President Bush vetos Defense Bill to protect Iraq from former American POWs lawsuits for pain and suffering that awarded them close to a billion dollars and the Bush administration had previously had the courts dismiss
Bush Vetoes U.S. Defense Measure Over Iraqi Lawsuits (Update1)
By Lorraine Woellert and Roger Runningen
Dec. 28 (Bloomberg) -- President George W. Bush vetoed a measure giving pay increases to U.S. troops because of a provision he said would expose the Iraqi government to lawsuits for crimes committed under Saddam Hussein.
The provision ``would imperil billions of dollars of Iraqi assets at a crucial juncture in that nation's reconstruction efforts'' and undermine U.S. foreign policy and commercial interests, Bush said in a veto message to Congress.
While the White House had objected to an earlier version of the bill, the veto decision was made now because ``its full impact on Iraq and on our relationship with Iraq has become apparent only in recent days,'' Bush said. He said he wanted to ``fix this flawed provision'' quickly when Congress returns.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada condemned Bush's decision to block the $696 billion defense policy measure. The Democratic leaders noted that the bill includes ``urgent national security priorities,'' a 3.5 percent pay raise for U.S. troops and improved veterans' health care.
``It is unfortunate that the president will not sign this critical legislation,'' they said in a statement.
White House spokesman Scott Stanzel said 3 percent of the 3.5 percent military pay increase is already authorized and will take effect Jan. 1. When Congress passes a new defense measure, he said, Bush will seek to make the remainder of the increase retroactive to Jan. 1.
Separate Spending Measure
The measure authorizes $189.4 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan but doesn't provide the funds until they are approved in a separate money bill.
Bush used a so-called pocket veto, which occurs when a president fails to sign a bill within the 10 days allotted by the Constitution. Congress must be in adjournment in order for a pocket veto to take effect.
The White House said the defense measure would amend the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act that governs how foreign countries can be sued in U.S. courts.
The change, drafted by Democratic Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey, would make it easier for American victims to sue countries that support terrorists by making it easier to freeze their assets. Victims could sue for big punitive damages and for pain and suffering, including retroactively for cases that have been dismissed by the courts.
Not Targeting Iraq
Lautenberg said today the provision isn't aimed specifically at Iraq and noted that Iran has been targeted in lawsuits, including one seeking damages for the 1983 bombing of U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut that killed 241 servicemen.
``My language allows American victims of terror to hold perpetrators accountable, pure and simple,'' he said.
The measure ``would imperil Iraqi assets held in the United States, including reconstruction and central bank funds,'' Stanzel said. ``The new democratic government of Iraq, during this crucial period of reconstruction, cannot afford to have its funds entangled in such lawsuits.''
The White House estimated that between $20 billion to $30 billion in Iraq assets could be at stake along with funds held by U.S. companies in joint ventures with the Iraqi government.
Stanzel said Bush wants to negotiate a change ``as soon as possible'' when Congress returns in January. ``We don't want to change anything else in the bill other than this provision,'' he said.
Bush's veto could be overridden judging by Congress's overwhelming approval of the defense measure this month. The Senate voted 90-3 and the House 370-49 to pass the bill.
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin of Michigan said today he is dismayed that administration officials waited until now to raise their concerns.
``I am deeply disappointed that our troops and veterans may have to pay for their mistake and for the confusion and uncertainty caused by their snafu,'' Levin said.
It is the first veto of a defense authorization bill in 12 years, according to Senate statistics. President Bill Clinton vetoed a defense policy bill in December 1995 and it was sustained in the House a month later.
To contact the reporter on this story: Lorraine Woellert in Crawford, Texas at email@example.com .
Saturday, December 29, 2007
President Bush vetos Defense Bill to protect Iraq from former American POWs lawsuits for pain and suffering that awarded them close to a billion dollars and the Bush administration had previously had the courts dismiss
Chris Adams of McClatchy News on VA & PTSD treatment nationwide
Mental health treatment provided to veterans varies widely
By CHRIS ADAMS
HELENA, Mont. | Chris Dana came home from the war in Iraq in 2005 and slipped into a mental abyss so quietly that neither his family nor the Montana Army National Guard noticed.
He returned to his former life: a job at a Target store, nights in a mobile home across the road from his father’s house.
When he started to isolate himself, missing family events and football games, his father urged him to get counseling. When the National Guard called his father to say that he had missed weekend duty, Gary Dana pushed his son to get in touch with his unit.
“I can’t go back. I can’t do it,” Chris Dana responded.
Things went downhill from there. He blew though all his money, and then on March 4 he shot himself in the head with a .22-caliber rifle. He was 23 years old.
As Gary Dana was collecting his dead son’s belongings, he found a letter indicating that the National Guard was discharging his son under what are known as other-than-honorable conditions. The move was due to his skipping drills, which his family said was brought on by the mental strain of his service in Iraq.
The letter was in the trash, near a Wal-Mart receipt for .22-caliber rifle shells.
All across America, veterans such as Chris Dana are slipping through the cracks.
The ability of the Department of Veterans Affairs to care for veterans with mental ailments has come under increasing scrutiny. The agency says it is scrambling to boost its resources to help treat post-traumatic stress disorder, prevent suicides and help veterans cope. It has added mental health counselors and suicide-prevention programs.
But the experience in Montana, which by some measures does more than any other state to support America’s wars, shows how far the military and the VA have to go.
“The federal government does a remarkable job of converting a citizen to a warrior,” said Gov. Brian Schweitzer, a Democrat. “I think they have an equal responsibility converting a warrior back to a citizen.
“I can’t imagine that it’s only Montana that’s experiencing this,” Schweitzer added. “Our men and women are part of this country, and we have common experiences. It’s not as though the water we drink and the air we breathe in Montana make our experience completely different than everywhere else.”
McClatchy Newspapers analyzed a host of VA databases and records, and found that mental health treatment across the country remains wildly uneven. While mentally ill veterans in some parts of the country are well tended, those in other places — especially Montana — are falling by the wayside.
The records, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, included all 3 million VA disability claims in the nation and 77 million medical appointments in the agency’s health system in fiscal 2006.
At a U.S. Senate committee hearing last summer in Great Falls, Mont., a top VA official touted the success of the department’s mental health operations in the region that includes Montana. But the agency’s records indicate that it ranks below most other regions in measures of access and success.
In fact, Montana veterans trail far behind their peers around the country on the two main VA functions:
•By several measures, the agency provides less specialized mental health care in Montana than in most other states. Veterans seeking to enter the mental health system at Montana’s only VA hospital had longer waits and received fewer visits than veterans did at almost any other VA hospital in the country.
•Recent veterans in Montana with mental ailments receive far lower payments, on average, from the VA disability system than veterans in almost any other state.
“When they were called to active duty, they were running a business, driving a truck, working at a mill, teaching school,” Schweitzer said. “When they returned from being a soldier, they didn’t go back to a military base. … They don’t have people they can talk to. They are 300 miles away from their detachment, and everybody where they work didn’t experience what they’ve gone through.
“In fact, nobody where they work experienced what they’ve gone through. Their family doesn’t understand it well.”
To reach Chris Adams, send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I am a big fan of Chris Adams work on veterans, he has been in the lead long before Anne Hull abd Dana Priest ever wrote about Walter Reed, he has been writing on the lack of healthcare and the extreme problems with the claims processing that many veterans have experienced I first became aware of his work in March 2005. He has earned my SALUTE
Waco Tribune OPED on Medicare fix based on VA Healthcare model
Editorial: Need to cut Medicare costs
Saturday, December 29, 2007
Not only is Social Security under threat because it is underfunded and Congress refuses to act, it also is threatened by Medicare.
Social Security’s funding problems are big. Medicare’s funding problems are significantly bigger.
Medicare’s problems threaten to overwhelm the entire federal budget if Congress fails to act.
What’s worse, the separate Social Security and Medicare programs are actually intertwined.
Seniors who receive Medicare must pay monthly premiums that are deducted from their monthly Social Security checks.
Due to the runaway health care costs, Medicare premiums increase each year above the cost of living adjustments added to Social Security.
Financial writer Scott Burns recently reported that economist Alicia Munnell calculated the out-of-pocket expenditures to cover Medicare “premiums, deductibles and co-pays for parts B and D of Medicare will gobble 29 percent of the average Social Security benefit check this year.”
Scott reported that another calculation “indicates that a worker who is 30 today can expect premiums, deductibles and co-pays for parts B and D of Medicare to absorb about 50 percent of his initial Social Security benefit.”
Without congressional action, out-of-pocket Medicare costs will exceed Social Security benefits for today’s newborns. At that point, Medicare will have eliminated Social Security.
Congress needs to rein in Medicare costs by ensuring that the program stops paying higher than necessary costs for drugs, products, supplies and services. Government auditors estimate fraud in the Medicare program adds up to billions of dollars annually. The Government Accountability Office lists Medicare as a “high-risk” program due to fraud and excessive costs.
The Department of Veterans Affairs provides a good model for Medicare reform. It controls costs by using its purchasing power to negotiate lower prices for drugs, equipment and supplies. It cuts costs and boosts efficiency by utilizing electronic health records. It offers veterans programs that promote health to prevent costly illnesses and diseases.
Congress needs to make Medicare a high priority concern.
Friday, December 28, 2007
Veterans of "secret/classified experiments need help now
On December 17, 2007, I was invited to meet with President Clinton due to my participation in the Steering Committee for Military & Veterans for Hillary. I received the e mail on Sunday telling me when and where to be. It was not a campaign stop, rather he wanted to meet with and thank a group of homeless veterans that were in a VA sponsored program at the Alston Wilkes Society trying to get their lives back together. Some how I fell thru the cracks at the meeting,
I arrived at the building at 3:30 and parked in the handicap spot right in front of the building, there were more police cars there than people it seemed. My wife and I went in the front door and they helped us get me and my walker down the stairs to the basement area where the meeting was to take place. I talked with some of the vets that lived there, and we were told the President was running about an hour late, so we grabbed some coffee and went to the smoking area and spent time telling war stories. Over the next half hour some well dressed people, other members of the Steering Committee a few of them introduced themselves to my wife and I.
The veterans and I spent a lot of the time discussing filing claims with the Veterans Administration Regional Office (VARO) and the problems that are inherent in the process. Normally veterans need to select a Service Officer from one of the many accredited service organizations, like the Disabled American Veterans (DAV), The American Legion (AL) The Military Order of the Purple Heart (MOPH) and the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) these are just a few.
There are many more out there that can and do handle claims, the one thing they all have in common, is over worked Service Officers, they do not have time to track down each piece of evidence a veteran will need to get a "win" on their claim award, so the veteran needs to spend time tracking down the papers needed to justify the favorable rating. The best advocate for a compensation claim is the veterans themselves, it is their claim. The Service Officers (SO) are juggling hundreds of open claims at any given time. Your file is not the most important thing to them, as it is to you. The VA measures time in months and years, in the meantime many veterans end up losing their cars, their homes and their families, due to financial problems.
As if the stress from the medical problems are not enough, add some months with no pay checks into the mix, and you have a disaster developing. Veterans waiting on VA Compensation claims to be adjudicated have led to more than one divorce.
About 4:30 the Director of the center asked all the people from the steering committee to go back upstairs as the police were bringing the police dogs thru doing the bomb search, also they wanted the "political types" separated from the veterans that the President was coming to meet and Thank them for their service to the nation.
I tried explaining I was supposed to be with the "political types" and the Director told me not to worry about it, I was a disabled veteran and he wanted me to stay with the vets and meet President Clinton with them. I quickly learned why, the President spent 3-5 minutes speaking with each of us, there was a lot of laughter and plenty of pictures.
I asked him to autograph my book about the Edgewood experiments written by DR James Ketchum, Chemical Warfare: Secrets Almost Forgotten that I had purchased from Dr. Ketchum and he had signed it.
I just thought it was appropriate for the President that had finally acknowledged the immoral experiments and had publicly apologized for them should also autograph it. The apology can be viewed here" title="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cTiONdJJRcw">here">http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cTiONdJJRcw">here it is about 30 seconds
“She’s the best I ever saw at making people know she can make them better off than they were previously,” the former president said. In Columbia, he met with homeless veterans at the Alston Wilkes Society where he listened to the stories of several Vietnam veterans and toured the facility. Hillary Clinton, by most polls, is in a tight race for her party’s nomination in South Carolina, Iowa and New Hampshire, the critical early voting states. Bill Clinton is being dispatched in those states to help Hillary Clinton maintain shrinking leads that once looked insurmountable. Bill Clinton, introduced at one stop as the most popular and powerful Democrat in America, wooed voters here.“Nobody knows what’s going to happen in any election,” Bill Clinton told about 100 people at Orangeburg Technical College. “But I tell you this, if she does (win), you're going to be glad you were a part of it.
Most of my regular readers know my wife is Republican (hey no marriage is perfect) but after meeting with Bill Clinton and watching him interact with me, and his offer to help with the Veterans Administration, followed up by his aide giving me his business card with an e mail address to contact them with the evidence and how they can help. She was very impressed, with him, which is to say a lot. She evens admitted as how she might even have to vote for Hillary, she feels if Hillary is even half the person Bill is then the nation will be far better off than in the hands of another republican.
President Clinton's aide gave us a business card with an e mail address for contacting the former President about the situation I find myself in. It has now been more than 12 years since the President made the public apology for the Cold War experiments that happened long before he took office, but could have only happened with his predecessors approval, the highest levels of the government had to approve the funding for many of these expensive programs, and all of them were classified at the highest levels, many unknown outside the National Security Council level, other than by the people working the projects.
To me it is amazing the people that were in government while these experiments were being conducted, some of them on the NSC, Donald Rumsfeld, Richard Cheney and at the least did not object to human experimentation, if they did not fully support it. They now find themselves in a position to help correct some of the mistakes of the past and help the people or the military veterans involved in these "classified programs" such as the Nuclear tests, the biological tests at Fort Detrick, the chemical weapons and drug experiments conducted at Edgewood Arsenal, the Operation 112/SHAD experiments of the 60s and early 70s.
They can have the Secretary of the Veterans Administration designate these men into a Category 6 level of eligibility for medical care, regardless of their present income levels, for treatment of all their medical problems. Many of the experiments these veterans were exposed to decades ago, have no tests available to see if there any direct links to the exposures then to medical issues now. The government should give these men the benefit of the doubt and since they were used in these immoral experiments, the government should keep the "Promise" and take care of them medically now. The VA Secretary has the power to make this happen.
I indicated this in my communication to President Clinton:
Mr. President, the other veterans I am in contact with are like me, no one expects the government to tell all the details of the experiments, yes a lot of the data is still classified we understand that, we do not understand why they refuse to address the environmental issues, what happened to the benefit of the doubt? At the very least all the veterans used in the experiments, SHAD, Edgewood, Nuclear and Fort Detricks Operation Whitecoat should be given a level 6 ID Card for the VA so they can obtain medical care from the VA, regardless of their income levels.
Their are many widows of the volunteers that have never been told their husbands were used in the experiments due to National Security acts we could not tell our parents, our spouses, doctor's, anyone about the experiments, We all signed the agreements and we were promised 25 years in Leavenworth if we violated them. In the September 2006 notification letters from the VA/DOD informing us that we had been identified as test subjects we were reminded by the Pentagon that we could still not discuss the experiments and the national security agreements we signed. Congress has investigated this CBS news did a 60 minutes piece on it in Jan 1991 while I was gone to Desert Storm. The experiments are not secret anymore and the Pentagon is idiotic in trying to "put that genie back into the bottle now".
The last health study did because you forced DOD to do it based on the Sarin exposures at Kamisayah Iraq in March 1991 used the Edgewood veterans as the study group after all we were the only men the nation had that had been exposed to Sarin by the Edgewood doctors, they found that 40% of the men were dead on FY 2000, 2098 men could not be found using IRS VA and SS databases, men aged 45-65 are paying taxes, drawing benefits either from the VA or SS, they don;t just disappear.
The report also showed that 54% of the 4022 survivors are disabled yet, the report never explained what the cause of the disabilities were. The report also ignored a 1994 National Institute of Health report on sarin exposures showing known medical problems Toxicity of the Organophosphate Chemical Warfare Agents GA, GB, and VX: Implic I feel it is because it would open the VA to claims from more than 100,000 veterans to heart problems, lung problems etc very expensive for 100,000 veterans to be service connected at 100%, I feel the IOM and DOD are doing all they can to ignore evidence that shows the Gulf War veterans might be sick from exposures to Sarin after all. There was also mustard agents at Kamisayah as well.
Mr President, I thank you for spending that few minutes with me in Columbia and giving me your card to contact you. We both know the VA Secretary has the ability to fix these things on his authority, the VA Secretary has enormous power granted by the President. I wish I had never raised my hand in 1974, I regret that the US did these experiments to it's own citizens and it's soldiers. My step father was in the Air Force and flew on a plane crew doing data gathering over the Nevada test site, he ended up having three kinds of cancer that is on the list of the RECA act, he died before the RECA was enacted. He never filed for Service connection from the VA because back then they would have taken away his retirement check and he did not want the problems.
Mr. President my family has served in the Army going back to my great great great great grand father who served at Valley Forge in 1776 from Barre, Mass. My Grandfather served in the Cal 4th Volunteers in the Civil War and my father served in D Troop 7th Calvary in 1914-1916 at Douglas Arizona. If the VA quits helping veterans who will volunteer in the future, I have a 16 year old son, and I am not sure I want him to serve in the Army, he should.
He would be the first Bailey male that didn't in over 225 years, but look at this mess I am in, and look how the VA is treating the Iraq war veterans, it's shameful.
I am on the Steering Committee for Military and veterans for Hillary because I believe in your wife, and General Wes Clark, I was hoping he would run honestly. I have known General Clark since NTC in the 80s when he was a Colonel and I was in the 6/31st. He was at NTC when the 48th Brigade went there in 1991 and he was a one star. Many of us Clark supporters are hoping he is the VP choice. If not I am sure he will be an asset in the future Clinton Administration.
Mr. President I hope you can help my family, and possibly the other "test vets" they at least deserve medical care from this nation at the very least.
It has been more than 32 years since the human experimentation was stopped in 1975, isn't it about time the federal government, especially the Department of Defense and the Veterans Administration stopped denying responsibility for the veterans and their families that were harmed by these experiments, the benefit of the doubt was designed for just these type of situations. There are no tests now that confirm exposure to hazardous substances months or years later, let alone decades. These men should have never been used in these hazardous experiments, and now in their later years the government does have an obligation to them and their families.
VA disputes IG's findings on appointments
VA, House Subcommittees Spar Over Outpatient Waiting Times
By Stephen Spotswood
WASHINGTON—Three months after a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Inspector General’s (IG) audit showed that the agency is overstating success on decreasing waiting times for outpatients seeking an appointment, VA is still not agreeing with the findings, contending the IG’s methodologies were flawed. However, at a hearing on Capitol Hill in December, legislators seemed convinced of the report’s validity, and VA officials did admit that its patient scheduling process was still evolving and that the process needed evaluating.
VA policy requires that all veterans requiring care for service-connected disabilities be scheduled for outpatient care within 30 days of desired appointment dates—the date requested by the patient or the physician. All other veterans are required to be scheduled within 120 days of the requested date.
VA had reported that 96 per cent of all veterans seeking primary care and 95 per cent of veterans seeking specialty care were seen within 30 days of their desired dates. The IG audit released in September shows those percentages to be much lower. The audit found that only 75 per cent of veterans seeking care had been seen within 30 days of the desired date.
Some of the discrepancies were due to VA schedulers, who waited inordinate amounts of time before scheduling an appointment—in one case as long as seven months for a follow-up appointment—and what IG described as the disregard for the desired appointment date listed in the physician’s notes. Also, there was disagreement between the IG and VA about how to define "new" patients. The IG auditors argued that a patient already in the VA system who visits a specialty clinic should not be considered a new patient just because he or she had not visited that particular clinic before.
VA officials disagreed and called the report a worst-case scenario that did not take into account such things as patients’ preference for later appointment dates and delays on the patients’ part in scheduling follow-up appointments.
A similar IG report released in 2005 found many of the same problems, including some accounts of schedulers reporting having been instructed to falsify their entries into the electronic waiting list to make wait times seem shorter. VA officials did not disagree with the findings of the 2005 report. IG made several recommendations to VA to shore up its scheduling procedures, such as ensuring that facility managers require schedulers to create appointments following established procedures, monitoring the scheduler’s use of correct procedures, and requiring annual scheduler training on the electronic waiting list. According to IG, while some of those recommendations from 2005 have been taken, some have not, allowing the same problems to continue through today.
At a joint hearing of the House VA Subcommittee on Health and the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, legislators expressed frustration at the continued problems with getting patients who need care before a VA caregiver.
"The VA has discounted the IG’s report because it disagrees with how wait times were calculated. This is unacceptable," declared Rep. Harry Mitchell (D., Ariz.), chairman of the health subcommittee. "I’m not willing to walk away from this audit over a disagreement about methodology. This is a real problem that we must look into. When our veterans encounter long waiting times, their conditions go undiagnosed and serious disease goes untreated."
"Furthermore," he said, "until we have a clearer picture about waiting times, the VA can’t improve the situation because we can’t identify problem facilities or effectively allocate resources."
Belinda Finn, IG’s Assistant Inspector General for Auditing, said that she did not understand why VA was resisting the IG’s newest findings.
"VA disagreed with our findings and said that patient preferences caused the discrepancies," Finn explained. "We find it contradictory that VA agreed with our 2005 report, but disagreed with our 2007 audit. We used the same methodology and saw a continuation of the same problems."
She added, "In 2006 and 2007, VA reported high performance on affecting appointments within 30 days. [They continued reporting this] even after we reported that the scheduling system includes inaccurate or incomplete data."
Asked what VA could do to improve its procedures, Finn said, "We made recommendations in both of our reports that VA should provide oversight of the schedulers, monitor what the schedulers do, and provide quality assurance of the data in the scheduling system. They agreed with the recommendations in 2005, but we found that they had not [fixed the problem and IG made the same recommendations in its 2007 report]."
Some legislators were worried about the reporting in 2005 in which schedulers were being directed to enter inaccurate information.
According to Larry Reinkemeyer, director of the Kansas City Audit Operations Division of the VA IG, that question was not asked in the 2007 audit; however, 7 per cent of those schedulers surveyed in the 2005 report said that they had been directed to intentionally circumvent procedure.
"So, in 2005, we did have some evidence that schedulers were directed to schedule in a particular way to affect waiting times [data]," Reinkemeyer said.
Rep. Zachary Space (D., Ohio) wondered if it is possible that bonuses for VA medical center directors were at least in part calculated on wait times that were not accurate. Controversy arose last year when legislators questioned why some VA officials were receiving bonuses as high as $30,000 when there were so many problems in the VA system, including long appointment waiting times.
"We know that waiting times are part of the performance standards for directors," Finn said. "It’s one of many factors. But we don’t have much information today on how that’s factored into a particular bonus."
Asked if there is evidence in the 2005 report that waiting times were intentionally fabricated to lower national waiting time rates, Finn said, "We know that some of the practices that schedulers have told us about would serve to understate wait times. Whether that was a widespread practice or not, [we don’t know]."
Reinkemeyer said that at least two of the common procedures by schedulers recorded in 2005 that lower documented wait times—whether intentionally or not—still exist today.
The first procedure, he said, "Is taking longer than allowed before putting [a patient] on the electronic waiting list." If a patient is not scheduled for an appointment within seven days, that patient goes on the electronic wait list.
"By holding on to those referrals for more than seven days and not put them on the wait list, that serves to understate the wait list," Reinkemeyer said.
"The second procedure is a common practice for a scheduler to find out what the first available appointment [is] and use that as the desired date of care, which effectively reduces the wait to 0," he explained.
Testifying before the joint subcommittees, Dr. Gerald Cross, VA’s Deputy Under Secretary for Health, continued to refute the calculations in the IG report.
"VA has several concerns about the OIG’s audit methodology that was used in the 2007 report," Dr. Cross said. "There was a difference in our analysis [of wait times] and our review of the IG report of 2007, and there were significant differences that we found."
Dr. Cross did not elaborate on why the same IG methodology did not concern VA when it reviewed the 2005 IG report.
Dr. Cross also argued that VA is still in the process of implementing recommendations made by IG in 2005, including comprehensive training of anyone using VA’s scheduling system, including physicians who like to schedule their own patient appointments. To date, VA has trained 40,000 people to use the scheduling system, and plans to revise the training annually and retrain its employees annually.
"VA is proactively taking steps to review the total scheduling process," Dr. Cross said. "To this end, VA has contracted with an independent third party to conduct an evaluation of VA’s scheduling practices and waiting time metrics. The contractor is beginning the pilot program phase of its assessment, and VA anticipates receiving the final report in spring of 2008." VA is also in the process of developing a new scheduling software package, as well as developing short-term software solutions for its current scheduling package, which Dr. Cross called "antiquated software."
However, that new software package will not be up and running until 2011.
Impact Of Delay On The Front Lines Of Care
To help understand the front-line picture of what dealing with VA scheduling procedures is like, the legislators heard from Mary Jones, a county veterans service officer in Licking County, Ohio. Jones has helped veterans find their way through VA bureaucracy for 12 years, and testified that, no matter whether you believe the VA’s data or the IG’s audit, the waiting times are long and frustrating.
"My concern with outpatient waiting times is our inability to get veterans into an appointment in a timely manner," Jones said. "Their appointments are scheduled so far out—often two to three months—that their condition worsens and they are left angry and frustrated at a system that is supposed to be in place to care [for them]."
One example she gave is of a veteran recently discharged, who was promised dental care within 90 days of discharge. VA scheduled his appointment for almost the full 90 days later, but when he arrived at the dental clinic he was told that appointment needed to be cancelled.
"They did not have any appointments available within the 90-day period he was entitled to dental care, and therefore he was not seen."
Another rising concern is getting care for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) when their benefits claim is still being processed.
"Usually, when we file a claim, we have a veteran who has a diagnosis for a condition, but PTSD is different," Jones contended. "Most veterans can get into the VA to see a social worker and can get assigned to group counseling fairly quickly. Most can see a psychiatrist within three to four months for an initial exam, but within the 12 to 18 months that a service-connected claim takes to adjudicate, the veteran is still left without a diagnosis for PTSD because the wait times prohibit the doctor from seeing the patient often enough to provide a definitive diagnosis of any mental health."
Because no diagnosis exists, the Veterans Benefits Administration must deny the claim for service connection, Jones said, adding that seeing private psychologists is a financial burden for most veterans.
Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite (R., Fla.), whose proposed bill, H.R. 92, the "Veterans Timely Access To Health Care Act," would require VA to reimburse veterans for care at non-VA facilities if VA is unable to furnish the patient with an appointment within 90 days, asked Jones whether such a measure would be a good or bad idea from her point of view.
"I have to say that it’s encouraging to think we’re looking outside of the box," Jones said. "For me, the possibility to use outside physicians might be a good idea. These are outside physicians who would treat veterans eventually, anyway, [and they] might get some training on treating [veterans] right now. Most don’t even ask [their patients], ‘Are you a veteran?’"
Rep. Brown-Waite stressed that she was not seeking to privatize any part of VA care with her legislation, but argued, "Care not rendered in an expeditious manner is not quality care."
The bill is still awaiting action in the House VA Committee.
More daily news:
House Committee Slams VA On Veteran Suicides
Congress Passes Bill To Increase Defense Health Program Budget
VA, House Subcommittees Spar Over Outpatient Waiting Times
More Recent News Highlights
San Antonio Editorial on new VA Secretary
Editorial: New VA secretary has huge challenge
Web Posted: 12/27/2007 05:56 PM CST
San Antonio Express-News
As 2008 approaches, veterans hope the new year is brighter than the one about to end.
Cynics will say it could not be much worse.
But the hope seems well placed, considering the credentials of the new secretary for the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Army Lt. Gen. James Peake, confirmed earlier this month, succeeded a man who resigned over criticism of poor medical care at VA facilities throughout the country, James Nicholson.
As the first doctor and military general named to lead the VA — he served as surgeon general for the Army from 2000 to 2004 — Peake is uniquely qualified to address the problems at the scandal-plagued department.
The VA's troubles will provide an opportunity for individuals of conscience and integrity to rectify the problems, which include the following:
Staffing shortages at facilities, especially those in rural areas.
Delays in responding to health care claims.
Peake promised to look into these issues.
"I understand I'm part of the administration," Peake told the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee during his confirmation hearing, according to news reports. "But I also have a responsibility to the administration and this committee to lay out the situation openly and honestly and to fight for the resources to do my job, which is to take care of veterans."
It is a noble agenda, but he has taken on a huge challenge.
Peake will need a partner in undertaking that challenge, and the partner is the Congress, which cannot forget the problem by pawning it off on the secretary.
At least one senator agrees with that assessment, Arlen Specter, a Republican from Pennsylvania, who told the Los Angeles Times that if the secretary asks for more resources, the "entire Congress" will support him.
As 2008 — and the years beyond — unfold, veterans will remember the pledges of both men.
The thing veterans will be watching is will Secretary Peake be working to help them and their families or to keep a lid on the cost of care and compensation as the past VA Secretaries have done, it's admirable that the Bush Administration takes the claim they have raised VA spending 70% the trouble with their argument is on the compensation side of the budget, it is mandatory if a veteran files a claim and it is determined that the problem is service connected then the money
HAS to be paid which is approximately 50% of the VA budget. It didn't matter who was President or who will be President that money has to be allocated. It has been shown that on the health care side of the budget that it has always been short changed, in 2005 Senator Patty Murray D-Wash attempted to get a 2 billion dollar supplemental thru the Congress for the VA for mental health and other financial shortages, the Republicans voted her measure down, yet less than three months later Secretary Nicholson came to Capitol Hill and asked for one billion dollars at the beginning of June 2005, by the end of the month he was back asking for a second billion, it turns out Senator Murray was correct in her assessment of the shortages.
Instead of being treated like beggars asking for a hand out, this nations veterans deserve all the health care they need, not rationed appointments, if the VA can NOT deliver it, then they should be outsourcing it to local hospitals and paying the bills, these veterans have earned it, by their service.
The claims process for compensation should not be the adversarial process it is now and has been since the end of the Korean War, the veterans are denied the "benefit of the doubt" they have to
prove" they were harmed in service and many times there is no documentation to prove it happened on this battlefield at this time. Many of the witnesses are either dead or you know their names but have no idea where they moved to after the military and have to deal with the VA 3-30 years later.
The claims and appeals process should not be a 2-10 year process, the files are all paper, some of the claims folders are 2-10 feet thick and no one is reading all of the evidence, many times the documents the veterans need to "prove" their case is at the bottom of the file and has been there the entire time, just overlooked, and the VA does not say sorry, does not pay interest on the withheld funds for 5 years.
In the meantime most of the veterans have had their marriages destroyed by lack of money, they have lost their homes, their cars, their children and their dignity, there has to be a better process. The veterans have earned it, most are asking for justice, not a get rich quick scheme, most veterans I know want just what they are owed, nothing more and nothing less, prosecute the frauds and few will be determined to file fraudulent claims, the idea of a few years in prison will deter all but the truly criminal. Most of the men and women I met in the service are anything but criminal. They deserve better than what they have been getting from the VA and Congress.
Is Legionnaires Disease Back again?
Possible Legionnaire's Outbreak Investigated At VA Hospital
POSTED: 5:25 pm EST December 27, 2007
UPDATED: 5:53 pm EST December 27, 2007
BRECKSVILLE, Ohio -- Cuyahoga County health officials are investigating a possible outbreak of Legionnaire's disease at the Brecksville veterans hospital.
At least three cases have been reported at the Louis Stokes Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center since November.
The pneumonia-like disease is caused by a bacteria found in warm-water environments.
Health officials have been working with the VA to assure they are following proper procedures with their water system.
Legionella, the bacteria that causes the disease, is not as rare as you might think, NewsChannel5's John Kosich reported.
"Studies have shown that up to 50 percent of large building facilities, including hospitals, has this bacteria in the water system," said Cuyahoga County Board of Health's Chris Kippes.
The key to getting rid of it is making sure water is heated to at least 140 degrees.
On average, there are 50 cases of Legionnaires reported in Cuyahoga County each year.
The tree people from the VA have all been treated and released.
Copyright 2007 by NewsNet5. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
California Governor to announce new veteran programs
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is expected to roll out some new programs aimed at helping veterans and National Guard members during his State of the State Address next month. He wants to make it easier for veterans to get into higher level state jobs. Right now veterans have to apply for entry level civil service jobs.
Secretary of the State Department of Veterans Affairs Tom Johnson says that would change under the Governor's proposal.
Johnson: This legislation would allow them to come in at an upper level and to compete for positions at these more management or leadership level categories.
Schwarzenegger also wants to set up a program to help California National Guard members pay for college fees and books. The administration estimates that would help roughly one-thousand guard members each year.
California National Guard Adjutant General William Wade says the golden state is the only one that doesn't have an education benefit program for its guard members.
VA Tampa Bay hearings today
Staffer says VA didn't listen
The psychologist went public a year after raising concerns over veterans' psychological care.
By WILLIAM R. LEVESQUE, Times Staff Writer
Published December 28, 2007
Brian Nussbaum will address a public forum this morning.
Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite organized today's forum and invited Nussbaum to speak.
TAMPA - Brian Nussbaum said he went first to his bosses. Then he went to the state. He even went to a private group that accredits hospitals.
At each turn, he got little response.
Finally, Nussbaum said he realized no one would listen unless he stepped forward publicly to warn about unsupervised and unlicensed psychologists at the nation's busiest veterans hospital.
His chance comes today.
A public forum opens this morning at the James A. Haley VA Medical Center to discuss allegations that some of the most vulnerable veterans are being treated by the least-experienced psychologists at Haley.
The forum was called by Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite, R-Brooksville, ranking member of the House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.
She has invited Tampa Bay's congressional delegation, veterans groups, officials of the Department of Veterans Affairs, both national and local, and the media.
She also invited one very nervous Nussbaum, the whistle-blower who went public with his concerns about unlicensed psychologists, triggering today's event.
Nussbaum, 31, a licensed psychologist at Haley, says 12 of 34 psychologists on staff are unlicensed and receive little, if any, supervision. He doesn't begrudge their inexperience.
He just thinks they don't get the oversight required by law, potentially affecting patient care.
His bosses say just nine psychologists are unlicensed, all are on track to get their licenses, and all are properly supervised.
In an interview this week, Nussbaum said he worked behind the scenes for a year to get Haley to address the issue. But he said he couldn't get his superiors or other watchdog agencies interested.
"I tried," he said, "and I failed."
So a month ago, Nussbaum filed a complaint with the Florida Board of Psychology and agreed to speak to the St. Petersburg Times about it, a move that he feared could ruin his career.
"The VA's been a cold place for me since I've done this," said Nussbaum, a Wesley Chapel resident whose wife also is a licensed VA psychologist. "There are people who don't want anything to do with me. People are generally keeping their distance."
VA regional spokesman John Pickens said Nussbaum shouldn't fear the loss of his job and that the agency promotes a healthy exchange of ideas.
"Certainly there's no reason to take any action against Dr. Nussbaum," Pickens said on Thursday. "We value his service to veterans, and we take his concerns seriously. We don't retaliate."
Until now, Nussbaum said, the VA simply wouldn't listen.
Psychologists are under an ethical obligation to try to call attention to something potentially affecting patient care, Nussbaum said.
So it was more than a year ago, he said, when he first talked with Haley's chief of mental health, Glenn Catalano, about unlicensed people.
He said Catalano seemed concerned, said he would get back to him - but never did.
Nussbaum, nervous about overstepping his bounds, decided on an indirect approach, filing an anonymous complaint with the state board of psychology, hoping to trigger an inquiry.
"I didn't want to come out and identify myself," Nussbaum said. "I just wanted to report the problem and let somebody else investigate it. It's not my problem. It's just something I'm observing. It's not my authority to address it. I'm low man on the totem pole."
The complaint led to no apparent investigation.
Then he filed a complaint with a group that accredits hospitals like Haley, but this too was a dead end, he said.
A frustrated Nussbaum said he finally sat down in October for a meeting with Dr. Arthur Rosenblatt, another supervisor, and noted his anxiety about unsupervised psychologists.
"I was told that it wasn't my concern," Nussbaum said. "The response was just, it's not something for me to be concerned with."
Neither Catalano nor Rosenblatt could be reached for comment.
Nussbaum also tried other avenues that failed, including a complaint to the Government Accountability Office.
Today, Nussbaum said, three of the five psychologists at the posttraumatic stress disorder clinic where he works are unlicensed, as is the VA's suicide-prevention coordinator, among others.
At times, some colleagues have told Nussbaum not to rock the boat. Nussbaum said he is no hero, but he couldn't walk away.
"I'm not a veteran," he said. "I feel those veterans who have served in my place in Afghanistan and Iraq deserve the best care possible when they come back. And that's not happening at the level I hope it would if I or a member of my family were the one receiving care."
It came to the moment when Nussbaum said he knew he would have to step forward, identify himself, talk to the media and risk his career to get action.
A VA employee for seven years, Nussbaum wants to make a career at the agency. He likes his work.
"A year ago, I would never have thought of taking this as public as it's become," Nussbaum said. "I'm concerned about the implications to my career. I don't want to come across as holier than thou and all high and mighty. But I couldn't sleep at night if I just did nothing."
Nussbaum, father of a 2-year-old, said, "I want my son to be proud of me."
William R. Levesque can be reached at email@example.com or 813 226-3436.
If you go
The fact-finding forum is scheduled to open at 9:30 a.m. in the second-floor auditorium at the James A. Haley VA Medical Center in Tampa.
I for one am happy that this is being heard publicly, and that Congress is finally looking at how the VA actually cares for this nations veterans with unlicensed practitioners, improperly supervised interns, etc, many veterans are medicated into zombies and largely passed thru the system without proper care. I for one SALUTE DR Nussbaum and wish there were more VA doctors like him, the VA would be a better place.
Thursday, December 27, 2007
New Ad: "Stakes"
by Crystal Patterson
12/26/2007 6:18 PM
As Hillary launches her "Big Challenges, Real Solutions Tour" across Iowa today, the Clinton Campaign announced a new television ad set to air in Iowa and New Hampshire that makes clear what's at stake in this election.
As Iowans prepare to caucus on January 3rd, America faces a war abroad and a troubled economy at home -- critical moments that demand a President who is tested and ready to lead on Day 1 and offers real solutions to the big challenges we face.
Screen legend Jane Russell visits veterans in Prescott
Screen legend Jane Russell visits veterans in Prescott
Associated Press - December 27, 2007 11:04 AM ET
PRESCOTT, Ariz. (AP) - Screen legend and pinup Jane Russell visited veterans in Prescott, answering questions about her experiences in Hollywood and her famed relationships.
Russell spoke to the veterans about how she used to do nationwide USO tours with Bob Hope and told them seeing all of them was like reuniting with her old boyfriends.
Russell starred in "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" opposite Marilyn Monroe and in two Robert Mitchum movies, among other screen credits.
Now 86, Russell lives in Santa Maria, California, and visited the veterans after her son-in-law arranged it. Her son-in-law worked at the Prescott VA Hospital for more than 30 years.
Information from: The Daily Courier, http://www.prescottaz.com/pdc/courier.htm
Clinton pledges support to veteransDecember 27, 2007 MARSHALLTOWN, Iowa (AP) - Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton is renewing her pledge to ensure the United States fulfills its obligations to veterans. At the Iowa Veterans Home in central Iowa, Clinton said she was glad to be there during the holidays. The New York senator said she believes that veterans should receive "the health care, the compensation and the support" they so richly deserve. Clinton was introduced by Iowa Congressman Leonard Boswell, a helicopter pilot in the Vietnam War, who has endorsed her. Instead of attacking her Democratic rivals, Clinton targeted the Bush administration, which she said has slashed veterans' benefits. She added that she wants to help make up for those mistakes, and says she's already been trying to assist veterans.
Obama Embraces Tearful Veteran
By NEDRA PICKLER – 16 hours ago
MASON CITY, Iowa (AP) — An Iowa voter who at first was teased by Democrat Barack Obama ended up in a tearful embrace with the Illinois senator and presidential candidate during a campaign stop Wednesday.
Retired Air Force veteran Andrew Hampton grew emotional when he rose to ask Obama what he would do to ensure that others leaving the military get the health benefits they were promised.
Obama called on Hampton during a question-and-answer session at the first stop in his final slog through Iowa before the Jan. 3 caucuses. He said he felt bad about the impression he might leave calling on Hampton because he was wearing an Obama T-shirt, so he urged him to "make it a tough question." The crowd chuckled but soon grew quiet as it became obvious that Hampton was having a hard time speaking without breaking down.
"I feel strongly about my question," Hampton said as he paused to compose himself. He said he joined the Air Force on active duty in 1956 and was promised health benefits. He retired in 1988 and didn't get coverage because of "political decisions." He said eventually he got what he was owed.
"For that I'm very grateful because I stand before you alive today because of the surgery on my heart and a pacemaker, which you paid for and I want to thank the public," he said to other voters gathered in a high school gymnasium. "But there are other veterans who have been denied health care."
He said he was especially worried about the veterans currently returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with terrible injuries, and left to the whims of a Congress that "plays hollow politics" by deciding how much health care they receive.
"We can't desert them," a weepy Hampton told Obama. The crowd responded with a standing ovation, and Obama walked over and hugged him.
"You made the essential point, which is you earned your benefits," Obama said. He said if elected president, he would take care of veterans as a way of encouraging future generations to enter the military, as well as provide mental health screening and adopt a "zero tolerance" policy for homeless veterans.
"We have to fund all the services that have been promised to our veterans," Obama said. "We can't play politics with it."
On the Net:
I hope all the presidential candidates share Senator Obama's desire to keep the promises made by previous office holders, there is no doubt the promises were made, then broken.....
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
http://weblogs.baltimoresun.com/news/politics/blog/2007/12/john_wayne_mccains_new_ad_neve.htm if you click on the link you can view the ad on you tube
by Frank James
In a state like South Carolina, which loves its "Fighting Gamecocks" and has a large population of retired veterans, a presidential candidate who, as a young man, was fierce and tough and called by some "McNasty" and others John "Wayne" McCain is probably going to have some appeal.
It's that indomitable McCain that his campaign is trying to pitch in a new ad titled "Never Surrender" going up in South Carolina.
The ad features the increasingly famous black-and-white film footage of McCain as a North Vietnamese prisoner-of-war, on the campaign trail, walking with President Ronald Reagan and McCain at the podium during the 2004 Republican National Convention.
That last is clearly the McCain campaign's way of getting Repubicans and independents to envision this scene: McCain standing at the podium as his party's presidential nominee during the 2008 convention in Minneapolis-St. Paul.
The ad could easily be called "One Man" since its theme is that McCain is the only one of the Republican candidates personally tested by one war (Vietnam) who had the guts to criticize the Bush Administration's management of another, Iraq, when that wasn't a popular stance among Republicans.
Here's the text of the ad:
ANNOUNCER: "One man sacrificed for his country.
"One man opposed a flawed strategy in Iraq.
"One man had the courage to call for change.
"One man didn't play politics with the truth.
"One man stands up to the special interests."
JOHN MCCAIN: "Stand up. We're Americans, we're Americans and we'll never surrender, they will."
ANNOUNCER: "One man does what's right, not what's easy. John McCain."
JOHN MCCAIN: "I'm John McCain and I approve this message."
Posted by Frank James on December 26, 2007 4:26 PM Permalink
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
Veterans Voting and Information
Let's Make 2009 an Political Impact year for all Veterans
and their families
With the upcoming elections in 2008 and finally we have some valid professional reporters who talk to editors daily in our groups the below repeat of Monsanto Cover-ups is re-posted with comments. This was put out in late 1990’s so how long this particular scam had been going on is unknown. It is known that the United States Government and its’ controlled entities used these studies as well as other false chemical company studies to tell Veterans and the family of Veterans publicly their illness and deaths were not associated to the herbicide exposures as they came home.
DOW admitted in 1965 that exposures to dioxin created body systemic issue as well as neuropsychological problems. The neuropsychological problems have been completely ignored and all of it blamed on PTSD.
To reporters and editors - the below is just the tip of the iceberg of the multitude of government collusion Veterans have been facing for at least 40 years now and still continue to fight. Not only were the chemical company’s studies flawed but now we find out the gold standard funded by Congress has been fatally flawed and used to deny many morbidity and mortality issues. We now know that those contracted to use these flawed studies to deny Veterans have been less than truthful, professional, and certainly less than scientific in contracted tasks as defining legal compensated disorders and death created by our own government Department of Defense and the late, less than honorable, President Johnson. With the follow on Commanders in Chief following in his footsteps of denial – including many of the present and past Congresses tainted by lobby money, also selling their souls to the highest bidder.
I hope to have an announcement and a link, not by me, but another major Veterans' website in early January where all Veterans, wives, widows, offspring, friends of Veterans can go, comment, and see just how disingenuous our government/IOM/VA has been regarding Veterans and their families. Then make logical and decisive decisions as to whom to vote; not only in the Presidential race but the house and senate races as well.
I hope this will be an historical feature that once and for all shows how callous our government is when it comes to those that are now under a separate legal system outside of the real judiciary system the rest of the Nation enjoys and is entitled to under our constitution.
Congress as well as Presidential Candidates need to finally realize that we can come together and override lobby campaign money with votes. It is my sincerest hope that this site will afford us the opportunity to do just that.
To know who in the White House and our Congress, the very few, that actually stand with us against previous administrations transgressions.
It is past time we continue to let them separate one of the largest segments of society by their divisive methodology and political ideology. It is time we did this before we are all gone and as before in other eras they finally admit they were wrong and how sorry, they are.
For those Veteran and Veteran Family rich states I believe you can elect whomever you want and no amount of lobby money can override your collective votes in the state, congressional districts, and the Presidency.
None of these incumbents should make a living off of the backs of Veterans and their families. Veterans have done enough and certainly deserve more than government collusion, stalling, and cover-ups.
In the whistle blower article below I have tried to highlight the important issues and the red are my comments on the statements.
By the way, any of you folks remember seeing any of this in the media in the 1990’s as headline news of fraud against Veterans from any media or on the floor of congress??????……….. I did not think so.
Monsanto Corporation Criminal Investigation
Cover-up of Dioxin Contamination in Products
Falsification of Dioxin Health Studies
UNITED STATES ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY WASHINGTON D.C. 20460
OFFICE OF SOLID WASTE AND EMERGENCY RESPONSE
DATE: November 15, 1990
SUBJECT: Criminal Investigation of Monsanto Corporation - Cover-up of Dioxin Contamination in Products - Falsification of Dioxin Health Studies.
FROM: Cate Jenkins, Ph.D., Chemist Regulatory Development Branch (OS 332) Characterization and Assessment Division.
TO: John West, Special Agent in Charge Office of Criminal Investigations Center U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Building 53, Box 25227 (303) 236-5100 Kevin Guarino, Special Agent Office of Criminal Investigations National Enforcement Investigations Center, EPA.
As per our meeting yesterday, I am summarizing information available to me supporting allegations of a long pattern of fraud by Monsanto Corporation. The fraud concerns 2,3,7,7-tetrachlorodibenzodi (dioxin) contamination of Monsanto's dioxin-exposed workers. You indicated that you would contact me regarding the specific documents, which would be useful to your investigation.
SIGNIFICANCE OF MONSANTO'S DIOXIN FRAUD
You stated that pursuing a criminal prosecution against Monsanto would require a prior determination of the significance of the fraud. In order for proceedings to be initiated by EPA, the fraud would need to have affected the regulatory process at EPA and Monsanto would need to have knowingly submitted the falsified data and health studies to EPA in order to affect the regulatory process.
Monsanto has in fact submitted false information to EPA which directly resulted in weakened regulations under RCRA and FIFRA since these regulations do not take into account tetrachlorinated dioxin contamination in trig, tetra, and pentachlorophenols, as well as 2,4-dichlorophenol and its phenoxy acetate (2,3-D, a currently used herbicide). In addition, Monsanto's failure to report dioxin contamination of the disinfectant in Lysol has prevented any ban or other alleviation of human exposures to dioxins in this product.
The Monsanto human health studies have been submitted to EPA by Monsanto as part of public comments on proposed dioxin rules and Agency-wide dioxin health studies are continually relied upon by all offices of EPA to conclude that dioxins have not caused cancer or other health effects (other than chloracne) in humans. Thus, dioxin has been given a lesser carcinogenic potential ranking, which continues to be the basis of less stringent regulations and lesser degrees of environmental controls. The Monsanto studies in question also have been a key basis for denying compensation to Vietnam Veterans exposed to Agent Orange and their children suffering birth defects from such parental exposures. (1)
Monsanto would not be able to support a claim that independent researchers were responsible for the falsifications, because Monsanto personnel compiled all data utilized by these researchers. In addition, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences partially funded one of the Monsanto studies in question providing a basis for charges of the fraudulent use of governmental funds.
DIOXIN CONTAMINATION OF MONSANTO PRODUCTS
Monsanto covered-up the dioxin contamination of a wide range of its products. Monsanto either failed to report contamination, substituted false information purporting to show no contamination or submitted samples to the government for analysis, which had been specially prepared so that dioxin contamination did not exist.
The earliest known effort by Monsanto to cover-up dioxin contamination of its products involved the herbicide used in Vietnam Agent Orange (2,4, 5- trichlorophenoxy acetate, 2,4,5-T). Available internal Monsanto correspondence in the 1960s shows a knowledge of this contamination and the fact that the dioxin contaminant was responsible for kidney and liver damage, as well as the skin condition chloracne.
Early internal Monsanto documents reveal that samples of 2,4,5-T and other chlorinated herbicides and chlorophenols submitted to the U.S. Department of Agriculture in the 1970s were ‘doctored.’ In other words, highly contaminated samples were not submitted to the government, and Monsanto samples of penta tetra-, tetra-, tri-, dichlorophenol, and associated herbicides never contained tetrachlorinated dioxins. These analyses were subsequently adopted by EPA in a 1980 publication and were used without any data from other sources as the basis for 1984 regulations under RCRA. As a result, these regulations do not control the chlorophenol phenoxy acetate products as acutely hazardous due to their contamination of tetrachlorinated dioxins.
Monsanto also submitted assertions to EPA that process chemistry would preclude the formation of tetrachlorophenol or its phenoxy acetate. Evidence from the Kemner v. Monsanto proceedings revealed that this process chemistry claimed by Monsanto was not always used. In fact, off- specification dichlorophenol, known to be contaminated with tetrachlorinated dioxin, was being used as a feedstock to make pentachlorophenol and other chlorinated products. The result of this alternate synthesis route is the introduction of dioxins as a contaminants.
EPA also relied on these 'process chemistry' arguments by Monsanto as a basis for not regulating most chlorophenols and 2,4-D for their tetrachlorinated dioxin content.
Another Monsanto document introduced as evidence in the above proceedings shows cross-contamination of a range of Monsanto products with tetrachlorinated dioxins by the following mechanism: The same production equipment is used without cleaning for all chlorinated phenolic products. In 1984, when promulgating the dioxin regulations under RCRA, EPA was only made aware of the cross contamination problem in the event that 2,4-D was made on equipment previously used to make 2,4,5-T. Thus, EPA again was subverted from promulgating adequate regulations for products other than 2,4-D that were cross-contaminated with dioxins.
Members of the Canadian Parliament recently directed investigations by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and government scientist into the dioxin contamination of disinfectants such as Lysol containing Monsanto's Santophen (ortho-dichloro-para-phenol), and directed laboratory analyses of existing stocks. This disinfectant uses the ortho-dichlorophenol, discussed above, as a feedstock, which would introduce any dioxins present into the disinfectant. In a 1984 letter to the Canadian government, Monsanto asserted that their disinfectant contained no dioxin. This was later refuted by testimony by Monsanto's chemist.
FRAUDULENT DIOXIN HEALTH STUDIES
As you indicated today, demonstrating criminal fraud in the epidemiological studies performed by Monsanto on its dioxin-exposed workers would necessitate bringing in appropriate groups in EPA capable of performing scientific study audits.(3) You indicated, however, that NEIC did not believe this would be a barrier to the investigation. The following are a few key instances where obvious fraud was utilized in the conduct of these studies:
Dr. Raymond Suskind at the University of Cincinnati was hired by Monsanto to study the workers at Monsanto's Nitro, West Virginia plant. Dr. Suskind stated in published studies in question that chloracne, a skin condition was the prime indicator of high human dioxin exposures, and no other health effects would be observed in the absence of this condition. Unpublished studies by Suskind, however, indicate the fallacy of this statement. No workers except those having chloracne were ever examined by Suskind or included in his study. In other words, if no workers without chloracne were ever examined for other health effects, there is no basis for asserting that chloracne was 'the hallmark of dioxin intoxication.' (4) These conclusions have been repeatedly utilized by EPA, the Veterans Administration, etc., to deny any causation by dioxin of health effects of exposed citizens, if these persons did not exhibit chloracne.
While chloracne is a prime indicator of dioxin exposures in some folks – it seems that level of ingestion or method of ingestion plays little if any part in this manifestation. Studies have shown a genetic predisposition association. So to say, that you have to have chloracne to have been affected makes little if any scientific sense.
The results of Dr. Suskind's studies also were diluted by the fact that the exposed group contained not only individuals having chloracne (a genuine, but not the only effect of dioxin exposure), but also all workers having any type of skin condition such as chemical rash. The workers could have had no or negligible dioxin exposures, but they were included in the study as part of the heavily exposed group. This fact was revealed only by the careful reading of the published Suskind study. (5) Further, Dr. Suskind utilized statistics on the skin conditions of workers compiled by a Monsanto clerical worker, without any independent verification. (6) Dr. Suskind also covered-up the documented neurological damage from dioxin exposures. At Workers Compensation hearings, Suskind denied that the workers experienced any neurological health effects. In the Kemner, et al. v. Monsanto proceedings, however, it was revealed that Suskind had in his possession at the time examinations of the workers by Monsanto's physician, Dr. Nestman, documenting neurological health effects. In his later published study, Dr. Suskind denied the continuing documented neurological health effects suffered by the workers, falsely stating that symptoms 'had cleared.'
Neurological conditions found associated in the 1990’s to 1964 dioxin exposures certainly cannot be misconstrued as resolved or cleared; except by VA and the contracted IOM. In fact, studies show, the most common disorder found associated to dioxin exposures is in fact neurological disorders.
All of the Monsanto dioxin studies also suffer another fatal flaw. The purported 'dioxin unexposed' control group was selected from other workers at the same Monsanto plant. An earlier court settlement revealed not only that these supposedly unexposed workers were exposed to dioxins, but also to other carcinogens. One of these carcinogens, para-amino biphenyl, was known by Monsanto to be a human carcinogen and it was also known that workers were heavily exposed.
Another Monsanto study involved independent medical examinations of surviving employees by Monsanto physicians. Several hundred former Monsanto employees were too ill to travel to participate in the study. Monsanto refused to use the attending physicians reports of the illness as part of their study, saying that it would introduce inconsistencies. Thus, any critically ill dioxin-exposed workers with cancers such as Non-Hodgkins lymphoma (associated with dioxin exposures) were conveniently excluded from the Monsanto study.
There are numerous other flaws in the Monsanto health studies. Each of these misrepresentations and falsifications always served to negate any conclusions of adverse health effects from dioxins. A careful audit of these studies by EPA's epidemiological scientists should be obtained as part of your investigation.
The false conclusions contained in the Monsanto studies have recently been refuted by the findings of a recent study by the National Institute of Occupation Safety and Health (NIOSH). This NIOSH study, recently circulated by Dr. Marilyn Fingerhut for review, found a statistically significant increase in cancers at all sites in the Monsanto workers, when dioxin exposed workers at Monsanto, and other industrial locations were examined as an aggregate group. (7)
This is now backed up by Ranch Hand Study as well as VA’s Dr. Kang’s study and still VA and IOM deny our widows and us Veterans.
Please do not hesitate to contact me regarding documents to support your investigation, which include testimony and evidentiary documents from the on-going Kemner v Monsanto litigation, earlier litigation in West Virginia brought by the Monsanto workers, ongoing investigations by the Canadian government internal Monsanto documents, as well as documentation of the submission of the fraudulent data and studies by Monsanto to support the rulemaking process under RCRA and other EPA authorities.
(1) The American Medical Association, concerned about the veracity of one of the Monsanto studies published in its journal, stated that a reassessment would be undertaken if the outcome of appeal of the Kenmer v. Monsanto litigation did not reverse the verdict impugning the credibility of the Monsanto studies.
(2) You indicated that NEIC would be reticent to receive documents of this nature suspected to be under a court protective order, but assured me that you would pursue legal routes to obtain them independently.
(3) You should be cautioned regarding any consultation with Dr. Renate Kimbrough at EPA regarding the review of the Monsanto studies. Dr. Kimbrough was contacted by Monsanto during the Kenmer v. Monsanto litigation and provided expert testimony, while an employee of the Centers for Disease Control, on behalf of Monsanto. Dr. Kimbrough has provided expert testimony on behalf of other defendant corporations responsible for dioxin pollution even co-authoring papers with these defendants.
(4) Suskind examined only one worker without chloracne (Mr.Kiley), and dismissed this individual's health complaints as being those of a complainer. (I guess all Vets fall in this category.)
(5) Later studies by the Centers for Disease Control have demonstrated that any manifestation of chloracne in humans is not correlated with the blood dioxin levels. In other words, individuals with lower blood dioxin have been observed to develop chloracne, those with higher blood levels did not.
(6) The deposition of Ms. Jan Young of Monsanto, previously under a protective order, is in the process of release pursuant to a motion by Greenpeace, USA.
(7) This NIOSH study does have a inherent design weakness that would diminish the capability of detecting excess cancers. This is because Monsanto and the other dioxin-producing companies were allowed to independently select the group of dioxin-exposed workers to be studied by NIOSH.
I know that many veterans and active duty military read this blog and I appreciate all of your support. I do this blog as my way of still giving something back to the military community. I am a disabled veteran who spends his days normally in my house or on my back porch. I use a power chair for anything involving walking more than 100feet, due to me health. I don't play well with others, probably from my PTSD or else I am just a cranky old bastard, either way, this blog and others like Daily Kos are my window to the world.
I try and share news article and other tidbits like the stuff from the Veterans Committee's House and Senate, some Senators and Congress reps, things that impact the lives of veterans and their families. Bottom line it always comes down to wallet issues, no matter who we are, we have to pay our bills, and being a totally disabled veteran normally leaves us at the whim of Congress.
We have to work together to get Congress to support veterans disabled or not, there are promises they made to this nations veterans, when we volunteered to serve, college benefits, home loans, medical care, health insurance for our families if we are disabled, compensation if we die related to medical problems related to service, we have to work to make sure the federal government keeps these promises.
I wish everyone who reads this a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year and may next year be better than this past year has been.
Monday, December 24, 2007
Jim Strickland at VA Watchdog.org
VETERANS' ADVOCATE JIM STRICKLAND HAS SOME YEAR-END
THOUGHTS -- "Although I'm a grouchy and curmudgeonly sort
by my nature, I wanted to end the year on a high note."
Veterans' Advocate Jim Strickland provides regular columns for VA Watchdog dot Org.
If you would like to contact Jim about his columns, you can email him here...
The archive of Jim's articles is here...
As the year 2007 comes to it's end, I thought I'd take a moment to reflect on a few of the Veterans I've been honored to know in the past 12 months. It's a privilege and a great joy that I'm able to connect to so many fine people and sometimes lend a hand.
Although I'm a grouchy and curmudgeonly sort by my nature, I wanted to end the year on a high note. My intent was to dig deep into the cellar of my inbox and root out the success stories.
It seemed to me it would be a kind and gentle thing to do; sharing with you the happy days of winning deserved benefits for those who have had the courage to don the uniform, accept the harsh duty of serving in the military of our great nation and in the process, sustaining lasting physical and mental wounds.
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I don't have any big success stories in dealing with the VBA. I'll end the year knowing that my brothers and sisters who served so bravely are continuing to struggle with a government that views them as so much cannon fodder, a disposable piece of broken equipment to be used up and thrown away.
No matter the eloquence of slick politicians as they address us, the stark reality is that our government's obligation “To care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and orphan” has not been met. It was 1959 when President Lincoln's words became the motto of what is now the Department of Veterans Affairs. Each year since then, the DVA has fallen farther behind in its duty to serve.
The DVA presents a tightly closed door to the neediest of Veterans. The wounded, sick or injured Veteran who seeks help must go to the division of the DVA that deals with disability compensation benefits, the Veterans Benefits Administration.
Before any monetary help is parceled out, the Veteran must stand up to that most adversarial agency of our government, the VBA. The Veteran seeking assistance is guilty until proven innocent at VBA. He or she is seen as guilty of overstating pain, injury, conditions of battle, time of service and even the status of discharge. More than anything, the Veteran is looked down on by VBA as if we were wanting something for nothing...we're beggars looking for a handout.
The arrogance of the organization is steeped in its tradition and runs to its very core. The BVA doesn't have any requirements to serve the Veteran in a timely fashion. If deserved benefits are delayed by one or two years, it's routine. There are countless examples of benefits delayed for 5 and more years, mired in bureaucratic red tape. There are no negative consequences to any VBA employee, manager or director in any instance that this occurs. VA Regional Office managers routinely receive year end bonuses of $15,000.00 or more no matter that the Veterans in their service area are suffering dehumanizing, degrading personal financial losses because of VBA delays. As the GAO was reporting that benefits claims fell behind for the 3rd year in a row, VBA management was busy back slapping and celebrating hefty bonuses.
If a Veteran doesn't timely respond to a notice from VBA however, the consequences are immediate and near impossible to reverse. If you fail to return a questionnaire within 60 days or you can't make it to a C & P exam, your benefits will be suspended with little notice and you'll spend months, maybe years to reinstate them.
VBA doesn't have to answer your questions. If you call to ask the status of your appeal, you're most likely to hear no more than a rude reply that it's being worked on. If you write to your VARO, it's most often the case that you won't ever receive a reply. If you've called your Congressman's office and they inquire, they will receive a soothing form letter telling them that “all is well, these things just take time”.
If the VBA queries you and you don't respond, the game ends. You lose.
I'll close 2007 thinking of the stunningly poor service given by VBA to Veterans like these following;
In North Carolina, early in the year, the Veteran Marine was diagnosed with lung cancer. He was a Vietnam Vet and it's established that his crippling, fatal disease is service connected because of exposure to Agent Orange. His cancer soon invaded his brain and he was quickly becoming paralyzed and unable to care for himself. He lost bowel and bladder control and frequently fell to the floor.
The letters came from the VARO to assure him that his condition was only temporary and that he was not permanently and totally disabled. His spouse was not allowed to receive any additional benefits as the VBA was sure that on his calendared reexamination in 2009, there would be measurable improvements. Some 10 months after his diagnosis, he was dead.
In Florida, the Veteran soldier suffers from PTSD and severe psychoses that are connected to his service. He's often housebound and bedridden due to side effects of his anti-psychotic medicines. He's been rated as 100% IU for over 3 years and was told that in October 2007 he would be notified to report for reexamination to assess his “temporary” condition. These reexaminations are conducted with the express intent of looking for a way to reduce your benefit.
The notice for reexamination never came. In November he received a letter from his VARO that his family was now eligible for CHAMPVA benefits and that they were welcome to apply. As CHAMPVA benefits are reserved for dependents of Veterans who are 100% permanently and totally disabled, it was apparent that his file had been reviewed and no exam was necessary to award him this deserved benefit. When he started the process of application to CHAMPVA, he was suddenly notified that a mistake had been made and he was given a one week notice to report for reexamination or he would lose his benefits.
His fragile mental health was sent spiraling down and when we last spoke, he was terrified and in tears for fear of losing everything.
In Illinois, the young wife of the Iraq war Marine Veteran wrote me in an attempt to understand why her Veteran husband was rated at only 30% disabled. After 2 grueling combat tours, he was a shell of his former self and afflicted with nightmares, unbridled anger, an inability to face the daily challenges of life and speech that was slurred from his powerful medications.
Unable to hold a job, he had crawled into a hole and often refused to shave, bathe, change clothes, groom himself or even play with his young children. Although he had confessed to random thoughts of suicide, he wasn't being scheduled for any particular aggressive therapy and no proactive services were being offered to him by VBA or his clinic. With 2 young children at home, she was unable to work and had to take care of her Veteran too.
All she asked was that the VBA help them with a little more money before they become homeless. Some treatment for the Marine would be fine too but their first thoughts are to simply survive.
In California, the Vet had been diagnosed with an Agent Orange related lung cancer. His wife had a good family plan health insurance from her work and he took his treatments at a civilian facility long before he gave the VBA any thought. After months of radiation therapy, chemotherapy and a diagnosis of a stage 4b terminal cancer, he finally got around to applying for his deserved benefits.
His VARO soon gave him the award of a service connection that ceded that his lung cancer was related to his exposure to Agent Orange while he served in Vietnam. Although he had lost his job, was on a continuous doses of morphine and other narcotics for pain, couldn't breathe without his daily nebulizer breathing treatments, had developed diabetes and hypertension and was mostly housebound...his VBA awarded him a 0% (Zero Percent) rating.
Their logic was that his disease, those tumors occupying that large space in his lungs, had “stabilized” and soon he would show improvement. Later, VBA would relent and award 100% but only as a temporary condition. He was soon reexamined and VBA saw improvement enough to attempt to lower his rating from 100% to 60%. That he had become dependent on tanks of oxygen in his home and increasing doses of narcotics to control his pain didn't have much effect on the VARO decision makers. He's appealed and has waited months for any final word.
In Missouri is the female Veteran who injured her back in training. She wrote to me to ask why she had been denied a raise in her benefits to the level of 100% IU. There was a lot of evidence to support her injury and the VBA had granted her 30% years ago. She'd had spine surgery by the VHA that was well documented to have been only partially successful. After years of work and dealing with her worsening pain, she'd been fired from her job as she couldn't perform the tasks required to keep up. Attempts to find employment were futile...she was on a lot of pain medicine and couldn't pass the sorts of employment drug screening that so many employers require today. She remains unemployed.
She went to civilian doctors and obtained MRI exams that VA wouldn't provide. The MRI reports were clear that she has suffered progressive worsening of her condition. Her VA doctor recommended to her that she apply for IU.
After 3 years of waiting, innumerable visits to physicians and physical therapy, now wearing a back brace and in intractable pain and dependent on narcotics, she's been notified that her condition doesn't warrant any increase, there will be no unemployability award and she is now scheduled for reexamination in 2009 as the VBA anticipates that there will be improvement in her condition.
According to her VARO, she's fine and needs to get up and go to work.
Across America I've received dozens of letters from Navy Veterans who served off the coast of Vietnam. They recall the days when clouds of misting Agent Orange drifted across their deck as they provided support for the fighting on shore. They remember going ashore with mail and other supplies to deliver those goods to troops on the ground. Both air and water craft that had been used in the delivery of that deadly herbicide were stored above and below decks and today, these proud sailors are dying of prostate cancer, lung cancer and diabetes...all diseases presumed to have a connection to exposure to Agent Orange.
But, your VBA has drawn a line in the sand. No matter what the federal courts have ruled, no matter what common sense and reasonable judgment would tell us, these vets aren't going to get what they earned because of an arbitrary decision by VBA that they didn't have boots on the Vietnamese soil thus there was no exposure to Agent Orange.
I've failed today. Out of the hundreds, maybe a thousand or more emails I've received in 2007, I can't bring you any good news from your Department of Veterans Affairs.
We had a single moment of hope in 2007 as Secretary Nicholson resigned after a disastrous tenure blighted by computer data theft. His brief reign at DVA may go down in the books as one of the worst ever. He accomplished nothing while the VBA got ever more behind in adjudication of benefits claims. We had a brief hope that finally a secretary might be appointed who would make the change called for by GAO, The Veterans Disability Benefits Commission and many others.
That hope was quickly dashed however. There will be no sweeping reform. The swift confirmation of another favored insider, Dr. James Peake, was one of those backhanded slaps to our faces we've learned to expect from our VA.
Peake was the chief medical director and chief operating officer of QTC Management Inc., providing Compensation and Pension examination services for the VBA. Former VA Secretary Anthony Principi is Chairman of the QTC board.
The VBA pays untold millions of dollars to QTC and even the VBA is often forced to admit that many of the exams are worthless, full of error, inadequate, rushed by poorly trained and unsupervised examiners who provide a great disservice to the injured Veteran.
In any other arena, these sorts of back and forth ties would have the popular press screaming for RICO indictments. In our world, the world of the Veteran and the DVA, it goes unnoticed. Another day, another slap to all Veterans.
Thank you sir, may I have another?
After all that though, we did win one. We won a single momentous, historic battle in 2007.
This victory gives us hope that we will watch as VBA experiences the shock and awe of a legal onslaught, a tsunami of actions by the only friends a Veteran will have while facing the VBA.
On June 20th 2007 Veterans won the right to approach the Veterans Benefits Administration with an attorney advocate at their side. Prior to June Veterans were only allowed to use the services of a Veterans Service Officer as they faced off on a battlefield with the VBA. No matter how well meaning some VSO's may have been, they were largely untrained and had few skills beyond helping you to complete some forms. Many were volunteers and only worked a few hours each week, eagerly accepting the glory of their positions and basking in the light of self importance.
It was disheartening to watch the process of legislation of the act that would allow Vets to retain a licensed, skilled, motivated attorney. Most of the Veterans Service Organizations, those very people who say they represent our interests, sided with the DVA and worked against their own Veteran membership.
Led by the 800 pound gorilla that is the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) group, the VFW and many others fell into lock step and marched along, beating a loud drum to announce that we Veterans didn't need lawyers. They were nearly successful in knocking the legislation off the tracks with back room lobbying and expensive marketing to our elected lawmakers.
Today hundreds of lawyers across America are jumping into the fray. These are good lawyers. These are men and women, licensed and certified professionals who have been advocating for Americans with disabilities in other courtrooms for years. Their practices are often limited strictly to people with disabilities. Their paycheck depends on their success in representing their clients.
Unlike the DAV or VFW Veterans Service Officer, these lawyers aren't on a salary that pays them for losing. If you don't win, these lawyers don't get paid. Unlike the DAV, you won't be encouraged by your lawyer to fork over money for a “lifetime membership” or buy a colorful hat with a cute little pin on it. All your attorney wants to do is win, it's not a game to them.
The lawyer won't accept your case if it's not justified. Attorneys are strictly held to canons of ethics by their governing bodies. If a lawyer is known to file a frivolous claim that has no merit, they may be harshly punished. The VSO isn't held to those rules or any rules at all. There is no standard across America that defines a qualified VSO...take a short quiz and you're in.
I've already set up a pattern of referring to attorneys who I've concluded are going to work hard for us. I've surprised myself in making a referral sooner in the process than I thought I would. It's paying off. I'm hearing of decisions that are being won by lawyers soon after they've taken the case. I expect that in 2008 I'll refer many more than I'd anticipated.
I also know that your VARO is in for a surprise. As I write this these lawyers are in meetings training themselves and each other in the intricacies of VBA law. They're networking and talking to each other and to me. Law schools are beginning to design curricula to train lawyers in VBA law. The machine is rolling.
At your VARO there will be the shock and awe of 10, then 20 and then 40 lawyers who won't accept being turned away by the gatekeepers at VBA. Unlike your local good ol' boy VSO, the lawyer who advocates for you will be quick to discover how to use the courts to force that door open.
I've said it before; these lawyers aren't used to being treated discourteously. They won't accept delaying and stalling tactics. The dynamic of the process at VBA will change at your VARO as 2008 marches along and that's a huge win for veterans, one of the best ever.
There is hope. If we won that one, we can win more. Maybe my 2008 won't be quite as gloomy and filled with the stories I told you of earlier.
I'll be here in '08, fighting by your side, covering your back and cheering for those lawyers who want to stand up for America's heroes.
Merry Christmas and a joyous New Year to all my Brothers and Sisters.
May God bless every one of you.
Larry Scott --