HIGH COURT BARS SUITS BY THOSE IN THE MILITARY
By STUART TAYLOR JR., SPECIAL TO THE NEW YORK TIMES
Published: June 26, 1987
LEAD: The Supreme Court ruled today that military personnel cannot sue the Government or superior officers for damages even for gross and deliberate violations of their constitutional rights. It also held that military personnel may be court-martialed for crimes unrelated to their service.
The Supreme Court ruled today that military personnel cannot sue the Government or superior officers for damages even for gross and deliberate violations of their constitutional rights. It also held that military personnel may be court-martialed for crimes unrelated to their service.
The two 5-to-4 decisions extended the broad deference the Court has accorded in recent years to the military's power over its personnel.
The first, written by Justice Antonin Scalia, appeared to shield the Government and responsible officials completely from liability for their role in secret experiments in the 1950's in which hundreds of unsuspecting soldiers were given the mind-altering drug LSD to see how they would react. Case Involved LSD
The Court threw out a suit by a former Army sergeant who said he was an unwitting subject of the LSD experiments in 1958, and that he experienced hallucinations, memory loss and violent behavior that wrecked his marriage. The Court ruled that he had no right to compensation even if his allegations were true.
The second decision, by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, overruled a precedent set in 1969 when the liberal majority under Chief Justice Earl Warren had held that service members accused of crimes unrelated to their military duties have a constitutional right to be tried by civilian juries rather than by military courts-martial.
Solicitor General Charles Fried applauded both decisions as triumphs for ''justice according to law.''
The Court also ruled in favor of the Justice Department in two other cases, and decided that the United States Olympic Committee can bar a homosexual rights group from calling the athletic competition it sponsors the Gay Olympics. [ Page A14. ] A dissenting opinion by Justice William J. Brennan Jr., said the ruling on the LSD experiments violated both the Constitution and the Nuremberg Code that the United States developed after World War II to prosecute Nazi officials for medical experimentation on humans.
Justice Scalia's majority opinion did not challenge this. But he held that Court precedents going back to a 1950 ruling in the case of Feres v. United States protecting the military and its officials from liability for illegally injuring military personnel, barred the former sergeant's damage claim against the Government officials responsible for the LSD experiments.
The decision, joined by Chief Justice Rehnquist and Justices Byron R. White, Harry A. Blackmun and Lewis F. Powell Jr., reversed a ruling by the Federal appeals court in Atlanta that the general ban on service-related lawsuits did not apply in this case. Discipline Held Paramount
The Court has held that broad immunity for both the Government and military and civilian officials who injure military personnel or violate their constitutional rights is necessary to preserve military discipline and to prevent Federal courts from second-guessing command decisions.
Justice Scalia said that the allegations by former Sgt. James B. Stanley that the Army's LSD experiments had caused him to ''awake from sleep at night and, without reason, violently beat his wife and children,'' would entitle him to no compensation even if proved, because his injuries ''arise out of or are in the course of activity incident to service.''
In his dissent, Justice Brennan said: ''The Government of the United States treated thousands of its citizens as though they were laboratory animals, dosing them with this dangerous drug without their consent.''
He added that ''the Court disregards the commands of our Constitution, and bows instead to the purported requirements of a different master, 'Military Discipline.' '' If this were a correct reading of the Constitution, he concluded, ''soldiers ought not to be asked to defend a Constitution indifferent to their essential human dignity.''
His dissent was joined by Justice Thurgood Marshall and in part by Justice John Paul Stevens.
Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, in a separate dissent, said that the Government and its officials should be protected from lawsuits by military personnel, but said that ''conduct of the type alleged in this case is so far beyond the bounds of human decency'' that ''it simply cannot be considered a part of military discipline.''
Mr. Stanley's suit grew out of secret Army experiments at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland, using enlisted men who had volunteered for what they had been told would be chemical warfare tests with gas masks and protective clothing.
The Army's human experimentation with LSD, or lysergic acid diethylamide, was part of a broader Government program in which the Central Intelligence Agency also participated.
Mr. Stanley did not know that he had actually been given LSD until 1975, when the Army solicited his participation in a follow-up study. He filed his suit, which has had a tortuous procedural history but has not yet gone to trial, in 1979. Now 53 years old, he has a desk job in the County Sheriff's office in Palm Beach, Fla. No Statutory Remedy
The case, United States v. Stanley, No. 86-393, involved claims for damages from the Government under the Federal Tort Claims Act, which generally authorizes suits seeking damages from the Government for injuries caused by its wrongdoing. And he asserted that individual officials involved in the secret LSD experiments violated various constitutional rights.
The Court was unanimous in throwing out Mr. Stanley's Federal Tort Claims Act claim against the Government because of a technical error in the lower court. The 5-to-4 majority dismissed his constitutional claims.
In his majority opinion, Justice Scalia said the dismissal of the constitutional claim was a logical application of a broad ruling by the Court in 1983 that ''enlisted military personnel may not maintain a suit to recover damages from a superior officer for alleged constitutional violations.''
Noting that Congress has not specifically created a damage remedy for violations of constitutional rights by Federal or military officials, he wrote, ''Congressionally uninvited intrusion into military affairs by the judiciary is inappropriate.''
Justice Brennan, on the other hand, said many rulings by the Court in other contexts have embraced the principle ''that no official is above the law.'' Military Jurisdiction Widened
He added, ''I cannot comprehend a policy judgment that frees all Federal officials from any doubt that they may intentionally and in bad faith violate the constitutional rights of those serving in the Armed Forces.''
In the second decision, Solorio v. United States, No. 85-1581, Chief Justice Rehnquist ruled that the Constitution authorized court-martial jurisdiction, under rules set by Congress, over any ''serviceman who was a member of the armed forces at the time of the offense charged,'' regardless of whether the offense had any connection to military service.
He held that the rule limiting court-martial jurisdiction to ''service-connected'' crimes, established by the 1969 Warren Court decision, O'Callahan v. Parker, was based on an incorrect reading of the Constitution and legal history.
In the 1969 decision the Court had held that the constitutional rights to indictment by a grand jury and trial by jury could be denied to military personnel only for ''service-related'' crimes. Sexual Abuse Is Charged
Chief Justice Rehnquist said history was ''too ambiguous to justify'' restricting Congress's broad power to regulate the armed forces. He also said the ''service-connection'' test ''has proved confusing and difficult for the military courts to apply.''
The decision rejected an appeal by Richard Solorio, who disputed the Coast Guard's jurisdiction to court-martial him for sexually abusing two young daughters of fellow Coast Guardsmen at his home, which was not on a military base, in Juneau, Alaska.
Mr. Solorio argued, and a court-martial judge initially ruled, that the offenses were not service-connected. Two military appellate courts disagreed, stressing that the victims were military dependents.
Chief Justice Rehnquist said court-martial jurisdiction was proper in either event.
Justice Marshall, in a dissent joined by Justice Brennan and in part by Justice Blackmun, assailed the majority's ''single-minded determination to subject members of our armed forces to the unrestrained control of the military in the area of criminal justice'' and its ''blatant disregard'' for the Court's precedents.
Correction: June 27, 1987, Saturday, Late City Final Edition
as you notice this newspaper article is over 21 years old, Congress has yet to help the other veterans used in the program that MSG Stanley was used in, why? Where is the public outrage over this, is it acceptable in America to use soldiers as lab rats and not tell them the truth and then to ignore them decades later when they find themselves disabled and in need of medical care and financial compensation?
Is this really how America wants to treat it's military veterans?
Saturday, May 3, 2008
HIGH COURT BARS SUITS BY THOSE IN THE MILITARY
Friday, May 2, 2008
Congressman Filner Bill Announcements for Veterans
(personal comments at the bottom)
CHAIRMAN BOB FILNER
HOUSE COMMITTEE ON VETERANS’ AFFAIRS
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 30, 2008
Contact Kristal DeKleer at (202) 225-9756
House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Approves Landmark Bills
Washington, D.C. – Today, the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee led by Chairman Bob Filner (D-CA), approved fourteen bills to improve services and benefits provided for America’s veterans at the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. “Caring for veterans is an ongoing cost of war and the measures passed today will have an impact on our veterans and their dependents,” said Chairman Filner. “I would like to thank the Subcommittee Chairs and the Ranking Members for their hard work and strong bipartisan leadership in crafting these bills that we have passed today.”
Five of the bills passed today address the health care needs of veterans, including a bill to authorize major medical facility projects and leases for Fiscal Year 2009.
1. H.R. 2790, as amended - To amend title 38, United States Code, to establish the position of Director of Physician Assistant Services within the office of the Under Secretary of Veterans Affairs for Health.
2. H.R. 3819 - To amend title 38, United States Code, to require the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to reimburse veterans receiving emergency treatment in non-Department of Veterans Affairs facilities for such treatment until such veterans are transferred to Department facilities, and for other purposes.
3. H.R. 5729 - To amend title 38, United States Code, to direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to provide comprehensive health care to children of Vietnam veterans born with Spina Bifida, and for other purposes. (Passed with amendment)
4. H.R. 5554, as amended - To amend title 38, United States Code, to expand and improve health care services available to veterans from the Department of Veterans Affairs for substance use disorders, and for other purposes.
5. H.R. 5856 – To authorize major medical facility projects and major medical facility leases for the Department of Veterans Affairs for fiscal year 2009, and for other purposes.
The Committee took great strides to improve readjustment services and benefits for troops and veterans with the passage of seven bills. The Committee approved legislation to improve the VA home loan program, including H.R. 4883 and H.R. 4884, both introduced by Bob Filner (D-CA), Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs. H.R. 4883 would prohibit foreclosure of property owned by a service member for one year following a period of military service. H.R. 4884, the Helping Our Veterans to Keep Their Homes Act of 2008, would increase the maximum home loan guarantee amount and reduce the home loan funding fees for veterans. The Committee also approved H.R. 5684, a bill to improve veterans’ educational benefits for active duty troops. The author of the bill, Congresswoman Herseth Sandlin, accepted an amendment to also include educational benefit increases for members of the National Guard and Reserve.
6. H.R. 3681 - To amend title 38, United States Code, to authorize the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to advertise in the national media to promote awareness of benefits under laws administered by the Secretary. (Passed with amendments)
7. H.R. 3889, as amended – To amend title 38, United States Code, to require the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to conduct a longitudinal study of the vocational rehabilitation programs administered by the Secretary. (Passed with amendment)
8. H.R. 4883 – To amend the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act to provide for a limitation on the sale, foreclosure, or seizure of property owned by a service member during the one-year period following the service member’s period of military service. (Passed with amendment)
9. H.R. 4884, as amended – To amend title 38, United States Code, to make certain improvements in the home loan guaranty programs administered by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, and for other purposes. (Passed with amendment)
10. H.R. 4889, as amended – To amend title 38, United States Code, to recodify as part of that title chapter 1607 of title 10, United States Code.
11. H.R. 5664, as amended – To amend title 38, United States Code, to direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to update at least once every six years the plans and specifications for specially adapted housing furnished to veterans by the Secretary.
12. H.R. 5684, as amended – To amend title 38, United States Code, to make certain improvements in the basic educational assistance program administered by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, and for other purposes. (Passed with amendments)
The final two bills approved by the Committee would provide a cost-of-living adjustment for service-connected disability compensation rates and would modernize the disability claims processing system at the VA.
13. H.R. 5826 – To increase, effective as of December 1, 2008, the rates of disability compensation for veterans with service-connected disabilities and the rates of dependency and indemnity compensation for survivors of certain service-connected disabled veterans, and for other purposes.
14. H.R. 5892 - To amend title 38, United States Code, to direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to modernize the disability benefits claims processing system of the Department of Veterans Affairs to ensure the accurate and timely delivery of compensation to veterans and their families and survivors, and for other purposes.
“This Committee continues to take bold action to keep the promises that have been made to our veterans,” said Chairman Filner. “I thank my colleagues for their persistent efforts to make positive differences in the lives of our veterans.”
While this seems to be a good start on many of the issues I discussed with Congressman Filner and other congressmen and has been the focus of many our discussions and attempts to rectify the mindless power of Veterans Affairs and the lack of transparency on presumptive disorder associations rules and protocols, if there is any established in writing that is by the VA/IOM connection; (prior to that it was the VACEH/VA connection) it does not go far enough on many fronts. Legal fronts those legal implications which Veterans and Widows are subjected that no other segment of society is negatively affected by those rules as victims or stakeholders. The Veterans Community does not fall under the same legal rules of evidence as the rest of the citizenship from either VA or IOM, or one could conclude even from our own congress.
Once again, leaving open interpretations as to what congress really wants that Veterans Affairs can interpret any way it wants is not going to work; as VA will be less than honorable in trying to accomplish those undefined and non-mandated Congressional goals.
For example on Number 2
2. H.R. 3819 - To amend title 38, United States Code, to require the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to reimburse veterans receiving emergency treatment in non-Department of Veterans Affairs facilities for such treatment until such veterans are transferred to Department facilities, and for other purposes.
This has been on the books forever that during an emergency the Veteran can go to the nearest hospital and Veterans Affairs will reimburse the hospital or Veteran. However, Veterans Affairs in the past has argued for sometimes years that there was no emergency. Now since they were not there and cannot read the mind of the Veteran or family; I do not know how they argue the point but they do and the VA clerks just deny deny deny. Deny to the point the Veterans home is attached by the treating hospital and assets seized. Of course, for the illegal in this nation, this is not allowed. Does not make much sense now does it.
This new statement by congress means nothing and is certainly not new unless there are mandated requirements in; maximum time to resolve the issue, evidence and/or statements needed in support, or other such defined criteria that Veterans Affairs must accept and then the minimum time limit Veterans Affairs has to pay the bill. Such as within 60 days…the treating hospital and/or the Veterans Family SHALL be reimbursed.
Congress has sooner or later got to realize unless they are specific, Veterans Affairs will operate on behalf of the Executive Branch just as they have in the past. In other words, do not assume integrity when there is none.
I wonder what ever happened to the Senate VAC spouting off they were going to allow Veterans to go to any hospital rather just the VA and see who the Veterans would pick with the Senate advertised "most Veterans prefer VA care to other care down the street from their homes." I would bet that after they found out that only 20% of Veterans actually use the VA Health Care they kind of changed their minds. Although I have written articles and suggested that while VA free health care was at one time only unique to our segment it is no longer unique to our nation with probably 10 times that amount getting free health care wherever and whenever they choose.
And there are many other financial issues that could be addressed as to the cost savings and supporting rural communities with one federal buck creating two bangs.
In other words, this entire VA Medical system other than a few specific areas, may have had its day in history.
Then we have Number 6.
6. H.R. 3681 - To amend title 38, United States Code, to authorize the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to advertise in the national media to promote awareness of benefits under laws administered by the Secretary. (Passed with amendments)
This is one issue I have argued vehemently based on my experience with not only my Battalion Members, Marines located in the same area but also the friends I grew up with in my hometown that also served in our war; one Marine with two battlefield promotions. These warriors had no idea of the presumptive disorders that had affected them for decades or that they were even allowed to go to VA Medical Centers. Why? Because there had been no Veterans Affairs outreach programs at the national level to inform these warriors of the mortality and morbidity disorders created by DoD. Of course, we know the reasons why.
My suggestions had been, given the so-called support of the national print and broadcast media, that as a very minimum twice a year (Memorial Day and Veterans Day) the media should with financial support from VA at least run the banner ads across the bottom all day on informing the Veterans and/or their widows the benefits and/or presumptive disorders. When VA was asked what outreach they had their comment was, "they inform the VSO’s."
I go back to my point on VSO’s. When did VSO’s become the mouthpiece for all Veterans and the sole distributor of Veterans Affairs information? In fact, their membership may represent 1/10th of all Veterans and less than that on Widows who have Service Connected Benefits and legal rights. Yet, time and time again VSO’s testify with their own agenda’s and not necessarily, what is important to all Veterans and/or Widows. Veterans and Widows do not get to testify, so congress hears most of what it wants to hear.
Moreover, yes both VA and Congress love the fact that there are so many VSO’s that keep everyone divided rather than one organized unit that will speak loudly and not just whisper in protest as if their gonads are cut off; as not to offend the VA or Congress.
I am thinking of starting my own VSO that will be exclusive blonde blue eyed Veterans that must have neuropathy and have been wounded only in the stomach area. Then one of you can create another one for Marines only that are dark hair and dark eyes with neuropathy....... and so forth. Ridiculous? You bet it is but that is about what we have now. Beer, Barbeque, Bingo, Bank Accounts are more important.
Now what I found missing in these new HR Bills is once again unless specific measurable requirements are mandated then these will be put in the trash can by VA no different than many of the others that congress has concluded are the wishes for Veterans by Congress; at least on advertised face value (more for votes than real action).
Missing again, which would be very simple to demand for the Nations Veterans and Widows is the definition of when the Veteran dies his or her claim dies with him. This definition not only promotes the incessant stalling and denying with intended bias by VA. By default makes the Veterans family subsidize the government with their own resources from wounds created by our own government.
It should be mandated, since there are no complex medical decisions to be made and only verifying three data points and in many cases according to VA’s own rules the level of compensation is automatic, that these claims be approved within 60 days followed by funds deposited via electronic transfer no later than 30 days later. This process should not take 6 to 18 months leaving the Veteran and his or her family footing the disability created bills while in some cases, the Veteran expires before the stalled approval and then our government reaps the benefits of that unpaid earned compensation to be used for folks that have done nothing for the nation other than breath the free air provided by the now uncompensated deceased Veteran.
It should also be mandated that Veterans Affairs given a Veterans case that includes a spouse and/or a soon to be Widow and/or minor children that VA cannot dismiss the case based on the passing of the Veteran which puts the now widow back at the longest line when it should have been decided with the original case since there are benefits in perpetuity that apply to those decisions. In fact, the widow’s case should continue automatically and the monies now stalled for months or even years should be paid to the widow from the time the original case was submitted. After that time line the widow should then be entitled to survivor DIC benefits.
This just might stop the stalling as the Executive Branch and its VA puppets would no longer have motive to stall these claims until the Veteran succumbs.
Do not punish our dying Veterans and their Widows because of poor VA performance that is inexcusable and unjustifiable, which many would conclude is “as ordered and nothing but SOP.”
It should also be ordered by Congress that those Veterans with Stage Four mortality disorders caused by our own government and listed in the presumptive disorders, which is extremely lacking due to bias, lack of transparency at to what is required by VA/IOM…these claims shall be resolved at 100% with financial support to the family in no less than 30 days. Work out the details later.
Moreover, no you do not need two years of training to do this at VA level. Comparing and then verifying three data points, should take "days" not years!!!!!!! Bring in some part time help if needed. I recall some churches had even volunteered to help in this venue... free of charge.
I still say without direct specific measurable criteria of what constitutes a presumptive disorder by congress, Veterans and their families are going to languish and die with no support from VA/IOM. It has never happened before in the previous Veteran Issues such as Nuclear, LSD, Edgewood, SHAD, and I would conclude it is not going to happen for the Herbicide Veterans or the Gulf War Veterans.
Only after Congress admits that in these issues there is little integrity in the Executive Branch, White House, Bureau of Budget, DoD, VA/IOM, chemical companies, even some members of the CDC, EPA, our own congress, and certainly the government funded studies done by the major players (which we now know are useless and only used as government/VA/IOM denial tools), etc and then establishes the real measurable requirements that it wants for Veterans. Only then will we and our Widows achieve some sort of legal resolution that approximates the legal constitutional rights afforded to all citizens except those that have served in the military and actually did something to earn and protect those legal rights for all.
Certainly there is much more to get done in immune system disorders as well as all site cancers and the issues of cellular damages and mitochondrial DNA level.
Lawyers Say Vets Dying Waiting for VA Care
(CBS) CBS News producer Pia Malbran wrote this for CBSNews.com.
In closing arguments in a federal lawsuit against the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), plaintiff lawyers accusing the agency of failing to effectively take care of our nation’s military veterans said, “1,457 veterans died while their appeals were pending” in the last six months alone.
“More of these veterans are dying in the United States than out in combat,” attorney Arturo Gonzalez said.
Two veterans rights groups - Veterans for Common Sense and Veterans United for Truth - sued the VA hoping a federal judge could order the government agency to overhaul and improve its system. The trial took place in San Francisco with seven days of court testimony. Closing remarks were held Wednesday.
Plaintiff lawyers claimed the agency has dropped the ball in a number of ways and as a result has not provided proper access to health care and benefits to veterans. For example, they said the VA has yet to fully implement the Mental Health Strategic Plan that was introduced back in 2004. Gonzalez said, “there is no plan for dealing with all of these veterans who are returning and who are in need of help.” The argument was also made that veterans are waiting too long to get medical appointments and the benefits they deserve.
Daniel Bensing, the Department of Justice lawyer representing the VA, told the judge that the VA has a “very well-regarded system for providing health care.” He insisted that 80 percent of the Mental Health Strategic Plan recommendations have been adopted and he said, “98 percent of Iraq/Afghanistan veterans are seen within 30 days.”
The issue of suicide also played a big part in the trial. Damaging internal e-mails made public early on, as reported by CBS News, showed top officials at the VA discussing how to withhold critical information about the risk of suicide among veterans from the public. Gonzalez and his team said the emails show how the VA’s top brass are not dealing with the true scope of mental health issues facing veterans.
Bensing did not talk specifically about the e-mails in his closing statement but said “we don’t dispute that suicide is a major, serious problem among veterans.” He said the issue of suicide is already a “major priority” for the VA and claimed the evidence presented by other attorneys on the issue of suicide was “unnecessary.” Furthermore, he said the mental health budget has increased from $3.2 billion to $3.5 billion annually and 3,700 new mental health professionals have recently been hired by the VA.
U.S. District Court judge Samuel Conti now has to make a decision in the case and will do so after receiving post-trial summaries from both sides which is scheduled to happen May 9 and May 19.
By Pia Malbran
John Hall and PTSD
Today, the full House Veterans' Affairs Committee passed U.S. Rep. John Hall's (D-NY19) legislation to significantly overhaul the Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA) claims processing. The legislation passed the House Veterans' Affairs Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs last week.
HR 5982, the Veterans Disability Benefits Claims Modernization Act of 2008, would make major changes to allow veterans to access the benefits they have earned faster and with less bureaucratic hassle.
Congressman Hall said at the Committee's markup meeting today, "It is abundantly clear that the current VA disability claims processing system is archaic and in dire need of modernization in many of its policy and operational areas. VA's Byzantine and convoluted internal bureaucratic structure creates a maze for disabled veterans, families, and survivors to navigate that is incomprehensible, leaving too many of them lost and overwhelmed. This bureaucracy has also resulted in a growing claims backlog, expected to reach one million, and the accompanying delays in processing are unacceptable. We must act now and intercede on behalf of these disabled veterans who are being left languishing in a system not capable of responding to their immediate needs."
Among other improvements, Hall's legislation would make it easier for veterans who have served in combat zones to obtain benefits for post-traumatic stress disorder by removing the VA's requirement that they prove exposure to a specific "stressor." Currently, the VA's regulations force veterans returning from war to prove that they were engaged in combat through incident reports, buddy statements, medals, etc.
"Veterans returning from war shouldn't have to leap hurdles to prove they experienced combat," said Hall, who serves as Chairman of the House Veterans' Affairs Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs. "I've been to Iraq to meet with soldiers there and I've talked to returning vets. There are no frontlines, there is no rear. The risk of combat is clear and immediate whether you're in Sadr City or the Green Zone."
Immediate Payment for Major, Unequivocal Service Injuries
Hall's bill would require immediate compensation for an undisputed service connected injury such as paralysis or a missing limb, even while other lesser injuries require further processing or adjudication. The VA's existing system can cause a veteran to wait for an average of six months while all issues are adjudicated before receiving any compensation for the major injury.
21st Century Technology
"21st century technology is all but absent in the claims processing system, with some claims still jammed into folders that get lost and others piled in stacks of paper with sticky notes and rubber bands containing vital information," said Hall.
Hall's legislation would require implementation within one year of comprehensive information technology upgrades, including web portals, rule-based expert systems, and decision support software to enhance it claims processing capabilities.
If a veteran dies while waiting for his or her claim to be processed, Hall's bill would allow an eligible survivor to take the veteran's place in line instead of being sent back to the beginning of the claims process.
"This legislation will lay the foundation for a more responsive, non-adversarial and cost effective VA that is deserving of the selfless service of our nation’s disabled veterans," said Hall. "We cannot profess to want to see veterans have better access to quality care, but then look for prejudicial ways to deny their compensation."
The White House Domestic Policy Office expressed their interest in the bill as "good government" and its deference to recommendations by the Veteran’s Disability Benefits Commission and the President’s Commission on Care for America’s Returning Wounded Warriors. Additionally, the Disabled American Veterans (DAV), The American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), AMVETS, National Veterans Legal Service Program, National Organization of Veterans Advocates, Vietnam Veterans of America, National Association for Uniformed Services, The Retired Enlisted Association (TREA), and the American Federation of Government Employees have alls sent letters in support of The Veterans Disability Benefits Claims Modernization Act of 2008.
5 Stars - Excellent4 Stars - Good3 Stars - Average2 Stars - Fair1 Stars - Poor
Bill would help vets exposed to toxic tests
Thadeus Greenson/The Times-Standard
Article Launched: 05/02/2008 01:24:16 AM PDT
Ferndale's Jack Alderson still bears the wounds of his service in the United States Navy decades ago.
They aren't the overt scars of shrapnel and gunshot wounds. They are covert, like his service, and come in the form of malignant melanoma, prostate cancer and high blood pressure.
For decades Alderson has believed his ailments were the direct result of the classified military operation Project Shipboard Hazard and Defense (SHAD), in which chemical and biological agents such as VX nerve gas, Sarin Nerve Gas and E. Coli were tested with the help of Alderson and his crew. The problem was, until several years ago the Department of Defense never admitted the tests took place.
”When you're hitting your head against the brick wall known as the Department of Defense, it takes patience,” Alderson said Thursday, the same day North Coast Congressman Mike Thompson introduced legislation to help Alderson and thousands of others like him.
Thompson and Congressman Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., introduced a bill that would provide health care to veterans subjected, many unknowingly, to biological and chemical weapons tests conducted in the 1960s and 1970s.
The bill would require the Department of Veterans Affairs to assume that the toxins used in the weapons tests of Project 112, which included Project SHAD, caused injury to veterans, making them eligible for medical benefits and compensation for their conditions.
”I worked with the Department
of Defense, and for years they denied that this was happening. Finally we were able to learn that this was in fact happening, and that a lot of military personnel had been exposed to VX nerve gas, Sarin nerve gas and E. Coli -- some of the worst chemicals known to mankind,” Thompson said Thursday in a teleconference with reporters.
”Out of frustration and a desire to help our veterans,” Thompson continued, “we are introducing legislation today that would establish a presumption of service connection, which means these military personnel would have to be identified and, once identified, they would have access to the health care they need.”
As a part of Project SHAD, Alderson said at least he knew he was a part of the “hot tests.” He said he and his crew were trained to set up test sights and clean them up after the tests, collecting samples of air and animals exposed. Others weren't as fortunate, he said.
Alderson said the government also conducted simulant tests, where they sprayed unknowing military vessels and even U.S. cities with live pathogens, in some cases causing immune system failures and even death.
During the teleconference, Rehberg said part of the problem is no one knows just how many people were affected.
”It seemed like the Department of Defense had dropped the ball and hadn't even tried to identify those who had fallen ill,” Rehberg said.
”Part of the problem is we don't know,” he said. “The best numbers we have right now are somewhere in the neighborhood of 6,000. Vietnam Veterans of America thinks it's much higher than that.”
Thompson said the health benefits in the bill won't be symptom-based, but would rather be open to anyone who served in Project 112 for any variety of ailments.
So, under the bill which carries a presumption of service connection, Alderson would get health care benefits for his conditions, which he said a doctor at a Veteran's Affairs hospital in San Francisco said were due to Alderson's having smoked at the time of his service.
But Alderson is quick to point out that he has been luckier than many, as he estimates 60 percent of his fellow servicemen who participated in the “hot testing” are now dead.
To Thompson, that means this legislation is long overdue.
”We have some veterans that are long dead because of the exposure they received, and that's just plain wrong,” he said.
Thompson and Rehberg also said during the teleconference that there is too much blame in this issue to simply place at the feet of one administration.
”It's not just this administration, it's the one before and the one before that,” Rehberg said.
”It's been 40 years of administrations,” Thompson interjected.
After its introduction Thursday, the bill will head to a veterans committee before coming to back to the House floor for a vote before heading to the Senate, where a similar bill stalled in 2006.
Thompson said he was “cautiously optimistic” this bill will fare better.
After a decade of working with him on the issue, Alderson said he is confident Thompson will do his part to make sure the bill becomes law.
”I have nothing but the highest praise for the job he's done -- he's stuck with us through a lot of stuff,” Alderson said. “I have a lot of faith in Mike.”
Thadeus Greenson can be reached at 441-0509 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Bill would help vets exposed to toxic tests
It is my opinion that Congress should use this opportunity to include all of the Cold War veterans used in classified exposure tests, at Fort Detrick - biological weapons, and at Edgewood Arsenal where they tested chemical weapons Sarin, Mustard Agents, 254 substances in all among them LSD, PCP, scopolomine and Ecstacy, I don't know the statistics for Fort Detrick but the last medical study in FY2000 publiished in March 2003 as a report used for Gulf War illnesses used the Edgewood veterans as a (base group) they are the only known men exposed to Sarin. The report found that the men aged 45-65 at the time reported 4022 survivors out of the 7120 men used from 1955 thru 1975 that indicates a 40% death rate and of the 4022 survivors, 54% of them reported some form of disability. A combined death and disability rate of 74.43%, it is time ALL of the victims of the classified experiments were given the care and compensation they deserve. Why only accept responsibility for one group of veterans who were exposed to harmful substances?
Thursday, May 1, 2008
Sen. Murray is right to dog VA
Sen. Patty Murray, the senior U.S. senator from Washington, has done the veterans of this state proud by drawing national attention to the fact that the Department of Veterans Affairs deliberately underestimated statistics on veteran suicides and suicide attempts.
Murray, a Democrat, has gained a reputation as a pit bull on veterans’ issues. She helped force VA Director Jim Nicholson out of office last July.
Now Murray has her focus on Dr. Ira Katz, the man in charge of VA’s mental health programs. Murray said he has lied to Congress and the public over suicide rates and should be removed from office.
Internal VA e-mails show that 12,000 veterans attempt suicide a year, yet department officials put the number at fewer than 800.
“The suicide rate is a red alarm bell to all of us,” Murray said. “We are not your enemy,” she told a VA official testifying before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee last week. “We are your support team, and unless we get accurate information, we can’t be there to do our jobs.”
Her grilling of Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs Gordon Mansfield made national headlines. Mansfield told Murray and other senators he did not think there was any deliberate attempt to mislead Congress or the public.
To Mansfield, Murray asked, “How do we trust what you’re saying when every time we turn around we find out that what you’re saying publicly is different from what you’re saying privately? How can we trust what you’re saying today?”
Murray read from Dr. Katz’s internal e-mail on suicide rates. The e-mail was disclosed because of a class-action lawsuit filed against the VA in San Francisco.
Katz’s e-mail began: “Shh!!”
“If the attitude inside the VA is ‘shh!!’,” Murray said, “then we are doing a disservice to the men and women we have asked to serve us.”
Mansfield said it was “unfortunate” and that the e-mail “does not bode well” or “send the right message.”
How’s that for an understatement?
Pressing her call for Dr. Katz’s resignation, Murray said in a written statement, “It is imperative that the individual responsible for providing top notch mental health services to our veterans be open and honest about the VA’s needs. Dr. Katz’s irresponsible actions have been a disservice to our veterans and it is time for him to go. The number one priority of the VA should be caring for our veterans, not covering up the truth. The epidemic of veterans’ suicide is horrifying but it should also be preventable. In order to ensure that it is, the VA must be honest about the numbers and the needs. It is time for the VA to own up to the true cost of the war and ensure our heroes aren’t lost when they come home.”
Murray is right. Katz should go and the VA must admit it has a suicide epidemic on its hands and react accordingly.
Senator Murray is one of my personal hero's, she is the veterans best friend on Capitol Hill and I look forward to the day when she becomes the Chairwoman of the Senate VA Committee then look out, she will clean house then
Wednesday, April 30, 2008
“The curtains pull away. They come to the door. And they know. They always know.”
— Major Steve Beck
I apologize for the mass e-mail, but If you are receiving this message you have written to me in the past regarding, “Final Salute,” the story I wrote for the Rocky Mountain News in 2005. I am pleased to tell all of you that I have expanded the story into a new book, “Final Salute,” which is set for publication on May 1 through The Penguin Press. I spent much of the past year in my basement, sifting through piles of notebooks – some of them still tear-stained, some of them now stained with new tears – in an attempt to compile nearly five years of reporting into a single story that shines a light into the scenes behind the sacrifices of military families and the people who care for them. The book includes 24 pages of full-color photographs, including some of the iconic, Pulitzer Prize-winning photos taken by Todd Heisler. I know many of you found me through blogs, military groups, and e-mail lists, and I would be grateful if you could spread the word. The book is available online and, beginning this week, should be on the shelves of your favorite bookstore. I am about to embark on a book tour – you can find the schedule and more information at http://www.jimsheeler.com – but if you are unable to make it to one of the cities listed, I would be happy to sign a book for you, just e-mail me here at email@example.com. Thanks again for all the kind words and support in the past. And for those of you in the military, thank you even more for your service.
“Final Salute” begins with a knock at the door. For thousands of families, that knock never ends. Please remember them and their loved ones. It’s all they ask, and the very least we can do.
Here is a link to an interview that aired today on NPR's Fresh Air with Terri Gross:
Below you’ll find advance praise for the book:
“(Final Salute)… should be required reading for all Americans” -Publisher’s Weekly (starred review)
"Jim Sheeler's Final Salute is an act of national service. Like no other book I've seen, it captures the human costs of going to war. Combat's pride and pain are here, along with the tragic truth that some give all, while most give none. This is a beautiful book that deserves, demands, to be read." -Nathaniel Fick, author of One Bullet Away: The Making of a Marine Officer
“Final Salute is an extraordinary book, an exploration of a national loss that we badly need. Jim Sheeler writes with such direct honesty about an absolutely heart-rending subject that you will very likely read much of it, as I did, with tears in your eyes. And yet you will want to read every page, gathering along the way an intensely deepened appreciation and love for America’s communities, its citizens, and its servicemen and women.” -Nick Arvin, author of Articles of War
“Final Salute is a searing and unforgettable piece of work from one of the most supernaturally gifted reporters of our time. Jim Sheeler has the heart and the talent to chronicle the real cost of war. With his quiet persistence and endless empathy, he guides the reader inside hushed and sacred moments that most of us can scarcely imagine.” - Thomas French, author of Unanswered Cries and South of Heaven, and winner of the 1998 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing
“Jim Sheeler’s Final Salute should be required reading for all Americans and their elected leaders. It is not pro or anti war, but instead a gripping account of combat’s price on the families of the fallen. Final Salute is also the inspirational and often heartbreaking story of the incredible, heroic efforts of a Marine officer to help ease the pain of these families. Jim Sheeler should be saluted for providing a heartfelt view inside the returns home from Iraq that too often pass unrecognized by the American public.” -Paul Rieckhoff, Executive Director and Founder, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. Author of Chasing Ghosts
"With his words, Jim Sheeler has taken what has been a very personal journey for all the families of the fallen and opened the eyes of the world to the tears and sacrifice we have made and the respect and honor paid to our sons. He has been given a magnificent gift of writing from the heart...I could not have been more proud of him if he were my own son." -Terry Cooper, mother of Marine Lance Corporal Thomas Slocum, the first Coloradan killed in Iraq
McSame T shirts
John W. McCain
Get ready for Bush's 3rd term!
Tell the world that McCain's presidency will be a third term of George W. Bush with an organic cotton T-shirt.
T-shirt Back (cat not included)
Picture of available colors (please ignore my accounting system post-it notes)
T-shirts are $19 including shipping and tax. I've been able to lower the price by a few bucks by ordering in bulk.
Note about availability: Women's sizes are only available in white. Men's sizes are available in white, natural, light yellow, and light blue. However, I am unable to get Men's L or M in natural, or Men's XL or XXL in blue. Also, men's XXXL is unavailable in natural AND blue (in other words, it's only available in yellow and white).
Size Men's SMen's MMen's LMen's XLMen's XXLMen's XXXLWomen's SWomen's MWomen's LWomen's XL
Please visit the website and order one or two your friends will appreciate the thought, and they will make great 2008 election souvenoirs
link to website to order and see the shirts
Fearing stigma, US soldiers hide mental problems: study
1 hour ago
WASHINGTON (AFP) — A majority of US soldiers who have done tours of duty in Iraq or Afghanistan say they suffer from stress-related troubles linked to their deployments, a study showed Wednesday.
But most keep their psychological problems to themselves for fear of being stigmatized or seeing their careers take a nose-dive, the study conducted by Harris Interactive for the American Psychiatric Association (APA) showed.
Nearly six in 10 US military members said their deployment in a war zone has caused them to suffer from "negative experiences" associated with stress.
But a mere 10 percent have sought treatment for mental health concerns, according to the study, which surveyed 347 members of the US military and their spouses.
Just over 60 percent said they avoided seeking help for mental health problems because they feared doing so would impact negatively on their career.
Fifty-three percent said they felt others would think less of them if they were to seek help for psychological troubles resulting from their deployment.
Two-thirds of military members said they rarely, if ever, talk about their mental health with family and friends.
Nearly half (48 percent) of the soldiers said they had difficulty sleeping, half reported feeling depressed, and one-third reported a lack of interest in daily activities, the study showed.
All of those problems are symptomatic of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which, along with major depression and traumatic brain injury, afflict nearly one in five of the 1.6 million US soldiers who have fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a separate study released by the RAND Corporation earlier this month.
In the APA study, around two-thirds of military spouses said running a home alone while their partner was deployed caused them stress, and more than half reported stress related to being a single parent while the soldier-spouse was at war.
Nearly twice as many poll respondents -- 65 percent -- said they were unfamiliar with the warning signs of mental health problems that might result from being in a war zone as those who said they knew what to look for -- 35 percent.
The mental injuries US soldiers are bringing back from Iraq and Afghanistan have been dubbed the "invisible wounds" of war.
The RAND Corporation study estimated the cost of treating soldiers diagnosed with PTSD or depression in the first two years following their return from Iraq or Afghanistan at up to 6.2 billion dollars.
what happens when these men and women finally admit they have problems 10, 20 or 30 years from now, we have WW2 veterans just now seeking help for their "shell shock" the WW2 term for PTSD this is a nightmare that is just waiting to blow up
Federal Contracting Chief Is Forced Out
By DAVID STOUT
Published: May 1, 2008
WASHINGTON — Lurita A. Doan has been forced out as head of the General Services Administration, the federal agency that oversees billions of dollars in contracts and manages thousands of government-owned buildings.
In a stormy two-year tenure as the agency’s administrator, Ms. Doan has been accused of improperly mixing government business with politics and of trying to steer government contracts to her friends. Democrats in Congress said she violated the Hatch Act, which makes it illegal for government employees to take action that could influence an election.
Ms. Doan’s resignation as administrator was requested by the White House on Tuesday, and it takes effect immediately, the agency said on Wednesday. It released a statement in which Ms. Doan said, “It has been a great privilege to serve our nation and a great president.”
Much of the criticism of Ms. Doan came after it became known that on Jan. 26, 2007, a deputy to Karl Rove, then President Bush’s chief political adviser, gave a briefing to employees of her agency that identified incumbent Democrats in Congress whom the Republican Party hoped to unseat in 2008, as well as Republican incumbents who seemed vulnerable to defeat.
Several people at that meeting recalled later that Ms. Doan had asked how her agency could be used “to help our candidates.” Ms. Doan said she did not remember making that remark.
The White House said there was nothing wrong with having White House political appointees brief political appointees at government agencies, and that the briefing in question was not intended to tell employees of the agency what to do to hurt Democrats and help Republicans.
The January 2007 briefing at the General Services Administration, which has some 12,000 employees in all, was one of a series of political talks given by Mr. Rove’s staff at various federal agencies. Ms. Doan’s Democratic critics included about two dozen senators, some of whom called for her resignation.
Ms. Doan became administrator of the agency on May 31, 2006. Before taking the job, she owned and led New Technology Management, a surveillance-technology company she founded in 1990. It has become a major contractor for the Department of Homeland Security.
A White House spokeswoman, Emily Lawrimore, said on Wednesday that Ms. Doan had “worked to strengthen G.S.A.’s ability to respond effectively during times of emergency and make government buildings more energy-efficient,” and that President Bush was grateful for her service.
The agency said that its deputy administrator, David L. Bibb, a career employee, would take over, at least for the time being.
More Articles in Washington »Federal Contracting Chief Is Forced Out
Good Riddance she blatantly was violating the Hatch Act, as a government employee for my entire adult life, I have never seen anything that reached this level and I have seen quite a bit. This went beyond anything that could be explained as accidental this was downright vicious.
The Utility of Proximity-Based Herbicide Exposure Assessment in Epidemiologic Studies of Vietnam Veterans
This report presents the conclusions and recommendations of an Institute of Medicine committee that was convened to provide guidance to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) about the best use of this herbicide exposure assessment model.
Source : Institute of Medicine
Toxic exposures in Vietnam Veterans Agent Orange
http://books.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=12059#toc the entire book by the IOM you can read it online for free by using this link
Wars Harming Mental Health Of Soldiers, Spouses
Long, Hidden Toll;
Help Often Avoided
By YOCHI J. DREAZEN
April 30, 2008
WASHINGTON -- The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have caused heightened stress, depression and sleeplessness among some military personnel and their families, a new report says.
The survey by the American Psychiatric Association, set to be released Wednesday, found that 32% of military members believe their tours in the two war zones had "at least some negative impact" on their mental well-being. Among military spouses, 40% believed their mental health was hurt by their husband's or wife's service overseas.
Many members of the military community remain reluctant to request counseling, the report found. Almost 75% of the military personnel felt that seeking help would harm their careers, while 66% of the military spouses worried that looking for assistance for their own issues would harm their loved ones' chances of promotion.
"The old beliefs remain in place in the military, and there's a real fear that admitting to mental illness will mean being stigmatized," said Dr. Carolyn Robinowitz, president of the American Psychiatric Association. "The risk is that mental-health issues can go untreated, which has the potential to really hit families hard."
This is the first time the APA has commissioned such a survey, making it hard to judge changes over time in the mental health of military personnel. The survey of 183 military members and 164 spouses was conducted online by Harris Interactive. The report didn't give a margin of error.
The report adds to concerns that mental-health problems will be a long-term and largely hidden cost of current conflicts.
Because of advances in medicine, many military personnel are surviving physical injuries that would have been fatal a few years earlier. But the grinding nature of the counterinsurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan, where there are no clear front lines and where civilian casualties are common, means that more veterans might suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder or major depression than in conflicts such as World War II.
• Signs of Damage: A report says wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have heightened stress, depression and sleeplessness among some military personnel and their spouses.
• Positive Reviews: About three-quarters of personnel and spouses said their overall mental health was excellent or good.
• Long-Term Cost: The practice of multiple deployments raises the risk of mental illness."The young men and young women today spend 365 days on the front lines, and I think that has the possibility of a serious toll on someone," Rep. Ike Skelton (D., Mo.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, told reporters Tuesday.
A Rand Corp. study released this month said 20% of the roughly 1.6 million military personnel who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan have symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. It found that half of the military personnel had friends who were seriously wounded or killed, while about 45% saw dead or wounded civilians.
"There's a cost in dollars, but most importantly there's a cost in lives if we don't work to prevent suicides, prevent drug and alcohol abuse, and prevent divorce and family problems," said Sen. Christopher Bond (R., Mo.), who is working on a bill designed to improve veterans' mental-health care.
Sen. Bond's bill, which he hopes to introduce within days, would let active-duty soldiers suffering from mental-health problems use the much larger network of Veterans Administration facilities and treatment centers. Active-duty soldiers can now seek care at facilities on military installations and at national facilities such Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Maryland.
The bill would also train veterans to offer psychological assistance to other returning service personnel.
The new APA survey suggests that those risks extend to military spouses. About three-quarters of the military personnel and spouses rated their overall mental health as excellent or good, but about a quarter said they suffered from regular bouts of sleeplessness, anxiety and depression.
About 40% of the military personnel and just more than half of the military spouses said they felt stressed at least twice a week, and similar numbers said their stress levels had increased more than they expected since they or their loved ones served in the war zones.
The APA's Dr. Robinowitz said the risks of serious mental-health problems increase the more times military personnel deploy to the war zones. The military is facing growing manpower strains because of the two long wars, and many soldiers and Marines have served two, three and in some cases four tours in Iraq or Afghanistan.
"If you suffer a trauma on one tour, and then go back and are retraumatized, you're more likely to have PTSD," she said. "The more you're exposed to trauma, the more you can exacerbate the PTSD."
Write to Yochi J. Dreazen at firstname.lastname@example.org
Many articles ignore the plight of how PTSD affects the spouses and children of war veterans, this is the best article I have read in a long time that deals with the entire effects of PTSD on the soldiers and their families. SALUTE to the WSJ for this one.
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Albert Hofmann, the Father of LSD, Dies at 102
By CRAIG S. SMITH
Published: April 30, 2008
PARIS — Albert Hofmann, the mystical Swiss chemist who gave the world LSD, the most powerful psychotropic substance known, died Tuesday at his hilltop home near Basel, Switzerland. He was 102.
Skip to next paragraph
The Saturday Profile: Nearly 100, LSD's Father Ponders His 'Problem Child'
(Jan. 7, 2006) The cause was a heart attack, said Rick Doblin, founder and president of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, a California-based group that in 2005 republished Dr. Hofmann’s 1979 book “LSD: My Problem Child.”
Dr. Hofmann first synthesized the compound lysergic acid diethylamide in 1938 but did not discover its psychopharmacological effects until five years later, when he accidentally ingested the substance that became known to the 1960s counterculture as acid.
He then took LSD hundreds of times, but regarded it as a powerful and potentially dangerous psychotropic drug that demanded respect. More important to him than the pleasures of the psychedelic experience was the drug’s value as a revelatory aid for contemplating and understanding what he saw as humanity’s oneness with nature. That perception, of union, which came to Dr. Hofmann as almost a religious epiphany while still a child, directed much of his personal and professional life.
Dr. Hofmann was born in Baden, a spa town in northern Switzerland, on Jan. 11, 1906, the eldest of four children. His father, who had no higher education, was a toolmaker in a local factory, and the family lived in a rented apartment. But Dr. Hofmann spent much of his childhood outdoors.
He would wander the hills above the town and play around the ruins of a Hapsburg castle, the Stein. “It was a real paradise up there,” he said in an interview in 2006. “We had no money, but I had a wonderful childhood.”
It was during one of his ambles that he had his epiphany.
“It happened on a May morning — I have forgotten the year — but I can still point to the exact spot where it occurred, on a forest path on Martinsberg above Baden,” he wrote in “LSD: My Problem Child.” “As I strolled through the freshly greened woods filled with bird song and lit up by the morning sun, all at once everything appeared in an uncommonly clear light.
“It shone with the most beautiful radiance, speaking to the heart, as though it wanted to encompass me in its majesty. I was filled with an indescribable sensation of joy, oneness and blissful security.”
Though Dr. Hofmann’s father was a Roman Catholic and his mother a Protestant, Dr. Hofmann, from an early age, felt that organized religion missed the point. When he was 7 or 8, he recalled, he spoke to a friend about whether Jesus was divine. “I said that I didn’t believe, but that there must be a God because there is the world and someone made the world,” he said. “I had this very deep connection with nature.”
Dr. Hofmann went on to study chemistry at Zurich University because, he said, he wanted to explore the natural world at the level where energy and elements combine to create life. He earned his Ph.D. there in 1929, when he was just 23. He then took a job with Sandoz Laboratories in Basel, attracted by a program there that sought to synthesize pharmacological compounds from medicinally important plants.
It was during his work on the ergot fungus, which grows in rye kernels, that he stumbled on LSD, accidentally ingesting a trace of the compound one Friday afternoon in April 1943. Soon he experienced an altered state of consciousness similar to the one he had experienced as a child.
On the following Monday, he deliberately swallowed a dose of LSD and rode his bicycle home as the effects of the drug overwhelmed him. That day, April 19, later became memorialized by LSD enthusiasts as “bicycle day.”
Dr. Hofmann’s work produced other important drugs, including methergine, used to treat postpartum hemorrhaging, the leading cause of death from childbirth. But it was LSD that shaped both his career and his spiritual quest.
“Through my LSD experience and my new picture of reality, I became aware of the wonder of creation, the magnificence of nature and of the animal and plant kingdom,” Dr. Hofmann told the psychiatrist Stanislav Grof during an interview in 1984. “I became very sensitive to what will happen to all this and all of us.”
Dr. Hofmann became an impassioned advocate for the environment and argued that LSD, besides being a valuable tool for psychiatry, could be used to awaken a deeper awareness of mankind’s place in nature and help curb society’s ultimately self-destructive degradation of the natural world.
But he was also disturbed by the cavalier use of LSD as a drug for entertainment, arguing that it should be treated in the way that primitive societies treat psychoactive sacred plants, which are ingested with care and spiritual intent.
After his discovery of LSD’s properties, Dr. Hofmann spent years researching sacred plants. With his friend R. Gordon Wasson, he participated in psychedelic rituals with Mazatec shamans in southern Mexico. He succeeded in synthesizing the active compounds in the Psilocybe mexicana mushroom, which he named psilocybin and psilocin. He also isolated the active compound in morning glory seeds, which the Mazatec also used as an intoxicant, and found that its chemical structure was close to that of LSD.
During the psychedelic era, Dr. Hofmann struck up friendships with such outsize personalities as Timothy Leary, Allen Ginsberg and Aldous Huxley, who, nearing death in 1963, asked his wife for an injection of LSD to help him through the final painful throes of throat cancer.
Yet despite his involvement with psychoactive compounds, Dr. Hofmann remained moored in his Swiss chemist identity. He stayed with Sandoz as head of the research department for natural medicines until his retirement in 1971. He wrote more than 100 scientific articles and was the author or co-author of a number of books
He and his wife, Anita, who died recently, reared four children in Basel. A son died of alcoholism at 53. Survivors include several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Though Dr. Hofmann called LSD “medicine for the soul,” by 2006 his hallucinogenic days were long behind him, he said in the interview that year.
“I know LSD; I don’t need to take it anymore,” he said, adding. “Maybe when I die, like Aldous Huxley.”
But he said LSD had not affected his understanding of death. In death, he said, “I go back to where I came from, to where I was before I was born, that’s all.”
I don't think he had amy idea what the CIA and the US Military had in mind for his drug, I doubt he ever thought it would be used to torture "suspects" nor Army "volunteers" in a classified military project known now as MKULTRA, when the military and the CIA were looking for a drug that would make people talkand giive up secrets and make soldiers keep figting even though they were severely wounded, there was no bounds to to the dreams the government had for MR Hoffman's wild drug. Ask Jose Padilla if he enjoyed what they did to him with it? I doubt if he enjoyed the "trip".
Service-related stress builds for veterans
Survey: Growing number of troops reports symptoms
By Steve Wideman • Post-Crescent staff writer • April 28, 2008
BRILLION — Scott Adler's face grew tense and his gaze distracted as his cell phone's ring tone pierced the otherwise quiet atmosphere of his living room.
Adler deliberately ignored the ringing as he talked about his experience as a military police officer in the Army.
The tenseness disappeared when the ringing stopped. A message left no doubt the caller was trying to reach a church, not Adler.
"It's a wrong number," Adler said as he smiled for the first time since telling of a July 2001 telephone call that ended with his friend and fellow military police officer committing suicide with a gunshot wound to the head.
The suicides of three fellow officers in 18 months contributed to Adler joining a growing number of military personnel, including National Guard and Reserve members, being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
A nationwide survey of 1,965 service members by the Rand Corp. found nearly 20 percent of those returning from war, or about 300,000 soldiers, report symptoms of PTSD, but only about 50 percent seek treatment.
Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., joined two other Democratic senators last week in introducing legislation calling on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to track how many veterans commit suicide each year.
The legislation request came after the VA disclosed that 12,000 veterans attempt suicide annually while an average of 18 war veterans kill themselves each day.
That's no surprise to Adler, 36, who served two tours of active duty, from 1990 to 1995 — when he deployed for Operation Desert Storm — and again from 2000 to 2003. Between those tours Adler served with the Wisconsin Army National Guard.
Adler was discharged in 2003 for medical reasons related to a PTSD diagnosis.
"Soldiers who report mental health issues are separated from friends and social networks," Adler said. "When you are on active duty, you are considered damaged goods to the unit. You are just left out in the wind."
Years of anxiety, flashbacks and nightmares later, VA psychiatrists declared Adler 100 percent disabled.
Although he continues to receive treatment for his diagnosis, Adler said the VA needs to hire more staff to treat the large numbers of active duty, Reservists and National Guard military personnel returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Sandy Pharis, who coordinates a military veterans support group for NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) Fox Valley in Appleton, said most veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and depression are reluctant to seek treatment.
"I know for a fact there is a stigma attached to it. There is a stigma in the community in general attached to people suffering from mental disorders," said Pharis, a Marine Corps veteran who served during the Vietnam War era.
Several hundred Wisconsin Army National Guard members and Army Reservists from the Fox Cities currently deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan will be returning home within a year.
Pharis said her NAMI group is gearing up for an influx of requests for help and sees her veterans support group growing.
"It always helps to have veterans together," Pharis said. "They (returning soldiers) don't think their families will understand and they don't want a bad mark on their military record by reporting symptoms. They don't want to be discriminated against."
Adler said returning Guard and Reserve members "have a lot at stake to lose" if they fail to report symptoms of PTSD or depression. "It's one of those illnesses that may never go away."
Pharis said returning war veterans should "definitely seek help. It's important to get in and see a health professional to make sure any diagnosis is correct and to get the correct medication to help them through the symptoms."
Steve Wideman: 920-993-1000, ext. 302, or email@example.com. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Story last updated at 4/29/2008 - 9:22 am
Nixon to organization: Stop claiming to help veterans
By The Examiner Staff | The Examiner
Attorney General Jay Nixon filed a motion in Jackson County Circuit Court Monday ordering an Independence organization to stop representing itself as a tax-exempt veterans charity.
The court order against RCT Development Association and its operators, Chris Ann McPherson of Oak Grove, Russell Rose of Independence and Timothy Divers of Kansas City, who operated Helping Our Heroes, requires joint restitution of $21,851 in costs and penalties.
In addition, the judgment requires that RCT Development and its operators jointly pay $8,344 in restitution, $8,507 in court costs, and $5,000 in civil penalties.
Nixon sued the defendants for soliciting donations from businesses and individuals online. Those representing the company made several misrepresentations to potential donors, including that the donations would be tax-deductible.
The order, a permanent injunction, bars RCT Development Association from the following: Operating their Web site or any other Web page in a way that violates Missouri consumer protection laws; representing a tax-exempt charity in connection with donations for veterans; referencing the Missouri Attorney General's office with the solicitation of donations; representing that Helping Our Heroes is a non-profit and that donations are tax-deductible; representing that 100 percent of donations go toward helping homeless veterans; and soliciting donations in a manner that violates Missouri consumer protection laws.
Nixon to organization: Stop claiming to help veterans
Restitution hell, put the bastards in jail and make them pay the money back using veterans to defraud people is just flat wrong
Newspaper Obit Reveals: Former U.S. Commander at Baghdad Airport Dies -- Suffering from 'Depression'
Newspaper Obit Reveals: Former U.S. Commander at Baghdad Airport Dies -- Suffering from 'Depression'
By Greg Mitchell
Published: April 29, 2008
NEW YORK10:55 AM ET Even after so many tragic final chapters in the lives of so many U.S. military personnel in Iraq or veterans back home, the brutally frank opening line in a newspaper obituary from five days ago seemed particularly haunting: "Donald P. Christy, Lt. Col, USAF, passed away April 21, 2008 in Colorado Springs after an extended bout of anxiety and depression."
Further on, the obit mentioned that in 2004 "Don served a tour of duty as the Deputy Commander at Baghdad Airport in Iraq"--which must have been one of the most stressful jobs in all of Iraq at that time, in light of insurgent attacks and the controversy over a prison based there.
The little-noted obituary does not reveal how Christy died, but the reports comes on the heels of a Veterans Administration coverup of the shockingly high number of suicide attempts by vets (1000 a month) and a Rand Corp. study revealing that 300,000 who served in Iraq or Afghanistan now suffer from various mental problems.
The Christy obit, which presumably was composed by his family (he leaves parents, two sons, an ex-wife) was published in the Colorado Springs Gazette last Thursday, and picked up by Legacy.com, which also carries a tribute board. Christy was 42. Internment is taking place this morning with full military honors at the Evergreen Cemetery in Colorado Springs. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the charity of choice.
Christy hailed from Johnson City, N.Y., and his obit explains that after returning to the U.S. following his Baghdad Airport posting, "he attended the Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, and was then reassigned to the Air Force Space Command in Colorado Springs."
Among the tributes at Legacy.com is one that is directed directly to him by a man from Foster City, Ca., who served with him:
"Don, It seems like yesterday that you and I were young lieutenants in Grand Forks. Back then your greatest worry was which video game you could borrow from me. I'm sorry that I lost touched over the years. I'm also sorry to hear that your life was in turmoil. My prayers are with you and your family. RIP my friend. I hope you have found peace and may your family find solace in this difficult time. As with your family's wishes, I will be making a donation to a charity in your name."
And a woman from Texas writes to Christy's mom: "I too lost my son to depression. Mother to mother I know this loss is so very great. I will keep you family in my prayers and know that Donald is in the arms of the angels."
Greg Mitchell's new book includes several chapters on this subject. It is "So Wrong for So Long: How the Press, the Pundits -- and the President -- Failed on Iraq."
Greg Mitchell (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Saying one thing, doing another to veterans (editorial)
Posted by Mike Francis, The Oregonian April 29, 2008 02:42AM
Categories: Veterans issues
On the subject discussed here last week, I wrote an editorial on the VA's apparent effort to minimize the issue of veterans' suicides. The editorial follows after the jump.
L ast month, Department of Veteran Affairs suicide counselors fielded calls from 2,508 veterans -- the highest total for any month since the department started its suicide hot line last summer.
This statistic speaks volumes about the stress the continuing deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan is wreaking on the men and women who serve them. It's not a statistic the government wanted to face.
It emerged from a trial in San Francisco, where veterans groups are suing the department for failing to adequately address the risks of suicide. The VA argues that it cares deeply about such risks, as shown by setting up the hot line.
It's bad enough that so many vets are contemplating suicide. It's worse that the department charged with providing them with health care publicly downplays the problem.
The VA's chief told Congress in February that 144 combat veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan killed themselves between October 2001 and December 2005 -- a pace of roughly one suicide every 10 days. Yet internal e-mails produced at the trial showed VA officials were aware that about 18 veterans a day were killing themselves -- with roughly a quarter of them under VA care when they did.
Senate Democrats are calling for the firing of Dr. Ira Katz, the VA's mental health director, who wrote an email to VA officials saying that 12,000 veterans under VA care were attempting to kill themselves each year, and asking, "Is this something we should (carefully) address ourselves in some sort of release before someone stumbles on it?"
Meanwhile, Katz insisted to CBS in November, "There is no epidemic of suicide."
Katz should be fired. He's not to blame for the fact that the VA is overwhelmed, but he is to blame for minimizing the problem and putting the reputation of his agency ahead of the welfare of the men and women it was created to serve.
Further, as Sens. Tom Harkin and Russ Feingold have proposed, the VA should start tracking the suicide rate among veterans who aren't under its direct care. Right now, nobody is certain just how many veterans are so tormented that they see suicide as the best answer. Our government probably knows more about private telephone conversations between the United States and the Middle East than it knows about the health of men and women it has sent into danger around the world.
At least one measure of a war policy is the toll it takes on the people who fight, both during and after their deployments. It's unconscionable that the people responsible for their well-being are unable or unwilling to acknowledge the extent of that toll.
North Carolina Gov. Easley endorses Clinton for president
By BETH FOUHY
The Associated Press
Tuesday, April 29, 2008; 9:23 AM
RALEIGH, N.C. -- Governor Mike Easley has endorsed Hillary Rodham Clinton for president.
At a joint appearance in Raleigh Tuesday morning, the two-term Democrat said Clinton "gets it."
"It's time for somebody to be in the White House who understands the challenges we face in this country," Easley said.
Easley's endorsement comes a week before the state's May 6 primary. It's a boost for the former first lady, who is trailing Barack Obama in most state polls.
Easley is the second North Carolina superdelegate to endorse Clinton. Obama has the backing of six superdelegates in the state.
Easley and Clinton began the day touring a biotechnology lab at North Carolina State University.
On top of the Rev Wright media circus, Senator Obama may be heading south as a candidate, Senator Obama should have cut all ties with the Pastor, which he didn't do and now he may very well pay the political price.
Some War Veterans Find GI Bill Falls Short
By Susan Kinzie
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 29, 2008; Page A01
Two years after a rocket-propelled grenade hit Nathan Toews during an ambush in southern Afghanistan, sending shrapnel shooting into his skull and spiderwebbing through his brain, he has recovered enough to ask: What now?
Some War Veterans Find GI Bill Falls Short
After Iraq, a Time for Expression
Like so many leaving the military, after years of taking orders, he's facing an almost infinite number of choices about his future.
Even now that he's picked a school he'd like to go to, there are plenty of unknowns: His admissions interview included questions about whether the 24-year-old veteran could share a dorm room with a teenager, whether his head injury might keep him from completing the foreign language requirement, and just what, exactly, the government would pay for.
Decades after the GI Bill transformed American society after World War II, another generation of veterans is returning home -- more than 800,000 as of last summer. What they find is quite different from the comprehensive benefits that once covered all the costs of an education, from undergraduate straight through Harvard Law. The current GI benefit covers just half the national average cost for tuition, room and board, veterans' advocates say. "It falls dramatically short," said Eric Hilleman of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
For those who, like Toews, were badly wounded, there are more benefits, so he expects his college costs to be covered. But it's not just the money -- there are physical and emotional roadblocks, too. A recent survey found that nearly half of recent veterans are un- or underemployed, and advocates say education can be key to a successful reentry. So a patchwork of efforts, public and private, have sprung up.
"These are people . . . who served the country at a time when very few people did," said Sen. James Webb (D-Va.), who is pushing a bill that would expand benefits for veterans, including active-duty National Guard troops and reservists, to cover the cost of the most expensive public universities and to match contributions from private schools with higher tuition, for four academic years. "We should give them the best shot at a good future."
An earlier version of the bill stalled in Congress; the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs opposed it as too expensive, too complex to administer and too likely to tempt troops to move back to civilian life. The bill, substantially revised, now has 58 co-sponsors, including both Democratic presidential candidates.
There are dozens of other bills, including one announced last week by senators including Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), also a presidential candidate. Hundreds of supporters of Webb's bill plan to rally today on Capitol Hill.
Many people enlist to earn money for college, and almost everyone signs up for the education benefits -- which, in the case of the main GI Bill, requires a service member to pay about $1,200 into the plan-- but not everyone takes advantage of it. And that buy-in is not returned even if the benefits are unused.
About 70 percent use at least some part of it, said Keith Wilson, director of the education service, but the VA does not track how many earn degrees.
An independent study found that just over half use some part of the benefits, said Ray Kelley of AMVETS, a veterans support group, and only 8 percent use all. "Congress is realizing we're not giving them the benefits we say we're giving them," Kelley said. "They only have 36 months from the time they start using it to the time they finish." That means going to school full time, year-round.
Students apply for the flat-rate benefit monthly and get a check once it is confirmed that they are still enrolled. Luke Stalcup, 27, of Student Veterans of America, who served in Iraq and will attend Georgetown University for graduate study in the fall, said he paid his rent late every month after the GI bill check came in. Now he relies on loans and scholarships to cover the rest of the cost at Columbia University.
Some states, such as Maryland, supplement federal benefits with state aid. That helped Laurissa Flowers, who used to put her University of Maryland bill on her credit card, paying it down as she received each month's benefits. Flowers said other issues can be just as daunting as the money, so she started a veterans' group on campus.
Some War Veterans Find GI Bill Falls Short
After Iraq, a Time for Expression
Private donors are trying to help, too: B.G. and Charlotte Beck of Fairfax Station gave $1 million to Arkansas State University to provide training, rehabilitation, guidance and extensive support for veterans on campus.
In June, the American Council on Education will host a conference hoping to spur colleges to start or expand initiatives for veterans. Dartmouth College President James Wright said he realized after visiting wounded soldiers that most of them were eager to go to school but had no idea where to begin. He worked with the education council, raising money to pay for a counselor at four military hospitals.
So this past year, Heather Bernard, a former college counselor with a son serving in Iraq, has been working with wounded soldiers and Marines at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the National Naval Medical Center. She helps them plan ahead, choose schools, dig up old transcripts, prepare for standardized tests.
She found an evening art class for Calvin Linnette and Andre Knight, two soldiers who have to schedule around daytime medical appointments, at Montgomery College because it is close enough to Walter Reed that they can get there despite their injuries. The professor often helps them with a ride.
This month, Bernard was waiting nervously outside the admissions dean's office at Dickinson College in Pennsylvania, where Toews was interviewing.
High school was easy; Toews got good grades and SAT scores and was accepted into the engineering program at California Polytechnic State University. But his family couldn't afford tuition. About a year after Sept. 11, 2001, he enlisted.
He spent a year in Baghdad, then volunteered to serve in Afghanistan.
In 2006, he was a gunner for a small convoy, bringing supplies for an offensive when the trucks slowed down in rough terrain and "all hell broke loose," Toews said.
Two weeks later, he woke up in a hospital bed in Bethesda with no idea where he was or why. He spent the next couple of years getting surgeries and rehab.
As people at Walter Reed kept telling him how amazing his recovery has been, it hit him: He could work with brain-injured patients. "If I could somehow help one guy, encourage him or make things easier for him and his family, that I should do it," Toews said.
He still had a lot to figure out; that could mean studying neuroscience or social work or occupational therapy. And to write a college application essay? "It's been six years since I've done that kind of thing," he said.
Bernard coached him through it all, taking him to visit a big university and then to Dickinson. He talked with the admissions director about some of the challenges he might face, such as the phys ed requirement and a taking on a heavy course load after being out of school.
A freshman asked him what he had done in his time off since high school. "I joined the military," he said, skin grafts shining on his forearm, thick scars from a craniotomy tracing arcs on his skull, visible through his hair.
"Oh, that's cool," she said politely.
He and Bernard got lunch in the cafeteria, and he looked at the students swarming through. "They're all such . . . little . . . kids," he said.
As a veteran myself who was able to use the "real GI Bill" after my military service, I was one of the last veterans to use the GI Bill that the WW2 era and Vietnam era veterans had advantage of. The benefits many men and women to obtain a great college education, we would not have otherwise been able to afford. The GI Bill changed millions of Americans way of life, we owe these new veterans who we are demanding much more in return, multiple deployments, stop-loss etc, it is my feeling that we owe them as much as as we and our grand fathers had. I fully support Senator Webb's GI Bill and am disappointed in the farce that Lindsey Graham and friends have offered in it's place, it is to little to late. The republicans are the party that claims to support the troops this paltry counter offer to the Webb Bill is a wake up call to America's military members and their families. The democratic party cares more about decent treatment of our troops and veterans than the "chickenhawks" do.
Monday, April 28, 2008
Experts say millions could seek treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder
BY MIKE FITZGERALD
Forget what they say about time healing all wounds.
More than 57 years have passed since Phil Heath, 76, of Granite City, served with the Marine Corps in Korea. But he can't shake the image of the first Marine he saw die in combat.
It was April 24, 1951. Heath's company was trapped on a hill, defending it from communist attackers.
Fallen Marines covered the hillside, and stretchers were scarce. So Heath and his comrades used an old tarp to carry away the soldier's body, he said.
"But in order to put him in there, I had to pick his intestines up off the ground and put them on him," said Heath, a retired steel mill supervisor. "So his intestines were just laying open."
Neither can Heath forget the last Marine he saw die five months later.
That was Sept. 15, 1951. Promoted by then to platoon leader, Heath was fighting to survive on an outpost nicknamed "Starvation Hill." He had taken cover in a foxhole when Chinese mortar shells began raining down on his unit.
"And a young 18-year-old boy in my platoon had the left side of his head blown off," Heath said, his voice quavering. "I'll never get over it, you know."
'People who deserve help'
Heath is one of hundreds of thousands of aged veterans seeking help for the nightmares, flashbacks and anxiety they have battled for decades. They are spurred by a growing public awareness of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) wrought by tens of thousands of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans seeking help.
And experts predict millions more World War II, Korea and Vietnam veterans will join them.
The implications for the Department of Veterans Affairs are staggering: There are 6 million World War II veterans, 4.1 million Korean War veterans and 8.1 million Vietnam-era veterans.
Vietnam veterans already receive 92 percent of the agency's PTSD care, VA figures show. The percentage of male Vietnam veterans age 65 and older is projected to increase from 26 percent of the male veteran population in 1990 to more than 40 percent by 2017, the VA estimates.
In addition to seeking VA help, these aging veterans are filing claims for disability payments for their PTSD and other injuries suffered in war.
World War II veteran Stanley Gibson, 84, of St. Louis, served in the Army's 99th Infantry Division during the Battle of the Bulge during WWII.
A light machine-gunner, Gibson spent two weeks -- from Dec. 16, 1944, to Jan. 4, 1945 -- eluding capture behind enemy lines after German tanks overwhelmed his unit.
Three years ago, Gibson, who grew up on a Southern Illinois farm, received a 100 percent disability rating from the VA -- 60 percent for frostbite on his feet, 30 percent for PTSD and 10 percent for his age.
But the $2,500 VA check he gets each month doesn't erase Gibson's troubling memories of the two German soldiers he shot dead at close range with a .45-caliber pistol when they discovered him hiding in a Belgian farm shed.
Nor does it erase memories of another German soldier Gibson shot and killed as the soldier ran away.
"I think about it quite a bit. You don't shoot a guy in the back," Gibson said. "But when you get in combat, you throw the book away."
Until a few years ago, when he began receiving treatment for PTSD, Gibson dreaded going to bed.
"I didn't like to sleep because sleep would be dreams," Gibson said. "And it's a wonder Vyrlene (his wife) would still be alive because I would have these nightmares. I mean real bad dreams about the war."
Overall, the influx of so many older veterans into the VA system is a positive trend for society, said Paula Schnurr, a psychologist and deputy executive director of the VA's National Center for PTSD in White River Junction, Vt.
"What it means is that people who deserve our help, at least some of them, are finally getting it," she said.
Schnurr began studying PTSD among World War II and Korean War veterans nearly two decades ago.
"Time heals most wounds if you look at the data, meaning that most people who get traumatized won't develop PTSD," she said. "However, all kinds of time are not equivalent."
That is especially true for the veterans who adopted a workaholic lifestyle and decided to get on with their lives once they came home, Schnurr said.
"It helped them cope," she said.
For older combat veterans, PTSD becomes a problem when one or a combination of "stressors" occur: retirement, the death of a spouse, serious illness, even attendance at a military reunion, Schnurr said.
"It's the right combination of elements lining up together," she said.
'I'm not alone'
Heath spent more than 50 years trying to forget.
Burying himself in his work at the steel mill. Earning a business management degree at Washington University. Raising four kids. Building houses as a side business.
Always keeping busy.
"They say when you come back from war, you either become an alcoholic or workaholic," Heath said. "I was a workaholic."
Then seven years ago, everything fell apart.
Heath had retired from the steel mill after a corporate buyout and found himself with a lot of time on his hands.
In July 2001, a good friend and neighbor passed away. Over the next few months, Heath lost his brother, then another good friend, then other friends and relatives.
Then his daughter, Deborah, died at age 46 after suffering a brain aneurysm.
"I lost about 10 people, and it just closed in," Heath said. "And I went to pieces."
Heath grew depressed. He stopped eating, shedding 25 pounds from his already spare frame.
"I lost interest in almost everything," he said.
With little to occupy his time, memories of Korea besieged him.
"My wife would sometimes say, 'Why do you get so angry about things?'" Heath said. "I said, 'I don't know. I guess I just have a temper.'"
Then four years ago, Heath joined a weekly support group for Korean War veterans at Jefferson Barracks VA Hospital in St. Louis County. There, he has found comfort in the group counseling and camaraderie.
"I know I'm not alone in this business," he said.
Sam Brown, 70, depends on the support group to make it from one week to the next.
Brown, a St. Louis native, lied about his age and joined the Marines at age 14 to fight communists in Korea. Boot camp was in San Diego. Brown remembers showing up in Korea ready to prove himself in battle.
"I thought I was a bad ass," Brown said. "I really did. I thought nothing was going to happen to me."
Brown nearly died on Easter Sunday 1953, after 11 months and 23 days in Korea. His platoon attacked a hill held by the Chinese. A grenade blast shredded Brown's chest, winning him a Purple Heart and sending him home.
Brown still broods about the death of his best friend, a Japanese-American named "Musaki" -- Brown never learned his first name, something he regrets -- who was killed a few months earlier while they attacked a Chinese-held hill.
"We were together nine months when he got hit," he said. "He just got too far ahead of me. I kept calling to him, 'Slow down, slow down.'"
A pair of Chinese soldiers rushed at Musaki, killing him with their bayonets, Brown said.
Brown paused for a few moments to think about his long-dead friend.
"He made me brave," he said.
Brown took immediate vengeance on the soldiers with his M1 rifle.
"And I didn't have no regret," he said. "None whatsoever. ... But they were fighting for what they believed in. They had families just like we had families. Now I care. And that's part of healing."
Back home in St. Louis, Brown finished high school, then found work as a welder and as a railroad engineer.
He blamed the break-up of his two marriages on his PTSD. Undiagnosed for years, his illness made him hard to live with, and given to rages, he said.
"And I always say I need somebody to stop this thing that's going on in my head," he said. "I just wish somebody could stop what's going on in my head. It's like my head is talking to me."
Brown could never convince his second wife his problems weren't his imagination. His two daughters are split regarding whether he suffers from PTSD, he said.
"My oldest daughter, she's like her mom. ... 'It's all in the imagination,'" Brown said.
His other daughter, 13, takes his symptoms seriously, he said.
"And sometimes I have flashbacks, and I come out of that bedroom and I've hit the floor," Brown said. "And the first thing she does is grab me. She tells me 'Everything's going to be OK, Daddy.' That's what she does."
No quick fix
Dr. Robert Anderson, director of the PTSD clinic for older veterans at Jefferson Barracks, cautioned against anyone expecting a quick or permanent fix.
"These are the things that we deal with in life, and there are limits to what we can do," said Anderson, a psychiatrist who has worked with Vietnam veterans since 1972.
The problem for many older veterans is their realization of all they lost to war. "You lost buddies. You lost your youth," Anderson said. "You lost the perspective you had before."
Today, many Vietnam veterans are coming forward for the first time to seek treatment because they realized their lives aren't working, Anderson said.
"If you're 30 you think, 'OK, I still have a lot of time and I can fix this,'" Anderson said. "If you're 45, you start to look back and say, 'It isn't getting fixed.'"
Nothing seemed to be working for Robert Hawkins, of St. Louis, until he showed up at the Jefferson Barracks clinic several years ago.
Hawkins, 64, served in a U.S. Navy Riverine squadron in 1970. Stationed aboard a heavily armed gunboat, Hawkins took part in combat patrols up and down Vietnam's treacherous waterways.
His memories of combat and the deaths of his friends haunted him ever since he returned home, stoking an explosive rage.
"I didn't understand it because I thought, 'There's nothing wrong with me. I have a good job. I have a family. There are guys much worse off than me,'" he said.
It came to a head one morning at the mortgage company he once operated in St. Louis when he tried to make some phone calls but couldn't. He has since closed the mortgage company and is on disability.
"Because I had intrusive thoughts and flashbacks all day, I couldn't pick up the hand holding a phone to make a call," he said.
After several years in the therapy group Anderson runs, Hawkins said he now understands his rage "comes from pain and unresolved anger at the pain and the loss."
"So by addressing those issues and grieving those issues, a funny thing happens: That anger goes away," he said.
Many older veterans with PTSD forge strong bonds at their VA-sponsored group sessions.
Heath and Brown first met in 2004 at the support group. Brown had already been showing up for several months when Heath dropped in.
"And there was an empty chair, so I sat by the Marine Corps flag," Heath said.
Brown grabbed the chair next to him.
"And that was it," Heath said. "We got to talking, and we found out we were former Marines. And we just took it from there."
Sometimes at group meetings, Brown said, when he's feeling low, "Phil will tell me, 'I don't want you looking down,'" Brown said. "'I want you to sit up straight.'"
Heath and Brown talk often on the phone. Their friendship helps each manage the thoughts and memories that weigh on them.
For Heath, it's the guilt he feels for coming home alive.
"When you get over there, all you want to do is survive," Heath said. "And you want your friends to survive. And you get a guilt complex when you come back. Because you had friends who were 18, 19, 20 years old, who were killed."
When night falls, Brown feels anxious -- a legacy of the night attacks he survived as an infantryman.
"So I leave the lights on every night," he said.
But light can't block the memories. One stands out.
It was 1952. Brown and his platoon were crammed in the back of a truck, part of a convoy speeding to the battle front.
Their truck passed a tiny Korean boy sitting near the road.
"Yeah, he couldn't be no more than 2 or 3 years old," Brown said, his voice catching, his face a mask of regret.
Next to the boy lay the bloated body of his mother.
"And he was just sitting there with his hands on her. And there was nothing we could do. Nothing," Brown said. "That's why wars are so horrible."
Contact reporter Mike Fitzgerald at email@example.com or 239-2533.
please go to the web site and watch the news video they have there.
The part about becoming either an alcoholic or a workaholic is true, some others also turn to drugs, legal and illegal to help them cope, I know I have been there and I have the T Shirt. There will veterans for the next 40 years going to either veteran centers or the VA and finally admitting they need help, they will instead do like Mr Brown and others, myself included that tried to cope by working, over time part time jobs at night etc, 20 hour days were normal, if I wasn't working to the point of exhaustion, then I was drinking myself to sleep, the demons are always there, especially at night with your eyes closed. The intrusive thoughts, become a constant companion, and they make life a living hell, some of the medication help, group sessions help some veterans, I find myself laughing when I hear people like DR Katz and Secretary Nicholson claim that PTSD can be "cured" there is not any supporting evidence to that effect, yes there are medications and coping methods that veterans can learn, but to "cure" PTSD, it reminds me of "snake oil salesmen" it sounds good, but it's not true, death is the only true cure to PTSD.