish the disability rating, compensation and benefits. Defense must provide the necessary military strength and expertise to keep our nation secure. It should determine fitness standards and provide for the health and readiness of the military workforce. As an employer, it must also provide retirement benefits. The VA's mission is to care for our nation's veterans by providing appropriate benefits and services.

Fundamentally, the system our recommendations would create is designed for our current service members and their families. These men and women differ from the generations that came before them. They have different injuries, different needs and, thanks to advances in medicine and science, greater opportunities to transition back to fulfilling lives. They need a system that is easy to navigate and allows them to focus on building their futures.

While this particular recommendation has received acclaim from many veterans organizations for being balanced and reasonable, some veterans groups that want to reform the system for all former service members have called to stop any movement forward and to simply perpetuate the present, flawed system. However, when we reviewed the recommendations that the Veterans Disability Benefits Commission released this month, we saw many of the same conclusions that we reached. That 2 1/2 -year study only adds to the pleas for change from those troops at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and throughout our country who just want their lives back.

Since the historic Bradley Commission in 1956, numerous task forces and commissions have been created to improve the system of care. While there has been tinkering around the edges, lack of political will almost always got in the way of serious reform. This must not be allowed to happen again.

Yes, our elected officials should continuously examine how to enhance care for all those who have been put in harm's way. But right now, they have actionable recommendations that can make a real difference for those who have served our country in Iraq and Afghanistan. With Veterans Day only a few weeks away, we can think of no better tribute than to give our new veterans a system that truly meets their needs.

Bob Dole was a Republican senator from Kansas from 1969 to 1996. Donna E. Shalala was secretary of health and human services from 1993 to 2001. They are co-chairs of thePresident's Commission on Care for America's Returning Wounded Warriors.

I SALUTE these two outstanding Americans who took their duty in their task to help America's Veteran and their families and here they are almost three months later still pushing the administration to do the right thing. MR President have you no shame?

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Senate Hearing for Veterans on Wednesday Oct 17



Hearing on

VA and DOD Collaboration: Report of the President's Commission on Care For America's Returning Wounded Warriors; Report of the Veterans Disability Benefit Commission; and other related reports

October 17, 2007

9:30 a.m., Senate Dirksen 562



• Honorable Bob Dole, Co-Chair, President’s Commission on Care for America’s Returning Wounded Warriors

• Honorable Donna Shalala, Co-Chair, President’s Commission on Care for America’s Returning Wounded Warriors


• Lieutenant General James Terry Scott, USA (Ret), Chairman, Veterans’ Disability Benefits Commission

• Honorable Patrick W. Dunne, Assistant Secretary for Veterans Affairs for Policy and Planning, representing the Task Force on Returning Global War on Terror Heroes

• Honorable Togo D. West, Jr. Co-Chair, Independent Review Group, Report on Rehabilitative Care and Administrative Processes at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and National Naval Medical Center


• Ms. Ariana Del Negro, wife of Operation Iraqi Freedom Veteran

• Colonel Peter J. Duffy, USARNG (Ret), Deputy Director, Legislative Programs, National Guard Association of the United States

• Mr. Gerald Manar, Deputy Director, National Veterans Service, Veterans of Foreign Wars, representing supporters of The Independent Budget

• Ms. Meredith Beck, National Policy Director, Wounded Warrior Project

• Colonel Steven P. Strobridge, USAF (Ret), Director, Government Relations, Military Officers Association of America

The Senators that should be present on the Veterans Affairs Committee are:

Daniel K. Akaka, HI
John D. Rockefeller IV,WV
Patty Murray, WA
Barack Obama, IL
Sherrod Brown, OH
Jon Tester, MT
Jim Webb, VA

Bernard Sanders, VT

The Others (Republicans)

Arlen Specter,PA
Larry Craig, ID
Johnny Isakson, GA
Lindsey Graham,SC
Kay Bailey Hutchison,TX
John Ensign,NV

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Joe Biden on the move in Iowa?

I wanted to take a few minutes and pass along some of the great coverage that Senator Biden has received recently. Even in a race of celebrity candidates, Joe Biden is moving up. This nomination will be won by the candidate that looks voters in the eye, shares his/her story, and is straight with the American about what we have to do to restore our place in the world.

And Joe Biden is doing just that on the campaign trail at every opportunity. Dave Nagle, a former Iowa congressman and state party chairman, says Biden is emerging as an alternative to the perceived front-runners. "He is gaining traction," said the uncommitted Nagle in a Boston Globe column. Click here to read the full piece by Scot Lehigh.

Senator Biden knows that voters want a candidate with substance that is able to tackle the most serious issues with honesty and candor. Check out these latest clips of Senator Biden's work on the campaign trail. There's no doubt, there's something going on in Iowa.

Thanks for all your support,

Luis Navarro
Campaign Manager
Biden for President

Last Friday, Joe Biden was joined by Sam Brownback in Des Moines to discuss his plan for Iraq, which gained an overwhelming majority of support in the United States Senate when Senator Biden's amendment promoting federalism in Iraq passed 75-23 - including 26 Republicans. MSNBC's Carrie Dan was able to describe the scene:

"Three local camera crews, plus a three-man team and a live satellite truck sent by CNN, made the room look like Britney's booking compared to a typical event for a candidate whose name isn't Barack, Hillary, or Rudy." Click here to read the full article.

CNN and NBC's local Des Moines affiliate were also there to capture the important moment of bipartisan leadership in the history of the Iowa Caucus. Click on the images to the right to see Senators Biden and Brownback discussing a real political solution to bring this war to a responsible conclusion.

Even though he manages a demanding Senate schedule as Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Biden is hitting the campaign trail as often as possible as we get closer and closer to the Iowa Caucus.

And Iowans are starting to take notice.

When asked by Chris Matthews about the election, respected columnist David Yepsen from the Des Moines Register said that Joe Biden would make a surprise showing in January:

"I think Joe Biden will do better than expected in the Iowa Caucuses...I think he'll compete for [a top 3 position]."

Iowa House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy recently discussed the importance of a strong ground operation in Iowa, citing a growing momentum of support for Joe Biden that is building the infrastructure that is critical to a strong showing in Iowa.

A key component of that infrastructure is the solid support that Joe Biden has received from Iowa state legislators. The Biden for President Campaign announced just last week the eleventh legislative endorsement, Iraq war veteran McKinley Bailey.

"After returning from serving in Iraq, I quickly grew frustrated by my impression that leaders in both political parties did not understand the fundamental challenges to ending the war in Iraq. When I first learned of Sen. Biden's plan, I realized that was the ticket - a political solution, not a military one. I am endorsing him because from day one, our next president must make decisions on the direction in Iraq and I am convinced Senator Biden has the knowledge and experience to bring our troops home without leaving a situation that requires another generation of Americans to return in a decade."

Visit | Make a contribution
Paid for by Biden for President, Inc.

I am impressed with his leadership on the Iraq problem we are faced with, his plan for making three "states" with a federal government seems to be gaining traction among Congress and the administration and Secretary of State, until someone can come up with a better one, I am proud of his leadership in trying to get our troops out of Iraq sooner rather than later....

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Link to my "old blog"

I have been writing blogs for over three years now one was lost when the company hosting it shut down and the one between that one and this one was called The Daily Bailey at the first post is dated 21 May 2006, and has about 120 old posts on it, but due to the large focus on the human experimentation at Edgewood Arsenal I felt it was time to start a blog more about veterans issues in general and how Congress and the Veterans Administration are dealing with us and our families.It's a shame all the posts I wrote from 2004 thru 2006 are lost. I had a lot of good rants in there rofl.

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Copy of e mail to Morning Joe@

I know David Schuster cares maybe he would be interested in talking about this:

A Wife's Battle - Anne Hull and Dana Priest's article about a disabled Army soldier and his wife's battle to get him disability benefits

and in a related story from NY Daily News

WASHINGTON - They were an unlikely bunch of soldiers to be making the case for the "talking cure" before Congress last week. They once dismissed it as a copout for shirkers and wimps.

"Absolutely, we've gone through a transition" over the years, said retired Marine Maj. Gen. James Livingston, who wears the Medal of Honor from Vietnam.

"Now I'm a believer in early intervention" by therapists in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder, the diagnosis for what was called battle fatigue or shell shock in wars gone by, Livingston said.

He was with 12 other decorated heroes appointed to the special Veterans Disability Benefits Commission as they presented the findings of their two-year study to the House Veterans Committee.

The commission had 113 recommendations for reforming how the military and Veterans Administration cope with disabled troops. They called for hikes of up to 25% in disability payments, and increased funding and programs for PTSD treatment.

Retired Army Lt. Gen. James Terry Scott, chairman of the commission, said the current system "is so complicated that it's a wonder anyone can get a claim processed."

Another problem the commission uncovered, Scott said, was that "the VA really didn't know as much as they needed to know about PTSD."

The VA system is overloaded. Waiting periods for appointments at VA regional centers now average 177 days. At Veterans Benefits Administration offices, which assign disability ratings, the waits stretch to more than two years.

But they were told that money was tight for what they proposed. "We must deal with funding issues," insisted Rep. Stephen Buyer (R-Ind.).

Livingston said the money must be found, the PTSD programs must be funded, or the nation will risk decimating the all-volunteer force.

"People have to know they're going to be taken care of," Livingston said, or "moms and pops are not going to allow their kids to join the military."

"Well, you remember what it was like" for Vietnam veterans, Livingston said to this reporter, who served with him in the 2nd Battalion, Fourth Marines, before the battle of Dai Do on May 2, 1968, where he earned the Medal of Honor.

Leading Echo Company, then-Capt. Livingston attacked the fortified village with 180 Marines. He was wounded three times and there were 35 Marines standing after Echo took the village and fought off a ferocious counterattack.

"I always thought after Dai Do it would've been good if we could've sat down and talked about it," Livingston said.

"But in those days it was all macho," he said. "You didn't want to admit anything. If you did, you were a battlefield wimp. Well, been there, done that.

"I'd like to think we're a lot more mature in our thinking. Bottom line, somebody's got to give a damn."

My own blog about veterans and politics title: Military & Veterans: Politics for the deserving

Hat tip for putting David Schuster on this morning Mike Bailey a disabled vet 100% P&T Army Nam and Gulf War One

I feel we have to attempt to get these morning talk shows to help us get the attention these issues deserve, I miss Imus he was all over everyone, Democratic and Republican for the Walter Reed fiasco and the VA SNAFU over compensation claims and long wait times for appointments, hopefully when and if he comes back on the radio, we veterans will get a national radio show to press our points of views, to the public and politicians....Imus is one of our greatest assets, he talks and people listen.

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Time 'to give a damn' about vets' mental health - ex-gen.

In a blistering article in the New York Daily News Marine Corp Major General (retired) James Livingston, who wears the Medal of Honor from Vietnam. He led a company of men as a Captain, in battle was wounded three times in the attack and counter attack and was one of only 38 survivors. In my opinion he earned the "Medal".

Retired Army Lt. Gen. James Terry Scott, chairman of the commission, said the current system "is so complicated that it's a wonder anyone can get a claim processed."

Another problem the commission uncovered, Scott said, was that "the VA really didn't know as much as they needed to know about PTSD."

The VA system is overloaded. Waiting periods for appointments at VA regional centers now average 177 days. At Veterans Benefits Administration offices, which assign disability ratings, the waits stretch to more than two years.

But they were told that money was tight for what they proposed. "We must deal with funding issues," insisted Rep. Stephen Buyer (R-Ind.).

Livingston said the money must be found, the PTSD programs must be funded, or the nation will risk decimating the all-volunteer force.

"People have to know they're going to be taken care of," Livingston said, or "moms and pops are not going to allow their kids to join the military."

The emphasis is mine as I whole heartedly agree with it, I have a Desert Storm son as he was born nine months after I returned from that short war. He will soon be old enough to enlist, and I will encourage him to go to college and get his degree and then if he still chooses to enlist, he can do it as an Officer, the first in a family that can trace it's Army service to Valley Forge and other Revolutionary War battles. The Civil War, and my own fathers service in D Troop the 7th Calvary from 1914-1916. It brings a great pride to me to know my families military history, it matches some of the great moments in the Army history and some if it's most storied units.

My own military career took me to the 9th Infantry Division twice, the 2nd Infantry Division on the DMZ in Korea, the 3rd Infantry Division in Germany and the 24th Infantry Division in the Gulf War.

My favorite quotes from General Livingston are here:
"I always thought after Dai Do it would've been good if we could've sat down and talked about it," Livingston said.

"But in those days it was all macho," he said. "You didn't want to admit anything. If you did, you were a battlefield wimp. Well, been there, done that.

"I'd like to think we're a lot more mature in our thinking. Bottom line, somebody's got to give a damn."

This man has got it right, it is time for someone to "Give a damn"

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Seattle Times Opinion Article

In this Seattle Times article they are encouraging better support for the Iraq war veterans.

I figured that making good on this nation's commitment to support the troops, and keeping America's promise to take care of our veterans, would be sufficient closing arguments.

I was wrong. It seems that the double bottom line on most Americans' minds is economic and national security, both of which are compromised by negligent post-combat care.

According to the Department of Labor, the unemployment rate for young Iraq war veterans is triple that of their civilian counterparts. Almost half of the 425,000 citizen soldiers who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan experience deployment-related mental-health problems, according to the Department of Defense Mental Health Task Force.

Because their post-combat mental-health care is limited or nonexistent, when citizen soldiers return to their civilian jobs, they bring their psychological problems along.

In Washington and other states with large concentrations of civilian veterans in the work force, untreated war trauma means higher turnover, increased absenteeism, elevated health-care and human-resources costs, and reductions in performance and productivity. It also means a diminished tax base, lower housing values and fewer consumers.

Those things may be the least of our worries. The No. 1 reason for military attrition is untreated mental-health problems, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association. If we don't take care of the troops who have seen combat, they will, quite literally, not be available to take care of us.

The author of this article is a spouse of an Iraq War veteran she is working to establish The Sanctuary for Veterans & Families, a Kent-based nonprofit. She can be contacted at

When the government fails private citizens do seem to step up, I SALUTE this fine American.

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Sunday, October 14, 2007

Anne Hull and Dana Priest hit another "sore spot"

In my daily diary at Daily Kos I posted The real "face" of Republican "Support the Troops" BS about the wife of a Iraq War veteran dealing with PTSD and the lack of aid to their family and their dealings with the Army and the VA.

Before they leave, someone from Hampshire County's Heritage Days parade calls to see if Troy wants to ride on the veterans float. Troy declines. It's not just the crowds.

"Other people got wounded, and all I got was a mental thing," he says.

Michelle raises an eyebrow. "It's still an injury."

"I think about that doctor down there," Troy says, referring to a psychologist at Fort Stewart who suggested he was faking it. "Plus, the fact that guys are missing arms and have bullet holes and everything else. Ain't a scratch on me."

To remember who Troy used to be, Michelle keeps a photo of him hidden in her camera case. In the picture he is smiling and eager, ruggedly at home in his Army fatigues. Now she looks at the man in the recliner. "It's people like you that made our country," Michelle says. She goes back to filling out forms, and Troy goes back to Nickelodeon.

No, there isn't a scratch on him that is visible, it's the unseen wound of his brain that is leaving this family devastated, something I know quite a bit about, it is the same type of injury I and hundreds of thousands of other disabled veterans deal with daily and have for decades.

Money alone can't fix the problems, but it can help the family deal with day to day life while they deal with the injury, the money will never make Troy or any other disabled veteran whole. But as I have learned without funds being disabled is worse than being disabled with funds.

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