Saturday, May 17, 2008



who killed brother and self is called a victim of stress.

A U.S. Border Patrol agent stands next to a car that was pursued for 130 miles on Interstate 8 on Wednesday. After the car was disabled, law enforcement officers heard two shots. The bodies of two men were found in the car. (photo: AP)

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

Story here...

Story below:


Widow: Iraq trauma fueled tragedy

Marine who killed self, brother called victim of stress

The Associated Press

A decorated Marine Corps staff sergeant who apparently fatally shot his brother before killing himself at the end of a long police chase in Arizona served four tours in Iraq, met President Bush and suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, his wife said Thursday.

Pinal County sheriff's spokesman Mike Minter said no motive has been established for why Travis N. "T-Bo" Twiggs, 36, killed his 38-year-old brother, Willard J. "Will" Twiggs, and himself on Wednesday.

Nor is it known why the brothers earlier in the week may have tried to commit suicide by attempting to drive their car into the Grand Canyon.

Article continues below:

"All this violent behavior, him killing his brother, that was not my husband. If the PTSD would have been handled in a correct manner, none of this would have happened," Kellee Twiggs, the wife of Staff Sgt. Travis Twiggs, said in a telephone interview from Stafford, Va.

She said her husband began changing after his second tour of duty in Iraq. His condition worsened after he returned from his third stint there, when he lost two good friends from his platoon.

"He went and saw a physician's assistant who said that was the severest case of PTSD she'd seen in her life," Kellee Twiggs said.

Travis Twiggs was given medications for mood elevation and sleeping to get him calmed down before beginning therapy. But again he was sent back to Iraq "and he was very, very different, angry, agitated, isolated and so forth," upon his return, Kellee Twiggs said. "He was just doing crazy things."

She said her husband was treated in the psychiatric ward of Bethesda Naval Medical Center and then sent to a Veterans Affairs Department facility for four months. But Kellee Twiggs said she couldn't understand why he was not sent to a specialized PTSD clinic in New Jersey.

"They let him out. He was OK for a while and then it all started over again," she said, adding that Travis Twiggs was working with the Wounded Warrior Regiment and had accompanied a group to Washington a few weeks ago where he met President Bush at the White House.

"He said, 'Sir, I've served over there many times, and I would serve for you any time,' and he grabbed the president and gave him a big hug," Kellee Twiggs said.

She said she believes her brother-in-law joined her husband in driving West "because T-Bo was hurting so bad and for so long that Will's life was a little in chaos. For them to both drive off into the Grand Canyon, they both apparently wanted to end their lives," she said.

Travis Twiggs, who enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1993 and held the combat action ribbon, wrote a lengthy article in the January issue of the Marine Corps Gazette detailing his efforts to deal with post-traumatic stress disorder.

The symptoms disappeared yet again when he returned to Iraq for his fourth tour, he wrote, but worsened when he came home again.

"All of my symptoms were back, and now I was in the process of destroying my family," he wrote. "My only regrets are how I let my command down after they had put so much trust in me and how I let my family down by pushing them away."

Most recently, Twiggs was assigned to the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory at Quantico, Va.

A spokesman at Quantico, 1st Lt. Brian Donnelly, said the corps is committed to providing full medical, psychological and social support to anyone with a combat-related injury, including PTSD, through organizations such as the Wounded Warrior Regiment and local deployment health clinics.

"Our leaders are trained to be alert for signs of PTSD in their Marines and to provide a supportive climate in which Marines can feel comfortable seeking help."

Travis Twiggs had been absent without leave since May 5.
On Wednesday, Twiggs and his brother led law enforcement agents on a chase across more than 80 miles of Interstate 8 after speeding away from a Border Patrol checkpoint in southwestern Arizona.

After officers with the Tohono O'odham Police Department placed spike strips on the interstate, the car continued for about a mile.

Police and Border Patrol agents heard two shots from the disabled car and later found both men slumped forward and dead in a vehicle they had carjacked Monday night within Grand Canyon National Park.

They are believed to have crashed their car at the canyon's edge and walked away from the scene, witnesses said, hours before the carjacking at gunpoint.

Park spokeswoman Shannan Marcak said that investigators believe, based on how the car was hung up on a tree, the men may had tried to drive off the road and into the canyon.



What a waste of 2 young men, regardless of the end result the command, the doctors who were treating him, etc, should have seen something like this coming, why wasn't he in an inpatient treatment program someplace, it appears he had been diagnosed before his 3rd trip to Iraq and then to send him on a 4th tour was not a way to "cure" the PTSD, why wasn't he medically discharged from the Marines? Do they really need bodies for the units that keeping active duty soldiers and Marines on duty for combat with mental health issues that are this severe is now acceptable in this nation? It's time for the Armed Services Committee in the House and Senate to be digging into this and getting to the truth. You can't just "suck it up and drive on" when it is this bad, after 5 years of war, and all the warnings of repeated deployments making the PTSD cases more severe, well here seems to be the proof.

As a disabled vet with PTSD this just pizzes me off.......

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Friday, May 16, 2008

Senator Obama calls for VA Investigation on PTSD

Dear Secretary Peake:

I am writing to express my serious concerns about reports that a psychologist at a Texas Veterans Affairs (VA) facility told staff members to refrain from diagnosing veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

According to today's Washington Post, Norma Perez, a psychologist at the Department of Veterans Affairs' Olin E. Teague Veterans' Center in Temple, Texas, sent an email to other staffers saying: "Given that we are having more and more compensation seeking veterans, I'd like to suggest that you refrain from giving a diagnosis of PTSD straight out." She then suggested the alternative diagnosis of "Adjustment Disorder," adding that VA staff members "really don't . . . have time to do the extensive testing that should be done to determine PTSD."

Simply put, Ms. Perez's email is outrageous. As you well know, PTSD is the most prevalent mental disorder afflicting our returning Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) veterans. In order to receive their deserved benefits, these brave men and women must endure a long and arduous process. To hear that a VA official is promoting misdiagnoses of soldiers to save money is unacceptable and is tantamount to fraud.

You have said that Ms. Perez's email is "inappropriate," but more must be done. I call on the Department to open an investigation into the following:

1) Whether Ms. Perez was advised to send this e-mail or give this instruction at the urging of her superiors at the Teague Center.

2) Whether staff members at the Teague Center followed Ms. Perez's advice, and if so, how many veterans were affected by incorrect diagnoses.

3) Whether officials at other veterans centers have given some similar admonitions to staff members charged with diagnosing PTSD.

4) Whether this is an incident or a trend. I understand that the VA keeps detailed information on the number of diagnoses of PTSD and adjustment disorder. Your investigation must look at changes in the number of both diagnoses over time, both system-wide and on a facility-by-facility basis.

5) What is being done to ensure that any veterans affected by this instruction do not fall through the cracks. All veterans given an incorrect diagnosis should be given redress both in their diagnoses and their subsequent disability benefits.

6) Whether there are any trends among veterans who have committed suicide recently to determine whether any were wrongly diagnosed with adjustment disorder. Your investigation should include a survey of root cause analyses of recent veteran suicides.

7) Whether there are other instances across the VA bureaucracy of veterans with legitimate cases of PTSD being swept under the rug for budgetary reasons or for expediency. Why, for instance is the number of approved benefits claims for PTSD at the Veterans Benefits Administration decreasing at a time when diagnoses for PTSD at the Veterans Health Administration are increasing?

Too many veterans see the VA as a bureaucracy with the singular goal of denying services and benefits to veterans. This recent incident merely serves to promote that impression. I request that you advise me by no later than Friday, May 23, 2008, as to whether you will open such investigation.

Thank you.


Barack Obama
United States Senator


posted by Larry Scott
Founder and Editor
VA Watchdog dot Org

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Senator Jim Webb TV Schedule for next week

Dear Friend,

Over the next several days, Senator Jim Webb will appear on a number of TV and radio programs discussing the critical issues facing our nation.

Sunday, May 18: Meet the Press (NBC)
Monday, May 19: CBS Early Morning
Monday, May 19: Fresh Air (NPR)
Monday, May 19: Late Show with David Letterman (CBS)
Tuesday, May 20: Countdown with Keith Olbermann (MSNBC)
Tuesday, May 20: Lou Dobbs (CNN)

Check your local listings for the airtime and station broadcasting each show. We hope you can tune in.

Thank you for your continued support of Born Fighting PAC.

He's everywhere, everywhere it should be an interesting week I hope he plugs the new GI Bill along the way

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Senators Boxer & Bond join forces on the "HONOR" Act

Dear Friend:

I recently joined Senator Kit Bond (R-MO) and a bipartisan coalition of Senators in introducing legislation to keep America’s promise to our men and women in the military and their families. The Honoring Our Nation’s Obligations to Returning Warriors Act (S. 3008) – or the HONOR Act – will improve treatment for our service members and veterans suffering with mental injuries, better prepare them for the stress associated with combat, and increase care for military families.

Too many of our service members, veterans, and their families are not getting the mental health care they deserve. This bipartisan legislation will help break down barriers to care and ensure that the necessary resources are available. It will also bring us closer to our goal of ensuring that mental injuries are treated no differently than physical injuries.

Last month the RAND Corporation released findings that an estimated 620,000 returning service members suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), or both. Despite this figure, which represents about 30 percent of those who have served in combat, the Pentagon’s response to the suffering of these service members and their families has been inadequate. The current military mental health system is underfunded, understaffed, and extremely difficult to navigate. Compounding this problem, there is a silent stigma on the “invisible injuries” many of our service members are suffering from when returning from combat.

Our bill will address the immediate needs of those suffering with invisible injuries and make a long-term fix to the military’s mental health care system. Provisions of our bill will:

Give active-duty service members access to Vet Centers -- the confidential community-based counseling centers veterans use for mental health care services;
Recruit and train more behavioral health specialists to serve service members and veterans;
Extend survivor benefits to families of military personnel who commit suicide and have a history of combat-related mental health conditions, PTSD, or TBI;
Better prepare service members for combat through a new approach that focuses on improved prevention, early detection, intervention, and treatment of PTSD;
Help ensure that veterans who honorably served in combat receive health care benefits and that the discharge process was fair.
I am pleased that our legislation has received broad support from many veterans’ advocates, including Paul Rieckhoff, Executive Director of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), who said of our bill, “Study after study has shown the rates of psychological injuries among Iraq veterans is high and rising. This bill is a crucial step in getting these wounded warriors the treatment they need -- both by addressing the shortage of mental health professionals and ensuring all veterans have access to quality mental health care, like that offered by Vet Centers. IAVA thanks Senators Bond and Boxer for their dedication to supporting our troops and veterans, and wholeheartedly endorses this legislation.”


Barbara Boxer
United States Senator


I usually don't have many nice things to say about Senator Kit Bond but I have to approve of his work on behalf of the nations veterans wounded in combat or while on active duty at least. These men and women deserve everything this nation can do for them and more, less than 2% of the nations population has put their "lives" on the line of the "blank check" when they enlisted, it is up to us, as a nation to make sure when it comes time to "cash" that check, there is substance there, other than past broken promises.

For those that keep note of such things, this is the 600th post on this blog Hoooah

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Marine Corp vet receives heavy political endorsements in his run for Congress

May 16, 2008
News Release – For Immediate Release
Contact: Lachlan McIntosh (843) 452-3726

Mayor Bob Coble and other Democratic Leaders Endorse Rob Miller for Congress

Beaufort, SC – Today, Democratic leaders from across the Second Congressional District of South Carolina endorsed Rob Miller's campaign for Congress. Miller, who is running to bring new leadership and new ideas to Washington, is an Iraq War veteran who completed 13 years of service with the US Marine Corps in February.

"Since leaving the Marines a few months ago, I've been traveling across the district speaking with as many voters as I can about bringing jobs to our area and improving education. It is an honor to have the support of these well-regarded leaders of the Democratic Party and of our state," Miller said.

Columbia Mayor Bob Coble said that Miller will bring a fresh perspective to the job: "Rob Miller represents a new generation of leadership that America needs," Coble said.

State Senator Brad Hutto said his decision to support Miller is based on Miller's platform to help recruit jobs to the district: "Rob is my choice because of his commitment to bring new jobs to our area. We need a fighter in Washington who will work hard for the Second District," Hutto said.

Orangeburg County Auditor Roger Cleckley pointed to Miller's ability to defeat the Republican incumbent in November as a reason for his endorsement: "Rob is the guy who can win in the Fall and we'll finally have a Democrat representing the Second District," Cleckley said.

Former South Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Dick Harpootlian said Miller's service to his country was a key factor in his decision: "Rob Miller is our best shot at winning the Second District in November. He served our country with honor in Iraq and will do so in the United States Congress," Harpootlian said.

Those endorsing Miller today include:

State Representative Bill Bowers - Hampton County
Hon. Bob Coble – Mayor of Columbia
Hon. Roger Cleckley – Auditor, Orangeburg County
State Representative Jerry Govan – Orangeburg County
Hon. Dick Harpootlian – Former Chairman of the SC Democratic Party and 5th Circuit Solicitor (Columbia)
Hon. W. Brantley Harvey Jr. – Former SC Lt. Governor (Beaufort)
State Senator Brad Hutto – Allendale, Barnwell, Calhoun and Orangeburg Counties


I realize my endorsement of Rob Miller does not begin to equal the weight of men like Dick Harpootlian, and Mayor Coble or the Honorable W. Brantley Harvey Jr. Former SC Lt Governor or State Senator Brad Hutto, but as a 100% disabled Army Infantry Staff Sergeant, I am proud to stand and endorse Rob Miller for Congressman from the Second District of South Carolina, the citizens of the Second District deserve a Congressman that is not a rubber stamp for the Republican administration, we need representation for all South Carolinians. This is a very patriotic state and we have a high number of military veterans and many military bases in this state, but us Democrats and Independents need leadership that stands for us and with us, rather than the rubber stamp the Bush/Cheney decisions as Congressman Wilson has done since 2001.

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Official Urged Fewer Diagnoses of PTSD

Official Urged Fewer Diagnoses of PTSD

Official Urged Fewer Diagnoses of PTSD

By Christopher Lee

Washington Post Staff Writer

Friday, May 16, 2008; A02

A psychologist who helps lead the post-traumatic stress disorder program at a medical facility for veterans in Texas told staff members to refrain from diagnosing PTSD because so many veterans were seeking government disability payments for the condition.

"Given that we are having more and more compensation seeking veterans, I'd like to suggest that you refrain from giving a diagnosis of PTSD straight out," Norma Perez wrote in a March 20 e-mail to mental-health specialists and social workers at the Department of Veterans Affairs'

Olin E. Teague Veterans' Center in Temple, Tex. Instead, she recommended that they "consider a diagnosis of Adjustment Disorder."

VA staff members "really don't . . . have time to do the extensive testing that should be done to determine PTSD," Perez wrote.

Adjustment disorder is a less severe reaction to stress than PTSD and has a shorter duration, usually no longer than six months, said Anthony T. Ng, a psychiatrist and member of Mental Health America, a nonprofit professional association.

Veterans diagnosed with PTSD can be eligible for disability compensation of up to $2,527 a month, depending on the severity of the condition, said Alison Aikele, a VA spokeswoman. Those found to have adjustment disorder generally are not offered such payments, though veterans can receive medical treatment for either condition.

Perez's e-mail was obtained and released publicly yesterday by, a veterans group that has been critical of the Bush administration's policies in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), a nonprofit government watchdog group.

"Many veterans believe that the government just doesn't want to pay out the disability that comes along with a PTSD diagnosis, and this revelation will not allay their concerns," John Soltz, chairman of and an Iraq war veteran, said in a statement.

Melanie Sloan, executive director of CREW, said in a statement: "It is outrageous that the VA is calling on its employees to deliberately misdiagnose returning veterans in an effort to cut costs. Those who have risked their lives serving our country deserve far better."

Veterans Affairs Secretary James B. Peake said in a statement that Perez's e-mail was "inappropriate" and does not reflect VA policy. It has been "repudiated at the highest level of our health care organization," he said.

"VA's leadership will strongly remind all medical staff that trust, accuracy and transparency is paramount to maintaining our relationships with our veteran patients," Peake said.

Peake said Perez has been "counseled" and is "extremely apologetic."

Aikele said Perez remains in her job.

A Rand Corp. report released in April found that repeated exposure to combat stress in Iraq and Afghanistan is causing a disproportionately high psychological toll compared with physical injuries. About 300,000 U.S. military personnel who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan are suffering from PTSD or major depression, the study found. The economic cost to the United States -- including medical care, forgone productivity and lost lives through suicide -- is expected to reach $4 billion to $6 billion over two years.

Ng said diagnosing PTSD often requires observing a patient for weeks or months because the condition implies a long, lingering effect of stress.

"Most people exposed to trauma, in general, can get better," Ng said.

"You don't want to over-diagnose people with PTSD. Whether it's adjustment disorder is one thing. It's usually a temporary disorder with severity that is not as bad as someone with full-blown PTSD."

(c) 2008 The Washington Post Company

Here's the actual email:

I can't copy the picture please go to the Washington Post website and read the e mail this person should have been fired just my 2 cents

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House OKs Army hospital

House OKs Army hospital

Fort Riley also stands to gain housing facility for injured troops
By Tim Carpenter
The Capital-Journal
Published Friday, May 16, 2008
The U.S. House approved legislation Thursday containing $404 million for a new hospital at Fort Riley and $50 million to build a housing facility for injured soldiers at the Army base.

Upgrades for the Kansas installation remain tangled in a dispute with the Senate and President Bush over spending on combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, enhancement of the GI Bill and expenditures for a series of domestic programs.

The Kansas delegation in the House split along party lines on the Fort Riley legislation. Republican Reps. Jerry Moran and Todd Tiahrt voted against it. Democratic Reps. Nancy Boyda and Dennis Moore supported the measure.

Boyda, who represents the 2nd District containing Fort Riley, said replacing the 50-year-old Irwin Army Community Hospital would allow for expansion and modernization of health services at the rapidly growing military base.

Accompanying housing in a "warrior support complex" would improve treatment of seriously wounded troops.

"This funding is a huge step in the right direction," Boyda said. "The new hospital will improve the quality of life for our soldiers and their families by providing them with the best and most modern care available."

At the end of the day in Washington, the House rejected a plan to allocate $163 billion to the Department of Defense for continued combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Majorities in the House agreed to broaden college assistance for veterans and to approve a 13-week expansion of unemployment insurance benefits. The GI Bill provision would be paid with a tax surcharge on individuals with incomes above $500,000. The House also adopted a nonbinding plan to complete withdrawal of combat troops from Iraq by December 2009.

The White House issued a warning that Bush would veto the bill due to dislike of a new tax, the nonwar appropriations and restrictions on the military's ability to wage war.

Boyda said the entire Kansas delegation should get behind health care initiatives at Fort Riley.

"It's not about dollars and cents," Boyda said. "No matter what Kansans feel about the war, they all want to take care of our soldiers and their veterans. That's where everyone agrees."

The House legislation includes financing for the new hospital at Fort Riley near Junction City and for hospitals for Camp Lejuene, N.C., and Fort Benning, Ga.

Boyda said planning work had started on a hospital replacement at Fort Riley, but the new appropriation would bring a medical center into service more quickly. Return of the 1st Infantry Division from Germany and transfer of additional troops to Fort Riley exacerbated conditions at the current hospital.

Boyda said a conversation she had with Army spouses at Fort Riley affirmed the hospital project had to move up the priority list.

"The stories we heard were very, very concerning and very consistent," she said. "It was difficult to get health care for their kids."

The congresswoman said military commanders at Fort Riley endorsed rapid replacement of the base hospital.

"This is about respecting and honoring the sacrifices that the soldiers and their families make," Boyda said. "Even if they don't put on a uniform, they do serve every day."

Tim Carpenter can be reached at (785) 296-3005 or

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Bush Sacrifices for Troops

Bush Sacrifices for Troops
Posted by JD Crowe May 16, 2008 6:53 AM

Just when you think you have a handle on just how flawed and out of touch the president of our country is, he rambles on about how he is showing solidarity with the families of fallen soldiers in Iraq by giving up his golf game. This is his war they are losing their limbs and dying in, and his idea of personal sacrifice is to keep his putter in the bag. Unbelievable. Maybe Bush is just as anxious for a new president as the rest of the country, if only because it may bring the troops home quicker and get him back on the golf course again. Story below....

Bush's golf claim angers veterans

* Ed Pilkington in New York
* The Guardian,
* Thursday May 15 2008

George Bush has angered US war veterans by declaring that out of solidarity with those who made the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq he decided to make his own sacrifice: giving up golf.

In an interview with the Politico website, the president said he took the decision because of the war. "I don't want some mom whose son may have recently died to see the commander in chief playing golf. I feel I owe it to the families to be in solidarity. And I think playing golf during a war just sends the wrong signal."

Brandon Friedman, a veteran US infantry officer who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan, told the Press Association: "Thousands of Americans have given up a lot more than golf for this war. For President Bush to imply that he somehow stands in solidarity with families of American soldiers by giving up golf is disgraceful. It's an insult to all Americans and a slap in the face to our troops' families."

Friedman, who is vice chairman of the US veterans' organisation VoteVets, added: "It shows how disconnected he is from everyday Americans, especially those who are serving in Iraq."

Bush said he laid down his clubs after the August 2003 bombing of United Nations offices in Baghdad that killed the UN's top official in the country, Sergio Vieira de Mello. "I remember when de Mello got killed as a result of these murderers taking this good man's life. I was playing golf - I think in central Texas - and they pulled me off the golf course and I said, 'It's just not worth it any more'."

According to a database held by CBS News the statement is not entirely accurate. He did cut short a round of golf at the 12th hole on that day, but his last recorded game came two months later, October 13.

Bush Sacrifices for Troops

Like most things he states he sends a mixed message I bet all the soldiers really feel better knowing that President Bush gave up golf for the war, this isn't Lent and giving up golf does not spread solidarity, maybe he ought to take them another plastic turkey for Thanksgiving......

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Senate Panel Passes $193 Billion War Supplemental Bill

Senate Panel Passes $193 Billion War Supplemental Bill

Defying a White House veto threat, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved a $193 billion war supplemental spending bill containing about $10 billion in domestic spending not sought by President Bush.

Just before the measure cleared on a voice vote, Appropriations Chairman Robert Byrd mocked Bush's stance on the legislation.

"The president says that by adding money for the American people, we are holding American troops hostage. Horse-blank," Byrd declared. He charged that the president opposes funding to boost the economy, but "when it comes to Iraq, the president wants the dollars to flow, flow, flow."

Republicans put up no resistance to the legislation, although Appropriations ranking member Thad Cochran warned that loading it up with domestic spending would only "delay resources" for the soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In a voice vote, the panel approved an amendment from Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, directing the Defense Department to use $3 million in approved funding to complete a study on how the troops would eventually be redeployed from Iraq. "None of us know how to get our troops out in an orderly manner," he said.

On other issues, the committee unanimously approved an amendment by Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., to delay for a year the recent administration decision to tighten income eligibility standards for the State Children's Health Insurance Program, and voted 17-12 to clear an amendment from Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., to authorize a five-year emergency visa program for foreign agricultural workers. Supporters of the measure said it was needed to prevent a harvesting disaster caused by recent immigration crackdowns.

"It is a reality that oranges are rotting on trees in Florida," said Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho.

Byrd opposed the amendment. Although temporary, the program "is still an amnesty," he said.

In another immigration-related vote, the committee approved 23-6 an amendment by Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., to extend a program allowing temporary workers, such as those employed in seafood processing centers, to re-enter the country without being subject to the cap imposed on H2B visas. "If you like Maryland crabs, vote for this amendment," she said.

After a heated debate, the committee rejected, 15-14, an amendment by Sen. Wayne Allard, R-Colo., to overturn a recently approved two-and-a-half-year moratorium on the issuance of Interior Department rules for oil shale leases in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming. Led by Feinstein, Democrats argued the moratorium should continue until the department assesses the environmental impact of oil shale mining.

Republicans accused opponents of the amendment of thwarting an initiative needed to end the country's dependence on foreign oil and reduce gas prices. "We are for American energy," said Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M.

The fate of the amendment was sealed when Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., announced that, although she would support such a measure on the floor, she had agreed to oppose the amendment in committee at the behest of Democratic colleagues.

The overall bill was reported in three parts, or amendments, with the first providing $168.9 billion for the military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Almost $66 billion would be for FY09.

The second amendment contained politically charged war policy provisions mandating rest times for the troops equal to their deployments and compelling the Iraqi government to pay for any nonemergency reconstruction project over $2 million, to subsidize the U.S. military fuel costs with its oil revenues, and pay the stipends of Sunni tribesman cooperating with coalition forces in the fight against al-Qaida in Iraq.

The policy section contained a nonbinding "sense of Congress" language calling for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq by June 2009, and a provision requiring the administration to get Senate approval of any long-term military cooperation agreements with Iraq.

The third amendment contained funding for domestic programs, including a 13-week extension of unemployment benefits and an expansion of veterans' education assistance for veterans who served since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The cost of the veterans' plan has been estimated at $52 billion over 10 years.

The plan would extend GI bill eligibility to activated reservists and calls for the government to match dollar for dollar any voluntary financial aid offered by schools whose tuition exceed the maximum VA education benefit payment. Veterans would be entitled to a monthly housing stipend.

The section contains specific allocations of $10.4 billion for recovery from 2005's hurricanes Katrina and Rita -- $4.6 billion more than sought by the Bush administration -- and $1.245 billion in international food aid, $500 million above the White House's request.

The bill also calls for additional spending of $1.2 billion in long-term development funding for National Aeronautics and Space Administration and other scientific research agencies, $490 million in local law enforcement assistance, $451 million for highway construction and repair, $400 million for rural schools, $275 million for food and drug safety programs, and $437 million for the construction of veterans' trauma centers.

by Terry Kivlan

Fri. May 16, 2008

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Armed Forces Day celebrated at World War II Museum

Armed Forces Day celebrated at World War II Museum
May 16, 2008

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NEW ORLEANS — The National World War II Museum will celebrate Armed Forces Day on Saturday with representatives from all branches of the military, a patriotic program featuring guest speaker Maj Gen Hunt Downer, the presentation of the Mayors Military Advisory Council Community Service Awards, children’s activities, musical performances and other events.

The Region Legal Service Office Southeast, Detachment New Orleans, a Navy Judge Advocate General unit, will have representatives on hand to provide legal assistance services to active duty, reserve, retired and their dependents and disabled veterans.

Admission will be free to veterans, members of the military and their immediate families. For more information, call 504-527-6012 x 234 or visit for a full schedule of events.

The National WWII Museum is located at 945 Magazine Street. For more information, call 504-527-6012, extension 234.

Armed Forces Day Schedule
9 a.m.-4 p.m.
Static Displays by the VA Hospital, VA Regional Office, the U S Attorney's Office, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE), the Region Legal Service Office Southeast and other military commands. Free admission for veterans, members of the military and their immediate families.
11 a.m. Program
Colors — Washington Artillery Color Guard. National Anthem — Amanda Yager. Invocation — VA Chaplain. Welcome by Dr. Mueller and Maj Gen Mize. Guest Speaker — Maj Gen Hunt Downer, Assistant Adjutant General, State of Louisiana. Presentation of MMAC Community Service Awards.
11 a.m.-3 p.m . Living History Corps
The Museum’s World War II re-enactors, collectively known as the Living History Corps, are local volunteers who enrich the visitor’s Museum experience with their wealth of information and stories. Wearing the uniforms and carrying the equipment of both the Allied and Axis forces, they share their knowledge about the day-to-day lives of military men and women and the broader lessons of World War II. This event is free to the public.
1:30-2:30 p.m.
Pfeiffer University Jazz Ensemble, Misenheimer, NC
2-4 p.m. Saturday Cinema
Stage Door Canteen – 1943 – from USA
“Dakota,” a young soldier on a pass in New York City, visits the famed Stage Door Canteen, where famous stars of the theatre and films appear and host a recreational center for servicemen during the war. Dakota meets a pretty young hostess, Eileen, and they enjoy the many entertainers and a growing romance. Nominated for two 1944 Academy Awards.
Armed Forces Day celebrated at World War II Museum

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Great Video from NBC

A great piece of reporting by Brian Williams and NBC

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

Taking Care of Our Vets

Taking Care of Our Vets

Etched onto the wall of a sentry box in Gibraltar is an unsigned indictment from an unknown soldier. You imagine him there many wars ago, keeping watch and weighing his prospects for a normal life.

God and the soldier, all men adore In time of danger and not before. When the danger is passed and all things righted, God is forgotten, and the soldier slighted.

President Kennedy quoted the verse in 1962 to the men of the Army's 1st Armored Division, who had been secretly moved into position during the Cuban missile crisis. "This country does not forget God or the soldier," Kennedy said. "Upon both we now depend."

How we treat returning soldiers once the parades have passed is a measure of a country's character and a government's competence. Often the war shadows the warriors: to the returning victors of World War II came honor and glory and the GI Bill. But for veterans of Korea--"the Forgotten War"--there was silence. Infantryman Fred Downs returned from Vietnam with four Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star and one arm. Back in school, he was asked if he'd lost his arm in the war. Yes, he said. "Serves you right," he was told.

We've grown up since then, embraced complexity: it doesn't matter that nearly two-thirds of Americans say the Iraq war wasn't worth fighting; three-quarters say the government is not doing enough to help returning vets. They protect us when we hand them a rifle and say, "Go fight the enemy." We betray them when we hand them a pencil and say, "Now go fight the bureaucracy."

At least they're not fighting alone: Kennedy's promise to "not forget" is honored by every town that welcomes home its National Guard unit by helping members reconnect; by the ingenuity of groups like Sew Much Comfort, which provides "adaptive clothing" for vets with burns and other injuries, casts and prostheses. Mental-health professionals volunteer through Give an Hour to treat vets for free; pro bono lawyers help them navigate the dense disability-benefits maze. But private charity can't replace a public commitment to finish what we start, to do the long, hard, expensive work of making soldiers whole when they come home.

Wars are like icebergs: much of the cost remains hidden, and the near doubling of the defense budget since 2001 does not cover what lies ahead. Better body armor and trauma care mean new life for thousands of soldiers who would have died in any earlier war. But many are broken or burned or buried in pain from what they saw and did. One in five suffers from major depression or posttraumatic stress, says a new Rand Corp. study; more than 300,000 have suffered traumatic brain injury. The cost of treating them is projected to double over the next 25 years. Four hundred thousand veterans are waiting for cases to be processed. The number seeking assistance for homelessness is up 600% in the past year.

In the face of so much need, too often comes denial. At a May 6 hearing, lawmakers lit into officials from Veterans Affairs after an e-mail surfaced from Ira Katz, its chief of mental health, on suicide rates of soldiers in its care. The subject line: "Shhh." The VA had been insisting there were fewer than 800 suicide attempts a year by vets in its care; the real number was closer to 12,000. "Is this something we should (carefully) address ourselves in some sort of release before someone stumbles on it?" Katz asked. Bob Filner, chair of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, saw criminal negligence. "The pattern is deny, deny, deny," he told Veterans Affairs Secretary Jim Peake. "Then when facts seemingly come to disagree with the denial, you cover up, cover up, cover up."

It took a YouTube video to scald the conscience of officials at Fort Bragg, where soldiers returned from 15 months in Afghanistan to a barracks festooned with filth, paint peeling in pages off the walls. "Soldiers should never have to live in such squalor," said Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who saw the video. "Things happen too slowly." But even if the system worked perfectly, it would still take billions of dollars to meet the need.

Memorial Day was designed to honor dead soldiers; the other 364 belong to the living. Of the private efforts there is much to be proud, for they reflect the best traditions of the country the soldiers are fighting for. But the holes they are patching reveal a system in tatters; the very least veterans deserve from their government is honesty about its failures.


Thank you from all of us veterans disabled or not

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V.A. Disavows Combat Stress Memo

V.A. Disavows Combat Stress Memo

Published: May 16, 2008
WASHINGTON (AP) — An internal e-mail message written by a Veterans Affairs Department employee suggested that the agency avoid giving a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder for veterans and instead consider a diagnosis that might result in a lower disability payment.

The message, dated March 20 and titled “Suggestion,” said: “Given that we are having more and more compensation seeking veterans, I’d like to suggest that we refrain from giving a diagnosis of PTSD straight out. Consider a diagnosis of Adjustment Disorder, R/O PTSD.” R/O stands for “rule out.”

“Additionally,” it said, “we really don’t or have time to do the extensive testing that should be done to determine PTSD.”

A copy of the message was distributed on Thursday by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a watchdog group, and by, a lobbying group opposed to the Bush administration’s handling of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

In a statement, Dr. James B. Peake, the secretary of veterans affairs, called the suggestions “inappropriate.” The employee’s name was not released.

“We are committed to absolute accuracy in a diagnosis and unwavering in providing any and all earned benefits,” said Dr. Peake, a retired Army lieutenant general and surgeon. “P.T.S.D. and the mental health arena is no exception.”

A recent study by the Rand Corporation reported that about one in five troops with service in Iraq or Afghanistan has symptoms of major depression or post-traumatic stress disorder.


If I was Congressman Waxman of the Oversight Committee or either Chariman of the House or Senate VA Committee I would be asking for the numbers of veterans diagnosed with adjustment disorder rather than PTSD because the VA clinic did not do the necessary testing to determine PTSD, and heads should role, the cost should not be the deciding factor

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how did your congress critter vote on the Webb GI Bill

Breaking: GI Bill Passes in the House | Print | Email

Below is the complete list of who voted for funding the new GI Bill, and who voted against it. If you're not sure who your Representative is, you can look them up here.

>> Next step: Now the bill moves on to the Senate, where a vote is scheduled for next week. Please take a minute now to call your Senators, and urge them to support the new GI Bill.

Voted for (256) Voted against (166)
Did not vote (12)

Voted for the Webb GI Bill
Bishop (GA)
Bishop (NY)
Boyd (FL)
Boyda (KS)
Brady (PA)
Braley (IA)
Brown, Corrine
Davis (AL)
Davis (CA)
Davis (IL)
Davis, Lincoln
English (PA)
Frank (MA)
Green, Al
Green, Gene
Hall (NY)Hare
Hastings (FL)
Herseth Sandlin
Jackson (IL)
Jackson-Lee (TX)
Johnson (GA)
Johnson (IL)
Johnson, E. B.
Jones (NC)
Jones (OH)
King (NY)
Klein (FL)
Larsen (WA)
Larson (CT)
Lewis (GA)
Lofgren, Zoe
McCarthy (NY)
McCollum (MN)
Meek (FL)
Meeks (NY)
Miller (MI)
Miller (NC)
Miller, George
Moore (KS)
Moore (WI)
Moran (VA)
Murphy (CT)
Murphy, Patrick
Murphy, Tim
Neal (MA)
Peterson (MN)
Price (NC)
Ryan (OH)
Sánchez, Linda T.
Sanchez, Loretta
Scott (GA)
Scott (VA)
Smith (NJ)
Smith (WA)
Thompson (CA)
Thompson (MS)
Udall (CO)
Udall (NM)
Van Hollen
Walz (MN)
Wasserman Schultz
Welch (VT)
Whitfield (KY)
Wilson (OH)
Young (AK)

Voted Against the Webb GI Bill
Barrett (SC)
Bartlett (MD)
Barton (TX)
Bishop (UT)
Brady (TX)
Broun (GA)
Brown (SC)
Brown-Waite, Ginny
Burton (IN)
Camp (MI)
Cole (OK)
Davis (KY)
Davis, David
Davis, Tom
Deal (GA)
Diaz-Balart, L.
Diaz-Balart, M.
Franks (AZ)
Garrett (NJ)
Hall (TX)
Hastings (WA)
Inglis (SC)
Johnson, Sam
King (IA)
Kline (MN)
Kuhl (NY)
Lewis (CA)
Lungren, Daniel E.
Mahoney (FL)
McCarthy (CA)
McCaul (TX)
McMorris Rodgers
Miller (FL)
Miller, Gary
Moran (KS)
Peterson (PA)
Price (GA)
Pryce (OH)
Rogers (AL)
Rogers (KY)
Rogers (MI)
Ryan (WI)
Smith (NE)
Smith (TX)
Walden (OR)
Walsh (NY)
Weldon (FL)
Wilson (NM)
Wilson (SC)
Wittman (VA)
Young (FL)
Bono Mack
Campbell (CA)
Lewis (KY)
Maloney (NY)

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Senator Akaka again leads way on PTSD reform


WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI) invoked his oversight authority as Chairman of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee to formally request data from VA on veterans’ suicides that is not otherwise available to the Congress. In a letter to Veterans Affairs Secretary James Peake, Akaka stressed the need for full and accurate data on the issue.

“We will not know the true cost of war until we know the true rate of suicides among veterans,” said Akaka. “Until the VA mental health care system meets the needs of those who have served, we will continue to see the tragic consequence of veteran suicides.”

In his letter, Akaka specifically requested the following from Secretary Peake:

The total number of veterans who have committed suicide or attempted to commit suicide
The number of veterans who have committed suicide or attempted to commit suicide while receiving care from VA
Information on VA’s efforts to improve outreach and assistance for veterans between the ages of 30 and 64
All of VA’s health care quality assurance reviews related to suicides and suicide attempts over the past three years

As Chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Akaka is empowered by federal law to review medical quality assurance records that are otherwise not provided outside of the Department.

Akaka’s request follows heightened concerns from Congress and others regarding veteran suicides. Last week, Secretary Peake testified that both male and female veterans are more likely than non-veterans to commit suicide. In recent weeks Akaka has sought action on veteran mental health issues, meeting with Secretary Peake, and working with the Senate Majority Leader to bring up S. 2162, the bipartisan Veterans’ Mental Health and Other Improvements Act of 2008. According to a recent RAND study, nearly one in five Iraq and Afghanistan veterans – roughly 300,000 so far – report symptoms of PTSD or major depression, and fewer than half receive mental health care.


I SALUTE Senator Akaka for taking this very important step in getting accountability from the Veterans Administration.

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We owe veterans best effort in analyzing ‘PTSD’

We owe veterans best effort in analyzing ‘PTSD’

Soldiers returning from the current battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan are suffering from an age-old problem that is manifesting itself in new ways.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), research shows, is often overlooked by primary care physicians or community clinics when veterans aren’t there for a PTSD-specific complaint.

That was among the revelations at an important day-long conference Tuesday at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville. The goal of this significant gathering was to develop a partnership between regional health-care workers and the Veterans Health Administration to help those with PTSD.

It won’t be easy.

One of the panel members, a native of Korea, told a story about his father, who spent three years at the front lines in the Korean War. His family never understood the resulting decades of mood swings and nightmares — which continue today. Only when his son began his study of psychiatry did he understand why his father has had to endure such pain for more than a half-century: He suffered from PTSD.

Non-military primary care physicians need to become more versed in the particulars of PTSD, Tuesday’s conference revealed, especially those doctors in rural areas, where 44 percent of U.S. military recruits are found, but where only 19 percent of the nation lives, an unbalance that exacerbates the problem. They need to know how to screen for and recognize PTSD and increase their clinical knowledge and skills on the disorder. And physicians should be familiar with local and regional mental-health treatment and referral resources.

There is encouragement in the fact that, while less than 3 percent of servicemen were married during World War II, 53 percent of those serving today are married, and many have children. With continued public acknowledgment of PTSD as a real problem, these spouses and children can do something to help their loved ones now — unlike our story of the Korean veteran.

The misunderstandings and stigma of PTSD conjure up painful memories of Gulf War Syndrome, the name attached to a condition that plagued many soldiers following the first Gulf War — including soldiers from Northumberland County — that went unaddressed for far too long. With that, it’s encouraging to see Geisinger, the VA and other leaders in the health-care field ambitiously addressing PTSD. We owe it to every veteran to do so.

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Iraq War documentary rings in convenient truths

Iraq War documentary rings in convenient truths

PBS's documentary series Frontline has been on the air for 25 years, but only now is it reaching millions of viewers. Its newest installment, "Bush's War," commemorates five years at war in Iraq in almost five hours, with piercing documentation of The Bush Administration's military efforts. Beginning with the decision to invade Afghanistan and concluding with the Iraq troop surge, the program misses very little. It anchors the viewer in the events and decisions in between, while steadfastly maintaining a keen, backwards-looking, historical perspective.
"Bush's War" is a news story wrapped in a history lesson disguised as a summer blockbuster. Combining interviews of top governmental officials with first-hand footage of explosive military firefights, Frontline takes the viewer behind closed doors and enemy lines at the same time.
Meanwhile, the secret story is juxtaposed with the media coverage absorbed by the public, inviting viewers to challenge misinformed viewpoints. Tune in to see the clash of egos behind the outwardly monolithic Bush administration, portrayed with the panache of a character drama: Rumsfeld vs. Tenet, Rumsfeld vs. Rice, and Rumsfeld vs. Alien vs. Predator (a.k.a. the Guantanamo story).
Of particular note is the documentary's constant reminder of what success in Afghanistan and Iraq must look like through the mouths of former intelligence, military, and White House officials. In Afghanistan, victory means the surrender of Taliban forces who took up guerilla opposition when their government was toppled, and who (with Al-Qaeda aid) still kill US and allied soldiers. In Iraq, success means teaching Iraqis forces to keep the peace so that democracy can take root (the opposite of a troop surge that uses American troops to do what we are not trusting Iraqi forces to accomplish).
Before ending abruptly, the series falls just short of concluding that the surge's touted "clear, hold, build" strategy has become as much of a fossil as the "light footprint" strategy - the theory that troop presence and visibility should be minimized - of a year ago. Perhaps this is an effort to maintain objectivity. But only so much objectivity is possible when the preponderance of documentary evidence points definitively in one unhappy direction.
So why is this documentary so suddenly popular? Some, including the series' producers, have speculated that with the Iraq War's five year anniversary and the upcoming presidential election, the timing was perfect. Fair enough, but if timing alone was sufficient, then Comedy Central's Lil' Bush would be a smash success. (It isn't.)
Convenience is one thing, but hard-hitting honesty is what really makes a documentary resonate. "Bush's War" rehashes what sheer embarrassment has made us prone to forget-and with painstaking and unabashed clarity. Remember when we thought that the war in Afghanistan was won? Can you recite the "sixteen words" of Bush's 2003 State of the Union that ended up being false? Does the name "Joseph C. Wilson IV" ring a bell?
Whatever you recall, whatever you think you remember from the past seven years, it turns out that the truth is always different from the Frontline.

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A new source of mental health care for veteransMental care that’s free, confidential

A new source of mental health care for veteransMental care that’s free, confidential

MICHAEL GILBERT; Published: May 15th, 2008 06:35 AM | Updated: May 15th, 2008 06:36 AMA group of mental health care providers in Washington is offering free help to Iraq and Afghanistan veterans and their families who either can’t or don’t want to go through traditional channels for care. The Soldiers Project Northwest is modeled after a similar effort in Los Angeles, where volunteer therapists since 2004 have seen clients without charge for help with their war-related problems.
“The war just feels so big. The problems of the country feel so big. This is something that I can do,” said Tim Mallon, a University Place mental health counselor who is taking part in the Northwest effort. “I’ve got the training to do it, and the need is there. It’s pretty simple, really.”

Organizers say they’re offering help to people who might not be covered under the military’s health care system or who aren’t eligible for care through the Veterans Affairs Department.

They also say they suspect many active-duty service members in the area might not seek care through the military because they’re afraid it will hurt their careers. This option may offer more peace of mind.

“It’s not going through the insurance, so there are no records,” said Trisha Pearce, a Skagit County psychiatric nurse who has taken the lead in organizing the Soldiers Project. “It’s really confidential on a level they won’t get in other places.”

A RAND Corp. study released last month said 1 in 5 service members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan report symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and major depression, but only half have sought treatment.

The report said there are too few treatment providers for returning service members, and that many service members still won’t seek help out of fear of repercussions from their commanders.

The VA and the Department of Defense have also been under pressure from Congress to expand the availability and quality of mental health care for service members and veterans.

Pearce said the Soldiers Project is not meant to be a reflection on the quality of care at the VA or in the military – just that some people fall through the cracks.

For example, she said, parents and siblings of deployed service members aren’t eligible for care under the two systems, and might not have coverage elsewhere.

“A lot of times these are vets who just come back and are not interested in going anywhere near the VA, so the wife or the mom is out there, distraught about what they have seen happen to their son or their spouse,” said Dr. Judith Broder, a Los Angeles psychiatrist who founded the Soldiers Project there in 2004.

Broder said the project in Southern California has developed a strong working relationship with the VA and veterans service organizations. She has 135 volunteer providers who have seen more than 120 clients, she said.

“The number is increasing. Probably at this point we’re getting two or three new referrals a week,” Broder said.

Providers in Chicago and New York are also creating spinoffs of the Los Angeles program.

Pearce said she too has been working to cultivate relationships with counselors at the VA’s deployment health clinic in Seattle, meeting with the clinic director and attending its staff meetings.

The director, Dr. Steven Hunt, couldn’t be reached for comment on this story.

A spokeswoman at Madigan Army Medical Center said she hadn’t heard yet of Soldiers Project. She said the Army hospital at Fort Lewis provides an array of mental health services to soldiers, particularly those returning from war-zone deployments.

Soldiers’ spouses and children are covered for mental health care through the military’s TRICARE insurance program and can see off-post providers.

Service members also can arrange to see off-post counselors through the Military OneSource program, which covers a range of issues in a setup that’s similar to civilian employee assistance programs.

Pearce said she began working on the local project last October after answering an ad in a workshop calendar for therapists.

About 90 have attended meetings to organize the project so far, and of those, about 15 are ready to begin seeing clients for post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and other mental health problems, Pearce said.

Providers must be licensed and have malpractice insurance. Pearce also insists on meeting each in person to talk about the project’s approach.

Pearce went out to Friday’s celebration and resource fair at the American Lake Veterans Golf Course to meet VA representatives and talk up the program. She said she had to keep emphasizing that the project has no strings attached.

“We’re not billing insurance. We’re not bartering,” she said. “No one is building a practice around this. It’s free.”

And she said the volunteer therapists aren’t coming to the program to advance a political point of view about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“I have the feeling that it doesn’t really help to get into that argument, and it definitely doesn’t help in the military culture to get into that argument,” Pearce said. “It isn’t a political thing. If you make it political, you’re going to cut out a whole bunch of people who need help.”

Michael Gilbert: 253-597-8921

To learn more

For more information about Soldiers Project Northwest or to be referred to one of the project’s therapists, e-mail or call 206-290-1035.

The project is hosting a meeting for mental health treatment providers at 7 p.m. May 29 at St. Leo Church, 710 S. 13th St., Tacoma.

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Loma Linda is probably the one city in San Bernardino County with the most war veterans living or visiting there at any one time.

Loma Linda is probably the one city in San Bernardino County with the most war veterans living or visiting there at any one time.

Jerry L. Pettis Memorial VA Medical Center

Loma Linda is probably the one city in San Bernardino County with the most war veterans living or visiting there at any one time.

And with good reason.

The Jerry L. Pettis Memorial VA Medical Center not only celebrated its 30th birthday in 2007, it saw more than 57,000 patients from San Bernardino and Riverside counties.

Leaders of the 1977-founded institution - named after a local congressman - spent the past few years expanding mental health services at its five satellite branches in Upland, Corona, Sun City, Victorville and Palm Desert.

"We've had 3,985 new combat veterans coming from recent conflict; 1,184 of them have combat injuries," said Annie Tuttle, spokeswoman for the medical center.

The number of veterans using the center has tripled over the past 10 years.

"We're seeing an increase in the number of Vietnam veterans using our services," Tuttle said. "We're adding all types of diagnostics and non-invasive techniques."

Loma Linda's veteran magnet is one of only four in Southern California - the others located in Long Beach, Los Angeles and San Diego. It offers medical, surgical, behavioral, neurological, and a host of other services

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

House passes election-year farm bill

House passes election-year farm bill

The Associated Press
Wednesday, May 14, 2008; 4:23 PM

WASHINGTON -- The House passed a $290 billion farm bill Wednesday with a strong veto-proof majority, offering more subsidies for farmers, food stamps for the poor and special projects that lawmakers can bring home to voters this election year.

The 318-106 vote for the five-year bill came despite President Bush's promised veto. He says the measure is too expensive and gives too much money to wealthy farmers.

About two-thirds of the bill would pay for nutrition programs such as food stamps and emergency food aid for the needy. An additional $40 billion is for farm subsidies while almost $30 billion would go to farmers to idle their land and to other environmental programs.

Senators planned to begin debating the bill later Wednesday. A rejection of a Bush veto may be even easier in the Senate, where farm states have greater representation than they do in the House. Congress has only overridden one veto, on a water projects bill, during Bush's two terms.

This measure is not perfect, said the chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, who believes it is balanced. "We've put a bill together that I think addresses what people are concerned about in this country," said Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn.

Republicans, however, criticized the mostly bipartisan and popular bill because home-state projects added in an election year. The bill includes tax breaks for Kentucky racehorse owners, extra help for farmers in Hawaii and Alaska, and dollars for salmon fishermen in the Pacific Northwest.

"This bill has been under consideration for a long, long time, and yet still we have earmarks that have been 'air dropped' into the legislation," said Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The House has passed a $290 billion farm bill with a strong veto-proof majority. The legislation includes more subsidies for farmers, food stamps for the poor and special projects that lawmakers can bring home to voters this election year.

The 318-106 vote for the five-year bill came despite President Bush's promised veto. He says the measure is too expensive and gives too much money to wealthy farmers.

About two-thirds of the bill would pay for nutrition programs such as food stamps and emergency food aid for the needy. An additional $40 billion is for farm subsidies while almost $30 billion would go to farmers to idle their land and to other environmental programs.


Since many low level troops qualify for food stamps this should be welcome news maybe they will get a raise in their food stamps

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The real John McCain on veterans issues he votes NO

Ignoring McCain's own votes, media again air McCain campaign attacks on Obama over funding for war, veterans

Summary: Fox News and the Los Angeles Times uncritically reported attacks by Sen. John McCain's campaign on Sen. Barack Obama for voting against an emergency supplemental appropriations bill to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which also included provisions for veterans, without noting that McCain also voted against legislation that would have funded troops in the field and care for veterans.

On May 12 and 13, respectively, Fox News and the Los Angeles Times uncritically reported attacks by Sen. John McCain's campaign on Sen. Barack Obama for voting against an emergency supplemental appropriations bill to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which also included provisions for veterans, without noting that McCain himself voted against legislation that would have funded troops in the field and care for veterans. These examples fit a pattern documented by Media Matters for America in which the media uncritically report McCain's attacks on Democrats for voting against troop funding, without noting that McCain voted against a bill that would have funded the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and directed more than $1 billion to the Department of Veterans Affairs, as well as other legislation funding care for veterans.

The May 13 Los Angeles Times article reported that Obama "criticized McCain for backing what Obama said was a less-ambitious version" of Sen. Jim Webb's (D-VA) proposal to expand the GI Bill and stated: "The McCain campaign fired back, noting that Obama voted against an Iraq war spending measure that included $1.8 billion for veterans medical care. Obama opposed the bill because it did not include a plan to bring the troops home." The article quoted McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds saying, "It is absurd for Barack Obama to question John McCain's commitment to America's veterans, when Obama himself voted against funding our nation's veterans and troops in the field during a time of war." In addition, on the May 12 edition of Fox News' America's Election HQ, while discussing the differences between the GI bills supported by Obama and McCain, co-anchor Bill Hemmer did not challenge Nancy Pfotenhauer, senior policy adviser for the McCain campaign, when she asserted that "about this time last year, Senator Obama voted against $94.4 billion that would help our troops in a time of war." Later, in an interview with Federico Peña, a national co-chair for the Obama campaign, co-anchor Megyn Kelly echoed the statement in quoting a McCain spokesman who said, "It is absurd for Barack Obama to question John McCain's commitment to America's veterans when Obama himself voted against funding our nation's veterans and troops in the field during a time of war."

However, neither the Times nor Fox News pointed out that on March 29, 2007, McCain himself voted against H.R. 1591, an emergency spending bill that would have funded the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and would have provided more than $1 billion in additional funds to the Department of Veterans Affairs. The Senate passed H.R. 1591 by a margin of 51-47. Once the bill's conference report was agreed to by the House, the Senate again passed the measure on April 26, 2007, by a vote of 51-46. McCain did not vote on that version of the bill. By contrast, Obama voted for it on both occasions. President Bush vetoed the bill, citing its provision for a timetable for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq.

Moreover, McCain has voted against other legislation funding care for veterans, which the Times and Fox News anchors did not mention. On April 26, 2006, McCain voted against the "Akaka Amendment," which would have "provide[d] an additional $430,000,000 for the Department of Veteran Affairs for Medical Services for outpatient care and treatment for veterans." In addition, on March 14, 2006, McCain voted against "increas[ing] Veterans medical services funding by $1.5 billion in FY 2007 to be paid for by closing corporate tax loopholes." On March 10, 2004, McCain also voted against "creat[ing] a reserve fund to allow for an increase in Veterans' medical care by $1.8 billion by eliminating tax loopholes." Obama voted for the first two measures; he had not yet entered the Senate when the third vote was cast.

From the May 13 Los Angeles Times article:

But he [Obama] took direct aim at McCain over what should be a signature issue for the Arizona senator and former Vietnam War prisoner: veterans benefits.

Obama reiterated his support for Virginia Democratic Sen. Jim Webb's 21st Century GI Bill -- Clinton signed on as a co-sponsor in May 2007, Obama in November -- and criticized McCain for backing what Obama said was a less-ambitious version.

"He is one of the few senators of either party who oppose this bill because he thinks it's too generous," Obama said. "At a time when the skyrocketing cost of tuition is pricing thousands of Americans out of a college education, we should be doing everything we can to give the men and women who have risked their lives for this country the chance to pursue the American dream."

The McCain campaign fired back, noting that Obama voted against an Iraq war spending measure that included $1.8 billion for veterans medical care. Obama opposed the bill because it did not include a plan to bring the troops home.

"It is absurd for Barack Obama to question John McCain's commitment to America's veterans, when Obama himself voted against funding our nation's veterans and troops in the field during a time of war," said McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds.

McCain and the Democrats also tussled over global warming. McCain, in Oregon, endorsed a "cap and trade" policy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and vowed to work through the United Nations to devise a global approach.

From the May 12 edition of Fox News' America's Election HQ:

HEMMER: Nancy, I want to get to this back-and-forth between Obama and McCain in the campaigns today. That got pretty sharp, actually, about the GI Bill. Senator Barack Obama -- listen here -- on his address to McCain.

OBAMA [video clip]: I have great respect for John McCain's service to this country. I know he loves it dearly and honors those who serve, but John McCain is one of the few senators of either party who oppose this bill because he thinks it's too generous. He thinks it's too generous. Now, I could not disagree with him more.

HEMMER: Pretty sharp words there. Nancy, your response?

PFOTENHAUER: Oh, talk about just flagrant political pandering. I mean, that was so -- that is diametrically opposed to the truth. And let me just point out that about this time last year, Senator Obama voted against $94.4 billion that would help our troops in a time of war.

Senator McCain has his own legislation, and by the way, he's largely supportive of the goals of the Webb bill. The problem is, it doesn't do enough -- it doesn't do it quickly enough and it does nothing to address re-enlistment and retention. In fact, CBO, the Congressional Budget Office, has estimated that if the Webb bill went through, we'd see a reduction in re-enlistment rates of 16 percent.

The other thing that's critically different with Senator McCain's legislation is that he supports transferability of education credits, and the Webb bill doesn't do that. And what I mean by transferability, is if you're a veteran and you have education benefits but you are, for some reason, unable to take advantage of them yourself, Senator McCain's legislation would allow you to give that to your spouse, give that to your child, make sure that they're allowed and your family is still allowed to benefit.

HEMMER: Nancy, not to split hairs here, but this an important point here. From what I understand, McCain's proposal would take longer for servicemen and servicewomen to qualify for education subsidies. Is that it in a nutshell?


KELLY: But wait, before we get to energy -- before we get to energy, I just want to make another point on the GI Bill, because McCain responded today to Senator Obama's position, and I think we have the quote. All righty --


KELLY: I'd like to get your reaction it.

He says, "It is absurd for Barack Obama to question John McCain's commitment to America's veterans when Obama himself voted against funding our nation's veterans and troops in the field during a time of war," and they go on to cite the examples of that.

PEÑA: Well, nice distraction, but not on point. The question is: What are we doing with veterans? That other bill had to do with appropriations to people in service in the war and that's a very different issue. We're talking about veterans.
The average grade given by the Veterans Service Organizations on Senator McCains voting record on issues that help veterans is 40% or less he likes veterans just not disabled ones that cost money

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NCMR 2008: Register Now!

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Consequences of war felt by real people in real time

Consequences of war felt by real people in real time

Consequences of war felt by real people in real time
By Michael Hastings
Article Launched: 05/14/2008 01:32:02 AM PDT

In July 2006, four young U.S. Army officers sat at an Italian restaurant in Sackets Harbor, N.Y., about 20 miles from Fort Drum. Three lieutenants and a captain, they were all friends, all platoon leaders in the 10th Mountain Division; one was my younger brother, Jeff, then 23 years old. It was their last meal together before deploying to Iraq.

Two years later, they've forgotten what they ate but remember what was said: "Statistically, one in four of us is going to get injured or killed over there."

A month later, they arrived in Baghdad, right before the "surge."

On Oct. 2, 2006, Capt. Scott Quilty, 26, was leading a foot patrol in Rustimullah, a town south of Baghdad. An improvised explosive device, or IED, detonated near him. He lost his right arm and right leg.

The best worst injury

On Dec. 21, 2006, Lt. Ferris Butler, 26, my brother's roommate at Ft. Drum and in Baghdad, "got hit" on a road in another town along the Euphrates River. Another IED. He lost half his right foot and, to use the military acronym, had a "BK" on his left leg, a below-the-knee amputation, which soldiers universally agree is the best worst injury to have - a BK on the "non-dominant" leg while the rest of the body is fine.

Lt. Gregory Cartier was my brother's neighbor at Iraq's Camp Stryker. They'd been in the same platoon in Ranger and Airborne school. On May 8, 2007, Greg was filling potholes and IED craters in Iraqi roads.



Soldiers handed sandbags down a fireman's line, with Greg in the first position closest to the hole. After throwing in several sandbags, a bomb in the hole exploded.
Greg awoke in a bed a week later. He couldn't see anything, but he heard a familiar voice and felt someone touch his arm. "Greg, it's me, Scott, can you hear me?" Greg's first thought was, "What is Scott doing back in Baghdad?" He didn't understand that they both were at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington. Greg had wounds all over his body; he lost his left eye and suffered a traumatic brain injury ("TBI," in military speak).

My brother, now 25, returned to the United States in November after completing his 15-month tour. He survived more than 200 combat missions - on the same roads, in the same towns, in the same Humvees - and received a Bronze Star; his three friends also received military decorations with high honors.

I first heard the story of their eerie 2006 conversation when I met all four for the first time in Atlantic City, N.J., in December 2007. It was a dark reunion: Ferris and Scott were in wheelchairs; Greg wasn't quite himself; and all three were still living at Walter Reed.

When I saw them this spring, great changes had occurred in how they were dealing with the aftermath of the war. Greg was on his way out of the Army and into law school. He said he no longer wants to be defined as "a wounded warrior - I'm just a guy who got injured in a war." Ferris was out of the wheelchair and walking, had met a wonderful woman who had come to volunteer at Walter Reed, and felt he was a completely "new person." Ferris was on his way out of the hospital, with an internship on Capitol Hill lined up for the fall, his application to business school accepted at the University of Maryland. My brother was preparing to leave the Army for medical school.

Scott had started working for the Survivor Corps, formerly the Landmine Survivors Network, a non-profit organization dedicated to "helping each other overcome the effects of war and violence."

Loss close to the heart

This was the first time I'd really gotten to know other Americans who live with the consequences of the war. While I was in Iraq covering the war for Newsweek for two years starting in 2005, the woman I planned to marry was murdered in Baghdad by insurgents on Jan. 17, 2007. Her name was Andi Parhamovich; she'd come to Iraq to work for the National Democratic Institute, a non-governmental organization. After she was killed, I returned to the United States and started writing. It was an act of survival, a way for me to try to make sense of what happened and to give the beautiful woman I loved a lasting tribute.

We all chose to go to Iraq. We were under no illusions about the risks. I don't think anyone can fully grasp the risks until whoosh, wham, through the looking glass you crash on the way to the rehab center at Walter Reed or a funeral parlor in Ohio.

Iraq often gets treated by pundits, writers and politicians - all those thoughtful cheerleaders turned war critics - as an intellectual exercise. It's not. Hundreds of thousands live personally with its consequences every day. The tens of thousands of Iraqis who've been killed, the families of 4,074 American servicemen and women killed, the more than 900 contractors killed, the more than 29,000 U.S. wounded. The individuals who make up such statistics - and those who loved them - understand what the war actually costs


I wonder if the powers that be, President Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, Doug Feith and the others at the center of the decision to invade Iraq have read this story and how it affected 4 families intimately with real injuries, loss and unanswered questions..........war is hell ask the people who serve in them war is not an abstract theory it has real consequences....

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Barack Obama joins long list of presidential candidates to campaign in Grand Rapids

Barack Obama joins long list of presidential candidates to campaign in Grand Rapids

by Pat Shellenbarger | The Grand Rapids Press
Wednesday May 14, 2008, 6:05 AM

James GarfieldGRAND RAPIDS -- Barack Obama today is set to join a long list of presidential candidates and presidents who have wooed Grand Rapids voters.

His likely opponent, John McCain, has made at least two public appearances here in the past couple of years.

The first presidential contender to visit Grand Rapids was James Garfield in 1878.

William McKinley paid a visit in 1894 and, in 1896, William Jennings Bryan spoke to a crowd in Campau Square, now known as Rosa Parks Circle, which would become the rallying point for many future presidential candidates.

If you can't get into Barack Obama's speech Wednesday night, we'll give you an inside view:

• Press reporters will be on the scene chatting live about Barack Obama's speech

• Check back at for more photos and video

Theodore Roosevelt first spoke here as a presidential candidate in 1900.

In 1911, two years after he was elected, President William Howard Taft arrived by train from Marquette, with a railroad official sending ahead a letter, warning that the president's private car was not to be tampered with. Taft delivered a series of speeches: first over breakfast at the Kent Country Club, then at the Soldiers Home (now the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans), then at a rally in Campau Square followed by an address to Central High School students and another at the Ladies' Literary Club.

His successor, Woodrow Wilson, came in 1912, three months before winning the Democratic nomination. Warren G. Harding spoke to a Lincoln Club dinner some years before he became president in 1921. Herbert Hoover spoke in Grand Rapids at least twice, the first time in 1920.

Harry Truman campaigned here in 1948. Dwight Eisenhower, two years after leaving office, made a campaign appearance for then-U.S. Rep. Gerald R. Ford in 1962.

Press File Photo
Presidential candidate John F. Kennedy visits Grand Rapids in 1960.Among the largest draws in recent history were the Kennedys -- John and Robert -- and Richard Nixon.

An estimated 15,000 jammed Campau Square on Oct. 14, 1960, to hear an address by presidential candidate John F. Kennedy.

"Campau Square was a sea of humanity, crowds hung precariously from windows and parapets of surrounding business buildings," The Press reported at the time. "More Kennedy banners came out as the senator reached the platform."

As he boarded his train to leave town, Kennedy quipped: "Grand Rapids is supposed to be a Republican town. Either the people here are very hospitable or there are a few Democratic votes here."

Press File Photo
Richard Nixon, vice president at the time, speaks to a crowd in Campau Square in 1960.
Not to be outdone, Richard Nixon's Republican supporters claimed 72,000 turned out to greet him two weeks after Kennedy's visit. "That seems a bit high," former city historian Gordon Olson said Tuesday, but added: "It's possible there were that many people in the downtown area. Certainly, this was Republican country."

At least part of the crowd came not to cheer Nixon, but to jeer him. He was met by several hecklers who cursed him and threw eggs and tomatoes.

Robert Kennedy received a warm reception when he spoke in Campau Square on April 11, 1968. He nearly was pulled from his car several times, and a few people were injured by the surging crowd, prompting one party official to remark: "I never saw such hysteria."

Press File Photo
Ronald Reagan addresses the crowd in Grand Rapids in 1980. He returned in 1984 during his campaign for a second term.
Ronald Reagan came at least twice: once to dedicate the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum and again on Sept. 20, 1984 while campaigning for a second term.

Every president since then has made a point to visit Grand Rapids, including the current President Bush, who delivered a commencement address at Calvin College in May 2005 and a speech about the Iraq War in East Grand Rapids in April 2007.

But probably no president drew more well-wishers than Gerald Ford, when he came home for his funeral in January 2007. Thousands stood in line all night to file past his coffin in the Ford Museum, and thousands more lined the route when a motorcade carried his body to its final resting place on the museum lawn.


I was born in Grand Rapids and we use to go there to see my Doctor a pediatrician named DR Mikey, this was in the late 50s and early 60s so I can imagine my parents went to the Kennedy and Nixon events, I find it fascinating to read history that involved my own family. My grandfather moved back to Michigan after spending his working years in California and Arizona, he went west in 1850 for the California Gold Rush, and moved to Arizona after the Civil War and started a twon called Safford and a stage coach stop named Baileys Wells, it remained on the map of Arizona until 1927. So you all will have to just deal with my history trips thanks

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Commuters may see military helicopters today

Commuters may see military helicopters today

Early morning commuters may have to rub their eyes to make sure of what they're seeing today when military helicopters from bygone days rise above the hills in Murrieta en route to Washington, D.C., for Memorial Day.

Three UH-1 ``Huey'' helicopters, the type captured in thousands of photos depicting the Vietnam conflict, and an OH-58 Kiowa, used in Operation Desert Storm in the 1990s, will take off this morning on a trip that will culminate with a flyover at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in the nation's capital, said Shayne Meder, information officer for the Wings & Rotors Air Museum at French Valley Airport.

The aircraft will make stops at Vietnam memorials and remembrance ceremonies at 43 cities along the way, Meder said.

For 20 years, motorcyclists from all over the country have traveled to the Washington, D.C., memorial to remember veterans on Memorial Day, and this
year, the helicopters will provide air escort, Meder said.

The helicopters were restored at the museum and are fully functional and combat-certified, she said.

``It's a memorial flight to honor the veterans,'' Meder said. ``It's never been done.''

Meder said the money for the trip -- it will take $80,000 for fuel alone -- comes from corporate sponsors and private donations.

The museum is a not- for-profit entity, she said.

Cities where riders and fliers will make stops will provide meals and housing for those participating, she said.

The aircraft and riders are expected to reach Washington, D.C., on May 22, with the ride to the wall and flyover on May 25, to coincide with the annual remembrance ceremonies at the memorial wall.

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‘Lt. Dan’ and his band coming to La Crosse

‘Lt. Dan’ and his band coming to La Crosse

By Tribune staff

Actor Gary Sinise and his Lt. Dan Band will perform at 8 p.m. June 7 at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Veterans Memorial Field Sports Complex as part of the Veterans Memorial Ride.

The Remainders will open at 7 p.m., and a program will begin at 6 p.m.
Sinise’s concert is part of the Veterans Memorial Ride, which will include thousands of motorcycle riders who will converge on La Crosse, gathering first at the National Guard Armory in Onalaska, Wis., at 3:30 p.m., leaving there

at 4:30 p.m. led by former Gov. Tommy Thompson, and arriving at the field at 5 p.m.

Sinise, who stars in CBS’ “CSI: New York” and played the part of Lt. Dan in the movie “Forrest Gump,” is a longtime veterans advocate. This ride and Sinise’s concert will be the kickoff for what is to become an annual fundraising event in La Crosse to raise money for the Hall of Honor for Veterans at UW-L.

Tickets are $25 for general admission, $45 for preferred seating in the grandstand and $125 for VIP seating and parking. To purchase tickets, go to the event Web site at www.vets and click on the Ticketmaster logo.

This concert will be the last event in the stadium before it is torn down to make way for a new stadium.

As a disabled veteran I have the utmost respect and admiration for what Gary Sinise has done for veterans over the years. He has used his "fame" to raise the spirits of the veterans and money for causes to help the disabled. SALUTE sure wish I was close to Wis. Columbia SC is to far of a trip my power chair don't roll that far lol

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'Guinea pig' vets may get their due

'Guinea pig' vets may get their due
By Lee Davidson
Deseret News
Published: Monday, May 12, 2008 12:04 a.m. MDT,5143,700225121,00.html

Two members of Congress want the federal government to finally provide health care to veterans who were likely exposed to Vietnam War-era chemical and germ warfare tests that were overseen by Utah-based Army scientists.

Reps. Mike Thompson, D-Calif., and Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., have introduced a bill to require the Veterans Affairs Department to assume that toxins in the tests known as Project 112 and Project SHAD caused injury to the veterans, which would make them eligible for medical benefits and/or compensation for illnesses.

The tests were first disclosed by the Deseret News in 1995 through use of the Freedom of Information Act. That happened when the newspaper's help was sought by sailors who participated in at-sea portions of such tests, during which ships sailed through clouds of chemical and germ warfare agents. Sailors suspect that the tests caused unusual illnesses later in their lives.

The tests were overseen by the old Deseret Test Center, which was based at different times at Utah's Fort Douglas and Dugway Proving Ground.

Despite stories by the Deseret News and other media, the Pentagon for years officially denied that the tests occurred. Finally in 2002, the Pentagon said research verified that the tests had happened. But Thompson and Rehberg said many veterans still have been denied health care because they could not prove tests were connected to unusual diseases that many of them suffer. The bill would instruct the VA to make that assumption and provide care.

"For 10 years, I've been fighting to get the government to acknowledge that these extremely dangerous tests made some of our brave veterans sick and even caused some of their deaths," Thompson said.

"These men risked their lives for their country, and in return, the government treated them like guinea pigs and has for years turned its back on them. This legislation will make sure they don't have to wait any longer for the help they need and deserve," he said.

Rehberg added, "Project 112 is one test the Department of Defense has undoubtedly flunked. Now, these brave men and women who served our country have been left to suffer. These veterans deserve quality health care and recognition by their government that it understands what they've had to go through."

Of note, in February the U.S. General Accountability Office released a report saying the military has not done enough to find and contact people who were likely exposed during the old tests.


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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

PROPOSED RELIEF by the Veterans SF Lawsuit

NOTE: Please remember, this is only a PROPOSAL to the Court!

Case 3:07-cv-03758-SC Document 229-2 Filed 05/09/2008


JAMES B. PEAKE, M.D., Secretary of Veterans Affairs, et al.,

Case No. C-07-3758-SC


Complaint Filed: July 23, 2007
Trial Date: April 21, 2008

Article continues below:

On March 3-6, 2008, this Court heard testimony and received evidence on Plaintiffs’ Motion for Preliminary Injunction. Given the serious nature of Plaintiffs’ allegations and evidence presented at that hearing, and the importance of prompt remedial relief if Plaintiffs were to prevail, this Court continued the matter and set an expedited schedule for discovery and for consideration of Plaintiffs’ Request for Permanent Injunction and Declaratory Relief. A bench trial was held from April 21 through April 30, 2008. Numerous witnesses, including percipient and expert witnesses as well as excerpts from videotaped depositions, were presented by the parties.

Having considered all of the evidence and testimony offered by the parties, this Court hereby declares and orders relief as follows:


1. Plaintiffs Veterans for Common Sense (“VCS”) and Veterans United for Truth (“VUFT”) both have numerous members with service-connected death and disability compensation (“SCDDC”) claims, including claims based upon Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (“PTSD”), and/or claims for VA health care under applicable law.


2. The Court hereby adopts and incorporates by reference the rulings and finding it made at the hearing on Plaintiffs’ preliminary injunction motion. (See March 3, 2008 Transcript at 4:19-11:19.)


3. The Court hereby orders relief pursuant to the Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201, as follows: A. Due Process Rights to Health Care and Death and Disability Compensation

4. Applicants and recipients of SCDDC, and veterans eligible for medical care under federal statutes have a property interest in the receipt of such compensation and medical care under the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution (“the Due Process Clause”).

B. Mental Health Care

5. Defendants’ failure to provide timely and effective mental health care to veterans with PTSD, and related or co-occurring conditions such as depression or traumatic brain injury (“TBI”), and/or to veterans exhibiting suicidal intentions or symptoms, constitutes a statutory violation of 38 U.S.C. §§ 1705 and 1710, and that failure constitutes agency action unreasonably delayed under 5 U.S.C. § 706(1).

6. The Court further finds that the VA’s process for resolving clinical disputes about health care treatment violates the Due Process Clause in that it does not apply to refusals to provide care, and even where it does apply, there is no opportunity for any hearing by a neutral decision-maker, the process is unduly complicated and lengthy, and there is no provision for any expedited process that would apply in an emergency situation such as a threatened suicide.

C. Claims Processes for Adjudication of Death and Disability Compensation

7. Delays and waiting times for applicants and recipients filing SCDDC claims or appeals are so lengthy as to constitute an unconstitutional deprivation of property under the Due Process Clause. The unreasonably long processing times are also a violation of 38 U.S.C. § 1110, which states that veterans are entitled to SCDDC. In addition, the long processing times for remands violate the mandate of 38 U.S.C. § 5109B, which requires that remands be handled in an expeditious manner.

8. Given the adversarial and complicated nature of the VA claims processes, the unavailability or lack of utilization of basic procedural protections, such as a right to a pre-decisional hearing and the right to discovery, both alone and in combination with the inability to retain paid counsel at the Regional Office level, constitute an independent violation of the Due Process Clause.

9. The lack of adequate procedural protections for veterans in the adversarial SCDDC claims process at the Regional Office level and the Board of Veterans Appeals, has deprived SCDDC claimants and recipients of meaningful access to the courts and of their right to redress grievances in violation of the First Amendment and the Due Process Clause of the United States Constitution.

10. The informal adoption of the extraordinary awards procedure by the Compensation and Pension Service by means of a Fast Letter dated August 27, 2007 (Exh. P-375-A; and hereafter the “Extraordinary Awards Procedure”), which involves Central Office review of certain Regional Office grant decisions prior to promulgation, has no foundation in any law or regulation governing the adjudication of claims. Therefore, it deprives certain claimants and recipients — those with retroactive awards of over $250,000 or a retroactive award extending over a period in excess of eight years — of their property interest in the receipt of SCDDC under the Due Process Clause.


The Court hereby finds that injunctive relief is justified and appropriate as follows:

A. Enforcement of Duty to Provide Medical Care and Treatment and
Implementation of VHA’s Comprehensive Mental Health Strategic Plan

11. Defendants are hereby enjoined from refusing to provide prompt medical treatment and care, including immediate psychiatric evaluation, to any and all veterans eligible for medical care who present at VA facilities with suicidal intentions or whom Defendants otherwise determine to be suicidal.

12. Within 150 days, Defendants shall fully implement, in all material respects, VA’s existing Comprehensive VHA Mental Health Strategic Plan, and the June 1, 2007, Feeley Memorandum (collectively, the “Plan”), as set forth in Trial Exhibits 398 and 148 and provide the Court with a sworn declaration attesting to the full implementation of each part of the plan;

13. Within 150 days, Defendants shall implement monitoring mechanisms to ensure that the Plan is actually implemented, maintained, and enforced;

14. Within 150 days, Defendants shall implement a mechanism to fairly and accurately assess the effectiveness of the Plan and all of its components; and

15. Within 45 days, the Parties shall meet and confer with a Magistrate Judge of this Court and shall formulate and present to this Court, within 60 days of this Order, a comprehensive plan to effectuate sub-parts (11) through (14), above, and to assure that veterans’ mental health needs are met.

B. Delays and Other Deficiencies in Adjudication of SCDDC Claims and Appeals

16. Defendants are hereby enjoined from applying or taking any administrative action to enforce the provisions of the Extraordinary Awards Procedure;

17. Within 120 days of this Order, Defendants shall implement steps necessary to shorten the current average time period for processing and adjudication of SCDDC claims at the VBA’s Regional Offices and the Board of Veterans Appeals to constitutionally acceptable time periods;

18. Within 90 days of this Order, Defendants shall establish a comprehensive remedial plan to develop and implement procedures to satisfy the requirements of the Due Process Clause, including a right to retain paid counsel, steps to insure the availability of pre-decisonal hearings at the Regional Office adjudication level, and the readjudication of all SCDDC claims where Regional Office grant amounts or retroactive awards were reduced as a result of the Extraordinary Awards Procedure; and

19. Within 45 days of this Order, the Parties shall meet and confer with a Magistrate Judge to formulate and present to the Court, within 60 days of this Order, a comprehensive plan for expediting each stage of the claims process for deciding SCDDC claims and appeals. The objective of this element of the plan is to insure that all backlogs are reduced or eliminated, and that waiting times are brought within constitutional limits, as soon as possible.


This Court shall retain continuing jurisdiction over this matter to ensure that this Order is implemented and followed.


DATED: , 2008 __

United States Senior District Court Judge


posted by Larry Scott
Founder and Editor
VA Watchdog dot Org

Last time this is what the veterans are asking for there is no indication yet on what Judge Conti will do this is the wish list only

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