Friday, January 11, 2008

A new trial program for PTSD help for the entire family

Denton Texas helps veterans and their families with PTSD symptoms

By Donna Fielder / Staff Writer

Denton County veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan will benefit from a half-million dollars granted to two agencies to provide mental health assistance for the them and their families in “Operation Healthy Reunion.”

Mental Health America of Greater Dallas and the American Red Cross have re­ceived $553,260 to be disbursed through the Texas Resources for Iraq-Afghanistan Deployment fund of the Dallas foundation, said Keith Nix, a spokesman for Mental Health of America.

Many veterans who need help adjusting back to their lives and their families or who experience mental anguish because of the stress of battle hesitate to seek help through the Department of Veterans Af­fairs because they don’t want that information on their military records, Nix said.

And, unlike Veterans Affairs, this program offers help to family members as well, he said.

“The VA has no program for medical treat­ment, psychiatric treatment or otherwise, other than the vet,” he said. “There is a huge field of problems that needs to be addressed — problems that lead to divorce or alienation of kids.

“You hear conversations that make your hair stand up because of the family trauma that is often created by the rejoinder of military personnel to their family,” Nix said.

“We’re hearing that, almost without exception, a woman in the military has experienced gender problems — some sort of emotional or sexual assault. The same is true of gays.

“You can’t complain about those things because the officers aren’t necessarily sympathetic and they can be harassed that much more.”

The “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy precludes complaints, he said.

This program sidesteps the VA.

“The whole point of the program is to bypass the VA,” he said. “There is a huge resistance to seek help that would go on their record. It goes against the grain.”

He estimated that 700 veterans and family members from Denton, Collin, Dallas, Delta, Ellis, Hopkins, Hunt, Kaufman, Navarro, Rains, Rockwall and Van Zandt counties will receive help in the two-year program.

Initial interviews can be done on a personal basis in the veteran’s community. The agencies hired employees with military experience and mental-health expertise, he said, to better understand the military mindset.

“The initial interview could be done in a minister’s or doctor’s office or the local Starbucks,” Nix said. “It’s meant to be as private as possible.”

The program is available now. Call 214-871-2420 and ask to speak with Walter Norris at extension 110.

DONNA FIELDER can be reached at 940-566-6885. Her e-mail address is .

Sphere: Related Content

Federal Judge allows class action lawsuit against VA

Lawsuit against VA to proceed

Veterans' groups win PTSD ruling
By Josh Richman
Bay Area News Group
Article Launched: 01/10/2008 07:49:26 PM PST

A federal judge in San Francisco has cleared the way for a national class-action lawsuit challenging how Department of Veterans Affairs treats Iraq and Afghanistan war casualties with post-traumatic stress disorder.

The federal system for weighing individual veterans' claims "does not provide an adequate alternative remedy for Plaintiffs' claims for several reasons," U.S. District Judge Samuel Conti wrote in a 42-page order rejecting the government's motion to dismiss three of the lawsuit's four claims.

The lawsuit, which was filed in July by Berkeley-based Disability Rights Advocates on behalf of Veterans for Common Sense and Veterans United for Truth, claims the VA has violated federal laws and veterans' civil rights by taking too long to provide mental-health care and disability benefits, and in some cases denying them completely, for PTSD.

"VA first mistreated hundreds of thousands of veterans, then took the position that the vets could not bring their grievances to court to be heard," DRA managing attorney Melissa Kasnitz said in a statement issued Thursday. "Today, VA's shameful effort to keep these deserving veterans from their day in court was rejected."

VA spokespeople couldn't be reached for comment late Thursday, but spokeswoman Jo Schuda in July had said the agency is committed to "meeting the special needs" of the nation's latest war veterans.

"Through outreach efforts, the VA ensures that returning Global War on



Terror service members have access to the widely recognized quality health care they have earned."
DRA claims that while most disabled veterans cannot receive medical treatment without an approved disability claim, VA now has a backlog of more than 600,000 claim applications, with some dating back to the Vietnam era. And even after claims have been approved, veterans face serious problems in receiving care, the lawsuit claims.

Meanwhile, somewhere between 15 percent and 50 percent of troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have PTSD, the lawsuit claims.

"We can now address the disgraceful fact that it takes an average of 177 days for VA to process an initial claim for disability benefits, and an additional 657 days, on average, for an appeal, so most veterans wait years for needed medical and mental health treatment, unless they give up or die first," DRA attorney Sid Wolinsky said.

Bay Area News Group staff writer Dogen Hannah contributed to this report. Contact Josh Richman at or (510) 208-6428.

Sphere: Related Content

Custom made license plate covers


Hello, I manufacture Custom Vehicle License Frames especially for Military Veterans. For example, I can make a custom frame that the top states, ”9th INFANTRY DIVISION” and the bottom states, “VIETNAM VETERAN”. My frames are a great bargain and they look great… and you don’t have to make your payment until after they arrive! There is a link below to my website so you can view images of the frames. These frames make great gifts for your old veteran buddies! These frames are CUSTOM... we put the text on the frame exactly as YOU specify with your online order.

These frames are a great way for veterans to get well deserved recognition and let America know that there are proud Veterans in our communities! These frames look GREAT… and because of my trust in fellow veterans, you don’t have to pay a cent until you have them in your hand or on your vehicle! These frames also make great gifts! We're not limited to military titles with our custom frames, so we can also make them to reflect your business or hobby interests.

If you're wondering if this is a legitimate offer… It can't be any easier than this: JUST GO THE WEBSITE AND ORDER AND I WILL STICK THE FRAMES IN THE MAIL THE DAY I GET YOUR ORDER. Then you can mail a check, money order or cash to me once it arrives! Simply reply to this email to have a set shipped today.

Other frame images are on the website above! Custom Frames are one for $14, two for $22 or 4 for $35. (These are total prices that already include postage and taxes.) Again, postage and applicable taxes are included in the listed prices. International orders may require additional fee for postage.

We look forward to earning your business!

Thank you,

Dave Heffernan, Veteran USAF Pilot

(Son of Bob "Heff" Heffernan, F-4 Pilot, Da Nang, 69')

P.S. Whether or not you get a set, please forward to your buddies!

Dave Heffernan

PO Box 361

Windermere, FL 34786


I have never endorsed a product before so this is new territory for me, but I am impressed with the work Dave appears to be doing here, and as a disabled veteran I can appreciate the market for these items, and he does not appear to be over priced for making your thoughts visible on your car, truck or bike. Please visit the website and see if anything appeals to you or contact him to make a truly customized one or more for you.

US air

Sphere: Related Content

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Congressman Joe Wilson R SC02

Most people that read my writings for the past few years, realize I have been less than impressed by this Congressman and his staff, they have been less than enthusiastic in helping me with my claim for compensation with the Veterans Administration. I and my wife Dori, met with the Congressman and his staff on August 9th 2005 about the mess. I took my file from Edgewood and the denial letters from the VA Gerional Office here in Columbia. On the experience of being used in the Army's human experiments involving chemical weapons and drugs at Edgewood Arsenal in 1974, the only thing he asked me was why didn't the Army use animals instead of people? I can't explain that, but I wish they had, but irregardless here we were 30 years later trying to get help for the myriad of medical issues I have that can ne linked to the toxic exposures at Edgewood, either thru experiments or environmental exposures thru the drinking water or the soil of Edgewood. The EPA Superfund site shows 77 toxic substances in the water table which led to the EPA forcing the Army to cap the water wells in 1978, and the Army was reduced to using bottled water until new water pipes could be plumbed into the base and town of Edgewood, Maryland.

The VA Regional office managed from Nov 2002 when I first contacted them until September 2005 when I contacted Senator Larry Craig for help, and the VA's Director of Compensation and Pension Renee Szybala, sent a letter with a copy to Senator Craig's office indicating my VA file showed I arrived and left Edgewood Arsenal on 10 July 1974 due to health problems, therefore they concluded I wasn't used in any experiments and none of my current medical issues could be possibly related to exposures at Edgewood.

One problem with her assessment, my records prove I arrived at Edgewood on 25 June 1974, I was classified as a level A test subject and a note to DR Van Sim the head of the lab, shows that I was considered a perfect test subject for all experiments including pyscho-chemicals. Due to a recent OD on LSD that was unknowingly slipped to me by another soldier at Fort Lewis, on 13 June 1974, which put me in Madigan Army Hospital overnight. The records also prove I did not leave Edgewood Arsenal until 22 August 1974, the entire 60 day TDY period I had been ordered to Edgewood Arsenal for, by the Army.

Given that the experiments were all classified and many of them were done in double blind studies that means the researchers are not even sure who was exposed to what, not the dosages. The VA's own manual on chemical weapons exposures published in October 2003 states there are NO known tests to prove or disprove exposures that happened years ago let alone decades ago. They don't even address the drug experiments, and they range in substances from THC, scopolomine, Peyote, LSD, BZ etc.

The Center for Disease Control's ATSDR web site shows the 77 toxic substances in the water and soil are linked to medical problems thru out the body from nuerological, pulmonary, autoimmune, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, etc, the only thing I haven't seen them linked to is child hood illnesses and toncilitis. Every medical problem I have had to deal with can be linked to the exposures at Edgewood. The rule of "reasonable doubt" should be used in my case and the compensation claim of the other "Edgewood Test vets" as it is now impossible to rule out the exposures as a cause of our illnesses, they could be a cause or at the very least an aggravater of them.

It is impossible to say they didn't do any harm, I do know that the government went to great expense in FY 2000 to find the 7120 men of the Edgewood experiments from 1955 thru 1975, as they needed a base group to study for a "comprehensive long term medical study" to show the veterans of Gulf War One, about the expected medical problems caused by low level Sarin exposures. The Edgewood veterans were the on;y group of Americans ever exposed to Sarin under study conditions. They used VA, IRS and SS databases to find the men aged 45 - 65 in 2000. The company could only find 4022 surviving men, one can only assume the other 2098 men were deceased at this point, as men this age are either paying taxes, or drawing government benefits.

The report done by William Page PHD, the March 2003 Sarin report found NO long term health problems, this flies in the face of the 1994 National Institute of Health Report Jan 1994 NIH Chemical weapons exposure report and this 30 year study by DR Lark Keinz Lohs of the German government based on Wermacht soldiers from WW2 Germany who worked in the chemical weapons sector of the Nazi Army 1975 SIPRI Report on long term health problems of chemical weapons expsoures DR Page showed the nation there were NO problems from low level Sarin exposure, which should make people question the validity of his study, since it was funded by DOD and at a time when the department of Defense was telling the nation that the Gulf War Illness as psychosomatic and not of a physical nature. There are approximately 250,000 veterans of the first gulf war being compensated for "undiagnosed illnesses" but which all of these undiagnosed illnesses are linked to the known medical problems of long term health problems related to chemical weapons exposure by these two other studies, why?

On Tuesday afternoon I received a phone call from a staff member of Joe Wilson's Columbia office, his name is Bruce Walker, he told me that he had been informed that I have a problem with the VARO here in Columbia and he wanted to "help me" but he needed me to come by the Congressman's office to sign a "release" so they can contact the VARO on my behalf. I took him the most recent denials and other correspondence from the VA, a copy of the Independent Medical Opinion written by DR James Ketchum, one of the original Edgewood Arsenal, medical doctors/researchers who worked on the human experiments from the late 50s thru the early 70s.

To clarify this I never met Colonel Ketchum while at Edgewood, he had left and was at Fort Sam Houston when I was at Edgewood for the experiments, but he knew the men I worked for DRS Van Sim and Fred Siddell. He has reveiwed my medical records and pyschiatric reviews and wrote an opinion that my service connected PTSD was either the cause of my hypertension and early onset cardiovascular problems or at the very least aggravated them during the past 32 years since the traumatic event happened that caused my PTSD in Feb 1975. But most men don't have strokes at age 36 and 7 heart attacks, a failed triple bypass and 2 failed stents by age 41, like I did.

DR Ketchum has been the only person related to Edgewood Arsenal and the experiments that has been open and honest in discussing the period in question 1955 thru 1975. He did not claim "state secrets" and he discussed all aspects of the parameters of the experiments, his opinion on the toxic substances, that he lived and worked at EA for decades and he drank the water and so did thousands of other base employees and they are not sick. But he also agrees the government did not do any type of follow up health studies on any one there, permanent base employees, military or civilian, there was no medical follow up of the human test subjects, like myself there are many aspects of the tests that even he is not aware of. He states that he was not told of the extensive involvement of the CIA and DR Sidney Gottlieb and their funding of the work of Van Sim and Siddell. I may not agree with every thing DR Ketchum has said about the experiments or the CIA but he has had extensive dialogue with me, and that is far more than the VA or DOD has done. They have attempted to stonewall me and stymied all requests for help in dealing with the VA for my compensation claim.

I am in contact with 15 other "med vols or test vets" whichever name you care to use, many of us feel like we were used and abused, and the government, i.e. the VA and DOD are continuing to abuse us, by failing to be open and help us deal with the VA now that we are all disabled. All of the men I am in contact with ARE medically disabled, most of us with cardiovascular problems, pulmonary and gastrointestinal problems. We do not believe that Edgewood had nothing to do with our current medical problems and the fact we all became disabled in our 40s, if not before.

I was surprised by Mr Walkers call out of the blue, when we met yesterday I asked him how he came to get in contact with me, as it has been more than 2 years since I contacted Congressman Wilson for assistance on my claim, after so many letters claiming "they are working on it" you get tired of playing cat and mouse with elected officials. It seems to be a merry go round the vet contacts the elected official they write a letter to the VA, the VA sends them aletter stating they are "working on it" and the Congressman sends the vet a copy of the letter and everyone can claim they are doing their job. Yet no one ever helps the veterans, but the paperwork all shows they did something. Maybe I am getting to cynical, but after dealing with this since October 2002, I am just tired, I understand now why so many veterans just give up on their claims with the VA, it's just to stressful and nothing ever seems to get done.

I wonder if this time will be the exception, at least I didn't contact them, they contacted me.

Sphere: Related Content

Rep John Hall NY works for veterans

Congressman John Hall delivers veterans benefits

WWII vet gets long delayed benefits

Buchanan - In a nation where hundreds of thousands of war veterans remain backlogged in the Department of Veterans Affairs healthcare system, one elderly veteran in the Hudson Valley is finally seeing justice more than six decades after he left the service.

World War II Navy veteran Ken MacDonald, 84, of Buchanan received a symbolic check for just over $100,000 from Congressman John Hall Tuesday, as retroactive reimbursement for not receiving the appropriate benefits while serving in the Pacific.

MacDonald, a First Class Seaman, served on two different carrier ships during the Pacific Campaign in the 1940s -- one of them sunk by a torpedo, the other taken down by Japanese kamikaze planes.

“I got two ships knocked from under me during the war, one in the Mediterranean and one in the Caribbean,” he said. The sailor survived both attacks, helped save the lives of many of his fellow shipmates, and was traumatized by the events.

He was denied disability benefits from the first day he attempted to secure them in 1947, and apparently it was the result of semantics.

The VA diagnosed the veteran back in 1947 as having schizophrenia, a non-service related disease, instead of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which MacDonald is now said to have suffered from.

Hall wants to prevent that from happening to other service personnel.

“One of the ways that we can help is by screening every soldier, sailor or airman who separates from their service and becomes a veteran,” he said. “As they leave active duty, they should be screened for PTSD at least.”

MacDonald’s neighbor and close friend, Al Donohue, has been trying to get benefits for his buddy since 1975. He said it wasn’t until he contacted Hall that he felt something would finally be done about his friend’s problem.


Sphere: Related Content

OSHA requires VA Hospital to clean up it's act

Mold in a VA Hospital in Martinsburg


VA HOSPITAL -- "Mold abatement projects have been completed

and an aggressive inspection program to proactively

address any potential sources of mold is in place."

For more about the Martinsburg VA, use the VA Watchdog search here...

Story here... http://www.herald-mail.c

Story below:


OSHA finds 'serious' health violations at Martinsburg VA hospital

Violations related to removal of mold from rooms in 2006


MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - The Veterans Affairs Medical Center near Martinsburg was issued a notice of "Unsafe or Unhealthful Working Conditions" last month after the Occupational Safety and Health Administration found three health and safety violations in a November 2007 inspection, officials confirmed Tuesday.

Two of the violations were "serious" according to the notice, which was issued Dec. 27, 2007, by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), according to a copy of a document posted at the medical center off Charles Town Road east of Martinsburg. The hospital has until Jan. 24 to fix the serious violations, unless it requests an informal conference with the U.S. Department of Labor within 15 days of receiving the notice.

"We don't discuss these inspections until they are closed," Prentice Cline, OSHA's assistant area director based in Charleston, W.Va., said Tuesday.

Medical center spokeswoman Barbara B. Corbin admitted the hospital was in violation of OSHA protocols and was "following up" to comply with laws meant to protect employees' health and safety.

"This is an issue that we are very, very concerned about, and we want to do the right thing," Corbin said Tuesday.

Corbin confirmed that OSHA's allegations were to some degree related to the hospital's removal of mold from two mechanical rooms discovered in October 2006.

Corbin said the hospital spent $71,000 on mold abatement in two mechanical rooms and related costs.

The rooms are near the equipment that sterilizes instruments used in the operating room of the hospital, Corbin said.

"In order to remove the mold, access to this equipment was limited," and some procedures in the operating room were canceled, Corbin said in an e-mail response to an inquiry made in September 2007. Other equipment was sterilized off-campus, she said.

When inspected Nov. 20 and Nov. 21, 2007, OSHA officials allege they found conditions indicating the hospital did not ensure certain employees could demonstrate knowledge of the limitations of respirators they are to use when exposed to hazards such as paint vapors, mold/fungi and tuberculosis, according to the notice.

"The employer has not provided employees with sufficient training and information on respirators to ensure they are aware of the limitations of their respirator cartridges or respirator types," according to the OSHA notice.

OSHA officials also alleged that hospital employees required to wear respiratory protection when exposed to previously mentioned hazards, along with drywall dust and TB isolation rooms, were not given an "odor threshold test," a step to ensure a respirator mask fits properly.

Corbin said mold also was found near ice machines and mechanical rooms.

"When discovered, the areas were contained. Remediation and abatement projects were promptly developed and implemented," Corbin said in September.

Corbin said then that a few employees had expressed concern about the mold problem and the hospital was addressing their concerns on an individual basis.

"We have increased environment of care surveillance rounds throughout the Medical Center where mold may be present, e.g., in mechanical rooms, near ice machines, and other high moisture areas," Corbin said in the e-mail.

"Mold abatement projects have been completed and an aggressive inspection program to proactively address any potential sources of mold is in place," she said in the e-mail.

A third OSHA-issued violation in the notice faulted the hospital for failing to provide employees with timely access to their medical records.

"A request for access to medical records of employees included in the asbestos exposure medical surveillance program was made .... on November 5, 2007," according to the OSHA notice, which was posted near the medical center's gift shop on the main floor.

Corbin said she believed the hospital did, in fact, miss a deadline, in responding to the records request, but noted letters ultimately were sent to affected employees in late November.

OSHA gave the hospital until today to abate the records release violation.


posted by Larry Scott
Founder and Editor
VA Watchdog dot Org

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

Click here to make VA Watchdog dot Org your homepage

email Larry

Sphere: Related Content

Veterans miss out on benefits

USA Today


never receive the federal and state benefits to which they're

entitled because they're unaware they qualify for health

care, tax breaks and other compensation.

Many vets miss out on state, county and municipal benefits. Be sure to check out ALL your benefits. For links to all state Department's of Veterans' here...

We have two stories. The first talks about missed benefits and the second tells of special benefits offered by some states.

First story here... http://www.usatoday

Story below:


Vets miss out on benefits, liaisons say

By Judy Keen, USA TODAY

CHICAGO — Many veterans never receive the federal and state benefits to which they're entitled because they're unaware they qualify for health care, tax breaks and other compensation, local liaisons to former troops say.

"They're entitled to these benefits. They just don't know they exist," says veterans service officer Darlene McMartin, who works in a county-funded office in Council Bluffs, Iowa. McMartin says she encounters veterans every day who don't know about her office and the services they provide.

There are 25 million veterans, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs says. In fiscal year 2006, it provided disability pay to 2.6 million of them, pensions to 320,000, education benefits to 500,000, guaranteed home loans to 180,000 and health care to 5.5 million. It provided insurance to 4.5 million veterans and active-duty personnel.

The VA gives briefings and booklets about benefits to military personnel before they are discharged and sends each a "welcome home" packet with reminders and toll-free numbers. Still, veterans often don't know they can get financial or medical help or increases in disability pay, says Jim Golgart, a veterans service officer in Le Center, Minn.

"A lot of veterans from all eras do not understand or know about their benefits," says John Scocos, secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs. He wishes the federal VA would give outreach grants to state agencies.

Thirty states have county veterans service officers to provide information and help fill out applications; the rest have state or regional officers. Those advocates say reaching veterans is difficult:

•Many men and women who leave military service "put the green suit away and that's it," says Jim Lynch, veterans service officer in Valparaiso, Ind. Decades later, many develop health issues "and wonder what help they're entitled to." Long gaps can make it difficult to find records documenting injuries and illnesses during their service, he says.

•Ray Carroll, service officer in Panama City, Fla., says there are at least 22,000 veterans in Bay County. In 2007, his office saw 5,353 of them, including 441 new clients. Many more could qualify for benefits, he says. He runs ads in local media and holds an open house every Tuesday at a fire station.

•American Legion Post 266 in Tea, S.D., held its annual benefits forum Monday. "We're getting to some of the people … but not all," says district commander Richard Sievert.

•Mike Beaird, service officer in Huntsville, Ala., hosted a "supermarket of benefits" at a shopping mall last month. Many widows of veterans of earlier wars never seek help, he says.

•In Fall River, Mass., Nagali Bouchard of the Veterans' Association of Bristol County says most of the 15 new clients she sees each month have never sought medical care through the VA. "Sometimes," she says, "I guess they just fall through the cracks."

Legislation pending in the Senate would create a separate budget for VA outreach. The House of Representatives has passed a similar bill. "VA is conducting a very active outreach effort to recently returning veterans," says federal VA spokesman Matt Smith.


Second story here... http://www.usatod

Story below:


State-by-state look at vets' benefits

In addition to benefits offered by the The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, military veterans and their families may also qualify for a variety of other perks offered by every state and the District of Columbia.

ALABAMA: Free tuition at state colleges and technical schools for disabled veterans and dependents.

ALASKA: One-time 25% discounts for some veterans on the purchase of residential or recreational land.

ARIZONA: Exemptions from vehicle license taxes and registration fees for fully disabled veterans and surviving spouses.

ARKANSAS: Income tax exemption of the first $6,000 of service or retirement pay.

CALIFORNIA: Home loans below market interest rates with low or no down payments.

COLORADO: Free hunting and fishing licenses for fully disabled veterans.

CONNECTICUT: $1,500 property-tax exemptions for wartime veterans.

DELAWARE: High-school diplomas for World War II veterans who didn't graduate because of military service.

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Assistance applying for federal benefits.

FLORIDA: Homestead tax exemptions for veterans with service-connected permanent and total disabilities.

GEORGIA: Free driver's licenses for some veterans.

HAWAII: Payments of up to $5,000 to totally disabled veterans to help buy or remodel homes to improve handicapped accessibility.

IDAHO: Advocates to help seek federal benefits.

ILLINOIS: Each county grants one four-year scholarship annually for free tuition at the University of Illinois to veterans' children.

INDIANA: Emergency grants for families of National Guard and reservists for food, housing, utilities, medical services or transportation.

IOWA: Grants up to $10,000 to help family members be with injured veterans during recovery and rehabilitation.

KANSAS: Helps veterans prepare for, find and keep jobs.

KENTUCKY: Tuition waivers at state schools for children and spouses of disabled or deceased veterans.

LOUISIANA: Employment preferences in civil service jobs and layoffs.

MAINE: State guarantees for a percentage of small-business loans.

MARYLAND: Exemptions from 5% excise tax on the sale or transfer of boats by active-duty military.

MASSACHUSETTS: $2,000 annuities to some veterans and their spouses as well as Gold Star Parents.

MICHIGAN: Annual tuition grants of up to $2,800 for eligible children of some deceased or permanently disabled veterans.

MINNESOTA: Cash assistance for rent, mortgages, utilities for veterans unable to work because of temporary disabilities.

MISSISSIPPI: Professional licenses don't expire while military personnel are on active duty or for 90 days afterward.

MISSOURI: State tax exemptions for payments from the Agent Orange compensation fund to veterans or dependents.

MONTANA: $250 death payments made by counties.

NEBRASKA: Temporary emergency aid for food, fuel, shelter, clothing, funeral and medical costs for veterans, spouses and dependents.

NEVADA: Free hunting and fishing licenses for disabled veterans.

NEW HAMPSHIRE: $100 bonuses for discharged or deceased veterans who served in Iraq or Afghanistan after 9/11.

NEW JERSEY: Readjustment counseling for veterans and their famiilies.

NEW MEXICO: $4,000 reduction in the taxable value of real estate.

NEW YORK: Burial allowance of up to $6,000 for some military personnel killed in combat or while on active duty in hostile locations since Sept. 29, 2003.

NORTH CAROLINA: Income-tax exemptions for federal grants for veterans who are blind or lost the use of limbs.

NORTH DAKOTA: Loans of up to $5,000 for temporary financial emergencies. Half the interest is refunded if the loan is repaid on time.

OHIO: Free legal help for military personnel and their families.

OKLAHOMA: Exemption from sales, excise and some other taxes for totally disabled veterans.

OREGON: No loan fees on home improvement loans.

PENNSYLVANIA: $150 monthly pensions for totally disabled veterans who are paralyzed or blind.

RHODE ISLAND: Free license plates for former prisoners of war.

SOUTH CAROLINA: Exemption from parking meter fees when a veteran's vehicle has disabled veteran, Purple Heart or Medal of Honor license plates.

SOUTH DAKOTA: $40 toward the cost of installing a government headstone or marker at veterans' graves.

TENNESSEE: Free license plates for veterans with total service-connected disabilities.

TEXAS: Credit in state retirement system for active-duty military time.

UTAH: Discounted mass-transit fares for disabled and elderly veterans.

VERMONT: A "war bonus" of up to $120 for Vietnam veterans.

VIRGINIA: Job referral and placement assistance.

WASHINGTON: Estate-management services for veterans and family members who can't manage their finances.

WEST VIRGINIA: Tuition assistance to veterans who need new vocations and have exhausted the G.I. Bill.

WISCONSIN: Job training, counseling and alcohol and drug abuse treatment for homeless veterans and those at risk of becoming homeless.

WYOMING: Free tuition and fees for education to spouses and children of veterans whose deaths were service-connected.

Source: USA TODAY research


posted by Larry Scott
Founder and Editor
VA Watchdog dot Org

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

Click here to make VA Watchdog dot Org your homepage

email Larry

Sphere: Related Content

President Bush frees the 3.7 billion in Emergency funds for VA

President Bush to release 3.7 billion in energency funds for VA


FUNDING -- President Bush set to release $3.7 billion

of additional VA funding by the end of the week.

The previous story on this issue with backlinks is here...

Story here...

Story below:


Bush Will Release Billions in ‘Contingency’ Funds for Veterans

President Bush plans to approve $3.7 billion in “contingency” funding for veterans’ programs by the end of the week, ending speculation over whether the White House would block release of the funding.

The omnibus fiscal 2008 spending bill, a $555 billion measure that funds 14 of the 15 Cabinet-level departments and several independent agencies, included $3.7 billion in “contingency” emergency spending for the Veterans Affairs Department.

Veterans’ groups and Democrats had pushed for the funding, which Bush has until Jan. 18 to approve.

According to administration sources, the Veterans Affairs Department signed off on release of the funding on Tuesday, and Bush likely will make the move official this week.

Most of the money will go to the Veterans’ Health Administration for medical services, administration, facilities and medical research.

The White House said months ago that it had no objection to the $3.7 billion Congress wanted to spend on top of the president’s budget request for veterans, but it wanted the funds offset with reductions in spending elsewhere.

Congress refused, keeping the funds outside the budget caps and passing the decision to the president on whether to spend the money.


posted by Larry Scott
Founder and Editor
VA Watchdog dot Org

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

Click here to make VA Watchdog dot Org your homepage

email Larry

Sphere: Related Content

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Congressman puts airline miles where his mouth is

2nd District U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly of Granger donates miles to veterans

U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly (2007 Tribune File Photo/PARKER MICHELS-BOYCE)

By Tiffany Griffin

Story Created: Jan 8, 2008 at 7:59 AM EST

Story Updated: Jan 8, 2008 at 7:59 AM EST

SOUTH BEND — It’s a routine familiar to most members of Congress: fly to Washington at the beginning of the week, fly home to your district at the end of the week. Rinse, repeat.

And with those flights come frequent flier miles, some 48,000 in the case of U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly, D-2nd, of Granger.

On Monday, Donnelly announced he would donate those miles to the Fisher House Foundation, which will use them to provide free flights for wounded veterans undergoing treatment at military or VA facilities, and their families.

"I’ve always viewed those miles as the property of the people of the 2nd District of Indiana," Donnelly said at a news conference inside South Bend Regional Airport on Monday.

The miles Donnelly donated are roughly the equivalent of two round-trip air tickets, he said.

The free flights are a blessing to people like Jerry and Julie Coon, whose son Brandyn Rybicki was injured in a July ambush in Iraq. Rybicki is being treated for his wounds in Seattle.

The program — called "Hero Miles" — also comforts the injured veteran, Julie Coon said.

"Amid all the fear and chaos, they can have a bit of normalcy," she said.

In its four years, the program has provided more than 13,000 flights.

Courtesy of The South Bend Tribune

Sphere: Related Content

Monday, January 7, 2008

New Outpatient Clinic to open in Aiken SC

Mary Snelling, the manager of the soon to be opened VA clinic, was on hand Monday to take questions from veterans. Opening of new Aiken VA clinic preceded by veterans' seminars

By JOSH VOORHEES, Staff writer
Officials from the United States Veterans Affairs were on hand Monday at a town-hall meeting to discuss the soon-to-open Aiken VA clinic with area veterans.
The new VA clinic, which will be an extension of the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center in Augusta, is set to open next month and will provide primary care and mental health treatment to area veterans – saving many local veterans trips across the river or to Columbia in order to see their primary physicians.
Those veterans requiring specialty care or surgeries will still likely need to travel to Augusta, said officials, although some services such as lab work and X-rays will be provided through Aiken Regional Medical Centers in some situations.
"We are going to do primary care in Aiken just like it has been done in Augusta," said Mary Snelling, clinic manager, while assuring the veterans on hand that the Aiken clinic will make receiving basic care easier.
"We estimate that 19,000 veterans in Aiken, Edgefield and Barnwell counties will benefit from the new clinic," said Rebecca Wiley, director of the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center, noting that the clinic expects to treat 5,000 veterans during its first year in operation.
The new clinic is a result of a 2002 VA program aimed at realigning medical services to better suit veterans, especially those who do not live in cities.
"In the past, regardless of where the veterans were located, the clinics stayed put," said Wiley.
Wiley and her staff were given the official go ahead for the Aiken clinic in July of last year and say they quickly made its construction a priority to meet the needs of local veterans.
"We pushed aggressively to make this happen," Wiley told the several dozen veterans gathered Monday, adding that the six-month turnaround time from approval to opening was an accomplishment that the VA was particularly proud of.
The 10,000 square-foot clinic will be located at 951 Millbrook Road in Aiken and will open with 17 staff members including two physicians, a psychiatrist, a psychologist and three social workers; however, officials say, that number will likely climb closer to 30 as the need grows.
In order to make the transition easier for patients and the medical staff at the new clinic, honorably discharged veterans who are interested in receiving care in Aiken are asked to preregister with the clinic before its opening Feb. 4.
Benefit seminars and registration will be held during the next two weeks at the H. Odell Weeks Activities Center from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Friday until Jan. 18. Veterans interested in enrolling for health care should bring their discharge papers (DD-214) or other proof of eligibility, as well as income verification for themselves and spouses for 2007.
Additional information about the benefit seminars and registration is available by phone at 1-800-836-5561, ext. 3259. Registration will also be possible at the clinic once it opens.
The clinic is currently called the Aiken Community Based Outpatient Clinic, but the name is expected to change soon. Currently there is legislation before Congress that would name the Aiken clinic in honor of Marine Cpl. Matthew Dillon, who was killed in action in December 2006 while serving in Iraq.
Contact Josh Voorhees at

Aiken Standard

Sphere: Related Content

Texas paper calls for better VA healthcare

Austin American Statesman


Statesman: "Returning veterans must know they can get quick,

effective help from Veterans Affairs when they are troubled. They

shouldn't have to wait for two or three months for an evaluation."

For more editorials about veterans, use the VA Watchdog search here...

Story here...

Story below:


Tending to our veterans

By The Editorial Board

President Bush has a new cabinet secretary for the Department of Veterans Affairs who appears to be eminently qualified for the job.

Secretary James Peake is a retired three-star general and a physician with more than three decades of experience in the Army’s medical system. He is a former surgeon general of the Army and once led the U.S. Army Medical Command at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio.

Peake has promised to fix the problems causing so much heartache for America’s veterans, particularly those returning from fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He has plenty to do. Care for veterans has been generally dreadful since the war in Iraq began, from the disgrace of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center to the shocking number of veteran suicides. VA care varies by region and by hospital and clinic, but too many veterans aren’t getting proper care.

First, Peake must smooth the transition of veterans from the military to the VA. The backlog of disability claims is shameful, and staffing problems at some centers have caused veterans to wait months for an evaluation.

At the same time, there has been a shortage of mental health care though the suicide rate for veterans is twice that of the general population. One estimate found that more than 125 veterans of all wars kill themselves each week in the United States.

That is an appalling figure that shames us as a nation. Up to 30 percent of those serving in Iraq and Afghanistan are believed to suffer from post traumatic stress disorder, often requiring some mental health intervention. The suicide rate for Army veterans is above 17 percent per 100,000 people, the highest percentage in 26 years of record keeping.

Peake says he understands the gravity of the situation. He was wounded while serving as an infantry officer in Vietnam and has said he wrestled with post traumatic stress afterward.

Returning veterans must know they can get quick, effective help from Veterans Affairs when they are troubled. They shouldn’t have to wait for two or three months for an evaluation. This is an issue Peake must address immediately.

Many Americans don’t realize the size and scope of Veterans Affairs. It is the second-largest employer among the president’s cabinet posts, with nearly 250,000 employees and an $82 billion budget.

More than 5.5 million veterans receive care at the system’s 153 hospitals and 900 clinics. It is imperative that the system be able to treat those men and women returning from battle overseas who need help at once. And not just for physical problems but for mental ones, too.

Peake sailed through his confirmation process in Congress, promising to address the problems besetting the Department of Veterans Affairs. He should know that veterans deserve decent treatment when they return from war. They earned it.


posted by Larry Scott
Founder and Editor
VA Watchdog dot Org

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

Click here to make VA Watchdog dot Org your homepage

email Larry

Sphere: Related Content

Iraq War Vet a Dallas Policeman loses his job


"You don't want to make them feel that because they have

been there, they're scarred. They may be, but what we do

is try to find out how they're doing, find out how they're

coping, and we give assistance to those who need it."

21 members of the Dallas Police Department have returned to duty from the War on Terror. (Photo: Dallas PD)

Story here...

Story below:


Texas Police Help War Vets Return to Duty

The Dallas Morning News

DALLAS – One morning, a 911 call came in to Austin police. Two men were fighting, and the caller said one flashed a knife.

Among the officers dispatched was Wayne Williamson, who had returned the year before from military duty in Iraq. He and other officers soon found themselves chasing one of the men toward a crowded shopping center.

“Austin police. Stop or I’ll shoot!” Officer Williamson yelled several times, even though he never saw a knife nor had reason to believe the man was about to hurt anyone.

Before the man was caught, Officer Williamson fired three shots at him. One bullet pierced a van carrying a 14-year-old and a baby. No one was hurt, but the March 14 incident cost Officer Williamson his job.

Afterward, he and his attorney said his time in the war zone may have clouded his judgment.

Most reservists and guardsmen who return from the Middle East readjust from the Humvee to the Crown Victoria with little problem. But a few have come back to police work in Texas and other states only to use tactics more suited to a combat zone than a city patrol beat.

In one case, during a narcotics operation in Los Angeles County, a deputy explained his decision to shoot in military terms—as “laying down cover fire.”

Some law enforcement agencies have begun to look harder at how they help soldiers make the transition back to police work. The International Association of Chiefs of Police is developing a national strategy to address the concern.

“We want to expedite this because we think it’s very important,” said Jim McMahon, chief of staff for the IACP. “These are key people who come back with a great amount of experience from their prior service to their municipality, and now their service to their country.”

No changes for Dallas

Dallas police officials say they have not experienced similar problems with returning soldiers. During the past two years, 21 officers have returned to the agency from military service. Only some of them saw combat.

When officers come back from any type of extended leave, the agency screens them for mental health issues.

Returning officers are put through the same battery of psychological tests they took when first hired. And the psychologists have particular questions for those returning from war. Where did you serve? How long? What did you see? Did you lose any friends?

“I’ve seen one or two that just wanted to talk a little bit more after coming back,” said Al Somodevilla, a longtime Dallas police psychologist. “But we haven’t seen, fortunately, anyone that we had to say, ‘No, you’re not fit for duty; you cannot go out there.’ “

He said he feels the agency’s screening is adequate.

“You don’t want to make them feel that because they have been there, they’re scarred,” he said. “They may be, but what we do is try to find out how they’re doing, find out how they’re coping, and we give assistance to those who need it.”

The case in Los Angeles County was one of two in recent years that has spurred the sheriff’s department there to add a fourth day to its repatriation program for returning soldiers.

“He was putting down cover fire as he moved from one point to the other,” said sheriff’s Cmdr. Gil Jurado. “We insist on having a specific target. You just can’t shoot in the general area that they’re at.”

It seemed to be part of a trend with returning soldiers, Cmdr. Jurado said. “Some of them still having somewhat of a mindset relative to tactics of what they learned in the military. We saw a few of those techniques being used in the streets, and we thought, ‘Uh-oh, we need to retrain them.’ “

The agency’s repatriation program is designed for more than just retraining. It focuses on ensuring the welfare of the officers and nurturing both them and their families during their readjustment to civilian life.

“The whole system starts off from showing appreciation for their efforts to go over there, and to help them do the tough job that they have to do,” Cmdr. Jurado said.

The program’s fourth day, which was added this summer, includes policing scenarios simulated with paintball guns.

“The rules of engagement for the military are different than the rules of engagement for law enforcement,” said Audrey Honig, the department’s chief psychologist. “The military, they work more under the basic assumption of ‘when in doubt, shoot.’ And we work under the basic assumption of ‘when in doubt, don’t shoot.’ “

Partner policy

Complicating things, she said, is that soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan are often operating in a city environment. “So there’s just a little greater risk of people responding to this urban environment as they would to the other urban environment, when they were in a different role,” Dr. Honig said.

Patrol deputies spend their first days back on the job with partners. Each deputy is also assigned a mentor. These precautions, Dr. Honig said, “give them an opportunity to get back into the groove of responding the way they used to respond when they were working for us.”

Such policies are important, agreed Stephen Curran, a Maryland psychologist who counsels returning soldiers and provides police psychological services.

“Partnering up, mentoring, I think is a good thing to do for the first phase,” he said. “That may be a week - that may be two weeks - of just kind of taking it slow.”

A department’s program need not be rigid or lengthy, Dr. Curran said.

Many police supervisors are veterans, so they often understand the challenges for returning soldiers, he said. “I think supervisors from the sergeant level to chiefs are educated about trying to watch for possible problems.”

Whatever sort of program an agency chooses, it is important that officials be aware of the issue and have some type of policy in place, Dr. Curran said.

“You just can’t show up for work 30 days after coming back from combat and say, ‘OK, here’s the gun and badge, and go get ‘em,’ ” he said.

Officers who rejoin the Dallas police after stints in the Middle East do not patrol with partners on their return. Nor are they assigned mentors. Does the department do enough to reintegrate its returning soldiers?

Senior Cpl. Jonathan McMillion thinks so. The plainclothes Dallas patrol officer spent a year with the Texas Army National Guard on a quick reaction force in Afghanistan.

“Those guys are really good,” he said of the department psychologists who greeted him on his return.

Cpl. McMillion said his military experience has sharpened his judgment, not clouded it.

“The discipline you learn in the military, I think, benefits you as a police officer,” he said. “To me, they go hand in hand, complement one another.”

Soldiers patrolling the streets of Kabul are not entitled to shoot at will; you still have to identify your targets, he pointed out. Killing an innocent civilian over there may get you in just as much trouble as here.

“Just because you’re in a war zone doesn’t mean it’s a free fire zone,” Cpl. McMillion said.

And he noted the battery of psychological tests that he and other soldiers must go through all over again to rejoin the police force.

“Those of us who have gone and come back, we have a joke,” he said, “that we are probably the most documentably sane people in the department.”


posted by Larry Scott
Founder and Editor
VA Watchdog dot Org

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

Click here to make VA Watchdog dot Org your homepage

email Larry


My question is now that the officer has lost his job because of stress related to being deployed to a war zone and now is making bad judgements because of his war experiences, how is the VA or any other government aganecy helping him? Is he receiving counseling, job retraining, educational benefits now that he is no longer eleigible to continue his profession of law enforcement, and do we as a nation owe this man and other people like him in other similar circumstances owe him the chance to rehab into an equally financial profession, or is he left to his own devices? What is fair her? What if it was you or one of your family members what would be right?

Sphere: Related Content

False rumors about registering for VA benefits by january 17

False Rumors about registering for Veterans benefits by Jan 17, 2008 it's bogus


REGISTER FOR VA BENEFITS -- Disregard any email

or blog post that tells vets they must register

or re-register at the VA by Jan. 17.

Story below:


by Larry Scott

Maybe I'm just getting grumpy in my old age...but sometimes I wish we had "The Stupid Police" who could round up those who shouldn't be allowed near a computer keyboard.

We have a perfect example of this.

Appearing on blogs and in emails is a dire warning to veterans to sign up for VA benefits before Jan. 17, 2008...or else.

Disregard this information if it comes your way!

There is no deadline!

This is a perfect example of someone taking old information, adding there own two cents...and coming up with complete garbage.

It appears they found out that on Jan. 17, 2003 (note 2003), the VA cut off enrollment to Priority Group 8 veterans. These are vets with no service-connected conditions and whose income is above a certain threshold. That enrollment ban is still in effect.

So, some idiot added 2 + 2 and came up with 5!

They must have got dates confused...and assumed this was going to happen in 2008.

Not so! There is no 2008 deadline because this deed is already done.

Again...if you see this information...please disregard it as false... and try to get out the correct message to veterans.


posted by Larry Scott
Founder and Editor
VA Watchdog dot Org

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

Click here to make VA Watchdog dot Org your homepage

email Larry

Sphere: Related Content

Jim Strickland of VA Watchdog explains Nexus letters

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...

For more information about medical nexus and the nexus letter, use the VA Watchdog search here...


by Jim Strickland

Your claim for a Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) disability compensation award must be based on irrefutable evidence. If your claim leaves any doubt in the mind of the ratings specialist who makes that award decision, you'll be denied.

If you can't prove it, it didn't happen.

This is often the case when you allege that an injury or illness that occurred in service has worsened over the years. While the condition may have been relatively minor then, it's significantly disabling today.

An example might be a back injury. It's there in your service medical record (SMR) that you received treatment and you were assigned to light duty for a week or two. Later you might have had some complaints but nothing serious and you went on living your life. Today your back is knotted with crippling pain and you're facing a big surgery and a long recuperation. You file your claim and you're quickly denied. The VBA doesn't agree that your condition today is related to the event in your past. They explain to you that they think your earlier injury wasn't chronic, that it was temporary and that you must have done something else to injure yourself since then.

Another example could be an injury to a leg. You were shot by a sniper, your thigh was shattered and you spent months in a hospital healing. You were young, you wanted to get up out of that bed and you did heal. Within a year you were working again albeit with a limp. You raised your family, worked hard at being a great American and had a good life until last year. Your gait had become steadily more awkward as you grew older and you had been thinking that leg was weaker than ever and finally it happened. You took a bad fall and injured your knees, your lower back and you fractured a forearm.

It's clear to you that the old injury was the cause of your fall and you filed for additional compensation. Those recent injuries have kept you out of work and now you need financial help. The VARO takes 14 months to adjudicate your claim and denies you any additional compensation. They don't agree that your old wound was the cause of your new problems. Maybe you slipped. Maybe you were drinking. The VBA doesn't have to say what has caused your recent predicament, all they need do is tell you that they've concluded it wasn't connected to your military service.

It's possible you were exposed to Agent Orange, carbon tetrachloride or any one of the hundreds of lethal chemicals, biohazards or radioactive substances that we took for granted back in the day.

Now you have a cancer, your lungs have scarred with emphysema, cataracts have blinded you or you have Type 2 Diabetes and you've become dependent on insulin many times each day. You well remember the barrels of chemicals you loaded on those ships, you were bathed in the stuff. You know that the exposure to all of that is at the root of your health problems today, you are confident that you'll qualify for help from your VBA and you seek out a Veterans Service Officer to help you file a claim.

A year later you receive the letter from your Veterans Affairs Regional Office (VARO) denying your claim. They explain to you that your military service doesn't qualify you for benefits because you don't fit the established criteria that would fit you on to a presumptive list for an award. The VBA doesn't deny that you were exposed to the hazards that could have caused your illness. All they are required to do is determine whether your exposure meets the strict criteria of timing or geography and that ends the game. Your problems aren't their problems.

Now what?

Let's back up a minute and review the regulation that sits at the heart of all this;

Title 38: Pensions, Bonuses, and Veterans' Relief
Subpart A—Pension, Compensation, and Dependency and Indemnity Compensation
Ratings and Evaluations; Service Connection
§ 3.303 Principles relating to service connection.
(a) General. Service connection connotes many factors but basically it means that the facts, shown by evidence, establish that a particular injury or disease resulting in disability was incurred coincident with service in the Armed Forces, or if preexisting such service, was aggravated therein. This may be accomplished by affirmatively showing inception or aggravation during service or through the application of statutory presumptions. Each disabling condition shown by a veteran's service records, or for which he seeks a service connection must be considered on the basis of the places, types and circumstances of his service as shown by service records, the official history of each organization in which he served, his medical records and all pertinent medical and lay evidence. Determinations as to service connection will be based on review of the entire evidence of record, with due consideration to the policy of the Department of Veterans Affairs to administer the law under a broad and liberal interpretation consistent with the facts in each individual case.

In plain language that regulation means that the VBA must consider all the evidence you've submitted. That includes all of your military service and the conditions under which you served, where you served, your current condition, and all medical and lay evidence. For the discussion today, we'll assume that your claim was well documented as to the nature of your service, when and where you served and your health then and now.

The disagreement between you and your VBA may be seen as a simple one. You claim cause and effect, your VBA denies that. A solution to the disagreement often lies in a nexus letter. A simple definition of nexus is: Tie; bond; link; connection or interconnection.

To show that there exists a connection between your documented service event (exposure to CBR elements, wounding, illness) and your condition today (cancer, worsening of original injury, etc.) requires that you present the favorable opinion of an expert who agrees with your thought process. This is known as a nexus letter.

To be effective, your nexus letter must fulfill a number of obligations.

The author must be an expert. This is most often a medical doctor who is board certified in the area of health that's at issue. If a cancer is the condition, an oncologist is preferred. If an old injury to a bone is in question, an orthopedic surgeon is the obvious choice. PTSD has become more controversial in recent years and it's accepted today that a clinical psychiatrist or psychologist is the gold standard for opinions related to the condition. It helps if your doctor will provide a curriculum vitae (CV) stating the areas of their expertise and education.

The expert who signs your nexus letter must have thoroughly reviewed all available and pertinent medical records and state that fact in the letter. If your expert can't reasonably verify that all records were reviewed, the letter won't be of much value.

Although it may not always be an absolute requirement, it will lend a lot of weight if the writer of your nexus letter has recently examined you.

When writing a nexus letter, a few points to remember are in order. The letter should be as brief as possible while stating facts. The doctor who writes your letter does not have to use absolutes or conclusions in his or her statements. Opinions are made based on conjecture of observing facts and possibilities arising from those facts.

This means that the author isn't required to say that one thing definitely caused another, only that it might have or is likely to have led from point A to point B.

The preferred language to describe an expert's opinion should express whether "it is more likely than not (i.e., probability greater than 50 percent), at least as likely as not (i.e., probability of 50 percent), or less likely than not (i.e., probability less than 50 percent) that (the condition) was incurred or aggravated during active service.

A complete rationale for all opinions should be expressed. For example, your doctor might point out that you have no family history of diabetes or cancer and that you have no known risk factors that might have otherwise precipitated your condition. This leads to the conclusion that your known exposure to a carcinogenic chemical during your military service is more likely than not the cause of your current condition.

The same might apply to that earlier back problem. Your physician could state that as it is recognized in medical literature and in his own personal experience that a leg injury that causes an alteration of a person's gait often progresses on to issues with one's back. Your doctor should point out that between the time of the original injury and today, there is no other know injury that could account for your condition today. Thus, it is reasonable to assume that it is more likely than not that your original injury is the cause of the condition at issue today.

In each of the above examples, the clinical nexus is established. There was a causation in military service and an effect today.

In determining whether service connection is warranted for an alleged disability, VA is responsible for considering evidence both for and against the claim. If the evidence, as
a whole, supports the claim or is about evenly balanced, the veteran prevails. If the preponderance of the evidence is against the claim, then it is denied.

However, the adjudication of the claim by the VBA includes the responsibility of determining the weight to be given to the evidence of record, and this responsibility includes the authority to favor one medical opinion over another. The probative value of a medical opinion is generally based on the scope of the examination or review, as well as the relative merits of the expert's qualifications and analytical findings, and the probative weight of a medical opinion may be reduced if the examiner fails to explain the basis for an opinion.

If private clinical reports are not accompanied by the same kind of specific clinical and laboratory findings as is the case with the VA clinical evidence of record, nor are they supported by any convincing medical findings or rationale, weight of the VBA evidence may exceed that of the nexus letter and the claims for service connection may be denied.

Let's now take a look at the basics of a good nexus letter;


Reference: YOUR NAME

To Whom It May Concern;

I am Dr. Quack. I am board certified to practice in my specialty. A CV is included.

Mr. John Doe is a patient under my care since DATE. His diagnosis is YOUR CONDITION, etc.

I have personally reviewed his medical history (NAME DOCUMENTS) and I've also reviewed his history of the (EVENT OR EVENTS YOU CLAIM ARE THE CAUSE OF YOUR CONDITION) while he served during his military service.

I am familiar with his history and have examined Mr. Doe often while he has been under my care. (SPECIFY LAB WORK, X-RAYS, ETC.)

Mr. John Doe has no other known risk factors that may have precipitated his current condition.

In my personal experience and in the medical literature it is known, ETC.

It is my opinion that it is more likely than not that Mr. John Doe's condition ETC.


Dr. Quack, M.D.

The nexus letter should be as detailed and complete as your circumstances dictate.

Many physicians, both civilian and VA docs, are reluctant to write such a letter. Sometimes, they are concerned that there are legal pitfalls that can arise from writing disability letters and they want to avoid such. While there probably are some legal issues to consider, I'm not aware of any physician ever suffering any repercussions from writing a truthful, factual nexus letter.

In my experience, the physician is most often simply too busy to write such letters or isn't sure of the proper statements to make.

I recommend that you write the letter for your doctor. If you elect to do this you must carefully construct every word to ensure that there is nothing in the letter that the doctor could disagree with. Keeping it simple is most likely to lead to your doctor signing the letter.

Your best bet to have your doctor agree with you and write the letter onto his letterhead is to approach him or her directly. Don't hand it off to a receptionist or nurse to do for you.

If your personal doctor won't write such a letter, you'll have to seek out a physician who specializes in Independent Medical Examinations or IME's. These doctors are relatively scarce and they are often paid by the Social Security Administration, insurance companies and businesses to evaluate the extent of injuries of claimants. The IME doctor is a good choice for you to turn to and I highly recommend that you do so if you believe that an independent review of your case would help you. The doctor who is a specialist in Independent Medical Examination is usually thought to be above reproach as their living depends on their reputation as an impartial reporter of facts. They will often know the language that's needed very well and they spend a lot of time examining you and reviewing your records.

The IME doctor may be expensive and you must pay your bill up front and out of your own pocket. These IME opinions may cost from $600.00 to $1500.00 or more. There is no guarantee that the IME doctor will agree with your thinking and if the report you receive is not in agreement with you, you don't get your money back.

In practical terms, the nexus letter is a powerful tool for the Veteran to use to establish a claim. Often enough the VA will recognize that the physician who writes your nexus letter is better trained, better experienced or spent more time examining you than a VA Compensation and Pension (C&P) examiner did. In many cases at the VARO level as well as the Veterans Board of Appeals and in higher courts, the expert opinion expressed in a nexus letter has been the deciding factor that wins a Veteran those well deserved benefits.

The nexus letter may require a lot of effort on your part and an investment of money that you can hardly afford.

It may also be the single best investment of time and money you'll make. Don't give up on your claim until you've tried it.


posted by Larry Scott
Founder and Editor
VA Watchdog dot Org

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

Click here to make VA Watchdog dot Org your homepage

email Larry

Send this page to a friend:

(go back to VA Watchdog dot Org Home Page)

Has Uncle Sam turned his back
on your request
for VA benefits?

Contact LEGAL HELP FOR VETERANS for assistance with the benefits you deserve.
click for more info

VA Watchdog Stuff
cups, hats, shirts
click here to
support the site


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


I have permission of Larry and Jim to repost their material as long as I credit them and post it exactly as they have written it, please do not cut and use portions of it, if you wish to use it please write them and ask for their permission I also encourage everyone to please add as a regular reading site for veteran news, I do not copy all of their material just some of the real vital information.......this is all done for education of veterans and their families I make no money from this, the ads from google have never paid me a nickle and I have been doing this for months, well years really with my other blogs Mike

Sphere: Related Content

Handbook for wounded soldiers and families

Handbook outlines benefits, bureaucracy for wounded vets

By Karen Jowers -
Posted : January 14, 2008

A new handbook designed to help wounded warriors and their families navigate the bureaucracy to get the benefits they have earned is now available.

The 149-page “A Handbook for Injured Service Members and Their Families” was prepared free by a New York-based law firm for two nonprofit charities — the Wounded Warrior Project and the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund. It can be downloaded for free at and

“This answers the questions you have,” said Army Spc. James O’Leary, who received multiple injuries in a mortar attack in Iraq in 2004. “I didn’t know what I was eligible for. I didn’t know about the vocational rehabilitation program, which is much better than the GI Bill and pays for all your tuition and books. I didn’t know about the evaluation system. I figured if [the Veterans Affairs Department] gave me a certain rating, that’s what I would be eligible for.”

Davis Polk & Wardell donated about $500,000 worth of time, with hundreds of attorneys combing through government laws, regulations and other information, said Bill White, president of the Intrepid Foundation, which operates the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund.

“They tried to simplify and put the information in layman’s terms, so that if you’re 19 years old and haven’t gone to law school, ... you can understand it,” White said, adding that the senior lead partner on the project is a retired Marine.

The handbook is divided into sections dealing with issues that come up during the process wounded service members go through, said Jeremy Chwat, vice president for policy and public affairs for the Wounded Warrior Project.

“We wanted to make sure service members understand their benefits and rights and that it’s not lost in legislative speak,” Chwat said.

Chapters include “Immediate Concerns,” with details on important documents, financial aid sources and information on service members’ continuing salaries.

For families traveling to be at their service member’s bedside, information is included about the military’s invitational travel orders, per diem rates for family members, and a listing of contacts for all Fisher House homes.

Extensive information about the disability evaluation systems, education and employment benefits, health benefits, legal rights and legal assistance, and other federal benefits is provided.

The handbook has a glossary and a state-by-state list of resources for the wounded. Other resources are sprinkled throughout, such as Disabled American Veterans and the Army’s Wounded Soldier and Family Hotline.


Sphere: Related Content

Pay in Vets' Work Program Ruled Tax-Free

Pay in Vets' Work Program Ruled Tax-Free
Ruling on Compensated Work Therapy Retroactive Three Years
WASHINGTON (January 7, 2008) -- Payments provided to veterans under two
specific programs of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) -- the
Compensated Work Therapy (CWT) and Incentive Therapy (IT) programs --
are no longer taxable, according to the Internal Revenue Service.
Veterans who paid tax on these benefits in the past three years can
claim refunds.

Recipients of CWT and IT payments no longer receive a Form 1099
(Miscellaneous Income) from VA. Veterans who paid tax on these benefits
in tax years 2004, 2005 or 2006 can claim a refund by filing an amended
tax return using IRS Form 1040X. Nearly 19,000 veterans received CWT
benefits last year, while 8,500 received IT benefits.

The IRS agreed with a U.S. Tax Court decision earlier in 2007 that CWT
payments are tax-free veterans benefits. In so doing, the agency
reversed a 1965 ruling that these payments were taxable and required VA
to report payments as taxable income.

The CWT and IT programs provide assistance to veterans unable to work
and support themselves. Under the CWT program, VA contracts with
private industry and the public sector for work by veterans, who learn
new job skills, strengthen successful work habits and regain a sense of
self-esteem and self-worth. Veterans are compensated by VA for their
work and, in turn, improve their economic and social well-being.

Under the IT program, seriously disabled veterans receive payments for
providing services at about 70 VA medical centers.

Sphere: Related Content

Helping injured troops get trauma pay

Helping injured troops get trauma injury pay
By Tom Philpott Special to Stars and Stripes Pacific edition, Saturday, January 5, 2007
Too many severely injured troops and their families haven’t been getting the bedside help they need in preparing applications to qualify for up to $100,000 in traumatic injury insurance. But that is going to change, says Army Col. John Sackett.
Sackett heads the Traumatic Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (TSGLI) branch within the U.S. Army Human Resources Command in Alexandria, Va. More than 6,600 claims for TSGLI have been filed by wounded or injured soldiers since the program began Dec. 1, 2005.
But only 2,700 Army claims, about 40 percent of the total, have been approved.
Many more wounded members from all services would be found eligible for TSGLI if servicemembers, family caregivers and especially medical staff were better informed on the kind of detailed documentation TSGLI requires, Sackett said.
To increase their knowledge, and boost the number of claims approved, the Army is assigning Soldier Family Support Specialists to 10 military treatment facilities critical in the treatment of trauma patients.
These specialists already are deployed and holding TSGLI training sessions at a number of military medical facilities, and more of these counselors are being trained to deploy soon.
Every member covered by Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance also pays an extra $1 a month for traumatic injury protection. TSGLI pays $25,000 increments, up to $100,000, to help severely injured members and families handle the extra expense and the strain of adjusting to life-altering injuries.
The Department of Veterans Affairs, which administers TSGLI, lists 44 types of losses that can qualify a member for payment. Conditions not difficult to document involve the loss of body parts or bodily functions, severe burns, or severe brain and spinal chord injuries.
A far bigger and more complex problem in preparing TSGLI claims, however, involves members who suffer severe wounds to limbs that are saved or have mild traumatic brain injury. The trauma can leave them dependent on others to perform “activities of daily living” for extended periods.
If unable to independently perform two or more of these activities for 30 days, the member will qualify for $25,000 in TSGLI. If debilitated in this way for 120 days would qualify for the maximum award of $100,000.
Of nearly 3,700 Army TSGLI claims rejected by the VA, about 90 percent involve claims of members’ lost ability to perform activities of daily living. Sackett said they are being rejected because caregivers aren’t documenting what VA needs to see to prove loss of ability to perform activities.
“The way to resolve this is to put boots on the ground, so to speak, to help the individuals get the necessary documentation they need at the military treatment facility,” Sackett said.
In recent months the VA has relaxed the degree of debilitation that needs to be documented. It used to require evidence that members were “completely dependent” on others for two or more activities of daily living for 30 to 120 days. Now caregivers need only show that members were unable to “independently perform” these activities for the required periods of time.
From this change alone, said Christian Harris, program managers for the Army TSGLI outreach program, claim approval rates are starting to rise.
“We [also] are working with VA to try to adjust program guidance to include a wider array of debilitating injuries,” Harris said.
Wounded servicemembers and their families also need to understand how early application for TSGLI can cut off their eligibility for Combat Injury Pay and thus lower a member’s total compensation over time, Sackett said.
A year ago Congress decided it was unfair that servicemembers wounded in a war saw hostile fire pay, imminent danger pay and hazardous duty pay end within a month of being evacuated.
So since March 23, 2006, medical evacuees have been able to draw Combat Injury Pay which replaces war zone pays that stop during hospitalization or rehabilitation. CIP can total $430 a month.
But wounded servicemembers should be aware that CIP ends when a member is awarded TSGLI. Those facing long periods of convalescence could be denying themselves almost $5,200 a year if they apply too early for TSGLI, Sackett said. TSGLI specialists will include this in their briefings.

Sphere: Related Content

Housing glut could help wounded

Housing glut could help war wounded
By Michelle Roberts - The Associated PressPosted : Friday Jan 4, 2008 12:44:58 EST

CIBOLO, Texas — The glut of unsold houses pocking the nation’s newer neighborhoods may be just what the doctor ordered for thousands of wounded service members facing homelessness and serious financial hardships since returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan, advocates say.
Operation Homefront, a nonprofit that aids the families of deployed and wounded service members, has launched what it says is a first-of-its-kind effort to match wounded soldiers with lenders and home builders to help them buy homes at prices they can afford in communities near Veterans Administration medical facilities.
“Especially with so much inventory, it seems like the perfect match,” said Meredith Leyva, co-founder of Operation Homefront.
The physical wounds suffered by the more than 30,000 service members injured in Iraq and Afghanistan are often followed by financial chaos as the families absorb extra travel and living expenses, forgo combat pay and transition to civilian life with a disability, Leyva said.
Her group, which helped 1,700 injured service members’ families pay utility bills or other living expenses last year, is seeing more families fall into bankruptcy and the threat of homelessness, she said.
A service member who is injured and decides to leave the military usually qualifies for disability payments. But oftentimes, it can take 18 months to get military, Veterans Administration and Social Security benefits determined, said Leyva.
Meanwhile, families — many of whom are young and had little savings — fall behind on bills at a time when travel expenses for medical treatment are climbing and they are least able to work, she said. Their credit is badly damaged, and they must move out of base housing when the service member is discharged from the military.
Veterans have access to VA loan guaranties. But the limits mean they don’t offer much help in many housing markets, and in any event, lenders still apply typical creditworthiness requirements to mortgages, Leyva said.
On average, it takes 6 months for VA to determine disability payments, and the lag can get longer if a veteran appeals to get a larger amount, said VA spokesman Jim Benson.
“That’s a tough amount of time to wait,” he acknowledged.
The agency has been working to decrease the wait, but the workload and paperwork requirements often bog down processing, he said.
The VA, which is primarily concerned with medical care and disability, doesn’t track bankruptcy among wounded veterans but has estimated that 195,000 veterans are homeless on any given night. As many as twice that number have been homeless within the last year, the agency said. Many of the homeless are Vietnam-era veterans.
“These systems are superbly designed to deal with medical issues,” Leyva said. “They are not designed to deal with the messy lives of these service people.”
To launch what it hopes will be a model for other wounded service members, Operation Homefront helped Spc. Austin Johnson and his wife buy a home in Cibolo, northeast of San Antonio. They moved in Thursday.
Johnson suffered a traumatic brain injury from a blast in Iraq last August. While he was being treated in San Antonio for stuttering, memory loss and other symptoms, his wife and three children were in a rollover accident while driving from El Paso.
On a windy desert stretch of interstate, their sport utility vehicle rolled over. All three children, ages 2, 5 and 9, were killed.
Physical and emotional wounds were then followed by financial ruin. Johnson and his wife, Monalisa, had to file bankruptcy, crushed by the extra expenses of travel and other unanticipated costs at a time when paying bills seemed unimportant.
“We’re trying to take it day by day,” Monalisa Johnson said Thursday.
The Johnsons’ case is an extreme example, but Leyva said financial woes and even bankruptcy are common.
For the Johnsons, Operation Homefront raised the down payment from donors, and USAA, an insurer and financial services company for service members and their families, helped secure a lender that would buy the Johnsons’ mortgage. Homebuilder KB Home donated furnishings.
But Amy Palmer, Operation Homefront’s executive vice president, said the group, which has a $13 million annual budget, is trying to convince builders with unsold homes to sell the houses at a substantial discount to wounded service members.
The group has approached major home builders and lenders, asking them to look at a wounded veteran’s pre-injury credit rating and consider selling at a substantial discount. The nonprofit will pay mortgage points and closing costs to help make the deals workable, Palmer said.
So far, they’ve been able to work out a few individual deals but hope to get a more widespread program launched.
Karen Mawyer, USAA’s executive director of secondary marketing, said the skittish credit market makes finding banks to offer mortgages to folks like the Johnsons especially difficult.
“We won’t be able to help all of them,” she said.
But looking at a wounded veteran’s pre-injury creditworthiness helps, and the historical performance of other veterans can help convince banks to lend to wounded veterans, Mawyer said.

Sphere: Related Content

Soldiers Opine on Wounded Warrior Program at Fort Bragg

Soldiers slam Wounded Warrior Program at Bragg
By Kevin Maurer - The Associated PressPosted : Monday Jan 7, 2008 7:58:02 EST

FORT BRAGG, N.C. — It took Jay Erwin two months to find the U.S. Army Wounded Warrior Program at Fort Bragg.
When he finally found the program’s representative — Clyde Foster — he was told that he might not be injured enough.
“I’m not sure if your injuries are significant enough to become a member,” Erwin said Foster told him without seeing his medical records.
Erwin was hit in September 2006 by a mortar that peppered his leg, neck and knee with shrapnel during a mission in Iraq.
“I have all my parts, but they just don’t work right,” Erwin said. He still can’t use some of his fingers.
Foster denies telling Erwin that he wasn’t injured enough.
“I would never tell a soldier he wasn’t injured enough,” Foster said. “[The program] is there for them. We alleviate the bureaucracy so that they can concentrate on their recovery.”
But three Fort Bragg paratroopers from the 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment tell a different story. The Army Wounded Warrior Program they experienced was difficult to get into and provided no support, they said.
Erwin, Matthew Bushong and Staff Sgt. Bryan McNees all were injured when a mortar landed near them while on a mission in September 2006. Bushong lost the use of his right hand because of nerve damage, and McNees’ right leg was shattered. Doctors rebuilt it at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He spent several months bedridden and in a wheelchair, but he now walks with a slight limp.
Erwin and Bushong are both medically retired.
Almost 2,400 injured soldiers — 34 at Fort Bragg — are enrolled in the Wounded Warrior Program. The program has existed since 2004, initially under the name Disabled Soldiers Support System. The Wounded Warrior Program was created to ensure that wounded soldiers and their families receive all the benefits and support they are entitled to.
It took a year for Erwin to get into the program.
“That whole year, I was just floating,” he said.
Foster said there is always room for improvement.
“Sometimes the process doesn’t work as fast as we’d like,” Foster said. “Nothing can happen fast enough for the soldiers and their families.”
Erwin, McNees and Bushong say drastic improvements are needed. They came forward because they worry about the more severely injured paratroopers who are too injured to fight for their benefits.
Foster said the paratroopers’ requests were delayed because it took time to determine the extent of their injuries and how they would respond to treatment. Wounded soldiers must meet a 30 percent disability threshold to get into the program. Thirty percent disability allows the soldiers to keep their medical insurance even after they are retired.
In order to get a 30 percent rating, a soldier usually suffers from a loss of vision or a limb, paralysis or other permanent injuries. The rating is based on the Physical Disability Evaluation System.
Foster, who served 26 years in the military, said he doesn’t determine who gets into the program. When a soldier comes in, Foster said he starts the intake process. Once the soldier is in the system, his file is sent to U.S. Army Human Resources Command in Alexandria, Va. Human Resources Command determines if the soldier is eligible.
The process can take anywhere from a few days to a few months to determine, Foster said. But Foster said he doesn’t wait.
“When I do an intake, I start providing a service at that time,” he said.
His caseload is about 35 soldiers. His four-person office — located on the fifth floor of Womack Army Medical Center — takes care of the 102 wounded soldiers statewide. Foster said he helps with veterans benefits and provides information about programs and job placement.
McNees said he got very little information after his first meeting. After several e-mails to Foster went unanswered over a three-month period, he sent an e-mail to the program’s office in Washington. The next day, McNees was in the program.
“If I hadn’t pestered him, it might not have happened at all,” McNees said. Everybody seemed to get into the program after McNees’ October e-mail. Bushong and Erwin were admitted soon after.
“Nobody was getting in, and now everybody is getting in,” Bushong said.
Foster said the program is trying to empower wounded soldiers but will be around for the long haul if the soldiers ever need assistance. Foster said the program contacts soldiers who are just out of the Army once a month.
After six months, they only contact them quarterly and after two years only semiannually.
All three paratroopers say they’ve never been contacted. Erwin left Fort Bragg this summer and lives in Kansas.
“As soon as I left the Army, I didn’t hear from them,” Erwin said. “It is kind of an ongoing mess.”
McNees is still at Fort Bragg and hasn’t heard from Foster or the Wounded Warrior Program.
“This is something that is supposed to provide care and resources,” McNees said. “I don’t have very good faith in receiving much help from them.”

Sphere: Related Content

Military Medical Retirements

On the mend
Army disability retirement system better
By Kelly Kennedy - kellykennedy@militarytimes.comPosted : January 14, 2008
When Lt. Col. Chip Pierce served as troop commander at Tripler Army Medical Center in Hawaii, he said he was “frustrated” by some of the issues he saw his injured soldiers face as they made their way through the bureaucracy of the Army’s military disability retirement system.
“At Tripler, we didn’t have the same volume [of soldiers] as Walter Reed [Army Medical Center], so we didn’t have the same level of problems,” he said. “But nearly every problem they had, we had a little of it.”
In some cases, he didn’t know where to turn to solve a problem, he said. And he “wasn’t satisfied” with the troops’ living quarters.
So when the Army offered Pierce the opportunity to lead its new Warrior Transition Unit, a brigade designed specifically to address the administrative needs of injured soldiers, “I couldn’t get here fast enough,” Pierce said.
That was last spring. Already, he said, he’s seen progress.
In February, Army Times reported that soldiers languished for months — even years — in the medical hold system, facing bureaucratic tangles as they worked their way toward the physical evaluation board to determine their disability rating for retirement pay.
The stories, as well as reports from the Pentagon Inspector’s General and Government Accountability Office and testimony of injured soldiers before Congress, brought about a series of investigations and planned changes. And the new Warrior Transition Unit meant officials could immediately put some of those changes into effect.
“Before, folks didn’t feel they had the power to make change,” Pierce said, referring to a stifling set of 50-year-old policies and procedures. “Now, everyone is an advocate for change. If something isn’t working, they can fix it.”
Since then, the Army has added staff, improved training for counselors and lawyers, and ensured every soldier has someone overseeing his or her progress through the system.
And Building 18 — Walter Reed’s dilapidated symbol of the breakdown in the system — no longer houses wounded soldiers.
“I’ve been fortunate to be able to see the frustrations and bring them up to this level,” Pierce said. “It’s been very satisfying to be in this position.”
Increase in medically retired
While the number of soldiers medically retired — meaning they received a disability rating of 30 percent or higher or had at least 18 years of service when they went through the disability process — declined from 2005 to 2006, it increased by several hundred in 2007, according to figures provide by Col. Carlton Buchanan, deputy commander of the Army’s Physical Disability Agency.
Moreover, Buchanan said, while 270 fewer soldiers were medically retired in 2006 than in 2005, the percentage of those completing the evaluation process who were medically retired went up over that time, and has continued to rise in 2007:
• In 2005, 13,048 soldiers went through the process and 2,232 were medically retired, about 17.1 percent.
• In 2006, 10,460 soldiers went through the process and 1,956 were medically retired, about 18.7 percent.
• And in 2007, 10,400 soldiers went through the process and 2,397 were medically retired — about 23 percent.
The 8,003 soldiers who weren’t medically retired in 2007 either were found fit and remained in the Army, were awarded a lump-sum severance payment based on rank and years of service, or were separated without benefits if their condition was found to be pre-existing and they hadn’t been in the military for at least seven years.
Pierce said about 8,900 soldiers remain in the Warrior Transition Unit waiting for their final disability evaluation board.
Tracking individuals
Things still aren’t perfect; Pierce said it’s hard to judge how soldiers feel about the improvements because they weren’t in the system a year ago. And there are still cases taking longer than they should to go through the process.
But now, rather than justifying a months-long quagmire, as had been done by other officials in the past, Pierce said his office tracks, by name, every soldier whose transition takes longer than 60 days. Prior to the 60-day mark, soldiers’ squad leaders in the Warrior Transition Units are responsible for making sure soldiers move through as quickly as possible.
The GAO reported in the fall that some transition units are only at half staffing, but Pierce said the necessary ratio of staff to injured soldiers is at the right levels. In some cases, he said, the GAO report called for staffing for 100 injured soldiers when there may have only been 25 soldiers in the unit.
The Marine Corps also stood up a Wounded Warriors regiment last spring to keep track of Marines and sailors going through the disability retirement system. Though the Navy and the Marine Corps have a better track record for getting service members through the process, there have been worries about the equity of their ratings system.
An Army Times investigation last spring found that enlisted Marines lag far behind enlisted sailors and airmen in the size of the average disability payments they are awarded.
Soldiers, Marines still lag
The 2006 data released by the Defense Department’s Office of the Actuary show Marines and soldiers continue to lag, even though they have higher injury rates and could be expected to have a greater proportion of serious injuries because of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan than do sailors or airmen. Their ranks and times in service were also comparable.
The average monthly disability payments for all enlisted members receiving disability pay from the military in 2006:
• Air Force: $963
• Navy: $845
• Army: $792
• Marine Corps: $774
Officers had similar discrepancies:
• Air Force: $2,668
• Navy: $2,392
• Marine Corps: $2,336
• Army: $2,067
According to the Office of the Actuary, the number of Marines medically retired in 2006 went up by about 200 compared with the previous year — far more than any other service. The Marine Corps did not comment on the figures by press time.
The Air Force and Navy also saw increases in permanent disability retirements from 2005 to 2006 of 125 airmen and 36 sailors.
Buchanan said part of the reason for the Army’s increase of more than 400 disability retirements in 2007 was that combat-related injuries rose to 18 percent from about 15 percent the year before.
Among soldiers going through the military disability evaluation process, more than half of those with combat-related injuries are retired, Buchanan said.
Another reason for the increase, he said, is “increased training of physicians and adjudicators, coupled with greater precision in describing injuries, such as scars, muscle and nerve injuries, as well as mental disorders.”
That gives medical boards better information to determine proper disability percentages, he said.

Sphere: Related Content