SENATOR DURBIN NOT PLEASED WITH VA'S RESPONSE TO PROBLEMS AT MARION FACILITY
It has all the
earmarks of a bureaucratic slowdown. But if they
think they're going to wait me out, they're wrong."
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL)
For a complete background on the problems at the Marion VA, use the VA Watchdog search engine...click here...
Story here... http://www.southernillinoi
Durbin's visit to Marion VA 'frustrating'
MARION - U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin described his Friday visit to the Marion VA Medical Center as "frustrating."
After meeting with staff members and speaking with their bosses in Washington, he said the VA's response to major medical concerns at the hospital is painstakingly slow and unacceptable.
He added that he has received conflicting reports from both Washington and Marion.
"It has all the earmarks of a bureaucratic slowdown," Durbin said. "But if they think they're going to wait me out, they're wrong."
Durbin said it's been seven months since inpatient surgeries were discontinued and two full months since the Office of the Inspector General identified problems at the facility and made recommendations to rectify those problems. In that time, there has been little change.
Durbin said he wants the VA "to get it right" and get the surgical unit reopened as soon as possible, but progress should be more noticeable by now. The senator said he wants to emphasize the hospital's importance to hundreds of families in Southern Illinois and surrounding states.
"And there are hundreds of employees here who are frustrated, too," Durbin said. "These are hardworking people who have made sacrifices to help veterans. The overwhelming majority of them are doing their job and doing it well."
Durbin added that it's imperative that the VA closely monitor its physician candidates and make sure they are properly credentialed for the job.
Tanya Peckinpaugh, 62, of Marion, told Durbin she feels she was mistreated at the Marion hospital.
"I was here June 1 of last year when I had a hysterectomy performed by Dr. (Jose Veizaga) Mendez," Peckinpaugh said. "I developed a bad infection a few days later and still have pain to this day."
Peckinpaugh said Veizaga-Mendez, who soon thereafter resigned his position at the hospital and eventually lost his license to practice medicine in Illinois, referred her to his physician's assistant.
"I just don't think Dr. Mendez was forthright with me, and I feel I was mistreated," said Peckinpaugh, an Army veteran. "I've hired a lawyer."
- John Homan
posted by Larry Scott
Founder and Editor
VA Watchdog dot Org
Saturday, March 29, 2008
SENATOR DURBIN NOT PLEASED WITH VA'S RESPONSE TO PROBLEMS AT MARION FACILITY
AT HOME, BUT NOT AT PEACE
Spc. Brandon Garrison
volunteered to deploy and loved putting on his uniform
each day. But after watching a mortar attack claim one
of his friends in Afghanistan, he joined the thousands
of servicemembers battling PTSD.
For more about veterans and PTSD, use the VA Watchdog search engine...click here...
Story here... http://www.stripes.com/article.asp?section=104&article=53683
At home, but not at peace: A soldier's struggle with PTSD
Spc. Brandon Garrison volunteered to deploy and loved putting on his uniform each day. But after watching a mortar attack claim one of his friends in Afghanistan, he joined the thousands of servicemembers battling PTSD.
By Tracy Burton
Special to Stars and Stripes
Army Spc. Brandon Garrison looks fine. He pulls his wife, Lily, close. He gives her a quick kiss on the cheek and wraps his hand over her stomach, carrying their first child.
Inside, Garrison fights a rage that consumes most of his days since returning from 17 months of combat in Afghanistan. It’s a demon that shows no mercy and interrupts even simple routines like eating and sleeping. At any moment, halfway through a football game or in the middle of the night, he can lose himself to this evil.
This is his war now. A war that started on a battlefield a half a world away and has now embedded itself in his mind. Through nightmares, flashbacks, anxiety and fear, he battles this beast each day.
Garrison is among thousands of troops experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, as they return from Afghanistan or Iraq. The 21-year-old from northeastern Kansas is also part of a growing number of servicemembers whose well-being has been compromised in a system that’s supposed to take care of them.
The most troubling challenges facing these troops include:
¶ Psychological trauma and mental health care not always receiving the same priority as physical injuries.
¶ Army claims of pre-existing personality disorders, which in many cases slash disability benefits and long-term mental health care for otherwise eligible combat veterans.
The enemy Garrison encountered daily in combat still haunts him. He sees the faces of his fallen brothers. He smells the dirty air, amid the blood. Screams of panic broken with hums of moaning pain lingers and the dust ensues yet another storm inside him.
That is until he finds his way back to Lily, and back to the life he knew before war.
“Without her, I seriously wouldn’t be alive right now,” Garrison said.
Garrison’s platoon from the Army’s 10th Mountain Division based in Fort Drum, N.Y., specializes in fighting in harsh conditions. In northeast Afghanistan they were stationed in Pech Valley Korengal Outpost, one the country’s deadliest valleys.
Now that Garrison is home, he belongs to one of the Army’s Warrior Transition Units, which provides command and control, primary care and case management for servicemembers receiving treatment for wounds suffered while fighting in the war on terror. The unit works to “promote their timely return to the force or transition to civilian life.”
Here is his story.
Shortly after Garrison returned from Afghanistan last June, he headed home on a 30-day leave to Leavenworth, Kansas.
“That’s when my nightmares began,” he said. “I remember waking up in the middle of the night. I’d sit straight up in bed and it was just hard to breathe and I was panicking and I remember my wife Lily asking me if I was OK and I remember crying in her arms several times because of horrific visions that I had, and the memories and the mass casualties that we suffered.”
Nothing in particular triggered the attacks. He would hear a song or a report about the war and before he knew it, he was reliving it.
Garrison started drinking almost daily. It was the only way he knew to escape.
In August, he left to regroup with his unit in Fort Drum. Lily stayed with his folks because Garrison was going to be reassigned to a new base, so it didn’t make sense for her to go right then.
Garrison was OK when he was working. But the second he was alone, the flashbacks returned. It was terrifying and always zoomed back to one event. On this day in Afghanistan, Garrison was watching soldiers patrol a valley below him. It was almost time for them to return when the enemy launched rocket-propelled grenades and gunfire into their path.
Garrison and other soldiers helped the injured until medics arrived.
Blood was everywhere.
Garrison went to his friend, 24-year-old Spc. Christopher Wilson, and held a pressure dressing tightly against his stomach, but his young life was slipping away.
Wilson, whose greatest fear in this war was not coming home to his little girl, died a short while later.
“He was a very good soldier … a good friend,” Garrison said. “He was very brave through it all.”
Garrison needed help. He and Lily fought to where they didn’t know how much their marriage could take.
He was never much of a drinker before war. Lily wanted to understand, but she couldn’t.
“To know I had pushed a woman so close to me that far away just because of the trauma I was experiencing … that really just made it worse,” Garrison explained.
He started to hate himself.
“At the time I had been denying God and spirituality was always a big part of my life and I was actually cursing God himself and that’s when I knew that my life was taking a big downfall,” he said.
In September, Garrison went to the behavioral health clinic on base and met with a psychiatrist who diagnosed him with post-traumatic stress disorder.
He agreed to meet with Garrison every week or two and prescribed Trazodone and Ambien to help him sleep.
“I was calling out for help … but I was afraid to say ‘suicide,’” Garrison recalled. “I was afraid to tell them what I was truly feeling because that puts a label on you and they patronize you.”
He kept it far from his command.
But by mid-September, Garrison couldn’t take it. He returned to doctors on base and told them he was feeling suicidal. They told him he had to see a regular doctor because they were booked.
The next day he found a doctor off base who prescribed Valium, which helped desensitize his reality. He heard a couple guys who committed suicide from their unit overdosed on Valium.
He was afraid to take it, but he was desperate.
It was football season. Garrison thought it would be good to get out, so he started going to the local bar to watch the games.
For weeks he did this. He was now mixing prescription drugs and alcohol. It seemed to help.
But on September 29 it all caught up.
That morning, he woke with the horrors of Afghanistan. He swallowed four Valium.
Later on he went to the bar. He took two more Valium and started drinking beer.
As he watched the game, he started getting excited. His adrenaline was pumping. Then he saw blood. Dirty air seeped in his senses and screams of horror quickly replaced the cheers.
It felt like iron weight settled in his chest. It was hard to breathe. His hands and feet throbbed. His heart was beating faster and faster and faster, like a hamster spinning a wheel.
Garrison rushed outside to his truck and blasted the air conditioning.
He could barely hold his cell phone as he struggled to dial 911. He blanked out off and on as the operator on the other end told him to keep breathing.
Within minutes ambulances and military police arrived. Paramedics strapped a plastic oxygen mask over his face and rushed him to the closest hospital in Watertown, N.Y.
He woke up several hours later with a man from the hospital’s intensive mental health unit next to him. He asked Garrison if he was suicidal.
“I broke down and cried right there,” Garrison said. “I told him I didn’t want to live anymore.”
The man said he served in Vietnam, and there was no shame in crying.
“I have a wife and a child on the way,” Garrison said through sobs. “I love them very much. I don’t want to be like this anymore, but I don’t want to live when I have these attacks, when I blank out, when I have these flashbacks.”
“I’m trying to be a good soldier. Please don’t tell my chain of command,” he pleaded.
Garrison was admitted into the psychiatric ward.
“That was the most traumatic part, but at the same time it was a relief because here I was in a place now where it was nothing but civilians,” Garrison explained. “I was away from the uniforms.”
After intense medical evaluations, Garrison was diagnosed with PTSD, anxiety and depression, according to his medical records.
For about a month, he attended group therapy and met with doctors daily.
These doctors were different. They didn’t judge him, or compare their story to his. No one said, “Suck it up, soldier.”
They listened to his every word. They sympathized with him.
He let everything out.
In late October, the military transferred Garrison to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington. There he was spun through another cycle of psychiatric tests. Military doctors at Walter Reed diagnosed Garrison with PTSD and a borderline personality disorder.
Over the last six years, Defense Department records show that more than 22,500 personality disorder discharges have been processed.
A number of reports from servicemembers, veterans’ service organizations, and the media claiming ‘personality disorder’ discharges have been implemented inappropriately has spurred mental health professionals and political leaders into action.
“It’s ridiculous,” said Rep. Bob Filner, D-Calif. “If they have a personality disorder, why didn’t the military know about it before? Why did the soldier get into the service to begin with?”
Filner, who chairs the Veterans Affairs Committee and has met with soldiers overseas, said he’s talked with military doctors who told him that they were directed to misdiagnose.
“I think it’s a purposeful diagnosis to save money,” he said.
An amendment in the FY 2008 National Defense Authorization Act limits the Pentagon’s use of personality disorders. The act, signed into law Jan. 28, also calls for a full accounting by April 1 for the thousands of servicemembers discharged on the basis of personality disorder.
Dr. Charles Goodstein, a psychiatrist at the New York University Medical Center and former military psychiatrist, said that in the Vietnam era, “personality disorder” diagnoses were the rationale for separation from the service.
He explained that an individual’s underlying personality disorder could have easily eluded detection at the time of entry into the military, but in time would become very evident and therefore incompatible with further service. Goodstein, who has been in the mental health field for 44 years, also volunteers his time counseling troops.
“Psychological services have taken a back seat to the more obvious medical services for these men and women coming home from war,” he said. “It’s amazing that anyone could return without experiencing, to some degree the symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress disorder.”
At Walter Reed, Garrison feels like he’s not entitled to be an injured soldier.
“Once you get down here and you get around the uniforms again is when the stress starts again … like a slap in the face — wake up, you’re still in the Army,” he said. “You’re treated like a soldier here and you have the expectations of a soldier and the stress of a soldier.”
And you must act like a soldier.
“I’ve had my commander and my first sergeant here look me in the face and tell me ‘You look fine to me,’” Garrison said. “They told me: You look like a squared-away soldier. You don’t look like there’s anything wrong.”
For three weeks at $71 a night, Garrison and Lily stayed at the Mologne House, a 280-room hotel located on Walter Reed’s campus. If Garrison were alone, he would’ve stayed in an old dorm-style building with other troops with mental or psychiatric trauma.
These troops must pay out of their own pocket if they want family members by their side while they recover at facilities such as Walter Reed.
Servicemembers with physical injuries are more likely to receive “Invitation Traveling Orders,” which provides family members rooms at the Mologne House. Or if the hotel is full, which it typically is, they can stay at area hotels including the Marriott or the Hilton, which cost a paying guest $119 to $289 a night.
The Army also pays an average of $64 a day for food and travel.
Garrison was told Lily could stay under an “ITO.”
“Then they told me no because I’m not handicapped and that it’s only psychiatric and that I don’t need somebody there,” Garrison said. “But any psychiatrist will argue that someone whose going through this treatment and working through the medications and the stress … they will tell you we do need someone there.”
The night before Thanksgiving, Lily found Garrison in the bathroom.
“He was banging his head on the wall … over and over,” she said through tears. “I can’t leave him like this.”
The horror held on for several more minutes until Garrison came to with Lily at his side.
Lily is his saving grace.
“This is what connects someone back into life,” said Dr. Judith Broder, founder of The Soldiers Project, a nonprofit organization ( www.thesoldiersproject.org ) that offers free mental health counseling to veterans and their families.
“There is hope for these men and women,” Broder said. “The human being has a lot of resiliency, but it’s very important to be connected with family … girlfriends, wives, parents, grandparents, anybody close to that soldier can be a bridge that gradually brings them back to themselves.”
In late November, Garrison planned to start an intense therapy program at Walter Reed, but the day it was supposed to begin his command gave him new orders: He was to return to Fort Drum later that week to prepare for medical discharge.
“I’m scared as hell to go back there,” Garrison said before he left Walter Reed in early December. “I feel like I’ve been pushed aside … like I’m on my own to get better.”
Garrison was told he would return to Walter Reed sometime in February to continue treatment.
It never happened.
Garrison worries about his future. He’s accepted that he can’t be a soldier in war ever again.
“That terrifies me and it hurts me at the same time because here I was a soldier that volunteered for deployment,” he said. “I loved putting that uniform on every day and now when I put it on all I feel is the ulcerations in my stomach and the sickness and the anxiety and the worries, because it’s constant memories of what happened and what I’ve been through after wearing it.”
For now, his cell phone ring tone plays “Home” by Daughtry:
“Oh, well I’m going home,
Back to the place where I belong,
And where your love has always been enough for me.
I’m not running from.
No, I think you got me all wrong.
I don’t regret this life I chose for me.
But these places and these faces are getting old.
I said these places and these faces are getting old.
So I’m going home.
I’m going home.”
To Garrison, the lyrics could be summarized in one word.
Today, she remains at his side, now joined by their new son, named in honor of a warrior who has gone home.
Garrison and Lily currently live in an apartment in Watertown, N.Y. Garrison is waiting to present his case before the Army’s medical review board. Lily gave birth to the couple’s first child Wednesday.
E-mail Tracy Burton at: email@example.com
PDO is a disgrace, they send these men and women to combat to see the horrors of war, then when they come back with PTSD from seeing the normal horrors of war forever changed by it nd then to save the VA or the DOD from paying Temporary Disability retirements or even treating the families the same as a physically injured soldier as exhibited by making his wife pay for her stay at the Mologne House and her own food. They even refused to pay her like they do other spouses or parents that come to Walter Reed to help take care of their loved ones. The injiry is the same if he lost an arm or a leg, for easiness sake let's compare PTSD to Traumatic Brain Injury many times they can not even tell the difference many of the symptoms are the same, but obviiously the way they treat the wounded soldiers isn't. PTSD is a wound, an unseen wound just like TBI but it is just as debilitating.
I have lived with symptoms of PTSD since Feb 6, 1975 I found ways to cope, drugs, booze, 4 divorces, many jobs, DUI's 3 attempted suicides, I was a "man" I was a Staff Sergeant I spent my career telling other soldiers to suck it up, so I couldn't even admit to myself I had s "problem" my dad told me men don't cry, well it took me until Nov 2002 before I had a complete breakdown and asked the VA for a mental health appointment, I got one in Jan 2003, it took 4 months of tests and interviews before they diagnosed me with severe chronic late onset PTSD I am rated as 100% Permanent and Total. I faked and lied my way thru life for over 27 years, I saved the government a lot of money in medical treatment and compensation payments.
These young men and women need help now and maybe they can work thru it, to ignore them and treat them like shit and it will only make matters worse, if I had gotten counseling in 1975 maybe I would not be as messed up as I am now, as long as the military continues to make soldiers with PTSD feel they are wrong for admitting to having PTSD symptoms, stories like this will be repeated over and over and some will end in suicides, we have already seen it to many times, when will the Army and Marines come to terms with this, I thought they learned the lessons of Vietnam and were determined NOT to repeat them, they look the same to me, PDO discharge and no benefits, PTSD is malingering and only looking for a free check for the rest of your life because you went to war.
They have to change the mindset of the Chain of Command and the bean counters, mental health should be redily available to combat troops upon return, walk in appointments, people to talk to not pills to make you numb.
BOOSTING G.I. BILL BENEFITS COULD HIT GOVERNMENT ROADBLOCK
VA says it's too expensive and more
administratively complex than the current GI Bill, and
DoD says it would make it more difficult to retain
experienced troops beyond their first hitch.
For a previous story on this issue...click here...
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Story here... http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2008-03-29-gi-bill_N.htm
Boosting GI Bill benefits could hit military roadblock
By Dennis Camire
Gannett News Service
WASHINGTON — For Sen. Jim Webb, it's a question of fairness: Why don't veterans of today's armed services get the same benefits the GI Bill provided "the greatest generation" after World War II?
But the Virginia Democrat's effort to remedy the perceived slight, which has gained support in Congress, runs afoul of how officials at the departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs want to manage the all-volunteer military. Besides being too expensive and more administratively complex than the current GI Bill, they say it would make it more difficult to retain experienced troops beyond their first hitch.
Webb's bill, now backed by 51 senators of both parties, as well as most veterans' organizations, would boost the education benefit for service members who have been on active duty since Sept. 11, 2001, including those in the National Guard and Reserves.
"I see the educational benefits in this bill as crucial to a service member's readjustment to civilian life and as a cost of war that should receive the same priority that funding the war has received the last five years," Webb said.
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The benefit would cover tuition and fees for the most expensive public university in any state where the veteran resides and pay an allowance for books and housing.
It also sets up a program so veterans could use the benefit to help pay tuition at more expensive private institutions. If the private school were willing to help the veteran with tuition cost, the government would match it dollar for dollar.
A House version of the new GI Bill proposal has about 111 supporters.
The original GI Bill, passed in 1944, offered $500 a year for tuition, books, fees and other costs in a decade when Harvard University's tuition was $450 a year and Massachusetts Institute of Technology was $500. The bill also provided $50 to $75 a month as an allowance to single veterans and more to veterans with dependents.
That was enough to allow World War II veterans such as Sens. John Warner, R-Va., and Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., attend universities they might not gone to otherwise.
"I am not sure that I would have had the means within our family structure to go on and receive higher education without the GI Bill," said Warner, a bill co-sponsor who attended Washington and Lee University and the University of Virginia.
Lautenberg, another co-sponsor, said he came from a "poor working-class family" and the GI Bill allowed him to go to Columbia University, which otherwise was "way out of reach."
But the current GI Bill, which provides $1,101 a month for 36 months of school, covers only about 73% of the tuition cost at public universities and less than 31% at private institutions, according to the Congressional Research Service.
And the cost of tuition and fees is climbing faster than inflation with the average cost at a public four-year university reaching $13,600 this year for tuition, fees, room and board, an increase of 278% during the past two decades, according to the research service.
"There is a total disincentive for the American fighting man or woman to go to school full time on the current education benefit," said Eric Hilleman, deputy national legislative director for the Veterans of Foreign Wars. "It's a real challenge."
Webb estimates the cost of the bill as about $2 billion more than current spending, which was about $2.8 billion last year.
But the Department of Veterans Affairs estimated that an earlier version of Webb's bill, first introduced last year, would cost as much as $75 billion over the next 10 years, significantly higher Webb's projections on an annual basis.
Lawmakers supporting the bill still have to overcome objections to the measure from Pentagon and Department of Veterans Affairs officials — and get the bill through the Senate and House Veterans' Affairs committees.
Sen. Dan Akaka, D-Hawaii, chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, has been non-committal about Webb's bill so far.
"Any changes to the GI Bill must be reviewed for its impact on military recruitment and retention, as well as veterans' readjustment," said Akaka, who attended the University of Hawaii on the GI Bill. "I believe further discussion on this bill may be in order."
Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who used the GI Bill to get his doctorate at Georgetown University, also said at a recent Senate hearing that he was willing to "take a close look at the bill," which the Pentagon is currently analyzing.
Defense and VA officials argue that the current GI Bill is a tool they use to manage the current all-volunteer military force through recruitment and retention, unlike the World War II bill, which was primarily a readjustment benefit aimed at helping the country reabsorb 16 million war veterans. About 7.8 million World War II veterans took advantage of the education benefits.
But defense officials say raising education benefits too much would provide too much of an incentive for service members to leave the military for school at the end of their first tour.
"Attracting qualified recruits using large, across-the-board basic benefits incurs the risk that many who enter for the benefits will leave as soon as they can use them," said Thomas L. Bush, acting deputy assistant secretary of defense.
That could lower the number of experienced non-commissioned officer and petty officers available and put more pressure on recruiting to replace those that leave, Bush said.
Bush also said the current GI Bill for active duty is "basically sound and serves its purpose."
"The department finds no need for the kind of sweeping and expensive changes offered," Bush said.
The VA also criticized the bill for its administrative complexity.
"The anticipated high benefit cost ... and the anticipated administrative burden associated with this bill are all problematic," said Keith M. Wilson, director of the education service for the VA.
But Webb argues the expanded benefit is needed so the military can attract recruits from a broader range of young men and women — those needing help to advance their education.
"It would actually expand recruiting because you have so many people in this country who may not want to make the military a career, but who ... might want to serve if they could see some other incentive," he said. "And this is a great incentive."
posted by Larry Scott
Founder and Editor
VA Watchdog dot Org
VAOIG REPORT: EX-SECRETARY PRINCIPI'S FIRM, QTC,OVERCHARGED VA $6 MILLION
The report also found
evidence that the VA may still be paying too much to QTC
for a variety of services on a multiyear contract.
Former VA Secretary Anthony J. Principi
Does this surprise anyone?
Does it surprise you to know that our current VA Secretary, Dr. James Peake, was also an officer of QTC?
For the complete report from the VA's Office of Inspector General...click here...
For more about Principi's firm, QTC, use the VA Watchdog search engine...click here...
Story here... http://www.latimes.com/news/printed
Veterans Affairs was overcharged about $6 million, audit finds
California-based QTC, run by ex-VA Secretary Anthony J. Principi, ignored its contract rates. It has agreed to repay $3 million.
By Walter F. Roche Jr.
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
WASHINGTON -- The California company headed by former Veterans Affairs Secretary Anthony J. Principi overcharged the agency some $6 million under a long-term contract to conduct physical evaluations on veterans applying for disability benefits, an audit has found.
The report, released Thursday, also questioned a proposal by the Department of Veterans Affairs to amend the contract with the company -- QTC Management Inc., based in Diamond Bar -- to charge higher rates than currently authorized.
"The contract clearly limits the base rate" for these services, the 43-page report by the department's inspector general's office states.
The audit also said the proposed amendment amounts to a major or "cardinal change" under federal contracting laws, which can trigger a requirement for a new bidding process.
The report also found evidence that the VA may still be paying too much to the company for a variety of services on the multiyear contract.
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The audit was triggered by a call to a government hotline. It followed an internal review of QTC's billing practices and a review of the contract by a private firm for the VA.
As a result, QTC already has agreed to repay about $3 million.
But a company executive said Friday that QTC "strongly disagrees" with the new audit's conclusion that it should repay roughly $3 million more.
"We just got the audit, and we're still reviewing it," said Senior Vice President Marjie Shahani. "Our initial review of the report shows that it has numerous errors and inaccuracies, and we strongly disagree with many of its conclusions."
QTC was paid a total of $267 million by the VA from May 1, 2003, through April 30, 2007, the period covered by the audit.
The company remains under contract with the agency. And, because of good performance reviews, it is to get an additional year tacked on to the current agreement, pushing the end date to April 2009.
The Times reported in 2006 that Principi's firm had benefited from a series of contract awards and revisions to those awards by the department he once headed. The article noted that a congressionally mandated review of QTC's performance had found that the costs of the contract were much higher than expected and did not produce anticipated savings.
The VA never performed a follow-up to that study, though one was recommended by the private firm doing the review.
Principi, in response to questions from The Times in 2006, said he took no actions relating to QTC while he served as VA secretary.
Principi was the head of QTC when Bush named him to the top veterans post in 2001. He returned to the company four years later after stepping down from the Cabinet post. He now is chairman of the board.
James B. Peake, a retired Army general who now heads the VA, also worked for QTC as an executive immediately prior to being named secretary last year. At his confirmation hearings, Peake said he would recuse himself from any matters involving QTC.
Much of the inspector general's report focused on a discrepancy between the reimbursement rate for certain services called for in the contract and what QTC actually received.
The audit said that contract specifically set the reimbursement at the same rates for those services set by the Medicare program in 1998.
"QTC incorrectly updated the Medicare rates to the (program's) current rates each year rather than bill at the 1998 rates as stipulated in the contract," the audit said. "The contract is not ambiguous."
By not sticking to the 1998 rates, QTC was able to bill the VA an extra $2.6 million, according to the audit.
The auditors, by reviewing records dating back to when the contract was awarded, concluded that QTC officials were fully aware that the payment rates for certain services were supposed to be frozen at 1998 figures.
"Nonetheless, QTC never complied with the terms of the contract," the report said.
Under a prior contract, QTC had been allowed to raise rates annually.
Although QTC officials contended that the VA knew about the higher billing rate and effectively approved it, the auditors said they did not find that contention credible.
"The reasons QTC offered for continuing to use current Medicare rates are not accurate," the report concluded.
The audit noted that VA officials disagreed with some of the report's conclusions. Department officials also cited a ruling by its general counsel in early 2007 supporting the higher payments to QTC.
A department spokesman nonetheless issued a written statement saying that the agency agreed with the audit findings.
VETERANS SEEK CHEMICAL TEST PAYOUT
ANDY GREENWOOD CHIEF REPORTER
11:00 - 29 March 2008
The Ministry of Defence could face another multi-million-pound payout to veterans of secret chemical weapons tests after a group claim was settled earlier this year.
In January, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) apologised to those affected by the trials conducted at the Chemical Defence Establishment at Porton Down, Wiltshire, from the 1940s to the 1980s.
The MoD also announced it would pay £3 million to 359 veterans, including some from Devon and Cornwall, who had launched a bid for compensation.
Since then, scores of former service personnel have approached solicitors to make further claims.
The first group action was run between solicitors Leigh Day and Co and Thomson Snell and Passmore. Gene Matthews, a senior solicitor at Leigh Day and Co, said: "A further 220 people have come forward, between us and the other firm of solicitors involved.
"Clearly there are many more out there who might be entitled and we are trying to get the information across to them."
Mr Matthews said it was likely that some of those who had now come forward had pulled out of the first action.
He said: "We did have a larger group but we ended up with 359 in the first action. I think people were quite afraid of the risks of being involved in litigation and that put them off.
"The second group is slightly more secure, because of what has happened with the first, and hopefully we can move forward and get them some compensation. For those people who didn't originally come forward, it could make a real difference."
Mr Matthew said veterans of the tests, many of whom say they were tempted by promises of extra pay and leave but thought they were volunteering to find a cure for the common cold, first needed to contact the MoD to check their records.
The deadly nerve agent sarin and mustard gas were among the chemicals that the "guinea pigs" were exposed to.
The MoD has imposed a cut-off date for claims of June 30.
January's out-of-court settlement saw each veteran paid about £8,300. If all new claimants are successful, the MoD will have to pay another £1.8 million.
However, the compensation is less than the 24,000 (£12,000) paid by the Canadian government to servicemen who were subjected to similar tests.
In a written statement to MPs, Defence Minister Derek Twigg said the £3 million was "in full and final settlement" of claims, without admission of liability by the MoD.
He said the Government "sincerely" apologised to those affected.
He added: "The Government has in the past made clear the debt owed by the nation to those who took part in the trials at Porton Down, designed to ensure that the United Kingdom had the defensive capabilities to counter the real and horrific threat that chemical weapons would be used against our armed forces or civilian population, as they had done against others.
"The security of the country rested on these trials and the contribution of those who took part in them."
Are you a veteran of chemical warfare tests at Porton Down? Are you now making a claim against the MoD? If so, call Andy Greenwood at the WMN on 01752 765538. VETERANS SEEK CHEMICAL TEST PAYOUT
When will the United States take care of the men used at Edgewood Arsenal in the same type of experiments from 1955 thru 1975. Researchers from Edgewood Arsenal and Fort Detrick made many trips to and from Porton Downs even after the Edgewood expseriments ended.
E-mail on military deaths is shaky on facts
By Chuck Vinch - Staff writer
Posted : Thursday Mar 27, 2008 6:30:06 EDT
A spam e-mail making the rounds in the military community serves as a reminder that facts can be flexible when they are launched anonymously into the vast void of cyberspace.The e-mail, entitled, “Some very interesting statistics: Military losses, 1980 through 2006,” states that more U.S. service members died on active duty during the eight years of the Clinton administration, when there were no major U.S. military conflicts, than in the first six years of the George W. Bush administration, during which the military was fighting two large-scale wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The e-mail offers year-by-year U.S. military death totals from all causes — operations, illness, accidents, suicides, etc. — from 1980 through 2006.The data supposedly were taken from a periodically updated Congressional Research Service report on the subject, which in turn is based on statistics compiled by the Pentagon’s Defense Manpower and Data Center.There’s just one problem:
The figures listed in the email are wrong. They vary markedly from the figures published in the cited CRS source document.According to the e-mail, slightly more than 14,000 U.S. active-duty military deaths occurred from 1993 to 2000 during the eight years of the Clinton administration, compared to 7,932 deaths from 2001 through 2006 under President Bush.“
The loss from the two latest conflicts in the Middle East are LESS than the loss of military personnel during Bill Clinton’s presidency, when America wasn't even involved in a war,” states the e-mail, whose original author is, of course, forever lost to the electrons.But some simple math using the figures listed on page 7 of the CRS report reveals that the figures for several of the years under Clinton are inflated, while figures for some of the years under Bush are downplayed.
In reality, according to the CRS report, 7,500 service members died on active duty in the eight years from 1993 through 2000, compared to 8,792 in the six years from 2001 through 2006.The Pentagon has not yet released data on total active-duty deaths for 2007, but 1,014 service members died in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that year, and more than 100 have died in the wars so far in 2008, pushing the known total under Bush to more than 9,900.
The report does not address the ratio of active-duty deaths to force size; the active-duty force shrank significantly during the drawdown of the 1990s, from more than 1.7 million in 1993 to about 1.3 million by the early years of this decade.The claims of this particular e-mail are easily disproved. But the online proliferation of such anonymous documents highlights a serious concern for researchers and scholars about how to separate fact from fiction within the vast quantities of raw material online — and being consumed by users who often have no easy way to gauge the reliability of the information they see.
The Web site of The Sheridan Libraries, the main research facility at Johns Hopkins University, includes a lengthy “how to” guide for evaluating Internet information that underscores the difficulty.“When you use a research or academic library, the books, journals and other resources have already been evaluated by scholars, publishers and librarians,” the Web site states. “Every resource you find has been evaluated in one way or another before you ever see it.”Online, however, “none of this applies — there are no filters,” the library Web site states.“
Because anyone can write a Web page, documents of the widest range of quality, written by authors of the widest range of authority, are available on an even playing field. Excellent resources reside along side the most dubious.”“You have to look at the source,” said John Pike, director of GlobalSecurity.org, a massive online storehouse of information about every aspect of the security world, including defense, space, intelligence, weapons of mass destruction and homeland security.
Pike said he relies primarily on information from the dot-gov and dot-mil Internet domains — the official sites of the U.S. government and the Defense Department — for his Web site, “on the theory that any material from those sources has had some sort of fact-checking.”If he ventures into the dot-com realm, Pike said he generally sticks to contractor Web sites, since “presumably they know what they’re talking about when it comes to their toys.”“But sometimes we still find mistakes from those sources,” he added.
With its bottomless pool of instantaneous information, the Internet had made many people comfortable about jettisoning their critical-thinking skills, Pike said.“These days, there is a tendency to believe anything you see online that’s reasonably well-spelled,” he said. “But you have to check your sources. You have to have a good BS detector.”A good tool for dubious readers who want to confirm their suspicions is Snopes.com, which contains a database of debunked Internet myths — many related to the military.
A check of the CRS source document cited in the e-mail on U.S. military deaths shows that the e-mail’s author got it right for only three of the eight years of the Clinton administration.Figures for the other five years are off by a wide margin. For example, the e-mail cites 2,465 active-duty deaths in 1995; the figure in the CRS report is 1,040. For 1998, the e-mail cites 2,252 deaths; the CRS figure is 827.For the six years of the Bush administration, the e-mail gets none of the figures correct.
Some are off only slightly — in 2001, for example, the e-mail figure is 890 deaths, the CRS figure, 891 — but other years are far off the mark.In 2005, the e-mail lists a figure of 919 deaths; the figure in the CRS report is 1,942. Similarly, the figures for 2006 are 920 in the e-mail, 1,858 in the CRS report.“Whatever your politics, however you lean, however you feel about the current administration, this report should open some eyes,” the e-mail declares.
Friday, March 28, 2008
'Stop-Loss': A Soldier Goes Home, but Not for Long
By John Anderson
Special to The Washington Post
Friday, March 28, 2008; Page C05
When the military's death toll from the Iraq war topped 4,000 this week, a breakdown published in this newspaper showed that nearly one in 10 of those killed was from Texas.
Movies: Review: 'Stop-Loss'
'Boys Don't Cry' Director Turns Her Lens on What It Means to Be a Soldier
The Iraq War, in Hollywood's Theater
Find 'Stop-Loss' Showtimes
The War on Film
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Indeed, few states seem more intrinsically connected to the war -- never mind the Bush connections -- or have given as much to it. Or better represent the warrior ethos upon which armed conflict has depended since time immemorial. Or where a defiantly pro-mission stance could be as plausibly portrayed.
And that's why Texas is the place of business in Kimberly Peirce's "Stop-Loss," about soldiers returning from Iraq, and to Iraq, trying to maintain some remnant of sanity while being thwarted by their government. It's about people for whom the betrayal of the title could have no greater resonance, or be so moving, if they didn't happen to be in Texas.
"Stop-loss" is the process by which soldiers who have done their duty are told they have to do it again. As articulated subtly enough in Peirce's pugnaciously pro-soldier script (written with Mark Richard), it's a way for the government to avoid a draft -- something that would make Greater America more invested in the war and presumably hasten its conclusion.
Peirce, the director of another provocative film, the Oscar-winning "Boys Don't Cry," walks a fine line between being political and being human. Human wins. And that's what might help "Stop-Loss" cure the allergy Americans have to Iraq war movies. Because it's not about war. It's about men.
Chief among them: Brandon King, an Army sergeant played by Ryan Phillippe, an actor still growing into his gravitas but who apparently has decided to use his powers to make serious movies. (His last two films were "Breach" and "Flags of Our Fathers.") Brandon has spent his time in Iraq alongside his best friends Steve (Channing Tatum) and Tommy (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and has discovered, sadly, what Peirce's movie is all about, the same thing that's been voiced by real-life soldiers in virtually every Iraq documentary that's been made since the war began: We don't care about Saddam, or WMDs, or oil or Bush, we care about each other. And in the street-by-street, living-room-by-living-room battlefront of urban Iraq, Brandon and company find that it's impossible to protect your buddy.
Since Peirce opens her film in Iraq, it must be said that one of the real flaws of the film is the handheld, on-the-fly camera that is supposed to effect a feel for the desert chaos of the soldiers' existence. We've seen it done far better, often by soldiers themselves. But the Iraq sequence is just setup. The real action is on the home front. And while the Iraq war may have just entered its sixth year, "Stop-Loss" is a postwar drama -- somewhat evocative of that great World War II postmortem, "The Best Years of Our Lives," but more so the elegiac "Deer Hunter." In their heads, the soldiers themselves are postwar -- and, in the case of Tommy (beautifully played by Gordon-Levitt), post-traumatic. But while Steve yearns to leave Texas and even his girlfriend, Michele (Abbie Cornish), it's Brandon who's told he has to go back.
Phillippe does a fine job translating the unspeakable anger of a soldier into action, expressing it physically instead of verbally. Brandon's plight is touching, even pathetic: He's been told by his senator (Josef Sommer) that if there's anything he needs, just ask. So Brandon takes him at his word, deciding to go to Washington and ask not to go to Iraq. It's painfully naive, or would be if Brandon wasn't brought to his senses pretty early in his process of going AWOL.
Cornish delivers an intriguing performance -- there's more than a little bit of truck-stop angel in Michele, but there's a bit of Myrna Loy, too. When Brandon hits the road, Michele is indignant enough, and maternal enough, to go with him.
This might have become a rank-and-file ploy for romantic intrigue -- fugitive flees with best friend's girl, random sex erupts, best friend buys gun. But it's more complicated than that, and one of the more nuanced elements in a story about friendships, their frayed edges and their sometimes reluctant malleability. It's about loyalty -- loyalty kept, loyalty betrayed and loyalty unrequited.
It's also a remarkably entertaining movie, thanks in part to a first-rate cast and a director who knows you can't make a point without calling everyone to attention.
Stop-Loss (112 minutes, at area theaters) is rated R for violence, language and adult content.
I was one of the very first soldiers to join the "all NEW volunteer Army" in 1973 and went to the 9th Infantry Division the first all volunteer combat division in the Army, I was there in Nov 1974 when they let the last of the draftees out of the Army just before Thanksgiving, talk about a party and old boots slung across the phone lines they were everywhere. Beer was every where, it was a post wide party that lasted about 3 days. The draft was over. On Jan 1975 Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was made the youngest Secretary of Defense ever in our nations history, and I find it more than ironic that is was this azzhat that invoked "stop-loss" the "back door draft" on men and women who had fulfilled their contracts and should have gone into the IRR like the millions of men and women before them since 1976.
It makes me more than a little frustrated to know that Nixons proteges Cheney and Rumsfeld and George H.W. Bush (he was UN Ambassador and then Ambassador to China when Ford brought him home in 1976 and made him head of the CIA) are the same men that lied this nation into war, and have abused the all volunteer force that they were instrumental in setting up after Vietnam. The policies of the Nixon Administration forced the end of the draft and his proteges found a way to make a new one (legal) but a real shitty thing to do to combat veterans. How many men and women died on their stop loss tours, how do they tell those families how sorry they are and how proud they are that they made them stay? I encourage everyone to see this film this is a true American tragedy.
Mental health care offered to war veterans, families
By ALEX BRANCHStar-Telegram Staff Writer
To help meet the growing need for better mental health services for U.S. troops, a Tarrant County organization will start offering free care next month.
Operation Healthy Reunions will pay for as many as 12 treatment visits for military personnel who were deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as their families, said Linda Ragsdale, executive director of the Mental Health Association of Tarrant County.
"It's an important issue," Ragsdale said. "We want to help fill that gap in services for our soldiers who may be experiencing everything from post traumatic stress syndrome to depression."
Veterans groups have recently criticized mental health care for returning troops as inadequate. The Army has said that 121 soldiers committed suicide last year, more than double the number in 2001.
Other studies have shown that as many as 30 percent of veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from post traumatic stress disorder.
In Fort Worth, the overcrowded Veterans Affairs medical clinic stopped taking new enrollees last year until a new facility is built. New enrollees can commute to Dallas.
Operation Healthy Reunions is funded as part of a $5 million grant administered by the Texas Resources for Iraq-Afghanistan Deployment Fund of the Dallas Foundation. The Chisholm Trail Chapter of the American Red Cross is promoting the program.
"We are well known for reacting to emergencies after they have happened," said Jason Smith, chief executive officer of the Red Cross chapter. "This is an extraordinary chance to do something proactive for our military families."
The program will include an assessment by a licensed professional counselor and referrals to private clinics or other agencies, Ragsdale said. The mental health association offers group therapy.
"We've been networking with different clinics so we'll have a broad range of specialties," said Brooke Knox, the project manager.
Project managers will work with applicants' private insurers to help fund treatment but will pay anything not covered, Ragsdale said.
Relatives of military personnel are also eligible for the program, Knox said.
This report contains material from Star-Telegram archives.
OPERATION HEALTHY REUNIONS
Who is eligible?
Veterans who served in Afghanistan or Iraq; spouses, children and parents of military personnel now in Iraq or Afghanistan or who have served in those places are also eligible. The program covers Tarrant, Parker, Johnson, Wise and Hood counties. A similar program run by the Mental Health Association of Greater Dallas is already available in Dallas County.
How do I apply?
Contact project manager Brooke Knox at 817-335-5405.
When does it start?
Knox, a licensed professional counselor, will start assessments in April. Based on each applicant's problems, the mental health association will provide referrals to private clinics, counselors or other agency.
How long does treatment last?
Six to 12 visits to a clinic, counselor or therapy program. Afterward, another assessment will determine if further treatment is needed, Ragsdale said. The association expects to spend about $150,000 this year on clinical services for the program.
Where does the money come from?
The program is funded by a $15 million grant from the Texas Resources for Iraq-Afghanistan Deployment that was divided between south, north and west Texas. In North Texas, service agencies apply for money from the Dallas Foundation, which administers the grant. Operation Healthy Reunions has secured funding for two years.
Families learning to spot PTSD
Veterans Affairs offers aid in recognizing signs
By Suzanne Bohan, STAFF WRITER
Article Created: 03/27/2008 02:32:42 AM PDT
Roughly one in five soldiers or Marines serving in Iraq and Afghanistan develop post-traumatic stress disorder, a condition that has been plaguing humans through the ages.
"It's been around for thousands of years — as long as there's been war, as long as there's been trauma," said Dr. Byron J. Wittlin, director of mental health services at the Department of Veterans Affairs clinic in San Bruno.
In World War II, the condition was called "shell shock," he said. Now it has an official name: post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.
Many of its victims remain untreated, so the VA is trying to educate family members.
"I think it's crucial for (military) family members to be aware of the potential mental health problems of their loved ones," Wittlin said.
As part of the emphasis on training family members to spot signs of the disorder, he recently spoke to a group from the Pacifica Military Moms, a chapter of the national organization, The Blue Star Mothers of America.
Debbie Smyser, co-founder of the Pacifica group and a trainer at Genentech in South San Francisco, has a 21-year-old sonin Iraq.
A number of the members of the group also have offspring in Iraq or Afghanistan, and Smyser said they wanted to be prepared to help their children should they return in mental distress.
"We need to know what to recognize, in case we need to get them help," she said. "It's just to make us aware and what signs to look for."
disorder is not unique to military personnel who have witnessed or experienced violence from combatants, or other extreme stresses of wartime service, Wittlin said.
Roughly half of all adults will experience trauma in their lives, ranging from serious vehicle accidents and natural disasters to criminal attacks and sexual abuse.
While it's normal to feel frightened, anxious, angry and depressed after such incidents, if they persist long after the event, that's a sign of PTSD.
Of those experiencing trauma during their lives, roughly 8 percent will develop the disorder, according to federal statistics.
But military personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan are coping with, in essence, guerrilla warfare, and must remain constantly on alert, which also heightens their risks of developing PTSD, Wittlin said.
They also regularly endure 50-mile-an-hour dust storms, sleep deprivation, long separations from family and multiple tours of duty.
It takes a trained clinician to accurately diagnose PTSD.
The hallmark symptoms include: recurrent and intrusive thoughts about the trauma, avoidance of triggers that are reminders of the event, and either a numbing of emotions or the opposite — heightened irritability and excessive vigilance.
For many people, the disorder will fade on its own, Wittlin said. But for others, it persists, many times for years, disrupting relationships with spouses, children, other family members and friends.
Jobs often are hard to keep for those with PTSD, as they become easily irritated and critical of others.
Others begin abusing alcohol or drugs to relieve their symptoms, Wittlin said. At its worst, sufferers can become suicidal, an act easier to carry out since many veterans keep weapons at home.
"A number of veterans come back feeling wary enough that they keep a loaded gun in the house," Wittlin said.
"We discourage that," he added. "Or, we ask them to lock it up."
It's not a sign of weakness, experts emphasize, that some develop the condition while others don't. Researchers are studying risk factors for PTSD, and among them are early childhood trauma, Wittlin said.
Still, many military personnel avoid mental health treatment, often for fear of stigma. Other active-duty personnel are reluctant to report these problems, as
they don't want to abandon their comrades, which "engenders shame," he added.
As a result, many military personnel remain undiagnosed or untreated, he said.
The condition is highly treatable, Wittlin emphasized.
"People get better," he said.
And while nonexperts can't with certainly conclude if a veteran has PTSD, they can play a crucial role guiding those in need of aid into to a health care clinic.
"We encourage family members to be supportive, to mainly listen," Wittlin said. "And if they feel the vet needs some help, to call the VA and to refer them into us.
"This is really a complicated problem. And in our system, we have a lot of experience. And this is one of the services we want to offer."
For more information on the Pacifica Military Moms, which accepts members from throughout the Bay Area, visit http://www.pacificamilitarymoms.com.
For more information on PTSD, visit the National Institutes of Health's Web site on the condition at http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd/index.shtml.
Reach Suzanne Bohan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 650-348-4324.
Comparing the Campaign To 'The Bataan Death March'
Obama, at a fundraiser, last night: “For those of you who are just weary of the primary, and feeling kind of ground down or that it’s like a Bataan death march, I just want everybody to know that the future is bright.”
Jen Rubin: "Yeah, just like that. (Note to our Democratic friends: avoid analogies which compare, even in jest, the minor stresses of campaigning to war crimes; there’s a candidate out there who knows something about real wars and real suffering.)"
Actually, David Axelrod made the comparison earlier this year:
"They are going to have a very hard choice to make after Tuesday if she loses Texas or Ohio," Mr Obama's top adviser David Axelrod said. "There are people in the party who are very concerned about this turning into some kind of a Bataan Death March."
I'm not going to jump up and down and demand an apology or suggest that Obama is insensitive to veterans or anything like that. I'm just going to note that shortly after 9/11, when some were proclaiming the death of irony, there was a widespread sense that it was silly to apply military metaphors, associated with killing and death, to mundane inconveniences.
No one would think to call the Carville and Stephanopolous operation in Little Rock "The War Room" (also the title of the documentary that covered it) during a time of actual war. Football player Kellen Winslow got a little grief when he declared, "It's war. They're out there to kill you, so I'm out there to kill them. ... I'm a soldier."
Calling a long and tiring campaign a death march is about one step removed from Reductio ad Hitlerium, because while I'm sure the candidates, their staffs, and the people who cover them are exhausted, it just doesn't compare to war atrocities. As Rubin notes, it gives off a whiff of "poor me, poor me" whining.
Obama gets a pass this time, but this metaphor ought to be mothballed.
Comparing the Campaign To 'The Bataan Death March'
As a disabled Army veteran this DOES offend me, a political campaign is not even comparable to what the men who were involved in the "Bataan Death March" were put thru, I know, some of my parents friends were survivors of it, even the military community held them all in high regard, there are quite a few of them still alive in New Mexico where the reserve unit there was in the Philipines when they fell, and the entire unit was captured and forced to do the "March" he owes these "hero's" an apology.
Kristofferson joins Obama’s backing band
By David Smyth 28.03.08 More reviews by David Smyth
Voice of America: Kris Kristofferson is soon to play the Albert Hall
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Kris Kristofferson has made a career of bashing politicians in his songs. However, when the 71-year-old singer and actor plays the Albert Hall next week, he may find something more positive than the Bush administration to rant about — in Barack Obama.
“I really hope he’s gonna win,” he tells me, cowboy boots on the table in the back of the plush coach where he and his family will live for the duration of his spring tour. “I think the reaction to his candidacy is the most hopeful thing since the Kennedys. He’s talking like Kennedy did, about dealing with the world’s problems diplomatically, finding common ground through dialogue instead of bombing everybody.”
Of the many musicians who wear their politics on their sleeves, Kristofferson is one of the more vocal — and the author of such classics as Me and Bobby McGee and Help Me Make It Through the Night isn’t known for craven optimism.
On his latest album, This Old Road (New West), his dark song In the News speaks of “Mortal thunder from the skies/Killing everything they say they’re fighting for”, while Wild American states: “When they burn your brother down in the name of Freedom/I don’t care if it’s Left or Right/It’s wrong”. “They’re bleak songs, but not nearly as bleak as it really is,” he admits. “The world is in worse shape now than at any time I can remember — and the US government is responsible for most of it.”
While plenty of American singers are finding it easy to speak out against their leaders now that everyone else is doing it, sentiments like this are nothing new for Kristofferson. An army captain in his youth, whose father was a US Air Force major-general, now he is a member of the organisation Veterans for Peace. His 1990 album, Third World Warrior, featured songs criticising US involvement in Nicaragua, in support of the Sandinista rebels.
”I used to get in a lot of trouble for singing activist songs. People would stand outside my shows with signs. Now things have changed. Every now and again someone will yell out: ‘Ya communist bastard!’ But not often.”
It’s a long time since Kristofferson has been popular enough as a musician for the public to listen to what he has to say. This Old Road is his first album of original material since 1995. “When I was speaking out on controversial issues, it was my films that supported my band,” he says, referring to the good and not-so-good projects that have kept him busy in a second career as an actor since he first appeared alongside Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda in The Last Movie in 1971. He finds he is most recognisable to the younger generation as the vampire hunter Whistler in the Wesley Snipes trilogy, Blade.
Now he’s on stage, alone with an acoustic guitar, singing out for what he believes in. Like the five American albums by his friend and former bandmate Johnny Cash, the songs on This Old Road benefit from stripped-down arrangements, leaving the focus on his poetic lyrics and gruff, weary voice. And this time, the political moments are sure to be met with cheers.
Editorial: History is in the making
Dell Corner has a great sense of history.
Corner, a World War II vet, pulled off an excursion to the 2004 dedication of the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., for five busloads of northern Michigan veterans. Last year, 400 people attended an all-northern Michigan reunion of WWII vets he created here in Traverse City.
Now, he's ready to make history again -- a first-in-the-nation statewide reunion of WWII veterans from every branch of the service, May 31 to June 1 in a Traverse City location still to be decided.
Corner has appropriately billed the gathering as the "last lasting tribute." With WWII vets mostly in their 80s or older, time matters.
Contributions to Northern Michigan World War II Veterans organization can be sent to the Traverse City State Bank, 310 West Front St., Traverse City, MI, 49684. Call Corner at (231) 947-8438.
WW2 Reunion for all Michigan Veterans
Thursday, March 27, 2008
Missing files stretch VA appeals process
By RICK MAZE
March 27, 2008
Chauncey Robinson spent six months in the Army — and has spent the past 16 years in a battle for veterans’ disability benefits.
It hardly helps the Albany, N.Y., native that the Veterans Affairs Department has lost all his personnel and medical files.
“I don’t even know where my VA files are today,” Robinson said. “In New York, they say the files are in Washington, D.C. In D.C., they say the files are in New York. I don’t think the VA knows where they are, which means I may have to reconstruct my claim all over again.”
Robinson, 47, said he has files stored in boxes and suitcases throughout his house and with relatives, and that he could reconstruct his personnel and medical records if forced to do so.
“This is not something I want to do, or think I should do, but it might be something I have to do,” he said.
Many veterans who have filed claims with VA have had problems with missing files. Veterans groups and even VA have long talked about the need to establish electronic records and an electronic claims process that would make it easier to track progress of claims and provide instant access to files.
No common system
But progress on this front has been complicated by VA’s problems with trying to make its computer systems compatible or create a new common system.
Robinson, who never rose above the rank of private, served in the Army in 1992, from January to July, according to VA records.
Within months of his discharge, he filed a disability claim for what he said was service-related hypertension related to the incident that seems to have been the beginning of the end of his brief military career — being tossed out of bed by a drill sergeant while assigned to Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., where he completed basic training and was attending advanced training to be a heavy machine mechanic.
His initial disability claim was rejected, but Robinson has continued to appeal in a process made longer and more difficult by the fact that his files were lost.
A 2005 ruling by the Board of Veterans Appeals noted the incomplete files, suggesting that they may have gone astray in VA or in the legal system but stating that reconstructing the medical and personnel records was necessary so Robinson could get a fair hearing.
Robinson said he started receiving veterans’ disability compensation in 1995 after being rated as 100 percent disabled with post-traumatic stress disorder.
He’s getting about $2,600 a month in tax-free benefits but continues to appeal the initial denial for hypertension and cardiovascular disease.
“This could be over if the VA didn’t keep losing my records,” Robinson said. “It has happened so often that it is hard for me to believe it isn’t being done intentionally.”
VA officials were unable to comment on Robinson’s case, other than to say his appeal is still under consideration under an order from the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims to reconstruct missing records.
Lawmakers urge progress
In a Feb. 28 letter that laid out their views on the 2009 veterans’ budget, Democrats on the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee said they recognize that building a centralized information technology system takes time. But they said it would be nice to see some progress.
Although it is unlikely to help Robinson, VA is working on an electronic records system called Virtual VA that involves scanning paper files into the computer system.
But the House committee report said that effort “does not begin to realize the advantages that a true electronics benefits system can yield to veterans seeking benefits.”
A symposium held in 2006 to look at issues facing Iraq and Afghanistan veterans included a discussion about lost paperwork.
The final report of the National Symposium on the Needs of Young Veterans, which was sponsored by AmVets, said VA practices for handling paperwork should be audited to determine where documents are most likely to go astray.
The report also recommended that managers be held accountable for lost paperwork.
“The best protocol is worthless if the organization’s staff does not comply with it, and management tolerates the noncompliance,” the report says.
Email this story to a friend Missing records make VA claims hard to process
Veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars won't get proper health care until the U.S. government updates and simplifies the bureaucracy strangling benefits and outpatient care.
This is the conclusion of Donna Shalala, former secretary of the U.S. Department Health and Human Services during the Clinton administration. President George W. Bush commissioned Shalala, Bob Dole and several other experts to evaluate the care of wounded veterans after the Washington Post exposed dire conditions at Walter Reed Hospital: deteriorating, rat- and roach-infested housing for family members, neglectful staff, and a mind-numbing bureaucracy. Shalala spoke about their findings to an auditorium packed with students and military personnel Monday, March 10, at N.C. State University.
While deployed, U.S. soldiers have access to world-class health care. But as soon as they leave the hospital bed, Shalala said, "it falls apart ... in the coordination of outpatient care."
This new generation of veterans has different medical needs, yet the dated, convoluted veterans health care system fails many of them. More survivors are returning home with brain injuries and long-term mental health issues, conditions that tend to be more severe and complex. These patients suffer most as they and their families struggle to find continuity among lost records, shuffling caseworkers and miscommunication typical of the military health care system.
"We need a sensible way of transferring records," Shalala said. Medical records are often lost or simply unobtainable because the three agencies that handle military health care have computer systems that are incompatible with one other.
The complexity likely arose from a tendency to respond to problems by adding more programs or rules, effectively creating new problems in order to fix old ones. Shalala and the commission recommended streamlining and stabilizing the system. This includes assigning each veteran a civilian coordinator, who could handle the long-term cases, instead of a military coordinator, who might be deployed at any moment. The coordinator should also have the power to cut through inter-agency red tape.
Updating the benefits and computer systems are next on the list. While many soldiers join the military to help pay for college, many don't complete their education. "The drop-out rates for educational benefits looks like inner-city schools," Shalala said. Many veterans are told they must go to community college, where tuition is cheaper, but they are also eligible to attend four-year universities. They need more money and incentive to finish their schooling, Shalala said, as well as a centralized Web site to clearly explain how to apply and use benefits.
Only about 10 percent of these suggested changes would go before Congress; most of them would need presidential approval. Shalala estimates that about half of the suggestions have already been implemented and the other half are in the works.
However, she said that veterans benefits aren't the president's top priority—and never will be without public pressure. "All of us have a stake in the quality of health care we provide for the military," she said.
Shalala: Veterans benefits system is broken
Yes the VA system is broken, but some of the suggestions that Sec Shalala and Senator Dole made are not reasonable and create a two tier system where older vets get less benefits than newer disabled veterans and create re-evaluations that will create tremendous stress on mentally ill veterans suffering from PTSD by requiring them to be re-evaluated every three years, a check of the medical treatment records should indicate the necessity for a reevaluation not just an arbitrary date, if veterans quit going to doctors appointments or group therapy then yes call them in, but if they are going in and continuing treatment causing the angst of a formal C&P re-evaluation is not necessary and will end up causing many suicides, as did the proposed re-evalution three years ago by the VA and was cancelled after a few vets did committ suicide and 2100 files were reviewed and the errors were not the veterans fault nor fraud but mishandling of the file by the VA itself.
Rob Miller Files for US Congress
March 24, 2008 | Filed Under Press Releases, The Shot
Written by The Shot
Iraq War Combat Veteran: “It is time for Washington to truly support the troops”
Columbia, SC – Today, former Marine Captain and Iraq War Veteran Rob Miller of Beaufort filed to run as a Democratic Candidate for the United States Congress in the Second Congressional District, currently held by Congressman Joe Wilson.
A native of South Carolina, Miller served twice in Iraq, including the Battle of Fallujah in 2004. After 13 years, Miller completed his service with the Marine Corps in February of this year. Miller, 33, has been married to his wife Shane for 11 years and the couple has one child.
Miller says he began to consider a run for Congress during his deployment in Iraq. “Just like so many others, I proudly served my county in Iraq and I’d do it again without hesitation if called on. Many politicians in Washington love to talk about how they support the troops, but all too often their actions do not match up with their rhetoric,” Miller said.
“It’s one to thing to wave the American Flag when the cameras are running but it’s another thing to actually support the troops. America’s men and women in Iraq have been forced to buy their own tactical gear and have been required to travel in ‘armed’ vehicles with armor duct taped to the doors because politicians like Joe Wilson wouldn’t support them when it mattered most,” Miller said. “Congressman Wilson is quick to introduce resolutions supporting the troops, but did nothing when our wounded veterans couldn’t get the basic care they needed at Walter Reed.”
If elected Miller says he will push for stronger ethics laws for members of Congress. “For years we had Tom DeLay and Jack Abramoff running the show, getting rich off the American people. We need to make sure that something like that never happens again. The reforms implemented over the past couple of years just don’t go far enough. Members of Congress should listen to the voters, not the lobbyists. Joe Wilson isn’t going to push for stronger ethics laws, but I will,” Miller said.
Miller said that other goals in Congress would include reducing the national deficit by cutting government spending and repealing the Bush tax give-a-ways to the super wealthy. “We can’t expect our economy to be strong and our children’s future to be secure if we continue the Joe Wilson policies of borrow, spend and mortgage,” Miller said.
Rob Miller opens his bid for Congress
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
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Iraq contractor fights suit over toxic exposure
WASHINGTON - When the American team arrived in Iraq in the summer of 2003 to repair the Qarmat Ali water injection plant, supervisors told them the orange, sand-like substance strewn around the looted facility was just a "mild irritant," workers recall.
Edward Blacke, a safety representative on the project, said he tried to raise safety concerns but was told not to get involved.
more stories like thisThe workers got it on their hands and clothing every day while racing for 2 1/2 months to meet a deadline to get the plant, a crucial part of Iraq's oil infrastructure, up and running.
But the chemical turned out to be sodium dichromate, a substance so dangerous that even limited exposure greatly increases the risk of cancer. Soon, many of the 22 Americans and 100-plus Iraqis began to complain of nosebleeds, ulcers, and shortness of breath. Within weeks, nearly 60 percent exhibited symptoms of exposure, according to the minutes of a meeting of project managers from KBR, the Houston-based construction company in charge of the repairs.
Now, nine Americans are accusing KBR, then a subsidiary of the oil conglomerate Halliburton, of knowingly exposing them to the deadly substance and failing to provide them with the protective equipment needed to keep them safe.
But the workers, like all employees injured in Iraq, face an uphill struggle in their quest for damages. Under a World War II-era federal workers compensation law, employers are generally protected from employee lawsuits, except in rare cases in which it can be proven that the company intentionally harmed its employees or committed outright fraud.
KBR is citing the law, called the Defense Base Act, as grounds to reject the workers' request for damages.
But the company's own actions have undermined its case: To avoid payroll taxes for its American employees, KBR hired the workers through two subsidiaries registered in the Cayman Islands, part of a strategy that has allowed KBR to dodge hundreds of millions of dollars in Social Security and Medicare taxes.
That gives the workers' lawyer, Mike Doyle of Houston, a chance to argue to an arbitration board that KBR is not an employer protected by federal law, but a third-party that can be sued.
KBR's lawyers argued in a legal brief that the workers should be considered employees of KBR because they were part of a corporate subsidiary that was working on a KBR team. The company's spokeswoman, Heather Browne, pointed out that the company's projects in Iraq take place in a "dangerous, unpredictable environment," but said the firm maintains an "unwavering commitment to safety."
Like domestic workers' compensation plans, the Defense Base Act entitles employees in Iraq to medical care, disability, and death benefits, regardless of who is at fault for the injury. In exchange, it generally prohibits employees from seeking any further compensation, even if the employer is at For this reason, fewer than 10 high-profile lawsuits have been filed against contractors in Iraq. So far, none has been decided in favor of the employees, lawyers say, although some cases are ongoing.
Edward Blacke, a safety representative on the project, said he tried to raise safety concerns but was told not to get involved.
more stories like thisBut the law - approved in 1941, a year when few defense contractors were engaged on the front lines - is coming under increasing criticism from Iraq war workers.
"In Iraq, there is so much more at stake," said Marc Miles, a lawyer for the relatives of four men working for the security company Blackwater USA, who were killed by a mob in 2004. "If the employer is negligent, the employee doesn't just slip and fall and hurt his back. The employee could be killed or dismembered."
Yet in almost all cases, if an employer puts profit over safety in Iraq, an injured employee has no right to collect anything beyond medical care and a portion of his or her salary while out of work, Miles said.
"If [companies] are looking at their bottom line, and looking at profit, they would tend to cut the services and equipment that might be necessary to protect the employees' lives, because there would be no recourse for doing so," he said.
The workers at the Qarmat Ali plant now say KBR's managers discouraged them from raising safety concerns about the chemical and were slow to take action to mitigate health risks because they didn't want to miss their deadline for finishing the work.
"What was done to us, I believe, it's criminal," said Danny Langford , a motor specialist from Texas who worked in the most contaminated room in the facility. "I think it was deliberate. They wanted this six month job - get you in, get you out, and send you on your way, and 10 years later you start dying of cancer."
The job at Qarmat Ali began shortly after the US-led invasion of Iraq. In the run-up to the war, KBR signed a secret, no-bid contract to revive Iraq's oil fields after the fall of Saddam Hussein.
The Qarmat Ali plant was a crucial part of that project, responsible for pumping water through the desert and into the oil fields to provide the pressure necessary to pump oil from the ground. Sodium dichromate was mixed into the water to prevent the oil pipes from rusting. The chemical contains the most toxic form of chromium, the substance responsible for poisoning people in Hinkley, Calif., in a case highlighted by the movie "Erin Brockovich."
Max Costa, an expert witness in the Hinkley case who is chairman of the Department of Environmental Medicine at New York University Medical Center, said the chemical is damaging, even in very small doses.
"You cannot be exposed," he said. "It gets into your cells, damages your DNA, depresses your immune system, and down the road, it causes cancer."
KBR managers knew as early as June 22 that the chemical was sodium dichromate, according to a KBR safety log from Qarmat Ali submitted to the arbitration board in Doyle's case.
Edward Blacke, a safety representative on the project, said he tried to raise safety concerns but was told not to get involved.
more stories like thisBut little was done to mitigate the harm, according to interviews with four former workers. One worker, who decided not to join Langford's complaint for fear of retaliation, said a supervisor and a chemical engineer assured him the chemical was harmless. "They said, 'No, it's safe, everything's fine,' so we continued to work," he recalled. "We had it all over us."
Then Edward Blacke, a health and safety representative on the project employed by one of KBR's Cayman Island subsidiaries, began to do his own Web research.
"I discovered that it was a real bad actor," Blacke said in a telephone interview from his home in Arizona. "It was fatal to swallow. Very harmful on contact with skin, respiratory tract burns, anything that dealt with a mucus membrane." He also learned that it attacks the liver and kidneys and increases the risk of cancer.
Blacke said he tried to raise safety concerns about it to his supervisors, but "the response was, 'Don't get involved. This is not your area,' " he said. "They said that I was blowing this thing out of proportion."
At the end of July, after a chemical specialist based in Kuwait who had just visited the plant wrote an e-mail to KBR project managers urging that they warn workers of the health hazards, the managers authorized warning signs to be displayed, according to copies of e-mails written by KBR staff.
But Blacke, who resigned from the project that August, felt more needed to be done. Workers were complaining of nosebleeds, eye problems, and inexplicable shortness of breath.
"We didn't know what it was," Langford said. "I kept going to the [Human Resources] department when we went back to Kuwait. They kept giving me pills. They said that maybe we were allergic to the sand. I said, 'I have been around sand all my life, and I have never been allergic to it.' "
After a series of worker complaints, two KBR staff members visited the site Aug. 9 and took air and soil samples. A memo about their trip described "piles of dark orange crystalline material" around the plant, noting that it was "most likely pure sodium dichromate."
The memo also said Iraqi workers with the state-owned Southern Oil Co. were observed eating their lunches on the floor next to the chemical tanks, and that one worker who had been shoveling contaminated sludge into a wheelbarrow without protection showed them ulcers on his chest and abdomen.
At the end of August, KBR managers announced that the air samples showed just negligible amounts of sodium dichromate in the air. But technicians at A & B Environmental Services, the Houston lab that tested the air samples, told the Globe that the method used to collect the air samples was not suitable for detecting the toxic substance. Around the same time, KBR workers persuaded their managers to test their blood for contamination The results showed "elevated chromium levels" in the men's blood, according to Michael Kilpatrick, the military's deputy director of Force Health Protection and Readiness, who was briefed on the situation at Qarmat Ali because some US soldiers had contact with the plant.
Edward Blacke, a safety representative on the project, said he tried to raise safety concerns but was told not to get involved.
more stories like thisAlthough the blood tests were not sophisticated enough to conclusively prove that the chromium in their blood came from the toxic form present at Qarmat Ali, a senior KBR project manager in the Middle East called workers together and announced that he planned to clean up the site.
"They got up in front of us and said, 'We got the blood samples back, and y'all do have some exposure to chromium in your blood,' " Langford said, adding that the most senior manager told the workers they would be wasting their time to file a lawsuit. "He said, 'It's a war zone. Things happen like this.' "
KBR managers mandated that personal protective gear be used at the site, but when the crew arrived in September to help clean up the contamination, there was not enough gear to go around, according to a memo to KBR managers from a safety representative.
Kilpatrick confirmed that the impetus for mitigating the risk of the chemical "came from the workers themselves." He said he had no information about why KBR waited until mid-August to take action. "There may have been issues of not understanding what perhaps people were at risk from," he said.
Now Langford and his former co-workers face uncertain medical futures. When Langford returned to the United States, he underwent a time-consuming blood-filtering treatment, which KBR's insurance company paid for. But none of the other men interviewed by the Globe had taken such a step, and it is unclear whether the treatment mitigates the risk of cancer.
Bobby Boycher, 43, an electrician from Leesville, La., who installed electrical equipment at Qarmat Ali, has no health insurance now. "It's totally terrified me," Boycher said. "It's changed my life."
If any of the men do develop cancer, they can present evidence of the link to their time at Qarmat Ali and attempt to get their medical treatment paid for by Defense Base Act insurance, according to Chris Winans, a spokesman for AIG, KBR's provider of Defense Base Act insurance. But Winans acknowledged that the more time that passes, the harder it will be to prove a link.
Blacke said that the firm should do more to ensure that the workers do not have to fight for medical treatment if they get sick, and that KBR should pay damages for putting workers' health at risk. "I'm hoping that KBR will step up and say, 'We made a mistake,' " Blacke said.
So far, that looks unlikely. But Doyle hopes the arbitration board will be persuaded that his clients were not KBR employees - because they were hired through the company's Cayman Islands subsidiaries - and therefore allow him to hold KBR accountable for putting the workers' lives at risk.
"I wouldn't be doing this if at the end of the day I didn't think I could do something for the people I'm representing," said Doyle. "But the reality is, so far, they have pretty much been able to escape scot-free."
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
How VP Cheney really feels about "volunteers"
In the past few days our surly Vice President who is normally in an "undisclosed location" surfaced to be interviewed by ABC's Martha Radditz in a now famous exchange, something to the effect that two thirds of Americans want us out of Iraq and his one word reply was "SO".
Then in this interview Cheney on ABC, on milestone of 4,000 dead
"The president carries the biggest burden, obviously," Cheney said. "He's the one who has to make the decision to commit young Americans, but we are fortunate to have a group of men and women, the all-volunteer force, who voluntarily put on the uniform and go in harm's way for the rest of us."
If President Bush has the biggest burden, I wonder how the families of the 4,000 dead "volunteers" feel and the over 30,000 severely wounded, I am sure it bothers them that the President has this huge "burden" on him.
I have no sympathy for the Bush Administration they took this nation, by lies and manipulation into the first preemptive war this nation has ever jumped into, all based on desires of the neocons.
In the meantime they were actively working to deny Cold War veterans used in human experiments, veterans benefits that may be entitled to them for long term medical problems that could have been caused by the exposures.
These involved chemical weapons such as Sarin and Mustard Agents, drugs known as LSD, PCP, Ecstacy and Scopolomine, in all 254 substances were used at Edgewood Arsenal, Maryland. The experiments violated the Nuremberg Codes of 1947. There were 7120 enlisted men used in this program.
There were other programs known by names as SHAD/112 between 1960 and 1973 total men used is unknown, and Operation White Coat at Fort Detrick that used biological weapons on 2100 volunteers, from 1953 thru 1972.
There have been attempts by many Congressmen to force the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Veterans Administration (VA) to find and help these men since the early 90's.
On April 28, 2005 Congressmen Lane Evans and Ted Strickland (now Governor of Ohio) sent this letter to VA Secretary James Nicholson
April 28, 2005
Honorable R. James Nicholson
Department of Veterans Affairs
810 Vermont Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20420
Dear Mr. Secretary:
In the past, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has sent letters to veterans identified as being previously exposed to hazardous chemical, biological or radiological environments while on active duty and who have the potential for presumptive or related, service-connected conditions. We have previously expressed our interest in VA providing veterans with notice of such exposure and of the potential service-connection of conditions related to that exposure. VA has sometimes been unable to provide veterans with individual notice because of difficulties collecting lists of participants exposed to the hazardous condition. We understand that VA is generally dependent on the Department of Defense (DoD) for providing such lists.
Enclosed are sealed sets of lists of names of individuals who were exposed to potentially hazardous materials while participating in tests or programs at Fort Detrick, Maryland, or Edgewood, Maryland, for the period 1954 through the present. In many cases, the lists provide specifics regarding the exposure associated with the individual's name and service number. We ask VA to provide written notice to the living veterans named on these lists who may have an illness or injury related to their participation in the programs or tests managed at the two DoD facilities listed above.
Mr. Secretary, the limiting factor in VA's due diligence in this arena has been its ability to secure lists of participants from the DoD. Our proactive approach to this issue quickly yielded the enclosed lists, which we understand contain approximately 10,000 names. We expect that you should be able to
determine address information on the living veterans through VA health and insurance records and by using VA's authority to cross match data with the Internal Revenue Service and the Social Security Administration.
We ask that you provide us with a timetable for sending notice, as appropriate, to the listed individuals who you are able to determine are still alive. I am requesting this be done no later than May, 27, 2005, and to complete the mailing of all notices no later than 120 days after that date. Democratic Committee staff point of contact is Mr. Len Sistek, 202-225-9756.
LANE EVANS TED STRICKLAND
Ranking Democratic Member Ranking Democratic Member
Subcommittee on Oversight
Enclosures as stated
On October 5, 2005 then Secretary Nicholson finally responded to their letter with this reply:
Secretary Nicholsons reply you will need to click on the link to read his response, it is posted as a photo image and I am not capable of transferring it to print.
To Summarize it though, he states their lists of 10,000 names from April, is not useful to help find these men, so he was sending it to Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld where he could have DOD work on it.
Then there is this new Government Accountability Report (GAO) http://www.gao.gov/new.item s/d08366.pdf
What GAO Found
United States Government Accountability Office
Why GAO Did This Study
CHEMICAL AND BIOLOGICAL DEFENSE
DOD and VA Need to Improve Efforts to Identify and Notify Individuals Potentially Exposed during Chemical and Biological Tests
Highlights of GAO-08-366, a report to congressional requesters
Tens of thousands of military personnel and civilians were potentially exposed to chemical or biological substances through Department of Defense (DOD) tests since World War II. DOD conducted some of these tests as part of its Project 112 test program, while others were conducted as separate efforts. GAO was asked to (1) assess DOD's efforts to identify individuals who were potentially exposed during Project 112 tests, (2) evaluate DOD's current effort to identify individuals who were potentially exposed during tests conducted outside of Project 112, and (3) determine the extent to which DOD and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) have taken action to notify individuals who might have been exposed during chemical and biological tests. GAO analyzed documents and interviewed officials from DOD, VA, the Department of Labor, and a veterans service organization.
What GAO Recommends
GAO suggests that Congress direct DOD to develop guidance to notify potentially exposed civilians. GAO also recommends that DOD and VA take steps to improve their efforts to obtain, share, and use available information to more effectively identify and notify individuals. DOD and VA generally agreed with most of the recommendations. However, DOD did not agree with the recommendation to conduct a cost-benefit analysis regarding additional Project 112 research. As a result, GAO suggests that Congress direct DOD to conduct such an analysis.
Since 2003, DOD has stopped actively searching for individuals who were potentially exposed to chemical or biological substances during Project 112 tests, but did not provide a sound and documented basis for that decision. In 2003, DOD reported it had identified 5,842 servicemembers and estimated 350 civilians as having been potentially exposed during Project 112, and indicated that DOD would cease actively searching for additional individuals. However, in 2004, GAO reported that DOD did not exhaust all possible sources of information and recommended that DOD determine the feasibility of identifying additional individuals. In response to GAO's recommendation, DOD determined continuing an active search for individuals had reached the point of diminishing returns, and reaffirmed its decision to cease active searches. This decision was not supported by an objective analysis of the potential costs and benefits of continuing the effort, nor could DOD provide any documented criteria from which it made its determination. Since June 2003, however, non-DOD sources--including the Institute of Medicine--have identified approximately 600 additional names of individuals who were potentially exposed during Project 112. Until DOD provides a more objective analysis of the costs and benefits of actively searching for Project 112 participants, DOD's efforts may continue to be questioned.
DOD has taken action to identify individuals who were potentially exposed during tests outside of Project 112, but GAO identified four shortcomings in DOD's current effort. First, DOD's effort lacks clear and consistent objectives, scope of work, and information needs that would set the parameters for its effort. Second, DOD has not provided adequate oversight to guide this effort. Third, DOD has not fully leveraged information obtained from previous research efforts that identified exposed individuals. Fourth, DOD's effort lacks transparency since it has not kept Congress and veterans service organizations fully informed of the progress and results of its effort. Until DOD addresses these limitations, Congress, veterans, and the American public cannot be assured that DOD's current effort is reasonable and effective.
DOD and VA have had limited success in notifying individuals potentially exposed during tests both within and outside Project 112. DOD has a process to share the names of identified servicemembers with VA; however, DOD has delayed regular updates to VA because of a number of factors, such as competing priorities. Furthermore, although VA has a process for notifying potentially exposed veterans, it was not using certain available resources to obtain contact information to notify veterans or to help determine whether they were deceased. Moreover, DOD had not taken any action to notify identified civilians, focusing instead on veterans since the primary impetus for the research has been requests from VA. DOD has refrained from taking action on notifying civilians in part because it lacks specific guidance that defines the requirements to notify civilians. Until these issues are addressed, some identified veterans and civilians will remain unaware of their potential exposure.
To view the full product, including the scope
and methodology, click on GAO-08-366.
For more information, contact Davi M. D'Agostino at (202) 512-5431 or email@example.com.
There are previous GAO reports on the human experimentation going back to 1994, so this problem was not exactly a new secret.
An Overview on Co1d.Wa.r
Then there is this other GAO report May 2004
CHEMICAL AND BIOLOGICAL DEFENSE
DOD Needs to Continue to Collect and Provide Information on Tests and Potentially Exposed Personnel
Then there is this April 3, 2006 newspaper article from Lisa Friedman of the Los Angeles Press Telegram VA: Foot-dragging seen
In the notification letters, Pamperin said, veterans will be told the chemical they were exposed to and the dosage, and be encouraged to seek hospital tests to determine if they suffered related injuries.
"If and, hopefully, none of them have been harmed they will receive the kind of compensation they're entitled to," Pamperin said.
Rick Weidman of the Vietnam Veterans of America accused the VA of dragging its feet.
"The VA is incredibly slow," he said. "They don't really want to do it. They will screw around with that list for a year or longer, and then they'll say they cannot find a lot of the veterans. If you wait long enough, we'll all be dead."
Pamperin strongly disputed the criticisms.
"I understand that some frustrated veterans believe that to be true," he said. "Our responsibility is to implement (veterans' benefits) to the full extent Congress has authorized it, without regard to how much is spent," he said.
Due to this overwhelming evidence of disregard for the veterans and their families caused by human experimentation from the mid 50s thru 1975, when then Chief of Staff Dick Cheney to President Ford and Sec of Defense Donald Rumsfeld agreed to allowing the human experiments to continue when they inherited them from the Nixon administration, the disregard they have for the lost lives in the Iraq War is not surprising to me. This shows they are as bad as Saddam Hussein was, he used chemical weapons on the Kurds, a group of people he was at war with, they were trying to kill him and he did kill them.
On the other hand Rumsfeld and Cheney allowed military enlisted members to be used as human guinea pigs and now are actively working to deny them benfits at least until they leave office in January 2009, why? Because of the questions that might be put to President Bush and VP Cheney and the embarassment it would cause them? It's obvious they don't care about the soldiers.
please go to the link and read the links available to see the entire evidence