Saturday, March 22, 2008

Norco veteran to be honored on Cheerios Box

Norco veteran to be honored on Cheerios Box

The Press-Enterprise

Video: Norco resident to appear on Cheerios box

NORCO - Navy veteran Mohan Prasad Vallabhapurapu says life is about clearing obstacles, no matter how high or daunting.

As a kid growing up in India, Mohan -- as he prefers to be called -- cleared hurdles on the athletic field. Later, he became a tennis professional and instructor and worked as a linesman for Davis Cup and U.S. Open matches, watching masters like Bjorn Borg, Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe at work.

But his toughest hurdle came after completing a tour of duty as a combat medic in the first Iraq war. Mohan, 52, was working in the Navy's contracting office in Singapore when he slipped on a stairway and tumbled more than 20 feet, suffering head, spinal and neurological injuries that confined him to a wheelchair.

Norco's Mohan Vallabhapurapu, a paralyzed Navy veteran, will be one of 12 veterans featured on a Cheerios box.
For more than three years, he could barely move.

Depression accompanied the debilitating pain.

When he went as low as he could go, Mohan said, he remembered that as a young athlete, success on the field or court -- whether mastering the long jump or learning to serve in tennis -- always meant overcoming discomfort and pain.

He used the old lessons to forge a new path, enjoying success as a disabled athlete in the National Veterans Wheelchair Games, winning nine gold, three silver and five bronze medals in table tennis, billiards, bowling and motorized soccer.

This month, his picture and story appear on a specially produced box of Cheerios cereal as part of a promotion to encourage veterans to eat healthy and exercise.

He is one of 10 disabled U.S. veterans so honored by the first-ever promotion of its type.

Mohan will sign autographs today at the VA Loma Linda Healthcare System. He appeared Thursday at the Veterans Affairs hospital in Long Beach and will appear in May at the VA in St. Louis at a national conference highlighting exercise and healthy eating.

"When you are disabled, you hit the wall every moment," he said from his home in Norco. "Whatever you had in your other life, you have in your disabled life. I took the pain as part of another hurdle to overcome. You do one thing at a time. Nothing is easy. Nothing is done overnight."

It was slow progress at first. To get out of bed, to shave, to get dressed, all took time and Job-like patience.

Story continues below

But as he began reinventing himself as a wheelchair-bound athlete, Mohan said his overall health improved as the pain diminished.

He lost about 15 pounds. His stamina and muscle tone improved. His mental health improved, too. He found that athletics stimulated his brain. The improvement encouraged him to work even harder.

He takes on able-bodied opponents in table tennis, and wins his share of matches. He's ranked 923rd in the U.S.

Loma Linda VA hospital officials say Mohan is the kind of guy they like to talk up.

He's a poster child for eating healthy and exercising despite limitations, said Denice McGilvery, who heads the medical center's MOVE program. That stands for Managing Overweight Veterans Everywhere.

"He's an inspiration," McGilvery said. "Veterans are used to following a game plan when they are in the military. We want to encourage them to use the skills they learned in the military to get in shape."

Mohan said he's glad to lend his name to the Cheerios brand. He ate it before the company, part of General Mills, selected him from hundreds of wheelchair veterans.

Other hurdles remain to be conquered.

Mohan recently took up skiing at the Veterans Sports Clinic, conducted every year at Aspen, Colo. He calls the program "miracles on the mountainside."

"Life is about going through stresses and strains," he said. "Then you get the results."

Reach Joe Vargo at 951-368-9289 or at

Sphere: Related Content

Stiglitz: Iraq War costs us trillions

Stiglitz: Iraq War costs us trillions
By Carlos Lozada


Sunday, March 23, 2008

When congressional Democrats called a hearing last month to explore the costs of the Iraq war, their star witness was not some number-crunching Pentagon planner or a besieged budget official. It was Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel Prize-winning economist.

The hearing came just days before the publication of "The Three Trillion Dollar War," co-authored by Stiglitz and Harvard University lecturer Linda Bilmes. The book looks beyond the war's official expenses and strives to estimate the full range of Iraq-related costs that the nation will face for years to come.

The time is ripe for such an inquiry. The five-year anniversary of the invasion of Iraq finds the United States on the verge of recession, and the political debate is shifting toward whether the country should continue bankrolling such a war in the face of competing priorities.

Despite their sometimes technical prose, Stiglitz and Bilmes build a compelling case that the costs of the war far exceed the $500 billion or so officially spent on it thus far. Yet by making many assumptions about the future course of the conflict — from its duration (through at least 2017, they predict) to its impact on global oil prices ($5 to $10 extra per barrel, for seven to eight years) — the authors will leave many readers unconvinced. Will the war prove extraordinarily expensive? Absolutely. But will the price tag be $2 trillion? $3 trillion? $5 trillion? It's impossible to know.

Nevertheless, the authors address the economic realities of the conflict far more fully than did the administration before the March 2003 invasion. Then-deputy defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz told Congress that Iraqi oil revenue would fully finance any postwar reconstruction, and Bush economic adviser Larry Lindsey lost his job for having the temerity to suggest that the conflict could cost $200 billion — a fraction of the funds appropriated to date.

In the book's most impassioned passages, the authors analyze the cost of veterans' care. They explain that the ratio of injuries to deaths among troops in Iraq is greater than in any past U.S. war, a development they hail as a "tribute to advances in battlefield medicine." With so many more injured troops surviving, however, veterans' disabilities and medical treatment have become "two of the most significant long-term costs of the Iraq war."

The authors also consider macroeconomic effects, assessing the impact of higher federal deficits and skyrocketing oil prices (which have gone from $25 to more than $100 per barrel since the war began) and estimating the foregone boon to the economy if even a portion of the funds spent on Iraq had gone toward schools, research, infrastructure or health care in the United States.

Stiglitz and Bilmes' final tally reaches $2.2 trillion in their "best case" scenario and $5 trillion in their "realistic-moderate" scenario — and those figures don't even count the costs to Iraq, U.S. allies and the rest of the world. Choosing to err on the conservative side (and perhaps on the side of a catchier book title), the authors settle on $3 trillion.

In their original 2006 academic paper on this topic, Stiglitz and Bilmes estimated the war's price tag at $1 trillion to $2 trillion. Now they're at $3 trillion, and Stiglitz seems comfortable going higher; he recently told Bloomberg News that the true cost is "much more like $5 trillion."

A trillion here, a trillion there — pretty soon the line between "estimate" and "guess" gets a bit blurry. On occasion, Stiglitz and Bilmes appear to overreach. They often count the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan together, and they find ways to link all manner of bad things to the U.S. invasion. For example, because solutions to global problems such as AIDS, climate change and poverty require U.S. leadership, and because the Iraq war has diminished Washington's moral standing in the world, the war is worsening AIDS, climate change and world poverty. Really?

To no one's surprise, the White House already has dismissed the book's conclusions. "People like Joe Stiglitz lack the courage to consider the cost of doing nothing and the cost of failure," White House spokesman Tony Fratto recently told reporters. "What price does Joe Stiglitz put on attacks on the homeland that have already been prevented? Or doesn't his slide rule work that way?"

Stiglitz and Bilmes should be commended — not disparaged — for their painstaking work. But war critics should weigh the numbers carefully.

The book's strongest lesson is the sheer range of costs that the authors ably identify. "In one way or another, we will be paying for these costs, today, next year, and over the coming decades — in higher taxes, in public and private investments that will have to be curtailed, in social programs that will have to be cut back," they write. "One cannot fight a war, especially a war as long and as costly as this war, without paying the price."
Stiglitz: Iraq War costs us trillions

Sphere: Related Content

No More War

Eddie Vedder signing "No More War"

Sphere: Related Content

Friday, March 21, 2008

Overdose raises questions at Walter Reed

Overdose raises questions at Walter Reed

By Kelly Kennedy - Staff writer
Posted : Friday Mar 21, 2008 17:12:46 EDT

The night before he was to enter a drug and alcohol rehabilitation program, Army Pfc. Chris Eckert swallowed a pill prescribed to help him sleep without the nightmares that have tormented him since he left Iraq.

Then, sitting in his barracks at Walter Reed Army Medical Center on Jan. 17, he counted out seven methadone tablets and popped them into his mouth.

The next morning, his squad leader found him on the floor in a puddle of his own vomit, but still alive.

“They told me, ‘Your son is not going to make it,’ ” said Eckert’s mother, Rose Szymborski. “He was on life support for five days.”

Since June 2007, 11 troops have died in the Army’s Wounded Warrior units, according to Lt. Gen. Eric Schoomaker, the Army’s Surgeon General.

Eckert’s mother blames the Army for not looking out for him, while Army officials say Eckert needed to do more to help himself. But both sides agree his case is an example of the difficulties of treating troops working through substance-abuse issues linked to post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injuries.

“I felt like my hands were kind of tied,” said Capt. Scott Beam, Eckert’s case manager. “In my heart ... I knew I had done all I could have.”

Szymborski said she tried to alert Eckert’s chain of command at the hospital that her son was dealing with symptoms of PTSD. He suffered nightmares, couldn’t handle loud noises and was angry. He told friends he was suicidal. He was abusing pain medications and alcohol.

Eckert was serving in Iraq in early 2007 when an IED blast killed his platoon sergeant and left him with a mild traumatic brain injury.

“He was getting worse by the week,” his mother said.

Yet when he went to talk with a mental health worker, he came across as fine. Beam said Eckert was in denial about his problems and refused treatment.

“I felt kind of helpless,” Beam said.

Col. Terrance McKenrick, Wounded Warrior Brigade commander, said untruthfulness about high-risk behavior is common in such situations. He said the challenge for health care providers in treating soldiers with mental health disorders is figuring out their real symptoms and whether they are, in fact, abusing substances.

“It’s something we struggle with every day,” he said.

Eckert’s primary care doctor, Capt. Ingrid Pakowski, said she sends all her soldiers to mental health and tells them to consider it part of their routine medical care. She said Eckert often missed appointments, and fooled even his psychiatrist.

“He was hiding his symptoms ... he didn’t have a PTSD diagnosis for a while,” she said, adding that PTSD and TBI “will make a substance abuse disorder that much more difficult.”

Things became further tangled when Eckert’s doctors asked Szymborski to support them in an intervention — to confront the soldier with the fact that she had seen him abuse medications over Christmas break. She refused, fearing her son would no longer speak to her. That, in fact, is what happened when Eckert’s doctors told him his mother was worried about him.

Without her help, and unable to prove Eckert was a threat to himself or others, doctors could not hold him against his will or force treatment.

“I spoke with Rose about all of these concerns,” Beam said. “We can’t admit him against his will.”

Because of his failed alcohol breathalyzer tests and counseling sessions about substance abuse, they did persuade Eckert to go to 28 days of rehabilitation, as well as PTSD counseling. His mother worried that he would go on a final binge before rehab, and she called his chain of command.

“I begged them to help him, to search his room, to sit with him,” she said.

But, McKenrick said, “he was not at the point where we felt he needed to be an inpatient.”

But Szymborski said the staff “did not act aggressively enough with the information I had given them. They chose to take his word.”

If they had searched her son’s room, she said, “they would have found the methadone, and he would have been in trouble instead of almost dead.”

McKenrick said Eckert was, in fact, heavily monitored, having been designated “high risk.” His squad leader called twice daily to check on him, and he had been assigned a roommate. His squad leader said they even took the precaution of not notifying Eckert that he would be leaving for rehabilitation the next day.

But somehow, he found out. He bought the seven methadone pills from another soldier — who is being prosecuted for possessing hundreds of the pills — and swallowed them.

Army officials acknowledge that such overdoses are a problem. Schoomaker has talked of having a team of experts look into the issue, assigning one provider per person to prescribe drugs, tightening supervision of those deemed at risk, and establishing alcohol-free zones.

All those proposals have been implemented at Walter Reed, McKenrick said. Soldiers used to be allowed a six-pack of beer or a bottle of wine in the barracks, but no longer.

“It was just too much of a temptation for those who can’t drink with their medications,” McKenrick said. Alcohol also has been banned from Mologne House, where family members stay while visiting sick or injured troops at Walter Reed.

And when a manpower team came through Walter Reed in mid-March, McKenrick talked with them about boosting the ratio of staff to injured troops at facilities with the most seriously wounded people, such as Walter Reed and Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas.

Though Eckert lived through his overdose, all of his problems have not been resolved. He completed 28 days of rehab and did “really well,” Szymborski said.

She took him home to Albany, N.Y., in early March, after being told a Department of Veterans Affairs psychiatrist would see him. But his psych appointment is not until April 21, and he has had no follow-up since leaving rehab, Szymborski said.

She said her son’s case manager, Capt. Brian McMillion, kept reminding her that her son had access to emergency VA psychiatric care if needed.

“But it isn’t the same,” she said. “You’re not magically cured after 28 days of rehab, and you should not be going it alone for weeks with no professional support.”

She worries about the soldiers who remain at Walter Reed.

“Many soldiers I have met ... are addicted,” she said. “I don’t want anyone else to go through this. The things that happened with us could have easily been prevented.”

The staff at Walter Reed seems to agree, but also said much progress has been made in the year since the Wounded Warrior Brigade was stood up.

Still, McKenrick acknowledged, the job is far from finished.

“We are halfway there,” he said. “It continues to be a challenge.”

He is still alive but I doubt if the suicidal thoughts are gone, I have tried suicide 3 times due to my PTSD symptoms over the years, 1978, 2000 and 2002, I still have thoughts about it, but I have more to live for than reasons to die. I hope he gets the same help I have.

Sphere: Related Content

My Turn: Story of a returned soldier

The true story of a PTSD veteran

Published: Friday, March 21, 2008
By Benjamin Hiscock

I know that my story is the same as many of my fellow soldiers who left to serve our country return only to be lost. I will speak of myself for everyone’s story over there is different and yet many have the same result.

I served twice in Iraq. When I came home I felt no different yet everything that I loved before no longer interested me. I found myself irritated by the smallest incidents. I refused to accept that I was different, and still do to myself most days. The war hadn’t changed me, and no one could tell me it had. I was still the same loving, gentle person in my mind. At least, that is how I perceived myself. Others around me would definitely paint a different story if you were to ask them.

There is a strong dislike in the military for feelings for they will not get the job done and get in the way. This strongly accounts for why I was denying the symptoms to myself, a non-commissioned officer. I couldn’t accept that I was damaged emotionally. That would be a sure sign of weakness in an institution where strengths are highlighted and sought after. I was not going to accept it.

Quickly, life changed for me as I got out of the military and tried to fit into society. I began drinking more after my first deployment and it only intensified after the second. I found that people liked me better when I was drunk. So, it seemed natural to keep drinking because it made me a more likable person and feel normal. This is the problem with such behavior, it only ends in disaster.

I have lost my marriage, my license, and my pride. I found myself now seeking the help that I once denied needing, the help that I so desperately needed to keep from sleeping with a loaded handgun under my pillow for a year. I have found solace in joining the National Guard, to be around others like me, some more scarred and some less.

For awhile we were banding together on our own personal time after work or such to talk and try and make ourselves feel better, but that was not a long affair. The drinking kept getting worse, only now the scared military man was still there when I drank — he just wouldn’t go away.

All my problems came crashing down early this November when I received my second DUI. Everything began making sense. Was I trying to die? Or maybe I felt invincible, or just lost all regard for living. That I am still not sure of. I am sure that things had to change not for me but for the two children I have who live with their mother. I might be lost, but those two boys need their dad and I couldn’t let them down any more.

I find myself now visiting the Veterans Administration for counseling and seeking solutions to get back that lost part of myself which loved life. I have found that I am having to bring myself back to the norms of our society. In Iraq, reality changed my thought processes. All, I want now is to find myself, pick up that lost part and integrate back to who I was.

So next time you see one of my brothers or sisters, please remember we have given much and lost more then most could imagine. And I would do it again for our nation. 

Army Sgt. Benjamin Hiscock lives in Barton.


His story is one of thens of thousands just like it, how do I know, I to am this story, and the VA hospital has hundreds of thousands more, the sad part is the hundreds of thousands that haven't admitted it yet, and still don't see they have a problem. As they say "Welcome Home soldier"

Sphere: Related Content

The Full Story: Veterans And Suicide: FYI: Warning Signs And Where Those At Risk Can Get Help

Veterans Families Speak Out
"Only On The Web": Chief investigative correspondent Armen Keteyian speaks to the families of five soldiers who, allegedly suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, took their own lives. | Share/Embed

Veterans Families Speak Out (6:24)
Struggle Of Soldier Suicides (4:00)
Eye To Eye: Veteran Health (3:38)» More Videos

Military 101

Basic training to learn all about America's fighting force.

Suicide Epidemic Among Veterans
Veteran Suicides: How We Got The Numbers

(CBS) Back in November, CBS News broke the story of the staggering number of veterans who commit suicide. The report was the result of a five-month investigation into veteran suicides.

The results were startling: according to data from 45 states, 6,256 men and women who had served in the armed forces took their own lives in 2005 - that's 120 suicides every week. Chief Investigative Correspondent Armen Keteyian and his investigative team found that veterans were more than twice as likely to commit suicide that year than non-veterans.

Read the original investigation: Suicide Epidemic Among Veterans
Follow up: VA Struggles With Vets' Mental Health.
How we got the numbers behind the story.
VA Doctor on Veteran Suicides.
Congress Looks at Veteran Suicides.
Read our viewers' feedback after the investigation.

During the course of the investigation, the investigative team compiled a list of resources for how to find help and recognize the warning signs of mental health issues that could also be warning signs for suicide.

How to Spot Warning Signs
The Department of Veterans Affairs provides the following warning signs.

Talking about wanting to hurt or kill oneself

Trying to get pills, guns, or other ways to harm oneself

Talking or writing about death, dying, or suicide


Rage, uncontrolled anger, seeking revenge

Acting in a reckless or risky way

Feeling trapped, like there's no way out

Saying or feeling there's no reason for living

For more on mental health services at the Dept of Veterans Affairs, click here or call the VA's suicide hotline at 800.273.TALK (8255).

Suicide Signs Unique to Vets
Experts on suicide prevention say for veterans there are some particular signs to watch for.

Calling old friends, particularly military friends, to say goodbye

Cleaning a weapon that they may have as a souvenir

Visits to graveyards

Obsessed with news coverage of the war, the military channel

Wearing their uniform or part of their uniform, boots, etc

Talking about how honorable it is to be a soldier

Sleeping more (sometimes the decision to commit suicide brings a sense of peace of mind, and they sleep more to withdraw)

Becoming overprotective of children

Standing guard of the house, perhaps while everyone is asleep staying up to "watch over" the house, obsessively locking doors, windows

If they are on medication, stopping medication and/or hording medication

Hording alcohol -- not necessarily hard alcohol, could be wine

Spending spree, buying gifts for family members and friends "to remember by"

Defensive speech "you wouldn't understand," etc.

Stop making eye contact or speaking with others

For a wallet-size card titled "What to do you if you think someone is having suicidal thoughts," click here.

Where to Get Help
Hotline for Veterans
Veterans who need help immediate counseling should call the hotline run by Veterans Affairs professionals at 1-800-273-TALK and press 1 identifying themselves as military veterans. Staff members are specially trained to take calls from military veterans and its staffed 24 hours a day, everyday. While all operators are trained to help veterans, some are also former military.

Clinical Care
To find the closest Dept of Veterans Affairs facility to you that has mental health professionals, go to this Web site and type in your zip code.

Veterans Affairs Health Benefits

Read more about what benefits are available to veterans.

To find out more about what kind of services returning service members qualify for, check out this summary at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

What is Posttraumatic Stress Disorder?
According to the National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, "PTSD is an anxiety disorder that can occur after you have been through a traumatic event. A traumatic event is something horrible and scary that you see or that happens to you. During this type of event, you think that your life or others' lives are in danger. You may feel afraid or feel that you have no control over what is happening."

Those who have experienced a life-threatening event can develop PTSD. These can include:

Combat or military exposure

Child sexual or physical abuse

Terrorist attacks

Sexual or physical assault

Serious accidents, such as a car wreck.

Natural disasters, such as a fire, tornado, hurricane, flood, or earthquake.

For those who have PTSD, there are generally four types of symptoms:

Reliving the event

Avoiding situations that remind you of the event

Feeling numb

Feeling keyed up -- on alert and on the lookout for danger

The National Center for PTSD offers this information in a tipsheet, and notes: "after the event, you may feel scared, confused, and angry. If these feelings don't go away or they get worse, you may have PTSD. These symptoms may disrupt your life, making it hard to continue with your daily activities."

Related Links
Air Force Suicide Prevention Program

Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine

Navy Environmental Health Center's Suicide Prevention site

Marine Corps Suicide Prevention Program

National Center for PTSD

Suicide Prevention Action Network USA
Phone: 202.449.3600
Fax: 202.449.3601

Nonprofit group Give An Hour

SAMHSA's National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
TTY: 800.799.4889

Recent Legislation to Prevent Veteran Suicide
On November 6, 2007, President Bush signed into law the Joshua Omvig Veterans Suicide Prevention Act. It's named after a soldier who committed suicide in Grundy County, Iowa, in December 2005, after serving an 11-month tour in Iraq. The bill requires the Department of Veteran's Affairs to meet deadlines in providing the following services:

Train VA staff on suicide prevention and mental health care

Staff each VA medical facility with a suicide prevention counselor

Screen soldiers who seek care through the VA for mental health needs

Support outreach and education for veterans and their families

Research the most effective strategies for suicide prevention

Create a peer support counseling program so veterans can help other veterans

However, while the bill requires the VA to provide these services, it provides no new funding.


By Laura Strickler with reporting from Sarah Fitzpatrick in Washington.Links to the story and to links in the article please go to their site and see what is available

Sphere: Related Content

Suicides Seen Among Vets Treated By VA

Katie Couric on Suicides of veterans

There's new information about the risk of suicide for those who have served in the military. Last November, CBS News broke the story of the overwhelming number of veteran suicides nationwide. Now, Chief Investigative Correspondent Armen Keteyian has discovered veterans who get help from the VA are also at risk.

"When you go through war, you're going to change permanently and totally for the rest of your life," said veteran Harold Pendergrass.

Pendergrass knows firsthand the hidden wounds of war. He served two tours in Vietnam.

"I carried a suicide note in my pocket for years," he said.

At 57, the former Army soldier has tried to take his own life three times, constantly wrestling with thoughts of killing himself.

"I sat around numerous times with a .44 in my mouth," he said. "But for some reason, I just couldn't pull the trigger. I don't know why."

Now, CBS News has obtained never-before seen patient data from the Department of Veterans Affairs, detailing the growing number of suicide attempts among vets recently treated by the VA.

The data reveals a marked overall increase - from 462 attempts in 2000 to 790 in 2007.

"This is highly statistically significant," said Dr. Bruce Levin, head of the biostatistics department at Columbia University. Levin is one of three experts who analyzed the data for CBS News.

"I'd characterize it as something that deserves further attention," Levin said. "Overall the data suggests about a 44 percent increase and that is not due to chance."

According to the experts, two age groups stood out between 2000 and 2007. First, ages 20-24 - those likely to have served during the Iraq-Afghan wars. Suicide attempts rose from 11 to 47.

And for vets ages 55 to 59, suicide attempts jumped from 19 to 117.

In both age groups, the attempted suicides grew at a rate much faster than the VA patient population as a whole.

In addition, this VA study, also obtained exclusively by CBS News, reveals the increasing number of veterans who recently received VA services ... and still succeeded in committing suicide: rising from 1,403 suicides in 2001 to 1,784 in 2005 - figures the VA has never made public.

Rep. Bob Filner is chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs. He's been critical of the VA's unwillingness to provide a full accounting of veteran suicides.

"These are incredible figures," he said.

"Does it surprise you that a study like that even exists?" Keteyian asked.

"Well, given the fact that we keep asking for data and they say, 'we don't have any,' yes, it surprises me," Filner said.

It angers Filner. "If we can't get the correct information, we can't do our job. We can't prevent every suicide but you can prevent a whole lot of them and it's our duty as a nation to do that."

The VA declined to speak on-camera about this story, but in an e-mail, said it "takes the issue of veteran suicide very seriously" and "has been doing a thorough data investigation to document the number of patient suicide attempts…"

It insists the patient suicides are "...consistent with national trends," despite recent studies that show veteran suicide rates are substantially higher than those of non-veterans.

But Harold Pendergrass worries the VA remains ill-prepared to handle the next generation of veterans who will be fighting the horrors of war … for decades to come.

"If what the VA is doing is not working then they need to change tactics," Pendergrass said. "They need to listen to these guys and listen not only with their ears but also with their hearts."

watch the video here

Sphere: Related Content

Building better VA service, New clinic symbolizes renewed focus on care, VA officials say

Building better VA service
New clinic symbolizes renewed focus on care, VA officials say
The nation's new VA Secretary acknowledged medical care problems, but said the agency is improving and praised Charlotte's new veterans clinic during a visit Thursday.

The University area outpatient clinic includes a lab, pharmacy and radiology services and is intended to better coordinate medical and mental health care. The brick building, brightly lit with skylights, can handle more than 19,000 patients a year. That's about four times the capacity of the cramped, nearby clinic it will replace. The clinic is due to open this summer, serving one of the fastest growing veterans' populations.

"It says we're looking in the right direction," said James Peake, the former Army Surgeon General sworn in as VA Secretary three months ago. "If we need to, we're prepared to expand this clinic."

The clinic was built to accommodate a second floor, and potential expansion was a frequent topic among those touring, including U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, an N.C. Republican, and top staff from the Salisbury VA hospital.

Peake's predecessor resigned abruptly last summer as the agency strained to handle surging demand for care. Especially at issue was mental health treatment for recent veterans and medical care problems, including Observer reports of patient deaths at the VA hospitals in Salisbury and Asheville.

"We recognize we've had some issues," Peake said during the get-acquainted visit. "We're very aggressively sorting through them."

As an example, Peake cited emphasis on the "24/14" goal of giving veterans with mental health needs an initial screening within 24 hours and a full evaluation within 14 days.

Critics have said the agency is overwhelmed by the needs of soldiers returning from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Peake and Burr, the ranking member of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, acknowledged the agency faces challenges caring for 5.8 million veterans. Patients range from the elderly to young men and women returning from today's wars. The rising cost of health care and improved VA care also has attracted more patients to the nation's largest healthcare system.

Both Peake and Burr said the VA is up to the task. They pointed to new clinics such as the one in Charlotte as evidence the agency is adding care and bringing it closer to veterans.

This year, the agency expects to open 64 new clinics. Next year's goal is 51, Peake said. He added that next year's budget calls for a 21 percent increase in spending to serve an anticipated 14 percent rise in the number of veterans from current wars.

"We're confident we're ahead of that curve," said Peake, who has been touring facilities since becoming head of the second largest Cabinet department.

He called the new clinic a "delight for me," saying he could visualize patients in the spacious waiting rooms. He complimented the range of treatment areas and noted there's "enough light to see people."

One of Peake's top charges has been to streamline care, a difficult task in a bureaucracy that employs more than 250,000 people. However, he sounded a positive note, saying the goal is to "get them taken care of and do the paperwork later."

Last year, the Observer obtained internal records that showed VA patients were waiting longer for appointments than policy dictated, and that some veterans with critical needs had the longest waits.

Peake said systemwide waiting times have been reduced.

Dr. Jeffrey Kuch, the interim chief of staff at the Salisbury VA hospital, said there is "opportunity for improvement" on access to care. He said hospital management reviews waiting lists at least weekly, sometimes daily, and has changed scheduling to improve efficiency. For example, he said, VA staff now call patients to confirm appointments. If someone can't come, they contact a waiting patient to offer the time slot.

Kuch worked 23 years at a Florida VA hospital before joining Salisbury three weeks ago. He applauded steps to coordinate mental health and medical care. That includes screening for potential suicide, a top concern for the newest veterans.

"The VA is clearly trying to understand its customers a little better," Burr said.

Care at the clinic

The new Charlotte clinic's service area includes Mecklenburg, Gaston, Cabarrus, Union and Lincoln counties. Veterans who live nearby and are currently enrolled at the Salisbury VA hospital get priority at the new clinic. Other veterans who wish to receive care in Charlotte must register. For information, call the eligibility section at 704-638-3344, ext. 3470.
VA Secretary claims "we are ahead of the curve"


As a veteran with PTSD and having watched the VA mental health care system become overhwlmed in the past 5 years, I have to laugh when I read the words "we are ahead of the curve" excuse me, I went from having monthly appointments in 2003 to very 2 months in 2004 to every 3 months in 2005 to an attempt to every 6 months in 2006, that turned into a disaster and my wife finally got the shrinks to see it was causing me more harm, so we are now back to every 3 months, mostly to adjust meds, nothing more. I remember in 2005 the VA hospital being used mainly to treat active duty troops so they could get them regulated on anti-depressants and mood regulators so they could give them a years worth of meds and redeploy them back to Iraq with a rucksack full of meds, since there are not enough in theater shrinks to prescribe meds, somehow I don't feel doped up soldiers on meds with weapons and other explosive materials are a good mixture, maybe it's just me, but besides putting the mentally ill soldiers at risk, they are endangering all the soldiers in the unit around them, albeit a platoon, squad or company.

Sphere: Related Content

Thursday, March 20, 2008

How the Military Has Repaid Iraq Vets With Permanent Disabilities

Bob Woodruff reports on ABC

Cpl. Jeff Landay suffered a severe brain injury when his humvee was hit by a roadside bomb in May of 2006 and had to have part of his skull removed to relieve the perssure on his brain. (Courtesy Landay Family) By BOB WOODRUFF
Mar. 20, 2008
Font Size

Share A year ago, while filming the documentary "To Iraq and Back", I had the opportunity to meet so many injured veterans and get to know their families. Today, it is heartening to see they are all still recovering and making strides both large and small.

CLICK HERE to submit a question to a vet. Watch "World News with Charles Gibson" tonight at 6:30 p.m. ET for the full report.

Related Stories
VA Tech Engineers Share Technology With U.S. MilitaryWoodruff's Book Excerpt: 'In an Instant'Attacked in Iraq -- Woodruff Recalls Day's HorrorHow You Can Help: Fund for Injured VetsElizabeth Vargas on What Happened to Her ColleaguesReflections from the Woodruff Team in BaghdadRoadside Bombs: The Greatest Danger in IraqBob Woodruff'Sweetie, Where Have You Been?' Reporting From a War ZoneBrain Injuries Overlooked at Some VA HospitalsSurviving Brain Injury: A Veteran's StoryTop World News with Charles Gibson stories
Obama Speech Applauded -- By GOP FoesThe Note: Clinton Looks for OptionsA Car of the Future: Batteries Included
Despite their progress, challenges remain for all these families. As they continue to face the everyday challenges of living with a brain injury, some of these veterans are also locked in a struggle with the military to get the disability payments they believe they deserve.

'I Feel Way Lucky'
I first met Army Sgt. Will Glass and his wife, Amelia, at the Bethesda Naval Hospital a year and a half ago.
After being injured in Taji, Iraq, Glass, a native of northern California, lay in a coma for two weeks and had part of his skull removed. His hands were crushed and his left eye was gone.

Glass is just one of tens of thousands of American G.I.'s who have come home from Iraq and Afghanistan with traumatic brain injuries (TBI). This week marks the fifth year that U.S. military forces have been in Iraq, and doctors estimate that as many as 10-15 percent of returning troops will have TBI from their exposure to blasts. But today in northern California, there is some normalcy returning to Glass's life. He has a new glass eye that moves almost like his right eye. Although one of his fingers was lost, his grip is improving and he is even taking auto repair courses.

His confidence is up and he says people "don't stare anymore. It's just like I'm a normal person to them."

The military has not yet determined Glass' disability or his future payments.

Glass recently received military photographs from the bloody scene of the roadside attack that injured him. "I feel way lucky," Glass said, looking at the photograph.

"Some people would look at that and can't imagine that you would consider yourself lucky," Woodruff said.

"Yeah, but I am happy to be alive," Glass said.

Glass now can perform daily tasks such as e dressing himself and feeding himself, giving his wife, she says, "a chance to get my life back."

When Woodruff asked what advice they would give other couples, the Glasses agreed.

How the Military Has Repaid Iraq Vets With Permanent Disabilities


please read the entire article and if you miss the news tonight please visit ABC web site and view the video when it's posted people need to know what the VA and DOD are doing to these veterans and their families, they would be appalled....

Sphere: Related Content

White House censors local VA hospital study

Last updated: March 20, 2008 8:59 a.m. White House censors local VA hospital studyBy Sylvia A. SmithWashington editorAdvertisement
WASHINGTON – The Bush administration will not release details of a $530,000 report that recommends whether services at the Fort Wayne Veterans Affairs hospital should be expanded, drastically reduced or transferred to other hospitals.

Three-fourths of the 78-page report received by The Journal Gazette on Wednesday under a federal anti-secrecy law was withheld by VA officials. Of the 21 pages that were released, most had thick black lines through sentences or whole paragraphs.

The hospital on Lake Avenue is the medical center for 44,000 of the region’s 160,000 veterans. Since a 2004 commission recommended closing the hospital’s inpatient services, veterans have wrangled to get the decision reversed, and Rep. Mark Souder, R-3rd, joined their campaign.

Souder, who received the same partial report, criticized the secrecy but said it probably will benefit the region’s veterans if the document’s conclusions are kept under wraps.

He said he suspects that the report advised the VA to close the Fort Wayne hospital. Souder said the VA and the Bush administration can more easily shift positions if they don’t have to explain why they rejected the recommendations of a costly report.

“It’s extremely bad policy,” Souder said of the secrecy. “But my job is to keep the hospital open, … and if I have reasonable expectation to believe a report has illogical, bad conclusions in it, I’m glad when they eat their words.”

The 2004 national commission recommended only outpatient care be offered in Fort Wayne and that area veterans go to Indianapolis for inpatient services. It said closing Fort Wayne’s inpatient services would save $2.1 million a year.

After protests from northeast Indiana veterans and Souder inserted a provision in legislation requiring another study, the VA hired a consulting firm to reanalyze the Lake Avenue medical center.

The consultants, Booz Allen Hamilton, submitted the report in September, but the VA refused to make it public. Last month, The Journal Gazette filed a request for it under the Freedom of Information Act.

The heavily edited report was provided to the newspaper Wednesday.

Even the table of contents was blacked out except for the words “executive summary, introduction, study methodology and overview” and their page numbers.

The omitted material referred to anything involved in a decision-making process, including opinions, findings and conclusions.

The VA’s Freedom of Information Act officer said no one outside the agency will ever see a full copy of the report unless a congressional committee with oversight of the VA demands it as part of an investigation.

The parts of the report that were given to The Journal Gazette and Souder include facts such as how many veterans live in the hospital’s service area, the projections for the number of veterans and demands on the hospital over the next several years, and how much the health service cost in 2005.

The Booz Allen Hamilton report notes that the Fort Wayne hospital needed 28 medical/surgical beds in 2005 to provide care to area veterans but that it would need 31 in 2015. The hospital has 26 beds.

The consultants calculated that by 2025, the hospital would need 29 beds because the population of veterans in northeast Indiana will drop.

Souder said the report does not take into account the large number of National Guard members in northeast Indiana and the likelihood that Congress will extend military health benefits to them – thereby creating even more need for a VA medical facility.

The report says that the veterans and hospital staff argued that the projected demand for services in the Fort Wayne hospital was artificially low.

They said the services provided at the hospital had been cut back because of the 2004 recommendation to close inpatient care, which made it “difficult to hire and retain staff, resulting in increased referral to the Indianapolis VA hospital.”

Booz Allen Hamilton’s assessment of that analysis was omitted from the report that was provided to The Journal Gazette.

The report also blacked out the end of the consultant’s observation that the Fort Wayne hospital is “approximately 60 years old and while its critical utilities and technical infrastructure are in better condition than its age might suggest, a site visit revealed” followed by six lines that were inked out.

In the meantime, last month the VA ordered a new study to focus on the outpatient care the hospital provides.
Bush administration orders gag on VA hsopital report

Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Bush: We Can't Jeopardize Gains in Iraq

AP foreign, Wednesday March 19 2008 By JENNIFER LOVEN

Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) - Five years after launching the invasion of Iraq, President Bush strongly signaled Wednesday that he won't order troop withdrawals beyond those already planned because he refuses to ``jeopardize the hard-fought gains'' of the past year.

As anti-war activists demonstrated around downtown Washington, the president spoke at the Pentagon to mark the anniversary of a war that has cost nearly 4,000 U.S. lives and roughly $500 billion. The president's address was part of a series of events the White House planned around the anniversary and next month's report from the top U.S. figures in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker. That report will be the basis for Bush's first troop-level decision in seven months.

``The battle in Iraq has been longer and harder and more costly than we anticipated,'' Bush said.

But, he added, before an audience of Pentagon brass, soldiers and diplomats: ``The battle in Iraq is noble, it is necessary, and it is just. And with your courage, the battle in Iraq will end in victory.''

Democrats took issue with Bush's stay-the-course suggestion.

``With the war in Iraq entering its sixth year, Americans are rightly concerned about how much longer our nation must continue to sacrifice our security for the sake of an Iraqi government that is unwilling or unable to secure its own future,'' House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. ``Democrats will continue to push for an end to the war in Iraq and increased oversight of that war.''

Bush repeatedly and directly linked the Iraq fight to the global battle against the al Qaida terror network. And he made some of his most expansive claims of success. He said the increase of 30,000 troops that he ordered to Iraq last year has turned ``the situation in Iraq around.'' He also said that ``Iraq has become the place where Arabs joined with Americans to drive al Qaida out.''

``The surge ... has opened the door to a major strategic victory in the broader war on terror,'' the president said. ``We are witnessing the first large-scale Arab uprising against Osama bin Laden, his grim ideology, and his terror network. And the significance of this development cannot be overstated.''

Bush appeared to be referring to recent cooperation by local Iraqis with the U.n whether - the group is connected to the international al-Qaida network. As for bin Laden, he is rarely heard from and is believed to be hiding in Pakistan.

The U.S. has about 158,000 troops in Iraq. That number is expected to drop to 140,000 by summer in drawdowns meant to erase all but about 8,000 troops from last year's increase.

Bush, who has successfully defied efforts by the Democratic-led Congress to force larger and faster withdrawals, said they could unravel recent progress. ``Having come so far and achieved so much, we are not going to let this happen,'' he said.

He criticized those who ``still call for retreat'' in the face of what he called undeniable successes.

``The challenge in the period ahead is to consolidate the gains we have made and seal the extremists' defeat,'' he said. ``We have learned through hard experience what happens when we pull our forces back too fast - the terrorists and extremists step in, fill the vacuum, establish safe havens and use them to spread chaos and carnage.''

This sort of cautionary rhetoric is consistent with all the president's recent statements about Iraq.

It has been widely believed for weeks that Bush will endorse an expected recommendation from Petraeus next month for no additional troop reductions, beyond those already scheduled, until at least September. This so-called pause in drawdowns would be designed to assess the impact of this round before allowing more.

The surge was meant to tamp down sectarian violence in Iraq so that the country's leaders would have time to advance legislation considered key to reconciliation between rival Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish communities. But the gains on the battlefield have not been matched by dramatic political progress, and violence again may be increasing.

With just 10 months before he hands off the war to a new president, Bush is concerned about his legacy on Iraq.

Both Democratic candidates have said they would begin withdrawing forces quickly if elected. Only expected GOP nominee John McCain has indicated he planned to continue Bush's strategy of bringing troops home only as conditions warrant.

Vice President Dick Cheney, who just completed a two-day visit to Iraq, said the administration won't ``be blown off course'' by continued strong opposition to the war in the United States.

Cheney compared the administration's task now to Abraham Lincoln's during the Civil War. ``He never would have succeeded if he hadn't had a clear objective, a vision for where he wanted to go, and he was willing to withstand the slings and arrows of the political wars in order to get there,'' Cheney said of Lincoln in an interview broadcast Wednesday on ABC's ``Good Morning America.''

As of Tuesday, at least 3,990 members of the U.S. military have died in the war, which has cost the U.S. roughly $500 billion. Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph E. Stiglizt and Harvard University public finance expert Linda Bilmes have estimated the eventual cost at $3 trillion when all the expenses, including long-term care for veterans, are calculated.

Without specifics, Bush decried those who have ``exaggerated estimates of the costs of this war.''

``War critics can no longer credibly argue that we are losing in Iraq, so now they argue the war costs too much,'' he said.
Bush: We Can't Jeopardize Gains in Iraq


Didn't President Bush fire a White House financial person for stating that the Iraq Wat might cost as much as 100 billion dollars in early 2003? I trust the Nobel winning economists in the long term costs than I do thsi administration. These are the same people that said the housing market would correct itself 18 months ago, now Bear Stearns has sold for 2 dollars a share when it was 190 a share a year ago I will trust my own lying eyes thank you very much, Bush and Cheney don't hold much water with me.

Sphere: Related Content

Meanwhile, the War

Meanwhile, the War
The Hour

By Leonard Fein
Wed. Mar 19, 2008
Article tools
Text size: Larger | Smaller
Print this article
Email this article
Other articles by Leonard Fein
More in Forward Forum

Meanwhile, the war.

Iraq, that is, driven from the front pages by the economy, by the presidential campaign, by Eliot Spitzer, driven from public consciousness by all those plus the lies, the deceptions, most of all the pointlessness of thinking about it since President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney and the rest are plainly not going to change their minds.

But very soon now, a day or two before these words appear in print or a day or two later, the 4,000th American soldier serving in Iraq will be killed and the 30,000th will be wounded, according to Defense Department estimates. (As I write, we are at 3,988 dead.)

So let us pause, now that the war has been going on for five years. Let us pause to reflect not only on the pain and the fear and the trauma. (As to “trauma,” Bush, in a March 13 live teleconference with American personnel in Afghanistan, had this to say: “I must say, I’m a little envious. If I were slightly younger and not employed here, I think it would be a fantastic experience to be on the front lines of helping this young democracy succeed. It must be exciting for you… in some ways romantic, in some ways, you know, confronting danger. You’re really making history, and thanks.”)

Let us pause instead to reflect on money — specifically, on the $522.5 billion the war has cost so far, or, if you have the stomach for it, the $745.7 billion it will likely have cost by the end of fiscal year 2009. (These data are based on the federal budget, as compiled and analyzed by the National Priorities Project).

I’ve never been much given to the trade-off way of thinking about such numbers — as, for example, by being told how many new schools could be built and old schools refurbished for the cost of one battleship — but the president’s proposed budget makes such trade-offs virtually impossible to ignore.

It turns out that for fiscal year 2009, the president has proposed cuts in more than 100 programs of aid to state and local governments, cuts that total $19.2 billion. Of the cuts, these at a time when states and cities are dealing with terrifying deficits — in California, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s proposed budget calls for a $4.4 billion cut in public education— my favorite is the proposed cut of $321.9 million in the Low Income Home Energy Assistance program.

If there were real truth in labeling, that proposed cut would be entitled “The Just When Home-Heating Oil Prices Are Spiking Through Record Levels Deficit Avoidance and Responsibility Evasion Adjustment.” For the record, when the war began, oil was selling for $25 a barrel; now, of course, it is over $100 a barrel.

Some details, all projected through fiscal year 2009: New York State’s costs for the war come to $66.9 billion; the cuts to its programs come to $210.2 million; for Texas, costs are $61.0 billion, cuts are $136.5 million. (Notice anything fishy here? New York’s costs for the war are a bit under 10% higher than those of Texas; its cuts are 64% higher.)

So here’s the question: At what point do Americans recognize that there is a relationship between the costs of the war and the state of the economy?

The answer is: Most likely, never. And one reason for that is that Congress will do what it can to ignore the linkage, since most members of Congress — John McCain, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama among them — have voted again and again to fund the war. So maintain the illusion that these are different trains on different tracks, lest people come to realize that the economic hurricane that is now gathering and will soon be a Category Six, more punishing and of course more widespread than Katrina at its worst, is not only the product of the sub-prime lending scandal but also of the war for the wrong reasons and in the wrong way scandal.

As the Nobel-wining economist Joseph Stiglitz, who has studied the costs of the Iraq war more closely than just about anyone, puts it, “we don’t have two issues in this campaign — we have one issue. Or at least, the two are very, very closely linked together.”

In Stiglitz’s view, the war will cost $3 trillion. He includes in that figure the death benefits paid to the families of fallen soldiers and the costs of healthcare of wounded veterans for the next 50 years. He includes as well a trillion dollars in interest payments over just the next 10 years on the money we’ve borrowed to fund the war.

In the meantime, the president continues to insist that his tax cuts, of principal benefit to the wealthiest Americans, should be made permanent. In the meantime, the average income of CEOs at the top 30 military contractors was, in 2006, $9,095,756.

It has often been remarked that one reason the impact of the war has not registered on the electorate as much as it might have is that we’ve not been taxed to pay for it. (Another, obviously, is that we have an all-volunteer military rather than a draft.) But it is a terrible mistake to conclude that the war is somehow cost-free.

No, we are not paying for it, except for cuts in programs. But our children and grandchildren will be paying for it, since it is being funded through borrowed money that they will be called upon to repay.

Bear Stearns was selling at $170 a share just a year ago; now it has sold itself for $2 a share. More and more, that feels like a metaphor for America itself.
True cost of war

Sphere: Related Content

Concerns raised about housing for vets with PTSD

Vet home in trouble

Concerns raised about housing for vets with PTSD

Associated Press - March 19, 2008 4:04 PM ET

GUERNEVILLE, Calif. (AP) - The mother of a soldier killed in Iraq is having a hard time setting up a group home in Sonoma County wine country for veterans plagued by post-traumatic stress disorder.

Nadia McCaffrey is running into stiff resistance from the neighbors. They object to the brand-new structure itself, which looks like a four-story apartment house wedged amid their cabins. They are also worried that deranged veterans will move in.

McCaffrey says she has tried to reassure the neighbors, but they are afraid because they don't understand the situation.

Projects similar to McCaffrey's have cropped up in other communities across the country. Some of those have concerned neighbors, in part because of the many news accounts of traumatized veterans committing suicide or murder.

Sphere: Related Content

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

to any Capitol Hill Staff that read this

Request for Help for Korean DMZ Veteran from Tennessee

To any of the State VA Representatives,

Any State VA representatives that are on our communication list that we share data with I need either the contact information or for you to contact a "State VA representative" for the State of Tennessee for me.

This is in regard to Veteran David Hill of Tennessee, now deceased (57), and his widow and seven year old son.

David served along the DMZ in Korea, which is not being challenged by VA. David had sufficient paper work including a letter from his commanding officer of this service.

VA denied David’s claim based on service on the DMZ commencing two months after the DoD arbitrarily indicated it quit using the toxic herbicides in that area. Of course, this totally discounts the half-life of these militarized toxic herbicides as defined by the “real toxicology experts” of our Environmental Protection Agency as documented and published at:

David succumbed to lung cancer and chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), both on the list of presumed Agent Orange disorders; as well as coronary artery disease (CAD) that should be on the list of presumed disorders concluded by many studies, including the government's own studies. The statistical odds of this sequence happening by chance alone are very improbable.

To add to the statistical improbability of this list of disorders happening by chance alone; David left the Korean DMZ and was discharged from service on his discharge physical with pustular acne. Veteran Hill did not have this immune system disorder (pustular acne) before arriving on the Korean DMZ. Pustular acne being one of the hallmark signs of dioxin or dioxin like isomer exposures.

I have brought this individual case up to House Veterans Affairs Committee and the lack of objectivity in this case; including that in Congress’s own bill for civilians that served along the Korean DMZ their inclusive dates are approximately two years longer than that of the Korean DMZ Veteran. Of course, for the civilian, this case could and would not be denied based on service of the established inclusive dates.

The House Veterans Affairs Committee did not seemed to be interested in the illogical decision of this case and lack of objective common sense decision making.

David asked for my help and I should have asked for your help then before he passed away, which might have given him some comfort knowing his case had been approved and his wife and son would have some help.

I do not ask often for individual help but this case seems so straight forward it is hard to comprehend anyone at Veterans Affairs denying this case for Veteran Hill.

Any support you can give in this case would be greatly appreciated.

I can send the claim number and forward it when I am contacted.

Of course, Veteran Hill’s widow will have to reapply at this time, which is the real tragedy of a case that should have been approved before his passing.

Thank you in advance for any help and assistance.

Charles Kelley


This is one of those cases that beg for help and for the right thing to be done, I served on that same DMZ just a few months after this veteran at Camp Liberty Bell and walked the same fence lines on many night patrols and went tinto Panmunjom more than once armed with wooden handles for confrontations with the North Koreans, Agent Orange doesn't quit being toxic the last day it was sprayed, look at Vietnam and the still active toxic problems caused in young children today in towns near where the barrels of AO were stored. This stuff is still dangerous for years after last being used, it didn't stop being toxic in 1971 I can assure you.

Sphere: Related Content

A Huge Day of Antiwar Protesting Planned

A Huge Day of Antiwar Protesting Planned
March 18, 2008 04:07 PM ET | Paul Bedard | Permanent Link

The Department of Homeland Security has distributed warnings to downtown firms about the planned antiwar demonstrations set for Wednesday, the fifth anniversary of the war in Iraq. "If you have business cards, it may be helpful to have one on hand in case it is necessary to prove you work in this building," one downtown firm said in an alert to workers. Others have a simpler solution: Don't go to work. Most of the demonstrations are to take place near McPherson Square, just two blocks from the White House, but several are expected to clog other areas of Washington from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Homeland Security is telling office managers not to expect violence. Here's a partial list:

— "Blockade the IRS": Participants will meet at 7:30 a.m. at McPherson Square Park and march south-southeast to IRS headquarters at 1111 Constitution Avenue between 10th and 12th streets NW.

— "Disrupt the War Profiteers": Student groups and activists will converge upon the streets throughout the day to rally outside the offices of large corporations such as ExxonMobil, Shell, Halliburton, Lockheed Martin, and Bechtel, as well as the IMF/World Bank.

— "Separate Oil and State": Participants will meet outside the American Petroleum Institute at 1220 L Street NW at 13th Street.

— "Veterans March for Peace": The march will begin at 9 a.m. at 7th Street NW on the National Mall between Madison and Jefferson streets. Marchers will pass a variety of locations.

— "Critical Mass": Cyclists will meet at 8:30 a.m. at Dupont Circle. They will travel through downtown, possibly riding south on Connecticut Avenue NW to the White House.

— "Granny Peace Brigade Knit-in": A sit-in is planned for noon outside the Veterans Affairs office at 810 Vermont Avenue NW. Violence is not likely, and there should be minimal disruptions to routine activities.

— "Funk the War": Similar to Disrupt the War Profiteers, student groups will converge on the K Street corridor. Participants will meet at Franklin Square Park (14th and K streets, NW) at noon and travel down K Street.

— "March of the Dead": Dozens of activists will roam the city dressed in black representing those killed in the Iraq war.

— "The World Can't Wait": Demonstrators will take part in an antitorture rally at 1 p.m. at Lafayette Square Park on H Street NW near the White House.

— "March on DNC": Participants will gather at 5 p.m. at the Reflecting Pool on the National Mall and march to the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee at 430 S. Capitol Street SE.
A Day of War Protests, U.S. News

Sphere: Related Content

Antiwar Clinton supporters: She has "stature, strength, experience" to end war

Antiwar Clinton supporters: She has "stature, strength, experience" to end war

As Sen. Barack Obama readies for two Iraq speeches this week in North Carolina and West Virginia, Sen. Hillary Clinton's campaign released this "open letter" from Clinton's Congressional supporters who are members of the Out of Iraq caucus.

As firm opponents of the Iraq war, we believe there is no higher priority for the next President of the United States than ending this war, and we believe there is no one better prepared and more committed to bringing this war to a responsible conclusion than Hillary Clinton. The best way to honor the sacrifices of our brave young men and women in uniform is to bring them home.

We support Hillary Clinton because she is the candidate with the stature, strength, and experience needed to end this war as quickly and responsibly as possible.

Hillary has put forward the most comprehensive plan for bringing our troops home, with troop withdrawals beginning within 60 days of taking office. She bravely pressed the Pentagon to begin planning for the withdrawal of our troops from Iraq. And she has introduced legislation to bar the Bush administration from unilaterally negotiating a long-term security agreement with the Iraqi government and thereby tying the hands of the next administration.

Hillary's commitment to ending this war is matched by her experience. Her knowledge of the armed forces, her service on the Senate Armed Services Committee, and her extraordinary efforts on behalf of our veterans have earned her the respect of our men and women in uniform.

We are proud to support her because we know that she is the candidate ready to bring our troops home.

Del. Donna Christian-Christensen (D-VI)
Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-NY)
Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY)
Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX)
Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY)
Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA)
Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA)
Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ)
Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA)
Rep. Jose Serrano (D-NY)
Rep. Hilda Solis (D-CA)
Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-NY)
Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-OH)
Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA)
Rep. Diane Watson (D-CA)
Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA)Clinton Supporters in Washington Times

Sphere: Related Content

The "last soldier to die for a mistake"--Vietnam and Iraq

The "last soldier to die for a mistake"--Vietnam and Iraq

GregMitch [Subscribe]
Tue Mar 18, 2008 at 02:08:28 PM EDT
At the fifth anniversary of the attack on Iraq -- marked, among other things, by last weekend's "Winter Soldier" hearings and the approach of 4000 U.S. deaths in the war-- I would like to update John Kerry's famous question in 1971: "How do you ask someone to be the last American soldier to die for a mistake?"

This has caused me to wonder: Well, who was the last soldier to die for the Vietnam mistake? And what can we learn from that example?

To my surprise, with a little research, I discovered that there is a consensus on who that individual was. We'll get to his name in a moment, but what's most relevant is that he died almost exactly -- get ready -- five years after that "mistake" was widely acknowledged. How many will die from now until the last American perishes in Iraq? Gallup and other polls show that a clear majority of Americans have already labeled the Iraq invasion a "mistake."

We are at a haunting juncture in the Iraq war. Forgive me for another "back in the day" reference, but I recall very well that the public only turned strongly against the Vietnam conflict with the mass realization that young American lives were not only being lost but truly wasted.

Now, who was that last American to die in Vietnam?

According to Arlington National Cemetery, and numerous other sources, he was Army Lt. Col. William B. Nolde, a 43-year-old father of five. He was killed Jan. 27, 1973, near An Loc--just 11 hours before the U.S. signed the Paris Peace Accords--when an artillery shell exploded nearby.
This is how Time magazine reported it the following week: "The last hours of the Viet Nam War took a cruel human toll. Communist and South Vietnamese casualties ran into the thousands. Four U.S. airmen joined the missing-in-action list when their two aircraft were downed on the last day. Another four Americans were known to have been killed--including Lt. Lieut. Colonel William B. Nolde, 43, of Mt. Pleasant, Mich., who was cut down in an artillery barrage at An Loc only eleven hours before the ceasefire. He was the 45,941st American to have died by enemy action in Viet Nam since 1961."

His Wikipedia entry opens: "Born in Menominee, Michigan, Nolde was a professor of military science at Central Michigan University before joining the army. As an officer, he served in both the Korean War and the Vietnam War, acting as an advisor to the South Vietnamese forces in the latter. . . .

"While other Americans lost their lives after the truce was enacted, these were not recorded as combat casualties. During his time in the armed forces, he had accumulated four medals, including the Bronze Star and Legion of Merit."

His full military funeral was so momentous--it included the same riderless horse who that accompanied President Kennedy's coffin--it was covered on the front page of The New York Times on Feb. 6, 1973. That story began, "The Army buried one of its own today, Bill Nolde. And with him, it laid to rest--symbolically, at least--its years of torment in Vietnam."

How many more years of torment and wasted lives remain in Iraq?
Greg Mitchell's new book, hailed by Daily Kos's SusanG, Arianna, Bill Moyers, Glenn Greenwald and others, is So Wrong for So Long: How the Press, the Pundits -- and the President -- Failed on Iraq. It features a foreword by Joe Galloway and preface by Bruce Springsteen.

Sphere: Related Content

Col.: DOD delayed brain injury scans

It's always about the money, not the soldier, not the veteran.. delay, deny, etc

For more than two years, the Pentagon delayed screening troops returning from Iraq for mild brain injuries because officials feared veterans would blame vague ailments on the little-understood wound caused by exposure to bomb blasts, says the military's director of medical assessments.
Air Force Col. Kenneth Cox said in an interview that the Pentagon wanted to avoid another controversy such as the so-called Gulf War syndrome. About 10,000 veterans blamed medical conditions from cancer to eczema on their service.

The Pentagon did not acknowledge the syndrome until Congress created a committee to study it in 1998.

For troops who think they may have a condition not designated as war-related, Cox said, often "they're reacting to rumors, things that they've read about or heard about on the Internet or (from) their friends."

That uncertainty, Cox said, means "some individuals will seek a diagnosis from provider to provider to provider." It also makes treating veterans "much more difficult and much more costly," he said.

Asked whether mild traumatic brain injury (TBI) could turn into another Gulf War syndrome, Cox said, "It could."
"That's baloney," says Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J., founder of the Congressional Brain Injury Task Force. "There was no need to delay this."

In a January 2006 report, scientists at the federal Defense and Veteran Brain Injury Center urged that troops be screened for TBI "immediately." The Pentagon will soon require that troops be checked as they come home, according to Cox.

Cox says research shows screening is the most appropriate step.

An Army mental health report last month indicated that 11% of 2,195 soldiers surveyed in Iraq and Afghanistan show signs of mild brain injury, but fewer than half were identified and evaluated in the field.

That's more proof of the need to screen troops as they leave Iraq, says Air Force Lt. Col. Michael Jaffee, a neurologist who heads the brain injury center. Screening includes a series of questions about a soldier's experience and symptoms relating to head injury, such as balance or memory.

About 1.6 million U.S. troops have served in Iraq.

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., says, "Here we are five years into this war, and the Pentagon is just now coming to grips with how to track and treat those … with TBI." Murray is a member of the Senate appropriations subcommittee that oversees spending on veterans issues.

One concern, Cox says, was that mild TBI symptoms often resemble simple problems such as a lack of sleep or stress.

Screening for brain injury is vital to the health of troops in the field, says Staff Sgt. Marcus Brown, 30. He was transferred to Fort Carson, Colo., where the Army has operated a pilot screening program for traumatic brain injury since 2005. There, Brown was screened for brain injury for the first time after serving two tours in Iraq and surviving three IED blasts.

Doctors need to screen soldiers for brain injury as they leave the war zone, Brown says, because "most soldiers, especially NCOs (noncommissioned officers), are not going to show any type of weakness in front of their soldiers."
DOD fails on Brain Scans


As a Desert Storm/Gulf War veteran I take offense as being the reason DOD has refused to do the necessary brain scans, that excuse is ludicrous. The amount of veterans with the "supposed" Gulf War Syndrome is not 10,000 as of the last count the VA is paying compensation to more than 528,000 Gulf War One veterans many of them for undiagnosed illnesses, hardly a few thousand, the DOD has bought and paid for numerous IOM reports that do not deal with actual issues, but touches on the edges and ignores mustard agents, known medical studies on the effects of Sarin published by respected international organizations such as SIPRI and the National Institute of Health, however their studies would make the DOD and the VA liable for billions in compensation for such problems as cardiovascular problems, pulmonary and gastrointestinal and yes nuerological problems. Hardly of no consequence as the DOD would have the nation believe.

Sphere: Related Content

Attorney Robert Walsh a well respected Veterans advocate

My special guest for Wednesday ,March 19th, at SVR Radio will be Robert P. Walsh, the highly regarded and well known veteran's attorney from Battle Creek Michigan. Bob provided us with a very compelling show on January 16th and this return visit will also be quite enlightening.

Mr Walsh teaches at the University of Detroit Law School and his law practice involves VA claims as well as Social Security Disability claims.

As a veteran Mr. Walsh was in the US Army Reserves and the National Guard-and also is a Vietnam veteran who was with the 101st Airborne in-country.

Many of you are familiar with his name as he has represented veterans before the VA in regards to numerous types of claims.

Also he handled the FTCA case, Brown V. Veterans Administration regarding Leishmaniasis.

He has experience in all facets of VA case law and wants to share with you all his provocative thoughts on the VA “Death Tax”.

This is something that can affect any one of us !!!! –the VA “Death Tax”- and Bob will explain this in detail.

Calls in are toll free at 1-877-213-4329

And the show is easily accessible via PC with any media player at SVR 6:30 to 8:00 PM EDT March 19th, 2008

Sphere: Related Content

Veterans Affairs closer to deploying comprehensive e-Benefits portal

the new e vet


WEB SITE -- The new version of the e-Benefits portal will

present both healthcare and benefits information.

Story here...

Story below:


Veterans Affairs closer to deploying comprehensive e-Benefits portal

By Bob Brewin

The Veterans Affairs Department has started inching toward deployment of an online comprehensive health care and benefits portal recommended by the President's Commission on Care for America's Returning Wounded Warriors in an August 2007 report. VA expects to have a bare-bones site operating in the next few weeks on Army Knowledge On-Line (AKO), the Army's enterprise Web portal.

The Wounded Warriors Commission recommended that VA and the Defense Department develop within a year a Web-based portal to provide patients with health care and benefits information from the two departments. On March 11, top VA and Defense officials told the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee that they intend to develop Web portals that integrate veterans' heath records on a comprehensive Web site, which also provides information on follow-up services.

Retired Air Force Col. Peter Bunce, father of Justin Bunce, a medically retired Marine Corporal severely wounded in Iraq, said in an interview that a Web portal was only as good as the information it contained. He urged that Web-based systems established by Defense and VA contain information on a range of clinical resources, including care available outside the VA and Defense health systems. Bunce said he found health care and specialists for his son Justin, who also suffers from traumatic brain injury, without VA's help.

Bunce said any comprehensive Web portal should provide information based on geography, and the departments needed to devise a way to supply specialized care and benefits information to patients and their families, rather than expecting them to find it. VA also should ensure that each patient had a case manager who coordinated care -- including home visits -- and one lead doctor to manage clinical care, he added.

Dr. Paul Tibbits, VA's deputy chief information officer for enterprise development, wrote in an e-mail that the initial, unsecured eBenefits Web site available through AKO will link to other sites for use by wounded, ill and injured service members, veterans and their families. By this fall, he said, VA anticipates having a secure eBenefits portal site operational, based on the log-on model of Army Knowledge Online and its Defense Knowledge Online counterpart. This version of the eBenefits portal will present health care and benefits information as recommended by the Wounded Warriors Commission, Tibbits said.

Kevin Carroll, a consultant who previously served as program executive officer for Army's enterprise information systems, said AKO was safer and more efficient because VA will be able to tap into the AKO and DKO personnel directories and leverage those portals' already developed applications. The department then could take a "cut-and-paste" approach to development, rather than start from scratch, he said.

VA also is developing an advanced Web portal called My eBenefits, which is scheduled to go live in fiscal 2009, according to Tibbits.


posted by Larry Scott
Founder and Editor
VA Watchdog dot Org////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

I am surprised it has taken them this long to expand the web sites and their capabilities, I have been ordering my meds on line thru the VA site for almost 2 years, I don't understand why I can't communicate with my doctor by e mail or at least a clinical nurse, get copies of treatment notes, it is way past time for the VARO to digitize our claims files, I remember decades ago when they made microfiche copies of everyone's 201 files so they could mail them around the world cheaper, promotion boards etc. Computers didn't just happen and the VA regional offices are in the stone age still, many documents of evidence are ignored because they are buried in 6 feet of paperwork rather than a digital file they can click on by the Doctors name or a word search of the file to find documents that pertain to the medical problem and the treatment and diagnosis. I doubt if it all ever gets completed in my lifetime, my father and grand father both rode in the real "calvary" in the days gone by, my grandfather in the Calif 4th Volunteers 1861-1865 and my Dad and Uncle Gideon rode with D Troop of the 7th Calvary while stationed at Camp Douglas, in Douglas, Az in 1914-1916, they made the now famous march into Mexico with General Blackjack Pershing after Pancho Villa. I have their paper records and they are not much different than mine, rank, name and service numbers and how much we all got paid. All I can say to the VA welcome to the computer age it's about time the claims side joined the advances the medical side has made, they are the leaders in digital treatment records, many civilian hospitals have adopted the VA's open source system, that is quite a testament to it's soundness.

Sphere: Related Content

VA Putting Mobile Pharmacies on the Road

VA Putting Mobile Pharmacies on the Road
Peake: VA Reaches Out to Vets, Families in Need

WASHINGTON (March 18, 2008) -- To support veterans and their families
during major emergencies, especially natural disasters, the Department
of Veterans Affairs (VA) has begun to deploy mobile pharmacies that will
provide vital medicine when patients are unable to fill their
prescriptions. VA will also open up the facilities to help communities
during major disasters and other emergencies.

"The mobile pharmacies give VA the ability to provide critical
medications to veterans when disaster strikes," said Secretary of
Veterans Affairs Dr. James B. Peake. "VA is committed to ensuring our
veterans receive their care and prescriptions as soon as possible during
an emergency."

Each VA mobile pharmacy is housed in a 40-foot-long solid steel trailer
built to withstand winds in a Category 3 storm. The units include a
satellite connection with VA's Consolidated Mail Outpatient Pharmacy
system, a computerized, automated state-of-the-art mailout pharmacy that
can process more than 1,000 prescriptions hourly.

Pharmacists can use the satellite system to obtain a veteran's
prescription data to dispense the drugs on site. In addition, VA can
send replacement medications during an emergency by mail or another
carrier to a veteran's home or temporary address.

VA recognized the need for mobile pharmacies in 2005 after hurricanes
Katrina and Rita severely damaged VA medical centers along the Gulf
Coast. The Department deployed several mobile medical clinics as part
of its response to the disasters.

The first mobile pharmacy was unveiled on Sept. 11, 2007 in front of
VA's Washington, D.C., headquarters. The unit was displayed recently at
a meeting of the American Society of Health System Pharmacists in Las
Vegas. A second mobile pharmacy is expected to be delivered in March

To ensure rapid response to a wide range of emergencies, VA's mobile
pharmacies will be strategically placed across the nation. Plans now
call for one of the three mobile pharmacies to be stationed at Dallas;
Murfreesboro, Tenn.; and Charleston, S.C. The Department also expects
to acquire a fourth unit that will be placed in the western part of the

Each mobile pharmacy is divided into five compartments, including a work
area for pharmacists, an entryway accessible to patients and a sleeping
area with a bath and shower for VA personnel.

Pharmacy personnel from across the country have already volunteered to
staff the units in the event of a natural disaster or other emergency.
Six pharmacists who were part of a regional disaster drill have already
completed their training and can deploy on short notice.

"Our mobile clinics enabled us to provide critical services during
hurricanes Katrina and Rita not only to veterans but also to thousands
of others in the area who were adversely affected by the storm," said
Michael Valentino, VA's pharmacy chief. "These new mobile pharmacy units
will ensure that we are even better prepared for future emergencies."

Sphere: Related Content

Monday, March 17, 2008

Slipping through the cracks

VA Watchdog

Slipping through the cracks

News-Record Writer

The yellow ribbons came down and the roses wilted. The rah-rah ebbed and the flags held in the hands of a row of other proud veterans who fought other wars stopped fluttering. The “welcome home, soldier” celebrations ended. There were no more slaps on the back.

Life for everyone else went back to normal. It followed the normal rhythms of the everyday, the mundane, even the complacent or ambivalent, half a world away from the Middle East.

But the euphoria of making it home alive dissipated for Scott Carey after he returned from Iraq in the spring of 2003.

While everyone else went about the day-to-day, he tried to figure out what exactly that meant for him. The former Marine Corps combat engineer caught a bullet through both elbows and his left hip in Iraq. While he was waiting to be evacuated, a mortar detonated nearby and shrapnel pierced his back.

Life as he knew it ended before that day, though. The things he’d seen came home, too. He looked death in the face in the form of improvised explosive devices he routinely cleared. That hyper-alert awareness that evolved inside him — an adaptation in combat — became a liability in civilian life.

How does one shift from fifth gear to first, where such behavior is seen as paranoia, not caution?

It changed him, body and mind. The skinny private first class became more lineman than lean soldier in the years after his return. Wearing a camouflage UFC T-shirt and a camouflage cap covering close-cropped hair, Carey has eyes that are both melancholy and direct at times.

For six months he was a VA inpatient on a heavy regimen of anti-depressants — about 1,300 milligrams of Seroquel for his anxiety and depression, and Trazadone for sleep. He felt like he was losing sight of himself in the drugs.

After his medical discharge at the beginning of 2005, Carey didn’t want to be thought of as a pill-popper, a mental health stigma the VA and the military are trying to turn on its head. The rationale among soldiers is if you make it out alive, you can take care of yourself afterward. You should rely on your combat buddies, not some head shrinker who wasn’t there, who doesn’t understand. But his buddies scattered to the four winds to reclaim their own lives. There was no one around who understood.

He wasn’t a part of that family that gave him place and purpose. It’s a common theme among vets. Many still in the service will keep it together, vets say. That military structure girds their traumatized minds. When it’s gone, they crumble.

“When I got medically discharged, it was like ... they took me away from something I was good at.”

So he treated himself with that socially acceptable drug of choice. One that can be laughed off or shrugged off as a young man’s folly. Carey began drinking heavily. He hung out in bars, systematically diluting his memories with each drink. When a fight would break out, he’d mind his own business. But when the fight came to him and he got bumped accidentally, he’d fly into a black rage. He’d lose control and several bouncers would be pulling him off the guy. He went to the local VA clinic only once during this time. The battlefield mindset proved hard to shed.

“If you went to a shrink, it made you think you weren’t trusted anymore,” he said. “That weighs heavily on somebody out on the front line.”

Carey found other outlets for his anger.

“I’d be David going up to Goliath and taunting him,” he said.

His self-esteem suffered. Because his knees were worn out, his elbows were shot, his joints were arthritic and his back was nearly out of commission, he gained weight. He isolated himself from his family. They still don’t know the whole story, he says. He wonders if his mother could love him, knowing where he’s been and what he’s done.

He racked up three DUIs — a felony — with the last one in Spearfish, S.D. Because of his situation, he got off with three years of supervised probation.

Carey slipped through the cracks.

Because Carey was discharged, the Marines weren’t checking in on him and no one from the VA sought him out. He’s since been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. It’s a condition that is disconcertingly prevalent, particularly among those who are injured, according to the American Journal of Psychiatry.

When soldiers return from Iraq, they may go through several post-deployment health assessments, but that system is fundamentally flawed. It’s the old Revolutionary War problem. When Gen. Washington asked his soldiers if they would stay or go, you can imagine what many of the answers were. It’s the same now.

“How are you doing,” a counselor might ask? “Doin’ great,” a soldier might reply, whether that’s true or not. They say this knowing that if they admit they’re having problems, it could put them on “med hold” and delay the one thing that has sustained them through dark times — family and home.

Many military men and women will return home from Iraq or Afghanistan with their own demons. More than 15 percent of the 1.5 million men and women deployed to these countries since 2001 will return with mental problems, according to the New England Journal of Medicine. Perhaps 23 percent to 40 percent actually will seek care.

Traumatic brain injury, dubbed the signature injury of this war due to the insurgents’ fondness for IEDs, is thought to increase a soldier’s likelihood for developing PTSD. Of those who report losing consciousness due to an IED blast or some other violent injury, 43.9 percent of them will meet the criteria for PTSD, according to the New England Journal of Medicine.

Of the 2,000 veterans of this war living in Wyoming, only 846 of them are enrolled in the VA.

The resources are there. The connection isn’t. A bill sponsored by the Wyoming Select Committee on Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services will bridge the gap. In rural Wyoming, where vets may be far from the nearest VA clinic or hospital, HEA49 will reimburse them for travel. Child care and some other expenses will be covered. For the men and women who are too busy trying to get their lives back on track, it provides extra funding for two social workers whose purpose is to seek them out and get them help.

Capt. Leon Chamberlain, a mental health officer for the National Guard, is already traveling across the northern reaches of Wyoming. He and his counterpart in the southern and more populous half of the state have located 228 veterans since December. Nearly 40 percent of them needed some sort of mental health referral.

Many of them are in the Guard or the Reserve, for whom there are registries. But for men and women who were on active duty, it can be like finding a needle in a haystack. The estimate of 2,000 Iraq/Afghanistan veterans in Wyoming is conservative at best. It’s no secret there is a diverse mix streaming into the state from all corners of the nation for the plentiful jobs, particularly in the energy industry. The stigma of mental health issues will keep many away.

“Most of these people still want to stay in the Guard or the Reserve,” Chamberlain said. “They’re concerned that if they get diagnosed with a mental health issue, they can’t stay in the military, or they’ll get their security clearance yanked or lose a promotion.

“When you look at these stigmas it’s remarkable that we get any of these people to come at all.”

As the numbers indicate, many don’t.

“George,” a soldier recently returned from Iraq, calls the health assessments a “horse and pony show.” George, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is still on active duty in the National Guard, said the military needs to check up on soldiers after deployment on a state and individual level. And according to policy, they do. They’re assessed before they leave the theater. They’re assessed when they return, then after 60 days, then 90 days, according to Maj. Shane Croft, state mobilization officer. They’re called post-deployment health reassessments.

This came as a surprise to George. An evaluation three months later was something he recommended, not something he actually experienced. He only completed a post-deployment health assessment, and that was online.

“The Wyoming National Guard has done absolutely nothing,” he said.

George has been diagnosed with PTSD since his return. He isn’t registered with the VA. The one time he did visit with a counselor, he did so with a private practice, and discreetly. He arranged to have it paid for by Military OneSource, a sort of military insurance, but a mistake occurred during billing and he ended up eating it. It’s a problem those familiar with the process concede is a product of the bureaucracy of any insurance claim, but recently returned military personnel usually lack the time and the patience.

“Am I on some medication? Yeah,” he said. “Is it documented anywhere in my medical records? No.”

Getting help on the sly may prove troublesome for vets with private insurance. Some insurance providers, including Blue Cross Blue Shield of Wyoming, won’t pay for problems that are “the result of disease or injuries due to war, civil war, insurrection, rebellion, or revolution...” according to an October 2007 study by the Wyoming Department of Health Mental Health Substance Abuse Services Division.

Reserve and National Guard troops seem to be at a disadvantage. They don’t get the kind of decompression time that the rest of the military gets. A man in the Marines, for example, could have weeks or months on base after a deployment. It gives him time to settle down and adjust. In the National Guard or Reserve, you can be in Baghdad, Iraq, on Monday and back at work in Basin, Wyo., on Friday.

And they also don’t have the benefits. Where Carey will be entitled to VA care for the rest of his life, George will have five years when he retires, recently increased from two, according to Larry Barttelbort, retired colonel and executive director of the Wyoming Veterans Commission.

Our understanding of what combat does to the human mind, and even the nomenclature itself, has evolved over the years. From shell shock to combat fatigue to PTSD.

It was 30 years before Lee Alley, president of the Wyoming Veterans Commission and a veritable Vietnam War hero, heard the acronym that defined the last several decades of his life. Alley led an Army reconnaissance unit in the Mekong Delta in 1967-68. He returned to San Francisco, then the University of Wyoming when the anti-war movement was in full swing. He heard the name “baby-killer” and began to question what he had done over there. He put away his uniform and his medals and separated himself from his service.

He isolated himself and his experience from family, an action as relevant today as it was 30 years ago despite the differences in climate and era.

“How do I sit down with my wife and mother and look at the blood on my hands,” Alley said. “I did some things and was in some situations I don’t want my family to know about.”

Though the public is more supportive of the soldiers, public opinion of the war has gone south in recent years. Regardless of whether the war is right or wrong, Carey doesn’t want his sacrifice and those of his comrades to have been in vain.

He, Carey and George are proof that there is hope for these men and women if they get help.

George still avoids loud noises and crowds whenever possible. The flashbacks are more infrequent. But life is holding together. He says if it wasn’t for his wife and his older age, he would have almost certainly become an alcoholic.

And Carey is going to school now. He started his first semester at Gillette College, studying secondary education and photography. He wants to teach history. He says his experience gives him something to say about current events.

He goes to counseling at the VA regularly. But he still goes to school early so he can get the seat where his back is against the wall. Battle-ingrained instincts still compel him to cover his back and watch the exits.

There are many others like him who are dealing with it on their own. They’re throwing themselves into work so they don’t think about it as much. They’re getting divorced and losing sleep. Some even commit suicide.

For them, the hardest part is just asking for help.


- If you or someone you know is having a hard time dealing with combat experiences, help is out there.

- Leon Chamberlain is the advocate for vets in the northern part of Wyoming, and he can find you help. He can be reached at (307) 359-2430.

- The number for the VA clinic in Gillette is 685-0676.

- The number for the VA Medical Center in Sheridan is (307) 672-3473.


posted by Larry Scott
Founder and Editor
VA Watchdog dot Org

Sphere: Related Content