By PAUL ELIAS Associated Press Writer
Article Launched: 04/19/2008 11:24:19 AM PDT
SAN FRANCISCO—The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs isn't doing enough to prevent suicide and provide adequate medical care for Americans who have served in the armed forces, according to a class-action lawsuit that goes to trial this week.
The lawsuit, filed in July by two nonprofit groups representing veterans, accuses the agency of inadequately addressing a "rising tide" of mental health problems, especially post-traumatic stress disorder. The trial is set to begin Monday in a San Francisco federal court.
An average of 18 military veterans kill themselves each day, and five of them are under VA care when they commit suicide, according to a December e-mail between top VA officials that was filed as part of the federal lawsuit.
"That failure to provide care is manifesting itself in an epidemic of suicides," the veterans groups wrote in court papers filed Thursday.
A study released this week by the RAND Corp. estimates that 300,000 U.S. troops—about 20 percent of those deployed—are suffering from depression or post-traumatic stress from serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"We find that the VA has simply not devoted enough resources," said Gordon Erspamer, the lawyer representing the veterans groups. "They don't have enough psychiatrists."
The lawsuit also alleges that the VA takes too long to pay disability claims and that its internal appellate process unconstitutionally denies veterans their right to take their complaints to court.
The groups are asking U.S. District Court Judge Samuel Conti, a World War II U.S. Army veteran, to order the VA to drastically overhaul its system. Conti is hearing the trial without a jury.
"What I would like to see from the VA is that they actually treat patients with respect," said Bob Handy, head of the Veterans United for Truth, one of the groups suing the agency.
Handy, 76, who retired from the Navy in 1970, said he founded the veterans group in 2004 after hearing myriad complaints from veterans about their treatment at the VA when he was a member of the Veterans Caucus of the state Democratic Party. The department acknowledges in court papers that it takes on average about 180 days to decide whether to approve a disability claim.
"I would just like to see the VA do the honorable thing," said Handy, who is expected to testify during the weeklong trial.
Justice Department spokeswoman Carrie Nelson declined comment Friday.
But government lawyers have filed court papers arguing that the courts have no authority to tell the VA how to operate and no business wading into the everyday management of a sprawling medical network that includes 153 medical centers nationwide.
The veterans are asking the judge "to administer the programs of the second largest Cabinet-level agency, a task for which Congress and the executive branch are better suited," government lawyers wrote in court papers.
If the judge ordered an overhaul, he would be responsible for such things as employees workloads, hours of operations, facility locations, the number of medical professionals employed, and "even the decision whether to offer individual or group therapy to patients with" post-traumatic stress, the papers said.
The VA also said it is besieged with an unprecedented number of claims, which have grown from 675,000 in 2001 to 838,000 in 2007. The rise is prompted not from the current war, but from veterans growing older, government lawyers said.
"The largest component of these new claims is the aging veteran population of the Vietnam and Cold War eras," the government filing stated. "As they age, older veterans may lose employment-related health care, prompting them to seek VA benefits for the first time."
Government lawyers in their filings defended its average claims processing time as "reasonable," given that it has to prove the veterans disability was incurred during service time. They also noted the VA will spend $3.8 billion for fiscal year 2008 on mental health and announced a policy in June that requires all medical centers to have mental health staff available all the time to provide urgent care. They said that "suicide prevention is a singular priority for the VA."
The VA "has hired over 3,700 new mental health professionals in the last two and a half years, bringing the total number of mental health professionals within VA to just under 17,000. This hiring effort continues," they said.
Government lawyers in their filings defended its average claims processing time as "reasonable," given that it has to prove the veterans disability was incurred during service time.
I have to take deep umbrage at this comment, my claim has been floating around the VA since December 2002 almost 6 years, and it is no closer to be finished now than it was then. The VA does not "have to prove" the medical probelsm happened on active duty, what they are doing is denying the claims and then go to extensive lengths to deny outside medical opinions from doctors that do verify the veterans claims are service related. Dr. Linda Bilmes has proposed to Congress a way to fix this mess and to stop veterans from becoming homeless and losing their families while the VA processes the compensation claims, have the VA do like the IRS does, process the paperwork pay the claim and then audit/research the apparently bogus claims and then get down to "proving it" if the veteran or his surviving spouse have committed out right fraud prosecute them. On the last review of PTSD claims the VA learned less than 2% were fraudulent, the majority of the mistakes in the claims files were done by VA employees while processing the paperwork.
Long prison sentences on fraud would deter most veterans from filing bogus claims, the VA would save a lot of money by auditing the "bad claims" versus all the claims, some are obvious, Tinnitus for Infantrymen, Artillery, Airplane Mechanics, jobs that have loud noises create ringing in the ears and loss of hearing, what is there to "prove" it happpens, and there is nothing unusual about it.
Everyone agrees the current system is broke, yet no one wants to fix it, why?
Saturday, April 19, 2008
Veterans PTSD Trial to start Monday April 21
By Julia Cheever
April 19, 2008
A two-week federal trial will begin in San Francisco on Monday on claims by two veterans’ groups that the government is failing woefully to combat an alleged “epidemic of suicides” and stress disorders among veterans of Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam.
Veterans for Common Sense and Veterans United for Truth are asking U.S. District Judge Samuel Conti for a broad injunction requiring the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to improve mental health services and the procedures for processing claims.
Charging that veterans “are in desperate need of ongoing care and support,” they cite a backlog of 600,000 veterans’ claims and an expert’s estimate that 120 veterans commit suicide each week.
Conti will decide the case without a jury because the veterans’ lawsuit, filed last year, seeks court orders as a remedy but does not ask for financial compensation.
Lawyers for the groups contend that inadequate care and obstacles in processing claims “combine to create a perfect storm” for veterans suffering post-traumatic stress disorder.
“They receive no treatment, so their symptoms get worse; and they receive no compensation, so they cannot go elsewhere for treatment,” the attorneys wrote in a pretrial brief.
Katrina Corbit, a lawyer from Berkeley-based Disability Rights Advocates who is working on the case, said Friday, “The problems are fixable, but they need an external nudge.”
But lawyers for the veterans affairs department, known as the VA, say external management by a judge is far beyond the authority allowed to courts by Congress and the U.S. Supreme Court.
Government lawyers argued in a pretrial brief, “This court simply does not have authority to grant the kind of broad remedial - indeed, legislative - relief sought by plaintiffs.”
The federal attorneys also say the VA has taken aggressive measures in the last several years to increase mental health staffing and suicide prevention programs at its 153 medical centers across the nation.
Witnesses to be called to the stand by the veterans’ groups will include about a dozen legal and mental health experts, veterans’ representatives and government officials. Government defense witnesses at the trial will include seven other VA officials.
Conti is likely to take the case under submission at the end of the trial and issue a written ruling at a later date.
In previous hearings and rulings, the judge expressed concern over the extent of his authority over the VA’s budget. But he turned down a government bid for dismissal of the lawsuit without a trial, saying that “it is within the court’s power to insist that veterans be granted a level of due process.”
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I am one of these veterans, I am a Vietnam Era and Desert Storm veteran who has PTSD and I have a claim that has been back logged since December 2002 on the VA "hamster wheel" with no end in sight for a final determination. My appointments for mental health used to be monthly in 2003, they went to every 2 months in 2004, every 3 months in 2005 and in 2006 they attempted to go to every 4 months, that did not work out so well, my wife got involved and we are now back to every 3 months, they refused to admit me to an inpatient program on the basis I was to sick to be admitted to the "domicillary" and I required to much care, and I live to far away to make a daily commute to an out patient daily program. They have great care if you can get it.
Strains on Multiple Tours in War Zone creating many cases of PTSD
Issue date: 4/18/08 Section: World
PrintEmail Article Tools Page 1 of 2 next > Concerns about soldiers' mental health emerged in the midst of Gen. David H. Petraeus and Bush's decision to keep 140,000 troops in Iraq until Election Day.
Petraeus proposed a 45-day evaluation period ending in July. Bush approved this, saying Petraeus can have "all the time he needs" before deciding to pull out any troops.
With the war entering into its sixth year, 513,000 soldiers have been on active duty. Almost half of them have been deployed more than once and 53,000 have deployed three or more times.
A report produced by Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) in Jan. 2008, says that 30-40 percent of Iraq veterans will face serious psychological issues including depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.
"Multiple tours and inadequate time at home between deployments increase rates of combat stress by 50 percent," according to IAVA.
The Washington Post reported in Dec. 2006 that the army's first survey on mental health gave the same statistic.
Several Guilford students have family and friends who are serving in Iraq.
With the 10th Mountain Division for his second tour, sophomore Nicholas MacSeoin's cousin has been in Iraq since Sept 2007 and his tour has been extended until Dec 2008.
"Before he was deployed the first time I asked if he was nervous and I got a macho, man-up mentality from him, but that wasn't the case after the first tour," said MacSeoin. "He was much more subdued about it."
Soldiers have been dealing with multiple deployments as well as longer tours.
"At 12 months, we were still stressed and stretched thin," said Spc. William Maule to The Washington Post, who also deployed with the 2nd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division. "Fifteen months just made it worse. I don't think returning to 12 months is going to fix the original problem."
Twelve percent of soldiers deployed for less than six months screened positive for PTSD, whereas the number rose to 19 percent after more than six months. The Mental Health Advisory Team studied this for the first time in their fifth survey, looking at soldiers deployed between 2005 and 2007.
Tours starting after Aug. 1 will be capped at 12 months. However, more than half of active duty soldiers currently have 15-month deployments and this decision leaves them out.
Kelly Hale, junior psychology and health sciences double major, dealt with her brother and boyfriend in Iraq for 14 months with the Wolfpack, the second platoon in the 1st and 40th Calvary.
"These guys are used to not sleeping for days, intense weather, and carrying a lot of ammunition and their body armor," Hale said. "You're talking about extreme situations and your body is used to being beat up like that since training. Your body can handle that but your mind is not that strong."
Neither her brother, Sgt. Matt Hale, nor boyfriend, Ssg. Bruce Cosgrove, have been diagnosed with mental health problems. Kelly Hale attributes this to their dedicated support from family and their faith.
"Letting out their emotions is what saves them from PTSD and psychological problems," Hale said. "Because nobody else really understands what its like, some people keep their aggression inside, but Matt was able to write a lot about how he was feeling - philosophies, songs, and letters to God."
Even without psychological issues, many soldiers find the process of coming back difficult.
"My brother drove a Humvee so he was used to that 14-month routine of recon work, searching roads for bombs, and going 100 mph in all different directions," Hale said. "Coming back onto American soil, it was hard to readjust back to highway driving 70 miles an hour."
"One of my friends turned very stone-faced after coming back after his first tour in Iraq," said Meara Sullivan, junior psychology major. "He used to be very expressive of his emotions and feelings, but when he got back for the first time three years ago his speech pattern was different. His spoke in a 'yes sir, no sir' style."
Coming back to a country divided on support for the war also poses an issue for soldiers.
"One reason why soldiers experience PTSD is because half the country thinks they are heroes and the other half doesn't know how to receive them," Hale said. They face a lot of judgment after coming back from a place where they put their lives on the line. To overcome PTSD they need social support not only from their families, but from their nation.
What this article leaves out as most all other articles about the tours being cut from 15 months to 12 months, is more due to the fact that the next rotation of troops being sent to Iraq are National Guard troops and by law they can only be activated for 12 months, which means the DOD, the Army or Marine Corp are capable of extending them past a one year tour, by law. They are forced to reduce the tours, yet no one from the White House to DOD or the Army are acknowledging this fact.
Help for National Guard Families upon troops return
The Illinois National Guard has made it a priority to help soldiers when they return from a mobilization. While the National Guard continues to reach out to returning veterans with the "Tying the Yellow Ribbon" campaign, the program is also focusing on families of soldiers who are deployed.
The Illinois Army National Guard planned to conduct its first Reintegration Family Academy today, April 19 in Restoration Hall at Lincoln Christian College, 100 Campus View Drive, Lincoln, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The intent of the academy is to ensure families get the information and know what resources are available while their soldier is deployed. The academy is open to any family that has a deployed soldier.
Representatives from several different agencies will be available for family members such as Tricare (medical and dental), Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs, Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR), Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and Veteran's Health Administration. There will also be several workshops for families that provide guidance and information on issues like marriage after deployment, finances, challenges soldiers face reuniting with their children, and utilizing college education benefits. Counselors will also be available for private consultations.
"Reintegration is not just a program for soldiers after a deployment, it's something his/her entire family must also undergo as everyone readjusts to changes that have happened during the course of the soldier's deployment," said 2nd Lt. Justin Anweiler, program coordinator. "This is one way the Illinois National Guard is trying to help families of our deployed men and women who are sometimes fighting their own battles at home while their soldier is fighting a war overseas."
The Illinois National Guard Family Academy is a partnership between the Illinois National Guard and Lincoln Christian College. It is free and open to anyone in the public who has been affected by a deployment, but is focused on the families of soldiers currently overseas.
Friday, April 18, 2008
Only half of vets have sought help for depression, post-traumatic stress
updated 11:26 a.m. ET, Thurs., April. 17, 2008
WASHINGTON - Some 300,000 U.S. troops are suffering from major depression or post-traumatic stress from serving in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and 320,000 received brain injuries, a new study estimates.
Only about half have sought treatment, said the study released Thursday by the RAND Corporation.
“There is a major health crisis facing those men and women who have served our nation in Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Terri Tanielian, the project’s co-leader and a researcher at the nonprofit RAND.
“Unless they receive appropriate and effective care for these mental health conditions, there will be long-term consequences for them and for the nation,” she said in an interview with The Associated Press.
The 500-page study is the first large-scale, private assessment of its kind — including a survey of 1,965 service members across the country, from all branches of the armed forces and including those still in the military as well veterans who have left the services.
Its results appear consistent with a number of mental health reports from within the government, though the Defense Department has not released the number of people it has diagnosed or who are being treated for mental problems. The Department of Veterans Affairs said this month that its records show about 120,000 who served in the two wars and are no longer in the military have been diagnosed with mental health problems. Of the 120,000, approximately 60,000 are suffering from PTSD, the VA said.
Veterans Affairs is responsible for care of service members after they have left the service, while the Defense Department covers active-duty and reservist needs. The lack of information from the Pentagon was one motivation for the RAND study, Tanielian said.
Problems affect more than 18 percent of troops
The most prominent and detailed military study on mental health that is released is the Army’s survey of soldiers at the warfront. Officials said last month that its most recent one, done last fall, found 18.2 percent of soldiers suffered a mental health problem such as depression, anxiety or acute stress in 2007 compared with 20.5 percent the previous year. Soldiers' symptoms
Symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a condition that some people have after experiencing a disturbing event, can include:
— Reliving the event over and over. Flashbacks can be triggered by loud noises, seeing a traffic accident, even watching a news report.
— Avoiding situations that remind you of the event.
— Feeling numb and loss of interest in relationships and activities.
— Feeling on edge, getting angry easily, having a hard time sleeping and overreacting when startled.
Traumatic brain injury can cause problems long after a blow or shock to the head actually happens. Symptoms can include:
— Constant headaches
— Light headedness or dizziness
— Changes in mood or behavior
— Trouble remembering or concentrating
— Repeated nausea or vomiting
— Problems with seeing or hearing.
The Rand study, completed in January, put the percentage of PTSD and depression at 18.5 percent, calculating that approximately 300,000 current and former service members were suffering from those problems at the time of its survey, which was completed in January.
The figure is based on Pentagon data showing over 1.6 million military personnel have deployed to the conflicts since the war in Afghanistan began in late 2001.
RAND researchers also found:
About 19 percent — or some 320,000 services members — reported that they experienced a possible traumatic brain injury while deployed. In wars where blasts from roadside bombs are prevalent, the injuries can range from mild concussions to severe head wounds.
About 7 percent reported both a probable brain injury and current PTSD or major depression.
Only 43 percent reported ever being evaluated by a physician for their head injuries.
Only 53 percent of service members with PTSD or depression sought help over the past year.
They gave various reasons for not getting help, including that they worried about the side effects of medication; believe family and friends could help them with the problem; or that they feared seeking care might damage their careers.
Rates of PTSD and major depression were highest among women and reservists.
The report is titled “Invisible Wounds of War: Psychological and Cognitive Injuries, Their Consequences, and Services to Assist Recovery.” It was sponsored by a grant from the California Community Foundation and done by 25 researchers from RAND Health and the RAND National Security Research Division, which does work under contracts with the Pentagon and other defense agencies as well as allied foreign governments and foundations.
By Rick Maze - Staff writer
Posted : Friday Apr 18, 2008 9:26:13 EDT
A new program that is supposed to provide a care coordinator to help severely injured service members navigate the military and veterans’ health care systems is failing to serve hundreds who were injured in the early years of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, a Senate subcommittee learned Wednesday.
The hiring of so-called federal recovery coordinators has been good news for those who are helped, said Meredith Beck, national policy director for the nonprofit Wounded Warrior Project. Most families who have contact with one of the coordinators “are very excited about the program,” Beck told the Senate Armed Services personnel subcommittee.
But Beck said the coordinators are focused on service members in military hospitals, not on people being treated mostly as outpatients or people who were injured before the coordinator program was created.
“There is a common and dangerous misperception that if you were injured earlier on, then all your problems have been solved,” she said. “I can tell you from personal experience those families are often the ones in need of the most help. They are the ‘bow wave,’ often finding the problems and facing them alone.”
A high-level Pentagon committee that is seeking to implement improvements in military health care is trying to find a way to extend care to older cases.
Beck mentioned two other areas where Congress might help.
One involves a policy change that would allow service members with severe brain injuries the option of temporarily delaying their medical and physical evaluation boards so they can extend their active service.
“Unlike burn patients and amputees, those with severe brain injuries appear to be ‘boarded out’ of the military very quickly, some within days or weeks of their devastating injuries,” she said.
In some cases, more time is needed for a family to adjust to the “devastating and life-altering wound,” she said.
Another reason to delay is that some treatments, such as cognitive rehabilitation, available to people still in uniform are not available from the Department of Veterans Affairs or through the Tricare health insurance program, Beck said.
A deferment of board evaluations of up to one year would help in such cases, she said.
A second issue is the idea of making parents and next of kin of severely injured service members eligible for Tricare coverage, which is now limited to an injured service member’s spouse or minor children. With many young, unmarried service members receiving severe injuries in combat, parents and other family members are providing long-term care at home that often results in their leaving a job — and losing health insurance — to be full-time caregivers, she said.
“It is our responsibility to ensure that family members providing this care have the tools to maintain their own health, giving the service member the best chance of recovery,” Beck said.
Under the Wounded Warrior Project proposal, Tricare coverage would be available to parents or next of kin providing full-time caregiving services to a severely injured service member.
The personnel subcommittee, chaired by Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., is scheduled to begin writing its portion of the 2009 defense policy bill the week of April 28.
HUD Deputy Secretary Bernardi, VA Secretary Peake and Mayor Bloomberg Announce HUD and VA to Provide Permanent Housing for an Estimated 10,000 Homeless Veterans
April 16, 2008
$75 million program to reduce the number of homeless vets nationwide
$9.4 million awarded to New York City to permanently house more than 1,000 homeless veterans and fulfill recommendations of joint NYC/VA Task Force on ending veteran homelessness
NEW YORK – U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary James B. Peake and U.S. Housing and Urban Development Deputy Secretary Roy A. Bernardi today announced $75 million to provide permanent supportive housing for an estimated 10,000 homeless veterans nationwide. Bernardi and Peake made the announcement with Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg at a newly renovated housing program for homeless veterans in Queens, and emphasized the Federal and local government’s partnership to house and support America’s homeless veteran population.
New York City will receive approximately $9.4 million to permanently house more than 1,000 homeless veterans. Their program will be administered by the New York City Housing Authority and the Department of Homeless Services.
“We are deeply grateful for the service and sacrifice by our nation’s veterans and we must make every effort to help them as they struggle to avoid a life on the streets,” said Bernardi. “This program is one opportunity to say, ‘Thank You’ and to make certain that we serve them as they once served us.”
“Today, VA, HUD and New York City are strengthening our long-standing partnership on homelessness to achieve a simple vision -- that no one who has served and fought for their country should have to live on the streets,” said Peake. “We hope to build upon this effort soon with another step providing more case managers to support a marked increase in permanent housing units.”
“Ending veteran homelessness is an ambitious goal that is more in reach thanks to this historic federal commitment to provide housing for veterans,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “Our partnership with the VA has already provided homes for hundreds of veterans over the past year and the housing slots being allocated to New York City today will bring new hope to more than 1,000 homeless veterans in our City. It sends a powerful message to the men and women currently fighting for our country overseas – that we do not take their service for granted.”
HUD’s Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing Program (HUD-VASH) will provide local public housing agencies with approximately 10,000 rental assistance vouchers specifically targeted to assist homeless veterans in their area (see attached chart for a local breakdown of homeless veterans to be assisted). In addition, the VA and HUD will link local public housing agencies with VA Medical Centers to provide supportive services and case management to eligible homeless veterans.
HUD will allocate the housing vouchers to local public housing agencies (PHAs) across the country that are specifically targeted to homeless veterans based on a variety of factors, including the number of reported homeless veterans and the proximity of a local VA Medical Center with the capacity to provide case management. New York City and the greater Los Angeles area received the greatest number of vouchers using this criterion.
HUD will provide housing assistance through its Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program which allows participants to rent privately owned housing. The VA will offer eligible homeless veterans clinical and supportive services through its medical centers across the U.S and Puerto Rico. Last year, the VA provided health care to more than 100,000 homeless veterans and other services to over 60,000 veterans in its specialized homeless programs. The Bush Administration’s proposed FY 2009 Budget seeks to double the amount of funding announced today to provide an additional $75 million to support the housing and service needs of an additional 10,000 homeless veterans across America.
Local communities or “Continuums of Care” that receive HUD homeless assistance will work with local VA Medical Centers to identify eligible participants. The VA will then screen homeless veterans to determine their eligibility. Those eligible vets will receive treatment and regular case management to retain the voucher. VA Medical Center case managers will also work closely with local housing agencies to help participants find suitable housing. Participating PHAs will also determine income eligibility in accordance to HUD regulations for the HCV program.
New York City’s Department of Homeless Services will use the 1,000 vouchers, supplemental veterans treatment and case management services announced today to help achieve permanent and sustained housing status for all homeless veterans. In December 2006, the VA and the City of New York reached an historic agreement to address ending veteran homelessness in New York City. Under the agreement, the City vowed to place 100 veterans into permanent housing in 100 days, surpassing the goal with 135 veterans moving during that period, and subsequently succeeded in placing more than 400 veterans into homes of their own in 2007. The VA and the City also convened a joint Task Force that created a strategic plan to end veteran homelessness in New York City. Among the Task Force recommendations were the creation of a jointly operated VA/NYC multi-service center to serve as a one-stop site to access services for homeless veterans, scheduled to open in the Summer of 2008; the creation of a veteran-only SAFE HAVEN as an alternative to the shelter system to open in the Summer/Fall 2008 and veteran-specific, short-term housing site for those working towards permanent housing.
HUD is the nation’s housing agency committed to increasing homeownership, particularly among minorities; creating affordable housing opportunities for low-income Americans; and supporting the homeless, elderly, people with disabilities and people living with AIDS. The Department also promotes economic and community development and enforces the nation's fair housing laws. More information about HUD and its programs is available on the Internet at www.hud.gov and espanol.hud.gov.
Secretary James B. Peake, M.D. serves as the chair the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, the federal coordinating body addressing issues of homelessness. Recently, VA announced a reduction of homeless veterans from more than 195,000 to about 154,000. Today, VA supports more than 15,000 beds in transitional housing facilities or in VA residential treatment programs nationwide and recently announced $37 million to fund at least 2,250 new transitional housing beds by giving grants to local providers this year. The Department is the largest federal provider of direct assistance to the homeless, including outreach and case management, treatment, rehabilitation, transitional residential care, therapeutic work and assistance with permanent housing. As part of its homelessness programs, VA also supports special programs for the treatment and rehabilitation of those suffering from mental illness and addictive disorders.
For more information, visit VA’s grant and per diem program Web page at www.va.gov/homeless/page.cfm?pg=3 or contact VA’s grant and per diem program office toll free at 1-877-332-0334, or e-mail VA at firstname.lastname@example.org.
VA Medical Center Location*
Estimated # of homeless veterans to be assisted
Greater Los Angeles
Central CA Health Care System
Northern CA Health Care System
District of Columbia
W. Palm Beach
Gulf Coast Health Care System
Ann Arbor Health Care System
Montana Health Care System
New Mexico Health Care System
Sierra Nevada Health Care System
Southern Nevada Health Care System
Columbus Outpatient Clinic
Central Texas Health Care System
El Paso Outpatient Clinic
Salt Lake City
White River Junction
* VA Medical Centers’ coverage areas often extend beyond the metropolitan areas in which they are located.
People wishing to receive e-mail from VA with the latest news releases and updated fact sheets can subscribe to the VA Office of Public Affairs Distribution List.
Homeless vets get the military funerals they deserve
Group Ensures Homeless Veterans Receive Proper Burials
Created: 4/17/2008 8:08:07 PM
Last updated: 4/17/2008 10:58:53 PM
By Kasey Joyce
(KSDK) -- Staff Sergeant Dale Crowder served in both World War II and the Korean War. But when he died last month, no one stepped forward to bury him.Advertisement
"They couldn't find anyone -- friends, family and no funds," said retired Major General Bill Branson.
So the medical examiner made a call to the Saint Louis Dignity Memorial Homeless Veterans Burial Program to ask for help.
Branson works with the group.
"It?s veterans helping veterans," Branson said. "They're paid nothing for this. They asked to be a part of this committee. They want to pay tribute to their comrades."
The Homeless Burial Program started more than eight years ago. Since that time, they've helped bury nearly 70 homeless and indigent veterans in St. Louis.
"We still owe it to them to show that somebody does still care," Branson said.
Mayor Francis Slay attended the ceremony. He received the flag on behalf of the city of St. Louis.
"I think everyone who serves their country deserves dignity in their burial," Slay said.
So Thursday afternoon, a group of volunteers who had never met Staff Sgt. Crowder showed up to pay their respects and make sure he will never be forgotten.
KSDKTo see the video story click here
My thanks to the television station for reporting this story and SALUTE to the men and women who make this hapen for these forgotten veterans who proudly served this nation once upon a time
I was first contacted about this soldier back in December, as the soldiers mother had contacted llbear on how to help her son. He had been deployed to Iraq and was having mental health issues. The Army chain of command had broken their promises to him, and instead of helping him, were trying to throw him out of the Army with no benefits, because of actions he had done upon return to the states.
Those of us who deal with PTSD know that many troops or veterans turn to booze or drugs in trying to deal with the demons that won't let you think, sleep or be "normal". They call it "self medicating" a lot of soldiers refuse to seek treatment due to the problems it will cause on thier job, they remain in denial. Not this young man, he sought help, was being treated and that is when the problems started.
His Company Commander doesn't believe in PTSD, so the problems started, they lied to him about a medical discharge, about not having to participate in combat training at NTC, Fort Irwin etc, he was having real problems, they took away his medication that had been prescribed by Army doctors, etc. Things you just would not believe possible, yet they did them any way. The Company Commander decided he was going to throw him out on one of the "Personality Disorder Discharges" for his problems after returning to the base from Iraq.
CBS News did this interview with him that aired last night
Twenty-two year old combat medic Jonathan Norrell volunteered for every mission during his year in Iraq.
He was bombed, ambushed, treating wounded under fire - and the memories still haunt him, CBS News correspondent Kimberly Dozier reports."The things that affected me the most weren't the IEDs, which I went through six or seven of, and all the firefights, and all the combat," Norrell said. "It was the psychological stuff, the people I failed to help."
By the time he came off his tour of duty he was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: anxiety, sleeplessness, flashbacks. Military doctors recommended immediate discharge and treatment but the command refused.Instead they forced him into combat training exercises. He turned to drugs and alcohol."I just lost it," Norrell said. "I didn't wanna do it anymore."
I talked with Jonathon for about an hour just before New Years after llbear gave him my phone number, I talked to him about seeking help, thru the VA and his Chain of Command, but don't let them put him out on a bad discharge, I know he wanted out, but just taking the bad paper, would cause him problems for the rest of his life.
I feel if they broke him, then they owed him for the damage. Myself, I coped with the symptoms of PTSD from Feb 1975 until I completely melted down in October 2002, there wasn't enough booze or drugs to stop the demons anymore.
I contacted Carissa Picard of Military Spouses for Change as she was at Fort Hood, where Jonathon was stationed, I also contacted Annette McLeod she was the wife of the soldier hurt in Iraq that testified to the Congressional Oversight Hearings conducted at Walter Reed by Congressman Waxman.
When Annette calls people now, things happen, between her and Carissa's intervention they managed to get the Surgeon General of the Army LTG Schoomaker involved in this, and when he got to the bottom of it, he had Jonathon transferred to the Warrior Tansition unit at Fort Hood, for medical help and the proper medical discharge he deserves, not to become one of the other 22,500 PDO discharges that the Army has given out since the Iraq War began.
I SALUTE CBS and Kimberly Dozier for reporting this story, but the real hero's of this story are Carissa Picard and Annette Mcleod, it's amazing what a few outstanding women can accomplish.
I am glad that this has turned out right for Jonathon, I know his mother was worried sick over him, and I really am glad for fellow vets like LLbear and Jim Staro.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Disabled veterans being recalled to active duty for Iraq
James Raymond, a senior communications major and UB's Homecoming King, has been looking forward to finishing his last year of college and starting his career. Now, he might be trading in his sash and textbooks for a gun, as the disabled veteran and former editor of The Spectrum has been called back to active duty, scheduled to return to Iraq in September 2008.
Raymond fought for the Army overseas in 2004, after serving for three years. Raymond was hit by friendly rocket fire at the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, resulting in complete hearing loss in his left ear and a case of permanent Tinitus.
He stayed in Iraq after the incident, tearing the ligaments in his left knee only two weeks later. Raymond was sent back to the U.S. for knee surgery. Four years later, he is still partially deaf and walks with a slight limp.
Honorably discharged from service, Raymond has been considered a disabled veteran ever since. Now, the Army has called upon him again.
"Last Thursday, my step-dad got a package in the mail saying I was being reactivated to active duty," Raymond said. "I thought it was a joke when I first got it. I thought, 'there's no way a disabled veteran is ever going to be called back into the military.'"
Raymond had in fact been called back to service -- he will need to report to Fort Benning, Georgia on May 18.
Raymond was surprised to find that the policy of disabled veterans serving overseas was no longer unheard of. Raymond believes that he is being called back to active duty because of a glitch in the military databases.
"There are a couple of disabled veterans currently serving overseas in Iraq now, which you never hear about," Raymond said. "For them to recall me is ridiculous. They want me to be activated with a New Jersey reserve unit, not an active military unit. I'm not from New Jersey, and I'm not in the reserves, so that doesn't make sense."
After soldiers are discharged from active duty in the military, their information is placed in a computer system called the IRR (Individual Ready Reserve), according to Raymond.
According to Major Nathan Banks with Army Public Affairs, however, mistakes can be made within the Army's medical database system.
"There was glitches right in the system," Banks said.
Banks referred to the upcoming military medical system MedPros (Medical Protection System), the government's future process of military medical organization.
MedPros will be a single database compiling the medical records of every U.S. soldier.
"The medical side is doing a lot of advancements which is for the improvement of the system," Banks said. "It is still a work in progress."
Currently, according to Banks, there is not one large database in which one can access every soldier's medical record.
"Even I have a copy of my medical record just in case something's lost," Banks said.
Raymond believes that there has been a medical mix up, and that the base recalling him to active deployment has no record of his disability.
"Is it possible or probable? Yes, it's probable," Banks said, in reference to the possibility of "information mix-ups" within the still-imperfect system.
Raymond will undergo a mental and physical exam in May to assess whether he can serve. If he is found eligible, he will go through a five-week training course in New Jersey, and then be deployed overseas.
He will be putting his final exams on hold to respond to the summons.
"When you're getting called up to war, all you can think about is that date," Raymond said. "It's consuming my life."
While serving, Raymond was stationed at Fort Drum in the 187 Infantry. Raymond received the Army Accommodation Medal, the third highest award soldiers can receive.
Proud of his service, Raymond said that if he were able to, he would have reenlisted once his injuries healed. Raymond considered serving again a year after he was injured, but was told he would lose his disability benefits if he were to become active again.
"This has nothing to do with being anti-war or anti-patriotic, or against going over there. It has to do with my physical limitations," Raymond said. "I physically don't believe I'd be able to do a good enough job to fight for this country if I were sent over there right now."
Raymond enlisted only days prior to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Raymond said he doesn't regret his decision to enlist, and that his service took on a new meaning after the attacks, Raymond even more inspired to serve the country.
"I would have been more inspired to join after [the attacks]," Raymond said. "I have always been a patriotic person - I love this country."
Raymond is one of many disabled veterans recalled into service after being discharged. According to The Denver Post, former Army Staff Sergeant Jack Auble was redeployed to Baghdad after 20 years of service. Auble was forced to return overseas in January, despite "severe osteoporosis of the spine, bulging discs and compression fractures."
Auble has a "permanent" profile - something that Raymond wishes he had gotten while he was in the process of being discharged. Veterans are given permanent profiles when their injuries will be permanent and rehabilitation is not an option.
Raymond aspires to go into public relations after graduation. Now, he fears he will not finish his degree if he is redeployed.
"I don't know if I would go back to school, I could be injured again, or even dead," Raymond said. "I just want to live a normal life."
He feels that in the end, he will be deployed.
"I knew when I got out of the military that it wasn't the end of me and the military," Raymond said. "My gut feeling is that I'm going to have to go."
Akaka Introduces Veterans' Rehabilitation Legislation
Proposal would remove enrollment cap, make quality of life an official program objective
By U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, 4/15/2008 2:22:39 PM
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI), Chairman of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, introduced the proposed “Training and Rehabilitation for Disabled Veterans Enhancement Act of 2008.” If enacted, this bill will improve the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Independent Living program, which serves veterans whose disabilities render them unable to work, by removing a cap on the number of enrollees in the program and making an official objective of the program to improve veterans’ quality of life. The bill stems in part from a February 5, 2008, hearing on vocational rehabilitation, as well as Committee oversight. In addition, it responds to a December 2007 VA Inspector General report which found that the current enrollment cap is delaying rehabilitation services for severely disabled veterans. Chairman Akaka’s floor statement is copied below:'''
I am introducing today the proposed “Training and Rehabilitation for Disabled Veterans Enhancement Act of 2008.” This measure would make two small but, I believe, necessary changes in the Department of Veterans’ Affairs program of Independent Living services conducted under the authority of chapter 31 of title 38, United States Code.
VA’s IL Program was first established in 1980 by Public Law 96-466, the Veterans Rehabilitation and Education Amendments of 1980. Initially, that law provided for the establishment of a four-year pilot program designed to provide independent living services for severely disabled veterans for whom the achievement of a vocational goal was not reasonably feasible. The number of veterans who could be accepted annually into the pilot program was capped at 500. In 1986, the program was extended through 1989 and then, in 1989, it was made in Public Law 101-237, the Veterans’ Benefits Amendments of 1989. In 2001, the 500 annual cap on enrollees was increased to 2,500.
The measure I am introducing would remove any cap on the number of enrollees in any year. In earlier years, as a pilot project, the cap may have been appropriate in order to give VA an opportunity to manage the program in the most effective manner possible and in 2001, it made sense to increase that cap in light of the increased demand and need for the program.
Now, however, it makes sense to lift the cap altogether. This is especially so since this important program is designed to meet the needs of the most severely service-connected disabled veterans and more and more of those returning from combat have suffered the kind of devastating injuries that may make employment not reasonably feasible for extended periods of time.
The VA’s Inspector General found, in a report issued in December of last year, that “the effect of the statutory cap has been to delay IL services to severely disabled veterans.” This delay happens because VA has developed a procedure that holds veterans in a planning and evaluation stage when the statutory cap may be in danger of being exceeded.
The bill I am introducing today would eliminate the cap entirely as recommended by VA’s IG. It would also make the program mandatory rather than a discretionary pilot effort and would include improvement in quality of life an objective of training and rehabilitation for veterans with service-connected disability who are participating in programs of IL services.
For these veterans – with respect to whom it has been determined that employment is not a present, reasonably feasible option but one that may be feasible in the future – it seems appropriate to look not only at future employment prospects but also toward improving the individual’s quality of life. Such an approach may very well lead to bettering an individual’s chances of rehabilitation and future employment.
DOD releases total casualty figures
Department Of Defense's Latest Numbers: 31,590 Troops Wounded On Battle Field
(CBS) CBS News investigative producer Pia Malbran wrote this story for CBSNews.com.
The Department of Defense has released its latest American military casualty numbers for those who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the figures reveal non-fatal casualties that go well beyond the more than 4,000 U.S. troops who have died so far.
As of April 5, a total of 36,082 members of the U.S. military have been wounded in action and killed in Iraq, since the beginning of the war in March 2003, and in Afghanistan, where the war there began in October 2001. The 36,082 number breaks down to 4,492 deaths and 31,590 wounded. According to the same DoD "casualty" counts, an additional 38,631 U.S. military personnel have also been removed from the battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan for "non-hostile-related medical air transports."
"That's a tremendous number," said Paul Sullivan, the executive director of the advocate group Veterans for Common Sense, who believes these latest figures paint a more realistic picture of the true cost of the Iraq and Afghan wars. He is concerned troop casualties, including those who have been wounded, killed and medically transported, is now nearing 75,000.
Defense Department spokesperson Cynthia Smith, however, told CBS News the numbers must be carefully interpreted. Smith said the 38,631 "non-hostile-related medical air transports" are not casualties of war even though they are listed in the DoD's "casualty" documents because, she says, they were for "injuries not related to service, they were unrelated to combat."
Smith described the "non-hostile-related" injuries as the types that "could happen to any civilian on the street."
"Our main focus is severe trauma care in the theater," she said. For example, "if a woman needs her annual check up, we don't have the capability of doing that [on the ground in Iraq] so we would air transport her out." According to Smith, the 36,082 tally is a more "accurate" reflection how many military service men and women have been fatal and non-fatal casualties in connection to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, as of April 5.
Sullivan points out that the military's casualty reports also exclude the "enormous number [of new veterans] flooding the VA," often with medical problems developed due to the war. A January report by the Department of Veterans Affairs showed 299,585 veterans who recently served in the Middle East had been treated by the VA since 2002. Forty percent (120,049) of the Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who sought care from the VA did so for mental health disorders.
Monday, April 14, 2008
McCain refuses to endorse new G.I Bill
Presidential Hopeful Believes Legislation Would Hurt Military
Z. Byron Wolf
April 14, 2008
Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee seemed to give a thumbs down to bipartisan legislation that would greatly expand educational benefits for members of the military returning from Iraq and Afghanistan under the GI Bill.
In this hand out photo released by U.S.army, U.S. Sen. John McCain, center, R-Arizona talks to U.S....
In this hand out photo released by U.S.army, U.S. Sen. John McCain, center, R-Arizona talks to U.S. army soldiers, in Baghdad, Iraq, Saturday, March 25, 2006. A top level American politician group led by U.S. senators and governors led by Sen. John McCain, a Republican from Arizona who supported the invasion of Iraq, to journey to Baghdad to pressure Iraqi leaders to speed the process of forming a government.
(Spc. Orlando/ U.S.Army/AP Photo)McCain indicated he would offer some sort of alternative to the legislation to address concerns that expanding the GI Bill could lead more members of the military to get out of the service.
Both Democratic presidential candidates have signed on as cosponsors and the bill has gained bipartisan support from 55 Senators on Capitol Hill. A vote on the proposal is expected before the summer.
But the bill, which would drastically increase educational compensation for American troops, has run into some unexpected resistance, both at the Pentagon and now from McCain, who has remained silent on the issue, saying he had not studied the bill close enough.
But pressure had been mounting on McCain to support the bill. A veterans group delivered a petition to McCain's Senate Office signed by 30,000 veterans supporting the bill.
Officials in charge of personnel at the Pentagon worry that a more generous and expansive GI Bill, creating as it would, an incentive for troops to get out of the military and go to college, would lead troops to get out of the military and go to college.
And while that might be great for the individual troop, it could be bad for the military, which is already under stress after more than five years fighting two wars.
On his campaign plane this afternoon, McCain said he and allies in the Senate are working on would offer some sort of alternative to bill, but would support only something that also included incentives to stay in the military.
"We are working on proposals of our own – I'm a consistent supporter of educational benefits for the men and women of in the military," McCain said. "I want to make sure that we have incentives for people to remain in the military as well as for people to join the military. I'm very proud of my support over many years of support for vets and all the vets organizations, having received the highest award for literally every veterans organization in the U.S. we will continue to look at the needs where educational, health care and other benefits, not just education, but health care, I've talked a lot about veterans health care, so we'll continue to talk about those issues and how to care for vets. I know I can do that, having been one."
That is unlikely to sit well with Virginia Democrat Jim Webb, like McCain a Vietnam vet, who has made the GI Bill legislation his personal crusade. It was the first legislation Webb introduced after arriving on Capitol Hill after the 2006 elections.
He must be constantly reminded of the GI Bill, too. When Webb arrives at his office in the Russell Senate Offfice Building, he's almost within sight of Georgetown Law School, where he got his law degree in the 1970s.
Back then he was a decorated war veteran just back from Vietnam and in exchange for his service the US taxpayer gave him a full ride – tuition, housing and living expenses were all covered under the GI Bill.
The schooling led to Webb's career as Navy Secretary, novelist and now Senator.
It's a different story for Matt Flavin, a first-year Georgetown law student today. He might go on to great things, but he'll have a bigger tab to pay when he does it. The GI Bill paid for all of Webb's law school, but for Flavin, who got out of the military in August and enrolled at Georgetown, the check that arrives every month at the run-down group house he lives in is for a little over $1,100 – about 6 percent of what it costs in tuition, books and living expenses at the private school. The benefit is smaller for members of the National Guard and Reserve.
It is a big disparity and one of the first things Webb pledged to do when he was elected to the Senate in 2006 was push for a GI Bill more in line with the one that put him through law school.
Since arriving on Capitol Hill, Webb has drummed up support from 55 Senators, including Republicans like John Warner of Virginia, Ted Stevens of Alaska and Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, all GI Bill beneficiaries. Another cosponsor is Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Connecticut, who usually sides with McCain where it comes to the war and the military.
Webb is not suggesting that the government pay for everyone in the military to go to private college, he would more than double the GI Bill benefit for veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, offering a living stipend of up to $1,000 depending on where the veteran lives and pay the equivalent in tuition of the most expensive state school in the veteran's home state. It would also give the benefits to members of the National Guard and Reserve, who while they are often deployed overseas, do not enjoy the same benefits as regular troops. The annual cost would be, according to Webb, somewhere in the neighborhood of $2 billion.
Flavin joined the military out of patriotism shortly after 9/11, went to Officer Candidate School and over the next five years served tours in Bosnia, Afghanistan and with Naval Special forces in Iraq.
While he did not join the military specifically to get benefits from the GI Bill and does not think most troops do, Flavin supports the legislation.
"We owe them something," Flavin said of his comrades. "They've given life, limb, everything there is to give. The people who bore the most pain and suffering are the people who could use these benefits."
At Georgetown, where tuition alone is $39,390 per year for a full-time student, the GI Bill makes a dent, but not a very big one. Figures compiled by Webb's office say the GI Bill covers about 11 percent of the more than $55,000 it cots to attend Georgetown Law School, buy books and live.
But Webb's bill, while it might help someone like Flavin afford law school, argued defense department officials in testimony before the House Veterans Affairs Committee last year, could be bad for the military as a whole.
"The Department is concerned that a benefit of this amount would have long-term negative impacts on force management. It would be an enlistment incentive, to be sure; but it would be a larger reenlistment disincentive," wrote Thomas Bush and Curtis Gilroy in joint testimony last October before the House Veterans Affairs committee. Bush was then Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs and Gilroy is the Director for Accession Policy for the Pentagon's Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness.
They suggest, and President Bush did too in his State of the Union address this year, not expanding the GI Bill benefit for current soldiers, but making it easier for them to transfer the current benefits to family members.
The original GI Bill provided a college education to more than 8 million veterans between World War II and 1980. After World War II, the military was drawing down and there was a wave of troops headed home from theaters on both sides of the world.
As the military was scaling down in those years, moving from a force that relied on the draft and conscription to fight large wars to an all-volunteer force, it made sense to change some of the benefits too. According to Curtis and Gilroy, the GI Bill was pared down in the 1980s to something more fitting for a volunteer force.
Short of a draft, the military will have to continue to work to entice recruits and then convince them to stay in the military.
ABC News' Bret Hovell contributed to this report
This is more of his supporting the troops? How can a Presidential candidate deny veterans of one the toughest wars in American history, a war of choice the same chances that veterans of WW2, Korea and Vietnam the same opportunities that those veterans had at a chance to get an education that can change their lives and their families for the better. These Gulf War veterans have spent far more time in combat and repeated deployments than any other veterans have had to endure. Shame on you Senator McCain, why don't you support the troops, because it might cost to much?
Dick Cheney was never a "grown-up"
A hard look at how one man changed the face of neoconservatism.
Editor's note: This updated introduction is excerpted by permission from the 2008 edition of "The Rise of the Counter-Establishment: The Conservative Ascent to Political Power," published this month by Union Square Press, along with a new book, "The Strange Death of Republican America."
By Sidney Blumenthal
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U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney (L) listens to U.S. President George W. Bush (R) speak after a meeting with members of his economic advisory team at the Treasury Department in Washington, August 8, 2007.
April 14, 2008 | After Dick Cheney shot a friend in the face on a Texas hunting trip in February 2006, the national press corps began to speculate about him as one of the great mysteries of Washington, the Sphinx of the Naval Observatory, his official residence. Cheney had been known in the capital for decades through a career that carried him from congressional intern to the most powerful vice president in American history, but now his supposedly changed character became a subject of intense speculation. Brent Scowcroft, who had been George H.W. Bush's national security adviser, and had counseled against the invasion of Iraq, told The New Yorker magazine in 2005, "I consider Cheney a good friend -- I've known him for thirty years. But Dick Cheney I don't know anymore." Scowcroft's judgment was less about Cheney's temperament than his policy positions. The press, however, sought to disclose the sources of his "darkening persona," as a cover story in Newsweek described it. "Has Cheney changed? Has he been transformed, warped, perhaps corrupted -- by stress, wealth, aging, illness, the real terrors of the world or possibly some inner goblins?" A cover story entitled "Heart of Darkness," published in The New Republic, suggested that Cheney's heart disease had produced vascular dementia. "So, the next time you see Cheney behaving oddly, don't automatically assume that he's a bad man."
In 2000, when Cheney, as head of George W. Bush's search committee for a running mate, selected himself, opinion makers in Washington greeted the choice as proof positive of the younger Bush's deference to wisdom and therefore personifying prudence. Cheney's "manner gives him immunity from the extremist label," assured David Broder, the longtime leading political columnist of the Washington Post. "Voters who saw his televised briefings during the Persian Gulf War remember the calm voice and thoughtful expression that are his natural style ... By choosing a grown-up, Bush gave evidence of his own sense of responsibility."
Five years later, in 2005, Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, by then the former chief of staff to the former Secretary of State Colin Powell, speaking publicly at a Washington think tank, the New America Foundation, was less concerned with the press corps' obsession with Cheney's shifting images than with exposing his unprecedented manipulations. "What I saw was a cabal between the vice-president of the United States, Richard Cheney, and the secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, on critical issues that made decisions that the bureaucracy did not know were being made." Though he had had extensive experience in government, Wilkerson had never before encountered such "secrecy," "aberration" and "bastardization" in decision-making. "It is a dysfunctional process," he said. "And to myself I said, okay, put on your academic hat. Who's causing this?"
Previously fixed on the stereotype of the "grown-up," pundits projected a new stereotype of dementia. But had Cheney, in fact, been fundamentally transformed, becoming unrecognizable to those professional observers of the press who believed they knew him well? Both Scowcroft and Wilkerson had encountered Cheney within councils of state. Had even Scowcroft misjudged Cheney as a team player when he was Secretary of Defense during the Gulf War? Was Cheney a regular, conservative minded Republican who had just gone mad? Or, if he were a member of a "cabal," did it involve more than Rumsfeld?
George W. Bush jettisoned the tenets of traditional Republicanism -- fiscal responsibility, limited government, separation of church and state, and realism in foreign policy. Instead the doctrines that had been nurtured in the hothouse of the Counter-Establishment since the Reagan period achieved their most radical expression. At every point, Cheney exercised his power.
The supply-side theory of tax cuts -- that slashing tax rates especially on the upper brackets would produce a flood of new government revenues -- was applied with a vengeance even after the Reagan experiment had disproved the notion, having fostered extraordinary deficits. On Nov. 15, 2002, after Bush's tax cuts had passed, then Secretary of the Treasury Paul O'Neill spoke at a White House meeting of the senior economic team about an impending "fiscal crisis" because of "what rising deficits will mean to our economic and fiscal soundness." Cheney quickly knocked down his argument. "Reagan proved deficits don't matter," he said. "We won the midterms. This is our due." O'Neill was soon fired. He concluded that Cheney and "a praetorian guard" governed Bush's presidency. "It's not penetrable by facts," he said. "It's absolutism."
Conservative lawyers were installed throughout the administration and appointed to federal judgeships while radical legal doctrines were imposed. As soon as he took office Bush ended the American Bar Association's pre-screening of judicial nominees, a practice that had begun in 1948. The ABA was considered a hopelessly "liberal" organization. In its place de facto vetting was now performed by the Federalist Society, a group that "has created a conservative intellectual network that extends to all levels of the legal community," according to its website. Founded in 1982 and infused with more than $15 million in grants from conservative foundations, the Federalist Society has become the principal network for lawyers on the right. Nearly every Bush judicial nominee, every Justice Department official, every general counsel in every federal department and agency, and dozens of senior cabinet and sub-cabinet secretaries was a member.
The congressional investigation into the political purge of U.S. Attorneys uncovered evaluation forms with a column to be checked about whether or not the applicant was a Federalist Society member. On every issue, from the gutting of the civil rights division of the Justice Department, where 60 percent of the professional staff was driven out and not a single discrimination case was filed, to the implementation of the so-called "war paradigm," including abrogation of Article Three of the Geneva Convention against torture, (which then White House counsel Alberto Gonzales termed "quaint" in a memo to the president), Federalist Society cadres were at the center. David Addington, Cheney's counsel and later chief of staff, directed the tight-knit group of "torture lawyers" within the administration.
Foreign policy was dominated by the neoconservatives whose agenda was galvanized after the terrorist attacks of September 11. The 2000 manifesto issued by the Project for a New American Century, a neoconservative group that advocated "regime change" in Iraq, contained a cautionary line that "the process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event -- like a new Pearl Harbor." September 11 became that "new Pearl Harbor," providing long hoped for political momentum the neoconservatives channeled for an invasion of Iraq.
The influence of the neoconservatives over the national security apparatus was heavy-handed and pervasive. More than 17 signatories of the Project for the New American Century statement held posts within the Bush administrations, including Cheney, Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz (Deputy Secretary of Defense), Richard Perle (chairman of the Defense Policy Board), and John Bolton (Undersecretary of State for Policy and later Acting U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations). But these eminences were the tip of the iceberg. Neoconservatives also staffed the Office of the Vice President, comprising the largest national security team ever assembled by a vice president. Neoconservatives were strategically placed throughout the National Security Council—for example, Elliott Abrams, NSC director of Middle East affairs, a convicted felon in the Iran-contra scandal. And neoconservatives were packed into the Office of the Secretary of Defense and his Office of Special Plans, a new office created to "stovepipe" intelligence to the White House without having it vetted by the CIA or other intelligence agencies.
The Iraq war was largely a neoconservative production conducted under the guidance of Cheney and Rumsfeld. Cheney took command of the intelligence process, even arranging for Bush to sign Executive Order 13292, written by Addington, giving the vice president the same power over intelligence as the president. The disinformation campaign that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction was a joint enterprise of the Office of the Vice President and the Office of the Secretary of Defense, providing a steady stream of evidence that was later revealed to be false and fabricated.
The occupation of Iraq was undertaken as a grand experiment in conservative ideology. The experienced hands in nation building at the State Department, who had prepared for the complexities of Iraqi reconstruction, as well as senior professionals from the departments of Treasury, Energy and Commerce, were blackballed by Cheney, Rumsfeld and their neoconservative aides. The hiring for the Coalition Provisional Authority was run by Rumsfeld's liaison to the White House (mainly OVP), who gathered resumes from the slush piles of conservative think tanks, and subjected prospective employees to rigorous tests of political loyalty, asking whether they had voted for George W. Bush and were opposed to abortion.
Cheney's reliance on neoconservatives was essential in carrying out his long conceived project of creating an imperial presidency, an executive unfettered by Congress or the press, that under the banner of war could enact any policy and obey or ignore any law that it wished. Cheney's use of the neoconservatives to attain his aims -- the core goals of the Bush presidency -- was hardly happenstance or an alliance of sudden convenience. "Has Cheney changed?" asked Newsweek. The answer to that question required delving deeply into the hidden history of neoconservatism.
Richard Nixon was the first Republican president to cultivate the neoconservatives. They were considered a potentially fresh source of ideas to deal with racial turmoil, student unrest over the Vietnam War, and the discontents of the working and middle classes. Nixon's first encounter took place on March 12, 1970, when Irving Kristol was invited to dinner with the president. Kristol was a former Trotskyist who maintained a consistently cynical view of liberalism as he drifted to the right, acting as an editor at a succession of small journals. The diary of H.R. Haldeman, Nixon's chief of staff, records: "Tonight P (President) stag dinner with key staff and Irving Kristol. Got off to slow start and through dinner P talked with (George) Shultz (Secretary of Labor) about labor matters, Kristol just listened. Sort of a waste of time and talent. In Oval Room [Office] after dinner the talk heated up, about whole subject of condition of the country, focused on radicalization of large number of college students, strength of nihilistic groups (in influence, not numbers), and how to deal with it all ... Must say, Kristol didn't add much."
Nixon did not recall Kristol from that dinner. Kristol, after all, had been uncharacteristically quiet. Nonetheless, Nixon's aides kept sending him articles Kristol wrote on such subjects as pornography and censorship. After Kristol endorsed Nixon for reelection in 1972, causing a stir among the New York intellectuals, Nixon's most conservative aides, Patrick Buchanan and Charles Colson, recommended that Nixon hire Kristol as a domestic policy expert to replace the departing Daniel Patrick Moynihan. For whatever reason, whether Nixon's or Kristol's demurral, Kristol did not receive the appointment.
With Nixon's resignation and Gerald Ford's assumption of the presidency, a new aide arrived with the portfolio to gather ideas from conservative thinkers. Robert Goldwin was himself little known among intellectuals. He was a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, the oldest conservative think tank in Washington; founded to combat the New Deal, it functioned as the brain trust for Barry Goldwater's campaign in 1964. Goldwin had published no notable articles or books of his own and believed generally that intellectuals did not "even have much to say to the ordinary citizen." His notion was less an idea than an impulse, a deeply seated resentment against liberalism that took the form of anti-intellectualism.
Goldwin's gruff contempt expressed the common opinion of conservatives, even conservative thinkers, of the period. AEI was less a hive of activism than a small, stagnant world apart. Its scholars had not achieved distinction in peer-reviewed academia; nor were they known for interesting articles in major publications. Kristol was an experienced provocateur and organizer, whose neoconservatism was a Leninist strategy for the right: intellectual cadres would act as a vanguard to guide the masses of Nixon's "Silent Majority" against the class enemy.
Goldwin's first service to President Ford was to arrange an hour long private meeting with Kristol, who soon began recommending neoconservatives to positions on the National Endowment for the Humanities and Library of Congress.
Goldwin also called Kristol's work to the attention of Ford's chief of staff Donald Rumsfeld, who in turn handed it over to his deputy Dick Cheney. (Cheney had also been Rumsfeld's assistant when Rumsfeld served as counselor to President Nixon.) Cheney had earned a master's degree in political science at the University of Wyoming and pursued doctoral studies at the University of Wisconsin before dropping out to work as an intern for a Republican congressman from Wisconsin. According to documents in the archives of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library, Cheney wrote Goldwin on Jan. 25, 1975. "I greatly appreciate receiving the stuff you've been sending me… Anything like that that comes in from Kristol or others, I'd love to see."
Five days later, Kristol wrote Goldwin a letter explaining the political necessity of fostering a conservative Counter-Establishment:
"I do think the White House ought to do something for a relatively small group of men who are, unbeknownst to it, being helpful to this Administration, to the Republican party, and to conservative and moderate enterprise in general. I am referring to the men who head small and sometimes obscure foundations which support useful research and activities of a kind that the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations take a dim view of. I have got to know an awful lot of them these past years, and they never have received the barest recognition which I think they are entitled to. I am thinking of people like R. Randolph Richardson of the Smith Richardson Foundation, Donald Regan from the Merrill Trust, someone from the Earhart Foundation, the head of the Scaife Family Trust, and the head of the Lilly Endowment, etc. I say ‘head' because, in each case, one would have to determine whether it is the chairman of the board of the executive director who is the appropriate person to receive this recognition. But it would be nice if, say, the White House were to invite these gentlemen and their wives to a State dinner occasionally. If you think this can be done, I'd be happy to draw up a list for your guidance."
On Feb. 14, 1975, Cheney wrote Goldwin, "Bob, why don't you come see me on Irving Kristol. We need to come up with a specific proposal as to how he might be utilized full time." Kristol was soon sending a flow of letters and articles containing his views on a wide range of subjects to Goldwin that were also shared with Cheney. One Goldwin memo, dated Nov. 18, 1975, appended to a Wall Street Journal op-ed written by Kristol on small business, "The New Forgotten Man": "In case you missed it, this Kristol piece is excellent and addressed very directly to us in this Administration." At Kristol's suggestion, Goldwin also launched a series of seminars for senior officials within the administration that included a number of neoconservative luminaries. Cheney, who had become White House chief of staff, and Rumsfeld, who had been named Secretary of Defense, were regular attendees.
After Ford's defeat in 1976, Kristol's influence in directing the funding of right-wing foundations made him the widely acknowledged godfather of the neoconservative movement. During the Reagan years, he moved from New York to Washington, settling as a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, which under his influence had shed its traditional Republican origins and become a neoconservative bastion. (In 2002, George W. Bush awarded Kristol the Presidential Medal of Freedom.) Kristol's son, William, meanwhile, continued the family business, serving as chief of staff to Vice President Dan Quayle, an isolated outpost of neoconservatism during the elder Bush's administration that its denizens called "Fort Reagan." William became editor of a neoconservative journal of opinion, The Weekly Standard, part of press lord Rupert Murdoch's media empire that included Fox News, where the younger Kristol holds forth as a regular commentator. Two years after establishing The Weekly Standard, Kristol co-founded and chaired the Project for a New American Century, whose office was housed at the American Enterprise Institute.
The abbreviated history of the Ford administration, reaping the whirlwind of Nixon's failed presidency, besieged on all sides by the Congress, the press and an insurgent Republican right, scarred Cheney. His encouragement of Kristol and the neoconservatives reflected his efforts to move the Ford administration rightward. Along with Rumsfeld he pushed for the creation of a parallel commission dubbed the Team B to second-guess the CIA on Soviet military capability. The Team B's report projecting a rapidly expanding Soviet threat turned out to contain faulty data. Then CIA director George H.W. Bush, who had acceded to Team B's creation, later condemned it as having set "in motion a process that lends itself to manipulation for purposes other than estimative accuracy." Nonetheless, Team B served as an important milestone in legitimating neoconservatism within the Republican Party.
Elected to the House of Representatives from Wyoming in 1978, Cheney quickly rose within the Republican leadership, becoming the party's senior figure on intelligence matters. As the ranking Republican on the joint congressional committee investigating the Iran-contra scandal Cheney issued a report (written by his then counsel Addington) that attacked the Congress for encroaching on the president's prerogatives in foreign policy, although the scandal involved secret offshore bank accounts, rogue sales of missiles to Iran and bribery of White House officials. This parallel and illegal foreign policy was constructed to avoid adherence to the congressional Boland amendments that prohibited covert military aid to the Nicaraguan contras. Cheney's minority report was a brief for the imperial presidency. It stated: "Congressional actions to limit the president in this area therefore should be reviewed with a considerable degree of skepticism. If they interfere with the core presidential foreign policy functions, they should be struck down." In 2005, he told reporters that the report best captured his views of a "robust" presidency.
When I published this book in 1986 it appeared just months before the Iran-contra scandal was revealed. I had set out to examine the ways that conservatives had created an infrastructure for institutionalizing and magnifying their influence in national politics and throughout the federal government. Then on the national staff of the Washington Post, I knew Dick Cheney as the House Republican Whip. But I didn't imagine then that his crusade for unfettered presidential power and a unitary executive would culminate during a subsequent presidential administration.
As Secretary of Defense in the elder Bush's administration, Cheney was always the most ideological member of the national security team. Colin Powell, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called Cheney's Pentagon senior staff "a refuge for Reagan-era hardliners." After the Gulf War, in 1992, the neoconservatives engaged in a new Team B-like operation under Cheney's aegis. Paul Wolfowitz, Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, and his deputies, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby (later VP Cheney's chief of staff) and Zalmay Khalilzad (later U.S. ambassador to Iraq and the U.N.), after consulting with leading neoconservatives, produced a draft document for a post-Cold War U.S. foreign policy, simply called Defense Policy Guidance. The memo argued for unilateral use of U.S. force, preemptive strikes, preventing the emergence of powerful rivals including nations that were formally allied to the U.S., and pointedly did not refer to international order or multilateral organizations. Once the document was leaked to the New York Times, however, Bush administration officials killed it as contrary to their foreign policy. But Cheney was proud of the memo and issued a version of it under his name as a departing gesture in 1992 as the administration left office. "He took ownership of it," said Khalilzad. The ideas contained within it resurfaced in the 2000 manifesto of the Project for a New American Century (Wolfowitz, Libby, Khalilzad, and Cheney were signatories) and in 2002 as the basis for President George W. Bush's "National Security Strategy of the United States of America."
After the first Bush administration, Cheney became the chief executive officer of Halliburton and a member of the board of trustees of the American Enterprise Institute. His wife, Lynne, who as chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities from 1986 to 1993 had been a fierce cultural warrior on the right, became a senior fellow at AEI. On January 23, 2003, two months before the invasion of Iraq, President Bush delivered a speech at the annual AEI dinner bestowing the Irving Kristol Award. "You do such good work that my administration has borrowed 20 such minds," he declared. The following year, Cheney did the honors. "Being here brings to mind my own days affiliated with AEI, which stretch back some 30 years," he recalled.
Cheney had not changed over the years; on the contrary, he could not have been more explicit and direct about his goals all along. There never was a real mystery about him. Early on, Cheney's notions for an imperial presidency and his relationships with the neoconservatives merged on to a single track. Since the beleaguered Ford White House, he sought out people to develop and implement such ideas, which became the governing policy of George W. Bush's administration. Only through Cheney was the rise of neoconservatism made possible. Now its next phase will revolve around finding a new sponsor to return them to power despite the catastrophic consequences of their ideas.
This article seems to sum up my fears, that Dick Cheney was the real power behind the "Imperial Presidency" he took the lessons from the Nixon years and just expanded them during President Bush's administration, I wonder who will be the next Dick Cheney? David Addington?
Troops with PTSD fail to be treated
Advocates blame stigma, lack of access
By Kelly Kennedy - Staff writer
Posted : Monday Apr 14, 2008 6:08:51 EDT
Post-traumatic stress disorder experts say service members aren’t seeking care, aren’t getting enough time to recover between deployments and aren’t receiving medications or therapies that are known to be effective.
“Problems related to getting troops adequate mental health treatment cannot be resolved unless two issues — stigma and access — are addressed,” Todd Bowers, director of government affairs for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, told the House Veterans’ Affairs subcommittee on health on April 1.
Almost 59,000 veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been diagnosed with PTSD by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Army post-deployment health assessments have found that 20 percent of active-duty and 40 percent of reserve-component troops had symptoms of PTSD, and some experts say the real numbers could be much higher.
But because PTSD hasn’t been addressed until fairly recently — the first scientific paper about the disorder in veterans of the 1991 Persian Gulf War didn’t come out until five years after that war ended — VA and Pentagon officials say much needs to be done to determine good screening techniques and therapies.
“This is the first war where DoD and VA recognized the psychological impact going in,” said Army Col. Charles Hoge, chief of psychiatry and neuroscience at the Walter Reed Institute of Research.
He told the American Legion on March 31 that he must “look through a completely different lens” from that used by therapists treating civilians with PTSD.
Combat vets are not sleeping, experience startle reactions and are hyper-alert.
“All of these things that we label as symptoms are things they need in combat,” Hoge said. “No sooner are they transitioned back home than they’re right back in rotation.”
At the House hearing, Hoge said an Army assessment last summer showed that the numbers of soldiers with PTSD is going up with each deployment.
“There’s a direct connection between mental health and multiple deployments,” he said, adding that troops also need more time between deployments.
In the meantime, research on good treatments and screening measures must improve, experts say.
David Matcher, of the Institute of Medicine’s Committee on Treatment of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, said a recent study found that research has not shown serotonin re-uptake inhibitors, such as Prozac, Zoloft or Celexa, to be effective in treating PTSD.
Exposure therapy — reliving a traumatic experience by writing or talking about it — is the only therapy proved effective by independent research, he said.
Other treatments exist, but they have been tested mainly by the same people who developed them. This doesn’t mean those therapies don’t work — they just have not been proved independently. That’s an important point because the Defense Department and VA use several such methods, including group and drug therapy, to treat combat veterans.
“Our overall message here is that PTSD needs more attention from high-quality research,” Matcher said.
Hoge called the Army mental health report last summer “pretty sobering” news in another area: There are not enough therapists in Iraq to help U.S. troops in theater.
And that problem is not limited to the Iraq war zone. In a recent interview, Army Col. Terry Walters, commander of Womack Army Medical Center at Fort Bragg, N.C., said finding mental health workers continues to be a problem, in part, because of a contracting process that allows for only a one-year stint.
“We are on a one-year budget cycle by Congress,” she said. “If I could offer you a five-year contract, I could probably get you here.”
Walters said Womack has been short three psychiatry positions for more than a year, and she has begun hiring psychologists to fill government service positions she created herself. “I have basically put myself out on a fiscal limb and said I’m going to hire these people permanently,” she said.
As the 82nd Airborne Division begins returning from combat in a few months, it will bring a “tsunami” of mental health needs home with it, Walters said.
“We don’t have enough for surges,” she said. “We are OK on behavioral health, but we’ve had to ask for help, we’ve had to go downtown, we’ve had to screen all the consults and go, ‘Is this just a routine kind of consult for medication? I’ll send that one downtown.’ ‘This guy is really in crisis, he needs to be [taken care of now].’ So it’s a triage process.”
Russian Army getting obese
The Russian military top brass are losing the battle of the bulge as the end of the Cold War takes its toll of their waistlines.
The Defence Ministry has ordered radical improvements to physical training after a study found that a third of senior officers were overweight and that a quarter had failed fitness tests.
The issue has reached critical proportions amid fears that officers will be too fat to fit into stylish new uniforms developed by Russia's top fashion designer. Valentin Yudashkin presented his designs to President Putin in January using chisel-jawed servicemen and leggy female models.
The reality on the parade ground is rather flabbier. The survey tested officers on their ability to run between 100 metres and a kilometre, to swim at least 100 metres and to pull themselves up on gym bars.
Dressed to kill: Putin forces back in fashion
Obesity: ‘same scale as global warming’
A quarter of generals and other senior officers failed to meet the requirements for their age group and rank, while 30 per cent were classed as overweight.
Alexander Kolmakov, the First Deputy Defence Minister, said that fitness requirements would be stiffened for the entire army under a seven-year programme from 2009 to improve combat readiness.
He said: “In the trenches our officers and professional servicemen must do much better than foreign servicemen. This is the goal of this work.”
Vyacheslav Sedov, an army spokesman, said that new gyms, swimming pools and sports halls would be built to get soldiers fighting fit and to revive a “culture of sport” in the military.
The fitness checks were supervised by Vladimir Shamanov, an officer alleged to have overseen widespread human rights abuses during Russia's war against separatist rebels in Chechnya. He told the newspaper Kommersant that officers needed more physical exercise, particularly aerobics.
Mr Sedov said that the campaign to improve fitness would complement the introduction of the stylish uniforms. He said: “The new military uniform should match what is inside it.”
Mr Yudashkin's designs are due to be worn in public for the first time next month when Russia revives the Soviet-era tradition of military parades on Red Square. More than 110 tanks, armoured personnel carriers and nuclear-missile launchers will be involved in the parade on May 9 to mark the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany.
Russia is modernising its military after the catastrophic decline of the Red Army after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The Armed Forces have shrunk from 4 million to 1.2 million men since then and a growing proportion of troops are professional contract soldiers. New rules will reduce the length of service for conscripts from 18 months to one year in January. Only about 9 per cent of those eligible for the draft report for duty, however, because most exploit loopholes or pay bribes to avoid service.
Senior officers have complained for years about the quality of those that do turn up. A study by the Defence Ministry in 2002 found that more than half of conscripts had health problems that affected their ability to serve.
Thousands of recruits are killed or injured every year by older soldiers and officers in brutal bullying practices or initiation rites. There was uproar last year when a group representing soldiers' mothers claimed that conscripts were being forced to work as male prostitutes in St Petersburg by older servicemen who pocketed the earnings.
You're in the army now
— Penalties for becoming overweight in the US Army are severe: soldiers are denied promotion, refused training courses and are not allowed to reenlist.
— If soldiers are above maximum weight — for a 25-year-old man this would constitute having more than 22 per cent body fat then they are required to join a weight control programme.
— If they then fail to lose 3-8lbs (1.4-3.6kg) a month, they are discharged
— The British Army requires all servicemen and women to pass two fitness tests: the combat test and the personal test.
— For the combat test soldiers must be able to march six miles with a 15kg pack. For the personal test they must do as many sit-ups and press-ups as they can in two minutes — the pass mark, dependant on age and sex, ranges from 30 to 40 of each.
— They must also be able to run a mile (2.4km) in about 12 minutes
— The British Army recently relaxed its entry requirements, even allowing applications from people technically classed as obese
— A recent study found that 40 per cent of German soldiers were overweight, a higher proportion than in the population as a whole. One in ten soldiers was clinically obese and almost a third said that they never engaged in exercise.
— 70 per cent were heavy smokers
Sources: US Army, Ministry of Defence, agencies