Note: Some Veterans have always had problems in this country: homelessness, mental illness, and coping with stresses of military life generally. Now, veterans have their own court in Buffalo.
It makes sense. The spectrum of specialized courts includes drug courts, bankruptcy courts, mental health courts, family courts, gun courts, and truancy courts, to name a few. All have similar goals: to solve a cluster of problems.
The problem-clusters faced by veterans are manifold: dissolution, custody/parenting, benefits, substance abuse, mental health, even traffic issues caused by PTSD or the simple lack of civilian driving skills.
Pass this on to your`area Judges, officials.. this needs to spread across the US
also see this article: http://artvoice.com/issues/v7n9/dulling_the_impact_of_war
“Make no mistake on this,” Pirowski says. “It would be easier for these guys to go to jail and do their time. It’s not a soft on crime thing at all. They’re under strict community supervision and they’re held to a high standard.”
Buffalo Veteran's Court, Only One In U.S.
Posted by: Josh Boose, Reporter
Created: 5/22/2008 8:34:14 PM, Updated: 5/23/2008 11:51:53 AM
There's a new program in Buffalo aimed at helping local veterans.
It's called Veteran's Court. It's a program designed by the Buffalo City Court to keep non-violent offenders, who are veterans, out of jail.
2 On Your Side's Josh Boose asked Judge Robert Russell, "Did you see veterans locally here, falling through the cracks in a sense?"
"We seemed to notice, here locally, we may have been working with veterans in a drug treatment court, we worked with a number of veterans in a mental health treatment track; however, when one veteran was working with one veteran, peer to peer, it appeared to increase our probability of success with that population," said Russell.
After a year of planning, Veteran's Court kicked-off in January.
Here's what happens: If a veteran is arrested for a non-violent offense, they can ask to enter Veteran's Court where they can get proper treatment, mentors who can help them and assistance with any military benefits from the Veteran's Hospital.
"It's a group that many may not have the same degree or understanding or appreciation for," said Russell.
There are some strict rules, if you're in the program you must remain sober, lead a law abiding life and find a stable job or schooling.
Judge Russell says there are no additional costs. The court expenses already exist and there are some volunteers.
"So there's no out of pocket expenses for the city or something like that," Boose asked Russell.
"No," the judge replied.
So far, Buffalo is the only city in the country to focus in on the needs of veterans like this.
Russell and Buffalo City Court Projects Director Hank Pirowski say it's something other cities are taking note of.
"Where do you see this a year from now," Boose asked Pirowski.
"One hundred vets without a problem in the next twelve to eighteen months and I hope to see 15, 20, 25 other veteran's courts open across the country," he replied.
Right now about 35 veterans are in the program. They are right in the middle of it now. Those who complete the program will graduate at the beginning of next year.
Veterans who need some help but are not violating the law in anyway can go through the program too. For more information about Veteran’s Court, call 716-845-2697.
Saturday, May 24, 2008
Note: Some Veterans have always had problems in this country: homelessness, mental illness, and coping with stresses of military life generally. Now, veterans have their own court in Buffalo.
Star dust Radio network online
Memorial Day In Waterloo, New York Stardust Radio Network is proud to bring two of the network’s regular shows together in a special effort to reach across the globe from Waterloo, NY to the MidEast on this Memorial Day weekend, so that Americans at home can speak directly with deployed troops and express appreciation to these military members for their service. Hosts Gene Simes and Jere Berry of the VFVC show will be on the ground in Waterloo, NY while hosts Judi & Jeff of the United We Roll World Tour Show will be on the phone from the studios in Iowa and Florida, arranging the connections with our troops a world away. The broadcast of this event can be heard in the park in Waterloo, NY and on Stardust Radio at www.stardustradio.com or locally in Riverside, Iowa on 1690AM. This special broadcast on Stardust Radio will begin at 10:30am Eastern time / 9:30am Central time on Saturday 5/24/08 and again on Sunday 5/25/08. *Tune in every Tuesday between 2pm and 4pm Central time for the United We Roll World Tour Show to hear interviews with our deployed military members and real news both from and about our Heroes of Freedom, their families & Veterans. Call in toll free 877-213-4329. Memorial Day With ARMAD & Stardust Radio On Saturday 5/24, ARMAD (www.armad.net) will hold their annual Military Appreciation Day from 10am to 4pm Eastern time. This has become a very big event in Indiana and has sister groups that have sprung up around the country. This event will be attended by military units in addition to many civilian officials, celebrities, community members, families and media. Amateur Radio Operators will be setup to send messages around the world, including to/from troops and families. Stardust Radio is participating this year through the addition of a Chat Star room for ARMAD. This will allow family members and/or troops who can not physically attend the event in Indiana, to still attend thru Chat Star and to give messages for the radio operators to send on to troops around the world. To be a part of the ARMAD & Stardust Radio Memorial Appreciation Day: Go to www.stardustradio.com Click on the Chat Star white & gold box Download software - minimal space & no attachments Follow the on screen directions When In Chat Star, Go To ARMAD Room (See List Of Rooms On Left) *Signing up on May 24th may be very slow due to the anticipated activity and may reach maximum capacity at times – Your patience is appreciated.
May 23, 2008
Veterans' Benefits Bill Wins Approval in Senate
By ROBERT PEAR
WASHINGTON - Twenty-five Republican senators broke with President Bush and
voted Thursday for a major expansion of veterans' benefits as part of a bill
to finance another year of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The proposal, adopted by a vote of 75 to 22, also provides money for
extended unemployment insurance benefits and other domestic programs to
which Mr. Bush has objected.
The size of the vote surprised Republican leaders, provided fresh evidence
of the president's lame-duck status and suggested that election-year
politics had fractured Republican unity.
While 25 Republicans supported the proposal, 22 opposed it. Forty-eight
Democrats and two independents voted for the bipartisan measure, drafted by
two Vietnam veterans, Senators Jim Webb, Democrat of Virginia, and Chuck
Hagel, Republican of Nebraska.
The proposal on veterans' benefits was approved by a veto-proof majority,
with support from conservative Republican senators including Saxby Chambliss
of Georgia, James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma and John Thune of South Dakota.
The bill now goes back to the House, where its future course is somewhat
uncertain. The House had endorsed a similar expansion of education benefits
for veterans, but has also adopted policy measures to speed the withdrawal
of American troops from Iraq. The Senate rejected efforts to limit the
president's hand in Iraq.
Senators John W. Warner, Republican of Virginia, and Frank R. Lautenberg,
Democrat of New Jersey, said they were in the Senate today because of the
help they had received under an earlier G.I. Bill.
Mr. Hagel said the new legislation "fulfills the commitment that America
made in 1944, and has continued, to honor every generation of veterans since
World War II."
The White House and the Pentagon said they feared that the bill would
encourage men and women to leave the armed forces and enroll in college with
federal aid, at a time when the military already has difficulty retaining
troops to fight abroad.
But Mr. Webb and other supporters of the bill said the benefits would help
the armed forces recruit and retain personnel.
"There are no politics here," Mr. Webb said. "This is about taking care of
the people who have taken care of us."
Under the bill, veterans who have served in the armed forces for at least
three years since Sept. 11, 2001, could receive tuition assistance up to the
cost of attending the most expensive public college in their state, plus a
monthly housing stipend.
The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the new veterans benefits
would cost $52 billion in the next decade. The bill does not specify how the
cost would be met.
The bill won broad support with an assortment of domestic policy items,
including a moratorium on Bush administration rules that would cut Medicaid
payments to the states.
Governors of both parties oppose the rules, which would reduce federal
payments for public hospitals, teaching hospitals and services to the
disabled, among others. New York, which trains 15 percent of the nation's
doctors, would be particularly affected.
After the vote, Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, said, "We
are one step closer to making sure these devastating regulations never see
the light of day."
The bill also includes money for housing and levees devastated by Hurricane
Katrina, heating subsidies for low-income families, the space shuttle
program, the Food and Drug Administration, biomedical research, roads and
bridges, federal prisons, grants to local police departments, aid to rural
schools, suppression of wildfires and preparations for the 2010 census.
The bill would extend unemployment benefits by 13 weeks nationwide, with an
additional 13 weeks for workers in states with high unemployment.
Congress also gave final approval on Thursday to a separate bill providing
more than $1.2 billion in tax relief to veterans and members of the armed
forces. The legislation includes tax cuts for members of the military who
are receiving combat pay, saving for retirement or buying homes. It would
help civilian employers keep jobs available for workers called to active
Just before the Senate vote on veterans' benefits, President Bush, speaking
to soldiers at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, urged Congress to send him a
clean bill, free of extra domestic spending.
"Congress needs to pass a responsible war funding bill that does not tie the
hands of our commanders, and gives our troops everything they need to
complete and accomplish the mission," Mr. Bush said.
Jim Nussle, director of the White House Office of Management and Budget,
said the president would veto the measure because it included too much money
for domestic programs.
"It's disappointing and irresponsible that Congress has failed to complete
action on a bill that funds our troops prior to Memorial Day," Mr. Nussle
said. In linking domestic programs to war spending, he said, Congress is
pursuing a "cynical strategy."
But Senator Robert C. Byrd, the West Virginia Democrat who is chairman of
the Senate Appropriations Committee, said the administration's priorities
"When it comes to Iraq, it appears that money is no object for President
Bush," Mr. Byrd said. "Yet when it comes to important priorities here at
home, he turns into Ebenezer Scrooge."
Friday, May 23, 2008
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In this digital world and online credit activity this is one of the best free websites I have seen spend a few minutes and test yourself on how well protetcted you are online....it's your money
Camp for Kids Coping With Parents at War
On Saturday, 6-year-old Hunter Morgan went to camp for the very first time.
Trained counselors help children who have had a parent injured at war.
More PhotosBut this was no typical summer camp. Hunter spent the day at Camp Cope in San Antonio, a day camp specifically designed for children of deployed, injured and fallen service members.
More than 1.5 million troops have deployed in the last five years, meaning that as many as 700,000 children in this country have at least one parent deployed. And, according to the Department of Defense, there are at least 12,000 children with an injured parent. While their parents have been recognized for their service, these children are also veterans -- they each bear the wounds of war.
Hunter's father, Scott, was wounded in Taji, Iraq, in 2004, just two days before he was scheduled to return home. A mortar landed five feet in front of him, throwing him against a wall and shattering the femur bones in his legs.
"One minute I was standing there and I blinked my eyes and -- boom, bam -- I woke up and I was on the ground," Scott said.
PHOTOS: Helping Kids Cope with Parents in CombatTop Docs Bring Hope to Scarred VetsCoping Through CampScott now has a titanium rod and plate in his legs, and difficulty walking. In addition to the damage to his legs, the explosion rattled his brain, leaving him with traumatic brain injury and memory loss. He also suffers from severe post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, and says he has even contemplated suicide.
"I feel like I left a part of me over there that can't be replaced," he said. "Now I get angry a lot, a lot more than normal."
Scott's wife, Melanie, can see the change in her husband's eyes. "He's not what he used to be," she said tearfully. "He's been hurt for four years, we've been together 10, and he's completely different. The anger is extreme and I've never had to deal with that."
Scott's injuries have left him with day-to-day physical difficulties that cause Hunter extreme anxiety. One day, when Melanie was out of the house, Scott fell down in the backyard and could not get up because he has very limited movement in his legs. This was traumatic for Hunter, who is so fearful that he is afraid to leave his father's side because he believes that something will happen to his dad.
"I want him to able to leave the house and not be scared that something is going to happen to me," Scott said.
Children of deployed and injured service members gather for a special kind of day camp -- Camp Cope -- where they play games to deal with the stresses of their parents' service.
More PhotosScott also worries that his anger is hurting his son. Melanie tries to explain to Hunter that Scott's depression and rage are a result of his injuries, but she knows that Hunter doesn't understand and blames himself for his father's outbursts. To help him cope, she gave him a journal where he could write down his feelings.
What he wrote brought his father to tears. "Dear Journal," wrote Hunter. "My bad days are with Daddy."
"It just breaks my heart," said Scott. "I read it and I just sat there and cried."
Though Scott is getting treatment for his PTSD and depression, he and Melanie knew that Hunter needed help coping with his issues as well. That's why they sent him to Camp Cope.
The counselors at Camp Cope are experienced with the pain that children like Hunter go through as a result of their parents' injuries.
PHOTOS: Camp of the BraveHeroic Iraqi's New Kentucky HomePHOTOS: Bob Woodruff's Miraculous RecoveryCo-founders Sarah Balint-Bravo and Elizabeth Reep designed the camp, which is in its third year, as a way to offer these children a variety of therapeutic activities to help them deal with the stress of having their parents deployed or wounded.
"They think that they're just there having a good time," explained Reep. "But the activities are indirect, and they help them to talk about what they've experienced, and to learn new ways to cope with that in a group setting where they're able to do that with other children of service members that have been injured or deployed."
"I learned about worry dolls. … I can place my fear there," said one child who attended the camp.
For Hunter, who is the only child at his school with a wounded parent, Camp Cope was an opportunity to meet others in the same situation and a first step toward opening up about his feelings.
"I can talk about my dad," he said Saturday after spending some time at the camp. "I know what to do if I get upset."
Balint-Bravo and Reep want to make sure this opportunity is available for other children in Hunter's situation and hope to expand Camp Cope as much as possible in the future.
"We plan to take this across the nation," Reep said. "We're not stopping until we see every child!"
please visit the ABC link and see the photos and videos available there this is a great piece
VA Official Press Release 23 May 2008
America Recognizes Military Sacrifices on Memorial Day
Veterans Urged to Wear Medals with Pride
WASHINGTON (May 23, 2008) - From concerts to somber ceremonies and a
moment of silence, Americans from coast to coast will recall the
sacrifices of military members who paid the ultimate price for freedom
on Memorial Day, Monday, May 26.
"This is our nation's day to remember its debt to those whose sacrifice
in blood and battle secured a legacy of liberty for future generations,"
said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Dr. James B. Peake.
He reminded veterans to wear their military medals on Memorial Day, a
practice called the Veterans Pride Initiative launched by the Department
of Veterans Affairs (VA) in 2006.
The personal exhibition of service medals on patriotic holidays is one
way for veterans to show their support of the U.S. military and
particularly those serving in the Global War on Terror, and to inspire
conversation about military heritage with young people.
Information for veterans about the wearing of medals and how to replace
lost medals is available at http://www.va.gov/veteranspride/.
A tradition dating to the 19th Century after the Civil War and
originally called Decoration Day, Memorial Day is marked at VA
facilities across the country, especially VA's national cemeteries,
whose commemorative events honor about 1 million American men and women
who died in service during wartime periods, including more than 651,000
This year, more than 100,000 people are expected to attend activities at
VA's national cemeteries, with color guards, ceremonies honoring
decorated veterans, and band and choir performances.
Some national cemeteries will feature an "Avenue of Flags" flanking both
sides of the curb line, usually along the main entrance road, sometimes
consisting of burial flags donated by the next of kin of veterans who
are buried in these national shrines. Other national cemeteries may
place individual flags at gravesites.
VA's 125 national cemeteries include 10 opened in the past nine years.
Another six cemeteries are under development. VA currently maintains
17,000 acres where 2.8 million gravesites are located. By 2010,
veterans burial space is expected to be available to 90 percent of
veterans within 75 miles of where they live.
Directions to VA's national cemeteries and a guide to their Memorial Day
activities are available at
http://www.cem.va.gov/cem/cems/2008MemorialDay.asp. General information
about Memorial Day, including its history, a commemorative poster and
activities links, may be found at
VA is a cosponsor with the White House Commission on Remembrance of an
annual Moment of Remembrance at 3 p.m. Eastern time, nationwide on
Memorial Day, a time to pause and reflect on the valor of the fallen and
the bond of freedoms that unite Americans. Many institutions will pause
their activities -- from sporting events to announcements in public
facilities -- to call the nation together to share its common bond in
It's been a remarkable week for us. Thanks to your activism in spreading our videos and getting the word out about our campaigns, we've had tremendous success on several fronts:
Because of you, John McCain was compelled to reject the endorsements from bigoted pastors Rev. John Hagee and Rev. Rod Parsley today! We've been working with David Corn of Mother Jones for a while to tell the truth about McCain's pastor problem, since the corporate media wouldn't. By passing that video along, you helped us catch the media's eye and pressure McCain to reject those hate-filled endorsements—something that should have happened a long time ago.
Also because of you, the GI Bill for the 21st Century passed 75-22. Congress saw beyond John McCain's hypocritical, unfounded objections and is going to provide our vets the educational benefits they deserve.
passed the Senate yesterday with an overwhelming majority,
From the outset, we recognized McCain's hypocrisy in refusing to co-sponsor this bill. And so we teamed up with WesPAC and Vote Vets to create a highly successful campaign that generated over 35,000 signatures! Clearly, this proved to be an effective way to pressure Congress.
Another way you've made a real difference is in promoting The Real McCain 2, which has received an astounding 1 million views since we launched it last Sunday! If you haven't already done so, check out this immensely popular video and pass it to your friends and colleagues. It's the only way to get the truth out about McCain.
Finally, our $3 trillion virtual shopping spree has caught fire! It has drawn 1.4 million shoppers, hit #1 on YouTube News and Politics, and received praise from all over the Internet. This fun online game where you try to spend $3 trillion (what the Bush administration has spent on the war) has also attracted celebrity shoppers like John Cusack, Laurie David, Gloria Steinem, Phil Donahue, and even Michael Bailey.
But while 1.4 million is a tremendous number, our ultimate goal is to get 3 trillion shoppers! John Cusack, star of the film War, Inc. which opens tonight in LA and NY, is assisting us in that endeavor with this contest:
Whoever can get the most people to fill out a shopping cart by emailing their cart or sending a gift certificate, will receive a real gift certificate for free movie tickets to War, Inc. (Contest ends Memorial Day at midnight ET)
War, Inc. satirizes war profiteers, who in real life have made millions while the American public faces an Iraq War Recession. According to Cusack, "KBR, Halliburton and the other war profiteers have made out like bandits in Iraq, while taxpayers and their own workers get screwed." By going to see War, Inc. and playing the $3 trillion shopping spree you help connect the dots between the Iraq War, its profiteers, and our ailing economy.
But our work is far from over. The Bush administration continues to plunge us further into this Iraq War Recession; the corporate media continues its blind love for McCain; and Bush has already vowed to veto the GI Bill, despite the fact that it would make him the first president in history to deny benefits to vets.
Please become a $10 monthly subscriber, and help us continue creating the hard-hitting, accurate reporting that the corporate media won't attempt.
Have a pleasant Memorial Day!
and the Brave New Team
Brave New Films is committed to providing high quality political videos for free so they can be easily shared. Please support our work by becoming a monthly $10 subscriber. You can receive our latest videos on iTunes, Facebook and YouTube here, and it's always easy to stop receiving videos. Brave New Films is located at 10510 Culver Blvd, Culver City, CA 90232 and firstname.lastname@example.org
The PTSD News Ladder
It appears to be a good idea and may help many active duty and veterans with issues related to PTSD
Welcome to a very important NewsLadder - one dedicated to sharing news, information and articles about PTSD, post traumatic stress disorder, a mental health issue that afflicts thousands of current servicemembers and impacts their families.
The PTSD NewsLadder is a community where news, articles, photos, videos, blog posts and anything else that you can link to can be put up for all to see and share.
This is the site where the news is by, about what is happening with this issue and what you can do about it - we encourage you to join the PTSD NewsLadder and help us help everyone struggling with PTSD. All you have to do is sign up, sign in and link to stories you see that you think are interesting. You vote stories up the ladder simply by clicking the plus or minus buttons under the large number to the left.
So welcome, we hope you will find this site useful and helpful. Please share it with your friends.
Most Active Communities
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Morning Express with Robin Meade to Salute Troops for Memorial Day
CNN has special tribute for military folks on this Memorial Day Week end spread the word, please
In preparation for Memorial Day weekend coverage, Headline News has been soliciting iReports – videos, photos and audio content submitted by the public – to honor military personnel. Select “Salute to Troops” iReports will air on Morning Express with Robin Meade on Memorial Day, Monday, May 26, from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. (ET).
Morning Express viewers and CNN.com users are asked to send their thoughts and wishes for U.S. military personnel to iReport.com, CNN Worldwide’s first uncensored, unfiltered, unedited, user-generated community Web site. Current “Salute to Troops” iReports include submissions from mothers wishing safety for their sons and daughters in active duty; tributes to those who lost their lives during service and even one from a South African couple thanking the U.S. troops and wishing all Americans a happy Memorial Day.
Additionally, Headline News set up an iReport submission station on Armed Forces Day on Saturday, May 17, at the Lincoln Memorial reflecting pool in Washington, D.C., so visitors could record and submit their wishes and sentiments for all those serving or who have served in the U.S. military. All “Salute to Troops” iReports can be viewed at www.iReport.com/Salute.
Morning Express with Robin Meade features a daily “Salute to Troops” segment designed to pay homage to military personnel and their families. These segments also can be viewed on the “Salute to Troops” blog at www.CNN.com/Robin.
For 2008 to date, Morning Express with Robin Meade is up 21 percent in total viewers and up 10 percent in P25-54, the advertiser demographic.
Select Memorial Day iReport tributes will appear across CNN's networks and services over the weekend.
Headline News, a division of Turner Broadcasting System, Inc., a Time Warner Company, updates viewers constantly, 24 hours each day, with complete and concise national newscasts throughout the day and a compelling slate of legal, entertainment and talk programs during Headline Prime at night. The network delivers fast-paced, lively and engaging news, using the best resources of CNN Worldwide. Headline News is designed especially for viewers who want relevant and comprehensive news in a way that suits the urgency of their schedules.
Bridget Leininger Atlanta 404/827-1621 email@example.com.
Karen Varga-Sinka Atlanta 404/575-7187 firstname.lastname@example.org
VA GIVES THUMBS-DOWN TO LEGISLATION THAT WOULD HELP
WOMEN VETERANS -- VA says it doesn't have the money.
Sen. Patty Murray says: "I almost come out of my chair when I
hear that. If they need more money, then they should ask for it."
For more about women veterans, use the VA Watchdog search engine...click here...
Story here... http://www.thenewstribune.com/news/local/story/369807.html
Bill on female vets gets VA thumbs-down
WASHINGTON – The Department of Veterans Affairs said Wednesday that it opposes much of Sen. Patty Murray’s bill to improve care for female veterans, even as the number of women seeking VA medical services is expected to double within the next five years.
A top VA official admitted during a Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing that the agency might not be prepared for the anticipated influx of female veterans.
“We recognize there may well be gaps in services for women veterans, especially given the VA designed its clinics and services based on data when women comprised a much smaller percentage of those serving in the armed forces,” said Gerald Cross, the VA’s principal deputy undersecretary for health.
But Cross said the VA opposes many sections of the bill sponsored by Murray, a Washington state Democrat.
The agency’s concerns cover new studies of the physical and mental health problems female veterans faced and how the department was dealing with them. Cross said that would overlap with existing studies under way and would cost millions of dollars that could better be spent on health care services.
The VA also opposed sections that would require mental health workers to get special training on how to care for female victims of military sexual trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder, to require additional staff to deal with female veterans and to provide child care for veterans seeking VA care. The agency’s concerns about those proposals involved cost, necessity and a preference to let each region or hospital decide how to allocate its staffing.
The VA does support a provision requiring each VA medical center to have at least one full-time employee acting as a female veterans program manager and would require the department’s Advisory Committee on Women Veterans to include women who recently left the military.
“We are addressing the gaps with a number of initiatives,” Cross said. “We are absolutely committed to making (female veterans) welcome.”
“Making them welcome and addressing their needs are two different things,” Murray responded. “It’s important we focus laserlike on this.”
Women make up 14 percent of active-duty, National Guard and Reserve forces. About 180,000 have served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In addition, there are about 1.7 million female veterans, and the VA is providing health care to about 253,000. That number is expected to double within five years.
Murray said female veterans have long been reluctant to voice their concerns.
“The voices of women are no longer whispers,” she said. “Today, they are full-throated calls for equal access to care at the VA.”
The committee is scheduled to vote on Murray’s bill June 26.
The senator said after the hearing that she was particularly upset with the VA for saying it didn’t have the money to implement major provisions in her bill.
“That irritates me,” she said. “I almost come out of my chair when I hear that. If they need more money, then they should ask for it.”
“At least they didn’t say no, no, no,” she said. “I’ve been around long enough to know the VA doesn’t want anyone telling them what to do. But I know if you don’t tell them, they do what they want.”
“I give them some credit. They recognize the barriers to women’s care,” she added. “I am saying they need to do something about it.”
Les Blumenthal: 202-383-0008
posted by Larry Scott
Founder and Editor
VA Watchdog dot Org
MEMORIAL DAY SPECIAL FROM JOE GALLOWAY: HOW WE
CAN REALLY HONOR OUR VETERANS -- Edit the yellow-
ribbon magnet to say: Support Our Troops - As Long As It
Doesn't Cost Anything. And, God help us if they all get
college degrees and figure out what we've done to them.
Joe Galloway on Memorial Day 2008
Memorial Day is upon us again, and the more traditional towns will be flying flags and hosting parades and holding ceremonies to honor the million American soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen who've fallen in the wars of history and in the wars of today.
It is good to honor the fallen and to comfort the families and friends who mourn one among them whose death broke their hearts.
This year, however, I'll depart from tradition and ask that we reflect less on our fallen comrades who are at peace, and more on those veterans - especially those from our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan - who are alive and need our help.
How strange that today in our country, in a time of war, battles are raging over the need for medical care, educational benefits, employment opportunities and assistance for those who've served honorably and come home to begin new lives in a nation they risked their lives to defend.
The shameful thing is that most of those battles are being waged against the very government, the very bureaucracies, the very politicians who sent those young men and women to war in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Maybe the right word here isn't shameful, but criminal.
On Capitol Hill, our lawmakers debate the pros and cons of a new GI Bill that would provide our latest combat veterans with education benefits at least equal to those that their grandfathers received when they came home from winning World War II.
Our president has threatened to veto that bill if Congress passes it. The Republican candidate to succeed him, Sen. John McCain, a veteran and former prisoner of war himself, refuses to support that GI Bill and offers a watered down, cheaper substitute.
The Pentagon and the Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, a former university president, oppose better educational benefits for veterans, for fear that offering them might entice more young troops to leave the service for the campus.
This is odd, coming as it does from a president who talks a lot about supporting our troops, from a senator who draws a 100 percent military disability pension and from a former college president who surely knows the value of higher education.
Others among us wage endless battles and rage against the very agency charged with providing medical care, disability pensions, mental health care and counseling and, yes, the parsimonious educational benefits for all who've served and sacrificed for our country - the Veterans Administration (VA).
In recent months, VA officials have been caught providing false statistics that far understate the true number of veterans, old and young, who commit suicide. They've ordered doctors to diagnose fewer cases of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and to substitute a diagnosis of a lesser, temporary stress disorder.
The young people marching home from war and trying to rejoin civilian society, get a job and start a life aren't having much luck, either. The government's own statistics show that fully a quarter of returning veterans are employed in jobs that pay wages that put them below the poverty line, or less than $21,000 a year if they're single.
Marine Maj. Gen. (ret.) Matt Caulfield of Oceanside, Calif., knows that the young men and women leaving military service today are the finest he's ever known in a long career in uniform - yet they're having a hard time finding good jobs.
"The CEO's and chairmen in industry all say how their companies want to hire veterans," Caulfield told me. "But this is simply not translating downward to the people who do the interviews and make the hiring decisions. A veteran is someone alien to your average corporate hiring manager, who is a 28-year-old woman with a college degree."
Caulfield, a veteran of two combat tours in Vietnam, said that government and industry are both failing miserably in providing job opportunities for this new generation of veterans. He called it a scandal when some of the best and brightest and most motivated of their generation are consigned to jobs flipping burgers or, worse, to the street corners in big cities where they hold up cardboard signs that advertise: "Homeless Veteran - Will Work for Food."
So let's review the bidding here this Memorial Day.
Let's all pay lip service to Support Our Troops. But if we want to be honest, we should edit those yellow-ribbon bumper stickers to say Support Our Troops - As Long As It Doesn't Cost Anything.
Let's acknowledge that this new generation of soldiers and Marines is amazingly motivated and talented. They're expected to be good killers, good diplomats and ambassadors of American goodwill who operate under impossibly complex rules of engagement in impossibly dangerous and deadly environments.
But if they come home wounded, their brains rattled by the huge IED's of the new way of war, and if they suffer the horrors of PTSD nightmares and flashbacks, let's dump them on the streets with the least amount of help and benefits possible, as cheaply as possible.
For sure we don't want to improve their chances, better their future prospects, by offering them the same college benefits we gave their grandfathers six decades ago. God help us if they all get college degrees and figure out what we've done to them.
Joseph L. Galloway is a military columnist for McClatchy Newspapers and a former senior military correspondent for Knight Ridder Newspapers; he is co-author of the national best-seller "We Were Soldiers Once ... and Young." Readers may write to him at: P.
Sphere: Related Content
A Vietnam widows fight with the VA over her husbands death at age 58 from medical problems they consider are related to Agent Orange and the VA states the medical problems are not.
VIDEO: VIETNAM VET'S WIDOW CLAIMS AGENT ORANGE
KILLED HIM AS VA DENIES BENEFITS -- From WTVD Channel
11 Eyewitness News, Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
Senator Webbs GI Bill passes with a veto proof vote
U.S. Senate Roll Call Votes 110th Congress - 2nd Session
as compiled through Senate LIS by the Senate Bill Clerk under the direction of the Secretary of the Senate
Question: On the Motion (Motion to Concur in the House Amendment No. 2 with Amdt. No. 4803 )
Vote Number: 137 Vote Date: May 22, 2008, 11:42 AM
Required For Majority: 2/3 Vote Result: Motion Agreed to
Amendment Number: S.Amdt. 4803 to H.R. 2642 (Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2008)
Statement of Purpose: In the nature of substitute.
Vote Counts: YEAs 75
Not Voting 3
Vote Summary By Senator Name By Vote Position By Home State
Alphabetical by Senator Name Akaka (D-HI), Yea
Alexander (R-TN), Nay
Allard (R-CO), Nay
Barrasso (R-WY), Nay
Baucus (D-MT), Yea
Bayh (D-IN), Yea
Bennett (R-UT), Nay
Biden (D-DE), Yea
Bingaman (D-NM), Yea
Bond (R-MO), Yea
Boxer (D-CA), Yea
Brown (D-OH), Yea
Brownback (R-KS), Nay
Bunning (R-KY), Nay
Burr (R-NC), Nay
Byrd (D-WV), Yea
Cantwell (D-WA), Yea
Cardin (D-MD), Yea
Carper (D-DE), Yea
Casey (D-PA), Yea
Chambliss (R-GA), Yea
Clinton (D-NY), Yea
Coburn (R-OK), Not Voting
Cochran (R-MS), Nay
Coleman (R-MN), Yea
Collins (R-ME), Yea
Conrad (D-ND), Yea
Corker (R-TN), Nay
Cornyn (R-TX), Nay
Craig (R-ID), Yea
Crapo (R-ID), Yea
DeMint (R-SC), Nay
Dodd (D-CT), Yea
Dole (R-NC), Yea
Domenici (R-NM), Yea
Dorgan (D-ND), Yea
Durbin (D-IL), Yea
Ensign (R-NV), Nay
Enzi (R-WY), Nay
Feingold (D-WI), Yea
Feinstein (D-CA), Yea
Graham (R-SC), Nay
Grassley (R-IA), Nay
Gregg (R-NH), Nay
Hagel (R-NE), Yea
Harkin (D-IA), Yea
Hatch (R-UT), Nay
Hutchison (R-TX), Yea
Inhofe (R-OK), Yea
Inouye (D-HI), Yea
Isakson (R-GA), Yea
Johnson (D-SD), Yea
Kennedy (D-MA), Not Voting
Kerry (D-MA), Yea
Klobuchar (D-MN), Yea
Kohl (D-WI), Yea
Kyl (R-AZ), Nay
Landrieu (D-LA), Yea
Lautenberg (D-NJ), Yea
Leahy (D-VT), Yea
Levin (D-MI), Yea
Lieberman (ID-CT), Yea
Lincoln (D-AR), Yea
Lugar (R-IN), Nay
Martinez (R-FL), Yea
McCain (R-AZ), Not Voting
McCaskill (D-MO), Yea
McConnell (R-KY), Nay
Menendez (D-NJ), Yea
Mikulski (D-MD), Yea
Murkowski (R-AK), Yea
Murray (D-WA), Yea
Nelson (D-FL), Yea
Nelson (D-NE), Yea
Obama (D-IL), Yea
Pryor (D-AR), Yea
Reed (D-RI), Yea
Reid (D-NV), Yea
Roberts (R-KS), Yea
Rockefeller (D-WV), Yea
Salazar (D-CO), Yea
Sanders (I-VT), Yea
Schumer (D-NY), Yea
Sessions (R-AL), Nay
Shelby (R-AL), Yea
Smith (R-OR), Yea
Snowe (R-ME), Yea
Specter (R-PA), Yea
Stabenow (D-MI), Yea
Stevens (R-AK), Yea
Sununu (R-NH), Yea
Tester (D-MT), Yea
Thune (R-SD), Yea
Vitter (R-LA), Yea
Voinovich (R-OH), Nay
Warner (R-VA), Yea
Webb (D-VA), Yea
Whitehouse (D-RI), Yea
Wicker (R-MS), Yea
Wyden (D-OR), Yea
Vote Summary By Senator Name By Vote Position By Home State
Grouped By Vote Position YEAs ---75
Not Voting - 3
Vote Summary By Senator Name By Vote Position By Home State
Grouped by Home State Alabama: Sessions (R-AL), Nay Shelby (R-AL), Yea
Alaska: Murkowski (R-AK), Yea Stevens (R-AK), Yea
Arizona: Kyl (R-AZ), Nay McCain (R-AZ), Not Voting
Arkansas: Lincoln (D-AR), Yea Pryor (D-AR), Yea
California: Boxer (D-CA), Yea Feinstein (D-CA), Yea
Colorado: Allard (R-CO), Nay Salazar (D-CO), Yea
Connecticut: Dodd (D-CT), Yea Lieberman (ID-CT), Yea
Delaware: Biden (D-DE), Yea Carper (D-DE), Yea
Florida: Martinez (R-FL), Yea Nelson (D-FL), Yea
Georgia: Chambliss (R-GA), Yea Isakson (R-GA), Yea
Hawaii: Akaka (D-HI), Yea Inouye (D-HI), Yea
Idaho: Craig (R-ID), Yea Crapo (R-ID), Yea
Illinois: Durbin (D-IL), Yea Obama (D-IL), Yea
Indiana: Bayh (D-IN), Yea Lugar (R-IN), Nay
Iowa: Grassley (R-IA), Nay Harkin (D-IA), Yea
Kansas: Brownback (R-KS), Nay Roberts (R-KS), Yea
Kentucky: Bunning (R-KY), Nay McConnell (R-KY), Nay
Louisiana: Landrieu (D-LA), Yea Vitter (R-LA), Yea
Maine: Collins (R-ME), Yea Snowe (R-ME), Yea
Maryland: Cardin (D-MD), Yea Mikulski (D-MD), Yea
Massachusetts: Kennedy (D-MA), Not Voting Kerry (D-MA), Yea
Michigan: Levin (D-MI), Yea Stabenow (D-MI), Yea
Minnesota: Coleman (R-MN), Yea Klobuchar (D-MN), Yea
Mississippi: Cochran (R-MS), Nay Wicker (R-MS), Yea
Missouri: Bond (R-MO), Yea McCaskill (D-MO), Yea
Montana: Baucus (D-MT), Yea Tester (D-MT), Yea
Nebraska: Hagel (R-NE), Yea Nelson (D-NE), Yea
Nevada: Ensign (R-NV), Nay Reid (D-NV), Yea
New Hampshire: Gregg (R-NH), Nay Sununu (R-NH), Yea
New Jersey: Lautenberg (D-NJ), Yea Menendez (D-NJ), Yea
New Mexico: Bingaman (D-NM), Yea Domenici (R-NM), Yea
New York: Clinton (D-NY), Yea Schumer (D-NY), Yea
North Carolina: Burr (R-NC), Nay Dole (R-NC), Yea
North Dakota: Conrad (D-ND), Yea Dorgan (D-ND), Yea
Ohio: Brown (D-OH), Yea Voinovich (R-OH), Nay
Oklahoma: Coburn (R-OK), Not Voting Inhofe (R-OK), Yea
Oregon: Smith (R-OR), Yea Wyden (D-OR), Yea
Pennsylvania: Casey (D-PA), Yea Specter (R-PA), Yea
Rhode Island: Reed (D-RI), Yea Whitehouse (D-RI), Yea
South Carolina: DeMint (R-SC), Nay Graham (R-SC), Nay
South Dakota: Johnson (D-SD), Yea Thune (R-SD), Yea
Tennessee: Alexander (R-TN), Nay Corker (R-TN), Nay
Texas: Cornyn (R-TX), Nay Hutchison (R-TX), Yea
Utah: Bennett (R-UT), Nay Hatch (R-UT), Nay
Vermont: Leahy (D-VT), Yea Sanders (I-VT), Yea
Virginia: Warner (R-VA), Yea Webb (D-VA), Yea
Washington: Cantwell (D-WA), Yea Murray (D-WA), Yea
West Virginia: Byrd (D-WV), Yea Rockefeller (D-WV), Yea
Wisconsin: Feingold (D-WI), Yea Kohl (D-WI), Yea
Wyoming: Barrasso (R-WY), Nay Enzi (R-WY), Nay
Vote Summary By Senator Name By Vote Position By Home State
Senator Webb SALUTE and thank you from all of America's military members, they derved this and thank you for fighting for this, for them you are a soldiers soldier Sir
Foot-and-mouth plan used flawed study
By LARRY MARGASAK
WASHINGTON (AP) - The Bush administration has no evidence to support its
contention that it would be safe to move research on highly infectious
foot-and-mouth disease to the U.S. mainland near livestock, congressional
investigators said Thursday.
Two Democratic committee leaders said it would be foolish and dangerous for
the administration to move ahead with those plans, given the risk of an
animal epidemic if the virus escapes.
A Republican lawmaker, whose state is a finalist for a mainland facility,
said a move from an outmoded laboratory on Plum Island, N.Y. would be safe
under modern virus containment methods.
Nancy Kingsbury, a research expert at Congress' Government Accountability
Office, said the administration relied on a flawed study to conclude the
research could safely be moved to a planned, state-of-the-art facility near
Rep. John Dingell, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said
plans by the Department of Homeland Security were not only "baffling, but
"It will be farmers and ranchers who bear the risk" of the world's most
infectious animal-only disease, Dingell said. Rep. Bart Stupak, chairman of
the panel's investigative subcommittee, said the move "would be a foolish
tempting of fate." Both are Michigan Democrats.
But Rep. Charles "Chip" Pickering Jr., R-Miss., pointed out that a strong
bipartisan majority supports a provision in a major farm bill that would
allow the move to the mainland. Pickering said a new laboratory would be
safe on the mainland including in his state - where Flora, Miss. is one of
five finalists for the mainland site [and, if it turned out not to be safe,
what the hell, at least Mississippi contractors, Mississippi construction
workers, and Mississippi Senatiors already would have gotten their cuts].
The one certainty in the debate that has divided the commercial livestock
industry: making the wrong choice could bring on an economic catastrophe.
While the disease does not sicken humans, an outbreak on the U.S. mainland -
avoided since 1929 - could lead to slaughter of millions of animals, a halt
in U.S. livestock movements, a ban on exports and severe losses in the
production of meat and milk.
To avoid an epidemic, foot-and-mouth research has been confined since 1955
to the 840-acre Plum Island, N.Y., off the northeastern tip of Long Island.
The facility there is outmoded and will be replaced by a National
Bio-and-Agro-Defense Facility that also will study diseases that can be
transferred from animals to humans.
The finalist site, besides Flora, Miss., are: Athens, Ga.; Manhattan, Kan.;
Butner, N.C.; and San Antonio. One Homeland Security study found the numbers
of livestock in the counties and surrounding areas of the finalists ranged
from 542,507 in Kansas to 132,900 in Georgia.
Plum Island also is a finalist, although Homeland Security officials are
spending considerable time and money holding forums at the mainland
locations to convince residents the new lab would be safe.
"We found that DHS has not conducted or commissioned any study to determine
whether FMD (foot-and-mouth disease) work can be done safely on the U.S.
mainland," Kingsbury, the GAO's managing director for applied research and
Jay Cohen, an undersecretary of Homeland Security, said in his prepared
testimony: "While there is always a risk of human error ... the redundancies
built into modern research laboratory designs and the latest biosecurity and
containment systems ... effectively minimizes these risks."
Department spokeswoman Amy Kudwa said risk assessments are being conducted
at each proposed site to evaluate impacts of hypothetical foot-and-mouth
disease releases. The public will be asked to comment on the findings.
The administration based its decision of safe mainland research on a 2002
Agriculture Department study on whether it was technically feasible to do
the work onshore.
Kingsbury said there's a major distinction between what is technically
feasible and "what is possible, given the potential for human error."
"We found that the study was selective in what it considered," she said. "It
did not assess the history of releases of FMD virus or other dangerous
pathogens, either in the United States or elsewhere."
It also did not address the dangers of working with infected large animals;
the virus can be carried in a person's lungs, nostrils or other body parts,
making him or her a possible vehicle for a virus escape. The study also did
not consider the history of accidents in laboratories, the GAO said.
The AP reported in April that a 1978 release of the virus into cattle
holding pens on Plum Island triggered new safety procedures. While that
incident was previously known, Homeland Security officials acknowledged
there were other accidents at Plum Island.
The GAO report listed six other accidents between 1971 and 2004.
"These incidents involved human error, lack of proper maintenance, equipment
failure and deviation from standard operating procedures," the GAO said.
"Many were not a function of the age of the facility or the lack of
technology and could happen in any facility today."
The investigators found that the United States only avoided international
restrictions after the 1978 outbreak because it was confined to the island.
Does McCain Have a Vets Problem?
By Jay Newton-Small/Washington
Of all the voting groups John McCain will target this fall, none would seem like more of a sure thing than this country's war veterans. So why is the celebrated Vietnam War hero and POW bracing for a potentially bad week with so many men and women who have served in uniform?
The point of contention between the two seemingly natural allies is a piece of legislation the Senate is expected to vote on this week to update the 1944 G.I. Bill to provide expanded education assistance and opportunities to the armed forces. The bill, co-sponsored by two other Vietnam veterans in the Senate, Republican Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and Democrat Jim Webb of Virginia, would effectively provide full tuition and housing costs at a four-year public university for veterans who have served at least three years of active duty. Given his family's and his own long and distinguished service career, the bill would seem like a natural fit for the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. But McCain, concerned about the estimated $4 billion annual price tag and the incentive he worries it might give people to leave an already strapped military, has sponsored his own competing proposal. It increases the existing monthly education benefit from around $1,100 to $1,500 a month while adding more generous benefits for those who've served more than 12 years.
McCain's concerns, however, don't seem to impress the vast majority of veterans' organizations. They are feverishly lobbying him to support the Webb and Hagel bill, which simply adds the new program's expense to the $165 billion annual emergency war supplemental, a move President George W. Bush has threatened to veto. (The House version offsets the program by increasing taxes by 0.5% on those individuals who earn more than $500,000 a year and couples who earn more than $1 million, a move also under veto threat.) "This isn't about anything partisan; we are firmly supporting the bill that does right by the veterans, does right by the troops, and that is not McCain's bill," said Ramona Joyce, a spokeswoman for the American Legion. "It could do McCain damage with veteran voters if this issue drags out."
Even with the current dustup, it's hard to imagine John McCain not winning the majority of the veterans vote in November. But the nation's 26 million veterans are by no means a monolithic voting bloc, and any level of disappointment with McCain could sway some undecideds. The Democratic National Committee is already gleefully preparing TV spots about McCain's position on the Senate bill. And, sensing a vulnerability in McCain's seemingly greatest strength, some Democratic strategists are already contemplating what other veterans votes they can bring up this year.
Obama, who sits on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, has already won some support from many Iraq and Afghanistan vets who oppose the war in Iraq, and has been actively trying to expand his appeal to older veterans — though his efforts in that regard didn't help him in the primaries in veteran-heavy states like Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia. To underline his own family's military pedigree, Obama plans a trip in coming weeks to the Punchbowl National Cemetery in Hawaii, where his grandfather, who served in World War II, is buried. Obama and McCain's G.O.P. rival, the antiwar presidential candidate Congressman Ron Paul, actually beat McCain in donations from the four branches of active military this year, according to a study by the Center for Responsive Politics.
This is not the first time McCain, who has a proud history of opposing what he views as excessive government spending, has found himself at odds with his fellow veterans on legislation. He's voted for veterans funding bills only 30% of the time, according to a scorecard of roll-call votes put out by the nonpartisan Disabled Americans for America. Under the same system Obama has a 90% rating — though, of course, he has spent a much shorter time in Washington. "Senator McCain clearly needs to be recognized for his military service and in some respects that will play to his advantage, but when it actually comes to delivering health care and benefits during war, Senator McCain's going to have some explaining to do," said Paul Sullivan, director of the nonpartisan Veterans for Common Sense.
Supporters of Webb and Hagel's bill dismiss McCain's concerns about the retention issue. While the Congressional Budget Office estimates that the bill would cause a 16% drop in re-enlistment rates across all four branches of the military, the same study also predicts a 16% uptick in new recruits attracted by the benefit. The bill has 58 co-sponsors, including none other than Obama — just two shy of a veto-proof majority. It was passed last week by the House with a comfortable veto-proof majority, but as an amendment to the emergency war supplemental, it could be altered as the two chambers hammer out differences between the two versions. McCain's office is confident that in the reconciliation process a compromise can be worked out. "We're negotiating in good faith and we think they are as well. We want to do something for veterans. We're really working hard to accomplish our goal," said Mark Buse, McCain's Senate chief of staff.
Webb, who has yet to endorse a presidential candidate but is rumored to be on Obama's vice presidential shortlist, might have been more open to talks until last week. After the two camps met but failed to come to a resolution on their differences, McCain's allies moved to attach his version — which has nine G.O.P. co-sponsors — to an unrelated bill on the Senate floor. The Senate came to a grinding halt for two hours as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid worked to remove McCain's amendment; eventually it was tabled by a vote of 56-42. But the tactic created no good will with Webb's staff. "At this point we were really not in the position to negotiate," said Jess Smith, a spokeswoman for Webb. "We're sticking to our guns that our bill will take care of our vets; incentivizing long-term military service is not the top aim of this bill."
posted by Larry Scott
Founder and Editor
VA Watchdog dot Org ]
"Senator McCain clearly needs to be recognized for his
military service...but when it actually comes to delivering
health care and benefits during war, Senator McCain's
going to have some explaining to do."
Iraqi fire left U.S. soldiers with lung disease
By Julie Steenhuysen
CHICAGO (Reuters) - Several U.S. soldiers exposed to a 2003 sulphur plant fire in Iraq have been diagnosed with a lung disorder that constricts small airways of the lung, making them unfit for duty, U.S. researchers said on Wednesday.
Doctors at Vanderbilt University in Nashville identified the illness after evaluating 56 soldiers stationed in Fort Campbell, Kentucky, who suffered from unexplained shortness of breath after exercise.
Lung function tests, chest X-rays and computed tomography, or CT, scans were normal in almost every case.
"We did open lung biopsies," said Dr. Robert Miller of Vanderbilt, who noted that surgery is a rather extreme diagnostic approach in such cases. "I just couldn't explain their abnormal pulmonary function."
Miller and colleagues eventually took lung samples from 31 of the soldiers who were referred to Vanderbilt, and 29 had a form of bronchiolitis, a condition that involves a narrowing of the small airways of the lung.
"The net result is it narrows the airway. In many cases it obliterates the airway," Miller said in a telephone interview.
Most of those diagnosed with bronchiolitis had breathed in sulphur dioxide released by the blaze at the plant near Mosul. The fire burned for almost a month and released more of the gas than most volcanic eruptions.
"Of the 31, 7 had biopsies and did not have this exposure, which says there are probably other inhalation exposures in Iraq that these guys are exposed to," said Miller. He and colleagues presented the findings at a meeting of the American Thoracic Society in Toronto
STRIKE A MATCH
"sulphur dioxide is what you get when you strike a match," Miller said. That might release 5 to 10 parts of sulphur dioxide per million. He said lab animals experience airway changes when exposed to 1 part per million.
"What these soldiers had was a lot of eye and skin irritation, which can be associated with levels as high as 100 parts per million," Miller said.
He said the Iraqi sulphur plant fire in 2003 was the largest ever human-made release of sulphur dioxide gas and was 100 times greater than the release from the Mount St. Helens volcanic eruption in 1980.
What was puzzling about the soldiers is that they had pulmonary function scores in the normal range, but Miller thinks that may simply reflect their high level of fitness prior to exposure.
All of the soldiers evaluated were physically fit at the time of deployment. But when they returned, none met physical training standards.
"One of the reasons we picked it up is you have these guys who are expected to maintain this level of training and all of a sudden they fall off the curve," he said.
All of the soldiers but one have been declared unfit for duty and have a service-connected disability.
"There isn't any good treatment. At this point, I've followed several soldiers now for almost three years, and they are not getting any better," Miller said.
In adults, bronchiolitis is typically associated with organ transplantation, toxic inhalation, infection and rheumatoid arthritis. Usually, doctors diagnose it based on a patient's history, X-ray and lung function tests.
For soldiers who have served in Iraq and have unexplained shortness of breath, Miller thinks doctors may need to take the extra step of ordering a biopsy.
"I believe this is a qualifying risk factor," he said.
(Editing by Anthony Boadle)
A new generation of leadership is poised to get America back on track. Rob Miller, home from fighting in Iraq, is a member of this generation and is committed to bringing new energy and new ideas as our representative in Washington. Rob will listen to the voters and work with members of both parties.
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Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Newsroom / Archives
A GI Bill for the 21st Century -- 05/21/2008
Sen. Bernie Sanders, a member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, urged the Senate to approve a new GI Bill that would provide expanded education benefits for a new generation of veterans. The legislation that Sanders cosponsored would guarantee a full scholarship to any public, in-state university for veterans who served three years in the military, including activated National Guard troops and reservists. The expanded benefits also could be used for students at private colleges and for graduate schools.
Unlike the GI benefits that transformed American society after World War II, veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have discovered that current GI benefits cover only half the national average cost for tuition, room and board.
The legislation would offer improved education benefits to those who served in the armed forces after the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001.
“The original GI Bill was an appropriate way for a grateful nation to say thank you to the service and sacrifice of those who wore our country’s uniform. That bill also helped reshape the American economy and allowed millions to enter the middle class,” Sanders said.
“Today’s GI benefits do not come close to covering the cost of a college education. That is why it is so important that we update these benefits by passing the GI Bill for the 21st Century,” he added.
“People must understand that caring for our service members is part of the cost of going to war. We are spending nearly $12 billion a month in Iraq. Surely we can spend a little more to provide a college education for the brave men and women we sent to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
Sanders Op-Ed: An expanding military budget taxpayers can't afford (Boston Globe) -- 05/20/2008
By Sen. Bernie Sanders
'Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children." -President Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1953.
During the next few weeks Congress will consider hundreds of billions of dollars in military spending, yet this legislation will receive relatively little review and scrutiny. Spending by Pentagon officials continues to grow at an incredible rate and it is time for Congress to determine whether this level of funding makes sense.
President Eisenhower, the five-star Army general who was the military commander of the European theater during World War II, laid out stark choices that he and the country faced during his first year in the White House. Fast-forward 48 years to the last year of George W. Bush's presidency, and it is remarkable how prescient Eisenhower was.
Today, Bush's military budget is $515 billion, more than half of all discretionary spending. This is in addition to the $200 billion a year being spent on the war in Iraq, and another $16 billion spent on nuclear weapons.
Meanwhile, as military spending explodes, the middle class in America is shrinking, poverty is increasing and the gap between the very rich and everyone else is growing wider. While we now spend $94 billion more on defense than three years ago, poverty and hunger are increasing, 47 million Americans lack health insurance, and an entire generation of young people wonders how to afford college.
In his last budget, Bush provided a very generous increase in funds for the military while proposing major cuts in programs which benefit low- and moderate-income families. At a time of real threat from international terrorism, all of us understand the need for a strong military to protect our country. However, the Pentagon cannot be exempt from Congress' oversight responsibility to root out waste, fraud, and abuse.
Here are just a few examples that Congress must explore if we are serious about saving taxpayer dollars:
The Government Accountability Office recently assessed 72 major weapons acquisition programs and reported a colossal $295 billion in cost-overruns on a $1.6 trillion contract portfolio.
One item - the Army's Future Combat Systems - may cost the taxpayer more than $200 billion, a staggering $40 billion cost overrun from initial 2003 estimates.
The total cost for the F-22A fighter program, a Cold War legacy, amounts to an astronomical $65.3 billion, so large that the Air Force has been forced to reduce its buy from 648 to 183 aircrafts. Still, that amounts to about $355 million a piece.
There also has been enormous waste and fraud by contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan.
It was recently discovered that a 22-year-old businessman sold as much as $300 million in old ammunition (much of it defective) to the Afghan army and police forces under a contract with the Army Sustainment Command. Millions of cartridges were shipped from China, making their procurement a possible violation of US law.
In Ramadi, Iraq, the Air Force paid a private US contractor $32 million to construct an air base that was never built.
A GAO survey examined $8 billion in contractor incentive fees that were paid out regardless of outcome. In other words, the Pentagon is paying contractors bonuses whether or not they are deserved.
Not only did Eisenhower vigorously fight against misplaced national priorities and overspending on the military, he also understood why that happened. In a 1961 speech, as he was leaving office, he said, "In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex."
At a time when this country has a $9.3 trillion national debt, a declining economy, and enormous unmet needs, the time is long overdue for Congress to stop rubber-stamping White House requests for military spending and to address the Pentagon's needs within the context of our overall national priorities.
How and why the threat of bioterrorism has been so greatly exaggerated
William R. Clark, professor and chair emeritus of immunology at the University of California, Los Angeles, has been a research scientist for 30 years and has written a string of books for the general public. His latest, Bracing for Armageddon?, published by Oxford University Press in May, examines the science and politics of bioterrorism in the United States.
His conclusion: We shouldn't be so worried. Although the United States will have spent $50 billion on defense against a bioterrorism attack by the end of 2008, Clark argues that we have much more to fear from natural pandemic outbreaks, such as the viruses causing SARS and H5N1 avian flu. He reviews all the worst-case bioterror scenarios — from agricultural terrorism to poisoning the water supply; from genetically engineered pathogens to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's official list of bioterrorist weapons — and writes: "It is almost inconceivable that any terrorist organization we know of in the world today, foreign or domestic, could on their own develop, from scratch, a bioweapon capable of causing mass casualties on American soil."
Clark chronicles the few (failed) attempts at launching large-scale bioterror attacks, beginning with the Rajneesh cult in Oregon, which slipped salmonella into salad bars in an attempt to influence a local election in 1984; the cult's efforts sickened more than 700 people but killed none. The Aum Shinrikyo cult in Japan earned worldwide headlines in 1995 for releasing sarin nerve gas into the Tokyo subway system, killing 12 people. But this was a chemical attack, and despite millions of dollars in funding and a staff of scientists, Aum Shinrikyo's several attempts at producing biological weapons, including the development of a relatively harmless anthrax strain normally used for animal vaccinations, produced no significant casualties. In the early 1990s, a militia group called the Minnesota Patriots Council made some ricin — a potent poison derived from castor beans — and stored it in a jar but never figured out how to use it. And the 2001 postal anthrax attacks spurred the government to develop a host of expensive countermeasures that are, Clark writes, largely unnecessary. These include the creation of a Strategic National Stockpile of vaccines and antidotes; the CDC's "push packages," cargo containers weighing a total of 94 tons whose medicine contents are constantly replenished and ready to be shipped to an emergency site; Project Bioshield, which funds research for new vaccines; and the Biowatch and Biosense programs, which are early-warning systems of sensors and laboratories in major U.S. cities."
The Bush/Cheney and Rumsfeld defense ideas after 9/11 started this multi-billion dollar increase in biological research and creating new level 4 labs, why?
To comply with copyright infringement I have cut this to three paragraphs and you really need to go to the web site and read the full article
How and why the threat of bioterrorism has been so greatly exaggerated
thank you and I apologize to the copyright holders for the infringement
Open Letter to a Progressive Senator
Veterans from the Cold War need one of you to help us and our families. In the House Congressman Mike Thomspon D CA, and Dennis Rehberg R MT, have introduced HR 5954 which will correct some wrongs that were committed more than 30 - 40 years ago, the military used humans in experimentation with biological substances and chemical weapons in Operation SHAD/112, Fort Detrick Biological Weapons tests 1953-1973 and at Edgewood Arsenal from 1955 thru 1975 they conducted chemical weapons and pharmacuetical tests (LSD, PCP, ecstacy, Scopolomine are among the known drugs) in all 254 different substances.
Now we need a Senator to introduce a Senate Resolution as the Senate version of this bill, so we can get this passed and put on this Presidents desk before election day. One of you can be a hero and help about 16,000 forgotten and used veterans, we need your help.
What can the Kos Community do? Write your elected officials and ask them to become a co-sponsor of the house bill 5954 and support passage of this when it come before the floor, they are shooting for before the end of this month.
Bill would help vets exposed to toxic tests
Bill would help vets exposed to toxic tests
Thadeus Greenson/The Times-Standard
Article Launched: 05/02/2008 01:24:16 AM PDT
The bill would require the Department of Veterans Affairs to assume that the toxins used in the weapons tests of Project 112, which included Project SHAD, caused injury to veterans, making them eligible for medical benefits and compensation for their conditions. ”I worked with the Department of Defense, and for years they denied that this was happening. Finally we were able to learn that this was in fact happening, and that a lot of military personnel had been exposed to VX nerve gas, Sarin nerve gas and E. Coli -- some of the worst chemicals known to mankind,” Thompson said Thursday in a teleconference with reporters. ”Out of frustration and a desire to help our veterans,” Thompson continued, “we are introducing legislation today that would establish a presumption of service connection, which means these military personnel would have to be identified and, once identified, they would have access to the health care they need.”
Alderson said the government also conducted simulant tests, where they sprayed unknowing military vessels and even U.S. cities with live pathogens, in some cases causing immune system failures and even death. During the teleconference, Rehberg said part of the problem is no one knows just how many people were affected. ”It seemed like the Department of Defense had dropped the ball and hadn't even tried to identify those who had fallen ill,” Rehberg said. Thompson agreed.
”Part of the problem is we don't know,” he said. “The best numbers we have right now are somewhere in the neighborhood of 6,000. Vietnam Veterans of America thinks it's much higher than that.” Thompson said the health benefits in the bill won't be symptom-based, but would rather be open to anyone who served in Project 112 for any variety of ailments.
Thompson and Rehberg also said during the teleconference that there is too much blame in this issue to simply place at the feet of one administration. ”It's not just this administration, it's the one before and the one before that,” Rehberg said. ”It's been 40 years of administrations,” Thompson interjected
The Department of defense has known about these veterans for decades as these GAO studies show
Human Experimentation An Overview on Co1d War 28 Sep 1994
DOD Needs to Continue to Collect and Provide Information on Tests and Potentially Exposed Personnel from page 24
In addition, we reported in 1993 and 1994 that hundreds of radiological, chemical, and biological tests were conducted in which hundreds of thousands of people were used as test subjects. 14 We also reported that the Army Chemical Corps conducted a classified medical research program for developing incapacitating agents. This program involved testing nerve agents, nerve agent antidotes, psycho chemicals, and irritants. The chemicals were given to volunteer service members at . Edgewood Arsenal, Maryland; Dugway Proving Ground, Utah; and Forts Benning, Bragg, and McClellan. In total, Army documents identified 7,120 Army and Air Force personnel who participated in these tests. 15 Further, GAO concluded that precise information on the scope and the magnitude of tests involving human subjects was not available, and the exact number of human subjects might never be known.
Health Effects from Chemical and Biological Agents this is a manual released in October 2003 after the release of the March 2003 Sarin Report based on the Edgewood Volunteers for Sarin exposure done at the insistence of then First Lady Hillary Clinton.
March 2003 Sarin Report from the IOM
Information from Military May Help VA Assess Claims From Secret Tests February 1993
Chemical Warfare Agent Experiments Among U.S . Service Members
please read at least page 9 "Acute effects among Edgewood/Aberdeen Volunteers"
Joseph Scheider (Sidney Gottlieb) was born in 1918 the actual man in charge of all biological/chemical weapons tests for the United States, he was in the C.I.A. and answered only to the Director, I have learned that in 1953 he was given 6% of the entire CIA budget for his operations which were ran from an office called "Special Operations Division (SOD) at Fort Detrick. In 1973 when he became the focus of the Chirch Committee he detroyed over 20 years of records pertatining to Fort Detrick/Edgewood and Deseret Center Utah, most documents found today linking the CIA to these human experiments are financial funding documents.
In 1975 Frank Church and his Select Committee on Intelligence Activities began investigating the work of the Central Intelligence Agency. They discovered the existence of Executive Action. The disclosure of Gottlieb's work resulted in some of his victims taking legal action against the CIA.
Because of the "Feres Doctrine" the military members are prohibited from suing, only one Edgewood Arsenakl case ever made it to the Supreme Court, MSG Stanley in 1987 he lost a 5-4 decision, Congress then passed a special bill compensatiing him 750,000 dollars, the other 7119 veterans and their widows continue to be ignored.
We need Congressional and Senate Help and it appears now is the time, with Congressmen Thompson and Rehberg's HR 5954 bill hitting the house floor we need all of Congress to support it and we need a Senator to submit companion legislation in the Senate, can we make this happen or not?
I and my friends need your help......Sphere: Related Content
10:00 PM PDT on Tuesday, May 20, 2008
By MARK MUCKENFUSS
A group of older military veterans in the Inland region says the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is pushing it out of counseling programs to make room for an expected influx of Afghanistan and Iraq war veterans.
Albert Cruz, 59, of Hesperia, said officials at the Victorville Veterans Center told him and other members of a post-traumatic stress disorder therapy group that "they have to bring (the group) to an end."
Cruz, a veteran of Vietnam and Desert Storm, and his colleagues are convinced that their government is abandoning them.
"It's like a slap in the face," he said.
When he asked the veterans officials what he should do about treatment, he said, "They said, 'Well, if you flip out again, call 911.' "
Lois Krawczik, a psychologist who oversees post-traumatic stress programs for the VA Medical Center in Loma Linda, said Cruz is mistaken. She said the VA has no plans to eliminate programs at the Victorville clinic. In fact, the clinic is expanding, she said.
"There may be some changes," Krawczik said, but "we're not discontinuing or cutting back services."
Budget figures provided by the Loma Linda medical center show that funding earmarked for mental health has increased dramatically in recent years, from $70,000 in 2004 to $3.1 million in 2007. During the same period, the number of patients seen each month for mental health went from 6,700 to 9,600.
Cruz, and others, insist they have been told they'll have to go. Whether it is a misunderstanding or not, there seems to be a pervasive suspicion among older veterans, particularly those with post-traumatic stress disorder, both locally and in other parts of the country, that the VA is interested in pushing them out.
Stories of Cancellations
A dozen of those veterans, including Cruz, stood outside the Victorville clinic on a recent morning. They said they had all been given the same information about the counseling groups being cancelled.
In March, a group of veterans receiving therapy at the San Bernardino Veterans Center picketed the clinic. They said their therapist, Phillip Garcia, had been told to retire because he refused to drop Vietnam-era patients to make room for Iraq war returnees. Garcia is no longer at the center and said he could not be quoted for this article.
Two veterans receiving counseling therapy at the veterans center in Palm Desert said they had not heard of any cutbacks at their clinic.
David Autry is a spokesman for Disabled American Veterans, a Washington-based advocacy group. He hadn't heard of the situation in Victorville, but said he has seen the same thing elsewhere.
"There was a similar situation in North Carolina not terribly long ago," Autry said, "where the VA had scaled back its PTSD counseling for Vietnam-era veterans and had cited the need to put more resources into the returning folks from Iraq and Afghanistan.
"In some ways, the VA is pulling all the stops out for the veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan at the expense of the other veterans," he added.
Laurie Tranter, spokeswoman for the Department of Veterans Affairs in Washington, D.C., said: "There is no policy on cutting back on services for Vietnam vets."
Tranter also said she had not heard of any complaints regarding such cutbacks.
Former Inland resident Frank Flores, a founder of a veterans assistance group called Project Guiding Light, now lives in Texas. He said the VA hospital in Temple, Texas, discontinued counseling groups for nearly 150 older veterans.
"This is happening nationwide," Flores said. "They say, 'We're here to take care of our veterans.' That's a hell of a way to take care of them if you just show them the door."
But Nelia Schrum, spokeswoman for the VA Medical Center in Temple, said the groups were simply moved to a new VA center 20 minutes away in Killeen.
"They haven't been discontinued," Schrum said. She said Flores and other veterans might just be confused about the change.
Loma Linda's Krawczik said changes are taking place with programs here, too, and veterans may have trouble adjusting to that.
"It's easy for people, when it's an emotional issue, for there to be misunderstanding," Krawczik said.
While some counseling programs at the Loma Linda hospital are being discontinued, she said, others are being added.
"We have national rollouts right now for a variety of evidence-based treatments," she said. Those include peer counseling and a 12-step oriented protocol.
Dane Steinberg is another of the veterans at the Victorville clinic. He said he and his colleagues don't begrudge the newer vets and support the aggressive outreach programs being conducted by veteran agencies. He just doesn't want to see the door close on him as a result.
"They're out soliciting the Iraqi vets while on the other hand they're telling us to go home," said Steinberg, 61, of Helendale. "Isn't that strange?"
Steinberg said two different officials at the clinic told him his therapy group was being eliminated by the end of summer. He and others suspect a sinister motive.
Wilfred Abeda, one of Steinberg's fellow group members, lives in Barstow. He is on 100 percent disability for his post-traumatic stress disorder. To maintain that disability rating, he said, he has to be receiving therapy. Several years ago, when his wife was dying from cancer, Abeda was her primary caregiver and couldn't travel to his therapy group, which at that time was in Loma Linda. He said the VA cut his disability.
"They said, 'You're not going to therapy. You must be cured,' " Abeda said. "They rejected me."
He was able to get his disability reinstated after he appealed and re-entered therapy. But he believes the same thing may happen again if his current group is discontinued. Only this time, he said, he won't have a group to go back to.
Project Guiding Light's Flores said such fears are not without merit.
"The VA does use medical treatment as a basis of continuing disability," Flores said. Veterans such as Abeda, he said, "are worried because if they're not getting treatment their disability will be reduced."
Programs 'Keep Us Alive'
Of even greater concern, Abeda said, is the well-being of his fellow veterans. He worries about possible suicides.
"It's going to happen," he said. "A couple of guys said, 'This is the only thing that keeps us alive.' It helps us a lot."
Some might wonder how, 40 years after returning from battle, Vietnam veterans can be so dependent upon group counseling. But Abeda was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder just five years ago. Many veterans have exhibited symptoms for years, such as night terrors, uncontrolled anger and the inability to hold a job, but never knew why.
"We've been suffering with this since (Vietnam)," Steinberg said. "I didn't get diagnosed until three years ago."
Now, he and others feel, just when they are getting some help, the rug is being pulled out from under them.
"That makes it pretty hard on all the guys," Abeda said. "You have to fight for everything."
Reach Mark Muckenfuss at 951-368-9595 or mmuckenfuss@PE.com
Older Inland veterans feeling forced out of counseling programs by newer vets
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Australia cancer deaths linked to Agent Orange
Town's rate 10 times state average, says researcher
· Call for inquiry into claims of secret testing in 1960s
Barbara McMahon in Sydney The Guardian, Monday May 19 2008 Article historyAbout this articleClose This article appeared in the Guardian on Monday May 19 2008 on p16 of the International section. It was last updated at 10:04 on May 20 2008. Claims by a leading researcher that cancer deaths in a small town in Queensland, Australia, are 10 times higher than the state average owing to the secret testing of Agent Orange there more than 40 years ago are to be investigated by the authorities.
Australian military scientists sprayed the toxic herbicide on rainforest near Innisfail during defoliant testing in the early years of the Vietnam war, it is alleged. The jungle began dying and has never recovered, according to local people.
The site is near a river which supplies water for the town in the far north of the country and researchers believe the spraying may be responsible for cancer rates in the area being 10 times the state average and four times the national average.
The Innisfail claims were made by the researcher Jean Williams, who has been awarded the Order of Australia medal for her work on the effects of chemicals on Vietnam war veterans. She said she found reports of the secret tests in Australian War Memorial museum archives.
"These tests carried out between 1964 and 1966 were the first tests of Agent Orange," she told Fairfax Media.
Williams said one of the files on the testing was marked "considered sensitive" and showed that the chemicals 2,4-D, Diquat, Tordon and dimethylsulphoxide had been sprayed on the rainforest.
"It was considered sensitive because they were mixing together all the bad chemicals, which just made them worse," she said. "Those chemicals stay in the soil for years and every time there is a storm they are stirred up and go into the water supply."
Williams also claimed that a file which could prove that wider testing took place had gone missing from the archives.
A former soldier, Ted Bosworth, has backed up the claims, saying two scientists he drove to the site in the 1960s were interested in the effect the chemical cocktail had on rubber vine, which is also found in Vietnam.
"They sprayed the trees by hand and then in the next couple of weeks I took them back up and they put ladders up against the trees and took photos of them as the foliage was dying," he said. "They called it some other funny name - I hadn't heard of Agent Orange then."
Agent Orange was sprayed by the Australian and the US military during the Vietnam war to defoliate jungle where North Vietnamese troops were positioned. The cocktail of toxic chemicals in Agent Orange has been linked to cancer, birth defects and other health problems.
Yesterday the local mayor, Bill Shannon, called on the Australian Defence Force to investigate Williams's claims. He said the half-acre site remains deforested, and though the town's water supply showed no evidence of the chemicals, local people had long been concerned about cancer rates in the area. "I'd like to know exactly what did happen and the extent of it. We don't want a cover-up," he said.
Queensland's premier, Anna Bligh, said she was disturbed by the claims. "Any concerns these residents have can and will be investigated thoroughly," she said in Brisbane yesterday.
However, the Queensland health department said that the incidence of cancer in Innisfail is no higher than in other parts of the state.
· This article was amended on Tuesday May 20 2008. Queensland's premier is Anna Bligh, not Blyth. This has been corrected.
Veterans’ groups pushing for more predictable VA funding
By Roxana Tiron, the hill.com
Posted: 05/19/08 06:19 PM [ET]
A coalition of veterans’ groups wants Congress to ensure that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has predictable medical care funding to better treat injured soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
While more political attention has been paid to a possible expansion of education benefits for returning soldiers under a new GI bill, some veterans’ groups are highlighting the need to improve VA’s funding.
The Disabled American Veterans (DAV) is leading a coalition of groups that are pressing lawmakers to approve advance appropriations for medical care as part of the VA’s budget. This would give the VA much more certainty over its funding, as it would know its budget a year in advance. For example, funding for 2010 would have to be approved this year.
The change would mean that “veterans would no longer be used as a political football,” said Joe Violante, DAV’s national legislative director.
“It is a lot cheaper to provide veteran care through the VA than it is to provide it by Medicare or Medicaid,” said Violante. “If we put the resources into the VA it would certainly be fiscally responsible.”
Congress now appropriates VA medical care funds on an annual basis. Political squabbling has delayed VA funding in 13 of the past 14 years — something that has severely hampered the department’s ability to plan and manage its healthcare system, according to DAV’s talking points.
Veterans’ groups say the change would ensure the agency can better handle the growing number of veterans dependent on it for medical care.
More troops are surviving attacks on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan thanks to improved equipment, but many return with traumatic brain injuries, lost limbs, severe burns or blindness that can make them dependent on VA care for a lifetime. Since many of those injured are only in their 20s, some will require decades of medical attention.
Veterans’ organizations and their supporters in Congress for years have pressed that the VA budget be mandatory, as this would give the agency the most stability.
The groups have now shifted to pushing for the more realistic goal of advance appropriations.
Besides DAV, the groups include the American Legion , Veterans of Foreign Wars , Paralyzed Veterans of America and Blinded Veterans Association .
DAV argues that under its proposal, Congress would retain its discretion to approve appropriations, as well as its oversight ability.
An added benefit would be that advance appropriations would not fall under pay-as-you-go budgetary rules, which do cover mandatory funding. This means the advance appropriations would not have to be offset by spending cuts or revenue raisers, requirements that make it harder to move legislation.
Fifty percent of VA’s funding is for veteran benefits, which are mandatory entitlement spending.
The other half is discretionary and covers healthcare. The majority of that funding goes to medical care, while a small portion goes into construction, prosthetic research and veterans’ support homes. DAV is focusing specifically on the medical care portion of the budget as an advance appropriation.
Violante said that DAV has met with leadership staff in both the House and the Senate and has talked to the VA committee leadership about the proposal.
“The idea resonates better in Congress than mandatory funding,” Violante said.
DAV and the veterans’ groups coalition is going to present the proposal to the presidential candidates as well, hoping that they would include it as part of their agenda.
The Democratic contenders, Sens. Barack Obama (Ill.) and Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.), have both been supporters of mandatory funding for the VA. The Republican contender, Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), does not support mandatory funding. McCain, who touts himself as a fiscal hawk, would not want to add to entitlement spending and supports having strong oversight of the budget.
Apart from Congress, the proposal may face significant hurdles in the Office of Management and Budget. OMB, which sets the administration’s spending levels, is concerned the proposal would attract all veterans to the VA system.
Only about 5.5 million of the nation’s 25 million veterans now use the VA system, but if funding were more predictable, some think more veterans would use it, putting pressure on the system.
DAV will present its new proposal at a hearing on Wednesday in the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. It will be presented as an alternative to a bill backed by Sen. Tim Johnson (D-S.D) that would make VA funding mandatory
DAV supports Johnson’s bill, but will present its new proposal as an alternative that could get more bipartisan support.