Saturday, September 20, 2008

Medicare Part B to remain same cost for 2009

Medicare's Monthly Premium Won't Rise in 2009
Fri Sep 19, 7:02 PM ET
FRIDAY, Sept. 19 (HealthDay News) -- Good news for millions of American seniors: Medicare's standard Part B monthly premium in 2009 will remain the same as in 2008, the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said Friday.
The $96.40 rate means 2009 will be the first year since 2000 that there hasn't been an increase in the standard premium over the previous year, the agency said. In addition, the 2009 Part B deductible will be the same in 2009 as it is this year -- $135.
Medicare's Part B program covers the health care of seniors and disabled people. The monthly premium paid by beneficiaries covers a portion of the cost of physicians' services, outpatient hospital services, certain home health services, durable medical equipment and other items.
While increased use of Part B services is expected in 2009, the higher anticipated costs are "offset by a substantial reduction in the premium 'margin' needed to maintain an adequate contingency reserve in the Part B trust fund account," the CMS explained in a news release.
The Part B premium is based on a beneficiary's annual income. If gross income is greater than certain amounts ($85,000 in 2009 for a beneficiary filing an individual income tax return or married and filing a separate return, and $170,000 for a beneficiary filing a joint tax return), the beneficiary has to pay a larger portion of the estimated total cost of Part B benefit coverage.
One advocate for Medicare recipients said the decision to keep Plan B premiums the same is "welcome news."
"News that health care premiums are not going up is rare these days. The stability in the Part B premium is good news for people with Medicare struggling to cope with rising prescription drug costs and medical bills," Robert M. Hayes, president of the Medicare Rights Center, said in a news release.
However, the CMS also announced Friday that the Part A deductible will rise $44, to $1,068 in 2009. The Part A program covers hospital and hospice care as well as short stays in nursing homes. About 99 percent of Medicare beneficiaries covered by this program do not pay a monthly premium. The deductible is their only cost for up to 60 days of Medicare-covered inpatient hospital care in a benefit period.
Beneficiaries must pay an additional $267 per day for days 61 through 90 in 2009, and $534 per day for lifetime reserve days that can be used for hospital stays beyond the 90th day in a benefit period. In 2008, those amounts are $256 and $512, respectively. Daily coinsurance for the 21st through 100th day in a skilled nursing facility will be $133.50 in 2009, up from $128 in 2008, the CMS said.
For beneficiaries who have to pay for Part A coverage, the monthly premium will increase from $423 in 2008 to $443 in 2009.
In mid-August, the CMS said the average monthly premium for Medicare's prescription drug plan will increase from $25 this year to $28 in 2009. The premium for next year is 37 percent lower than originally projected when the Part D drug coverage was introduced in 2003.
More information
For more about Medicare premiums, go to the Medicare Web site.
Copyright © 2008 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

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Friday, September 19, 2008

VA Benefits lacking




For more information contact

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 19, 2008

Veterans Benefit Administration in Need of Improved Training, Performance Management and Accountability

Washington, D.C. - On Thursday, September 18, 2008, John Hall (D-NY), Chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs Subcommittee, held a hearing to investigate the effectiveness of training and continuing education provided to Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) employees. The Subcommittee also examined the current performance management practices of the VBA while soliciting critiques and recommendations.

“I am pleased that the American Federation of Government Employees is here today to shed light on VBAs’ training, performance management, and accountability,” stated Chairman Hall. “You are a critical link to those on the front lines working to improve outcomes for our disabled veterans. Training is not an issue that should be taken lightly. We all know the importance of good training, but effective implementation that ensures consistency and accountability can be elusive.”

Panel discussions focused on employee training and monitoring within the VBA. Topics discussed included training of new VBA employees, annual training requirements, employee performance standards, accountability, training oversight, and quality assurance. Director of Education, Workforce, and Income Security for the U.S. Government Accountability Office, Daniel Bertoni, provided the following statement regarding the needed improvements for VA’s training and performance management systems:

“Training for VA disability claims processors complies with some accepted training practices, but VA does not adequately evaluate its training and may have opportunities to improve training design and implementation. VA has a highly structured, three-phase training program for new staff and an 80-hour annual training requirement for all staff. GAO found that VA has taken steps to plan this training strategically and that its training program for new staff appears well-designed and conforms to adult learning principles. However, while VA collects some feedback on training for new staff, it does not collect feedback on all the training conducted at its regional offices. Moreover, both new and experienced staff reported problems with their training. . . . Finally, the agency does not hold claims processors accountable for meeting the annual training requirement.”

Representatives from various organizations comprised the second panel, and emphasized how the current VBA practices seem to reward productivity over quality. Michael Ratajczak of AFGE stressed that it is essential for the VBA claims processors to be properly trained in order to satisfy their dynamic and complex duties. “[I]n addition to an initial orientation, effective long-term training must be an essential component of VBA’s efforts to increase the timeliness, accuracy and consistency of claims processing. Ultimately, veterans seeking benefits are shortchanged by VBA’s failure to have effective performance standards, which reflect the complexity of claims and the demands to implement new legal requirements,” testified Mr. Ratajczak.

Some of the various recommendations that panelists proposed for the VBA included: enhancing VBA’s quality assurance and accountability program, monitoring training, aligning training and performance management systems, equipping both new and experienced staff, reconfiguring VA diagnostic codes to those used in the medical community, and conveying technical information to veterans in a manner that is well organized and easy to understand.

“It seems that veterans and their families do not always receive the benefits and services they deserve in a timely fashion, while at the same time they were willing to give everything to our Nation without hesitation,” stated Bob Filner (D-CA), Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. “Therefore, it is crucial that the VBA provides adequate training and remains accountable for each VA disability claim. Too many veterans think VA stands for Veterans Adversary. We need a complete paradigm shift at the VBA. VA should stand for Veterans Advocate!”

Michael Walcoff, Deputy Under Secretary for Benefits for the Veterans Benefits Administration, testified that “[i]t is critical that our employees receive the essential guidance, materials, and tools to enable them to learn and develop the knowledge, skills, and abilities required to be successful in their positions. To that end, VBA has deployed training tools and centralized programs to provide a consistent approach to training. . . . Along with an expanded training agenda to accommodate the hiring initiative, VBA has enhanced its training oversight methods to improve accountability. Managers at all levels are held responsible for ensuring that training goals are set and training requirements are met.”

H.R. 5892, the Veterans Disability Benefits Claims Modernization Act, passed the House of Representatives on July 31, 2008, by a vote of 492 to 0. This bill will lead to enhanced training, which will improve the processing of compensation claims and ensure more accurate claims adjudication results for our veterans and their families. Senator Clinton introduced companion legislation to this bill, S. 3419, on August 1, 2008.

Chairman Hall stated that “today’s oversight hearing confirmed my suspicion that problems still exist with the training and management at the VBA. Panelists voiced their continuing concerns with what is occurring over at the VBA. We owe it to our veterans to correct these problems.”


Panel 1

Daniel Bertoni, Director of Education, Workforce, and Income Security, U.S. Government Accountability Office

Panel 2

Michael Ratajczak, Decision Review Officer, VA Cleveland Regional Office, American Federation of Government Employees
Kerry Baker, Assistant National Legislative Director, Disabled American Veterans
Ronald Abrams, Joint Executive Director, National Veterans Legal Services Program
Dr. Patricia Keenan, Program Manager, The Human Resources Research Organization
Nick Bartzis, Veteran, Cleveland Ohio

Panel 3

Michael Walcoff, Deputy Under Secretary for Benefits, Veterans Benefits Administration, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
Dorothy Mackay, Director of Employee Development and Training, Veterans Benefits Administration, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
Brad Mayes, Director of Compensation and Pension Service, Veterans Benefits Administration, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs


Prepared testimony for the hearing and an audio recording of the hearing is available on the internet at this link:


I wish this had happened a few years ago, I just got an e mail from my lawyer today stating that the DRO would be opening my file on Monday to start his review of my claims file, my claim for heart probelms was filed in November 2002 6 years later I am just getting an appeal review from the regional office so much for them getting a claim done in 6 months I wonder how long the case will take if they deny the appeal and we have to go to the Board of Veteran Appeals? I wonder if I will live long enough to see the end of this claim?

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Traumatic Brain Injury

Sent: Tuesday, September 16, 2008 3:47 PM
To: ColDan Cedusky-AUSRET
Subject: Fw: Traumatic Brain Injury information - new study just funded needs veterans

Col Dan been reading your informative emails...thanks for keeping me posted on veterans issues. The informtion herein is about a head injury study ...looking for veterans who suffered concussion type head injury from explosion and or a penetration head injury.

Please spread the word to veterans...I learned earlier today that there was a limited study done of Vietnam head injury Sandi might check her data base.
Thank you.
Terry Bohlinger - Vietnam Tet 1968 survivor 25th Inf Div

"For Those Who Fought For It, Freedom Has A Flavor The Protected Will Never Know"

(Anonymous ... found on ration box at Khe Sanh Vietnam 1968 ... for some ... also called Murphy's Combat Infantryman's Law of Vietnam.)

We are indeed blessed - thank God. Have a safe and glorious day. "Terry"

Subject: VVA: Traumatic Brain Injury information

The Blinded Veterans Association was contacted by National Institute of
Health, (NIH) about this study, and they do want both recent Iraq and
Afghanistan Traumatic Brain Injured or wounded as well as Vietnam Veterans
with TBI or back then it was referred to as open head injuries and severe

If anyone knows of a OIF or OEF service member or Vietnam veteran who might
be interested in participation in this study, they will provide travel,
hotel costs, associated with the study.

The Warfighter Head Injury Study (WHIS) is a research study of head-injured
warfighters being conducted at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in
Bethesda, Maryland. We are enrolling Iraqi-Afghan (IA) warfighters with
penetrating brain injury as well as a group of warfighters with blast brain
injury, and a group of healthy warfighter volunteers. In addition to IA
warfighters, we will also enroll Vietnam veterans who were included in the
F. Caveness Vietnam Head Injury Study (VHIS) Registry, additional Vietnam
veterans with TBI and veterans from other wars (i.e.: Gulf War).

We will pay for the costs associated with traveling to the NIH, the cost of
a hotel and reimbursement for meals. In addition, those warfighters with
brain injury will be asked to travel with a caregiver and all of those
expenses will be paid for as well. Testing will be about 6 hours per day,
for 5 work days.

In the past, we have worked with Vietnam veterans during the VHIS and the
results of those studies have changed the way head-injured warfighters are
treated, contributed to learning how the brain works and the long-term
effects of head injury. We have planned a series of neuroscientific
experiments as well as neuropsychological testing to be conducted during
the WHIS. The testing will also include brain scans (magnetic resonance imaging
[MRI] or computed tomography [CT]), EEG and genetic evaluations. We hope
that the results of the WHIS provide knowledge that enables to further
improve the care and outcome in brain-injured war fighters.





The Warfighter Head Injury Study

A Comprehensive, Multidisciplinary Research Evaluation

The Warfighter Head Injury Study (WHIS) is currently seeking healthy
volunteers, ages 18 - 75, to participate in our research study located at
the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Clinical Center in Bethesda,
Maryland. This study is sponsored by the National Institute of Neurological
Disorders and Stroke.

You may qualify if you were an Iraqi-Afghan warfighter in combat and did
NOT sustain a head injury.

You may not qualify if you have certain neurologic or psychiatric
conditions or if you have a history of drug abuse.

This research study will investigate the long-term difficulties
warfighters may experience after combat. The evaluation includes non-invasive brain
scan(s), neurological exam, and neuropsychological testing.

There is no cost for participation or tests related to our study. All
expenses related to taking part in this study will be covered, and standard
NIH compensation is available.

The time commitment for this study is 5 consecutive days for 6 hours each

Individuals interested in this study should contact Sandra Bonifant,
Warfighter Head Injury Study, Program Specialist/Study Coordinator,
Cognitive Neuroscience Section, NINDS, at 301-594-5751 for additional

Sandra Bonifant, BS
Program Specialist
Warfighter Head Injury Study
Main : 301-496-0220

Direct: 301-594-5751
Cell: 301-728-1233
Fax: 301-480-2909

10 Center Dr , MSC 1440
Building 10/ Room 7D43
Bethesda , MD 20892

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2009 Veterans Omnibus Bill passed by Senate



Akaka urges prompt consideration in the House

WASHINGTON, D.C. –U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI), Chairman of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, thanked his Senate colleagues and urged the House of Representatives to promptly consider S. 3023, the Veterans’ Benefits Improvement Act of 2008, following the bill’s Senate-passage by unanimous consent last night.

“We must remember that veterans’ compensation, and indeed all benefits earned by veterans, are a continuing cost of war. This legislation would improve the care and benefits America ’s veterans have earned through their service. We have a small number of days left in this legislative session to gain final passage and I urge my colleagues in the House to promptly consider this important bill,” Akaka said.

S. 3023 contains six titles and 34 provisions that are designed to enhance compensation, housing, labor and education, and insurance benefits for veterans. A full explanation of the bill is available in the Committee’s report, Senate Report 110-449. These improvements include provisions on:

Claims Assistance: Simplification of letters to veterans claiming disabilities, to provide meaningful notice of the information and evidence needed to substantiate a claim.

Veterans Housing: Enhancement of home loan refinancing options, an extended increase in the maximum loan guaranty amount, and an extension of the soon-to-expire authority for VA-guaranteed adjustable-rate mortgages.

Improving Access to the Court System: Expansion of the number of judges on the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims to decide the increased number of cases filed and removal of the ban on judicial review of actions concerning VA’s rating schedule.

Employment Rights: Updating of veterans’ rights to return to work, federal agency assistance in that effort, and more timely Department of Labor investigations of potential violations of veterans’ employment rights.


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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Corning Considers Tax Exemption for Cold War Veterans

Corning Considers Tax Exemption for Cold War Veterans

Corning Considers Tax Exemption for Cold War Veterans
Laura Hutchinson

September 16, 2008

CORNING-- Corning city council members are considering a tax exemption for the city's Cold War veterans.

The tax-exemption is a state program that allows local municipalities to take part in if they want too.
Corning already has a tax exemption for active war time veterans.
The exemption would go into effect during the 2009 tax roll.
City council members heard from two veterans both in favor of the idea at Tuesday’s public hearing.
“One person did mention that he didn't expect to have this, he understood that is wasn't a guarantee to have this,” Corning Cit Manager Mark Ryckman said.
Council members will have a final vote on October 6th.
Anyone who didn't have his or her say at Tuesday’s meeting is invited to that meeting for a chance to speak up.

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Man Indicted On 600 Counts Of Embezzlement

Man Indicted On 600 Counts Of Embezzlement

Former VFW Officer Accused Of Stealing VFW Money

POSTED: 6:40 pm MDT September 16, 2008
UPDATED: 7:28 pm MDT September 16, 2008

It is an embezzlement case, that Veterans of Foreign Wars members just can't make sense of -- one of their own is accused of draining the VFW's bank account.

"He needs to be ashamed of himself, he needs to be ashamed of himself for taking from veterans," said Fred Ortiz, a Veteran's Service officer with the VFW.

A grand jury indictment was just filed against Joe Salas.

Ortiz said, "He was the adjutant quarter master, he handled all of the monies that came in from all of the posts throughout the state."

It was a big position that left him in charge of a lot of money.

But Ortiz said Salas took more than $200,000 that was suppose to benefit veterans.

Ortiz claims he was stealing for years without anyone catching on.

"He knew better," said Ortiz. "He knew how the funds were distributed."

The grand jury decided to indict Salas with more than 600 criminal counts.

His daughter faces charges too.

Robin Hammer, a deputy district attorney, said, "She was also an employee of VFW and she was working with him."

The daughter, Claudine Sanchez, faces 15 counts connected to embezzlement.

Salas faces 652 counts.

Hammer said he spent the money on anything he wanted.

"Such as cruises jewelry for his wife and his girlfriend, restaurants, stores at the mall, anything you could think of basically living well beyond his means," said Hammer.

From hotel rooms to groceries to ATM withdrwals, he reportedly did the most damage with a credit card he took out in the VFW's name, according to the prosecutor.

Ortiz said, "Because that money was missing and we had no money to operate with we had to sell our building, our state building."

What remains unclear is how someone they trusted is now accused of working against them.

The grand jury indicted Salas and his daughter on Monday.

Both will soon go before a judge for their arraignments.

Tuesday night by phone, Salas' attorney wouldn't comment on the indictment.

He'd only say they're looking forward to defending the case in court.

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this week in Congress






Schedule for Week of September 15, 2008

Monday, September 15 – House Floor

House of Representatives to consider four bills reported from the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs

· H.Res. 1335 – Celebrating the 120-year partnership between the Government and State veterans homes (Rep. Hodes)

· S. 2339 – To designate the Department of Veterans Affairs clinic in Alpena, Michigan, as the “Lieutenant Colonel Clement C. Van Wagoner Department of Veterans Affairs Clinic” (Senator Stabenow)

· H.R. 5736 – To designate the Department of Veterans Affairs outpatient clinic in Gadsden, Alabama, as the “Colonel Ola Lee Mize Veterans Clinic” (Rep. Aderholt)

· H.R. 1594 – To designate the Department of Veterans Affairs Outpatient Clinic in Hermitage, Pennsylvania, as the “Michael A. Marzano Department of Veterans Affairs Outpatient Clinic” (Rep. English)

Tuesday, September 16 at 10 a.m. – 340 Cannon House Office Building

**Subcommittee on Health Hearing

“VA Suicide Hotline”

In July 2007, the Department of Veterans Affairs collaborated with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to launch the Veterans Suicide Prevention hotline. The hotline is a toll-free number, 1-800·273-TALK (8255), which is manned 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The Subcommittee hearing will focus on the hotline’s response to the needs of veterans, the mechanism by which suicidal veterans are helped, best practices for suicide prevention, and hotline staffing.

Earlier this month, Army officials reported that suicides among active-duty soldiers this year are on pace to exceed last year’s all-time record and that of the general U.S. population. This is compared to the 115 total soldiers who committed suicide in all of 2007. These statistics have implications for the VA, as the soldiers transition to civilian life and enter the VA health care system either having attempted suicide or having had thoughts of suicide.

Witness List:

Panel 1

· Katherine Power, M.Ed., Director, Center for Mental Health Services, Substances and Mental Health Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Panel 2

· Thomas J. Berger, Ph.D., Senior Analyst for Veterans’ Benefits and Mental Health Issues, Vietnam Veterans of America

· M. David Rudd, Ph.D., ABPP, Professor and Chair of the Department of Psychology, Texas Tech University, American Psychological Association

· Tyrone Ballesteros, Office Manager, National Veterans Foundation

· Reese Butler, Founder, Kristin Brooks Hope Center

· Ian A. Shaffer, M.D., Chief Medical Officer, MHN

Panel 3

· Janet E. Kemp, R.N., Ph.D., National Suicide Prevention Coordinator, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Accompanied by

o Kerry L. Knox, MS, Ph.D., Director, Candanaigua Center of Excellence for Suicide Prevention, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

o Antonette Zeiss, Ph.D., Deputy Chief Consultant, Office of Mental Health Services, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Wednesday, September 17 at 10 a.m. – 210 Cannon House Office Building

Full Committee Markup

Markup of Draft Legislation

Thursday, September 18 at 10 a.m. – 340 Cannon House Office Building

**Subcommittee on Disability Affairs and Memorial Assistance

“Examining the Effectiveness of the Veterans Benefits Administrations’ Training, Performance Management and Accountability”

The purpose of the Subcommittee hearing is to examine the orientation and training process at the Veterans Benefits Administration, and to follow up on the Government Accountability Office recommendation to improve accountability and performance management. Training and performance accountability have been ongoing issues for VBA and veterans have voiced their concerns with the ineffective means by which VBA provides training.


**Listen to the hearing live here: and click on “Audio connection to Room 340”

Keep updated on the committee schedule here: HVAC Website

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Monday, September 15, 2008

UAV operators suffer war stress

UAV operators suffer war stress

MARCH AIR RESERVE BASE, Calif. — The Air National Guardsmen who operate Predator drones over Iraq via remote control, launching deadly missile attacks from the safety of Southern California 7,000 miles away, are suffering some of the same psychological stresses as their comrades on the battlefield.

Working in air-conditioned trailers, Predator pilots observe the field of battle through a bank of video screens and kill enemy fighters with a few computer keystrokes. Then, after their shifts are over, they get to drive home and sleep in their own beds.

But that whiplash transition is taking a toll on some of them mentally, and so is the way the unmanned aircraft’s cameras enable them to see people getting killed in high-resolution detail, some officers say.

In a fighter jet, “when you come in at 500-600 mph, drop a 500-pound bomb and then fly away, you don’t see what happens,” said Col. Albert K. Aimar, who is commander of the 163rd Reconnaissance Wing here and has a bachelor’s degree in psychology. But when a Predator fires a missile, “you watch it all the way to impact, and I mean it’s very vivid, it’s right there and personal. So it does stay in people’s minds for a long time.”

He said the stresses are “causing some family issues, some relationship issues.” He and other Predator officers would not elaborate.

But the 163rd has called in a full-time chaplain and enlisted the services of psychologists and psychiatrists to help ease the mental strain on these remote-control warriors, Aimar said. Similarly, chaplains have been brought in at Predator bases in Texas, Arizona and Nevada.

The North Dakota Air National Guard wing in Fargo flew its first Predator mission overseas last year. The Grand Forks Air Force Base also is getting an unmanned aircraft mission, and the University of North Dakota is preparing to provide Predator training.

In interviews with five of the dozens of pilots and sensor operators at the various bases, none said they had been particularly troubled by their mission, but they acknowledged it comes with unique challenges, and sometimes makes for a strange existence.

“It’s bizarre, I guess,” said Lt. Col. Michael Lenahan, a Predator pilot and operations director for the 196th Reconnaissance Squadron here. “It is quite different, going from potentially shooting a missile, then going to your kid’s soccer game.”

Among the stresses cited by the operators and their commanders: the exhaustion that comes with the shift work of this 24-7 assignment; the classified nature of the job that demands silence at the breakfast table; and the images transmitted via video.

A Predator’s cameras are powerful enough to allow an operator to distinguish between a man and a woman, and between different weapons on the ground. While the resolution is generally not high enough to make out faces, it is sharp, commanders say.

Often, the military also directs Predators to linger over a target after an attack so that the damage can be assessed.

“You do stick around and see the aftermath of what you did, and that does personalize the fight,” said Col. Chris Chambliss, commander of the active-duty 432nd Wing at Creech Air Force Base, Nev. “You have a pretty good optical picture of the individuals on the ground. The images can be pretty graphic, pretty vivid, and those are the things we try to offset. We know that some folks have, in some cases, problems.”

Chambliss said his experience flying F-16 fighter jets on bombing runs in Iraq during the 1990s prepared him for his current job as a Predator pilot. But Chambliss and several other wing leaders said they were concerned about the sensor operators, who sit next to pilots in the ground control station. Often, the sensor operators are on their first assignment and just 18 or 19 years old, officers said.

While the pilot actually fires the missile, the sensor operator uses laser instruments to guide it all the way to its target.

On four or five occasions, sensor operators have sought out a chaplain or supervisor after an attack, Chambliss said. He emphasized that the number of such cases is very small compared to the number of people involved in Predator operations.

Col. Rodney Horn, vice commander of the 147th Reconnaissance Wing at Ellington Field Joint Reserve Base near Houston, said his unit went out of it way to impress upon sensor operators the sometimes lethal nature of the job. “No one’s walking into it blind,” he said.

Master Sgt. Keith LeQuire, a 48-year-old sensor operator here, said the 163rd asks prospective sensor operators whether they are prepared for the deadly serious mission. “No one’s been naive enough to come in to interview but not know about that aspect of the job,” he said.

Unlike soldiers living together in the war zone, the Predator operators do not have the close locker-room-style camaraderie that allows buddies to talk about the day’s events and blow off steam. But many Predator operators at Creech employ a decompression ritual during the long ride home, said Air Force Lt. Col. Robert P. Herz.

“They’re putting a missile down somebody’s chimney and taking out bad guys, and the next thing they’re taking their wife out to dinner, their kids to school,” said Herz, a Ph.D. who interviewed pilots and sensor operators for a doctoral dissertation on human error in Predator accidents.

“A lot of them have told me, ‘I’m glad I’ve got the hour drive.’ It gives them that whole amount of time to leave it behind,” Herz said. “They get in their bus or car and they go into a zone — they say, ‘For the next hour I’m decompressing, I’m getting re-engaged into what it’s like to be a civilian.”’

Col. Gregg Davies, commander of the 214th Reconnaissance Group in Tucson, Ariz., said he knows of no member of his team who has experienced any trauma from launching a Predator attack.

Himself a Predator pilot, Davies said he has found the work rewarding. The Arizona Air National Guard unit flies Predators in both the Iraq and Afghanistan war zones. It has often provided protection for American convoys, and its personnel have seen insurgents planting roadside bombs.

“If we can have an effect there where we can take people out, that’s a real plus in terms of saving American lives,” Davies said. “Our folks look at it as they’re in the fight, they’re saving lives. They don’t feel too bad about that.”


I grew up in Riverside and back then it was called March Air Force Base, my step father Dale (NMN) Jennings, TSGT, Retired use to take us to the commissary, the hospital, and PX, I remember Chuck Norris martial arts studio in the town outside the base.

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Soldier: Talking Helps With PTSD

Soldier: Talking Helps With PTSD

August 07, 2008
Army News Service|by Virginia Reza

FORT BLISS, Texas - "Alcohol, drugs and partying are not the answer; it just makes things worse," said Silver Star Medal recipient Staff Sgt. Omar Hernandez. "Talking really helps."

Hernandez, who underwent treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder when he returned from his third tour in Iraq last year, said he hesitated to seek mental help because he did not want to be perceived as crazy or weak. He serves with B Company, 1st Battalion, 77th Armor Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division.

Hernandez's courageous actions on the battlefield June 6, 2007, earned him the Silver Star. His citation read, "For gallantry in action against a determined enemy Sgt. Hernandez exemplary bravery under fire and a complete disregard for his own safety, enabled him to single handedly pull two members of the Iraqi National Police Force to safety despite having already been severely wounded himself. The gallant actions of Sgt. Hernandez are in the finest traditions of military heroism."

Hernandez said most servicemembers who witnessed atrocities in Iraq have either mild or severe cases of PTSD, but do not want to admit it. He was once in the same situation. He suffered from insomnia and was very angry for getting shot and leaving his comrades behind. He was unable to cry and his emotions were a rollercoaster, he said, but finally he decided to "let it all out," which he said lifted a huge weight off his shoulders.

"Talking about it helped so much," said Hernandez. "Soldiers should talk about experiences they encountered down range. It's about making themselves better in their head and in their heart. And if they don't feel comfortable talking to people who have not experienced combat issues, they can look me up. I'll be more than happy to talk to them."

Staff Sgt. Brandlon Falls, Hernandez's platoon sergeant in Iraq, said he was very proud of him.

"I've been in the Army a while, and Hernandez is one of the top team leaders I've ever had," said Falls.

Falls also agreed Soldiers should talk about their experiences as soon as they return from deployment. He said if it were up to him, he would make it mandatory for all Soldiers to get some kind of counseling until "they get it all out of their system."

"When I came back, I wanted to talk about everything that happened and it helped me, because after a while I was happy," said Falls. "If I had waited, I probably would have developed PTSD."
Born in Jalisco, Mexico, and raised in Houston, Hernandez was granted his U.S. citizenship during his second tour to Iraq. The ceremony took place in one of Saddam Hussein's palaces, which he said was an unforgettable experience.

As a young boy, Hernandez liked to watch combat movies, especially Rambo, which he jokingly said inspired him to join the military. He began his military career in the Army Reserve. He was deployed to Iraq for six months as an engineer during the initial invasion. After redeployment, he enlisted in the Army as an infantryman to better serve his country, he said. He attended airborne school in Fort Bragg, N.C., and thereafter deployed with the 519th Military Intelligence Battalion, for 12 months, where he pulled security for interrogators. He was then reassigned to 4th BCT,1st AD and deployed for seven months versus 12 due to a severe wound to his leg. He is now attached to the protocol section.

Hernandez said his wound hurts on occasion, especially when the weather changes. His friends often tease him by asking if it's going to rain.

"The guys ask if I sit in my front porch and predict what the weather will be like today: 'Is your leg aching?' they ask," said Hernandez. "They give me a hard time, and I love it."

After six months of physical therapy and some training, he is now able to run McKelligon Canyon carrying a 50-pound rucksack. Hernandez's injuries include loss of 30 percent in his quadriceps, three inches of girth and nerve damage to his right thigh, and he still has shrapnel in his leg.

Hernandez said what still haunts him is the sadness and fear in the Iraqis' faces. He can't forget the children running around without shoes.

"Some don't even have a mom and dad who can give them a hug," said Hernandez. "It's pretty hard on them and pretty hard on us to see that. I'm just glad my son doesn't have to go through that. That's why I want to go back, to help the Iraqi people acquire the same rights we have in the U.S.

"People who want to pull out from Iraq should walk a mile in my shoes and see the things I saw," he concluded. "I'm sure they would change their minds immediately."

(Virginia Reza writes for the Fort Bliss Monitor newspaper.)

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Enjoy the laugh

Harold was an old Retired Navy Chief Engineman. He was
sick and was in the VA hospital. Anyway, there was this one young nurse that just drove him crazy. Every time she came in, she would talk to him
like he was a little child. She would say in a patronizing tone of voice,
"And how are we doing this morning, or are we ready for our bath, or are
we hungry?" Harold had enough of this particular nurse.

One day, Harold had received breakfast, and pulled the apple juice off his breakfast tray, and put it on his bed side stand. He had just been given a urine bottle to fill for testing. know where the juice went.

Well, the nurse came in a little later and picked up the urine bottle.
She looks at it. "My, but it seems we are a little cloudy today....." At
this, the Chief snatched the bottle out of her hand, pops off the top, and
drinks it down, saying, "Well, I'll run it through again, and maybe I can
filter it better this time. The nurse fainted..Harold just smiled..Typical Chief!

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article from Col. Dan,15202,175280,00.html?wh=benefits
'Discontent' with MTF Pharmacies
Tom Philpott | September 12, 2008
Readers of Tom Philpott's Military Update column sound off.

Base Pharmacies Losing 'Discontented' Beneficiaries

Reference the column an TRICARE drug costs, I would like you to pass on to Rear Adm. [Thomas] McGinnis, TRICARE pharmacy chief, something he may be unaware of.

He continues to urge beneficiaries to use base pharmacies to save themselves and the government money. However, base pharmacies, at least the one I'm familiar with, continue to make it much less convenient to use their service than to go to WalMart, CVS or other commercial pharmacies.

I've been retired for more than 12 years and have given up using base facilities except the pharmacy. As I have a TRICARE supplement that covers prescription costs, it would be much easier for me to get them filled downtown than on base. I continue to use the base pharmacy, however, because after more than 28 years of active duty, I feel I earned it and don't wish to give it up.

I work on base with many other retirees but I am the only one among them who regularly uses the base pharmacy. When I ask the others why, they tell me it's too much of a pain in the a** to fill prescriptions on base and much easier to go downtown. I have to agree. I also use downtown pharmacies when they tell me on base that they don't carry the medication or they recommend I go to an adjacent base and try there.

I don't have a couple of spare work hours, however, so I normally stop by a commercial pharmacy on the way home or I get it on the weekend. I don't need to go into more detail about how they make it inconvenient to use the base pharmacy because I don't think this is an isolated instance.

Navarre, Fla.

We invited Rear Adm. McGinnis to respond:

Thank you for the comment on how it has become inconvenient to use your base pharmacy. You are correct that you are not an isolated case of discontent.

Currently, Military Treatment Facility (MTF) pharmacies are facing a number of challenges in providing timely, beneficiary-orientated pharmaceutical care. Many factors influence waiting time and drug availability such as available staffing, the size of the MTF and physician mix all play a role.

Also, missions of the retail and the MTF pharmacies have differed greatly. The MTF pharmacy mission was to support the patients and physicians associated with a particular MTF. As a result, its drug formulary was limited compared to that of a retail pharmacy whose goal is to meet the needs of all the patients and physicians in the local community.

The makeup of the MTF formulary is heavily influenced by the types of drugs needed to support primary and specialty care provided by each MTF. Larger MTFs provide a broader range of specialties and, as a result, the formulary is more extensive than at a smaller facility.

Also, each MTF pharmacy has been impacted to some degree by war-time deployments of personnel while the job market demand for pharmacists has increased and the pressure on salaries of MTF pharmacist positions, in some locales, has made vacant positions difficult to fill.

The bottom line is that we are losing customer focus on the front lines. As you have pointed out, it is beginning to cost us our most dedicated pharmacy supporters. We have begun to address many of these issues that have materialized rapidly over the last few years. One effort, for example, is to replace lost manpower with increased use of technology. But we still have more work to do before we will win you and other retirees back to the MTF pharmacy.

Rear Admiral, USPHS
Chief, TRICARE Pharmaceutical Operations
Falls Church, Va.


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Sunday, September 14, 2008

Risk Factors: How the Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) Transmits
Of 2282 veterans tested for HCV, 4·6% were confirmed by HCV PCR to be HCV infected. In the multivariate model developed, injection drug use, blood transfusion before 1992, service during the Vietnam era, tattoo, and a history of abnormal liver function tests were independent predictors of HCV infection. Our data support considering a more targeted screening approach that includes five of the 11 risk factors.

From: []
Sent: Sunday, September 14, 2008 8:33 AM
Subject: Surveillance Alert- "Ask NOD"

Hi Col. Dan
Here's the latest information for retired military and veterans with Hepatitis C.

Please post to your lists.

Harry Hooks, Manager
Sept. 14, 2008 Surveillance Alert

NEW- A message board provided by to assist, enlighten and inform
other vets how to avoid the many pit-falls and road blocks when filing
VA claims. Learn " What To and Not To Do" for preparing HCVets claims
before the Regional and BVA Appeal Process.

"Ask NOD"
Guidance for Vets and Their Families, Veteran Organizations, SO, VSO,
Lawyers and other' professionals filing claims for Hepatitis C service
connection with the Veterans administration.
Visit "Ask NOD" click here

Hepatitis C Virus Transmission Methods- Research & Documentation
Risk Factors: How the Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) Transmits

Sep. 2 2008 NC clinic probed in small hepatitis C outbreak -RALEIGH,
N.C. - State health officials are investigating ... seven patients to
test positive for hepatitis C. Officials are contacting 1,200 patients
who underwent cardiac stress tests within the last 14 months... The
cardiac stress test involves injecting a dye into a patient's vein as
stress levels in the patient's body are increased. Devlin said officials
believe patients transmitted hepatitis C to other patients because they
had the same strain. See more on HCV by stress test

Aug-27 Adam and Eve clients asked to contact health unit- The Simcoe
Muskoka District Health Unit is asking all clients who received
tattooing or piercing services at the Adam and Eve Tattooing and
Piercing in Innisfil between April 29 and Aug. 21 to call the health
unit, as part of an investigation into potential exposure to non-sterile

Aug. 27 2008 Newest disease-spreading fear: Handcuffs MONTREAL, (UPI) --
A Canadian company warned a national police conference in Montreal that
dirty handcuffs can transmit herpes, HIV, influenza and hepatitis B.
...l conference of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police ...
Cleaner company... markets a device and chemicals that disinfect
handcuffs..."If you go around ...any police officer how often they clean
their cuffs, they'll probably say never," ... found viruses and bacteria
along with dried blood and skin particles in the hinges...dangerous for
the next person to be cuffed but for the officers...The cleaning device
creates ultra-high frequency sound waves.

08/27/08 Clovis patients possibly exposed to hepatitis, HIV-Some
instruments used last week may not have been fully sterilized. By
Barbara Anderson / The Fresno Bee Fourteen Clovis Community Medical
Center patients -- some of whom were on the maternity ward -- may have
been exposed to hepatitis and HIV last week when doctors used
instruments that may not have been fully sterilized.

sloppy city anesthesiologist infected 14 patients with hepatitis B and C
- and probably spread the liver-attacking viruses to at least 10
more...Dr. Brian Goldweber used the same syringe to give patients
already infected with hepatitis a second dose from anesthesia vials.
This "double dipping" contaminated the contents, which he then injected
into other patients - spreading the virus, a city Health Department
probe found.

August 17, 2008 Another View: Yolo's needle exchange program flawed-
Matt Rexroad - Your recent
praise of Yolo County (CA) is appropriate, but not for our needle
"exchange" program...we were provided with some startling figures...More
than 61,000 needles were passed out to about 150 people ... more than
400 needles per participant. Shockingly, 11,253 of those needles were
not returned.

For more information on documented transmission methods for the
Hepatitis C virus visit

Visit for more information on retired military and veterans
with Hepatitis C


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