Saturday, November 8, 2008

Government’s Responsibility For Veterans Right To Know

Government’s Responsibility For Veterans Right To Know

ISSUE: The Department of Defense has a long history of using military personnel in covert medical experiments. During deployments military personnel are exposed often to dangerous conditions involving chemicals and biological substances that are harmful to human health.

At the time of the exposures the true nature of the long term health effects have not been understood.

These individuals are then discharged from military service with no knowledge of the exposures , or the possible consequence to their health and the health of their families.

Background: In 2002, the Department of Defense revealed some of the details of chemical and biological tests that were conducted during the Vietnam Era which is now known as the Shipboard Hazards and Decontaminations/Defense (SHAD). These experiments were a part of a larger program known as Project 112, which included land based testing.

These revelations are the latest in a long line of human subject research which included the atomic tests, both in the Pacific and in Nevada’s above ground test site. Then there were the chemical weapons experiments and drug testing such as LSD and other drugs from pharmacuetical companies conducted at Edgewood Arsenal, Maryland from 1955 thru 1975, and biological weapons experiments conducted at Fort Detrick, Maryland, from 1952 thru 1972 and ended when the United States signed the 1972 BWTC.

There are also the issue’s of Agent Orange exposure during Vietnam, and other herbicides used during the same time frame, Agents Blue, White etc, although Agent Orange appears to have the worst dioxins in it. From the First Gulf War there is the issue of depleted uranium, the exposures from the weapons destroyed at Kamisayah, Iraq in March 1991 that released Sarin and mustard agents into the atmosphere. Then there were the experimental vaccines used during the Gulf War, and exposures to pesticides in the Gulf that are forbidden to be used in the United States.

When men and women in uniform put their lives at risk in service to this nation, their rights to informed consent must be paramount. Further it is incumbent on the government that these citizens be informed about any adverse health conditions resulting from exposures during their service to their country.

This information will be an immediate full disclosure of what is known about their exposures and their potential threats to their health and the health of their families. In the past, this information has been intentionally withheld by various government agencies and officials, as well as, withheld from appropriate congressional committees.

It is also known that the Department of Defense has placed parameters on the health studies in the past conducted by the National Academies of Science (NAS), the Institute of Medicine (IOM) that ignored known studies that show medical conditions and long term health consequences of exposures.

There are two pertinent studies that show medical conditions caused by some of the exposures that should be used by the Veterans Administration in adjudicating the claims of the veterans used in the Cold War experiments involving chemical agents they are the 1994 National Institute of Health Report Toxicity of the Organophosphate Chemical Warfare Agents GA, GB, and VX: Implications for Public Protection found online at it is dated January 1, 1994 and the SIPRI Report Delayed Toxic Effects of Chemical Warfare Agents located at

From Page 40 the known medical problems:

To conclude this section, the closing observations from Spiegelberg’s monograph
will be cited (these remarks do not refer exclusively to organophosphorus
CW agents) [2]:
A psychiatric delayed-effect syndrome was found as a result of systematic investigations
on former members of CW production and testing stations for the Wehrmacht. In
terms of frequency, two groups of symptoms can be distinguished–each consisting of
four separate symptoms or signs.
(1) The great majority of persons examined showed:
(a) persistently lowered vitality accompanied by marked diminution in drive;
(b) defective autonomic regulation leading to cephalalgia, gastrointestinal and
cardiovascular symptoms, and premature decline in libido and potency;
(c) intolerance symptoms (alcohol, nicotine, medicines);
(d) impression of premature aging.
(2) Further, one or more symptoms of the second group were found:
(a) depressive or subdepressive disorders of vital functions;
(b) cerebral vegetative (syncopal) attacks;
(c) slight or moderate amnestic and demential defects;
(d) slight organoneurological defects (predominantly microsymptoms and singular
signs of extrapyramidal character).
Our results are a contribution to the general question of psychopathological delayed
and permanent lesions caused by industrial poisoning. On the basis of our studies of
the etiologically different manifestations of toxication, the possibility of a relatively
uniform–though equally unspecific–cerebro-organic delayed effect syndrome is conceivable.

Given the fact that most of the veterans used in the Cold War experiments are in the age groups of 50-90, some urgency should be given by the Department of Defense and the Veterans Administration to accept this known research to aid in the adjudication of the veterans claims that are filed as a result of the medical problems from the exposures.

Many of the veterans are deceased, many of the surviving spouses have no idea that their spouses were even used in any of these experiments, and that they may even have a claim for veterans benefits, if the cause of death may have been linked to the exposures.

This GAO Report dated February 2008 shows that the Department of Defense has been less than diligent in locating the veterans used in these experiments.

To view the full product, including the scope
and methodology,

Since 2003, DOD has stopped actively searching for individuals who were potentially exposed to chemical or biological substances during Project 112 tests, but did not provide a sound and documented basis for that decision. In 2003, DOD reported it had identified 5,842 service members and estimated 350 civilians as having been potentially exposed during Project 112, and indicated that DOD would cease actively searching for additional individuals. However, in 2004, GAO reported that DOD did not exhaust all possible sources of information and recommended that DOD determine the feasibility of identifying additional individuals. In response to GAO’s recommendation, DOD determined continuing an active search for individuals had reached the point of diminishing returns, and reaffirmed its decision to cease active searches. This decision was not supported by an objective analysis of the potential costs and benefits of continuing the effort, nor could DOD provide any documented criteria from which it made its determination. Since June 2003, however, non-DOD sources—including the Institute of Medicine—have identified approximately 600 additional names of individuals who were potentially exposed during Project 112. Until DOD provides a more objective analysis of the costs and benefits of actively searching for Project 112 participants, DOD’s efforts may continue to be questioned.
DOD has taken action to identify individuals who were potentially exposed during tests outside of Project 112, but GAO identified four shortcomings in DOD’s current effort. First, DOD’s effort lacks clear and consistent objectives, scope of work, and information needs that would set the parameters for its effort. Second, DOD has not provided adequate oversight to guide this effort. Third, DOD has not fully leveraged information obtained from previous research efforts that identified exposed individuals. Fourth, DOD’s effort lacks transparency since it has not kept Congress and veterans service organizations fully informed of the progress and results of its effort. Until DOD addresses these limitations, Congress, veterans, and the American public cannot be assured that DOD’s current effort is reasonable and effective.
DOD and VA have had limited success in notifying individuals potentially exposed during tests both within and outside Project 112. DOD has a process to share the names of identified service members with VA; however, DOD has delayed regular updates to VA because of a number of factors, such as competing priorities. Furthermore, although VA has a process for notifying potentially exposed veterans, it was not using certain available resources to obtain contact information to notify veterans or to help determine whether they were deceased. Moreover, DOD had not taken any action to notify identified civilians, focusing instead on veterans since the primary impetus for the research has been requests from VA. DOD has refrained from taking action on notifying civilians in part because it lacks specific guidance that defines the requirements to notify civilians. Until these issues are addressed, some identified veterans and civilians will remain unaware of their potential exposure.

Table 3: Veterans Who VA Has Notified of Their Potential Exposure as of December 2007
OUSD (P&R) Project 112 OUSD (AT&L) task order Total
Number of names DOD has provided to VA 6,739 6,440 7,531 20,710
Names with no numeric identifier (e.g., social security number or service number) 666 385 none 1,051
Names of veterans known to be deceased 2,157 733 500 3,390
Possible number of veterans to be notified (i.e., veterans who have an identifier and are not documented as deceased) 3,916 5,322 7,031 16,269
Number of notification letters mailed by VA 319a 4,438 2,987 7,744
Percentage of veterans sent notification letters for those known not to be deceased and for which VA has a numeric identifier 8% 83% 42% 48%

Page 25 GAO-08-366
Chemical and Biological Defense

As the above table shows, the veterans are not being notified and when the veterans do file claims with the Veterans Administration, they are being told that they can not prove they were exposed during service, despite being assigned to Fort Detrick, Edgewood Arsenal, Dugway Proving Grounds, they are asked questions that are impossible for them to answer for instance, what chemicals or substances were you exposed to, on what day, how much of the substance was inhaled, ingested etc. Who else was present and what were the circumstances.

Despite submitting the EPA report on the toxins located at Edgewood Arsenal in the drinking water wells (that were not capped until 1978) and the surface water and soil of the Edgewood area of Aberdeen Proving Grounds, veterans are told that they can not prove how much of the water was consumed by them and what toxins were in that particular glass of water. This gets to be absurd, on the other hand of the same argument, how many glasses of the water is safe to drink? Since the Army has been dumping and burying wooden barrels and metal barrels that have since rusted out and the toxins have entered the water system from which the wells drew from, the aquifer was found to be so contaminated in 1978 that all water wells on Edgewood Arsenal and the town of Edgewood were ordered closed and the government paid to pipe clean water in from out of the area.

Here is the list of toxic material found at Edgewood

Site Profile | Aliases | Operable Units | Contacts
Actions | Contaminants | Site-Specific Documents
The below list only includes contaminants identified as contaminants of concern (COCs) for this site. COCs are the site-specific chemical substances that the health assessor selects for further evaluation of potential health effects. Identifying contaminants of concern is a process that requires the assessor to examine contaminant concentrations at the site, the quality of environmental sampling data and the potential for human exposure.
Media Contaminant Contaminant Group
Groundwater, Surface Water 1,1-DICHLOROETHYLENE VOC
Groundwater 1,2,4-TRICHLOROBENZENE Base Neutral Acids
Groundwater, Surface Water 1,2-DICHLOROETHANE VOC
Groundwater, Surface Water 1,2-TRANS-DICHLOROETHYLENE VOC
Groundwater 1,4-DICHLOROBENZENE Base Neutral Acids
Sediment 4,4-DDE Pesticides
Sediment, Soil 4,4-DDT Pesticides
Groundwater ACETONE VOC
Groundwater ALUMINUM (FUME OR DUST) Metals
Groundwater, Sediment, Soil, Surface Water ANTIMONY Metals
Soil AROCLOR 1248 PCBs
Soil AROCLOR 1254 PCBs
Soil AROCLOR 1260 PCBs
Groundwater, Sediment, Soil, Surface Water ARSENIC Metals
Groundwater, Soil BARIUM Metals
Groundwater BENZENE VOC
Groundwater BENZOIC ACID Base Neutral Acids
Groundwater, Sediment, Soil BERYLLIUM Metals
Groundwater BORON OXIDE Inorganics
Groundwater, Soil, Surface Water CADMIUM Metals
Groundwater CALCIUM Metals
Sediment CHLORDANE Pesticides
Groundwater, Soil CHROMIUM Metals
Groundwater COBALT AND COMPOUNDS Inorganics
Groundwater, Sediment, Soil, Surface Water COPPER Metals
Groundwater CYANIDE Inorganics
Soil HEPTACHLOR Pesticides
Groundwater HEXACHLOROBUTADIENE Base Neutral Acids
Solid Waste INORGANICS Inorganics
Groundwater, Sediment, Soil, Surface Water IRON Metals
Groundwater, Sediment, Soil, Surface Water LEAD Metals
Soil LEWISITE Base Neutral Acids
Groundwater, Sediment MAGNESIUM Metals
Groundwater, Soil, Surface Water MANGANESE Metals
Groundwater, Soil MERCURY Metals
Groundwater, Surface Water METHYLENE CHLORIDE VOC
Soil MUSTARD GAS Organics
Groundwater NICKEL Metals
Groundwater NITRATE Inorganics
Solid Waste NOT PROVIDED Not Provided
Soil OIL & GREASE Oil & Grease
Soil, Solid Waste PCBs PCBs
Soil PHOSGENE Pesticides
Groundwater POTASSIUM Metals
Groundwater, Surface Water SELENIUM Metals
Groundwater, Soil SILVER Metals
Groundwater SODIUM Metals
Groundwater, Soil THALLIUM Metals
Groundwater TOLUENE VOC
Groundwater, Surface Water TRICHLOROETHYLENE VOC
Groundwater VANADIUM (FUME OR DUST) Metals
Groundwater, Surface Water VINYL CHLORIDE VOC
Solid Waste VOC VOC
Groundwater XYLENES VOC
Groundwater, Soil, Surface Water ZINC Metals

Return to Search Results Return to Search Superfund Site Information

DISCLAIMER: Be advised that the data contained in these profiles are intended solely for informational purposes use by employees of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for management of the Superfund program. They are not intended for use in calculating Cost Recovery Statutes of Limitations and cannot be relied upon to create any rights, substantive or procedural, enforceable by any party in litigation with the United States. EPA reserves the right to change these data at any time without public notice.

It is past time that the government accepts responsibility for the veterans that may have been harmed in experiments that even during the Cold War violated the Nuremberg Codes of 1947. The Nuremberg Codes were written primarily by the United States, France and Great Britain to enable them to try the Nazis who had used the concentration camps in human experiments, then less than six years later, in 1953 the Secretary of Defense Wilson signed a top secret Memorandum of Understanding to allow the military to conduct these chemical, biological, nuclear and drug experiments. These experiments today are illegal no matter who signs what or who thinks they can be done, federal laws as well as international law bans all human experiments involving these conditions.

The veterans, many of whom were enticed by the promise of awards, medals, extra pay, easier working conditions and in some cases patriotic pleas, “your nation needs you”. The promise of the Soldiers medal were not kept, nor any other awards due to the secrecy of the experiments, how can you give a soldier a medal for a program that does not “exist”? The soldiers also signed non-disclosure statements, National Security agreements that basically stated if the experiments were discussed you would be tried and sent to Leavenworth for twenty five years. This kept many men from telling their problems to doctors, and how they imagine how their medical problems started.

At this point in fairness due to the lack of thorough follow up medical care after their use in the experimental programs, all of the veterans used in any of these programs, from SHAD, Operation 112, Fort Detricks Biological experiments, the experiments conducted at Dugway Proving Grounds and the drug and chemical weapons experiments at Edgewood Arsenal should all be given full medical care from the Veterans Administration, it is the least the government could do for these veterans and their families.

In addition if these veterans have any of the medical problems shown in the SIPRI study or the Jan 1994 NIH report the benefit of the doubt should be given to the veterans and compensation claims should be approved, the veterans were there, and environmental exposures are just as bad as intentional exposures, and after 30-60 years it will be very hard to separate the differences, if the men have the medical problems, they should be helped.

The history shows that the Department of Defense and the Veterans Administration have not gone the extra steps needed to help these veterans and their families, since the experiments were first exposed in 1975, by the release of the Department of the Army Inspector Generals Report on Human Experimentation. The subsequent studies the 1993 Veterans at Risk Report, the 1994 Senate Committee Report known as the Rockefeller Commission, the broken promises of then Secretary of defense Richard Cheney in 1991 and Acting VA Secretary Anthony Princippi to help the veterans of the WW2 era experiments and the Cold War experiments.

In November 2004 the Detroit Free Press did another expose of the human experiments and the lack of care and follow up by the government, David Zeman contacted then VA Secretary Anthony Princippi and he responded that he thought that those men had been helped and if they hadn’t the VA would immediately get them the help they deserved. It is now four years later and the veterans and their families are still waiting, why?

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Friday, November 7, 2008

'Veterans in Focus' Special

'Veterans in Focus' Special

Why not celebrate where out country has been and celebrate the stories of those who are fighting and have fought for us?

I wanted to pass on the featured special section, “Veterans in Focus: Service, Struggle and Success” – which highlights 11 veterans and their stories.

There are many video clips available at this link and I encourage you to watch and share them with other veterans and active duty military.

More About America's Veterans
Child soldier escapes war (2:28)
Veterans rest in peace (2:07)
Pantry for Vets a big help (2:55)
Friendly faces greet troops (2:11)
Vet battles disease (2:32)
Memories of WWII (2:41)
Soldier blogs about war (2:59)
Vet makes peace (2:36)
Brother fighting brother (2:54)

More In Focus Special Reports
Holidays in Focus
In Focus: Guns in America
Sports in Focus: The other games

Impact Your World: HowTo Help
Iraq and Afghanistan veterans of America
Veterans of Foreign Wars
Veterans for America

Send at, see on CNN Veterans Day
What did you do in the war? Salute the troops
Honor the troops on Veterans Day

more iReports »

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Army Program Reinvents Wounded Care

Army Program Reinvents Wounded Care

November 06, 2008
Armed Forces Press Service|by Fred W. Baker III

WASHINGTON - When the first news stories broke in February 2007 detailing a breakdown in Soldier and Family care at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., senior Army leaders scrambled into action.

Headlines screamed of neglect as the nation's highest leaders, from the Pentagon, Congress and the White House demanded an answer as to how this could have happened.

In fact, there was no single answer. And Army officials soon discovered that the problem was systemic and not isolated at Walter Reed.

Five-and-a-half years of combat on two fronts, coupled with historically high combat survival rates, had thrust hundreds of soldiers, battered and broken, and their families, into a bureaucratic health and rehabilitation system that had all but lay dormant for nearly 30 years.

"Once we became engaged in the two wars, when we started to look for those rehabilitative capabilities, they really didn't exist," said Army Brig. Gen. Gary Cheek, the Army's assistant surgeon general for warrior care and transition. "We didn't take good care of the families. We weren't watching out for the soldiers. ... We also really didn't know what was going on."

Soon, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates would proclaim that, next to fighting the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, taking care of wounded warriors was to become the Defense Department's highest priority.

What followed was an all-out Army assault on the broken systems, substandard living conditions, scattered family support programs, and even passive leadership that had contributed to the breakdown in wounded warrior care.

Over the past 20 months, the Army has reinvented its wounded warrior care program, creating a system that puts soldiers and family members at the center of care, surrounded by protective layers of leadership, case managers, doctors, support specialists and senior leader oversight.

Transformation Goes Full Circle

The model for the transformation began at the same place the problems were first discovered. The first newly-designed wounded warrior brigade stood up at Walter Reed only three months after its hand-picked top leaders put boots on the ground there.

"We have made tremendous progress here at Walter Reed, and even more importantly, across the Army in establishing systems that provide much more comprehensive care for our warriors," said Army Col. Terrance McKenrick, the brigade's first commander.

McKenrick arrived at Walter Reed on March 2, 2007. Three months later, he had a fully operational brigade - a warrior transition unit - with three companies and more than 200 cadre in place to take care of 700 warriors.

Outpatient soldiers who had been scattered in apartments off post with little or no supervision were consolidated in one massive, renovated barracks on the hospital complex where they would be within walking distance of medical care.

Before the brigade was in place, platoon sergeants, who often also were patients, would care for about 50 soldiers each, McKenrick said.

"Most of his day was spent just trying to get accountability," McKenrick said. "He did not have the time ... to be able to help individual soldiers and families with all of their issues."

Each platoon sergeant there now has three squad leaders who care for about 12 soldiers each. The squad leader is the point man in what the Army has coined the "triad of care." Central to the newly formed layers of support, every soldier has a squad leader, a nurse case manager and a primary care physician.

Before, there were 24 case managers handling an average of 55 soldiers each. Now, there are 39 case managers watching over about 18 soldiers each, McKenrick said.

"It's a much more proactive involvement ... in helping individual warriors," he said. "They now have the time to do that well and manage those care plans a lot closer than they did in the past."

Delivering Quality Care

There were no primary care physicians in the past, either, McKenrick said. If a wounded soldier needed to see a doctor for something other than his main injury, specialists at the hospitals had to fit those appointments into their already packed schedules. Now each company has an assigned primary care physician who takes on no other patients. Each cares for about 230 soldiers.

The nurse case managers and the physicians are supported by about 20 other staff in a newly renovated warrior clinic housed on the first floor of the main hospital. The area is only for wounded warriors and gives them a central location for all of their primary medical needs. Appointments with specialists throughout the hospital are scheduled by the nurse case managers and squad leaders to ensure the soldiers know when and where to make their appointments.

Also new is the development of a comprehensive transition plan. Launched across the Army's medical command in March, the plan is a collaboration of doctors, case managers, occupational therapists, specialty care providers and the soldiers. The idea is to map out goals that are needed for each wounded soldier to successfully transition either back into the Army or into civilian life.

The plan is in place within a month of the soldier's arrival at the transition unit in outpatient care, said Army Lt. Col. Suzanne Shaw, the senior case manager for the Warrior Transition Brigade at Walter Reed.

"Every warrior ... is here because they are going to have a major life change. We like to start from the very beginning ... with developing a plan for the future," Shaw said. "This will really help focus our warriors away from illness and injury and on to productive civilian life or returning to duty."

The warrior in transition units now serve as the Army-wide model. In the past, there were 300 cadre taking care of wounded warriors in companies spread out across the Army. Now there are 2,500 cadre caring for 12,000 wounded warriors in 35 transition units and nine community-based health care groups across the United States. The Army plans to build 21 transition complexes that will place the staff, barracks, hospitals and support services in one central location. The first will be built on Fort Riley, Kan., where construction is slated to begin next year.

The 12,000 soldiers in the transition units now represent a cross section of illnesses and injuries, and all are not necessarily combat related. Of those 12,000, only 1,500 are Purple Heart recipients. The move to include all wounded, ill and injured was made, said officials, so they can offer the same level of health care to all soldiers.

"I suppose we could consider a special program for only our [combat] wounded soldiers. But then when I have a soldier who has three combat tours and he's injured in a motorcycle accident, he's not eligible," Cheek said. "Do we not have an obligation to take care of him?"

Wounded Warrior Program Adds Oversight

For some seriously injured soldiers, the Army also has added another layer of advocacy and oversight.

The Army's Wounded Warrior program, or AW2, includes in its fold soldiers who have a single disability rating of 30 percent or a combined disability rating of 50 percent. If a soldier is injured and is anticipated to receive either of those disability ratings, he is entered into the program even before the rating is awarded.

More than 3,000 soldiers and veterans are now in the AW2 program and of those, about 900 have a 30 percent disability rating. Army officials expect the program to grow as they work to incorporate those with the combined 50 percent rating.

The AW2 program began in 2004 as The Disabled Soldier Support System, but later changed its name because soldiers didn't view themselves as disabled, officials said. All soldiers in the program have been injured since Sept. 11, 2001. The program encompasses soldiers injured in combat, as well as in training and off-duty accidents.

The soldiers and families are assigned an AW2 advocate that oversees their care, even as they are still being cared for at the transition units by the "triad of care."

"I'll be frank. A number of leaders have asked 'Isn't that redundant?'" said Col. Jim Rice, the AW2 program director. "I'll admit to some redundancy. What makes us unique is that advocate will be with that soldier and family when the [transition] leadership is no longer responsible for them."

An Advocate for Life

Over time, the role of the AW2 advocate increases as the nurse case manager's role decreases, so that by the time the medical board makes a determination, "the person working with them most is the one that is going to be with them for the rest of their life," Rice said.

In fact, the advocate will continue to work with the soldier and family as long as needed, even if the soldier transitions back to active duty, Rice said. So far, 70 soldiers have returned to duty, he said. Most have been medically retired and have returned to their communities where they receive care at Veterans Affairs facilities.

There are about 80 advocates stationed around the United States, Rice said. Some advocates are stationed at major military treatment facilities, others at VA rehabilitation centers, and still others are in remote locations, working out of their homes. All advocates are civilians, either contractors or civil servants, and many are retired military. Some have medical backgrounds, but not all, Rice said. They manage about 40 cases each, but the Army's goal is to get that down to about 30 each, he said.

The advocates typically are generalists and their powers lie in knowing whom to call when there is a problem. They become community-based experts and they have access to senior military leaders in the beltway that soldiers and families don't have.

Even as the soldier begins his treatment in the military hospital, it is the advocates who give him a picture of the options for the future. Using an elaborate software program, the advocates input factors like rank, age, number of family members, finances and education and create financial predictions for their future based on the data.

The advocates are required to contact their soldiers and families monthly. While they are in the transition unit, contact could be more often, Rice said. There is no requirement for increased interactions, but the advocates make the judgment based on need, he said.

Many soldiers and families have successfully transitioned to active duty and back to their communities and case management is no longer needed, Rice said. For those who do still need it, contact is made every month, at least for now, he said.

"There is no real graduation from the AW2," Rice said. "The last thing we want to do is leave someone out there who needs some support."

Senior Army officials agree that there is more work to be done in the programs, mostly in the way of fine-tuning the massive overhaul. When surveyed this year, nearly 80 percent of the 12,000 soldiers in the warrior transition units said they were satisfied with the Army's efforts, Cheek said.

"I think the difference for families from February 2007 to now is night and day," Cheek said. "We have simplified things. We have given them single points of contact. We take care of them from day one and work with them through the entire process."

While soldiers recognize the Army's investment, they also will give honest assessments of the program, Cheek said. "It's not all milk and honey from them," he said. "Soldiers are going to tell the things they like and don't like."

For Rice and his AW2 program, success is measured as all or nothing.

"I can't be satisfied until we go out with a survey to all 3,000 and every one of them says ... 'I'm getting everything I need,'" Rice said.

See more Wounded Warrior news on

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Mental health needs of war veterans are stressing out Buffalo VA

Mental health needs of war veterans are stressing out Buffalo VA

Returning war vets seeking help in record numbers
By Lou Michel

Dana Cushing is a disabled veteran who is supposed to receive an hour of counseling each week through the Buffalo VA. But she shares that hour of a psychologist’s time with 15 others in group therapy.

“So you have 60 minutes divided by 15 people. That’s four minutes apiece, and that’s not going to help,” Cushing said.

She is not alone.

Returning war veterans are seeking help for depression, anger and other mental health problems in record numbers in Buffalo Veterans Affairs Medical Center and similar hospitals around the country.

The most common treatment is medication.

In fact, the number of prescriptions given to local veterans to help them with mental problems has increased from about 1,700 seven years ago to almost 8,000 in the 2007-08 fiscal year.

The problem is that medicine, on its own, does not teach the veterans how to cope.

That is why a campaign is under way to enlist psychologists and other mental health providers to work with war veterans.

There’s just one catch. There’s no pay. It’s volunteered time. Not a lot. Just one hour a week.

“We’re appealing to the social and moral conscience of behavioral providers in the community to reach out and offer one hour per week,” said Thomas P. McNulty, president of Mental Health Services of Erie County. “Soldiers and their families deserve nothing but the very best from our community.”

The need is pressing and will continue to grow, according to Barbara Van Dahlen Romberg, national founder and president of Give an Hour.

“I hear from some veterans that it is difficult to get immediate appointments and frequent appointments,” she said.

The effort here and in other states comes at a time when more federal money is pouring into the Department of Veterans Affairs to treat psychologically injured veterans.

Critics say there is too much emphasis on medication and not enough on counseling. Antidepressants top the list of medicines prescribed to returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans at the Buffalo VA, which has spent more than $2 million on psychiatric medications since 2001.

E-mails to Romberg from the loved ones of veterans across the country often express concern that the vets are “primarily receiving medications and not enough counseling,” she said.

A volunteer force of psychologists is “nimble and fluid” and can fill in the gaps as needed, Romberg said.

The demand for counseling is expected to continue to increase as more veterans return home, McNulty said. To date, an estimated 1.6 million service members have spent time in Iraq or Afghanistan.

“What we’re hearing is that the wave of veterans returning will put undue stress on the current system, and new resources must be identified to meet that need,” he said, adding that he is working with VA employees who cannot be faulted for the growing demands.

And, McNulty says, it’s not only veterans who need the care.

Their family members, children especially, need counseling to cope with extended absences caused by multiple deployments.

“Let’s say the mom is the one in the service, and mom’s not home two years. The kids feel bad. They’ve lost two years. Then mommy, or daddy, returns from the war into a home that is already stressed by their absence,” McNulty said. “In addition, there’s the issues the soldier brings home.”

There are others, as well, who could benefit from the planned local chapter of Give an Hour. Consider Army veteran Christopher Simmance.

Over the last two years, the City of Tonawanda man says he has seen four or five psychiatrists and is awaiting assignment of a new one.

“My old psychiatrist quit in May. He told me he couldn’t stand how the VA was treating vets. He gave me a bunch of refills,” said Simmance, who developed post-traumatic stress disorder several years after serving in a Middle East international peacekeeping force.

Medication alone, the vets say, doesn’t heal. Yet it is a big part of their treatment. And while the VA’s mental health staff might appear sufficient in number to treat the more than 2,000 new war veterans of the last several years, these men and women are not the only ones who rely on the VA.

Each year, the Buffalo VA treats more than 40,000 veterans, who are all entitled to care from its 11 full-time psychiatrists and 70-plus psychologists, social workers, addiction therapists and part-time mental health workers.

Working with McNulty to launch the local volunteer effort a few weeks from now is Christopher M. Kreiger, a disabled Army veteran, who suffered traumatic brain injuries serving in Iraq and post-traumatic stress. “I’ve been out trying to push to see if psychiatrists would be willing to donate an hour a week to a veteran in need who cannot get it at the VA,” Kreiger said. “Even the staff that works at the VA says there’s a shortage.”

Rather than sit at home and complain, Kreiger, of the Town of Tonawanda, says working to help fellow veterans has helped him. “The more I get into it, the more my problems don’t seem so big,” he said, explaining that idle time is a big problem for psychologically wounded veterans.

“I just sit at home. I just watch TV,” Simmance said.

At one point, he said the VA wanted to assign him to a foreign- born psychiatrist. He refused, claiming his overseas military experiences would make it difficult for him to open up to that particular doctor.

Simmance said he consumes up to four prescription drugs a day for his post-traumatic stress. Bret Mandell, an Army veteran who has seen action in Iraq and Afghanistan, described similar experiences in dealing with the VA, adding that he has taken up to seven different medications for posttraumatic stress.

“Every time I went up there, they kept switching me around to different people, and I couldn’t get a good relationship with anyone to where it benefited me,” Mandell said of the VA.

Tracy Kinn, a New York State veterans counselor, says vets need to be proactive if they want to secure VA services.

“They work for us, but they are very overworked,” said Kinn, a former Marine. Veterans who don’t take a proactive approach, she said, may wind up only with medications and “without the care.”

Jeremy Lepsch, a psychologically disabled Marine from North Tonawanda, said he has noticed progress in the level of VA care. “It seems they’ve talked to the staff because everyone seems a lot more friendly and caring,” Lepsch said.

The VA also has enhanced its day treatment facility on Main Street at Hertel Avenue, describing it as a “psycho-social rehabilitation recovery center,” according to Buffalo VA spokeswoman Evangeline Conley.

“We’re learning and modifying the programs based on current needs and what seems to be best for veterans,” Conley said.


I have been lucky, I have never been forced to do a "group meeting" I don't do groups, my VA psychiatrist sees me every 3 months and if I have extreme problems in between the scheduled appts I can call and squeeze in for a few minutes, which I have not done very often in the past 5 years, so if I do call he knows it's a immediate issue for me.

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Pentagon examines new treatments for warriors' psychological care

Pentagon examines new treatments for warriors' psychological care

Nov 06, 2008
BY Gerry J. Gilmore
Related Links
Warrior Care Month
WASHINGTON (AFPS, Nov. 6, 2008) - The Defense Department is investigating new treatments as part of a focused, sustained campaign to assist wounded warriors suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury, a senior U.S. military official told Pentagon journalists recently.

The effort is being launched in conjunction with the department's Wounded Warrior Care Month observance this month.

"This is a team effort with all of the services, the DoD, the [Veterans Affairs Department and] the private sector, reaching out to really launch what will be a sustained campaign focusing on our warriors and loved ones, what we're doing for them and planning to do," Army Brig. Gen. Loree K. Sutton, director of the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury, told American Forces Press Service and Pentagon Channel reporters Oct. 14.

For instance, force health protection officials recently introduced a DVD titled, "A Different Kind of Courage," which provides servicemembers' perspectives on seeking treatment for PTSD and TBI, Sutton said.

"It's a good tool that provides a number of vignettes of servicemembers who talk about their experiences," she said. "We'd love to be able to share with the services, share with the country, all of the knowledge that's going on about the brain."

There's no shame in seeking psychological help, Sutton said, noting it's important that servicemembers and families conduct periodic self-assessments of their mental well-being, and seek help when necessary.

Such a concept runs counter to the stereotypical image of the tough servicemember who fights through pain - or even psychological distress, she said.

"There's sort of a paradox there," Sutton said. "Just as within a vehicle, or aircraft or ship, for example, to sustain your performance, you have to take care of yourself. You have to do regular maintenance and checks."

Reaching out to servicemembers suffering from PTSD and TBI also involves changing how the military health care community operates, she said.

"And so part of our effort really is aimed at transforming our culture -- to move from what has been a very illness- and medically focused culture and broadening it, absolutely broadening it, to where we're focused on resilience, on performance, on those things that individuals, families, leaders and communities can do that will both maintain their wellness" and sustain performance over time, the general said.

Military health care also is exploring the use of new therapies for PTSD and TBI, Sutton said. Some $300 million has been invested for research into psychological health and brain injuries, she said.

The funding is helping therapists better understand what happens to the brain after it undergoes traumatic injury, Sutton said.

"We've got significant gaps in our knowledge," Sutton said, noting the research points to the advantages of employing alternative techniques in treating servicemembers suffering psychological-related issues due to PTSD or brain trauma. For example, she said, evidence is emerging that alternative therapies such as acupuncture, yoga and meditation are effective in treating PTSD.

Another study, Sutton said, demonstrates the usefulness of animal therapy.

"Animal facilitative therapy can be very useful," Sutton said, citing a program at Fort Myer, Va., that treats injured warriors using interaction with horses.

Nutrition is another tool that can treat psychologically wounded servicemembers, Sutton said, citing the correlation between eating the right types of food for achieving peak mental and physical health. "You wouldn't put diesel into a sports car," she pointed out.

Vitamin supplements may also have their uses, Sutton said. However, she cautioned that people should consult their doctors before embarking on any nutritional regimen that includes the use of supplements.

The good news, Sutton said, is that 80 to 90 percent of troops with mild concussive injuries will heal with time. The military, she said, employs before- and post-deployment screenings for potential brain injuries. The test measures reaction times, memory and cognitive abilities, Sutton said.

The critical issue involving PTSD, the general said, is having servicemembers and their family members recognize that the stress and din of battle can carry psychological ramifications.

"It's a very traumatic -- both physically and psychologically -- situation. The mind and body do what they have to do in that moment to survive," she said.

Tough and realistic training greatly assists servicemembers in contending with the physical and mental challenges of the battlefield, Sutton said.

After servicemembers emerge from life-threatening battlefield situations, Sutton said, it's important that they're made to understand that flashbacks and nightmares are the mind's way of re-integrating itself between graphic past memories and the present day.

Early intervention is critical in assisting servicemembers suffering from PTSD, Sutton said, noting there are two major therapies known to be useful in treating post-traumatic stress. Exposure therapy, she said, involves servicemembers recalling or imagining stressful moments they experienced on the battlefield. Cognitive processing therapy, she added, directs people to examine their thought processes and how they react to events.

Conducting counterinsurgency operations "is one of the most psychologically-corrosive environments known to warfare," Sutton said.

"You're not sick if you need a little [psychological] tune-up," Sutton said. "You're experiencing normal responses to clearly what is beyond the pale of human experience; it is beyond what most folks could ever even imagine. And, of course, our troops are doing this repeatedly."

Now is the time "for us to really bring every tool in that we can to bear," Sutton said, by working across DoD, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the private sector to assist servicemembers suffering with war-related psychological issues.

For example, initiatives are being worked with the video-gaming industry to develop devices with bio-feedback that injured servicemembers can use to exercise and strengthen their psychologically battered minds, Sutton said.

"We need to develop tools that they can use and have fun with, but also to learn and share and grow," she said.

Wounded Warrior Care Month also marks the launch of the Wounded Resource Directorate at VA, Sutton said, which backs up similar organizations and wounded warrior call centers managed by the armed services.

The VA program and private-sector initiatives are indicative of America's desire to assist its wounded warriors, Sutton said.

"By working together, we can take full advantage of the complete and comprehensive array of programs, of knowledge, expertise and enthusiasm that exists for our warriors around the country," Sutton said.

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VA Announces Expansion Of Disability Evaluation System Pilot

VA Announces Expansion Of Disability Evaluation System Pilot
All Military Services Now Taking Part

WASHINGTON (Nov. 7, 2008) -- Wounded service members leaving the
military will have easier, quicker access to their veterans benefits due
to the expansion of a pilot program that will offer streamlined
disability evaluations that will reach 19 military installations,
representing all military departments.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced today the expansion of
the Disability Evaluation System (DES) pilot which started in the
National Capitol Region in coordination with Departments of Defense
(DoD). The pilot is a test of a new process that eliminates
duplicative, time-consuming and often confusing elements of the two
current disability processes of the departments.

"Providing Service members going through the disability process with
comprehensive information about their benefits from both departments and
delivering their VA benefits as fast as possible is our goal. This
single evaluation will help us do just that," Tom Pamperin, deputy
director of VA's Compensation and Pension Service, said. "The program
expansion will allow wounded warriors a smoother and more efficient
transition to getting services from the VA."

The initial phase of the expansion started on Oct 1, with Fort Meade,
Md. and Fort Belvoir, Va. The remaining 17 installations will begin
upon completion of site preparations and personnel orientation and
training, during an 8-month period from November 2008 to May 2009.

"The decision to expand the pilot was based upon a favorable review that
focused on whether the pilot met its timeliness, effectiveness,
transparency, and customer and stakeholder satisfaction objectives,"
said Sam Retherford, director, officer and enlisted personnel
management, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and
Readiness. "This expansion extends beyond the national capital region,
so that more diverse data from other geographic areas can be evaluated,
prior to rendering a final decision on worldwide implementation."

The remaining installations to begin the program are: Army: Fort Carson,
Colo.; Fort Drum, N.Y.; Fort Stewart, Ga.; Fort Richardson, Alaska; Fort
Wainwright, Alaska; Brooke Army Medical Center, Texas; and Fort Polk,
La. Navy: Naval Medical Center (NMC) San Diego and Camp Pendleton,
Calif.; NMC Bremerton, Wash.; NMC Jacksonville, Fla.; and Camp Lejeune,
N.C. Air Force: Vance Air Force Base, Okla.; Nellis Air Force Base,
Nev.; MacDill Air Force Base, Fla.; Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska.;
and Travis Air Force Base, Calif.

In November 2007 VA and DoD implemented the pilot test for disability
cases originating at the three major military treatment facilities in
the national capitol region. To date, over 700 service members have
participated in the pilot over the last ten months.

The single disability examination pilot is focused on recommendations
from the reports of the Task Force on Returning Global War on Terrorism
Heroes, the Independent Review Group, the President's Commission on Care
for America's Returning Wounded Warriors (the Dole/Shalala Commission),
and the Commission on Veterans' Disability Benefits.

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A Veterans Day Message

A Veterans Day Message
From VA Secretary Dr. James B. Peake

WASHINGTON (Nov. 7, 2008) -- Ninety years ago today, the guns fell
silent in Europe. World War I - the "war to end all wars" - was over.
Almost five million Americans served during that first modern,
mechanized war. Our last living link with them, 107-year-old Army
veteran Frank Buckles, observes this Veterans Day at his farm in West

It is important, on Veterans Day, for all Americans to reflect on the
service and sacrifice of our veterans, from Mr. Buckles to the men and
women who recently fought for us in Iraq and Afghanistan. Their
bravery, their resourcefulness, and their patriotism mark them as our
nation's finest citizens.

Since 2001, the President and Congress have provided the Department of
Veterans Affairs (VA) with a 98 percent increase in funding, and with
the guidance and support to enable VA to honor America's debt to the men
and women whose patriotic service and sacrifice have kept our nation
free and prosperous; to provide them with medical and financial help
when they need it most; and to build and maintain beautiful national
cemeteries to perpetuate their memory and their accomplishments.

During this Administration, VA has met the challenge of a new generation
of veterans: those tempered by war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and those
who have defended America's interests elsewhere while their comrades
served in combat.

The Benefits Delivery at Discharge program serves these separating
service members at 154 locations, assisting them to file for VA
disability benefits. To further help these men and women, a new
insurance benefit is in place to assist them with the costs of living
with traumatic injury; life insurance coverage has increased by
$100,000; and the time it takes to process requests for education
benefits has been reduced from 50 days to less than 20.

One hundred Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have been hired to reach out
to their fellow veterans throughout the nation and tell them about the
benefits and services VA offers. Federal Recovery Coordinators are on
board, actively engaged in helping severely injured veterans and their
families navigate our system for health care and financial benefits.
Our Vet Centers now provide bereavement counseling to families of those
who have given their lives in the war against terror, and we've provided
health care to nearly 350,000 new veterans-about 40 percent of all
separated war veterans.

Our program to screen all veterans coming to us who served in Iraq and
Afghanistan for possible traumatic brain injury is giving us great
insight into how best to serve these men and women. Those who screen
positive are referred for a comprehensive medical evaluation to confirm
the diagnosis, and are quickly and appropriately treated. For those
with very severe injuries like brain injury, amputations, visual
impairment and burns, we've established Polytrauma Rehabilitation
Centers in Richmond, Va, Tampa, Fla., Minneapolis and Palo Alto, Calif.,
to provide the very finest, state-of-the-art care. They are examples of
great cooperation across the continuum of care with the Department of

While caring for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans has been among VA's most
important priorities, we continue to provide the full spectrum of care
and benefits to our veterans of other eras. Since 2001, we've reduced
our average number of days required to completely process a claim from a
high of 233 days in 2002 to 162 days today and have reduced the number
of disability claims pending from 432,000 in 2002 to 384,500 through a
combination of process improvements, increased staffing and improved
training. We've placed particular emphasis on adjudicating claims for
veterans aged 70 or older. Our home loan guaranty limit has increased
from $203,000 to as much as $729,750, providing a better opportunity for
veterans who want to own a home. The programs to deal with the issue of
veteran homelessness have measurably paid off, reducing the number of
homeless veterans by nearly 40 percent from 2001 to 2007.

The number of veterans enrolled in VA health care has increased from 4.8
million to 7.8 million in the past eight years. Their care is provided
by the Veterans Health Administration, an organization that excels in
the provision of high quality health care, that has set benchmarks in
patient satisfaction in the American Customer Satisfaction Index for
seven consecutive years; that has substantially cut waiting times and
improved access to care throughout the nation; and that has set, and
met, a standard of 24 hours for initial assessment and a 14-day standard
for comprehensive assessment of new mental health patients, thanks to
more than 4,100 mental health professionals hired in the last five

VA leads the nation in the development and use of electronic health
records, receiving the coveted "Innovations Award" from Harvard
University's John F. Kennedy School of Government in 2006. We've laid
the groundwork for sharing electronic records with the Department of
Defense, launched a web-based application to allow patients and their
families to interact with VA physicians over the Internet, and worked
hard to set the "gold standard" for health information security to
protect the vital personal information veterans entrust to us.

Addressing readjustment needs and rural access, we have announced plans
to place at least one Vet Center in every county in which there are
50,000 or more veterans. We are also purchasing fifty "mobile Vet
Centers"-vans which will travel to rural areas throughout the nation to
bring Vet Center services to veterans in rural and highly rural areas;
we're also in the process of expanding our community-based outpatient
clinics to a total of 782, an increase of 100 in five years.

Our National Shrine Program has uplifted the beauty of our cemeteries,
and by the end of 2009 six new national cemeteries will have opened for
burials, adding to the six cemeteries we have already opened since 2001.

I am proud of this great record of accomplishment, prouder still of the
approximately 270,000 men and women of VA who daily fulfill President
Lincoln's promise to care for veterans and their families; and proudest
to have had the opportunity to serve men and women like Frank Buckles,
whose dedicated service to our nation in all its wars has enabled
generations of Americans to live their lives in freedom.

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Support Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans With Great Music From Military/Vet Artists

Product Description
This isn't some lame keychain or bake sale... This is a way to support Veterans For America, yet walk away with the hottest Country, Rock and Hip Hop tracks around.

Not only do you get ALLLLL the music TTFR has available, but you ALSO get to rock the t-shirt non-stop throughout your deployment, on base or around town if you are a vet or civilian!

I guarantee you'll get second looks from people walking by and you will get some people asking you what TTFR is all about! This is your chance to shamelessly plug the world's ONLY military record label.

Oh you get 20% off...not too shabby.

Feel free to grab some Veterans Day Specials for your loved ones overseas and relatives at home. Get them involved.

These will make great XMAS presents!

Related Items: VFA Veterans Day Special ($5 Back to VFA!)
The VFA Veterans Day Special ($5 back to VFA)

If you feel inclined to help vets help vets go take a look and if interested go ahead and order the package

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Thursday, November 6, 2008

Help a veteran in Ga beat Saxby Chambliss

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also see USEFUL LINKS for Claims & VSO's

BlueWater Navy Vietnam Veterans Association


For Immediate Release - October 28, 2008

Contact: John Rossie
The Vietnam Veteran Health and Benefits Campaign

The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Association joins the Order of the Silver Rose in a Health and

Benefits Campaign to assist veterans of the Vietnam War.

This campaign will have three specific areas to target. The first target area is the health of the veterans.

The word we are desperately trying to get out is for veterans of the Vietnam War to get yearly medical

checkups which include CAT scans, because of its capability to spot new cancerous areas within the

body. Veterans should also have annual PSA tests.

This intense medical scrutiny is not only because the typical Vietnam veteran is now in an age range of

58 to 65 when these types of problems should be looked into anyway. What is more important to a Vietnam veteran is the fact that, in many cases, those who were exposed to dioxin through Agent Orange contamination may at this time of their lives begin showing symptoms of that dioxin poisoning if those symptoms have not yet occurred. This simple routine of yearly examinations can save thousands of lives, and can extend the lifetime of Vietnam veterans by as much as ten years or more.

Our studies have shown that an average life span of a Vietnam veteran is 64 or 65 years, while the national average of male, non-veterans is 76 years.

Research has found that dioxin absorbed by the body can lay dormant for 30 or 40 years and then become active. The Department of Veteran Affairs (DVA), in conjunction with Institute of Medicine(IOM), has now identified well over 40 unique cancers accepted in the "presumption of exposure" category. This means that Vietnam veterans (with a few exceptions) who display any of these cancers and related illnesses are automatically presumed to have been exposed to Agent Orange (dioxin) and are automatically rated as service connected for health conditions, which makes them eligible for priority health care within the VA Medical system.

We are also concerned that there are still many veterans who are not aware of numerous benefits they are eligible for. This is target area two. The most important of these is the health care provided at VA facilities. However, many other benefits should be looked into, including life insurance, pensions, burial and Memorial benefits, and, in some cases, benefits available to their dependents and survivors upon their death.

The third area involves the family and specifically the spouse of the contaminated veteran. There hasn't been much fanfare given to these individuals, but they have often been the most loyal and dedicated friend Vietnam veterans ever have. They have stuck by their veteran through the various phases of health decline, and have generally been the one to 'take action,' whether in gathering information or providing simple tasks like transportation. There has not been enough recognition given to these individuals, and we want to make a special effort in briefly turning the spot light on them. These are often the true 'unsung heroes' that deserve our acknowledgment and thanks.

Anyone who currently has a disease or disability caused by Agent Orange (dioxin) is urged to do three things:

 be sure to get an annual medical examination, with CAT scans, so that cancerous areas can be detected at their earliest possible stage. Get a yearly blood test to check liver function, A1C levels (diabetes), triglycerides and cholesterol, because dioxin stores itself in “fatty tissues” where it can become invasive to other tissue.

 become familiar with the various DVA benefits for their own care and for possible benefits available to their surviving family;

 use the cover form provided at Cover.pdf to submit the required documentation as application for a Silver Rose award. Key documents needed is a copy of the veteran's DD 214 and one of the following:

 a death certificate in the case of veterans who have died


 a medical diagnosis showing disease caused by exposure to Agent Orange (dioxin) for
those veterans still living.

The Order of the Silver Rose ( was established in 1996 to acknowledge and honor the courage, heroism, and contributions of American service personnel found to have been exposed to Agent Orange during the time of the Vietnam War and whose lethal exposure to Agent Orange has resulted in internal, invisible wounds, which are revealed only by the passage of time.

Nearly 4,000 Silver Rose awards have been made to veterans both living and dead.

The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Association (BWNVVA - ) is a veteran advocate organization, available to help veterans of all branches of Service. Because of recent DVA rule changes and subsequent court proceedings, BWNVVA is currently focused on reinstating presumptive exposure benefits of health care and compensation for personnel who served offshore Vietnam. These individuals were originally included in the Agent Orange Act of 1991 (Public Law 102-4). Additionally, in many other areas such as Thailand, Laos and Cambodia, veterans were exposed to and contaminated by Agent Orange at their military bases or on combat and support activities for the Vietnam War.

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get and keep a copy of all medical tests, exams, treatments..pass this on to the Troops

Part of Budget recommendations for FY 2009.. see full report at PDF below

audiological evaluation should be mandatory upon separation from the military.

The Veterans Independent Budget is the only budget created by veterans, for veterans. This abstract from the FY 2009 Veterans Independent Budget includes information on how veterans are affected by tinnitus and recommendations to Congress to begin to remedy the problem.This is the second year tinnitus has been included in the Veterans Independent Budget and it was a result of ATA’s advocacy and partnership with veterans organizations.

Many service members returning from war are physically
disabled. Those types of injuries are immediately
visible to a physician and are often easily diagnosed
and treated. Many soldiers exposed to blasts from
roadside bombs suffer internal injuries that are not as
easy to detect and treat. One of the most prevalent disabilities
from exposure to improvised explosive devices
(IEDs) is an injury that is one of the hardest to detect—
and even harder to treat. It is called tinnitus.
Tinnitus is defined as the perception of sound in the
ears where no external source is present. Some with
tinnitus describe it as “ringing in the ears,” but people
report hearing all kinds of sounds, such as crickets,
whooshing, pulsing, ocean waves, or buzzing. For millions
of Americans, tinnitus becomes more than an annoyance.
Chronic tinnitus can leave an individual
feeling isolated and impaired in their ability to communicate
with others. This isolation can cause anxiety,
depression, and feelings of despair. Tinnitus affects an
estimated 50 million, or more, people in the United
States to some degree. Ten to 12 million are chronically
affected and 1 million to 2 million are incapacitated
by their tinnitus.62 It is estimated that 250 million
people worldwide experience tinnitus.63

How does tinnitus affect our military personnel
Tinnitus is a potentially devastating condition; its relentless noise is often an unwelcome reminder of war for many vets. The facts are disturbing:

Tinnitus and hearing loss top the list of war-related health costs.
Since 2000, the number of veterans receiving service-connected disability for tinnitus has increased by at least 18 percent each year.
The total number of vets awarded disability compensation for tinnitus as of fiscal year 2006 surpassed 390,933.
At this alarming rate, 2011 will see 818,811 vets receiving military compensation for tinnitus, at a cost to American taxpayers of over $1.1 billion.
Tinnitus is a growing problem for America's military personnel. It threatens their futures with potential long-term sleep disruption, changes in cognitive ability, stress in relationships and employability challenges. These changes can be a blow to a vet's self-worth.

How do military personnel develop tinnitus?
The most common answer is exposure to very loud noise. Military personnel are exposed to excessive noise levels during combat, training simulations and on aircraft carriers that rattle like tin cans during takeoffs and landings.

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Veterans affairs probe: Records found in shredder bin

Veterans affairs probe: Records found in shredder bin

Employee under investigation

Veterans Affairs officials are investigating why 95 records were erroneously dumped in a shredder bin at the VA office in Columbia.

An unidentified employee at the Columbia office is under investigation for mishandling the documents, which include new benefits claims and other personal files, VA officials said.

“I can’t discuss in detail what action may be taken against an employee in this instance until the investigation is complete,” VA press secretary Alison Aikele said Wednesday.

Veterans with concerns about their files and claims are asked to call the U.S. Department of Vet-erans Affairs, (800) 827-1000.
In South Carolina, the possible destruction of benefit claims could affect some of the state’s 413,000 veterans. The shredding probe involves the VA’s benefits offices, not the hospitals.

So far, few veterans suspect they might have a problem resulting from their benefit claim being erroneously shredded.

“We don’t know how many, we don’t know why it happened,” said Rodney Burne, quartermaster of the Veterans of Foreign Wars S.C. department. “It will be interesting to find out.”

The documents slated for destruction were found in the shredder bin Oct. 3 as part of the agency’s inspector general’s review of how veterans records and claims are handled.

The probe discovered 41 of the VA’s 57 regional offices, including Columbia, had 500 records wrongly slated for shredding. The VA further determined that half of those records were found in shredder bins at the Columbia office and at two other offices, St. Louis and Cleveland.

Forty-six of the records — or about half — discovered in the shredder bin at the Columbia office were either new claims for benefits or supporting documents.

Other claims included burial and death benefits, notices of clients’ disagreements with VA rulings, and documents for education benefits.

The House Veterans Affairs Committee, whose membership includes U.S. Rep. Henry Brown, R-S.C., plans to look into the issue in mid-November, an aide said. “We’re going to have a roundtable discussion,” the aide said, explaining the session would not be as formal as a committee hearing.

Officials from the VA as well as representatives of veterans service organizations will be invited to the discussion, she added.

Brown called the reports “troubling,” and added “there is never any excuse for the shredding of documents especially when they jeopardize the benefits our veterans are entitled to.”

Brown said the incident “shows how important it is for the VA to focus on modernizing its information technology systems and establishing clear safeguards.”

The shredding issue was first reported by, a Web site run by Army veteran Larry Scott, of Vancouver, Wash.

Scott learned records were erroneously dumped in shredder bins at the VA’s Detroit office. VA investigators discovered Detroit was just part of the problem, so they ordered all 57 offices to check their shredder bins.

The fact that the Columbia office would have the most records in the shredder bin wasn’t a surprise, Scott said.

The Columbia office has a reputation as a “troubled office,” meaning it has a low clearance rate of veterans claims.

In 2005, the VA reported Columbia had the third-highest remand rate of the agency’s 57 regional offices. A remand is a benefit case that, once appealed, must be redone.

The VA said 50.1 percent of 3,095 cases filed with the Columbia office had to be remanded. The agencywide average was 44.3 percent.

Scott doubted Oct. 3 was the only time documents were erroneously headed for the shredder.

The mishandled documents add fuel to many veterans’ suspicions that the agency’s policy is to frustrate a vet’s effort to process a claim, Scott said.

“The expression is: ‘Delay, deny and hope that I die,’” Scott said.

Millions of documents are routinely shredded by VA offices without incident, Aikele said.

Shredding is done to protect the veterans’ privacy. It is supposed to be done after documents have been copied, she added.

“They’re just not tossed in the garbage,” Aikele said.

Reach Crumbo at (803) 771-8503.


If anyone believes this is a just once in a lifetime mistake and only one employee was involved in destruction of records, I have some beach front property in Beech Island for you. Columbia SC VARO has one of the worst reputations of properly processing veterans compensation claims, and they did it the old fashioned way, they earned it.

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Wednesday, November 5, 2008

General Colin Powell on President Elect Obama

I have respected General Powell for more than 25 years, and many of those years under his command.

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A veteran finally gets his overdue awards

Dave Dufrane called today to give me some gratifing, good news. Imagine what its been like for him to be a Vietnam War Veteran who also served in Laos, but to not be able to prove it. He has his proof now from the Army itself who apparently discovered that acting Platoon SGT Dufrane was there and particpated in Action as well. He now has two Bronze Service Stars and the Vietnam Service Medal for Gallantry.

I hope you will join me in congatulating him on a job well done, because he deserves it, and the more so because it has been over forty years that he has lived without that recognition. He got a double whammy, because like the rest of us he still awaits Army recognition for Edgewood service.


I SALUTE Dave Dufrane for his extraordinary service both at Edgewood Arsenal in the human experiments and for his heroism on the field of battle. It is a shame that it took the Army more than 40 years to present him with the medals he earned on the filed of battle. Now if they will just recognize him as well as the other 7119 men of the Edgewood experiments, the veterans of Fort Detricks Biological experiments, the men of the SHAD experiments, the men of Operation 112 experiments, and the men used in the nuclear experiments after WW2 thru the 1960s both in the Pacific and at the Nevada Test site. There have also been human experiments at Dugway Proving Grounds Utah, Fort Greely Alaska, Panama, and these are just the ones we have learned about that the military has failed to award these veterans awards or medals that were promised more than 40-60 years ago, and now they claim that participating in these experiments were not above and beyond the normal call of duty, all of these experiments are illegal today under laws passed in 1975, yet due to the Nuremberg Codes of 1947 they were illegal then also, many officers have stated that the men used in these experiments were heroic and deserve medals for involvement in these CBR research tests, these men should have been awarded the Soldiers Medals they were told they would receive or at a minimum the Army Commendation Medal for going above and beyond "normal and safe duty" conditions.

I know the men of Edgewood experiments are shown by the last study in March 2003 by the IOM that of the 7120 men used from 1955 thru 1975, that 3098 were deceased 40% and of the 4022 aurvivors, that 54% of them are disabled which combines for a 74.43% death and disability rate, far higher than any unit of the same size from the Vietnam era, it shows that something caused these men higher than normal death rates and medical problems, regardless of the fact that DOD refuses to do a thorough health study of all potential problems, the way they write the IOM studies intentionally disregard known problems from exposures to the drugs and mustard agents, they write the parameters to exclude known studies that do show medical problems caused by mustard agents and other chemical weapons.

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Dear President-elect Obama,

Dear Michael,

I'm out with the IAVA team in New York, working hard to get ready for Veterans Day next week. I just sent this email to President-elect Obama, and wanted to share it with you right away.



-sent from my mobile device

----Begin Forwarded Message----

Dear President-elect Obama,

Congratulations on your victory. Both you and Senator McCain are true patriots, and you each ran a remarkable campaign. While I'm sure you're relieved that the election is over, now is the time to bring all Americans together, get to work, and focus on the next four years of governing.

As the nation's leading new veterans organization, it is crucial to IAVA that you keep Iraq and Afghanistan veterans high on your list of priorities. With aggressive action, you can send a strong message to America that as Commander-in-Chief, you are committed to truly honoring our nation's newest generation of heroes. Here's how we think you can best accomplish that:

1. Convene an urgent Presidential Summit of Leading Veterans
As you consider nominations for appointed positions within the VA, you should convene a leadership summit of leading veterans' groups from across the country, including IAVA. Candidates for appointed jobs within the VA should have a proven track record of innovation and reform, and should be ready to address the urgent needs of new veterans.

2. Advance-fund VA Healthcare
Year after year, the VA budget is passed late, forcing hundreds of veterans' hospitals and clinics to ration care. IAVA believes that veterans' health care should be funded one year in advance and we ask you to present to Congress an advance-funded VA budget that continues to match the Independent Budget recommendations made by leading Veterans Service Organizations.

3. Implement GI Bill Transferability
While the new GI Bill was passed several months ago, the Department of Defense has yet to release guidelines for the transferability of GI Bill benefits from servicemembers to their spouses or children. You should direct the Secretary of Defense to issue the appropriate guidelines, so that GI Bill transferability can be implemented by August 2009.

4. Issue a National Call for Mental Health Professionals
The military and the VA need innovative strategies to recruit and retain more mental health professionals to combat the high rates of PTSD and major depression among returning troops. You should issue a national call, urging mental health professionals nationwide to serve our troops and veterans. Those who answer the call should receive incentives and benefits for serving this patriotic cause.

With more troops returning home from the wars everyday, you'll need to hit the ground running. IAVA is committed to serving as a resource for you and your administration going forward.

We look forward to working with you and the new Congress to support Iraq and Afghanistan veterans and their families.


Paul Rieckhoff
Iraq Veteran
Executive Director and Founder
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America

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Sir, all I can say is thank you, and may God give you the strength you are going to need for the next eight years. Yes, I am that confident that you will be re-elected by even a larger margin than you were elected with.

You are the most calm and collected person I have ever seen, I have tried to explain to my conservative wife that you search for information the good and the bad, and you seek guidance from people that know what they are doing, like Warren Buffet, Sam Nunn, President William J. Clinton, Hillary, Ted Kennedy, Carolyn Kennedy, etc. You try to find out all you can before deciding on a course of action.

You are the President this nation needs at this time in our history, calm and firm leadership. I fully expect you will have a truly bi-partisian Cabinet and I expect you will irritate the progressives because you will be seen as embracing to many Republicans, the difference like you have been saying this is not a Blue America or a Red America this is the United States of America, and I truly hate the term "Homeland Security" can you please change it to National Security. We are a NATION of many blended citizens, Irish, English, German, Russians, Cubans, Chinese, Japanese, South Americans, Canadians, etc, but bottom line when they emigrate here they become Americans not hyphinated Americans, but true Americans, we are all equal under the American Flag.

I have been alive for quite a few years, and because the men in our family had children late in life, it does not take long to get back into American History for me, my father rode with D Troop 7th Calvary, based in Douglas, Arizona from 1914-1916, he rode with General Black Jack Pershing after Pancho Villa.

My grandfather Joshua Eaton Bailey started a town in Arizona named Safford in 1874 this was after his Civil War Service with the California 4th Volunteers had taken him to the territory to stop the Confederates operating there. they spent most of their time fighting the Apache.

Father of Safford: historical information as told by Joshua Bailey's grandson: Joshua E. Bailey was born Nov 4, 1833 in Orleans County New York, in Barre Township. He traveled west in 1851 to the the goldfields of California (the Eureka area). In 1861 Bailey joined the California 4th Volunteers who did service in the Arizona Territory. In 1865, he was discharged from the Army and went to work at Yuma Army Depot. He worked trade stations along the Colorado River until he led the party of Mormons to the Safford Area. Tuttle and Bailey opened the first store--Bailey ran the store, and Tuttle financed it. Joshua then opened the stage station at Bailey's Wells. Later, he was elected a Graham County Commissioner. He sold out of Safford in 1898, and purchased a dairy in Yuma. At the request of Bailey's wife, Ida Garber Bailey, they moved to Michigan in 1899. Joshua Bailey died April 2, 1900 at his farm in Eaton County Michigan and is buried in the Diamondale Cemetary in Eaton County Michigan.

As you can see my grandfather was born in 1833 to John Bailey and Polly Eaton Bailey in Barre NY, my great grand father was born in 1809 to Obijah Bailey from Barre Mass, after the Revolutionary War, the soldiers were given sections of land for serving in the war, the Baileys moved west to Orleans County New York in 1806. My great great grandfather served in the Revolutionary War, my family has served in the Army since this nation was created, no other branch, we are an Army family. I served during Vietnam and did my combat tour on the DMZ in Korea, it was still a combat zone when I joined the Army in 1973, just the DMZ, the JSA compound now known as Camp Bonifas and Camp Liberty Bell and Camp Greaves were all north of the Imjin River in the DMZ, the other troops south did not draw combat pay nor were they entitled to wear the 2nd Division patch as a combat patch on the right shoulder.

After leaving active duty in 1982 as a Staff sergeant (promotable) I had been selected for the E7 list, but my family life led me to make the choice to leave the active Army, I then joined the National Guard to finish my 20 years so I could obtain my retirement benefits, then came Operation Desert Storm and I was activated for my second war.

Medical problems from my military service led me to become totally disabled by June 2002 at the age of 47, PTSD, a failed triple bypass, 2 stents that failed, a heart ejection fraction of 25%, COPD, 3 herniated disks in my lower back L3-S1, the SSD was approved in 4 months, the VA claim was filed at the same time, I was awarded 50% in May 2005 after denials appeals and my contacting the White House, the VA thought they would buy me off with the 50%, I was told by an American Legion Service Officer I should be happy with the 50% and shut up. I fired him and appealed my own claim with my wife's help, Senator Larry Craig then Chairman of the Senate VA Committee caught Renee Szybala lying to myself and him, based on false information provided by the Columbia SC VARO, the ones who appear the worst offenders in "Shreddergate" the willful destruction of veterans claims and evidence they have submitted to have their compensation claims approved.

After contacting VP Cheney's office with a copy of this diary written by TxSharon (my hero) Sun Aug 06, 2006 at 09:35:33 AM CDT the VA decided to award my claim at the 100% level and made it permanent and total.

My point is that veterans should not have to jump thru such hoops and hurdles to have their compensation claims adjudicated. Many veterans end up losing vehicles, homes, their dignity and their families, the stress of fighting the VA has led to many divorces as the spouse does not comprehend the mess, and the lack of income leads to tremendous arguments, and the lack of "help" from the VA is the root cause of many of these problems.

There is a saying that if you didn't have PTSD before filing a VA Compnesation claim, you will have it before it is done, the VA leaves many veterans and their families totally disillusioned by their government.

When we enlisted we signed a blank check that said "our azz" on the pay line, in return for the PROMISE that is anything happened to us mentally or medically the VA would care for us and our families if we could not, the Veterans Admininstration is known among veterans as the Veterans Adversarial Agency, instead of being the veterans advocates that most Americans expect.

There is a rule that states "give the benefit of the doubt to the veteran" the VA has interpreted that to mean "doubt everything the veteran is telling you".

Mr President elect Obama, you are going to get a lot of advice from a lot of people about who you should keep like Def Sec Gates, yes he is a good one, on the other hand VA Secretary Peake is not good for veterans, he is a QTC manager, plain and simple, he is an ideological Republican and he is NOT good for veterans, if you really truly want to help veterans, give us a real advocate for veterans, Tammy Duckworth, Max Cleland, or even Wes Clark. You don't need a doctor type in charge of the VA, we need an advocate for veterans, someone who puts veterans and their families first. Show your love for the veterans and give us a VA Secretary we deserve.

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GMC gets $375K to aid veterans

GMC gets $375K to aid veterans

By Gina Morton
The Daily Item

DANVILLE -- One of every three Pennsylvania veterans under the age of 44 lives in a rural area, often making access to medical service difficult.

Roughly 226,090 veterans live within the Geisinger Health System coverage area, prompting system officials to launch the Reaching Rural Veterans Initiative, a model for identifying and caring for combat stress injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder in returning veterans and their families.

Hospital officials, who have been analyzing the program for several months, recently were notified that $375,000 in state funding will be awarded for the project.

"More and more of central Pennsylvania is being called over to Iraq and Afghanistan and returning home," said Dr. Stephen Paolucci, chairman of psychiatry at the hospital. "A significant proportion of those military personnel are coming from rural areas."

More than 75,000 veterans nationwide have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. State numbers were not immediately available.

That raised questions about how that is impacting health care of both members of the military and of their families who are trying to cope without a family member, Paolucci said.

Working through Geisinger's electronic medical records and local resources, there were indications that many veterans were not accessing services available to them.

"With the increasing numbers of Traumatic Brain Injury and its association with PTSD," he said, "we felt that with funding we could develop programs that could really address the need that isn't being fully addressed with resources out there."

This program would improve electronic-based screening and diagnostic and treatment tools to make better screening, treatment and referral decisions.

$375,000 in state funding

With the help of state Rep. Merle Phillips, Geisinger has been notified it will receive $375,000 in state funds to start the project.

"I think it's a great idea and it's something that veterans deserve," Phillips said. "A lot of times they may not go for treatment and not necessarily realize (they have a disorder). This could save a lot of young individuals and help them to address the situation that they may have."

Phillips said he put in the request for the Geisinger funding despite the fact the medical center is not in his district, but noted Rep. Robert E. Belfanti Jr., D-107 of Mount Carmel, Sen. John Gordner, R-23 of Berwick, and many other state legislators support the idea.

"Many individuals in my district are seeing doctors there," Phillips said. "I don't look at it as a district, I look at it as what's good. It's important to veterans. There are known to be a number of suicides of veterans coming back with PTSD and maybe they don't realize that's part of the problem."

Paolucci said the hospital has sought federal money, too, but hasn't heard about that yet.

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Officials Extend Survey Deadline for Wounded Warriors, Families

Officials Extend Survey Deadline for Wounded Warriors, Families

Nov. 4, 2008
By Donna Miles

WASHINGTON (American Forces Press Service) – As the Defense Department observes November as Warrior Care Month, officials have extended to Nov. 28 the deadline for wounded, ill and injured servicemembers and their families to respond to a survey designed to assess the programs and services they receive.

Dr. S. Ward Casscells, assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, said the extension resulted from overwhelming response.

Two Military Health System questionnaires, one for servicemembers and another for their family members, solicit feedback about satisfaction with the care and services provided. All responses to the online surveys are anonymous to encourage honest assessments, officials said.

The questionnaires are part of Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates’ focus on providing the best care possible for wounded warriors and their families. “I take the issue of wounded warriors personally,” Gates told wounded warriors and families of wounded and fallen troops who attended last month’s Wounded Warriors Family Summit.

“I will repeat here the pledge I made to myself, to Congress and to countless moms and dads, husbands and wives,” Gates told the group. “Other than winning the wars we are in, my highest priority is providing the best possible care for those who are wounded in combat.”

With that goal in mind, Gates directed Defense Department leaders to review all programs affecting wounded, ill or injured servicemembers and their families to identify best practices that can be more broadly applied.

Casscells noted that support for wounded warriors and their families has improved continually since the beginning of operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.

“Yet we know there is still more that can be done,” he said. “Each individual and each family has specific needs, and our goal is always to provide services which meet or exceed the expectation of those we serve.”

He encouraged wounded warriors and their families to respond to the survey to help Military Health System leaders get a clearer picture of where they stand in meeting their needs and expectations.

The questionnaires are posted at:

Gates assured participants in the first Wounded Warriors Family Summit their concerns – expressed directly or through the survey -- won’t fall through the cracks with the upcoming change of administration. He promised to “continue to press forward with a sense of urgency” to provide top-level care and support for wounded warriors in a way that lays groundwork for the next administration’s leaders to build on.

As it presses forward, Gates said, his team will “do everything we can to set up the next leadership team for success” to ensure the work continues without interruption.

“As long as there are wounded warriors in our care, we must – and we will – continue to fulfill our obligation to them,” he said.

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President-Elect Obama: The Politics of Hope

President-Elect Obama: The Politics of Hope
Posted on November 5th, 2008 |
by Carissa Picard in 2008 Election Coverage, All News, Breaking News, Government News, North American News, Presidential News, Society and Culture, US Government News, US News

If I had to summarize the 2008 Presidential Election, I would say it came down to the politics of fear versus the politics of hope. Since 9/11, conservative Republicans have been engaging in the politics of fear and it has been alarmingly effective. After al Qaeda struck the first blow to the American heart, it was the Bush Administration that made this fear an integral part of the American psyche. As a result, with every passing year, we were losing increasing amounts of faith in humanity, in each other, and in ourselves.

Yet America was birthed by hope with her first settlers. It was hope that compelled them to cross the oceans and settle thousands of miles of land to create a world that was not necessarily better for themselves, but could, potentially, be better for their children. In voting booths around the country, many of us knew that neither McCain nor Palin could offer us that same hope now–even in the midst of an economic crisis. McCain may be a war hero and Palin may be a hockey mom, but Obama and Biden were the true vessels of this uniquely American spirit.

What we have witnessed tonight is evidence that the Obama/Biden ticket has resurrected the hope that I suspect most of us forget we had. Moreover, living in fear is not a state of being that needs to be "reformed," it is a crippling condition that needs to be "changed." Senator Obama recognized that. Senator Obama knew that what we needed was to regain OUR HOPE that tomorrow could actually be better than today.

As much as McCain tried to recapture his mystique as the "maverick" of DC, his near blind allegiance to one of the most unpopular presidents in American history over the past two years was apparently not forgotten by a nation of voters who finally realized that the cost of governance based upon fear outweighed its purported benefits. The last eight years have taught us that we are not a country that can thrive under a shroud of constant fear or in a state of perpetual warfare. Instead, ours is a country where hope is as essential as oxygen for our continued existence–without it, we falter, collectively and individually.

I watched the election results roll out, state by state, wondering if the politics of hope would prevail. While fear is universal, there is a certain kind of hope/faith/optimism that is specific to the American spirit; it runs deeper than our fears. So in essence, Obama's "change" for America was really an "awakening" for America–a call for Americans to remember how far we can go and how much good we can do (for each other, for our country, and for our world), when we reclaim the hope that has inspired and defined us as a nation for hundreds of years.

Given my choice between a return to hope or further subjugation to fear, I chose the former. .

Carissa Picard is a freelance writer, attorney, veterans and military families advocate, mother of two, and Blue Star Wife.


"Patriotism is proud of a country's virtues and eager to correct its deficiencies; it also acknowledges the legitimate patriotism of other countries, with their own specific virtues. The pride of nationalism, however, trumpets its country's virtues and denies its deficiencies, while it is contemptuous toward the virtues of other countries. It wants to be, and proclaims itself to be, 'the greatest,' but greatness is not required of a country; only goodness is."
Sydney J. Harris

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