Saturday, December 15, 2007

Senator Rockefeller press release and fact sheet

Washington, DC (HNN) – Senator Jay Rockefeller, D-WV on Friday, Dec. 14 hailed the U.S. Senate’s passage of the FY 08 Defense Authorization Conference Report that will strengthen military readiness, increase benefits for West Virginia’s National Guard and Reservists, and provide tax relief to veterans and military families. The measure also includes the Rockefeller cosponsored bill the Wounded Warriors Act, which was authored in the wake of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center scandal, to better address veteran and active duty military health care benefits and services -- and to address the unique needs of veterans suffering from Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). “We’ve asked our National Guard and Reservists to serve on the front lines in Iraq and Afghanistan and always be prepared if disaster strikes closer to home. They’re doing everything that we ask of them, but they need to have the equipment to do the job and better benefits to care for their families,” Rockefeller said. “And for our veterans who return home, some bearing the physical and emotional scars of war, we need to ensure that they get the best physical and mental health care. And we recognize that having the support of a family is crucial to the healing process, so we’ve made it easier for loved ones to care for their wounded warrior.” The FY’08 Defense Authorization Act Conference Report was passed by the Senate by a vote of 90-3. It includes provisions to provide much needed equipment to soldiers in the field, gives active duty service members a 3.5 percent pay raise, and addresses the care of injured soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. ( See fact sheet below) The joint Senate-House agreement also prohibits fee increases for the military HMO known as TRICARE, ensures adequate staffing levels at military hospitals, and extends the VA health insurance eligibility of a service member who served in combat to 5 years, instead of the current 2 years, to better address the medical needs of soldiers, including the rising incidents of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Additionally, the bill improves transparency in military contracting by establishing a Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan to study and investigate federal agency contracting for reconstruction. For private security contractors operating in those countries, the bill requires that they comply with DOD regulations on the use of force, as well as orders and directives from combat commanders regarding the security, health, safety, and interactions with Iraqi and Afghani civilians. The legislation also focuses attention on the growing conflict in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region by requiring a report on Pakistan’s efforts to eliminate safe havens for violent extremists on its territory and to prevent cross-border incursions by those extremists into Afghanistan. The bill contains a number of provisions that will improve the morale, readiness and benefits for National Guard and Reservists. First, the bill increases the rank of the Chief of the National Guard Bureau from lieutenant general (three stars) to general (four stars) and expands the eligibility requirements and duties. To better improve the National Guard’s response to a chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, or high-yield explosive incident, the bill provides an increase of $30 million for the procurement of specialized detection equipment that can be used both for overseas deployments and domestically. The measure also creates an advisory panel to assess the ability of the DOD and civil authorities to respond to such an incident. President Bush is expected to sign the bill into law by the end of the month.
Allows Reservists, who serve on active duty, to use their enhanced educational benefits for up to 10 years after leaving the reserves (currently they must be used immediately) and to be paid on an accelerated basis. It also allows Reservists with three cumulative years of active duty service to qualify for education benefits at 80 percent of the active duty rate. (Currently, they are required to serve two years continuous active duty to get this benefit.)
Reduces the age at which a Reservist can draw retirement below the age of 60 by 3 months for every aggregate 90 days of active duty service in most military operations.
Reimburse up to $300 for travel expenses for reserve training.
Establishes a national combat veteran reintegration program to help reservists reintegrate into their families and communities through family services and post-deployment screening. Improved Treatment of Returning Veterans The FY 08 Defense Authorization Conference Report takes essential steps to respond to the Walter Reed Army Medical Center scandal by improving the care of injured soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan – addressing many of the issues raised by the Dole-Shalala Commission and implementing several of its recommendations. The measure improves outpatient medical care for wounded service members at military health care facilities; begins restoring integrity and efficiency to disability evaluations and cutting bureaucratic red-tape; and improves the transition of wounded service members from the Armed Forces to the VA system. Key Improvements include
Changing the Family Medical Leave Act to provide six months of unpaid, job-protected leave to the spouse, parent, child, or next of kin of service members who suffer from a service-connected injury or illness;
Creating the Wounded Warrior Resource Center to serve as the single point of contact for service members, their families, and caregivers to report issues with facilities, obtain health care, and receive benefits information;
Requiring semi-annual inspections of housing facilities for recovering service members;
Requiring the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to jointly develop a comprehensive policy on the care and management of members of the armed forces, including the development of fully interoperable electronic health records;
Mandating the establishment of new standards for: processing disability evaluations to reduce discrepancies between the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs, training for disability evaluation personnel, rating disabilities that take into account all medical conditions, as well as requiring a pilot program for improving the disability evaluation system;
Mandates the establishment of new standards for processing medical evaluations, training and qualifying those performing the evaluations, and assigning independent medical advisors to assist recovering service members and families;
Requiring a comprehensive policy to address traumatic brain injury (TBI), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), other mental health conditions, establishing DOD Centers of Excellence on PTSD and TBI to improve treatment, research, training and rehabilitation, requiring enrollment and registry of TBI patients to ensure continuity of care, guaranteeing veterans a VA mental health assessment within 30 days of request, expanding hiring to address shortage in mental health professionals, and strengthening DOD training for better detection of PTSD.; and
Requiring a DOD study of the support services provided to families of recovering service members, and a National Academy of Sciences study on the physical and mental health needs of those deployed in Iraq or Afghanistan. Tax Relief for Disabled Veterans and Military Families
Takes several steps toward ending the Disabled Veterans Tax –. It expands the special compensation for combat-related disabled retirees to cover all who are medically retired for combat disabilities. (Under current law, they must have served 20 years.) It also speeds up the end of the disabled veterans tax for veterans who are 100 percent disabled, making that effective January 1, 2005 instead of October 1, 2009. This legislation is essential for the more than 28,000 injured personnel who are returning from Afghanistan and Iraq, many of whom are amputees or have combat-related injuries and must be medically retired.
Makes progress in ending the Military Families Tax, which unfairly penalizes the more than 60,000 survivors, most of them widows, of those who have died as a result of their service-connected injuries. Currently, these widows lose their survivor benefits if they also receive Dependency and Indemnity Compensation benefits (because their spouse died of a service-connected injury), but this measure establishes a special survivor indemnity allowance of $50 per month to begin to address this tax – increasing to $100 by 2014.

Sphere: Related Content

Congress finally approves Defense Bill 696.4 Billion

Congress finally approves authorization bill
By Rick Maze - Staff writerPosted : Friday Dec 14, 2007 14:29:13 EST
A $696.4 billion defense policy bill cleared its final congressional hurdle and is on its way to the White House for President Bush’s signature.
The bill, passed on a 90-3 vote, includes a 3.5 percent military pay raise, a Wounded Warrior package aimed at helping injured combat veterans and their families, makes significant increases in the size of the Army and Marine Corps and includes almost $100 billion in weapons funding.
“The pay increase won’t make them rich, but they didn’t join to get rich,” said Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, the Senate majority leader, referring to service members. “It will help them pay bills.”
The bill includes authorization to add 13,000 active-duty soldiers and 9,000 Marines to the force, and orders the services to stop converting military medical jobs into civilian positions.
Also in the bill is a one-year freeze on any fee increases for people using the military’s Tricare health insurance program.
There are two major benefits improvements for disabled retirees eligible for both military retired pay and veteran’s disability compensation. First, veterans with disability ratings of less than 100 percent who nevertheless are considered fully disabled because they are determined to be unemployable will get full concurrent receipt of their retired pay and disability compensation — although not right away. Second, troops who are medically retired with less than 20 years of service with combat-related injuries will be eligible for Combat Related Special Compensation.
Reid, one of the chief sponsors of the two concurrent receipt provisions, said the bill makes great progress toward keeping promises made in 1999 when lawmakers began to eliminate a policy set in the 19th century that required a dollar-for-dollar offset in retired pay for those also receiving disability compensation for the same period of service.
Sen. Carl Levin, D-Calif., the Senate Armed Services Committee chairman who helped negotiate details, said the peacetime defense bill is a critically important piece of legislation for lawmakers to pass by the end of the year because troops would not get the Jan. 1 increase in pay and benefits if it doesn’t. To pass the bill, the Senate interrupted debate on other measures.
The all-ranks pay increase should first appear in mid-January paychecks as long as President Bush signs the measure by about Dec. 31, because the Defense Finance and Accounting Service generally needs about 10 days to make major changes in the military payroll. There is another reason why it is important the bill be signed by Dec. 31: authority for two dozen recruiting and retention programs — including enlistment and re-enlistment bonuses for active and reserve forces — expires on Jan. 1 unless extended. The bill includes a one-year extension.
Congress and the Bush administration had strong disagreements about details of the bill, and veto threats even hung over the measure, but all of the major problems appear to be resolved, according to House and Senate aides. The final hurdle was overcome when the Senate agreed to give up on plans to attach an expansion of federal hate-crimes legislation to the defense bill.
Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo., the House Armed Services Committee chairman who headed the negotiating conference where the compromise bill was written, called the measure “the best bill in decades that this Congress has put forward.”
“It is good for the troops, good for our families, it will help improve readiness of our armed forces and it will bring new significant oversight to the Department of Defense in areas where oversight was sorely needed,” Skelton said Dec. 12 as the House passed the bill by a 370-49 vote.

Sphere: Related Content

Friday, December 14, 2007

The New VA Secretary and my opinion

I realize opinions are plentiful but this is my blog, so this is mine. I do not expect anything to change at the Department of Veteran Affairs, the veterans will continue to get messed over, waiting times for appointments will get worse rather than better, and claims processing will only take longer, not get shorter as all VA Secretaries prior to and including LTG Peake have promised. The White House does not see this as a priority, and refuses to fund the personnel to make it happen. They refuse to implement policies that help disabled veterans that enable them to financialy care for their families, while the claims process and appeals take anywhere from 6 months to five years to complete.

Veterans will continue to lose their homes, their cars and their families due to the financial stress the VA will make them endure due to medical problems incurred in service to this nation. All Americans should be ashamed that this is happening and has continued to happen since the Korean War, this is not exactly anything new.

One only has to look back at the way the VA has treated the veterans used in the nuclear tests in the 50s and 60s. the SHAD experiments, the biological weapons experiments known as Operation Whitecoat at Fort Detrick in the period from the arly 50s thru 1972, the 7120 enlisted men used in chemical weapons and drug experiments at Edgewood Arsenal from 1955 thru 1975, they have largely ignored these men and their families despite the tremendous out cry from Congress and veterans groups. DOD has effectively blocked any help for these men and their widows or families by just stating the experiments were safe and there is no proof anyone was harmed. The problem with this argument is DOD is sitting on all the evidence the veterans and their families need to prove their claims, DOD claims "national security" and the veterans claims are denied.

Secretary Peake has the ability to right many of these wrongs, the question is will he? Let us not forget he owes this position to the President and will his loyalty lay with the President or the veterans? As a veteran himself one would think he would stand by his troops, but then again we all thought the same of Colonel James Nicholson (he turned out to be a major disappointment) Secretary Principi at least was reachable by e mail by veterans and he communicated with veterans, either thru his administrative assistant Debi Bevins, or he was know to answer his own e mail.

He once replied to me on a day that Washington DC was snowed in, he made it to work and replied within 45 minutes, that tells me a lot about that man. I liked Secretary Prinicipi, he was not full of himself, he did help veterans. On the flip side he did well for himself when he left office and became the Chairman of QTC, the company that LTG Peake was working for when nominated by President Bush to be the new VA Secretary.

I do know the General has his hands full and a plate that is over flowing with problems, how will he handle them, will he be a mover or shaker or is he going to enjoy his status as a Cabinet Officer and to hell with the nations veterans, the next 16 months will show us, pretend I am from Missouri and "show me".

Sphere: Related Content

How to make sure your donations go to veterans

Yesterday we learned of veterans' charities who are anything but charitable.
Many earned failing grades for the small percentage of donations that actually "filter down" to the veteran. Story here... here...
So...what do you do if you want to donate to veterans and want to make sure your donation is actually getting to the veteran?
There's a very simple answer.
Article continues below: "ASK THE BUILDER" VIDEOS -- HOME IMPROVEMENT TIPS (use left/right arrows in screen to view more videos)

Donate to VA Voluntary Services.
Every donation goes directly to a veteran. No "middleman." No "expenses" taken out. No "salaries" paid.
Many of the VA's Voluntary Services departments list their needs on their web site.
The find a VA facility, go here...
Find the facility you want, then go to their web this one for Portland, Oregon...
You will find a Voluntary Service page...
And there you will find gift ideas and a needs list.
Most VA facilities have this information posted. If not, just give them a call and they will tell you exactly what they need and how to deliver it.
Now, you can make sure everything you donate goes to a veteran...and not elsewhere.
Below are just a few of the items needed in Portland.
Plus, you can add prepaid phone cards, prepaid cell phones, bus passes, etc. The list is endless............

------------------------- Larry Scott --
Don't forget to read all of today's VA News Flashes (click here)

Sphere: Related Content

Thursday, December 13, 2007

CBS Evening News on Vet Charities

How much of what you give goes to veterans? Very little!
From CBS Evening News with Harry Smith, Thursday, December 13, 2007.
Length of video is 2:34.
Posted on YouTube here...
Or, if your browser allows, use the embedded player below.(If video is not available, it is still processing at YouTube...please try again in a few minutes.)

------------------------- Larry Scott --
Don't forget to read all of today's VA News Flashes (click here)

Sphere: Related Content

from the VA Watchdog a collection of Vet Charity stories

goes into hiding after defying a Congressional subpoena.

Who got what grade? AMVETS = F Blinded Vets = D DAV = D MOPH = F PVA = F VFW = C- NCOA = F
To view report...go here...
Video is this story is here...
The third story below is from the Washington Post about charities for veterans. Not good news!
But, first...two stories from ABC News...the first about the head of a vets' charity who has gone into hiding...and the second is the charities themselves making excuses about how little money they give back to vets.
First story here...
Story below:
Director of Veterans Charity in HidingMatthew Jaffe and Rhonda Schwartz Report
The director of a national charity for veterans has gone into hiding after defying a congressional subpoena.Roger Chapin, head of the California-based charity, Help Hospitalized Veterans, refused to appear today before a congressional hearing chaired by Congressman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., who is investigating how the charity's money was spent.Waxman said Chapin had evaded attempts by U.S. marshals to find him for the past week to serve a warrant to compel Chapin to answer questions before Congress about his charity, which raised more than $98 million last year."There have been serious allegations against Mr. Chapin, including allegations that he is paying exorbitant salaries to himself and his wife, using donations to pay for questionable expenses, such as new condos, shifting funds among his various groups to skew reporting numbers and concealing millions of dollars in payments to for-profit fundraising corporations," Waxman said.Help Hospitalized Veterans was one of more than a dozen charities for veterans rated "F" by a leading charity watchdog group, the American Institute of Philanthropy.At today's hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Waxman criticized these charities for "intolerable fraud" and "a sickening betrayal of our most fundamental values.""A disturbing number of groups are raising millions of dollars in the name of helping veterans but keeping most of the donations for themselves," said Waxman. "Instead of using the money to provide financial assistance or help veterans obtain care, these groups and the professional fundraisers they employ blatantly line their own pockets. They betray their donors and the troops who desperately need help.""Right now there's incredible waste out there, and it's being done in the name of our brave veterans," said AIP's Daniel Borochoff. "We owe a lot more to these veterans than too many of these nonprofit groups are providing."Ed Edmundson, whose son Eric was wounded in Iraq, fought back tears as he described how some charities "use these soldiers as a commodity to raise funds.""I am concerned [about] the negative effect that the few self-serving nonprofits will have on the ability of the legitimate nonprofits to obtain funding from the general public," Edmundson said, choking back tears. "It would be an unfortunate turn of events if the service they provide is not available."At one point, Waxman read a letter from former Sen. Bob Dole that called these groups "parasites" and applauded Waxman's committee for "exposing the downright fraud used by some [charities].""I cannot imagine anyone, or any group, stooping so low to enrich themselves by exploiting veterans' misery," Dole wrote.Last month, Chapin walked out of an interview with ABC News' Brian Ross for a report that appeared on "Good Morning America."Waxman said the committee will hold a second hearing on Jan. 17, 2008 and was issuing a new subpoena for Mr. Chapin today.

Second story here...
Story below:
Charities Respond to ABC News ReportAnna Schecter Reports:
Veterans charities rated "F" by the American Institute of Philanthropy, a charity watchdog organization, responded to ABC News'"Good Morning America."All of the charities ABC News spoke with said they felt they were doing valuable work. While some of the groups rated "F" objected to AIP's findings, several of the charities said private fundraising companies were very expensive, but without them, they would not raise as much money for their cause.The AIP ratings are based in large part on the percent of money raised actually spent on program services versus fundraising costs and overhead. Thirteen of the 27 received an "F."Reading the Original Report: Failing to Serve America's Heroes on the Home FrontA spokesman for the Military Order of the Purple Heart Service Foundation defended his foundation's employment of a professional fundraising company. He said he believes donations are best utilized by providing needed assistance to veterans and not in developing at their own cost an internal volunteer fundraising program."We try to minimize fundraising costs and maximize returns," the spokesman said.The NCOA National Defense Foundation took issue with AIP's methods of analysis. A spokesman denied that they spend more on fundraising than on their program services, and said that more than 70 percent of their revenue goes to programs.A spokesman for the American Ex-Prisoners of War Service Foundation said his organization had no choice but to hire a fundraising company."It was better than nothing," he said. The spokesman said the foundation has recently stopped employing the private fundraising company so the percentage of funds going to fundraising will drastically change. When AIP's report comes out next year, "it will look very good," he said.The Air Force Aid Society received an "F" based on the relatively low amount of money spent on program services compared to asset reserves. A spokesman said a large portion of its funding comes from investments; they do not receive large amounts of donations and suspect that is why they got the low grade. The Army Emergency Relief Fund was also rated an "F" based on its relatively large asset reserves. A spokesman said they should not be penalized for having a large amount of money saved."We meet the demand of soldiers that come to us," the spokesman said. He added that AER gave away $70 million in assistance last year and said that good investments have grown faster than soldiers need to draw from funds.A spokesman for the National Veterans Services Fund said the professional fundraisers they employ make it possible for them to do their job."We would pay the same percentage for fundraising if we did it internally, and we would reach less people," he said.A Paralyzed Veterans of America spokesman said his charity has been doing "'A+' work for all veterans, people with disabilities and their families 24/7." He disagreed with AIP's findings and said that nearly 73 percent of all donations directly benefit veterans.Lastly, the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial Fund said none of the funds have gone to the cause because they have not started building the proposed memorial to disabled veterans. Construction of the memorial adjacent to the Mall in Washington, D.C., is expected to begin in 2008, the spokesman said.
Third story here...
Story below:
Study Faults Charities for Veterans
Some Nonprofits Shortchange Troops, Watchdog Group SaysBy Philip RuckerWashington Post Staff Writer
Americans gave millions of dollars in the past year to veterans charities designed to help troops wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan, but several of the groups spent relatively little money on the wounded, according to a leading watchdog organization and federal tax filings.Eight veterans charities, including some of the nation's largest, gave less than a third of the money raised to the causes they champion, far below the recommended standard, the American Institute of Philanthropy says in a report. One group passed along 1 cent for every dollar raised, the report says. Another paid its founder and his wife a combined $540,000 in compensation and benefits last year, a Washington Post analysis of tax filings showed.There are no laws regulating the amount of money charities spend on overhead, fundraising or giving. But the institute's report suggests that 20 of the 29 military charities studied were managing their resources poorly, paying high overhead costs and direct-mail fundraising fees and, in some cases, providing their leaders with six-figure salaries.The 12 charities rated as failing by the institute -- including the Military Order of the Purple Heart Service Foundation, the AMVETS National Service Foundation and the Freedom Alliance -- collected at least $266 million in the past fiscal year."They know how to work the system, and they seem pretty good at not going over the line, although it is pretty outrageous that so little money is actually winding up benefiting charities," said Daniel Borochoff, president and founder of the Chicago-based institute.The charities' practices have sparked outrage among some members of Congress.The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform was scheduled to hold its first hearing on veterans charities this morning."People want to help the veterans," said Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), a member of the oversight committee. "They don't want to enrich organizations that are cynically exploiting veterans for their own personal gain."We need to make sure that the generous contributions of Americans to veterans will help veterans and not line the pockets of fundraisers and these organizations."Richard H. Esau Jr., executive director of the Military Order of the Purple Heart Service Foundation, based in Annandale, said the cost of fundraising limits how much his group can spend on charitable causes. "Do you have any idea how much money it costs to advertise? It's unbelievable the amount of money it takes to advertise in the print and electronic media," he said. "I'm very proud of what we do, and we certainly do look after everybody. F or no F, the point is we do the right thing by veterans."Borochoff said many veterans charities are "woefully inefficient," spending large sums on costly direct-mail advertising."They oversolicit. They love to send out a lot of trinkets and stickers and greeting cards and flags and things that waste a lot of money that they get little return on," said Borochoff, who plans to testify before Congress today.The philanthropy institute gave F's to 12 of the 29 military charities reviewed and D's to eight. Five were awarded A-pluses, including the Fisher House Foundation in Rockville, which the institute says directs more than 90 percent of its income to charitable causes.One group received an A, and one received an A-minus.Jim Weiskopf, spokesman for Fisher House, said the charity does not use direct-mail advertising. "As soon as you do direct mail, your fundraising expenses go up astronomically," he said.One egregious example, Borochoff said, is Help Hospitalized Veterans, which was founded in 1971 by Roger Chapin, a veteran of the Army Finance Corps and a San Diego real estate developer. The charity, which provides therapeutic arts and crafts kits to hospitalized veterans, reported income of $71.3 million last year and spent about one-third of that money on charitable work, the philanthropy institute said.In its tax filings, Help Hospitalized Veterans reported paying more than $4 million to direct-mail fundraising consultants. The group also has run television advertisements featuring actor Sam Waterston, game show host Pat Sajak and other celebrities.Chapin, 75, the charity's president, received $426,434 in salary and benefits in the past fiscal year, according to a filing with the Internal Revenue Service. His wife, Elizabeth, 73, received $113,623 in salary and benefits as "newsletter editor," the Post's review of the tax filing showed.Chapin and other leaders of Help Hospitalized Veterans did not return calls for comment. But the charity e-mailed a statement stating that it is among "the finest veterans' charities this nation has to offer." The statement also said its "fundraising expenses, accounting methods, and executive salaries are comparable to other nonprofits in this field."Bennett Weiner, chief operating officer of the Better Business Bureau, said the agency has 20 standards for reviewing charities, including that a charity's fundraising and overhead costs not exceed 35 percent of total contributions.Weiner, who is scheduled to testify before the House committee today, said he could not comment specifically on veterans charities until after his testimony.Advocates for veterans said they worry that scrutiny could damage military charities in general."In the rush to help, there's a lot of innovative work and good work happening, but there's also a lot of fraud and waste," said Paul Rieckhoff, executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. "There's never been a greater need for veterans charities in a generation, and I hope issues like this don't deter people from giving."Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), one of Congress's leading critics of charities, said some of the groups are abusing their tax-exempt status."Taxpayers are subsidizing that tax exemption," Grassley said through a spokeswoman. "Sitting on donors' money or spending too much on contracts and salaries doesn't benefit the public."Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.), a member of the oversight committee, wants veterans charities to be held accountable."I hope there is an explanation, but it seems that most of the funds they raise never reach the veteran community," Sarbanes said through a spokeswoman. "Some of the practices being described are simply outrageous."Rick Cohen, an expert on nonprofit groups and former executive director of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, called the spending decisions of some charities "grotesque.""I think in light of the Iraq war and the Afghanistan war, these veterans are the people who we should really be protecting and not using as excuses or avenues for ripping off charity philanthropy," Cohen said.
Staff researcher Meg Smith contributed to this report.
------------------------- Larry Scott --
Don't forget to read all of today's VA News Flashes (click here)
Click here to make VA Watchdog dot Org your homepage
email Larry

Send this page to a friend:
(go back to VA Watchdog dot Org Home Page)

Has Uncle Sam turned his back on your request for VA benefits?Contact LEGAL HELP FOR VETERANS for assistance with the benefits you for more info

VA Watchdog Stuffcups, hats, shirtsclick here to support the site

FAIR USE NOTICE: This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such materials available in an effort to advance understanding of veterans' issues. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed an interest in receiving the included information for educational purposes. For more information go to: If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

I have linked these articles for my readers to see what charities are doing in veterans names, there are some excellent groups out there like the Fisher House, Don Imus etc raising money for veterans then there are some low life's using "injured veterans" as pawns shame on them. I hope they can prosecute the most egregious.

Sphere: Related Content

Veterans Charities some are scams other are A+

Studies fault charities for veterans
Some nonprofits shortchange troops, watchdog group says

Americans gave millions of dollars in the past year to veterans charities designed to help troops wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan, but several of the groups spent relatively little money on the wounded, according to a leading watchdog organization and federal tax filings.
Eight veterans charities, including some of the nation's largest, gave less than a third of the money raised to the causes they champion, far below the recommended standard, the American Institute of Philanthropy says in a report. One group passed along 1 cent for every dollar raised, the report says. Another paid its founder and his wife a combined $540,000 in compensation and benefits last year, a Washington Post analysis of tax filings showed.
There are no laws regulating the amount of money charities spend on overhead, fundraising or giving. But the institute's report suggests that 20 of the 29 military charities studied were managing their resources poorly, paying high overhead costs and direct-mail fundraising fees and, in some cases, providing their leaders with six-figure salaries.

The 12 charities rated as failing by the institute -- including the Military Order of the Purple Heart Service Foundation, the AMVETS National Service Foundation and the Freedom Alliance -- collected at least $266 million in the past fiscal year.
'Work the system'"They know how to work the system, and they seem pretty good at not going over the line, although it is pretty outrageous that so little money is actually winding up benefiting charities," said Daniel Borochoff, president and founder of the Chicago-based institute.
The charities' practices have sparked outrage among some members of Congress.
The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform was scheduled to hold its first hearing on veterans charities this morning.
"People want to help the veterans," said Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), a member of the oversight committee. "They don't want to enrich organizations that are cynically exploiting veterans for their own personal gain.
"We need to make sure that the generous contributions of Americans to veterans will help veterans and not line the pockets of fundraisers and these organizations."
Richard H. Esau Jr., executive director of the Military Order of the Purple Heart Service Foundation, based in Annandale, said the cost of fundraising limits how much his group can spend on charitable causes. "Do you have any idea how much money it costs to advertise? It's unbelievable the amount of money it takes to advertise in the print and electronic media," he said. "I'm very proud of what we do, and we certainly do look after everybody. F or no F, the point is we do the right thing by veterans."
Borochoff said many veterans charities are "woefully inefficient," spending large sums on costly direct-mail advertising.
"They oversolicit. They love to send out a lot of trinkets and stickers and greeting cards and flags and things that waste a lot of money that they get little return on," said Borochoff, who plans to testify before Congress today.
The philanthropy institute gave F's to 12 of the 29 military charities reviewed and D's to eight. Five were awarded A-pluses, including the Fisher House Foundation in Rockville, which the institute says directs more than 90 percent of its income to charitable causes.
One group received an A, and one received an A-minus.

please go to the website and read the entire article..........

Sphere: Related Content

Congress wants data on veterans suicides

Congress Wants Data on Vet Suicides
Associated Press December 13, 2007WASHINGTON - The parents of an Iraq war veteran who committed suicide and members of Congress on Dec. 12 questioned why there's not a comprehensive tracking system of suicide among Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.
Mike Bowman, of Forreston, Ill., said his son, Spc. Timothy Bowman, 23, is a member of the "unknown fallen" not counted in statistics. His son, a member of the Illinois National Guard, took his own life in 2005 eight months after returning from war. Bowman said he considers his son a "KBA" - killed because of action.
"If the veteran suicide rate is not classified as an epidemic that needs immediate and drastic attention, then the American fighting Soldier needs someone in Washington who thinks it is," Bowman said.
Bowman was one of several witnesses who testified before the House Veterans' Affairs Committee on the issue.
Rep. Bob Filner, the committee chairman, questioned why the comprehensive tracking wasn't already being done.
"They don't want to know this, it looks to me," said Filner, D-Calif. "This could be tracked."
Dr. Ira Katz, the VA's deputy chief patient care service officer for mental health at the Department of Veterans Affairs, defended the work being done by his agency to tackle the issue, including implementing a suicide prevention hotline.
"We have a major suicide prevention program, the most comprehensive in the nation," Katz said. Katz questioned why Filner was focusing on the number of suicides instead of looking at treatment programs implemented to help prevent suicide.
Awareness of suicide among Iraq and Afghanistan veterans was heightened earlier this year when the Army said its suicide rate in 2006 rose to 17.3 per 100,000 troops - the highest level in 26 years of record-keeping.
The Department of Veterans Affairs tracks the number of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who commit suicide, but only if they have been discharged from the military.
The Pentagon tracks the number of suicides in Iraq and Afghanistan. For an earlier story, a Pentagon spokeswoman told The Associated Press the military does not keep track of whether active duty troops who took who took their own lives served in Iraq or Afghanistan.
In an e-mail on Wednesday, the same spokeswoman, Cynthia Smith, said, "We track all suicides, I just don't have combat service information readily available."
At least 152 troops have committed suicide in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to the Defense Manpower Data Center, which tracks casualties for the Pentagon.
On Oct. 31, the AP reported that preliminary research from the Department of Veterans Affairs had found that from the start of the war in Afghanistan on Oct. 7, 2001, and the end of 2005, 283 troops who served in the wars who had been discharged from the military had committed suicide. On Wednesday, Katz said the VA's number had been changed to 144 because some of the veterans counted were actually in the active military and not discharged on the day they committed suicide.
Smith said that the military's suicide rate is still lower than that of the general population.
After leaving the military, however, veterans appear to be at greater risk for suicide than those who didn't serve. Earlier this year, researchers at Portland State University in Oregon found male veterans were twice as likely to commit suicide as their civilian counterparts.
In a report last May, the VA Inspector General said VA officials estimate 1,000 suicides per year among veterans receiving care within the agency and as many as 5,000 per year among all veterans.
"When decision makers do no have reliable data, we must rely on anecdotal evidence," said Rep. Steve Buyer, R-Ind. "While these may help inform us, it does not help us to develop strategies to diminish the risk and prevent incidents of suicide."
Sound Off...What do you think? Join the discussion.

Sphere: Related Content

Camp Lejune Residents from 1957 - 1987 this pertains to you

If you lived or worked on Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeuneô€€€between 1957 and 1987, you may have been exposed to contaminated drinking water.
The United States Marine Corps encourages all those who resided on the base prior to 1987 to register at the official Camp Lejeune water study website to receive updated information and notifications regarding the ongoing water study.
The Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry (ATSDR),
a federal public health agency, is conducting this study to determine whether potential health risks are associated with exposure to the impacted drinking water. The projected completion of the study is expected mid-2008. At that time the Marine Corps will notify former residents with the results.
Additional Information

Monday - Friday, 8:30 AM and 5:00 PM, EST
ATSDR’s Informational Line
(888) 422-8737
Headquarters Marine Corps Public Affairs
(703) 614-4309

Sphere: Related Content

Carissa Picard OP-ED on Mission, Soldier, Family & Team

Mission. Soldier. Family. Team.
Carissa Picard December 13, 2007
"Mission. Soldier. Family. Team."
This is the motto of the 4th Infantry Division at Fort Hood, Texas. In four words, 4th ID has identified the essential elements upon which the strength and stability of the Division is based. The soldier, the family, the unit, and the mission are all interconnected and interdependent. What impacts one, impacts the other. Now the Army needs to recognize this as well.
The Army's problems with recruitment and retention are very much a reflection of its failure to truly appreciate this interdependence. When it comes to decreased morale and retention, our prolonged presence in Iraq has become the scapegoat, masking a larger problem within the military: a reluctance to value the family as much as the service member does and a resistance to allocate funds accordingly.
No matter how high the bonuses are many soldiers, particularly those with families, believe that the benefits fail to outweigh the hardships of service. Too much has been asked of too few for too long--families and soldiers alike.
Of course, reducing combat tours from 15 to 12 months would certainly help soldiers and military families, but it is important to understand that it is not combat tours alone that are keeping soldiers from staying in the Army. It is the lack of support for the soldier and his/her family before, during, and after those tours.
Whether a soldier is deployed for 9 months, 12 months, or 15 months, the fact remains that while he (or she) is gone, the spouse has few resources to compensate for the long-term absence of the second parent under conditions of high stress and isolation. During deployments the incidents of child abuse and neglect, alcohol and drug use, and post-partum depression all increase. Meanwhile, the divorce rate for Army officers nearly tripled and for its enlisted soldiers nearly doubled (between 2001 and 2005). Even without deployments, frequent moves disrupt career aspirations, educational goals, and community ties for families.
Understandably, the Director of Defense Capabilities and Management testified before the Senate (in 2002): "a significant body of research by the military services shows that family satisfaction with military life can significantly influence a service members decision to stay in the military or leave." More recently, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Pace testified that family satisfaction and support played a key role in soldier morale and retention. In light of this, one would expect the Army to expand family benefits and support services much more significantly than it has to date.
For example, the Army could increase the number of daycare providers (especially for evening and weekend hours), expand non-cosmetic dental and vision benefits, provide on post front lawn care for the families of deployed soldiers, allow educational benefits to be transferable to the spouse or child, force Tricare to provide Prime coverage to active duty families who move home during deployments, and/or relocate families to places where they will have support during a deployment that is twelve months or longer.
Of course, while I write this, officials have announced they want to increase the permanent Army by 20,000 to 30,000 troops. (Although the White House initially wanted to increase the number of troops by 65,000.)
You have to admire their moxie. In 2005, the Army failed to meet its annual recruiting goal by eight percent. Despite recruitment bonuses as high as $40,000, the Army again failed to meet its recruiting goals in May and June (usually its best recruiting months) of 2007. The propensity to serve is in the military is its lowest in 20 years, desertion is its highest in 20 years, and junior officers and NCOs are running (not walking) from Uncle Sam.
To meet their post-9/11 recruiting goals they have already increased the maximum enlisting age, granted "moral" waivers for criminal convictions (12% were granted this year), lowered educational standards, and offered bonuses up to $40,000.
Benjamin Franklin said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. If the Army wants to accomplish its mission of recruiting and retaining troops, it needs to take care of its soldiers. To take care of its soldiers, it needs to take care of its soldiers' families. That means higher salaries and improved benefits and family support services. Period.
To preserve manpower and protect the integrity of the overall force, the Army needs to recognize that an investment in the family IS an investment in the soldier.
Taking care of military families isn't just a moral imperative - it is a troop multiplier.
Sound Off...What do you think? Join the discussion.
Copyright 2007 Carissa Picard. All opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily reflect those of Articles
Sign Up for Newsletters Email to a Friend Print This Page Military RSS

Sphere: Related Content

Ilona Meagher testifies to House VA Committee on vet suicides

also posted at Daily Kos as testvet6778

I tried everything I could to see or hear the testimony, NO CSPAN, no video from the committee room not even audio they did post the written testimony from all of the participants as soon as they finished testifying. Yet it does not include any questions asked of any of the witnesses, CNN had a small tape of the parents of one of the suicide victims a Timothy Bowman their testimony is at that link.
Ilona testimony will be under the jump, since it is part of the Congressional Hearing Process it is legal to reprint in it's entirety, it belongs to the nation now. Ilona on behalf of all veterans and their families THANK YOU & SALUTE
Ilona's testimony is here in total
Opening Statement
Chairman Filner, Ranking Member Buyer, and other distinguished members of the Committee, I thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today.
To open, I’d like to briefly share my thoughts on why it is that I believe I’m here.
I am not only someone who’s spent the past two years researching and writing about post-traumatic stress in our returning troops, I’m also a veteran’s daughter. My father was born in Hungary, served two years in antitank artillery as a Hungarian Army conscript, fought against the Soviet Union on the streets of Budapest during the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, and later fled to America where, in 1958, he again became a soldier, this time wearing a United States Army uniform, and serving as a combat engineer stationed in Germany.
My father’s unique experience of having served on both sides – East and West – in such differing armies during the Cold War, gave him a unique perspective on military life.
And so, growing up, my sisters and I often heard my father say, "You can always tell how a government feels about its people by looking at how it treats its soldiers."
Looking at our returning soldiers and their widely-reported struggles with the military and VA health care systems they rely on, of being stigmatized from seeking care or of being placed on lengthy VA waiting lists when they need immediate help – some even committing suicide before their appointment dates arrive – have raised this citizen’s alarm bells.
We have had a "see no evil, hear no evil" approach to examining post-deployment psychological reintegration issues such as suicide. After all we have learned from the struggles of the Vietnam War generation – and the ensuing controversy over how many of its veterans did or did not commit suicide in its wake – why is there today no known national registry where Afghanistan and Iraq veteran suicide data is being collected? How can we ascertain reintegration problems – if any exist – if we are not proactive in seeking them out?
As late as May 2007, Department of Veterans Affairs spokeswoman Karen Fedele told the Washington Post that there was no attempt to gather Afghanistan and Iraq veteran suicide incidents. "We don't keep that data," she said. "I'm told that somebody here is going to do an analysis, but there just is nothing right now." [i]
Meanwhile, the Army reported its suicide rate in 2006 rose to 17.3 per 100,000 troops, the highest in 26 years of keeping such records. At long last, the Associated Press revealed that the VA is finally conducting preliminary research. They’ve tracked at least 283 OEF/OIF veteran suicides through the end of 2005, nearly double the rate of the additional 147 suicides reported by the DoD’s Defense Manpower Data Center.

Looking only at the these suicide figures from the VA (283) and the DoD (147), there have been at least 430 Afghanistan and Iraq veteran suicides that have occurred either in the combat zone or stateside following combat deployment. Lost in the VA and DoD counts are those veterans who have returned from their deployments, are still in the military and not yet in the VA system. The DoD says they do not track those incidents, and I assume neither does the VA because these veterans are not yet on their radar.
Yet even with this omission, many of these 430 confirmed suicides are a result of our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and should – but won’t – be listed with the DoD’s official OEF/OIF death toll of 4,351. It bears mentioning: Currently 10 percent of the overall fatal casualty count of these wars is due to suicide.
Dismissing the issue of veteran suicide in the face of this data is negligent and does nothing to honor the service and sacrifice of our veterans and the families and communities that literally are tasked with supporting them once they return.
Yet, prior to last month’s CBS News investigation, which revealed that 120 veterans of all wars committed suicide every week in 2005 and that 20-24 year old Afghanistan and Iraq veterans are two to four times more likely to commit suicide than their civilian counterparts, the scope of the problem has been largely unknown because no one with proper resources and access to do the compiling of data came forward to do so.
In my written testimony, I’ve included 75 suicides that I and other citizen journalist colleagues have been tracking since September 2005 and which today reside in the ePluribus Media PTSD Timeline.
Offering only a small and incomplete sliver of insight into how some of our returning troops are faring on the home front – especially in light of the fact that at least another 355 incidents could be added among them according the the VA and DoD – I believe that they collectively tell an even greater tale about the failure of us as individuals and as a society to ensure that our returning warriors are cleansed completely from the psychological wounds of war.
They also reflect the failure of our government institutions to protect those who protect us.
While I realize that these distressing stories are the exception and not the rule, to our exceptional military families having to deal with the deterioration of a loved one they thought had safely returned from combat, they are the rule. In 1956, the same year that my parents fled to this incredible country, the 84th Congress – in the very House that we sit in today – had this to say in a presidential commission report on veterans’ benefits:
"The Government's obligation is to help veterans overcome special, significant handicaps incurred as a consequence of their military service. The objective should be to return veterans as nearly as possible to the status they would have achieved had they not been in military service... and maintaining them and their survivors in circumstances as favorable as those of the rest of the people. ... War sacrifices should be distributed as equally as possible within our society. This is the basic function of our veterans' programs." [ii]
I am not a pedigreed expert or a government official seasoned in testifying before you, but those who are from the GAO and the Congressional Research Department and even the Veterans Administration itself, have sat in this very seat over the years and told you we are falling far short in providing the resources and programs our returning troops and military families need to successfully return to their personal lives following their service to the nation.
To those who resist hearing the cold hard truth of where we are today, I’d like to say: The time is here to stop fighting the data, and to start fighting for our troops.
This is America. We can do better. We must do better.
Suggestions to ease the veteran suicide problem:
Offer all returning veterans immediate compensation and treatment support the first six months after their return home. Fostering positive coping skills (vs. negative coping skills of self-medication or domestic violence) must be a key goal of our veterans’ reintegration programs; veterans forced to wait at least six months for VA compensation and treatment benefits to kick in do not feel supported, they feel under siege. Increase 21st century asymmetrical warfare and psychological injury understanding and preparation. The DOD should continue to make adjustments in its training to give service members the tools they need to counter the modern battlefield’s unique stressors.The Psychological Kevlar Act of 2007 would push the DoD to provide proactive psychological training for veterans from boot camp onward; more need to sign on to this legislation and it should be passed into law. Force the DOD and VA do a better job of communicating with veterans on their rights and resources, and making outside community-based resources known to them as well. Many vets are unsure of what benefits they have earned and what rights they have to them. Some are discouraged from using them. Many community programs and groups are ready and waiting to assist returning veterans and military families, but are unknown to the very people who might benefit from them. While Secretary Robert Gates has said it may take up to three years to fully implement the PTSD portion of the Dole-Shalala recommendations, why are we not utilizing the resources that are available in communities across the country? Properly and fully fund the Veterans Administration. Billions in underfunding translates to long waiting lines, lack of funds for PTSD research, and not enough PTSD specialists at each VA facility. Reduce tour lengths, decrease overall number of combat deployments, and increase dwell time between deployments by funding an increase in forces. With each successive deployment, troops’ susceptibility to PTSD increases. Army Chief of Staff George W. Casey Jr. testified last month before the Senate Armed Services Committee saying that the military must be grown in order for dwell-time to be increased, etc. Restrict the ability to redeploy troops diagnosed with PTSD. No PTSD-diagnosed troops should be redeployed into a combat zone, and troops should not be deployed taking psychotropic drugs such as Paxil or Zoloft, that have been shown by the FDA to increase suicide risk. Improve post-deployment assessments. Move away from relying on questionnaires and make physicals and one-on-one demob consultations mandatory. In February 2006, the VA contracted the Institute of Medicine to do a thorough review of scientific and medical literature related to the diagnosis and assessment of PTSD; the committee strongly concluded that the best way to determine whether a person is suffering from PTSD is with a "thorough, face-to-face interview by a health professional trained in diagnosing psychiatric disorders." The DoD should follow the same rule. Invest more in counseling and support. Rather than relying on quick-fix medications to solve returning psychological problems, invest time and resources in holistic wellness programs to help veterans and their families recover from the experience of war. Remove stigma/punishment for those seeking help. One of the easiest ways to do this would be to operate under the assumption that everyone will need some form of support following combat. Move away from a system where those struggling most must somehow find the strength to conspicuously come forward on their own. Require completion of a ‘boot camp in reverse’ transitional training program. Military families who have lost loved ones to suicide consistently say there should be a more formal reentry program following return from combat, weekly meetings/classes lasting from 2 to 3 months. The program should be as required to attend and complete by all service members as boot camp. Pay special attention in supporting National Guard and Reserve forces. Not being a part of a cohesive unit, they are especially susceptible to PTSD. Stop closing VA Hospitals and Vet Centers. We should be providing more opportunities for veterans scattered across the country, especially in rural areas, to have access to health care benefits. Increase funding to community service boards. Many troops – especially those with the National Guard and Reserve or in rural areas – do not have easy access to health services. Make sure they have alternatives to getting the care they need, or fully reimburse their private health care bills. Increase Vet Center program offerings. Offer more complimentary group and individual classes for troops and military families that explain what PTSD is, how it can be treated and how one can forge the tools necessary to move their lives beyond it. Provide complimentary counseling to all immediate family members. If the service member refuses to seek help, the spouse and children should have access to counseling service to help them through their loved one’s reintegration process. Increase personal data security and treatment anonymity. Many will not come forward to get the help they need because they worry it may come back to haunt them when they’re up for a promotion, being considered for a mission, or when looking for civilian employment. Family members, however, should not be kept in the dark, especially if veteran is prescribed psychotropic medication. Selection of OEF/OIF Veteran Suicides
The ePluribus Media PTSD Timeline, is a collection of press-reported cases of post-combat related possible, probable, self-reported and/or confirmed incidents of PTSD or broader reintegration difficulties. The work is meant to preserve incidents that are at risk of being lost to us with the forward movement of time, as small town news websites do not archive many of their reports.
Additional reasons for the existence of the PTSD Timeline include:
Allowing for ease of study of PTSD and related reintegration issues by researchers, reporters, educational and government institutions Fostering further discussion and exploration of post-combat reintegration issues Validating to military family members that we are paying attention to their experiences What follows is a brief glimpse at the personal post-war landscape for our military families revealed through suicide incidents tracked by me and other citizen journalists in the PTSD Timeline since September of 2005.
Legend: ss=stateside suicide oif=OIF combat zone suicide oef=OEF combat zone suicide
Following the terrorist attacks of September 11th, Operation Enduring Freedom commenced with the invasion of Afghanistan on October 7, 2001. Fort Bragg, N.C., home of the Army Special Operations Command, was the first to experience a cluster of post-deployment reintegration issues when three military wives were murdered by their recently-returned husbands within a span of five weeks. (One additional wife was murdered during this same timeframe, but the husband had not deployed to OEF).
On June 11, 2002/ss/, Rigoberto Nieves (32-year old Special Forces sergeant) fatally shot his wife and then himself in an off-base murder/suicide after having returned home from Afghanistan in mid-March. On July 19, 2002/ss/, Brandon Floyd (30-year old Special Ops soldier) shot his wife and then himself in an off-base murder/suicide after having returned home in January.
CNN reported at the time: "Fort Bragg garrison commander, Army Col. Tad Davis, is reviewing counseling and stress-management programs available at the base. A spokesman said the Army wants to see if there is something it could do better. But one military official who had previously served at Fort Bragg pointed out that Special Operations soldiers may be reluctant to seek help." [iii]
On March 19, 2003, Operation Iraqi Freedom commenced.
Joseph Suell (24-year old veteran and father of two who’d served in South Korea, Kuwait and Iraq) intentionally overdosed on June 16, 2003/oif/, the day after Father’s Day. Corey Small (20-year old Ft. Polk, La., army private) shot himself in front of others after making a phone call home on July 3, 2003/oif/.
The following day, on July 4, 2003/oif/, James Curtis Coons (36-year old army master sergeant with 17 years of military service, OIF Bronze Star) hanged himself with a bed sheet at Walter Reed Army Medical Center; he had been evacuated from Kuwait two weeks earlier following an overdose.
Alyssa Peterson (27-year old Arabic-speaking interpreter with the 311th Military Intelligence BN, 101st Airborne), who reportedly disagreed with interrogation techniques being used at Tal-Afar prison, shot herself on September 12, 2003/oif/. On October 1, 2003/ss/, Kyle Edward Williams (21-year old soldier with a clean record who’d served in Iraq with the 507th Maintenance Company) shot and killed an Arizona man who’d broken into his car and later shot himself.
Thomas J. Sweet II (23-year old Ft. Riley, Kan., 5th Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Infantry Division sergeant) shot himself on November 27, 2003/oif/, the very day he received word of his promotion. Jeffrey Braun (19-year old 82nd Airborne Division paratrooper) shot himself on December 1, 2003/oif/.
Alexis Soto-Ramirez (43-year old 544th Military Police Company specialist), who’d been evacuated a month earlier from Iraq due to back pain, hanged himself with his bathrobe sash at Walter Reed Army Medical Center on January 12, 2004/ss/. Five days later, on January 17, 2004/ss/, Jeremy Seeley (28-year old 101st Airborne specialist) walked off Fort Campbell, Ky., checked into a hotel, and overdosed on household poison.
Boyd Wicks, Jr. (Marine infantry sergeant) returned from Iraq in June 2003 and was discharged in October; he committed suicide on February 1, 2004/ss/, his father saying of PTSD. On March 7, 2004/oif/, Matthew Milczark (18-year old Marine) shot himself in a Kuwaiti military chapel. One week later, on March 14, 2004/ss/, William Howell (36-year old Ft. Carson, Colo., Special Forces chief warrant officer with 17 years of military service as a Green Beret) threatened his wife with a gun, and then shot himself as police officers moved in on him; he’d returned from Iraq a mere three weeks earlier.
Four days later, on March 18, 2004/ss/, Brandon Ratliff (6-times decorated Army Reserve’s 909th Forward Surgical Team executive officer), shot himself after writing The Columbus Dispatch, "I didn’t think I’d have to fight over there and have to fight these guys, too." He’d lost a promised promotion and raise following his tour in Afghanistan saving injured soldiers on the frontline.
On March 21, 2004/ss/, Ken Dennis (22-year old Marine corporal and combat rifleman who’d served in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia, Djibouti and Iraq) hanged himself with his belt in his Renton, Wash., apartment eight months after returning from Iraq. He’d confessed to his father, "You know, Dad, it’s really hard – very, very hard – to see a man’s face and kill him."
Jeffrey Lucey (23-year old Marine Reserve) hanged himself in his basement on June 22, 2004/ss/, after his parents had involuntarily committed him to the local VA; he was released three days later and told to stop drinking before they could assess him for PTSD.
Also on June 22, 2004/ss/, Adam Kelley (36-year old Gulf War combat veteran) ended his 13-year struggle with PTSD and shot himself in his car while sitting in his truck behind a Las Vegas sandwich shop. His mother blamed long VA waits, shuffling from one doctor to another, prescribing medications that did more harm than good and monthly appointments with a physician’s assistant rather than weekly appointments with a physician’s aide as contributing factors.
Andre Ventura McDaniel (40-year old Ft. Carson, Colo., Special Forces soldier) shot himself six weeks after returning from Iraq, on August 28, 2004/ss/. On September 24, 2004/ss/, Michael Torok (23-year old Ft. Bragg, N.C., communications specialist) stabbed himself in the heart in his car parked alongside a rural Illinois corn field. He had visited the Hines VAMC for various ailments following his Afghanistan service, but Hines was not screening all returning veterans for PTSD at the time. The next day, he told his parents he was going to visit a friend and was never seen or heard from again.
On October 9, 2004/ss/, Brian McKeehan (37-year old Fort Euliss, Va., soldier) hanged himself with a bed sheet in the Virginia Peninsula Regional Jail, one month after returning from Iraq and 12 hours after being arrested for assaulting his wife. In the four weeks he was home, local police had responded to six domestic violence complaints. Michael Jon Pelkey (29-year old Fort Sill, Ok., captain) shot himself on November 5, 2004/ss/ a year after returning from Iraq. He had received a private diagnosis of PTSD, but was told of months-long waits for mental health care appointments on base.
Curtis Greene (25-year old Ft. Riley, Kan., soldier) abruptly went AWOL, saying he did not want to return to Iraq; after his wife begged him to return, he hanged himself in his barracks on December 6, 2004/ss/. Police had previously responded to two domestic violence calls and he was being treated for PTSD.
Andres Raya (19-year old Camp Pendleton, Calif., Marine) committed suicide-by-cop on January 9, 2005/ss/ four months after taking part in the invasion of Fallujah. After telling family he did not want to return to Iraq, he fired on Modesto police in an apparent premeditated 3-hour ambush in which one police officer was killed and another critically injured. Mark C. Warren (44-year old 116th Armor Cavalry Regiment Oregon Army National Guardsman) shot himself in Kirkuk on January 31, 2005/oif/.
John Ruocco (40-year old Marine cobra helicopter pilot from Newbury, Mass.) hanged himself in February 2005/ss/, three months after returning home from Iraq and a few weeks before he was to redeploy. His wife said he worried about the ramifications of seeking help, personally and professionally.
On February 3, 2005/ss/, Richard T. Corcoran (34-year old Ft. Bragg, N.C. Special Forces soldier who’d served in Afghanistan) shot his ex-wife and her boyfriend, and then shot himself.
Alan McClean (62-year old decorated Vietnam Purple Heart/Bronze Star veteran and minister who’d lost both legs to a landmine) shot himself in his Washington state church office on February 11, 2005/ss/. Formerly supportive of the war effort, but deeply affected by the rising casualty counts, he wrote, "35 Marines died today in Iraq, only slightly more noticed than my legs." His daughter said later, "I underestimated the power of the war to take his life and I really feel that though my dad’s been in Wenatchee, the war in Iraq killed him."
Steven Michael Logan (26-year old Marine intelligence clerk), personally reenlisted by Secretary of the Navy Gordon R. England at the peak of Mount Suribachi above Iowa Jima a year earlier, shot himself on February 28, 2005/ss/. Samuel Lee (19-year old 2nd Infantry Division soldier) serving in Ramadi shot himself on March 28, 2005/oif/ and Dominic Campisi (30-year old Delaware Air National Guardsman), who’d served in both Afghanistan and Iraq, killed himself on April 17, 2005/ss/ only days after returning from Uzbekistan.
On May 23, 2005/oef/, Kyle Hemauer (21-year old 29th Infantry Division Virginia National Guard specialist) shot himself in Afghanistan. And in Iraq on June 4, 2005/oif/, the highest-ranking OIF death at the time, Ted S. Westhusing (44-year old colonel and leading scholar of military ethics) shot himself in his base trailer. In emails to family, he seemed especially upset that traditional military values such as duty, honor and country had been replaced by profit motives in Iraq.
Justin "Paul" Byers (19-year old Iowa Army National Guardsman) stepped in front of highway pickup truck on June 20, 2005/ss/ after hearing of his 22-year old brother’s death in Iraq. On July 9, 2005/ss/, Jeremy Wilson (23-year old Ft. Carson, Colo., 10th Special Forces Group soldier) hanged himself in his barracks a month after returning from Iraq. Jason Cooper (23-year old Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, 308th Quartermaster Army Reserve specialist) hanged himself in his basement four months after his Iraq tour on July 14, 2005/ss/.
Eleven days after being pinned by then Army Chief of Staff Peter Schoomaker himself with the Army’s new Combat Action Badge, Leslie Frederick, Jr. (23-year old Purple Heart and Bronze Star Ft. Lewis, Wash., specialist) shot himself in his Tacoma apartment on July 26, 2005/ss/.
Two days later, on July 28, 2005/ss/, Saxxon Rech (20-year old Camp Lejeune, N.C., Marine) shot his girlfriend and himself in Washington; he had been mysteriously discharged in February. Two days later, Robert Decouteaux (24-year old Ft. Hood, Tx., soldier) shot himself on July 30, 2005/ss/, and another two days later, on August 1, 2005/ss/, Robert Hunt (22-year old Ft. Hood, Tx. 1st Cavalry Division radio operator-maintainer) was found dead in his apartment; both Decouteaux and Hunt had served in Iraq for a year and were scheduled to return in the fall.
Another two days later, on August 3, 2005/ss/, Stephen Sherwood (35-year old Ft. Carson, Colo., 2nd Brigade Combat Team soldier) shot his wife and then himself nine days after returning home from a year’s deployment in Iraq. He enlisted in January 2004 to have health benefits because his wife was pregnant.
Bernardo C. Negrete (53-year old retired brigadier general who’d served in Grenada, Panama and Iraq) shot himself on September 16, 2005/ss/ after his wife complained that he stop drinking and come to bed. Phillip Kent (26-year old Fort Hood, Texas, 720th Military Police Battalion 2nd lieutenant/platoon leader during the hunt for Saddam Hussein in Tikrit), after being hospitalized for PTSD following his return home and being discharged early, committed suicide on September 28, 2005/ss/.
On October 8, 2005/ss/, Greg Morris (57-year old 4th Infantry Division Vietnam veteran diagnosed with PTSD) shot himself; by his side were his gun, Purple Heart, and a folder of information on how the VA planned to review veterans PTSD cases [a plan that was halted following public outcry].
On November 8, 2005/ss/, Chris Forcum (20-year old Marine lance corporal) killed himself in Oregon six weeks after returning from Iraq. His father said at the time that "they teach soldiers how to fight, but they don’t teach them how to live when they come home." Timothy Bowman (24-year old Illinois National Guard specialist) had joined the military after 9/11; he shot himself on Thanksgiving morning, November 24, 2005/ss/, eight months after coming home from Iraq.
Jeffrey Lehner (42-year old Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron sergeant) shot his father and then himself on December 7, 2005/ss/, after calling his VA counselor in distress saying he would not be coming in the next day. After serving in Afghanistan, the Gulf War veteran had returned home at the end of 2004 in need of help, admitting himself to a VA hospital for intensive PTSD treatment. Instead, he was placed with bipolar and schizophrenic patients because the PTSD ward was full. On December 22, 2005/ss/, Joshua Omvig (22-year old Iowa Army Reverse soldier) shot himself a year after returning from Iraq.
On January 16, 2006/ss/, Douglas Barber (37-year old National Guards supply convoy driver), following a two-year struggle with the VA over receiving treatment for his PTSD, changed his answering machine message to say he was checking out of this world, telephoned police and waited for them on his porch; when they would not shoot him, he shot himself.
Chuck Call (30-year Army gunner who’d volunteered to go to Iraq with another unit when his was not called up) committed suicide three months after returning on February 3, 2006/ss/. Haunted by nightmares and anxiety, he sought VA benefits only to be told he did not qualify for them due to his income. On February 20, 2006/ss/, Jon Trevino (36-year old Scott AFB 375th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron tech sergeant who served in both Afghanistan and Iraq) shot his wife and himself.
In Iraq, Tina Priest (21-year old Fort Hood, Texas, 4th Infantry Division soldier) shot herself on March 1, 2006/oif/, two weeks after saying she was raped by a fellow soldier and days after being diagnosed and treated for Acute Stress Disorder consistent with Rape Trauma Syndrome.
Two days later, Donald Woodward (23-year old army soldier) shot himself on his favorite Pennsylvania hiking trail on March 3, 2006/ss/. He’d tried killing himself once before by lighting his truck on fire and getting inside; his wife pulled him out; afterwards, he finally agreed to get some help from the VA, which gave him antidepressants and scheduled a counseling appointment a month later. He committed suicide before the appointment date arrived.
Three days later, Greg Braun (26-year old Army Ranger sniper with the 128th Infantry of Wisconsin National Guard) shot himself in his basement four months after returning home from Iraq on March 6, 2006/ss/. He had served in Kosovo as well as tour tours in Iraq, and was a Milwaukee policeman. Eric Ryan Grossman (22-year old Marine) ran into California interstate traffic killing himself when a minivan hit him on April 6, 2006/ss/, only five days after returning from a seven-month tour in Iraq.
James Gallagher (Camp Pendleton, Calif., Marine gunnery sergeant) committed suicide eight months after returning from Iraq on May 1, 2006/ss/. On July 25, 2006/oef/, Andrew Velez (22-year old Army specialist) shot himself in Sharona, Afghanistan. Two years earlier his brother had died in Iraq and he was said to have "locked up" after identifying his remains. He suffered flashbacks and held his wife hostage between tours.
At home following a near-suicide attempt in Iraq in which he sought the help of his commanding officer, David Ramsey (27-year old Ft. Lewis, Wash., 47th Combat Support Hospital critical care nurse specialist) slipped through the cracks stateside as Madigan AMC released him from their care, unaware of his near suicide attempt in Iraq due to a lack of access to electronic records. Missing his follow-up appointment, he shot himself on September 7, 2006/ss/.
On October 17, 2006/ss/, Zachary Bowen (28-year old Army MP who’d served in Kosovo and Iraq) strangled and dismembered his girlfriend and 11 days later threw himself off of the ledge of the Omni Royal New Orleans hotel with a suicide note in his pocket. A day later, on October 18, 2006/ss/, Jeanne "Linda" Michel (33-year old Camp Bucca Navy medic) shot herself two weeks after returning to her husband and three kids. While overseas, she was prescribed Paxil for depression without family notification, and taken off the antidepressant, again without family notification, when she returned home.
James E. Dean (29-year old corporal) killed himself via suicide-by-cop shortly after learning he was to be redeployed to Iraq. The Afghanistan veteran diagnosed with PTSD barricaded himself at his father’s farm on Christmas Day; a Maryland State Police sharpshooter killed him 15 hours later, on December 26, 2006/ss/.
On January 16, 2007/ss/, Jonathan Schulze (25-year old Marine machine gunner) hanged himself following two attempts to get help from the Minnesota VA system, once in Minneapolis/St. Paul, the other in St. Cloud. He was given a waiting list number of 26 for a counseling appointment, but was dead before the date arrived. The following day, on January 17, 2007/ss/, Michael Bramer (23-year old Fort Bragg, N.C., 82nd Airborne Division Special Forces Unit paratrooper who’d served in Afghanistan and Iraq) shot himself in his home.
Justin Bailey (27-year old Marine rifleman), among the first wave of the Iraq invasion and diagnosed with PTSD since returning, checked himself into a Los Angeles VAMC needing immediate help for prescription drug addiction. Yet, the day before his death, he received prescriptions for five medications, including a two-week supply of the potent painkiller methadone; he overdosed in his VAMC room on January 26, 2007/ss/.
Jessica Rich (24-year old Fort Carson, Colo., 52nd Engineering Battalion Army Reserve heavy equipment operator) drove directly into oncoming interstate traffic on February 8, 2007/ss/; medically evacuated from Iraq due to lower back pain and PTSD, she was on a waiting list for a specialized PTSD treatment program.
On February 20, 2007/ss/, Brian Jason Rand (26-year old Ft. Campbell, Ky., 30th Infantry Regiment sergeant) shot himself at a local park seven weeks after returning home to Clarksville, Tenn. He answered ‘yes’ to PTSD to the identifiers on his post-deployment questionnaire following his second tour; yet, two days after being diagnosed with PTSD he was redeployed to Iraq for a third and final time.
Chris Dana (23-year old 163rd Infantry Battalion Montana National Guardsman) shot himself on March 4, 2007/ss/ after having cancelled his appointment for PTSD. His brother said after returning in November 2005 he seemed to be melting from the inside; his father said his eyes had lost their shine, the joy of living.
Stephen Edward Colley (22-year old Ft. Hood, Texas, helicopter mechanic) committed suicide on May 16, 2007/ss/. Returning from Iraq 6 months earlier, his father said he felt he could not get the psychological help he needed from the military for fear it would jeopardize his future career. On May 27, 2007/ss/, Brian William Skold (28-year old 151st Field Artillery Minnesota National Guardsman) died via suicide-by-cop.
The ninth Ft. Campbell, Ky., soldier to commit suicide in 2007, Derek Henderson (27-year old Afghanistan and Iraq veteran) jumped to his death from a bridge over the Ohio River on June 21, 2007/ss/. He had begun carrying a 12" knife and wanted a gun to "fight the enemy," his medical records indicating PTSD five times. On July 25, 2007/ss/, Noah Charles Pierce (23-year old 3rd Infantry Division soldier) shot himself in rural Minnesota. The soldier who had signed up for the military after 9/11 wrote in his suicide note that he had killed people and now it was time to kill himself.
On August 29, 2007/ss/, John R. Fish II (19-year old Ft. Hood, Texas, 41st Fire Brigade ammunitions specialist) shot himself. He had returned from a long Iraq deployment in November 2006. Steven D. Lopez (23-year old Ft. Bragg, N.C., Afghanistan and Iraq veteran) shot his wife and then himself on November 5, 2007/ss/; he had sought help from base doctors and was prescribed Paxil.
On November 20, 2007/ss/, Joseph Colin Russell (25-year old two tour Ft. Hood, Texas, 1st Cavalry Division, 2nd Brigade soldier) shot himself at a friend’s house. He was homeless and accused of being responsible for the death of another vet following a fight at a nightclub.
Two days later, on November 22, 2007/ss/ – Thanksgiving Day – Tyler Curtis (25-year old two tour Iraq veteran) committed suicide three months after returning to Maine following his 2006 discharge from the Army. He was torn by grief for the families of those he may have killed.
[i] "Veterans' Group Emphasizes Suicide Risks," Jennifer C. Kerr, Associated Press, May 28, 2007.
[ii] U.S. Congress. House, The President's Commission on Veterans' Pensions. The historical development of veterans' benefits in the United States: A report on veterans' benefits in the United States, 84th Cong., 2nd sess., May 9, 1956.
[iii] "Fort Bragg killings raise alarm about stress," Barbara Starr, CNN, July 27, 2002
The Statement by Congressman Bob Filner Chairman of the House VA Committee
Opening Statement By Hon. Bob Filner Chairman, and a Representative in Congress from the State of California Good morning and welcome to the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing on Stopping Suicides: Mental Health Challenges within the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Mental health issues have been a focus of this Committee all year long and will continue to be at the forefront of our agenda. Public Law 110-110, the Joshua Omvig Veterans Suicide Prevention Act was enacted in November of this year.
The House has also passed H.R. 2199, the "Traumatic Brain Injury Health Enhancement and Long-Term Support Act of 2007," H.R. 2874, the "Veterans' Health Care Improvement Act of 2007," and H.R. 612, the "Returning Servicemember VA Healthcare Insurance Act of 2007." Each of these pieces of legislation addresses mental health issues in some aspect concerning the well being of veterans.
The demands confronting VA today are complex and sometimes overwhelming. VA must find a way to ensure quality and efficiency do not suffer as they move forward, continuing to treat veterans from past wars while adapting to the unique needs of the younger veterans of modern warfare who are entering the system for the first time.
We know that OEF/OIF servicemembers are subject to repeated deployments, an intense level of close combat, extended deployment lengths and repeated family separations.
VA has reported that of the 263,909 separated OEF/OIF veterans who have obtained VA health care since FY 2002, 38 percent have received a diagnosis of a possible mental disorder. Of that population, 48 percent have a possible diagnosis of PTSD. The prevalence of mental health problems among returning servicemembers is troublesome and should be of concern to everyone.
Recent events have been brought to the attention of this committee through a CBS report on the rising suicide rates among veterans. We also know that male veterans are at elevated risk of suicide relative to non-veterans. In fact, they are twice as likely to die of suicide compared to male non-veterans in the general population.
Of great concern to the Committee is the recent VA Inspector General report that found that nearly 1,000 veterans who receive VA care commit suicide every year, and as many as 5,000 a year are committed among all living veterans.
Today we will take a hard look at programs the VA has implemented to address the challenges of suicide.
I look forward to the upcoming testimony.
UPDATE: NBC News Brian Williams on this issue VA suicide on U Tube
CBS News on you tube Katie Couric

Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Vets Vision to hold Columbia Rally Jan 17,2008

Visit us on the Web at: Spotlighting American Veterans Left Behind
American Legion Post #6
200 Pickens Street
Columbia, SC 29205
(803) 799-2736
THURSDAY, January 17th at 7:00 PM
Call Time 6:30 PM
"If you want to join the fight against homelessness among Veterans, then you can enlist here; because, this is the frontline in that war"
WANT MORE INFORMATION? Call 1-800-528-5385

210 East Broad Street, Suite 202 Telephone: (703) 237-8980
Falls Church, VA 22046 Fax: (703) 237-8976

December 11, 2007

For Immediate Release: Contact: Andy Koelz 800-528-5385


Falls Church, VA-- Beginning in December 2007 and running through February 2008, the president of the Circle of Friends will again lead a circuit of rallies across America to raise support for the homeless veterans on our streets. The rallies will feature a color guard, speakers, an open bar, and recognition of veterans who are in attendance. Invited speakers include 2008 Presidential candidates or their representatives. A complete schedule of rallies can be found at the end of this press release.

According to the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA), there are approximately 300,000 homeless veterans on our streets any given night. About 3,000 of the valiant troops who served in Iraq and Afghanistan are now homeless veterans. The VA only funds 12,000 beds a years for these homeless veterans.

The burden for supporting homeless veterans comes to rest on the approximately 250 not-for-profit transitional facilities in our country. Only about 50 of these receive any kind of VA funding, and even then, this funding is inadequate. Closer to home, the VA funds only 56 beds for homeless veterans for the entire state of Iowa.

“We want to help everyone we can, but we have to start with the core,” said MAJ Brian Hampton USAR (ret), President of the Circle of Friends for American Veterans.

The Circle of Friends for American Veterans, a 501-c(3) non-profit organization since 1993, is considered the foremost grass-roots advocacy organization for homeless veterans in America. The Circle of Friends lobbies Congress on behalf of homeless veterans across America. Thus far their efforts have succeeded in raising well over a million dollars in earmarked appropriations. These efforts virtually doubled the bed capacity for the only facility for homeless veterans in the Washington DC area, the Southeast Veterans Service Center.

During the ten city rallies, the president of the Circle of Friends, among other things, will raise support for the “Veterans’ Bill of Rights” drafted by the organization. One of the provisions in the Bill of Rights includes increasing the per diem VA support for all these transitional facilities from $30 a day per bed (a modest amount!) up to $60 a day (from 1/10th of 1% of the VA budget to 2/10ths of 1%).

Another provision of the Veterans Bill of Rights requests adequate counseling for Post-Traumatic Stress (PTSD), a leading cause of homelessness for returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. Only half of the VA medical centers provide such counseling now. According to the Government Accountability Office, six of the seven centers are not prepared for the case load.

Members of Congress and local politicians have, in the past, come forward at the rallies to offer their support for our country’s homeless veterans. At these rallies, the Circle of Friends promulgates the Veterans’ Bill of Rights and challenges all Members of Congress to affirm their support for it.

Thus far, the organization has garnered support from 25 members Congress representing both Houses of Congress and both major political parties. Presidential candidates of both political parties are also invited to attend the rallies or send a representative. One goal of the rallies is to obtain support from Presidential candidates. The Veterans’ Bill of Rights continues to move forward with resounding community and political support. Major Hampton will travel more than 25,000 miles across America during the 2007-2008 series of rallies, in the process of obtaining support for veterans nationwide.

Once the Circle of Friends has secured the support of several hundred Members of Congress, they will go to the Congress with all the names and tell them it is time to support their words with actions by passing legislation with adequate appropriations.

Additional information on the Circle of Friends can be found at For further details, please phone 1-800-528-5385 or e-mail

Tour Schedule:

Cedar Rapids, Iowa…………………..……………………………..…………………Thursday, December 27th at 7:00PM
Knights of Columbus Council 909 - 716 A Avenue NE, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Des Moines, Iowa……………………………………………………...……………….Saturday, December 29th at 7:00PM
Holiday Inn Des Moines – Downtown on 1050 6th Avenue, Des Moines, Iowa

Manchester, New Hampshire…………………………………..…….…………………….Friday, January 4th at 7:00PM
The Alpine Club – 175 Putnam Street, Manchester, New Hampshire

Las Vegas, Nevada………………………………………………..…….……………….Wednesday, January 9th at 7:00PM
American Legion Post #8 - 733 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Las Vegas, Nevada

Detroit, Michigan……………..……………………………….………………….……………Friday, January 11th at 7:00PM
Michigan Veterans Foundation - 2770 Park Avenue, Detroit, Michigan

Charleston, South Carolina……………………………….…………….………………Tuesday, January 15th at 7:00PM
William Aiken House – The American Theater – 454 King Street, Charleston, South Carolina

Columbia, South Carolina……………………………………..……………………….Thursday, January 17th at 7:00PM
American Legion Post #6 - 200 Pickens Street, Columbia, South Carolina

Tampa, Florida…………………………….…………..………………….…………………Thursday, January 24th at 7:00PM
Elks Lodge – 3616 West Gandy Boulevard, Tampa, Florida

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania…………………………………..……..…………………Thursday, January 31st at 7:00PM
The National Liberty Museum – 321 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Arlington, Virginia……………………………….…………………………………….……….Friday, February 8th at 7:00PM
Site to Be Determined

Sphere: Related Content