Thursday, November 27, 2008

Veterans’ new enemy

Veterans’ new enemy

In returning to civilian life, many veterans fight losing battle against economy
Thu, Nov 27, 2008 (2:04 a.m.)

A story of despair that stands out as the nation’s economy worsens involves the veteran who returns from war and endures even more grinding hardship.

It is a story being experienced across the country by young veterans whose service in Iraq or Afghanistan doesn’t count for much in the dwindling job market.

“You fill out a job application and you can’t write ‘long-range reconnaissance and sniper skills,’ ” an Army veteran of the Iraq war who was wounded in the back by shrapnel told The New York Times.

This particular veteran spent a year delivering pizza in the neighborhoods of his Florida hometown while searching for work that would support his family. He had to wait 18 months for his disability claim to be processed. By the time he landed a job as a construction supervisor, his bills totaled $60,000.

All in all, he was fortunate.

Many veterans can’t find sustainable work and sink into despair or even depression. Wounded veterans have it the worst. They must wait at least six months for their disability claims to be processed by the Veterans Affairs Department, more than enough time for them to develop anxieties.

But to many veterans, a six-month wait would be heaven. Two veterans groups sued Veterans Affairs this month, charging that thousands of veterans are having to wait up to four years for their claims to be processed.

Interminable waits by disabled veterans have been well documented in recent years, but Veterans Affairs has not yet been able to appreciably speed the claims process.

Although Congress has made progress in helping veterans, such as prohibiting their homes from being foreclosed on for nine months after their return to civilian life, much more needs to be done.

A retired Marine general told the Times “there have to be incentives for employers” to hire veterans. He makes a good point. Too many employers still do not understand that most issues confronting veterans, including physical and mental injuries, are manageable.

And certainly, the years-long tolerance of veterans suffering morale-killing financial hardship while waiting — and waiting — for their disability claims to be processed should come to a quick end.

Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Never again should this happen

From: The Guardian, 26 November 2008,

The legacy of chemical warfare

Twenty years on, the survivors of the Iran-Iraq war provide grim human
reminders of the horrors of chemical warfare, Ian Black reports from Tehran

Ian Black, Middle East editor, Wednesday November 26 2008
02.14 GMT

Mohammad Shagef-Nakhaei holds up a photograph showing the injuries he
suffered during the war with Iraq. Photograph: Ian Black

Tehran might not be the most obvious place for a peace museum, but Iran's
eight-year war with Iraq was one of the longest and bloodiest conflicts of
the post-1945 era — so anything that deals honestly with its legacy has to
be a positive thing.

Set in a carefully tended park in the centre of the capital, the new museum
— inspired by existing ones in Hiroshima and Ypres — will also serve as a
centre for surviving victims of the war, especially for the thousands of
Iranians who were injured in chemical warfare attacks unleashed by Saddam
Hussein's forces.

Mohammad Shagef-Nakhaei is one of them – a middle-aged man with a
persistent hacking cough that is an awful legacy of the injuries he
suffered during an Iranian offensive against the southern Iraqi port of Fao
in 1985, when he was 22.

"Four days after we captured Fao we were back on the Iranian side of the
Shatt al-Arab," he told me. "We had eaten breakfast and said our prayers
when five or six Iraqi fighters hit our position with chemical bombs. I
felt cold like when someone splashes water on you. Later I started vomiting
and something green came out of my mouth. My throat was very dry and I
couldn't breathe. I was blistered from head to toe."

Shagef-Nakhaei was evacuated from the front line and underwent emergency
treatment in a private London hospital – he still has a yellowing newspaper
clipping reporting his arrival — but has been suffering ever since and
still spends long periods in hospital every year.

Hassan Hassani Saadi, also injured by Iraqi mustard gas, tells a similar
story of vomiting, dizziness, days in a coma and being burned all over. Two
decades on he has been left blind in one eye and has just 20% vision in the
other. His lungs are permanently scarred and his cough is especially bad at
night. He is 43 but looks 10 years older.

In a country whose religious culture and official propaganda glorify
sacrifice and martyrdom, these men's stories convey the banal pity of war.
The effect is more Wilfred Owen than rose-scented Shia Muslim paradise.

Their experiences were shared by 60,000 Iranians injured in chemical
warfare attacks in what the Islamic Republic still calls the "imposed war"
or the "sacred defence". It was the first time since the first world war
that mustard gas was used and the first time ever that nerve agents such as
Sarin and Tabun were employed. Iran complained bitterly that the raw
materials were supplied to Iraq by western companies while the US and other
governments "tilted" towards Saddam and looked the other way.

It wasn't the first time I had seen the terrible effects of these banned
weapons. I visited Iran several times during the war; in February 1986 in a
Tehran hospital, courtesy of the Ministry of Islamic Guidance, I met Hamid
Kurd Alipoor, then a 19-year-old conscript with the Revolutionary Guards. A
few days earlier he had been sheltering in a sandbagged bunker when an
Iraqi shell detonated nearby.

Hamid was swathed from neck to waist in yellow, disinfectant-soaked
bandages. His eyelids, I reported, were "scorched and puffy, his swollen
face grotesquely patterned with slices of bright new pink flesh striped
over cheeks and forehead the colour of overdone toast." Like so many others
he was diagnosed as likely to suffer permanent lung damage long after he
had passed the immediate risk of infection and blood poisoning and his
burns had healed.

By 1986 Iraq was using chemical weapons as an integral part of its
battlefield strategy. Over time, Iranian forces were issued with gas masks
and chemical warfare suits that were also distributed to visiting
journalists, who were instructed how to inject themselves with an antidote
in the event of a nerve gas attack. It was a sinister and frightening
experience - even for those who knew they would be back in the safety and
comfort of a Tehran hotel within a day or two.

So it is gratifying that the Tehran museum — dedicated last summer but yet
to formally open — plans to focus on the enduring human consequences of
that grim period. "The government calls the war the 'sacred defence'. We
don't like that. We hate war and that's why we have established this
museum," said Dr Shahriar Khateri, of the Society for Chemical Weapons
Victims Support. "We have witnessed its devastation and we are still
dealing with the consequences of something that ended 20 years ago. We need
to teach the younger generation that war is not a computer game."

Khateri, from Khorramshahr, was just 15 when he volunteered to fight.
"Later I saw pictures of the first world war and it was very similar to our
experience: trenches, dead bodies and heavy artillery firing for hours," he

Earlier awareness, Khateri argues, could have saved lives. The most
notorious use of chemicals was against the Iraqi Kurdish village of Halabja
in 1988, though an Iranian Kurdish town, Sardasht in West Azerbaijan
province, was attacked by the Iraqis the year before. If there had been a
stronger reaction then, he says, Halabja might have been spared its
terrible fate. (Khateri, incidentally, is firmly opposed to Iran developing
nuclear weapons. The government, defying UN demands that it cease enriching
uranium, insists it wishes only to generate power for civilian purposes.)

Mohammad Reza Taghipur Mughaddam, the director of the museum, was injured
by a conventional high-explosive shell which hit the ambulance he was in,
causing the loss of both his legs above the knees. "People help me all the
time because I am in a wheelchair," he said. "The problem is that if you've
been injured in a chemical attack your injuries are not visible. People
don't always ask me if I was wounded in the war but when they do they
always thank me for helping defend their homes and families."

Koroush, my guide and interpreter in Tehran, who had dismissed my idea of
an interview with disabled Iranian war veterans as an old story, did just
that, visibly moved as he embraced and thanked these former soldiers as our
meeting ended.

"We want to show the whole world that chemical weapons have done this to
us," said Saadi. "We want to show how painful the consequences are. We
don't want revenge. We just want to show what happens so it won't happen

The legacy of chemical warfare
This article was first published on on Wednesday November 26
2008. It was last updated at 02.14 on November 26 2008. Most viewed on

Sphere: Related Content

From a small college paper great new for veterans

Profs, Alumni Join Obama Transition Teams

Published On Monday, November 24, 2008 11:31 PM

Contributing Writer

Several University alumni and faculty members, many hailing from the Harvard Kennedy School and Harvard Law School, have joined President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team.

In the coming weeks, these Harvard affiliates will review hundreds of federal government agencies and programs, as well as select new personnel to manage them.

Public Policy Lecturer Marla Felcher, whom the Obama team tapped for the Consumer Product Safety Commission, said she was looking forward to taking part in the transition.

“I’m excited about the work that’s going to be done” she said. “A lot is going to have to be done very quickly, but Obama seems motivated to make that happen.”

Other faculty selected from the Kennedy School include Professor of Practice of Global Leadership and Public Policy Samantha Power for the National Security Team and the State Department; Public Policy Lecturer Linda Bilmes for the Department of Veterans Affairs; Science and International Affairs Professor Ashton B. Carter for the National Security Team and Department of Defense; and Public Policy Professor Jeffrey B. Liebman for the Executive Office of the President.

Joint Center for Housing Studies Director Nicolas P. Retsinas will serve on the Department of Health and Human Services Team and Housing and Urban Development; Public Policy Lecturer Sarah B. Sewall will lead the National Security Team; and Public Policy Lecturer John White will lead the National Security Team, according to a Kennedy School press release.

A number of Kennedy School alumni have also gotten involved, including Josh Gotbaum, who will lead the Economics and International Trade Team, and Joani L. Walsh, who will serve as a special assistant on the Agency Review Transition Working Group. Peter M. Rouse, who served as Senator Obama’s chief of staff, will now serve as his senior adviser.

In addition to soliciting Kennedy School affiliates, the Obama administration tapped a handful of professors and alumni from the Law School, the president-elect’s alma mater, according to the Harvard Law Record.

Thomas E. Perez, who is also a Kennedy School alum, will work with the Justice, health and Human Services, Veterans Affairs, and Housing and urban Development departments. Clark Kent Ervin ’80 will review Department of Homeland security transition issues.

Professor David J. Barron, David W. Ogden and Thomas J. Perrelli will review the Department of Justice. Spencer A. Overton will work with the Justice and Civil Rights team. Shirley S. Sagawa will work with the Corporation for National Service, and Mara E. Rudman will serve on the Executive Office of the President Team and lead the review of the Office of Economic Advisors.

George T. Frampton, Jr. will be responsible for reviewing the Council on Environmental Quality, Todd D. Stern will review the transition of the White House Office. John D. Leshy ’66 will review the Department of Interior’s transition.

All I can say is Happy Thanksgiving and even a Happier New Year, from the small pages of a college newspaper comes some of the greatest news, disabled veterans have this year. For those of you that don't keep current on Congress and veterans affairs as well as you should, this is the person who advocates a way to get rid of the 800,000 back logged claims the VAROs have stacked up, by the radical idea of processing them like tax returns, approve all claims and then weed out the fraud, or if the claims sticks out like a sore thumb, it gets pulled and hand worked, we all know the claims, 6 weeks of boot camp and then John Wayne shows up to file claims. They deserve to be prosecuted and we all agree on that, less than 2% of all veterans file fraudulent claims, yet we all suffer from the bean counters slow processing of our claims why? This lady's appointment to this transition team could be our best Christmas Present.

Sphere: Related Content

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Healthy soldiers are better soldiers

Healthy soldiers are better soldiers

Getting seriously ill is no picnic, but many Israelis are unaware that the IDF goes all out when it comes to its soldiers' health. If a lifesaving transplant is needed and no organs are available here, the soldier (accompanied by a relative) is sent abroad; expensive medications not included in the Health Ministry's official basket are provided as needed; women soldiers can now get the expensive HPV (human papilloma vaccine) to protect them from cervical cancer at a subsidized price; and all hospitalized soldiers are assigned an IDF representative to look out for their needs. If a sick or wounded soldier is hospitalized far from home, the IDF will pay for a nearby hotel room for his immediate family.

In an extremely rare initiative, the IDF Spokesman's office invited The Jerusalem Postfor a personal briefing by Aluf-Mishne (Colonel) Dr. Kobi Haviv, the officer in charge of the IDF's medical services. Haviv, whose Tel Hashomer office is in what used to be a British army camp during the Mandate period, is considered equivalent in responsibilities to the director-general of one of the four public health funds.

Born in Bat Yam, Haviv earned his MD degree at Tel Aviv University's Sackler Faculty of Medicine as part of the IDF's Atuda (academically trained service) program, and then served as a military physician, where he has remained. He worked in the field, in the paratroops and elsewhere, received his master's of public health and completed a specialty in occupational medicine inside the IDF, leading to his previous post as the first chief of the occupational medicine branch.

Few civilians - and even physicians - are aware that the IDF offers training in certain medical specialties outside of public hospitals. "I was the first to study occupational medicine in 2001, but since then, specialty training has been offered in public health, family medicine, mental health and health management. This was an historic IDF decision," he recalled. "Academization is a very important trend in the military. It was realized that without academic degrees, the level of knowledge would not be high enough. We are teaching medical management to 40 of our doctors," said the medical services chief.

ATUDA SERVICE has not been very attractive to would-be doctors in the past decade or more - even though medical school tuition is paid by the IDF (unlike when Haviv was a medical student and had to pay his own way). The IDF Medical Corps needs 70 to 75 new physicians a year, but in 2006, only 45 joined the Atuda to study medicine and then serve as an IDF doctor.

Only last week, IDF Chief Medical Officer Brig-Gen. Dr. Nachman Ash aroused some controversy when he announced plans to issue a tender for an existing academic medical school to open a branch that would admit candidates with slightly lower psychometric and matriculation scores who had failed to be accepted to one of the four university-affiliated medical faculties. But while coming with slightly lower grades, the IDF intends to select "women and men whose personalities and leadership traits are more suited to serving as military physicians."

The announcement was criticized by Rambam Medical Center director-general Prof. Rafael Beyar, a leading cardiologist and past dean of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology's Rappaport Faculty of Medicine in Haifa. Beyar maintained that establishing a "separate" military medical school was a waste of resources. But the idea of a military medicine school as part of a civilian medical school was defended by Ash, who argued that if today he were applying to one of the university-affiliated medical schools - with their almost unachievable grade demands - he would not be accepted.

PROF. SHAUL SOFER, a veteran pediatrician at Soroka University Medical Center in Beersheba and currently the dean of the Health Services Faculty at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, reacted to Beyar's criticism. It will not be a separate medical school but a program in an existing medical school, wrote Sofer, whose medical school is competing in the IDF tender. "It will not be managed by the IDF... but its curriculum will be set and run by the [academic] medical school." Acceptance of students will be in accordance with today's criteria for admission by the academic Atuda, Sofer stated. The curriculum will be identical to those in medical schools, and in most classes, the IDF students and medical students will attend together. There will also be seminars and additional studies of military medicine and special military courses during medical school vacations, Sofer concluded.

"We want military doctors who will be very good in the field," said Haviv. "Not every graduate of a regular medical school is suitable for the IDF. It won't be easy to establish a special school, and it will require considerable money and need enough clinicians who can teach in the hospitals. But the IDF has allocated money for this, as we believe it will succeed. We will put applicants through special tests to see whether they will be not only excellent doctors but also excellent officers in units. We now take doctors that medical schools produce, but that doesn't mean they are all suited to be the best military physicians and officers," Haviv said. "My dream is that all soldiers will receive absolutely the best medicine available in Israel."

PLANS ARE to launch such a medical school in the fall of 2009 after an academic medical school wins the tender. There might even be the need, Haviv added, to set up a separate school for nurses in the military, given the national shortage of civilian nurses. But there is no reason, he asserted, to go back to the situation during the early days of the State and have separate military hospitals.

Despite the lack of IDF general practitioners, Haviv said it has enough high-level medical specialists. "We buy services from hospitals for consultations with specialists, or we send them to our own specialist clinics; some are IDF officers, while others are civilian specialists who work on a voluntary basis as their reserve duty."

But in primary care for non-combat soldiers, the IDF is aware that a lot more has to be done. It has issued a public tender for the supply of such health services in civilian health fund clinics. It will begin soon as a pilot program to replace primary care clinics at the Tel Hashomer base and in Tel Aviv's Kirya base so that more military doctors can be shifted to bases in the north, south and other outlying areas where combat soldiers serve. "We want to continue to be responsible for such care, but through outsourcing and careful supervision of the services provided to the IDF," Haviv said. "Under the pilot project, selected primary-care physicians working at health fund clinics who are found suitable will treat soldiers. If it succeeds, we will expand it. We hope all four health funds eventually will be part of the program. This will free up IDF doctors to treat soldiers in the field. It will not be aimed at saving money but to improve medical care for soldiers and avoid duplication of services."

KOLBOTEK, CHANNEL 2 TV's investigative program, voiced harsh criticism earlier this year of outsourced urgent medical care for IDF soldiers when military clinics are closed at night, on weekends and on holidays. A year ago, the IDF chose the Bikur Rofeh chain of clinics in a public tender to provide such care. The show presented hundreds of fevered, coughing or mildly injured soldiers packed into clinics, waiting in line for hours until they were seen by allegedly unsuitable and overworked physicians.

The show was viewed in the IDF as being unfair and misleading, as it was filmed only during the running in of the service, before it was officially launched. The Medical Corps' now-closed seven primary-care clinics had only one physician on duty in each, and the queue was long. Now there are eight Bikur Rofeh clinics designated for soldiers only, employing 24 civilian physicians, and two more will be opened soon. Haviv said he and his colleagues "supervise these closely, and are very satisfied with the level of care. Our contract with the company stipulates that soldiers have to be attended to within an hour of arrival, and this occurs in 95 percent of cases," he continued.

"Complaints have been halved. If a soldier has a complicated problem that can't be dealt with in the clinic, he can always go to a hospital emergency room. Almost all the clinics have a 'personal physician' that the soldier knows and who knows him, instead of going to any doctor who is free. Bikur Rofeh clinics in the larger cities have an orthopedist on duty; we never had such a specialist in our own."

Although violence against doctors and nurses in civilian clinics and hospitals has been widespread, the IDF Medical Corps has shown "zero tolerance" for such a phenomenon in its own facilities. "We are not different from the rest of society," maintained the IDF medical services commander. "Soldiers and their families are tense and anxious. Even verbal violence by a soldier leads to a hearing. Soldiers have been jailed for months by military courts for harming medical staffers. In the past, there were cases dismissed 'for lack of public interest' but today the military police must deal with it. If it is a non-IDF relative or friend who is violent, we automatically file a criminal complaint with the police. A violent soldier becomes a violent civilian. It is the 'handwriting on the wall' and must be dealt with." In addition, IDF physicians undergo special training to learn how to defuse violent situations, he said.

As for dental care, the IDF runs several clinics. "Some dentists are from the Atuda, and others are on reserve duty. We give the most attention to younger soldiers doing their compulsory service. We want soldiers to have better teeth when they leave the army than when they enter - and many come to us with a lot of dental problems because their families could not afford dental care and their teeth were neglected. Every draftee undergoes a basic dental checkup, and the most urgent cases are treated first," Haviv said.

Haviv is not responsible for health promotion and disease prevention, but others in the Medical Corps work to prevent smoking and enforce no-smoking laws; promote healthful lifestyles and decrease overweight by improving the military diet and encouraging physical activity; and minimize occupational injuries and environmental harm.

Although smoking is no longer allowed in IDF rooms, clubs and other indoor areas, there is a continuing trend of young people starting to smoke during service. The latest figures for 2007 show that 33% of men smoke at induction, compared to 40% upon completion of service; for women the figures are 32% and 38% respectively.

Since a private member's bill initiated by Kadima MK Yoel Hasson was passed into law by the Knesset last February, rules that governed smoking on military bases were often not enforced properly. It was very difficult for soldiers to demand that their commanding officers observe the no-smoking rules. Under the new law, military police and others in charge of discipline in the security forces enforce the anti-smoking rules; violators face a disciplinary board and can be rebuked, fined and even jailed.

Dr. Omer Ankol, head of IDF Medical Corps army health branch (in charge of health promotion and disease prevention) - who has had a career path similar to Haviv's in medicine, public health and occupational health - told The Post that even though cigarettes are still sold at bases, great efforts are made to encourage soldiers to kick the habit through smoking-cessation courses and lectures on adopting healthy lifestyles. Ankol, who never smoked and managed to persuade his wife to quit, said such courses are now available for young draftees in addition to professional soldiers; 65% are induced to stop smoking after the course, with 50% smokefree a year later. The IDF has trained 14 soldiers to run such courses after initially depending on civilian personnel, and this number will increase, said Ankol.

While he did not have the latest data on the rate of overweight (Body Mass Index between 25 and 29) among inductees, Ankol did say that 4.8% of men and 2.3% of women inductees are obese (over 30 BMI) - 4.5% and 2.3% respectively when discharged. Obesity and overweight rates are lower in officers, thanks partly to the fact that they have an incentive to be physically fit and undergo more lifestyle counselling. In addition, the military kitchens - increasingly privatized and using civilian caterers - have minimized the availability of high-fat burekas and calorie-laden cakes and increased that of salads, fruit and low-fat foods. Although eating disorders are relatively common in civilian society, the IDF, noted Ankol, is careful not to describe anorexia or bulimia because doing so is known to increase the number of sufferers; instead, stress is put on healthful lifestyles.

As for drug use, a new survey will soon be conducted with the help of the national Anti-Drug Authority.

The risk of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, as well as contraception, are taught draftees, and proper diet and health promotion of pregnant women in the professional army are taught in a variety of booklets.

As for environmental and occupational health risks to soldiers, anyone can call the Medical Corps to file complaints. The days of the Nahal Kishon affair (in which IDF divers were exposed to toxic chemicals in the Haifa body of water while training), and dangerous asbestos map boards (finally removed a few years ago) are gone. The IDF's awareness of the world's increasing interest in health is high, Ankol concluded, and it is more active than ever in fulfilling its obligation to return the soldiers entrusted to it in a healthy state.


DR Chu can you read?

Sphere: Related Content

Bush Meets Soldiers at Fort Campbell

Bush Meets Soldiers at Fort Campbell

Published: November 25, 2008
WASHINGTON — President Bush paid a sentimental visit to Fort Campbell, Ky., on Tuesday, telling soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division and other Army units that they are doing noble work in Iraq and Afghanistan that will be matter decades from now.

“The work you have done and are going to do is historical work,” the president said. “You see, the consequences of success in Iraq will resonate far beyond that country’s borders and will resonate when your children and grandchildren begin to study the history of peace.”

Fort Campbell is, quite literally, a crossroads for the campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq. Since Nov. 1, more than 10,000 troops have returned to the base from overseas, most having served in Iraq. And in recent weeks, about 3,000 troops from Fort Campbell have been deployed to Afghanistan, and another 450 to Iraq. By Jan. 1, a further 1,200 troops from the fort will be sent to Iraq.

Throughout his presidency, Mr. Bush has seemed to enjoy visiting with members of the armed services, and they have rewarded his good wishes with rousing applause and cheers, as they did on Tuesday.

The president recalled that, a day before Thanksgiving 2001, he visited Fort Campbell while the nation was still reeling from the shock of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. “That November day, I said, ‘Once again, you have a rendezvous with destiny,’ ” said Mr. Bush, who in speaking to members of the military seldom fails to invoke the sacrifices made by their parents and grandparents in earlier wars.

“You have performed with courage and distinction on the front lines of the war on terror,” Mr. Bush told the recent returnees at the fort on Tuesday. Because of them, he said, Afghanistan and Iraq are fledgling democracies.

Alluding to continuing criticism of the war in Iraq, the president said, “Removing Saddam Hussein was the right decision then, and it is the right decision today.”

With his days in the White House winding down, Mr. Bush said that, above all, he will miss spending time with America’s fighting men and women, “and I will always be thankful for the honor of having served as the commander in chief.”

Bush Meets Soldiers at Fort Campbell


All I can say is we will see how history judges these 2 different wars, it wasn't all done right, and some of it I am ashamed of as a veteran of the "older generation" Gitmo, torture, renditions, things that the military was not responsible for but the White House involved them in anyway. It is a stain that history can NOT absolve. Afghanistan was right, and for the right reason, then Iraq was wrong and I feel has worsened the Afghan situation and that is harming the military. That is my regret.

Sphere: Related Content

VA and Louisiana State University Site Selections for New Orleans Medical Center Projects

VA and Louisiana State University
Announce Site Selections for New Orleans Medical Center Projects

WASHINGTON (Nov. 25, 2008) - In a public event held today in New
Orleans, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the State of
Louisiana jointly announced the selection of adjacent downtown sites for
construction of their replacement medical center projects. The two
projects, called the Veterans Affairs Medical Center and the Louisiana
State University Academic Medical Center, restore greatly needed health
care capability lost in New Orleans during flooding after Hurricane
Katrina in late August 2005.

"Restoring a full capability medical center for our veterans in New
Orleans and southeastern Louisiana is one of the Secretary's highest
priorities," said Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs Gordon H.
Mansfield. "Site selection is a key milestone in the project delivery

"VA selected the downtown site because it offers the best solution for
our veterans, today and into the future," Mansfield added. "The site,
located within a robust medical district with affiliate health care
teaching universities, promotes long term operational synergy and
efficiency. The selected site aligns with the City of New Orleans and
State of Louisiana Hurricane Katrina recovery and redevelopment plans."

An agreement between VA and the City of New Orleans obligates the city
to acquire the land for the new facility, prepare the site for
construction and turn over the site to VA within one year.

"I understand this site selection creates near term impact on the
directly affected and surrounding neighborhoods," Mansfield continued.
"We have been working cooperatively with federal, state, city and
neighborhood partners to develop a robust package of treatment measures
to mitigate the negative impacts and invest in new local opportunities."

"Constructing this state-of-the-art medical complex near downtown New
Orleans follows through on the Administration's commitment to fully
support recovery efforts," he said.

The announcement follows a nearly one-year process of extensive study of
site alternatives, including analysis of the potential impacts on the
environment and historically significant structures.

"Today is of great significance for the City of New Orleans and for the
veterans of the Gulf Coast. The announcement by my colleagues at the
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs brings to closure a collaborative
and inclusive process involving Federal, state and local government, as
well as stakeholders who determined the location of the new veterans
hospital," said retired Maj. Gen. Douglas O'Dell, federal coordinator
for Gulf Coast rebuilding.

"The hospital is a key component of the city's vision of a revitalized
downtown area and a world class medical campus," O'Dell added.
"Further, this decision advances the goal President Bush and Secretary
Peake established of better access to quality health care for the needs
of current and future veterans,"

Dr. John Lombardi, LSU System President, said that building these
hospitals in close proximity to each other assures the future of top
quality health care, research, and medical education not only for the
New Orleans area but for the entire state for many years to come. "This
is a major milestone in constructing these joint academic medical
centers that are destined to be models of health care reform for the
nation in creating thousands of jobs while delivering cost-efficient
medical treatment and disease management," he said.

New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin, who hosted today's news conference where
the announcement was made, said, "The new VA hospital in downtown New
Orleans will provide needed medical care for veterans throughout the
region and will serve as a key economic driver for our future. Along
with the new LSU hospital, it will serve as the centerpiece of our
biomedical district, generating thousands of jobs and enabling our city
to compete with communities that are known for their medical services
and research."

More information on the VA and LSU medical center projects is available

Sphere: Related Content

Pentagon Cancels Big Holiday Gala

Pentagon Cancels Big Holiday Gala

WASHINGTON – Adm. Mike Mullen has taken the unusual step of canceling the large holiday reception held annually by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, citing “these trying financial times.”

Instead, the admiral and his wife will host a smaller gathering for wounded service members, their families and survivors of military personnel killed in action.

An invitation list of more than 1,500 – including members of the diplomatic corps, foreign and American military officers, and luminaries from Washington’s national security establishment — were to have been invited to the annual holiday event.

About 1,000 invitations already were distributed, and a second note was sent telling recipients of the change of plans.

“The Chairman and Mrs. Mullen felt it would be more appropriate to focus their time this year on the wounded, and on families of the wounded and of those who have fallen in battle, rather than to entertain so many other people,” said Captain John Kirby, the spokesman for Admiral Mullen.

The event for armed services personnel and military families will include about 200 people.

In the strict hierarchy that orders relationships in the American military – and orders its social life, as well — the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as the nation’s most senior officer, has for years played host for the most-sought-after holiday reception sponsored by the American military in Washington.

Admiral Mullen’s decision can be expected to send a strong signal across the armed services, and to Congress, about the military’s desire to carefully watch its resources during this time of financial crisis amid two wars.

The annual event has often attracted the occasional entertainment figure, usually a musician or actor who has traveled to combat zones with the chairman on a USO tour. That has always given the chairman’s reception a certain cache.

That — and the fact that it was during the reception in December 2003, that the former chairman, Gen. Richard B. Myers, received the call on his classified telephone that American military forces had captured Saddam Hussein in Iraq. He kept the secret throughout the reception, awaiting the official announcement in Baghdad.


It may not really be that much money but this is real leadership, if you watch the pennies, the dollars will save themselves. Job Well done Admiral Mullens.

Sphere: Related Content

After 17 years, ‘supermarket’ for vets returns

After 17 years, ‘supermarket’ for vets returns

One-stop shop event to offer information on veterans benefits planned for Dec. 4
By Ben Wright - --

The Supermarket of Veterans Benefits, a one-day, one-stop service and information event, is returning to Columbus after 17 years.

“There may be many veterans and dependents who are eligible for various benefits but who, for some reason, have never applied for them,” Georgia Commissioner of Veterans Affairs Pete Wheeler said last week during a proclamation signing by Mayor Jim Wetherington. “In this one-day session, we will place every agency that has any connection whatsoever with veterans benefits within easy reach of those eligible veterans and their family members.”

The free event will be held from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Dec. 4 at the Columbus Civic Center. In addition to the services, veterans can get free screenings at booths staffed by personnel from Veterans Affairs Medical Centers in Georgia.

Wheeler noted the supermarket provides Georgia veterans and family members an opportunity to acquire information and assistance from more than 35 municipal, state and federal agencies about various benefits.

“Having them all in one place at the same time eliminates the necessity for veterans or their family members having to go to several places to get questions answered and to get help with individual problems,” Wheeler said.

Other agencies represented include the Military Retirement Services, the Social Security Administration, TRICARE, Small Business Administration, the Georgia Department of Motor Vehicle Safety, the Georgia and U.S. Departments of Labor, Rehab Services of the Georgia Department of Human Resources, the Georgia Game and Fish Division of the Department of Natural Resources and representatives of state and federal medical facilities.

An estimated 100,000 veterans live in Muscogee and the surrounding middle southwest Georgia counties.

“No veterans’ benefit is granted automatically — every benefit must be applied for,” Wheeler said. “It is entirely possible that the claims and awards made as a result of this one-day service program could result in thousands of tax-free dollars.”

Columbus last hosted the supermarket in 1991. The Department of Veterans Service started the one-day programs 42 years ago in Columbus. Since then, programs have been held annually at various locations statewide. This will be the fifth time Columbus has hosted the “supermarket.”


Maybe it's just me but 17 years since the last time they did this and they are proud of it?

Sphere: Related Content

Local veteran sues in free speech case

Local veteran sues in free speech case

By Tasha Kates

Published: November 25, 2008

A local Vietnam War veteran is suing the National Park Service over his First Amendment right to distribute Buddy Poppies and receive donations for the Veterans of Foreign Wars on the National Mall.

Barboursville resident John P. “Big John” Miska, who is the commander of Ruckersville’s VFW post, has filed the suit against the National Park Service, agency director Mary A. Bomar, Washington-area director Peggy O’Dell and Dwight E. Pettiford, chief of the National Park Service Police.

Miska, who is being represented by an attorney from the Albemarle County-based Rutherford Institute, said he brought the lawsuit to help defend the rights of the country for which he fought.

“This is not about me,” Miska said Monday. “This is about everybody’s rights. There has been a constant erosion of our constitutional values and constitutional rights. If we do not stand up for our rights, we lose our rights.”

Buddy Poppies are small, artificial flowers made by disabled veterans and distributed to people who want to raise awareness of veteran issues and support the VFW. In the suit, Miska explains that he silently holds the poppies out to interested passersby while standing on a public sidewalk or on a bench. He also has a bucket that indicates the poppies are being offered by VFW Post 8208 to support wounded troops. Miska said he does not solicit donations from people who take poppies, although often times people offer money.

“By being there as veterans and wearing our hats and handing out the poppies, we are raising the consciousness and serve as a visual representation of what those memorials mean,” he said. “If someone is moved to offer a donation, what is the harm in that?”

Miska’s suit mentions three incidents in the last year where park officials who told him that he was violating the agency’s regulations interrupted his distribution of Buddy Poppies on the National Mall:

l In November 2007, the suit said Miska was handing out Buddy Poppies while on a sidewalk near the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. A National Park Service ranger reportedly approached him after seeing someone put a donation in the bucket and told Miska that he either needed to leave or stop accepting donations for the poppies.

l On April 26, Miska was on a bench near the memorial, handing out poppies and accepting donations without a bucket. A park ranger approached Miska, the suit said, and told him that he needed to have a permit to sell the poppies. After speaking with the ranger, a U.S. Park police officer approached Miska and wrote him a $50 ticket for panhandling. The Office of the Attorney General later declined to file charges against Miska.

l On July 4, the suit said Miska brought poppies, the bucket and VFW literature to the National Mall, which had security checkpoints because of the holiday. A U.S. Park police captain reportedly told Miska that he couldn’t accept donations on the mall or he would be arrested. Later that day, Miska sat on a bench near the memorial and handed out poppies to people who requested them. When a group of women tried to donate money to Miska, the suit, said a Park Service volunteer approached and told them not to give Miska any money. The volunteer also told Miska to leave, which he did after Park Police said they would take his poppies and arrest him unless he left.

Randy Myers, an attorney with the National Park Service, said Monday that he hadn’t seen the lawsuit yet. The suit was filed Thursday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Miska approached The Rutherford Institute over the summer about the incident. John W. Whitehead, founder and president of the human rights and civil liberties organization, said Monday that he thought the situation was very unusual.

“I’m just amazed at how we treat our veterans in this country,” Whitehead said. “It’s freedom of speech. The First Amendment said you have a right to assemble. He’s assembling with his poppies.”

Whitehead said that he doesn’t believe that Washington’s panhandling law applies in this case because Miska is not asking anyone for money or pressuring anyone to take a poppy. The constitutional attorney said he is unaware of any citizen complaints made to the National Park Service Police about Miska and the poppies.

Miska said the money donated through the Buddy Poppies is used to support the VFW Relief Fund. His post uses it to pay for care packages sent to deployed troops, supplies for hospitalized veterans, meals for veterans and other expenses.

In addition to allowing VFW members to distribute Buddy Poppies and accept donations on the National Mall, Miska’s suit is asking for attorney fees. A court date has not yet been set.

This article was edited to correct the VFW post number.


You just sometimes have to wonder what country this really is anymore?

Sphere: Related Content

Injured veterans engaged in new combat

Injured veterans engaged in new combat

By David Zucchino
November 25, 2008
Marine Cpl. James Dixon was wounded twice in Iraq -- by a roadside bomb and a land mine. He suffered a traumatic brain injury, a concussion, a dislocated hip and hearing loss. He was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Army Sgt. Lori Meshell shattered a hip and crushed her back and knees while diving for cover during a mortar attack in Iraq. She has undergone a hip replacement and knee reconstruction and needs at least three more surgeries.

In each case, the Pentagon ruled that their disabilities were not combat-related.

In a little-noticed regulation change in March, the military's definition of combat-related disabilities was narrowed, costing some injured veterans thousands of dollars in lost benefits -- and triggering outrage from veterans' advocacy groups.

The Pentagon said the change was consistent with Congress' intent when it passed a "wounded warrior" law in January. Narrowing the combat-related definition was necessary to preserve the "special distinction for those who incur disabilities while participating in the risk of combat, in contrast with those injured otherwise," William J. Carr, deputy undersecretary of Defense, wrote in a letter to the 1.3-million-member Disabled American Veterans.

The group, which has called the policy revision a "shocking level of disrespect for those who stood in harm's way," is lobbying to have the change rescinded.

Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said the Pentagon's "more conservative definition" limited benefits for some veterans. "That was not our intent," Levin said in a statement.

He added: "When the disability is the same, the impact on the service member should be the same no matter whether the disability was incurred while training for combat at Ft. Hood or participating in actual combat in Iraq or Afghanistan."

Pentagon officials argue that benefits should be greater for veterans wounded in combat than for "members with disabilities incurred in other situations (e.g., simulation of war, instrumentality of war, or participation in hazardous duties, not related to combat)," Carr wrote.

But veterans like Dixon and Meshell said their disabilities were a direct result of wounds suffered in combat.

Dixon said he was denied at least $16,000 in benefits before he fought the Pentagon and won a reversal of his noncombat-related designation.

"I was blown up twice in Iraq, and my injuries weren't combat-related?" Dixon said. "It's the most imbecile thing I've ever seen."

Meshell, who is appealing her status, estimates she is losing at least $1,200 a month in benefits. Despite being injured in a combat zone during an enemy mortar attack, she said, her wounds would be considered combat-related only if she had been struck by shrapnel.

Meshell said the military had suggested that at least some of her disability was caused by preexisting joint deterioration. "Before I went over there, I was fine -- I was perfectly healthy," Meshell said. "This whole thing is causing me a lot of heartache."

Kerry Baker, associate legislative director of Disabled American Veterans, has accused the Pentagon of narrowing the definition of combat-related disabilities to save money. He said the change would reduce payments for tens of thousands of veterans -- those already wounded and those injured in the future.

"This is going to hurt a lot of people," Baker said. "It's one of those things that when you first look at it, you think: 'Wow. How can this be?' "

In a letter to members of Congress, the Disabled American Veterans accused the Pentagon of "mutilating" the statutory definitions of combat-related disabilities as part of a "deliberate manipulation of the law."

The January legislation was aimed at allowing troops wounded in combat and combat-related operations to collect disability severance from the military and disability compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Disability severance is based on past service. Disability compensation is based on future loss of earning potential. Previously, veterans with combat-related disabilities received reduced monthly VA compensation until their severance money was recouped. That is still the case for those whose injuries are not deemed combat-related.

Years ago, Congress adopted a detailed definition of combat-related disabilities. It included such criteria as hazardous service, conditions simulating war and disability caused by an "instrumentality of war." Those criteria were not altered in the January legislation.

The Pentagon, in establishing an internal policy based on the legislation, in March unlawfully stripped those criteria from the legislation, the Disabled American Veterans said.

"We do not view this as an oversight," Baker testified before Congress in June. "We view this as an intentional effort to conserve monetary resources at the expense of disabled veterans."

The Pentagon changes focused on "tip of the spear" fighters, or those "in the line of duty in a combat zone," said Eileen Lainez, a Pentagon spokeswoman. They comprise "a very special, yet limited, subset of those who matriculate through the Disability Evaluation System," Lainez wrote in an e-mail response to a request for comment.

In many cases, veterans say, they are not told why their disabilities are not considered combat-related.

Dixon said he did not realize he had been put in a noncombat-related category until he began questioning his disability payments. It took more than six months of phone calls, letters and appeals -- plus help from the Disabled American Veterans and a member of Congress -- to overturn his designation.

Navigating the Pentagon's bureaucracy was made more difficult because Dixon's brain injury resulted in short-term memory loss. He had to write everything down in notebooks and calendars.

"It was a nightmare," Dixon said. "Most veterans don't know how the system works, or how to fight it. They don't realize all the obstacles they put in your way to keep you from getting what you deserve."

Meshell said the military disability system was so complex that few veterans were equipped to navigate it.

"I'm a college graduate. I'm not a dumb person. But honestly, I can't begin to explain some of this stuff," she said.

After five years of active duty, a combat tour in Iraq and 12 years in the National Guard and Reserves, she thinks she deserves the full disability benefits authorized by Congress for veterans injured in combat.

"I earned them," she said. "I went to Iraq. I was in combat. I got injured."

Zucchino is a Times staff writer.


DR Chu I hope like hell you are the first person President Obama replaces in the DOD, this is the slimiest thing you have ever done. This has your name all over it.

Sphere: Related Content

Monday, November 24, 2008

Commentary: Government is unnecessarily harsh to troops

Commentary: Government is unnecessarily harsh to troops

Orval Strong-Special to the DN
Posted: 11/24/2008 08:22:34 AM PST

Click photo to enlarge«1»Unlike one of this paper's columnists who said,. "Were voters who chose Obama in spite of their misgivings, really putting the 'color of his skin' above 'the content of his character?" I don't believe they were. And I doubt Colin Powell or anyone else could have done any better against him than McCain did.
Obama brought something to the election process not seen in many a year. Its called charisma, it wasn't how he looked, it was what he said. Instead of offering more blood, sweat and tears, he gave us a vision of a brighter future. He gave us a reason to hope. If half he promised comes to fruition I'd be happy.

If Gerry Wolfe wants to discuss stolen elections, lets look at the one in 2000.

First of all, Clarence Thomas is a Republican. Secondly, during the time when the Supreme Court was deciding the case of Bush v. Gore, Virginia L. Thomas (the wife of Justice Thomas) worked for the heritage Foundation. This Foundation was gathering resumes for appointments in the Bush administration. Thirdly He was appointed to the high court by George Herbert Walker Bush.

Now all this is just circumstantial but it reeks of conflict of interest.

Here is one more way our government is unnecessarily harsh to our troops. Many returning disabled veterans are being given honorable discharges instead of medical under honorable discharges. You see if they got medical discharges they'd be eligible for treatment in military hospitals and clinics at Department Of Defense's



expense. DOD banned the DAV ( Disabled American Veterans) from Walter Reed because the DAV counselors were advising the new vets to insist on the medical discharge. The Pentagon, taking Under Secretary of Defense David S.C. Chu's advise, has narrowed the definition of combat-related. This was so more soldiers would have to repay their military disability severance pay before they could receive disability compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
We can give billions, even trillions to the bankers without blinking an eye but taking care of those who risked their lives for us is a different matter. You should check this site out, its about our troops being sent back into combat after receiving disabling injuries, it's Ribbons are pretty and all, but if your serious about "supporting the troops" you'll contact our two senators and tell them you want this government to stop screwing our soldiers.

Here are a few signs that show whether or not a war is bogus. I got it from The Veteran, which is a paper put out by the Vietnam Veterans Against the War.

"Not enough volunteers, no draft to staff it, no taxes assessed to pay for it, no tangible support from the public or a demand on it, those that incite don't fight, the justification for war is poor or keeps changing, war profiteering/fraud becomes rampant, amputees allowed on active duty (if wounded while on active duty), military actions that create more enemies than they kill, neutralize or convert and war waging expenditures and activities that neither increase national safety nor advance national interests while decreasing the nation's quality of life." Yes, my sources may be a bit bias, but how many of this administration's excuses for this war in Iraq have proven valid?

The most horrifying aspect of this war in Iraq is the grotesquely deformed babies it has caused Iraqi women to bare. Babies are born without much of a face, some without eyes, many with extreme hydrocephalus. You can get a better understanding of the misery we've subjected these women to by going to at .

Dr. Sieqwart Horst Gunther has written a book called, Uranium Projectiles - Severely Maimed Soldiers, Deformed Babies, Dying Children. Of course we're not just talking about Iraqi babies either.

This thing in Iraq is not a war to liberate a people, it is an egregious assault against humanity.


Orval Strong, of Gerber, is a 100-percent disabled combat veteran from the Vietnam War era. He can be reached at

Sphere: Related Content

Jeffrey Lucey and the Urgent Need for Mental Healthcare for All Our Veterans

Jeffrey Lucey and the Urgent Need for Mental Healthcare for All Our Veterans

November 23, 2008 - This is the story of our son, Jeffrey Michael Lucey. This will be a brief account of what happened to him - especially after his return from the Iraq War.
There is so much about him on the internet under his name. This is why we will keep this brief.
Jeffrey Michael Lucey was born on March 18, 1981. He was our only son and our middle child - having an older sister and a younger sister. He was your average everyday boy. As he grew up, Jeffrey began to love to play sports, being a clown as well as a little rascal and imp. Jeffrey was a risk taker as well as being popular and industrious in school - at least in elementary and middle school. The first three years of high school was when he discovered girls and the social life but he was able to pull it togther during his senior year and graduated. He then went on to attend Holyoke Community College but that was interrupted by his joining the USMC reserve unit in December, 1999; then going off to Boot Camp in late May, 2000; finally returning on November 9, 2000 and then being assigned to his unit in New Haven, Ct.. Jeffrey's life was then further interrupted once more by the War.
Jeffrey being a convoy driver then participated in the invasion the day after his birthday and returned home July 13, 2003 - physically unscathed but mortally wounded. He returned to college. He was to have graduated on June 5, 2004 but weeks before he found himself in the throes of dealing with the hidden wounds of the trauma of War. Regretfully, Jeffrey never did graduate.

In letters other than the ones Jeffrey sent to us while he was in Iraq, Jeffrey described doing immoral things and wishing that the past month ( April of 2003 ) of his life never happened - that he had done things which he had only seen in the movies, ect.

Despite some distance when Jeffrey initially came home, we were unaware of issues other than what we were told would be some re-adjustment back to civilian life.

The first strong clue occurred on December 24, 2003, when Jeffrey, having asked to stay home from Christmas Eve activities, talked to his younger sister while he was crying and drinking and told her that he was nothing more than a murderer - tossing his and other dogtags at her. Yet later that evening and the next day, Jeffrey appearred fine.

During the intervening months, Jeffrey appearred to be drinking more and had some episodes but then things seem to explode. Another issue which came to light was Jeffrey's daily vomitting ever since he had returned. We sent him to the Doctor and they were going to schedule some medical tests. We came to find out later that that could have been caused by those hidden wounds.

It was in the middle of March, 2004 around school vacation, his birthday and the anniversary of the War that Jeffrey's downward spiral truly began

From mid-March through June 22, 2004, Jeffrey's life became a struggle and the symptoms appearred to explode - appearing to fluctuate in intensity and frequency. It was as if a beast was gnawing and gnashing at Jeffrey's very essence and ripping chunks out of his spirit ... his soul ... his being. There were moments that Jeffrey appearred to be quiet only to discover that in the silence, he had been screaming from the pain - horrible screams of pain that no one heard. Jeffrey slept little, ate little, was so restless, hypervigilant, confused angry frustrated isolated in his mind wracked with guilt sadness depression rage, panicked, desperate, hopeless, overwhelmed, rageful, wanting to talk and yet at the same time wanting to be silent. He wanted help but thought that no one could understand but even worse - especially after going to the VA twice - that no one cared. Being totally aware of stigma and fearful of being judged by those who could never understand, Jeffrey felt trapped as he slowly made his descent into his private hell.

As a family, we were also descending into our own hell - feeling totally powerless, helpless, desperate. We begged him to go to get help ... to go to the VA who were the experts having dealt with this country's veterans over a hundred years and a number of wars. Yet STIGMA prevented him from reaching out and trying to save himself - for you see, to seek help meant to him that you are weak and that was not acceptable. We were overwhelmed and then struggling with a mutated form of our own trauma due to trying to deal with the chaos and the raging storm of Jeffrey and his present world.

We were finally able to bring him to the VA only to have that fail so miserably. His experience there made him refuse to go back - feeling that he was treated as a prisoner - not as a veteran; being put on a ward with older veterans sufferring from a number of issues not similiar to his; not being seen by counselors or therapists - not being helped; feeling warehoused; not being assessed for his real issue but their simply focusing on a symptom - alcohol; ect. This should have never been.

After being turned away from the professionals, it made us doubt ourselves - were we just parents overreacting. They would never turn someone away who really was in danger - would they? It gave us a false sense of security and safety. From our perspective - they were the angels who would embrace and help Jeffrey through all this that we did not understand. Yet they turned him away. Then no one ever called so it must be that we were thinking with a parents' hearts and not being objective enough.

Jeffrey had so many mixed feelings - for he was expecting to be returned to Iraq. There were times that he was ready to go back to Iraq with his unit and then other times when he could not.

With all these factors and more involved, Jeffrey's spiral continued to go downward until he crashed. Jeffrey did stop drinking the week before he died. All of us tried to get him help - Joyce called the VA and stated that we were watching our son die slowly in front of us; Jeffrey called the Vet Center and made an appointment for the following Friday which we kept. They sent us home with the idea that they would come to the house three times per week until they could find a bed. He couldn't be as bad as we feared - could he?

When I came home from work on Monday, June 21, 2004, Jeffrey was pacing through the house in a total rage - ranting about the government, the war, the oil issue, ect.. He then spoke about suicide. I called the Vet Center not only once but twice. After talking with the staff, Jeffrey was in a better place and we had a relatively good night. About 11:30 pm, for the second time within the last ten days, Jeffrey asked me if he could sit in my lap. For the second time, I rocked him in my lap - this time for about 45 minutes. Then we walked to his room and he went to bed.

The next time I held him in my lap was the very next night, on June 22, 2004, as I lowered him from the beam and unwrapped the hose from around his neck - the first time that he looked at peace in months. He finally escaped the pain at his own hand. On June 22nd, the VA sent a notice setting up an appointment for Jeffrey who was in such a crisis for approximately three weeks later.

Few have spoken out; many have not.

It is simply not right - to allow the traumatized troops and veterans to suffer in such a tortured way and such a horrible death; for the loved ones to descend into the depths of a hell known only to a few... it is simply not right.

As many sit around their holiday tables full of festive cheer, let us hope that, even for a brief moment, some will remember that somewhere in this nation there is a family that will have to confront the reality that the smiles, laughter and joking of the loved one / veteran /troop is now replaced by the empty chair and a trembling toast to all that was and that which could have been. and which will never be.

Kevin & Joyce Lucey, the proud parents of Cpl. Jeffrey Michael Lucey, a 23 year old USMC reservist forever succumbed to the hidden wounds of PTSD.
03/18/81 -------- 06/22/04


The VA keeps saying they are doing enough, is this what they mean by "enough" I don't agree with it, the need for treatment and help is now, not next week or next month, this war will be like Nam more men will die from PTSD than died during the war, they can't make a wall big enough to hold all the names of the PTSD victims

Sphere: Related Content

Agent Orange and other dioxins do cause heart disease

Dioxins and Cardiovascular Disease Mortality

The results of this systematic review suggest that dioxin exposure is associated with increased risk of mortality from both IHD and all CVD, although more strongly with the former. Although biological plausibility is provided by animal studies, uncontrolled confounding by other risk factors for CVD cannot be ruled out as a contributor to the association.

We hope our results will stimulate further evaluation of CVD incidence and mortality in dioxin-exposed cohorts, especially using internal comparisons with detailed exposure assessments, and careful control for confounding. Future studies in both animals and humans should assess whether cardiovascular effects are present at environmentally relevant doses. Of additional interest would be analysis of whether the association between dioxin exposure and all CVD persists when IHD cases are excluded, as well as a pooled or meta-analysis of the internal comparison results in order to obtain a dose–response curve for dioxin and CVD.

We all know the Ranch Hand study was flawed form the very beginning, the scientists are all in agreement on this issue now, it is time for the DOD and the Veterans Affairs to accept the facts this study concludes and to care for the Vietnam Veterans and veterans in other places where the dioxins were used, Panama, DMZ in South Korea, Edgewood Arsenal, Fort Greely Alaska, also thoughts must be given to the men who served in these places in the decades after the toxins were freely used, the ground and the water tables are contaminated and the potency lasts for decades, children in Vietnam are still getting sick, and we last used AO there in 1973? The veterans exposed to these toxins deserve the medical care and compensation the exposures can possibly be linked to.

Sphere: Related Content

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Area Gulf War veterans vindicated by report on illnesses

Area Gulf War veterans vindicated by report on illnesses

By Andrew Dys -

York's Gene Blackwell was a general in 1991, but stars on his collar didn't protect him from an invisible enemy in Iraq. As soldiers and Marines invaded Iraq, oil fields burned into black plumes, pesticides intended to protect the troops filled the air, and the military required most troops to take pyridostigmine bromide (PB) pills in case of nerve gas attacks.

Now, 17 years later, Blackwell and thousands of other troops who dealt with health problems after the war finally know the government believes them.

A report this week from the Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses shows Gulf War Illness, or Gulf War Syndrome, is real.

Blackwell, now retired, said he experienced shortness of breath over the years since the Gulf War.

"Hundreds of oil fields were burning, and we were right in the middle of it for two weeks," Blackwell said. "Your face, nose was black. Absolutely, it had an impact."

Memory problems, chronic headaches, pain and other symptoms have been reported by thousands of veterans. But until now there was almost nobody listening: No diagnosis for at least a quarter of the almost 700,000 U.S. troops who complained of symptoms after the war.

One South Carolina soldier, Marguerite Knox of Columbia, has fought for Gulf War Illness recognition and treatment since her service in 1990 and 1991 at a Middle East evacuation hospital during the war. She later suffered severe sinus infections and cognitive loss after exposure. Now a lieutenant colonel with the S.C. National Guard, Knox first served on the presidential advisory committee studying Gulf War sickness before becoming a member of the committee that released the report to the federal Veterans Affairs office Monday. Chemicals were clearly released when the U.S. forces blew up existing weapons the Iraqis had stockpiled, Knox said.

"This is vindication," said Knox, a nurse practitioner in civilian life. Unlike most vets who had to rely on a skeptical VA that had not diagnosed them for health care after the war, Knox said her medical background gave her access to better medical care to handle the Gulf War symptoms. "It took until 1996 for anyone to admit there was even exposure to chemical agents. This day was a long time coming."

Gulf War veteran Jim Trone, junior vice commander of Rock Hill's Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2889, said he has run into many veterans over the years who complained of sickness from exposure during the war.

The report cites ineffective research and even suggests political and economic reasons for the research not getting done quickly enough. For Gulf War veterans, the report is "nothing more than what a lot of us have known for a long time," said John Gossett of Clover, a retired colonel who had to order his men to take the PB pills every eight hours.

"I have never been satisfied with the research -- this has been a problem with a lot of troops for years." Gossett said. "I am glad it has finally come out and somebody is finally listening to the soldiers who fought over there. The soldiers did a great job and deserve better."

After the war, soldiers went for health screenings complaining of problems, but the Department of Defense did little or nothing about it, Gossett said.

"I always suspected the pesticides, and we were told to take those pills and that is what we did," Gossett said.

Gossett and others said they haven't had symptoms similar to other soldiers -- but that doesn't mean the pesticides or pills or other toxins had no effect. Maybe the problems haven't surfaced yet.

Many soldiers never came forward because of fears they would be perceived by the military as malingerers, or viewed by the public as less than patriotic for speaking up, Gossett said.

"This shows all those fine men were right all along," he said.

Since 1994, the VA has been allowed to compensate Gulf War veterans without a diagnosed illness who had more than 10 percent documented disability, said Pat Nivens, Veterans Affairs officer for York County. But even with the issuing of the report Monday, Nivens said the VA has not directed her office in how to handle veterans affected by the illness.

At Monday's unveiling of the report, the VA promised to make it a priority to find money to treat these veterans, Knox said. But until then, all these veterans have for their service in the Gulf War is an admission, after 17 years, that they really are sick.


Veterans seeking help can call the county Veterans Affairs Office:

York County, 803-909-7525;

Chester County, 803-385-6157;

Lancaster County, 803-283-2469.

To read the report of the Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Illnesses, go to


After 17 years it is time for the VA to quit claiming these medical problems are psychosomatic and award the compensation claims for medical reasons they are, service connected problems related to service in the Gulf War, the next Secretary of the VA has the ability thru mandating these problems as SC by fiat thru signing a decree and publishing it in CFR 38 as Sec Princippi did with ALS otherwise known as Lou Gehrigs disease.

Sphere: Related Content

Filipino WW II veterans seek US benefits

Filipino WW II veterans seek US benefits

Filipino WW II veterans seek US benefits

By Oliver Teves
Associated Press
First Posted 09:01:00 11/23/2008

Close this MANILA, Philippines--It is the last Tuesday of the month, time for 88-year-old Dioscoro Valenzuela to lead a group of fellow World War II veterans on their regular trip to the clinic.

The free checkups and a monthly pension of P5,000 ($102) from the Philippine government are about all they get for fighting alongside American forces from 1941 to 1945, when their country was a US colony. And that strikes them as unfair.

The Filipinos have long sought US veterans benefits, citing a promise to them by wartime US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. US veterans get as much as $11,000 to $22,000 annually, depending on their disability status and number of dependents.

But a 1946 US law declared that the more than 250,000 Filipino soldiers who fought under the American flag were not in active service for the US military during the war, denying them any benefits.

Earlier this year, both houses of the US Congress passed bills to provide some benefits, but the bills differ. And with Congress preoccupied with other issues, it is unclear if the two houses will agree on a single bill to present to the president for approval.

"I am pessimistic," said Valenzuela, post commander in his hometown of Malolos for the Veterans Federation of the Philippines. The US "is engaged in all kinds of war. ... It is also in a difficult economic situation... It hurts me that America treats Filipino veterans differently."

Time is running out for the aging veterans. Of the 37 that Valenzuela led to the Veterans Center in the Manila suburb of Taguig last month, 30 were widows.

Equal treatment should be a right for all who served, said Remedios Sulit, an 84-year-old widow, herself a former spy and courier for guerrillas who continued the fight after the Japanese took control of the Philippines in 1942.

"If they give it to us, thanks," she said. "But what we are after is our right, and it was a promise they should keep."

The US estimates about 18,000 are still alive, though the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office puts the number at more than 36,000, plus nearly 80,000 surviving spouses.

His hair and thin mustache white, Valenzuela remains active and sprightly. He often travels alone to Manila to work on veterans issues, commuting the 20 miles (31 kilometers) on buses and the colorful open-sided minibuses known as jeepneys.

Like most elderly Filipinos, he relies on a large extended family. He lives in an old concrete and wood house with the families of a married son, a married daughter and another son who is a widower, like him. His monthly pension mostly goes to hypertension medicine and food supplements, he said.

He receives visitors in his home office, set off from the rest of the ground floor by a book shelf, and offers them chilled red wine. To help keep the electricity bill down, he works on a portable typewriter in the sunlight on the patio.

He likes to tell war stories while showing some of his memorabilia, including a laminated front page of the Dec. 7, 1941, Honolulu Star Bulletin's extra edition with a banner headline on the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

The US military, which provided security for the Philippines, had been mobilizing for months. Valenzuela and his college buddies were called to duty as part of the Commonwealth Army, which was made up of US-trained Filipino soldiers who became part of the US Army Forces in the Far East.

He was assigned to a machine gun company and deployed behind the front lines with the reserve forces.

In April 1942, he was among American and Filipino soldiers who surrendered to the Japanese in Bataan province.

"We were crying. It was surrender," he said.

He escaped on the first night of the infamous Bataan Death March, a brutal 65-mile (105-kilometer), weeklong trek during one of the country's hottest months. Of the 70,000 who started, 16,000 died.

Valenzuela and two other Filipino soldiers sneaked away under cover of darkness. After evading the Japanese for about a week, they split up. Valenzuela mixed with civilians and found his way back to Malolos.

In early 1943, he joined the guerrillas--as did two of his seven brothers--as part of a medical team.

Some Filipino veterans do receive US benefits, because they became US citizens under a 1990 law granting citizenship to selected veterans. Martin Tengco, 86, lived in the United States for eight years and still receives $1,300 a month in compensation for disabilities from his time as a prisoner of war, as well as a $400 monthly old-age benefit.

Tengco, also from Malolos, recalled how the Japanese arranged the prisoners in columns, four abreast.

"If someone steps out of the line, he is killed," Tengco said. "The man beside me was bayoneted. His body was pulled to the side of the road and bayoneted again and also shot to make sure he was dead."

Before the march started, local residents gave them food and water, but they soon stopped because Japanese soldiers began shooting civilians offering help, he said.

"We were given leftover water for the Japanese cavalry, but only a couple of gulps and that's it," Tengco said.

After a month in a prison camp and contracting malaria, he was released. Three months later, he too joined the guerrillas.

The Senate bill, which passed 96-1 in April, would give $4,500 a year to married Filipino veterans and $3,600 to unmarried ones. The House of Representatives bill would give one-time payments of $15,000 to those who are American citizens and $9,000 to non-citizens.

Jesus Terry Adevoso, the assistant secretary for veterans affairs in the Philippines, said the Senate version is preferable, because it recognizes the veterans as part of the US forces. Also, the money can go to widows, whereas the House version would pay only surviving veterans.

The 1946 law "made our country and our veterans mercenaries," said Adevoso, the son of famed World War II guerrilla leader Col. Terry Adevoso. "As far as the Philippine government is concerned, the important thing is the retrieval of their honor and dignity and the retrieval of the dignity of the Philippines as a nation."


These veterans of the WW2 era fought under the American command of General Douglas MacArthur, they were sworn into the US Army and obeyed the orders of American commanders, at the time of WW2 the Philippine's were a territory of the United States, with Douglas MacArthur as the titular head of the American presence, promises were made to these men, just as they were to all other veterans of WW2, however we as a nation reneged on these promises as soon as Congress could revoke them in the late 1940s. These men are veterans of our wars, and they deserve to be treated as all other WW2 era veterans are treated. This is more of the "broken promises" made to veterans, and I have to agree they deserve the Senate Version of the bill so their surviving spouses get the same benefits spouses of all other veterans receive. This is not a waste of funds, it is about honor and our duty to these veterans to rectify a mistake made more than 50 years ago, let these elderly veterans start collecting the benfits they deserve and have been denied by this nation. They fought for us, they followed their American commanders orders and they deserve the same regard as all other American veterans.

Sphere: Related Content

Some veterans say they struggle for care

Some veterans say they struggle for care

from VA clinic’s contractors

Staff Photo | PAUL STEPHEN
Rocky Point couple Paul and Ann Bennett have struggled with the local VA clinic trying to keep up with his medications. Bennett, who served in the Coast Guard from 1965-69, suffered a stroke in 2007.
The private company that has been running the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ outpatient clinic in Wilmington and racking up hundreds of complaints from area veterans will continue to manage the facility until the end of May.
The VA’s contract with Magnum Medical J.V. was set to expire Nov. 28. A VA spokesman said Thursday that the agreement was extended six months as the agency looks for space to lease in the area to open a larger clinic.
“We did this with an understanding that patient satisfaction was our No. 1 concern,” said Dave Raney, communications officer with the VA’s Mid-Atlantic Network that includes North Carolina.
The two companies that make up Magnum Medical – Magnum Opus Technologies and Sterling Medical – are responsible for the clinic’s workers, from physicians to nurses to telephone operators. Sterling Medical has had a role running the clinic since it opened in 2001.
The facility, located at 1606 Physicians Drive, has been the subject of numerous complaints from area veterans, according to records from the VA’s patient advocates in Fayetteville.
Raney said he was aware of the concerns, adding that positive comments also have been made about the clinic’s staff. He said VA and company officials have talked about the service issues.
“We’ve had some discussion now with the Sterling management, and they’re very well aware of our standards, particularly with the time it takes to get prescriptions refilled and the time for appointments,” Raney said.
A Sterling executive did not return a phone message left last week, nor did the current clinic manager or medical director.
Patient problems with the clinic became public in July when Lisa Lynch, a laboratory technician there, told local media outlets about seeing veterans irate about their treatment.
The day she spoke out, police had been called to the facility after a patient had reportedly threatened a nurse with a gun because he did not get his medication. Authorities did not find a gun, and the man was not arrested.
While an extreme example, the incident in July was not the only case of veteran frustration.
Between September 2006 and July 23, when police showed up at the facility, 260 complaints were reported about the Wilmington community-based outpatient clinic.
Most of the patients’ complaints began pouring in this year, peaking to more than 40 a day in May and June, according to records provided to the Star-News.
Rocky Point resident Ann Bennett was responsible for some of those.
Waiting and waiting
Bennett can be a pit bull when it comes to her husband, Paul, who suffered a stroke a year and a half ago.
“I’m not ugly or mean, but when it comes to my husband’s health I’m going to stand up for him,” Ann said. “I know how to stand up for myself to get what we need.”
For more than a year and as recently as last week, that has meant going around and around with the clinic on things like getting prescriptions approved and finding out test results for her 60-year-old husband who served in the Coast Guard.
Ann said she had to appeal for assistance from VA officials in Fayetteville and even her congressman.
“Finally, I called (U.S. Rep.) Mike McIntyre’s office, and the next day it was Federal Express-ed to him,” Ann said about diabetic liquid food her husband had been waiting on. “It’s just a sad thing that all of the veterans that served our country have to go through such things as this to get health care if they have no other choice like my husband.”
She said when prescription orders lagged, Paul would become lethargic if he was without blood sugar regulators or feel debilitating pain if his Oxycodone pills ran out.
Of the comments VA representatives collected, nearly 41 percent, or 108 calls, came from patients upset over delays getting their medications.
One patient, who had a stent placement, called six days after bringing in three prescriptions to the clinic to be processed.
“He is upset because no orders have been entered for these medicines and he is nearly out now,” a summary of his complaint stated.
According to the notes, the patient representative checked with the clinic manager, who had put in two notes during the days before for the doctor to approve the prescription orders, but there had been no response.
The inability to get prescription orders signed off so the VA pharmacy in Fayetteville could send medicines to patients was a reoccurring issue for veterans who complained.
Some reported that the problem of waiting for their pain medicines occurred every month as hard copies of prescriptions took too long to be mailed to the pharmacy.
By May, one patient representative noted that the problem was being reported frequently about the Wilmington clinic.
Other common complaints were patients being unable to get through to the clinic’s phone line to speak with someone, being placed on hold for lengthy periods and not having messages returned. Some veterans demanded transfers to the Fayetteville center as their primary care clinic.
Mixed bag
Not all patient experiences were as negative.
Four records were for compliments called in about the clinic’s staff for being helpful and one for “really going above & beyond her duties.”
Jonnie Clark, a 74-year-old Army veteran who lives in Southport, said he has been going to the clinic for five or six years without problems and without delays on his prescriptions.
“I’ve been there about 20 times, and I’ve never gotten anything but the best service, best treatment,” he said, adding that he appreciated what the VA has done for him. “I certainly had no gripes about them at all.”
Not all patients were as pleased as Clark, however.
Among the more serious complaints was one allegation of medical negligence in which a patient in May was told by his new health provider that he had stage-three chronic kidney disease and that his lab results in the past had indicated the problem, but he was never told.
Another patient reported he had lab tests done in late December of last year and was not told he was positive for Hepatitis B until coming in more than a month later for more lab work.
Chris Knopf, a 38-year-old Marine Corps veteran who served in the first Gulf War, found himself dropped inexplicably from the clinic six months ago.
“I don’t know what happened. They dropped me as a patient,” said the Wilmington resident, who receives treatment for a back injury, cholesterol levels and anxiety disorder.
Knopf said he was told he would have to go to Fayetteville for appointments, which he found out would take another year.
So he began calling around for someone to intervene and finally got back into the Wilmington clinic.
But he said he was concerned some veterans might be too sick or elderly to wade through the bureaucracy.
“If you’re 78 years old and you’re hard of hearing and you don’t have the time and energy, you can’t fight them,” Knopf said.
Clinic’s future
Neither Magnum Medical J.V. nor Sterling Medical run any of the other clinics in the VA’s Mid-Atlantic Health Care Network, which covers all of North Carolina, most of Virginia and parts of West Virginia and South Carolina.
Raney said only two other clinics in the region, both in Virginia, are run by contracted companies. He would not comment on how Wilmington’s complaint log compares with other VA clinics in the region.
The current clinic serves about 5,000 veterans in the area. Raney said that once the new 10,000-square-foot location is picked, it will be able to provide primary care and general mental health services to about 6,800 veterans.
The VA’s long-term plans include turning Wilmington into a hub for outpatient care by 2011 in a site with at least 80,000 square feet of space.
He said once the expanded clinic opens in Wilmington, which officials hope will be next year, it will include six physicians and 12 nurses – a larger staff than the current clinic.
Raney said all of the staff members will be VA employees. He added that if any of the clinic’s current workers are interested in being VA employees and are qualified, they will be considered for the new positions.

Some veterans say they struggle for care

Sphere: Related Content