Fort Stewart says soldier found dead in barracks
FORT STEWART, Ga. --Third Infantry Division officials at Fort Stewart are confirming that the body of a soldier assigned to the Warrior Transition Unit has been found in his barracks.
Maj. Lee Peters said Friday, "That's all the information we can release because next of kin still needs to be notified."
The transition unit was created in June 2007 to house soldiers injured during tours in Iraq and to help them focus on healing. Two other soldiers assigned to the unit have died while convalescing.
The transition units were established at military installations by the Department of Defense after controversy erupted over poor living conditions for Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans inside Walter Reed Medical Center.
Fort Stewart says soldier found dead in barracks
Saturday, January 10, 2009
Fort Stewart says soldier found dead in barracks
Nuclear veterans told: No case for compensation
Ministers tell servicemen who witnessed 1950s test explosions they should have claimed years ago
By Robert Verkaik, Law Editor
Sunday, 11 January 2009
Barry Hands was on Christmas Island in the 1950's and witnessed Britain's first H-bomb (above)
Ministers have been accused of blocking compensation claims brought by hundreds of nuclear test veterans who believe they developed cancers and other illnesses after being forced to witness atomic bomb experiments in the 1950s and '60s.
Despite pay-outs to former servicemen in the US, France and China, Britain has told its veterans there is no case for offering compensation, and that there is no scientific justification for a full investigation into birth defects suffered by the veterans' children and grandchildren.
Instead, the Government is relying on studies carried out on the Japanese survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which failed to establish a link to illnesses found among survivors and their families.
This refusal fully to investigate the human legacy of Britain's nuclear weapons test programme has come as a blow to the airmen, soldiers and sailors who stood on Pacific island beaches in the late 1950s watching nuclear explosions while wearing little more than shorts and sandals.
Ministers are also defending a legal claim brought by 1,000 British and overseas nuclear veterans and their families on the grounds that the case is time-barred. Ministry of Defence lawyers will go to the High Court next week to argue that the men, who could be entitled to hundreds of millions of pounds, should have brought the case as soon as they knew they had a claim, rather than waiting more than 40 years to start litigation. The Government will also say that the medical evidence does not support the veterans' claims of cancers linked to their time in the South Pacific.
It is estimated that the Government has already spent more than £100,000 defending the claim, which is being fought by the veterans' firm of solicitors, Rosenblatt.
In a letter written to Kevan Jones MP, the minister responsible for military veterans, the survivors and their MPs say they are "disappointed" by the Government's decision not to undertake a full medical investigation. They argue that the United Kingdom has a moral obligation to follow the lead of the US and France, which have agreed to pay compensation or accepted their responsibility to veterans. The Isle of Man government has also agreed to pay compensation to Manx veterans involved in the tests – there are thought to be only eight.
But The Independent on Sunday understands that meetings last month between the veterans and ministerial advisers have failed to persuade the Government to offer any compensation to either the men or their families. Advisers told the veterans that science was not able to provide conclusive proof concerning ill-health suffered by their offspring.
In a letter to Mr Jones, signed by John Baron MP, Ian Gibson MP and John Lowe, chairman of the British Nuclear Tests Veterans Association, they responded: "The overall message from our meeting with your adviser appears to be that science cannot answer the question of ill health in the offspring one way or the other. This disappointing conclusion must be understood in the context of the Government's position on the wider question of recognition and redress for test veterans. In your response to the Commons debate, you repeated the oft-made point that approaches should be 'evidence-based'. We are now being told it is not possible to establish a clear evidence base on this issue. It therefore makes sense to conclude that a solely scientific approach is not going to resolve this question; ultimately, it is a matter of political will and moral responsibility."
The letter adds: "The nuclear test veterans have not been calling for a new study out of general scientific curiosity; the case we have raised is a specific concern about a group of people who have never been examined. Work done on Japanese survivors (for example) is wholly unable to give comfort or bring peace of mind to the BNTV community. That is why we brought their case to you in the first place and were encouraged when you suggested action."
The veterans argue that the British servicemen who were used in the nuclear weapons testing were not given the protection that they deserved or the subsequent medical attention that they required.
"If your officials are now telling us that this matter cannot be determined one way or another through science, and given that the tribunal system has already demonstrated that some servicemen were placed in danger, we believe the only honourable option left open to the British Government is to follow the example of the French, avoid an ugly confrontation in the courts, and agree to pay damages to nuclear test veterans and their affected offspring," the survivors argue.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence said: "The UK Government recognises the vital contribution that service personnel played in the UK's nuclear tests during the 1950s and understands its obligation to veterans. When compensation claims are received, they are considered on the basis of whether or not the Ministry of Defence has a legal liability to pay compensation. Where there is a proven legal liability, compensation is paid."
'We saw the mushroom unfold at sea'
Barry Hands and his national service comrades were ordered to muster on the beaches of Christmas Island on 28 April 1958. "We heard a mighty boom and then turned around to see the mushroom unfold. It was an unbelievable, fantastic sight," said Mr Hands, 71, from Droitwich, West Midlands. He witnessed five nuclear explosions in 1958. "We were wearing just Navy-issue shorts and sandals. It was only on the final one that we were issued with white overalls. Later we went swimming in the lagoons. We weren't frightened, it was an adventure... We got on with our jobs and did as we were told."
Forty years later he suffered a malignant melanoma and a secondary cancer. Two of Mr Hands's grandchildren were born with abscesses on their bones. "Australian doctors have shown some connection between deformities in grandchildren and Christmas Island, but I would like to see more research by the British government," Mr Hands said.
I think the British Government is just flat wrong on this issue, this is nothing except an excuse to keep from compensating men with cancer that has been proven to be linked to radiation exposure, I know nothing about the passing on to children and grandchildren but the veterans have legitimate claims.
At long last, sir, have you left no sense of decency?
By Joseph L. Galloway
Updated: 01/09/2009 05:13:51 PM MST
Even as President George W. Bush was packing up his knick-knacks and calling for the moving van, the White House spin machine was whirring along at Warp 6, doing its best to put a happy face on the sorry history of his eight years in the Oval Office.
The campaign is intended to write a first draft of history and thus forestall an inevitable judgment that the Bush presidency has made the presidencies of Ulysses S. Grant, Warren G. Harding and Herbert Hoover look good by comparison.
His acolytes cling to a fading hope that historians somehow will treat him much more kindly 20 or 30 years down the road, as they have Harry S. Truman. If historians only worked from White House press releases, that dream might have a chance.
The baggage Bush will carry home to Dallas and Crawford weighs a lot more than his boxes of presidential tchotchkes. The baggage he leaves behind for an incoming President Barack Obama and the nation is backbreaking.
The White House spinners have moved past mere distortion of the facts into plain old lying.
Take, for a prime example, two press releases titled "Highlights of Accomplishments and Results of the Administration of George W. Bush" and "100 Things Americans May Not Know About the Bush Administration Record."
Take for just one specific example the claim that this administration provided unprecedented resources for veterans over the last eight years and, they say, more support than any other president in our history.
Say it ain't so, Joe.
OK: It isn't so. It isn't true. It's a bald-faced lie.
Those who try to rewrite history credit Bush with increasing veterans' benefits and transforming veterans' health care. They claim that he instituted reforms in the care of wounded soldiers coming home from his wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and expanded resources for mental health services for troops coming home with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injuries (TBI).
The truth is that Congress passed virtually every bill to spend more money on benefits for veterans over the opposition of the Bush administration. Reforms in the care of wounded soldiers came only after The Washington Post exposed the shameful warehousing of the recovering wounded at Walter Reed Army Hospital, less than five miles from the Oval Office.
Even as the Iraq War dragged on and the numbers of severely wounded troops began rising sharply, Bush's Secretary of Veterans Affairs Jim Nicholson, a former Republican National Committee chairman, was up on Capitol Hill delivering a budget with cuts in health-care staffing at VA and cuts in nursing home care.
Nicholson, on White House orders, blocked four congressional attempts to streamline the VA's handling of a disgraceful six-month backlog in veterans benefit claims -- a backlog that's only grown worse in subsequent years.
With its eyes on maintaining public support for Bush's war in Iraq, and not on those it sent to fight it, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's Pentagon pressured the Army and Marines to discharge their wounded as fast as possible with the lowest possible disability ratings.
As a result, those who had borne the battle were abandoned to the dysfunctional VA health-care system, in which it takes six months just to get into the system and a month or more to get a doctor's appointment.
The Bush administration grossly underestimated the flood of post-traumatic stress disorder cases coming home from combat and, when confronted with the reality of more than 320,000 new veterans suffering from PTSD, major depression and TBI, it did little or nothing to expedite their care. In fact, of the 84,000 new veterans diagnosed with PTSD, only half, or 42,000 have managed to get their disability claims approved by the VA.
Some veterans committed suicide while they awaited medical and financial help, itself evidence of the abject and disgraceful failure of the system, and the nation and the administration of George W. Bush. The VA responded by understating the numbers of veterans' suicides and then covering it up. Only after a veterans group sued it did the VA establish a suicide hotline. A heckuva job.
Bush proposed a half-percent increase in the VA budget for fiscal 2006 after his own appointees at the agency told Congress that they needed a 13 percent increase to meet -- barely -- the urgent needs for medical and mental health care for the wounded coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan.
While the budget scrimped on care for our troops, the administration somehow found room for $3.8 million in performance bonuses for the top executives of an agency that was failing to do its job and fulfill our obligation to those who served and suffered.
In 2007, Bush threatened to veto a bill to boost VA spending by 10 percent, or $3.2 billion. He said that was too expensive and countered with an offer of 2 percent. After Congress passed the bill almost unanimously, Republicans included, The Decider decided to swallow it and signed the bill.
His actions and those of his crony appointees toward our veterans is a blot on our consciences. To then turn around, as the door is about to hit them in their butts on their way out, and take credit for their "good work" on behalf of those they neglected is reprehensible.
Decent people would be tortured by their consciences, but these people apparently have none, and they have no shame, either.
Most people would say this is just a disgruntled old veteran, Joe Galloway went to war as a reporter and was on the LZ in Vietnam out of personal choice, he was imbedded with the 7th Calvary with LTC Hal Moore in Vietnam now known as the battle of La Drang Valley, he was NOT just a fiction character in Mel Gibsons movie, this is the real life reporter, and I think he has earned the right to say what he feels about soldiers and veterans. He knows General Moore, Ed Crandall and many of the other men of the 7th Calvary ask them how they feel abot Joe Galloway, he is a veteran. He is one of us...and thats is just a fact jack
Fri, Jan 9, 2009 -- 10:00 AM
Weapons Testing on Troops
Six veterans have sued the CIA, the Department of Defense and the Army alleging they were deliberately exposed to chemical and biological weapons and mind altering drugs without their permission. The veterans seek health care for survivors and a ruling that the testing was illegal.
Host: Dave Iverson
Gordy Erspamer, attorney representing the six plaintiffs in their suit
James Ketchum, retired U.S. Army psychiatrist who spent 10 years at Edgewood Arsenal as one of the leaders in the design and conduct of testing mind-altering drugs on troops, and author of the memoir "Chemical Warfare Secrets Almost Forgotten"
Eternal flame only lasts until gas bill arrives
4 hours ago
BULLHEAD CITY, Ariz. (AP) — An "eternal" flame at Bullhead City's new veterans memorial park that only lasted until city officials received a $961 gas bill has been re-lit following complaints by veterans groups.
The Medal of Honor Memorial at the Arizona Veterans Memorial Park alongside the Colorado River was lit on Veterans Day in November. When the bill arrived in late December, city officials were stunned.
"It caught us by surprise," City Manager Tim Ernster said Thursday. "What we decided to do for the time being is to turn the flame on ... for special events, for Veterans Day, Fourth of July, Memorial Day — those types of activities."
The flame was extinguished on Monday. The Mohave Valley Daily News published a story Friday quoting city officials and disgruntled veterans who had worked to pay for and build the memorial before turning it over to the city.
The flame was back on by midmorning Friday following a meeting of city officials.
"What happened was really a miscommunication," city spokesman Steve Johnson said. "The issue came up one day and it was never intended to be shut off."
Johnson said the flame is impressive, but city parks officials are looking at ways to put a smaller burner in place and only use the larger one at special events.
"We're looking at alternatives, because $1,000 a month in these economic times is certainly a consideration," Johnson said.
Eternal flame only lasts until gas bill arrives
Alabama: Veterans' cemetery moving forward
By Jenn Rowell • January 10, 2009
Veterans in south Alabama are a step closer to having a state cemetery in the region.
The State Board of Veterans Affairs voted Friday to move forward with the initiative to build a veterans cemetery in Baldwin County.
About 200 acres have been purchased or donated to create a final resting place for the estimated 204,600 veterans who live within a 75-mile radius of the site near Blakeley State Park. That figure includes 71,000 in Alabama, 65,600 in Florida and 68,000 in Mississippi that would be served by the proposed cemetery.
The average construction cost for a state cemetery is $5.6 million, with an annual operation cost of about $350,000, according to the Alabama Department of Veterans Affairs.
Federal funds are available for the development, construction and equipment costs through a grant program that could provide up to $9 million, depending on the size of the cemetery. Congress has already earmarked another million dollars for a state cemetery in south Alabama, Clyde Marsh, commissioner of the Alabama Department of Veterans Affairs, told the board in July.
The national veterans cemetery in Mobile has been closed to new burials since the 1960s. The cemetery at Fort Mitchell has more than 100,000 gravesites available, but it's far from south Alabama. Another national veterans cemetery is unlikely for at least another decade since one opened at Montevallo in July.
The cemetery is a legislative priority for ADVA this year, and Marsh gave the board a draft of legislation.
State Rep. Randy Davis, R-Daphne, is the lead sponsor in the House and state Sen. Pat Lindsey, D-Butler, will promote it on the Senate side, ADVA's legal counsel Sandy Speakman said.
The fourth veterans home is also progressing. The design contract for the $40 million home was approved this week and the architect firm Williams Blackstock is proceeding with the design and construction documents, Marsh said.
But, the federal match dollars will not be available in fiscal year 2009, Marsh said. If the funds are available next year, the expected completion date of 2011 won't change. But a delay in funds would delay the completion date, Marsh said.
"If we had $40 million in our pocket, we could build it on our own and get reimbursed," Marsh said. "But we don't."
Earlier this week, ADVA released a statement regarding a U.S. Department of Justice report that was critical of the William F. Green home in Bay Minette. The report, released in December, was based on a site visit in February 2008. Federal investigators cited numerous conditions and practices at the home that violated residents' rights and caused risk or harm. But, Marsh said, during the team's exit brief, the lead inspector didn't mention any major concerns at the home.
Marsh told the board Friday that he thinks the findings are exaggerated and include "rampant speculation and flat out assumptions and conjecture that is not grounded in medical evidence, which grossly distorts and misrepresents the healthcare conditions at the home."
The home has been inspected multiple times in the past year and recently regained full licensure from the state.
The Alabama Department of Public Health found some deficiencies at the home last year and required that the home submit a corrective plan. Human Management Resources Government Services Inc., ADVA's health care provider, corrected those deficiencies and last month the home was operating with a regular license again.
The report carries no immediate penalties or implications, but a resolution is required within 49 days or the U.S. Attorney General is authorized to initiate a lawsuit.
North Carolina veterans get new tax relief
Elderly, disabled can get tax relief
By James Shea
Times-News Staff Writer
Published: Saturday, January 10, 2009 at 4:30 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 9, 2009 at 8:31 p.m.
The elderly, disabled and disabled veterans who own property in Henderson County can now receive property tax relief if they meet certain income requirements.
Click to enlarge The state modified the tax law for 2009, creating programs that cut tax bills 50 percent for qualified applicants. Disabled veterans and elderly property owners are eligible, and the county assessor’s office is asking them to apply soon so they can select the best program.
In 2008, Henderson County had 1,018 property owners who qualified for the Elderly or Disabled Exclusion Program, through which property owners receive a 50 percent reduction in assessed value, or a flat reduction of $25,000, whichever is greater.
The county took $45.7 million off the tax rolls because of the program.
Only a permanent resident who is 65 years or older or permanently disabled qualifies. The income limits for the program were recently increased. To qualify in 2008, a person must have made less than $25,000. For 2009, the limit was raised to $25,600.
The 50 percent reduction only applies to a primary residence and up to one acre of property for the tax exclusion.
“It’s a good program for those who qualify,” Henderson County Assessor Stan Duncan said.
Disabled veterans or widows of disabled veterans also qualify for a second program. If residents were honorably discharged from the military and are permanently disabled, they might qualify for the Disabled Veterans Exclusion program. These property owners get a $45,000 reduction in assessed value on their property taxes.
New this year is a program called the Circuit Breaker Property Tax Deferment. Duncan said legislatures in the mountains and the coast pushed for the program.
Under the program, property owners who earn less than $38,400 qualify for a flat property tax based on a percentage of their income.
Property owners who earn less than $25,600 get a property tax rate of 4 percent of all earned income in 2008. A property owner who earned between $25,600 and $38,400 pays a property tax of 5 percent of income.
Duncan stressed that the tax is a deferment. Normally, residents who earn $20,000 and own a $155,000 house in Hendersonville would pay $1,305 in property taxes. Using the 4 percent rule of the Circuit Breaker program, however, the residents would only have to pay $800 in taxes (4 percent of income), deferring the rest, which must be paid before the house is sold. A lien is placed on the property for the extra $505 in property tax owners owe.
Duncan said he does not know how many people in Henderson County will apply for the Circuit Breaker program. He assumed people who have high value homes with limited income are the ones who will take advantage.
“We believe if they qualify, most will opt for the elderly exclusion,” Duncan said, adding, “We can’t begin to predict on this. I think it will vary across the state.”
Duncan suggested residents contact the county assessor’s office to learn more. The application process for the program is more complicated this year, so residents should apply well before the June 1 deadline.
Duncan said the assessor’s office can present the information based on the 2008 tax rate, but it will not tell residents which program is best for them.
“I can’t be giving people tax advice,” Duncan said.
The Henderson County Assessor’s Office can be reached at 697-4870. If residents live in other North Carolina counties, they should contact their local assessor’s office to learn about the programs.
Bye-bye to bad bills
AMONG the parting gifts of the lame-duck Republican General Assembly to Gov. Ted Strickland were bills to raid the state's rainy-day fund to fund military bonuses and to unnecessarily complicate elections to prevent nonexistent voter fraud. Fortunately, the governor carried through on his threat to veto these unwarranted measures.
The outgoing Republicans, mostly interested in political posturing during their final days in the majority, sent Mr. Strickland the election and bonus bills despite the governor's warning that he would veto them.
The goal of the election bill was to eliminate the five-day period before an election in which Ohioans can register to vote for the first time and cast their ballot on the same day. Republicans claimed that eliminating the register-and-vote window was necessary to prevent voting fraud but the procedure, a Republican-backed measure that became law in 2005, was used during the Nov. 4 presidential election without significant problems.
The result of the corrective legislation - called "a convoluted mess" by one Cincinnati election official - would have been to place new obstacles in the way of Ohioans attempting to vote.
By vetoing the bill, Governor Strickland is allowing the new General Assembly to do what Linda Howe, Lucas County elections director, has advocated all along: "slow down and give the legislative process time to work."
The governor also turned away a bill that would have depleted the state's rainy-day fund by some $200 million to provide bonuses of up to $1,000 for veterans of the Persian Gulf war and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
He said, correctly, that tapping into the state's reserves was a bad idea in the face of a potential $7.4 billion deficit in the next biennial budget.
There is no question that Ohioans who are called to fight America's wars deserve our gratitude and our help making the transition from the nation's military or National Guard to civilian life. But as we have said in the past, the best way to show our gratitude and help these brave men and women is to give them a hand up, not a handout.
Don't put a few dollars in their pockets that will quickly be absorbed in the day to day expenses of life. Instead, fund services to help returning veterans recover from their physical and psychological wounds, provide training and job services to set them on course for productive civilian lives, and invest in job creation so that they have something to come home to.
With a new General Assembly sworn in, lawmakers now have time to give each of these issues the attention it deserves.
Let's hope the result is thoughtful legislation that will have long-term positive results for voters and veterans.
Friday, January 9, 2009
An estimated 258,000 middle-income veterans with no service-connected health conditions will be allowed by late June to enroll in the VA health care system. Enrollment means access to VA health care in exchange for modest co-payments, and also valuable discounts on prescription drugs.
The Department of Veterans Affairs unveiled its schedule for reopening VA healthcare to a quarter million new “Priority Group 8” veterans Jan. 5 -- ironically as President-elect Obama warned of trillion-dollar-year budget deficits and a new report of cost-cutting health care options by the Congressional Budget Office included ideas for tightening access to VA care.
In expanding enrollment, VA is acting at the direction of Congress. Last year, Rep. Chet Edwards (D-Texas) fought successfully to add $350 million to the VA budget so income thresholds that bar Priority 8 veterans could be raised 10 percent to allow more middle income veterans access.
Phillip Matkovsky, deputy chief business officer for the Veterans Health Administration, said veterans with 2008 incomes “10 percent or less” above current Priority 8 thresholds will be able to enroll in VA health care when revised regulations take effect sometime before June 30. The new income thresholds will range from $32,342 for an unmarried veteran and adding $2,222 for each dependent. Geographic income ceilings also will rise.
National Veterans Legal Services Program
Recommended resources for veterans MAJOR VETERANS ORGANIZATIONS
Disabled American Veterans
Military Order of the Purple Heart of the USA
Paralyzed Veterans of America
Veterans of Foreign Wars of America
Vietnam Veterans of America
GOVERNMENT AGENCIES & INFORMATION
HUD Veteran Resource Center
Reservists Information Page
National Center for PTSD
US Department of Defense
Department of Defense Electronic Reading Room for
the Military Departments Boards
Office of the Special Assistant for Gulf War Illnesses
e-VETS Resource Advisor
US Veterans Resource
Vets for Justice
HadIt - Veteran to Veteran
Veterans Resource Network Association
National Coalition for Homeless Veterans
Vietnam Veterans Against the War
National Veterans Services Fund
National Organization of Veterans’ Advocates (NOVA)
Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles
The National Gulf War Resource Center
Judge Advocates Association
HALT - Americans for Legal Reform
National Legal Aid & Defender Association
Veterans Business Outreach Center
National Institute of Military Justice
West Virginia State Bar
The Veterans Consortium Pro Bono Program (associated with NVLSP)
If you go to the link you can click on all of these links to these groups, boards or associations it's a great asset
Watch the news conference and ABC news report on the CIA/DOD/Army Lawsuit by the six Edgewood Veterans and their attorney Gordon Erspamer
Since I am one of the "3000" survivors I naturally have an intense interest in the outcome of this lawsuit.
If any veterans of the Edgewood experiments are interested please contact me at Testvet at aol.com or Eric Muth at eepmuth at nyc.com there are about 20-25 of us in contact now and have a lot of data and links on information that we will share with other "test vets" that are filing compensation claims or attempting to get health care from the VA.
There is strength in numbers, SHAD/112 veterans I can put you in contact with them, my step father was in the Nuclear experiments during the late 50s while in the Air Force, he was diagnosed with 3 kinds of cancer before he died and the government did not pass the RECA act until the year he passed away, he never got to file the claim for the 75,000 they compensated the nuclear test vets with.
All veterans used in the experiments should have the benefits of the "PROMISE" and we are trying to get Congress to make DOD and the VA keep the "PROMISE" if interested give a shout. Mike
U. of Wis. quietly scraps risky lab equipment
By RYAN J. FOLEY
ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER
MADISON, Wis. -- The University of Wisconsin-Madison has quietly
decided to stop manufacturing its signature aerosol chambers used for
researching infectious disease, which were involved in a few dangerous
lab accidents nationwide, including one in Seattle in 2004.
The College of Engineering is shutting down the business after an
internal audit found it was poorly managed and carried the potential for
huge liability costs in the event the chambers failed, exposing
researchers to toxic agents.
"Like any mechanical thing, it has seals and gaskets. Those seals and
gaskets can fail and then that would release these toxic agents to human
exposure. That's the risk," UW-Madison internal auditor Ed Ruotsinoja
said in an interview.
His report was obtained by The Associated Press under the open records
For 30 years, the university made so-called Madison chambers after they
were pioneered in one of its labs in the 1970s. Over time, about 25
universities and companies worldwide purchased them.
The chambers are used to infect animals such as mice and guinea pigs
with everything from tuberculosis to anthrax, replicating the conditions
under which the pathogens would enter human lungs.
The federal government encouraged their use after the 2001 terrorist
attacks to develop vaccines and treatments for biological agents. But as
the research increased, accidents exposed some scientists to dangerous
substances and caught the attention of safety regulators and government
Three researchers in Seattle tested positive for tuberculosis in 2004
after they were exposed in a lab. A state of Washington investigation
blamed their company for not requiring workers to wear enough safety
equipment but the chamber they were using also had cracked seals that
caused leaks, records show.
According to the Washington investigation, researchers at Colorado
State also reported leaks in their chamber but none of their employees
were infected. Then in 2006, a researcher at Texas A&M University was
infected with Brucella while she cleaned out the Madison chamber and was
sick for weeks.
Edward Hammond, former director of the Sunshine Project, a watchdog
group, uncovered those problems through public records requests. He had
long questioned the safety of the chambers and criticized the university
for failing to notify the public and customers of problems.
"I'm shedding no tears for the Madison chamber," Hammond said. "Its
track record did not look good."
The college's associate dean, Steven Cramer, said he was not aware of
any manufacturing defects associated with the chamber and that any
problems stemmed from operator error.
He said he instructed workers not to fill any more orders for the
product last spring after receiving the audit. Their shop is putting the
final touches on the last chamber, which could be shipped in coming
"From the audit, it apeared to me there was potentially more risk than
the revenue benefit from producing the chambers," he said.
He said two employees, including the former manager of the shops, are
being let go as part of a reorganization designed to provide more
educational opportunities for students.
The business was not lucrative - it made a modest profit - but it gave
the university some prestige. From the Bronx to Bangalore, many of those
studying toxic agents used a Madison chamber.
The College of Engineering asked for the internal review of the
business just as demand was growing because of a boost in federal and
private money for bioterrorism-related work.
The review questioned whether the business could survive in an
environment of "increased opportunity and risk of field failures"
without major changes to limit the university's liability. It found
accounting problems and "a material weakness in managing the risks of
the external business sales."
Ruotsinoja said the college was selling the $40,000 chambers without
warranties requiring buyers to do routine maintenance that would have
limited liability. In at least one instance, the college inadvertently
filled a purchase order that required it to accept liability for any
problems, he said.
"Given that the Madison Chamber is used for the testing of infectious
agents, this poses a significant risk," his report warned.
Ruotsinoja said UW officials tended to fix problems as they popped up
rather than develop routine maintenance plans to prevent them.
His report recommended the college consider patenting the product and
trademarking its name and then licensing production to a company. But
the university's intellectual property arm decided not to take those
steps after failing to find a company interested and concluding a patent
wasn't possible, Cramer said.
That came as surprising and unwelcome news to researchers who depend on
the chambers. It also means they will be forced to maintain the chambers
on their own without help from the university, said Cramer, who denied
there was any attempt to keep the decision quiet.
Still, a prominent researcher and a retired professor who helped
pioneer the equipment in the 1970s both said they had not been notified
of the move.
"That's news to me," said Donald Smith, the retired medical school
professor whose lab is credited with inventing the chamber. "If you just
look at the investigators that are using the chamber now, I think they'd
be very unhappy to learn that all of a sudden this is not going to be
He said he had visited the university in recent months and was assured
chamber production continued, which was technically true since the final
one is being built.
David McMurray, a Texas A&M researcher who has used chambers for
decades in his tuberculosis research, said he was disappointed by the
"They've really been an incredibly valuable resource," he said. "I'm
deeply concerned that somehow, if the University of Wisconsin is no
longer going to underwrite this type of activity, they are able to find
a company willing to make the chamber and provide it to scientists who
need it." U. of Wis. quietly scraps risky lab equipment
Bernie Sanders digs into DOD
Audit finds Navy storing $7.5b in unneeded parts (Boston Globe)
Analysis fuels calls to reduce defense budget
By Bryan Bender, Globe Staff
WASHINGTON - Government auditors identified at least $7.5 billion worth of unneeded spare parts stored in Navy warehouses yesterday, the latest example of wasteful military spending that is fueling calls for President-elect Barack Obama to take bold action to rein in the Defense Department's bloated budget.
Between 2003 and 2007, the Navy's supply of replacement parts for ships and aircraft far exceeded its needs, the Government Accountability Office found during a new audit. Indeed, in some instances investigators found stocks of equipment that the service is unlikely to use up for decades - such as 13,852 engine blades for its F/A-18 fighter jets estimated to be worth $3.6 million.
In total, the Navy has nearly 2 million more aircraft parts than its own projections deem necessary, while it is storing 10 million ship parts designated as excess, the report found. The cost of storing the equipment alone is $18 million, the GAO estimated.
"Based on Navy demand forecasts, inventory that exceeded current requirements was sufficient to satisfy several years, or even decades, of supply needs," according to the investigation, which was requested by Senator Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent.
Several factors contributed to the unnecessary purchases, including inefficiency in the Navy's inventory management and a limited ability to accurately forecast equipment needs, congressional auditors said.
"As a result, the Navy had billions of dollars in excess inventory against current requirements each year," the GAO concluded, including some pieces of equipment that are still on order but already slated for disposal because they won't be needed.
Another example cited in the report was seven sonar sets for attack submarines that have been sitting in storage since 1991 and that the Navy never plans to use. And last year alone the Navy had 85,700 "unique items" in its spare parts inventory - valued at $1.9 billion - for which it had no projected demand.
Sanders, who sought the audit and cosponsored legislation earlier this year to create a special oversight board to root out wartime waste, called the findings "unbelievable and outrageous." He urged Obama to take action next year to safeguard taxpayer funds.
"At a time when the nation has a $10.6 trillion debt, we simply cannot afford the continuing uncontrollable waste across the federal agencies," Sanders, a member of the Senate Budget Committee, said in a written statement.
He added: "Unfortunately, this is not just the Navy, but something the entire military has to address. I hope the next administration will take the issue seriously."
Obama has said he will make cutting wasteful government spending a top priority.Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, whom Obama has asked to stay on indefinitely, has also sent clear signals in recent weeks that he, too, is committed to taking the axe to Pentagon programs he deems unnecessary.
In the meantime, the Pentagon, which concurred with the report's recommendations for improving supply chain management, pledged to take action.
The findings come as the Commission of Wartime Contracting, established by Congress this year to investigate waste, fraud, and abuse in Pentagon purchasing, prepares to hold its first public hearing in February.
But Sanders, in a telephone interview yesterday from Vermont, said far more needs to be done, vowing to author legislation to make it illegal for the military to spend appropriations on spare parts it cannot justify.
"We have been talking about this issue of unused and unneeded spare parts for many years," Sanders told the Globe. "We need legislation to make sure the Pentagon is not wasting billions of dollars."
Hold them accountable Bernie way to go
Peake: Down Payment on Expansion of Services
WASHINGTON (January 9, 2009) -- The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)
has provided $21.7 million to its regional health care systems to
improve services specifically designed for veterans in rural areas.
"This special allocation is the latest down payment on VA's
commitment to meet the needs of veterans living in rural areas," said
Secretary of Veterans Affairs Dr. James B. Peake. "VA will take to our
rural veterans the health care services they have earned."
Within the last year, VA has launched a major rural health
initiative. The Department has already created a 13-member committee to
advise the VA secretary on issues affecting rural veterans, opened three
rural health resource centers to better understand rural health issues,
rolled out four new mobile health clinics to serve 24 predominately
rural counties, announced the opening of 10 new rural outreach clinics
in 2009 and launched a fleet of 50 new mobile counseling centers.
The extra funding is part of a two-year VA program to improve the
access and quality of health care for veterans in geographically
isolated areas. The program focuses on several areas, including access
to health care, providing world-class care, the use of the latest
technology, recruiting and retaining a highly educated workforce and
collaborating with other organizations.
More specifically, the new funds will be used to increase the
number of mobile clinics, establish new outpatient clinics, expand
fee-based care, explore collaborations with federal and community
partners, accelerate the use of telemedicine deployment, and fund
innovative pilot programs.
The new funds will be distributed according to the proportion of
veterans living in rural areas within each VA regional health care
system, called VISNs, for "Veterans Integrated Service Networks."
VISNs with less than 3 percent of their patients in rural areas
will receive $250,000. Those with population of rural veterans between
3 percent and 6 percent will receive $1 million each. And VISNs with
more than 6 percent of their veterans population in rural areas will
receive $1.5 million.
Special VA Funding for Rural Health
(By VISN number and VISN Headquarters)
#1. Bedford, Mass., $1 million
#2. Rochester, N.Y., $1 million
#3. New York, N.Y., $250,000
#4. Wilmington, Del., $1 million
#5. Baltimore, Md., $250,000
#6. Durham, N.C., $1.5 million
#7. Atlanta, Ga., $1.5 million
#8. Bay Pines, Fla., $1 million
#9. Nashville, Tenn., $1.5 million
#10. Cincinnati, Ohio, $1 million
#11. Ann Arbor, Mich., $1 million
#12. Chicago, Ill., $1 million
#15. Kansas City, Mo., $1.5 million
#16. Jackson, Miss., $1.5 million
#17. Arlington, Texas, $1 million
#18. Mesa, Ariz., $1 million
#19. Denver, Colo., $1 million
#20. Vancouver, Wash., $1 million
#21. Palo Alto, Calif., $1 million
#22. Long Beach, Calif., $250,000
#23. Lincoln, Neb., $1.5 million
DFAS Has Form To Challenge Paid-Up Qualification For SBP On Its Web Site; New Counter On The Retiree Account Statements-For all of you retirees who believe that you have paid into SBP for at least 30 years and you are at least 70 years old, but are still having premiums withheld from your retired pay, a form is now available to challenge DFAS’s finding. DD Form 2656-11 can be found at the DFAS web site by going to www.dfas.mil/retiredpay and scroll down to Paid Up SBP. In your Retiree Account Statement (RAS) there has been added a premium counter that states how many premiums payments DFAS believes remain before you reach paid up status. The season to challenge their conclusions in now (January 1 through June 30, 2009). Now is the time to act.Sphere: Related Content
Helping soldiers cope with stress disorder
COPPERAS COVE - Carissa Picard had been working nearly non-stop for 36 hours on a Fort Bragg soldier’s case, and it didn’t appear, at least to her, that she’d be stopping any time soon.
With piles of legal papers and files scattered about, her young son, Connor, was rousing himself early Wednesday morning, while Picard was hoping the prospect of a few good winks of sleep was not too far in her future.
Regardless, she was not going to stop until she had the answers to help the soldier suffering from post traumatic stress disorder and in the process of having his Army career come to an abrupt end as a result.
That was the case for Sgt. Adam Boyle, the Fort Bragg soldier, who, like soldiers at other Army posts, returned home after serving two combat tours in Iraq expecting the Army to take care of him, but was instead forced out and administratively discharged.
Picard, who is an attorney, formed the Military Spouses for Change in July 2008 to provide soldiers and their spouses a way to advocate and address the needs of service members and their families.
The group helps promote the implementation of policies and programs, public and private, that effectively identify and meaningfully address the complex needs of service members and veterans, one of which is ensuring the well-being of the family, particularly during times of stress, hardship, injury and transition.
Right now, many of those in need are soldiers and their families who find themselves dealing with post traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury - the signature wounds of the Iraq war.
Boyle, who in October was diagnosed by an Army medical board with PTSD and traumatic brain injury, did what a lot of his peers in the same situation often do.
He drank a lot.
He drank so much that the former model soldier began to get into trouble and, as a result, the career he loved began to spiral.
In December, Lt. Gen. John Mulholland, commanding general of the U.S. Army Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, signed an order forcing Boyle out on an administrative discharge for a “pattern of misconduct,” and ordering that the soldier pay back his re-enlistment bonus, which totaled more than $13,000.
Chuck Luther knows Boyle’s story all too well.
That’s because he was living the same sad chapter last year.
Luther served as a cavalry scout in the 1st Cavalry Division in Taji, Iraq, during the height of sectarian violence.
During that last tour, he was in a guard tower when he was hit by a mortar blast and suffered a mild traumatic brain injury.
Early on, Luther suffered from headaches and nosebleeds, commonly associated with traumatic brain injury.
“I was a cavalry scout and we were right there in the enemy’s face,” Luther said. “I was told by my commander I needed to drink water and drive on. I tried to do it for a little while, and I just couldn’t do it.”
In 2007, shortly after he returned from his second combat tour, Luther was diagnosed with having a personality disorder and in July 2008, found himself stripped of the career he’d embraced for 12 years.
A lot of things went through Luther’s mind.
Where would he go?
What would he do?
Who would care?
“This was my life,” he said.
At one point, Luther even considered ending his life.
“I was going to go to III Corps - the heart and soul of Fort Hood - and I was going to commit suicide on their front steps,” Luther said. “I felt like my life was over.”
But, all that changed after he spoke with Picard about his case.
Luther eventually filed a federal lawsuit seeking to have the nature of his discharge overturned.
Since he filed his lawsuit, Luther has been diagnosed by the Department of Veteran Affairs as having acute PTSD and traumatic brain injury, and is considered 70 percent disabled.
“They found out I do not have a personality disorder,” Luther said. “My injuries were suffered from combat and I needed to be medically retired.”
Shortly after that, Luther offered his services to the organization as a case manager to help other soldiers and their spouses who are dealing with PTSD or traumatic brain injury.
“That’s why we do what we do,” he said.
Today, Luther is overseeing six cases, none of which involve Fort Hood soldiers, and is committed to making sure no soldier is falling through the cracks.
“I don’t want these guys to feel what I have felt,” Luther said.
There are still broad changes that have been proposed at Fort Hood in regard to the treatment of soldiers suffering with PTSD and traumatic brain injury.
Lt. Gen. Rick Lynch, III Corps commanding general, has proposed creating a center on Fort Hood to treat those ailments and help soldiers either return to their units or successfully transition into the civilian work force.
Luther is hopeful that Lynch makes good on helping those troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
“I was told that Lt. Gen. Lynch was committed to supporting the troops at all costs,” Luther said. “He’s going to have to show me. We want the American public to know what is going on with their soldiers.”
Now this is a "hero" SALUTE Carissa Picard thank you on behalf of all veterans
Thursday, January 8, 2009
I am one of the (3000) suspected survivors, I was med vol 6778A or 6778C depending on which paperwork the Army produces at the time. I was there from June 1974 - August 22, 1974. There is one major issue that the lawsuit is not describing, that of the toxic exposures thru environmental causes, a 1978 EPA Report on Edgewood Arsenal shows 77 toxic substances in the drinking water wells and soil of the training areas. The EPA ordered the water wells capped and bottle water used until fresh water could be piped into the base from out of the area, the entire aquifer was contaminated. The medical problems linked to the toxins range from pulmonary, nuerological, cardiovascular and gastrointestinal issues.
I was told be the VA I could not prove I was exposed to any of the toxins, excuse me I had to eat, drink and bath there for 3 months, how could I or any of the other veterans avoid the water, we drank coffee made from it, kool aid, brushed our teeth in it, we swam in it and we bathed in it, how could we avoid it for the time we were there? Canada and Great Britain have both compensated their veterans used at Gagetown, Canada and Porton Downs England for being used in identical experimentsthat were duplicated at Edgewood Arsenal, if both of those nations accept responsibility for a form of abuse and their veterans are covered by national health care, then monetary compensation was for what reason? Because the programs violated accepted normal human behaviors, why won't the DOD and the VA accept the same level of responsibility?
Links between PTSD, substance abuse explored
By Kelly Kennedy - Staff writer
Posted : Wednesday Jan 7, 2009 18:20:34 EST
At a two-day conference for civilian and military researchers, doctors produced one idea after another for treating and preventing substance abuse in service members with post-traumatic stress disorder.
As the ideas bounced from person to person, they tried to tie them together in ways that could make sense in a military setting: They must be accessible to many people at once, they must be cheap, they must be proven, and they must be easy.
And they must be immediate.
About 20 percent of service members say they’ve had a few drinks and then driven a vehicle, Richard Keller, a researcher for the U.S. Army Battlemind behavioral health program, said at the conference, sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuise.
The drinking, he said, also leads to domestic violence and fights, “particularly with our younger crowd.”
The military also is seeing 20 suicides per 100,000 people.
“Every Brigade Combat Team commander can expect one suicide per year,” Keller said.
Research has shown that alcohol can contribute to suicides because it makes people impulsive.
Roger Roffman, professor at the school of social work at the University of Washington, talked about an intervention that’s not as invasive as checking into a substance abuse program — in fact, it doesn’t even force a person to change, only to take a look at his or her habits.
He said the “check-up” isn’t necessarily for people who are in denial about alcohol or other substance abuse, but they are in “profound struggle with themselves,” and they don’t have a desire to change.
With a check-up, they would go in for an assessment to talk about how much they drink, as well as a physical exam, but without actually seeking treatment. They would go for a second visit to get feedback about the assessment.
But rather than being told they have a problem, Roffman said they might learn how much everyone else drinks on average in comparison. Roffman said that simple intervention can reduce drinking by about 30 percent without actual treatment because people can change their patterns on their own.
This concept also has been found effective for other risky behaviors that could flow from the onset of PTSD, including abusive behavior or risky sexual habits.
Barbara Gerbert, professor in the behavioral sciences dvision at the University of California, San Francisco, talked about her research using a “video doctor.”
A patient sits at a laptop and answers questions presented by a “doctor” on the screen. Whatever the person answers on the keyboard determines what the “doctor” asks next, and then the video doctor gives the patients feedback based on the answers.
Gerbert said live doctors may not always have time or even the ability to ask personal questions that can affect a person’s health. However, she said the answers could inform the real doctor about what to do next. Her research showed that people were more likely to answer questions from a “video doctor” than from a real doctor — even if they knew a real doctor would see the answers later.
“As appointments are getting shorter and shorter, we need something to augment the clinicians,” she said.
Magdalena Naylor, professor in the department of psychiatry at the University of Vermont College of Medicine, talked about a comparable intervention, only with an automated voice by phone.
Instead of answering on a computer keyboard, the patient answers yes or no questions on a telephone keypad. This has been found effective for people experiencing major depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder and eating disorders.
However, Naylor said people needed feedback at least once a month for it to work.
Keller talked about the Army’s Battlemind behavioral health training program, now in use by all the services as well as the State Department and some foreign militaries.
Keller said he is also working with sheriffs and police associations about getting the training to reservists returning from Iraq or Afghanistan.
The Battlemind Web site gets 20,000 hits a day, he said, and a new module is being created for providers, adding to those already in place for service members, families and leaders.
Military leaders must, he said, promote existing programs, health assessments and better sleep management, especially while deployed, Keller said.
“We are our own worst people when it comes to getting behavioral health while we’re out there,” he said, referring to a strong stigma attached to those who seek help. “We’re actually recognizing you cannot go into a war environment and not have some price to pay.”
Army Col. Charles Milliken, chief of the department of behavioral biology at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, said the military actually has had complaints from people saying they hear the same questions over and over about mental health issues from their primary care physicians. “They get tired of hearing the same questions every single time,” he said. “ ‘Do they want us to have PTSD?’ ”
He said programs like the video doctor and the phone technology might make assessments more accessible and more complete.
Sphere: Related Content
Vets sue CIA, DoD over military experiments
By PAUL ELIAS
The Associated Press
Wednesday, January 7, 2009; 7:43 PM
SAN FRANCISCO -- Six veterans who say they were exposed to dangerous chemicals, germs and mind-altering drugs during Cold War-era experiments filed a federal lawsuit against the CIA, Department of Defense and other agencies Wednesday.
The veterans say they volunteered for military experiments as part of a wide-ranging program started in the 1950s to test nerve agents, biological weapons and mind-control techniques, but were not properly informed of the nature of the experiments.
They blame the experiments for poor health and are demanding the government provide their health care. They also want the court to rule that the program was illegal because its administrators failed to get their consent.
Marie Harf, a CIA spokeswoman, declined to comment on the lawsuit, which seeks class action status on behalf of all participants allegedly exposed to harmful experiments without their knowledge. Vietnam Veterans of America, a veterans advocacy group, is also a plaintiff.
The suit, filed in San Francisco, alleges that at least 7,800 U.S. military personnel served as volunteers to test experimental drugs such as LSD at the Edgewood Arsenal near Baltimore, Md., during a program that lasted into the 1970s, and that many others volunteered for similar experiments at other locations.
"In virtually all cases, troops served in the same capacity as laboratory rats or guinea pigs," the lawsuit states.
The suit contends that veterans were wrongfully used as test subjects in experiments such as MK-ULTRA, a CIA project from the 1950s and '60s that involved brainwashing and administering experimental drugs like LSD to unsuspecting individuals. The project was the target of several congressional inquiries in the 1970s and was tied to at least one death.
Harf said that MK-ULTRA "was thoroughly investigated and the CIA fully cooperated with each of the investigations."
The plaintiffs say many of the volunteers' records have been destroyed or remain sealed as top secret documents. They also say they were denied medals and other citations they were promised for participating in the experiments.
They are not seeking monetary damages but have demanded access to health care for veterans they say were turned away at Department of Veterans Affairs facilities because they could not prove their ailments were related to their military service.
In 1988, the Justice Department agreed to pay eight Canadians a total of $750,000 to settle their lawsuit alleging they suffered psychological trauma from CIA-financed mind-control experiments that included the use of LSD.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
A Nightmare Called Edgewood
Harlingen, Texas, January 7, 2009: “I made this trip fifty years after the fact to squarely face my devils”…. “I finally came to the realization that it was not the place, but the people at that place who had changed many of us forever. We were the victims and became the walking wounded casualties of the Cold War who can never be made whole again….”
These are the words of Eric Muth, one of 7,120 soldiers and airmen who were subjected to secret chemical weapons and drug tests at the Edgewood Arsenal, northeast of Baltimore, Maryland. His journey back to that site was made in an attempt to gain some grain of understanding concerning his battle with the United States government to obtain assistance and compassion for those thousands of young men whose lives were permanently damaged by CIA and military human experimentation.
Muth, a 60-year-old veteran, was a volunteer at Edgewood in 1958. He said he was exposed to hallucinogenic drugs and toxic gas. The after effects of those exposures left him with a bipolar disorder and periodic suicidal thoughts.
The Edgewood experiments were conducted as a CIA effort to develop some effective mind control programs. Though never confirmed by the United States government, survivors of those experiments say the Agency used Nazi war criminal scientists to perform the work on what was called Project 112. These tests involved the use of synthetic marijuana, LSD, THC, BZ, two-dozen psychoactive drugs and other hallucinogens, plus a variety of biologicals and chemicals, including Saran and mustard gas agents. Though the various government agencies have reported all of the volunteers were completely aware of what agents were being used, most veterans claim the recruiters said only that they would be “participating in secret tests”.
Because the government stonewalls any and all attempts to obtain detailed information on this testing program, exact dates cannot be confirmed. Most people involved agree the program, in various forms, ran from 1953 until 1975. During those years, 7120 military personnel ranging from 17 to 20 years of age were participants in a wide variety of tests and experiments. Ten years later 385 of these volunteers were dead. Though the government again will not confirm the numbers, in 2006 the Department of Veterans Affairs identified only 3,000 of those veterans as living. Logically it can be assumed that 4,120 of those heroic volunteers must have gone to their final reward. It had previously been reported that more than 40% of the Edgewood volunteers met their deaths before age 65.
The Department of Defense and the VA seem to be co-conspirators in the government’s attempt to deny responsibility for health related problems encountered by the Test Veterans. In most cases involving these volunteers DoD and the VA claim records were destroyed, lost or cannot be located. When victims seeking assistance provide them specific dates and locales, the veterans’ military service cannot be verified because the information is “secret”.
In a report by Dr. William Page of the Institute of Medicine issued in March 2003, it was concluded that veterans exposed to Saran showed high rates of brain tumors and sleep disorders. The National Institute of Health reports chemical warfare agents such as GA, GB and VX produce long-term health effects including delayed onset cardiac problems.
In October 2003 the VA published a manual for Chemical, Biological and Radiological Weapons Exposures. Many of the known medical problems caused by chemical weapons were listed. Even with this manual as an official source, very few veterans have had their medical concerns acted upon by the government. A few have been given treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD.
According to testimony in front of Congress, “It is easier to treat and diagnose veterans for PTSD and other mental conditions, because there is little recognized research and reports to guide healthcare providers. The neurological and physiological effects of toxic environmental exposures are neglected.” The end result of this is the further jeopardizing of veterans’ already fragile health conditions.
Even with the congressional hearings and medical reports that have been provided to Congress, the Army still claims all volunteers were fully informed and that no veteran suffered any long-term effects from the testing.
It should also be noted that no government agency has been able to explain the high percentage of veteran deaths in the volunteer group, nor has there been any meaningful attempt by any governmental body to assure adequate medical care for those who were participants.
Finally, after decades of attempting to get the government to face up to its medical obligations, the Test Veterans have reached the end of their patience. On January 7, 2009 a lawsuit was filed against the Central Intelligence Agency claiming the U.S. A. has failed to provide care for human subjects in the once-secret tests. The suit charges veterans were treated as human guinea pigs in tests involving nerve gas, hallucinogenic drugs and mind control experiments that left them with permanent disabilities. This lawsuit also gives a different name to the program, saying it way codenamed MKULTRA and that it ran from the 1940s until 1976.
Though many of the veterans believe this litigation will bring final settlement to their more than fifty years of battle with government bureaucracies, they should remember another medical care battle waged against the armed forces. Military retirees from World War II and Korea, led by Medal of Honor recipient Colonel George “Bud” Day, fought a 20 year battle against the government to win officially promised medical care for life. The Department of Defense was relentless in fighting the litigation and the Supreme Court finally defeated it. That should be a strong reminder to all of the Test Veterans that the nightmare called Edgewood is far from any meaningful resolution.
Thomas D. Segel
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
Veterans Sue Government For Mental Health Benefits
Five soldiers filed a class action lawsuit against the federal government this week claiming they were illegally denied disability benefits despite being diagnosed with severe cases of post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, that should qualify them for lifetime free care.
PTSD is a psychiatric disorder that can occur following the experience or witnessing of life-threatening events such as military combat, natural disasters, terrorist incidents or serious accidents.
People who suffer from PTSD often relive the experience through nightmares and flashbacks, have difficulty sleeping, and feel detached or estranged. These symptoms can be severe enough to significantly impair a person's daily life.
The soldiers, veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, were discharged from the Army after it determined their damaged mental health left them unfit to serve, according to the complaint filed with the U.S. Court of Federal Claims.
As a result, the veterans have been denied benefits including, among other things, free medical care for them and their families and lifetime monthly disability payments.
The suit, filed by the National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP), an independent, nonprofit veteran’s service organization, accuses the Army of illegally cutting off benefits to thousands of veterans and their families by refusing to assign proper disability ratings to those veterans after they had been discharged with a diagnosis of PTSD.
All disabled veterans are assigned disability ratings from zero to 100 percent. A rating of 30 percent or higher is required to qualify for benefits. Soldiers that received less than a 30 percent rating are entitled to a one-time lump sum severance payment after discharge.
In October the Army was ordered to assign at least 50 percent rating to all soldiers discharged with PTSD in the future, by The Defense Department.
Lawyers representing the veterans hope the discovery process will uncover how many other servicemen with PTSD have also been denied disability benefits.
“We are unsure of the exact number of soldiers that have been affected, but we believe it’s in the thousands,” said Bart Stichman, co-director of NVLSP.
The suit seeks full benefits to all veterans discharged with PTSD as well as unspecified damages.
National statistics estimate that nearly 1 in 5 of all military service members who have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan report symptoms of PTSD. #
By Vic LeeSAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- The Vietnam Veterans of America and six individual veterans filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the CIA, the Defense Department and the U.S. Army.
They say the government conducted secret experiments that exposed thousands of troops to dangerous chemicals and mind-altering drugs.
The experiments were conducted during the Cold War era. The program, reportedly started in the early 1950's, continued through the mid 70's.
Those who participated say they never knew they would be human guinea pigs for the dangerous experiments.
Attorneys for the Vietnam veterans estimate about 7,000 troops were subjected to the secret experiments under a program codenamed "MKUltra."
"I had injections that were... The syringes were the size that you would use on a cow," described Eric Muth.
Frank Rochelle was a 19-year old draftee. He says he was given hallucinogenic drugs.
"I saw animals coming out of the wall. My skin, the freckles, now I understand, the freckles appeared to be bugs under my skin," he recalled.
Their lawyers say most of the tests were conducted at Fort Detrick, Maryland and Edgewood Arsenal, which no longer exists.
"Nerve gas, sarin gas, all kinds of toxic substances were sprayed in their face and injected into their veins," said Gordon Erspamer with Morrison & Foerster Law Firm.
Many of the drugs are still a mystery because they were identified only by numbers. The lawsuit says some of the chemical and biological substances were implanted into their bodies.
"They tested animals with the same apparatus I was required to breathe into," said Rochelle.
Muth and Rochelle say the army told them the experiments were to test gas masks and protective clothing in the event of chemical warfare.
They were promised perks if they volunteered.
"Four-day work weeks, good chow, as we called it, and being able to wear civilian clothes a lot," Rochelle recalled.
Their lawyer says they all signed secrecy oaths.
"If they ever spoke to anyone about these tests, they would be court-martialed and sent to the brig," said Erspamer.
Rochelle says many of the vets are dying. If they do not get justice now, they will never get it.
"It's about us because& It's about the guys who are left, the guys who are still living who need health care," Rochelle said sobbingly.
The CIA, Defense Department and the U.S. Army told ABC7 they could not comment on pending litigation. But, the CIA says the program has already been "thoroughly investigated" in the past.
Veterans suing over secret experiments
There is about a 3 minute video with Frank Rochelle and Eric Muth at the press conference with Gordon Erspamer as they annouce the filing of the lawsuit. The audio is not very good but is is the only copy I could find.
Vietnam Veterans of America Sues Military and CIA Over Secret Testing of Soldiers
Jan 7: Vietnam Veterans of America Sues Military and CIA Over Secret Testing of Soldiers
Morrison-Foerster (Law Firm, San Francisco, California)
Jan 07, 2009
January 7, 2009 - Law Firm Morrison & Foerster Files Suit Against CIA, DoD, and U.S. Army on Behalf of Troops Exposed to Testing of Chemical and Biological Weapons at Edgewood Arsenal and Other Top Secret Sites
PRESS CONFERENCE: Wednesday, January 7, 2009, 10 a.m. PST, located at Morrison & Foerster LLP, 425 Market Street, San Francisco, CA. Press may also dial in to listen at 1-800-919-8049.
WHAT: Complaint Filed—Vietnam Veterans of America, et al. v. CIA, et al.
WHERE: United States District Court, Northern District of California
San Francisco, California, January 7, 2009 – Attorneys at Morrison & Foerster LLP have filed an unprecedented action against the Defense Department, the CIA, and other government institutions based upon failures to care for those veterans who "volunteered" in thousands of secret experiments to test toxic chemical and biological substances under code names such as MKULTRA. The new case comes on the heels of an earlier case the firm filed on behalf of veterans afflicted with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder ("PTSD"), which is now pending in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The firm is handling both cases on a pro bono basis.
The current action was brought in U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, on behalf of the Vietnam Veterans of America and six aging veterans with multiple diseases and ailments tied to a diabolical and secret testing program, whereby U.S. military personnel were deliberately exposed, by government and military agencies, to chemical and biological weapons and other toxins without informed consent. This multifaceted research program, which was launched in the early 1950s and continued through at least 1976, was conducted not only at the Edgewood Arsenal and Fort Detrick, Maryland, but also across America by universities and hospitals under contract to Defendants.
Defendants include the CIA, the Department of the Army, the Department of Defense ("DoD"), and various government officials responsible for these agencies. The CIA secretly provided financing, personnel, and direction for the experiments, which were mainly conducted or contracted by the Army.
Plaintiffs seek declaratory and injunctive relief only - no monetary damages - and Plaintiffs seek redress for 25 years of diabolical experiments followed by over 30 years of neglect, including:
* the use of troops to test nerve gas, psychochemicals, and thousands of other toxic chemical or biological substances, and perhaps most gruesomely, the insertion of septal implants in the brains of subjects in a ghastly series of mind control experiments that went awry, leaving many civilian and military subjects with permanent disabilities;
* the failure to secure informed consent and other widespread failures to follow the precepts of U.S. and international law regarding the use of human subjects, including the 1953 Wilson Directive and the Nuremberg Code;
* an almost fanatical refusal by the DoD, the CIA, and the Army to satisfy their legal and moral obligations to locate the victims of their gruesome experiments or to provide health care or compensation to them;
* the deliberate destruction by the CIA of evidence and files documenting its illegal actions, actions which were punctuated by fraud, deception, and a callous disregard for the value of human life.
The Complaint asks the Court to determine that Defendants' actions were illegal and that Defendants have a duty to notify all victims and to provide them with health care going forward.
According to Gordon P. Erspamer, a litigation partner in Morrison & Foerster's San Francisco office, "Until this case is concluded, and all the victims are found and made whole, we cannot put behind us this sad chapter in American history when the government exploited the very citizens, both civilian and military, that it was supposed to protect."
Vietnam Veterans of America's President John Rowan commented, "Over 30 years ago, the government promised to locate the victims of the MKULTRA experiments and to take care of their needs. It now is painfully obvious that what it really wants is for the victims to just quietly die off while the government takes baby steps. VVA cannot leave these veterans behind."
For further information, please contact lead counsel for Plaintiffs, Gordon P. Erspamer, 415-268-6411, GErspamer@mofo.com. Additionally, you may contact the following Plaintiffs: Vietnam Veterans of America, 800-882-1316 (John Rowan, email@example.com); Eric P. Muth, 203 874 4595, firstname.lastname@example.org; Wray C. Forrest, 719 635 9086, FaronYoung2@netscape.com; David Dufrane, 518-546-7870, email@example.com; and Franklin D. Rochelle, 910 346 5484. Bruce Price is available by special arrangement with counsel.
ABOUT MORRISON & FOERSTER: With more than 1,000 lawyers in key finance and technology centers internationally, Morrison & Foerster offers clients comprehensive, global legal services in business and litigation. The firm is distinguished by its unsurpassed expertise in finance, life sciences, and technology, its legendary litigation skills, and an unrivaled reach across the Pacific Rim, particularly in Japan and China. For more information, visit www.mofo.com
as one of the 3000 surviving veterans, I am grateful to Morrison & Foerster, the VVA and all involved in this attempt to get the government to finally keep the "PROMISE" that all military members are made "if something happens to you due to your military service the VA will give you or your family medical care or compensation" not just ignore you and hope you die before they have to deal with it.
Veterans Sue CIA Over Past Chemical Tests on Soldiers (Update2)
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By Karen Gullo
Jan. 7 (Bloomberg) -- Vietnam Veterans of America and six former soldiers sued the Central Intelligence Agency claiming the U.S. failed to provide care for human subjects in once- secret tests of chemical and biological weapons and drugs.
The veterans say they and others were treated like guinea pigs in tests involving nerve gas, hallucinogenic drugs and mind-control experiments that left civilians and military people who unwittingly volunteered for the program with permanent disabilities. The tests, codenamed MKULTRA, began in the 1940s at a Maryland Army base and continued to about 1976, they said.
“What is not historical about these tests is the impact they had on the enlisted men,” Gordon Erspamer, an attorney with Morrison & Foerster in San Francisco, said today at a news conference. “They have never been compensated, they have been denied health care, they have been left alone for more than 30 years.”
The lawsuit, filed today in federal court in San Francisco, names as defendants the CIA, which allegedly funded the experiments, and the Defense Department. It seeks court orders declaring the experiments violated international law and forcing the government to notify and provide health care to people who participated in the tests.
“CIA activities related to MKULTRA have been thoroughly investigated and the CIA fully cooperated with each of the investigations,” Marie Harf, a CIA spokeswoman, said in a phone interview. “Tens of thousands of pages from documents related to the program have been declassified and released to the public.”
Harf and Cynthia Smith, a Defense Department spokeswoman, declined to comment on the lawsuit.
Eric Muth, 60, a plaintiff, said he was exposed to toxic gas and given hallucinogenic drugs in 1958. The lasting effects on him include bipolar disorder and suicidal thoughts, according to the lawsuit.
Soldiers were told they could get extra pay to participate as medical volunteers in tests of new protective gear and riot gas, said Frank Rochelle, 68, another plaintiff. The volunteers signed consent forms and were told never to discuss the top- secret work, he said at today’s news conference in San Francisco. . “It was never explained the type of drugs I would be taking,” said Rochelle, who claims he was given high doses of a hallucinogen that still causes sleeplessness and breathing problems.
There are about 3,000 survivors of the tests conducted at the Army’s Edgewood Arsenal in Maryland and at U.S. hospitals and universities, Erspamer said. Most are in their 60s and 70s and have been denied benefits by the Army for health problems related to the experiments, he said.
Jim Benson, a Veterans Affairs department spokesman, didn’t immediately return a voice-mail message seeking comment.
From 1950 to 1975, about 6,720 soldiers took part in experiments involving 254 different chemicals at U.S. Army laboratories at Edgewood Arsenal, according to “Health Effects from Chemical, Biological and Radiological Weapons,” a 2003 training manual by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Congressional hearings in 1974 and 1975 led to disclosure of the program, notification to subjects and compensation for a few families of soldiers who died during the tests, according to the manual.
Erspamer represents Silver Springs, Maryland-based Vietnam Veterans of America in an unsuccessful lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to overhaul mental health care to reduce the suicide rate among veterans. That case is on appeal.
The case is Vietnam Veterans of America v. CIA, 09-37, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).
To contact the reporter on this story: Karen Gullo in San Francisco at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last Updated: January 7, 2009 16:30 EST
The case is Vietnam Veterans of America v. CIA, 09-37, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).
Morrison & Foerster Files Suit Against CIA, DoD, and U.S. Army on Behalf of Troops Exposed to Testing of Chemical and Biological Weapons at Edgewood Arsenal and Other Top Secret Sites
Complaint Filed—Vietnam Veterans of America, et al. v. CIA, et al.
United States District Court, Northern District of California
SAN FRANCISCO – Attorneys at Morrison & Foerster LLP have filed an unprecedented action against the Defense Department, the CIA, and other government institutions based upon failures to care for those veterans who “volunteered” in thousands of secret experiments to test toxic chemical and biological substances under code names such as MKULTRA. The new case comes on the heels of an earlier case the firm filed on behalf of veterans afflicted with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (“PTSD”), which is now pending in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The firm is handling both cases on a pro bono basis.
The current action was brought in U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, on behalf of the Vietnam Veterans of America and six aging veterans with multiple diseases and ailments tied to a diabolical and secret testing program, whereby U.S. military personnel were deliberately exposed, by government and military agencies, to chemical and biological weapons and other toxins without informed consent. This multifaceted research program, which was launched in the early 1950s and continued through at least 1976, was conducted not only at the Edgewood Arsenal and Fort Detrick, Maryland, but also across America by universities and hospitals under contract to Defendants.
Defendants include the CIA, the Department of the Army, the Department of Defense (“DoD”), and various government officials responsible for these agencies. The CIA secretly provided financing, personnel, and direction for the experiments, which were mainly conducted or contracted by the Army.
Plaintiffs seek declaratory and injunctive relief only – no monetary damages – and Plaintiffs seek redress for 25 years of diabolical experiments followed by over 30 years of neglect, including:
-- the use of troops to test nerve gas, psychochemicals, and thousands of other toxic chemical or biological substances, and perhaps most gruesomely, the insertion of septal implants in the brains of subjects in a ghastly series of mind control experiments that went awry, leaving many civilian and military subjects with permanent disabilities;
-- the failure to secure informed consent and other widespread failures to follow the precepts of U.S. and international law regarding the use of human subjects, including the 1953 Wilson Directive and the Nuremberg Code;
-- an almost fanatical refusal by the DoD, the CIA, and the Army to satisfy their legal and moral obligations to locate the victims of their gruesome experiments or to provide health care or compensation to them;
-- the deliberate destruction by the CIA of evidence and files documenting its illegal actions, actions which were punctuated by fraud, deception, and a callous disregard for the value of human life.
The Complaint asks the Court to determine that Defendants’ actions were illegal and that Defendants have a duty to notify all victims and to provide them with health care going forward.
According to Gordon P. Erspamer, a litigation partner in Morrison & Foerster’s San Francisco office, “Until this case is concluded, and all the victims are found and made whole, we cannot put behind us this sad chapter in American history when the government exploited the very citizens, both civilian and military, that it was supposed to protect.”
Vietnam Veterans of America’s President John Rowan commented, “Over 30 years ago, the government promised to locate the victims of the MKULTRA experiments and to take care of their needs. It now is painfully obvious that what it really wants is for the victims to just quietly die off while the government takes baby steps. VVA cannot leave these veterans behind.”
War Vets With Headaches Could Have Brain Problems
War Vets With Headaches Could Have Brain Problems
Reduced sense of smell might also signal need for testing, expert says
Posted January 5, 2009
By Tate Gunnerson
MONDAY, Jan. 5 (HealthDay News) -- Headache frequency and severity caused by traumatic brain injury might signal cognitive deficits, suggests a new study of Iraq war veterans.
Traumatic brain injuries, also called concussions, are common among veterans who served in Iraq. And as deployment times have become longer, military personnel have more chances to be exposed to explosions that can cause injury.
"The most important finding was that the soldiers who continued to have problems with headaches and PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder] were much more likely to have signs of residual cognition impairment or abnormalities," said study author Dr. Robert L. Ruff, professor of neurology at Case Western Reserve University and neurology service chief at the Louis Stokes Cleveland Veterans Affairs Medical Center. "By themselves, the deficits were not severe, but they compromised the veterans' ability to return to where they were."
The researchers studied 126 veterans who had lost consciousness from blasts and explosions an average of three times while in Iraq, none for more than 30 minutes. Neurological and neuropsychological testing revealed impairments in 80 of the veterans that the researchers attributed to concussions. Those veterans had been exposed to more explosions than the others, the study found.
Among veterans who had brain impairments, 93 percent reported having headaches, compared with 13 percent of those who showed no dysfunction on the neurological tests.
Their headaches also were more severe and persistent. Veterans with no brain impairments all described having tension-like headaches about four times a month, whereas 60 percent of those with brain impairments resulting from their concussions described migraine-like headaches that occurred an average of 12 times a month.
In addition to more frequent and severe headaches, many of the veterans also experienced other PTSD symptoms, including sleep disorders and problems with their sense of smell, the study found.
"The olfactory nerves are very small, so when there's movement, they get sheared off," said Keith Young, associate professor and vice chairman for research at Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine in College Station, Texas, who also works with the VA Center of Excellence for Research on Returning War Veterans.
"People who have multiple exposures to blasts that cause loss of consciousness need to be carefully monitored for potential problems in the future," Young said.
And he believes the study, published in the latest issue of the Journal of Rehabilitation Research & Development, could lead to better methods to identify veterans who need more intensive treatment.
"The study points to the possibility of using olfactory testing to look for people who might benefit from additional medical testing," Young said. "The good news about these olfactory tests is that they don't require computers, so in a field hospital, you could use scratch and sniff tests to identify people who need additional testing."
The findings may lead not only to new diagnostic techniques but to different approaches for treating people with concussions, Ruff said.
"It suggests that the treatment for these people needs to be integrated," he said. "We need to treat not just head trauma or the PTSD but to treat them together."
To learn more about PTSD, visit the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health online.
When Mommy Comes Marching Home
Women in the military are developing PTSD at alarming rates
Click on the video above to watch Sergeant First Class Michele Parkinson describe her PTSD and BU’s Patricia Resick explaining the origins and treatment of the disorder.
Michele Parkinson survived the near-daily bombings in Kirkuk. She managed the blood. She handled the nausea as she picked through the pockets of a corpse, searching for an ID. What she couldn't get through, it turns out, was a trip to the pharmacy back home in Massachusetts.
A sergeant first class in the National Guard, Parkinson had been evacuated from Iraq in 2005, suffering from severe and medically mysterious headaches. When she arrived at Fort Dix, she thought she was home free. And she felt fine — as long as she was in the company of other soldiers.
On a trip to the National Cemetery in Washington, D.C., she left her group of fellow soldiers to use the restroom. "When I came out of the stall, it seemed like there were a thousand women standing there," she recalls. "It was maybe about 20. I went into a panic. I couldn't breathe, I started shaking. I pushed my way out, and I ended up falling to my knees. When I looked around and saw my soldiers standing there, I calmed right down.
“That was the beginning of it.”
Within days of arriving home, says Parkinson, she started to experience extreme anxiety. One day at her pharmacy, she started to shake, and broke down in tears.
“I just totally lost it,” she says. “For 10 days I couldn’t walk out my door without breaking down.”
Parkinson is among the 190,000 military women who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001. And she’s among the 20 percent of servicewomen who develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a debilitating, life-threatening anxiety disorder that may affect as many as 300,000 veterans of the current wars.
When we hear about military-related PTSD, it’s mostly in worst-case scenarios: damaged men doing destructive things when they return from service. But women develop PTSD at more than twice the rate men do. Their suffering, generally quieter, is far less publicized, far less researched, and until recently, far less treated. Before this war, its primary cause was sexual trauma, not combat trauma. But now, with women returning from combat deployments in greater numbers than ever before in U.S. history, the Department of Veterans Affairs is scrambling to meet a need whose scope is still unknown.
Much of the research to determine the need and shape a solution is being conducted at the VA’s National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, many of whose leading investigators are Boston University professors who do their work at the VA Boston Healthcare System in Jamaica Plain.
Post-traumatic stress disorder didn’t exist as a diagnosis until 1980, says Terence Keane, a School of Medicine professor of psychiatry, who is the director of the Behavioral Sciences Division of the National Center for PTSD and who developed many of the most widely used PTSD assessment tools. That’s when it was added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, thanks to a research push in the 1970s by Keane and other pioneers in the field.
But long before then, medical professionals understood that the effects of trauma added up to a persistent set of symptoms in many thousands of sufferers. Shell shock, battle fatigue, post-Vietnam syndrome: these were a few of the names given to the severe adjustment problems experienced by some veterans of 20th-century wars. As researchers began looking closely at what was happening with Vietnam veterans, others noticed remarkably consistent symptoms in some women who had been sexually assaulted and raped — a condition then called rape trauma syndrome — and in Holocaust survivors, who suffered from what was referred to as KZ syndrome.
“These researchers started to communicate with each other,” Keane says, building a body of evidence for a single diagnosis that wasn’t specific to the origin of the traumatic experience.
Researchers now believe that 20 to 25 percent of people exposed to a traumatic event will develop PTSD, Keane says. The diagnosis encompasses four types of symptoms: reexperiencing, reliving the trauma through nightmares and flashbacks, sometimes brought on by triggers like a car backfiring; avoidance, compulsively steering clear of places or people even loosely associated with the trauma, working too much, or drinking too much; numbness, a lack of warmth for family members, a lack of trust, a lack of interest in favorite activities; and hyperarousal, a jittery sense of panic, a constant state of alert, trouble sleeping, trouble concentrating, and irritability.
These symptoms can become powerfully destructive. They can lead to substance abuse, broken relationships, unemployment, and suicide. And they can result in physical illnesses like obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.
Why some people are resilient in the face of trauma and others are not is a matter of continuing interest. “PTSD appears to develop in people who’ve had multiple exposures to trauma, and also different kinds of exposure,” Keane says. Past trauma is like kindling, providing fuel when new trauma occurs.
Another risk factor, it turns out, is gender. Epidemiological studies in the 1990s helped establish that women, although less likely than men to be exposed to a traumatic event, are much more likely to develop PTSD. The reason is unclear.
Patricia Resick and other Boston University researchers in the Women’s Health Sciences Division of the National Center for PTSD are looking hard for answers, studying the psychology, psychobiology, and treatment of the disorder in women veterans. Their work is just now starting to fill large gaps in a field where the vast majority of research has been done on men.
One thing they would like to know is why 20 percent of women in the military develop PTSD, compared to only 8 percent of men. Resick, a professor of psychiatry and psychology and the director of the women’s division, says that some of it has to do with the kind of trauma women experience.
In general, whether in the military or out, sexual trauma is a more significant risk factor for PTSD than combat or the types of trauma that men generally experience, says Resick. “Combat, car accidents, fights — those are impersonal events,” she says. “When women are traumatized, they’re often traumatized by people who are supposed to love or protect them.” In a military setting, “your commanding officer is an authority figure who is supposed to protect you,” she says. “Your fellow officers or soldiers are supposed to have your back. So when one of them attacks you, it’s a huge betrayal.”
Sexual assault and severe sexual harassment — collectively known as military sexual trauma (MST) — is nearly epidemic in the armed services. Amy Street, a MED assistant professor of psychiatry, who leads a VA support team devoted to the issue, says that VA screenings for MST, mandated since 1992 for every veteran, reveal that 20 percent of servicewomen report sexual assaults or severe, threatening harassment, compared to 1 percent of men. Those numbers, she says, are probably an underestimate. And many women veterans report that the sense of betrayal is compounded — and the trauma and shame intensified — when the chain of command fails to act on a reported incident, minimizes it, or even punishes women who report assaults.
Street recently found that even reservists, those military part-timers who serve two weeks a year and one weekend a month, experience “high and impactful” rates of MST, among both women and men. “So even people who had other lives outside of the military tended to experience a lot of harassment and assault,” she says, “and even 10 or 20 years later, those experiences were associated with higher rates of depression, poorer functioning, and higher rates of PTSD.”
Women may also have a biological susceptibility to PTSD, a theory that Suzanne Pineles, a MED assistant professor of psychiatry, is exploring. Pineles, the clinical coordinator of the VA’s Women’s Stress Disorder Treatment Team, is working with a $760,000 grant from the VA to see how women’s menstrual cycles might affect PTSD — its onset, symptoms, and longevity. Researchers have tended to avoid looking at the psychobiology of PTSD in women, perhaps because the fluctuating hormones of the menstrual cycle have been seen as complicating the picture. These same hormones may be the very keys to understanding the disorder in women.
“Estrogen and progesterone both affect stress-producing hormones and physiological processes associated with PTSD,” says Pineles. “In this study, instead of trying to control for it, we’re exploring the differences.”
To do that, she will use what psychologists call the prepulse inhibition task, which measures how well people are able to “gate,” or filter out, irrelevant information. “If you give someone a startle stimulus” — like a mild electric shock — “they’ll startle,” Pineles says. “But if they have a little warning, almost imperceptible, they’ll startle less.”
A previous study had suggested that people with PTSD lack a robust ability to gate — to filter out unnecessary information — when compared to people without PTSD. It’s also known that healthy women in the luteal phase of their menstrual cycle (when progesterone is spiking) gate less well than women in the early follicular phase (when progesterone is low) or than men. Pineles wants to see how much greater the effect is in women with PTSD, so she’ll look at a group of women both with and without the disorder. She’ll compare their performances on filtering tests and on fear response tests, measuring hormone levels as she goes. It could be that menstrual phases contribute not only to onset, but to the fact that women maintain PTSD symptoms longer than men.
Pineles has also done cross-gender research into so-called attentional biases, in an effort to learn whether PTSD is an overreaction to a trauma or an inability to recover from a trauma.
“If you see a bear, your attention will be drawn to it, because it’s threatening,” she says. “That’s adaptive, but people with anxiety disorders have more of that attentional bias, so they’re more drawn to the bear.”
Pineles studied Vietnam veterans and a group of women veterans who’d been sexually assaulted, and she found the same effect in both groups: the trouble wasn’t that they responded more quickly or dramatically to trauma — it was that they could not disengage from trauma.
“Their attention gets glued” on the traumatic trigger, she says. “It’s like they’re stuck.”
A looming crisis
Of the 1.6 million service members who have deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001, at least one in six is at risk of developing PTSD. That’s hundreds of thousands of fragile, wounded veterans flooding the VA — or worse, not flooding the VA and self-destructing elsewhere. The Department of Defense has responded to the looming crisis, pledging $25 million over the next five years — its largest PTSD grant ever — to put in place the best treatments for the disorder. One of the two treatments being studied is called cognitive processing therapy (CPT), and it was developed by Resick.
“People walk away from traumatic events having shattered any preexisting positive beliefs they might have had about themselves or the world,” she says. In CPT, a systematic 12-session program, therapists take their patients through the trauma and attempt to find out what meanings they’ve assigned it, and where they’re getting stuck.
Most people blame themselves, Resick says, because they want to think they had more control over the event than they did. CPT helps people let go of that blame, and it also helps them cope with the reality that “sometimes traumas happen and we can’t prevent them,” she says. “Bad stuff can happen, and it could happen again, and then people only have the choice of coping or not coping. That idea is so scary for some people that they will go way out of their way not to believe it.”
CPT is dramatically successful in treating rape victims and battered women, the populations for whom Resick developed it. In one study, she found that 80 percent of women lost their PTSD diagnosis and had, on average, a 75 percent reduction in symptoms after twelve sessions.
Resick’s current project will look at active military personnel and compare CPT’s effectiveness in group versus individual treatment. The study could have significant policy ramifications, because many VA hospitals provide only or mostly group treatment.
“If it turns out that groups don’t work as well, that will have budgetary implications, and the VA will have to plan accordingly,” Resick says. “Group treatment is more cost-effective, and if it turns out that group is as good as individual, then it’s justifiable.”
Resick is also teaching the therapy to clinicians across the country. “Last year we trained 1,200 therapists, 800 just in the VA,” she says. “We’ll train another 800 this year, and 800 the year after. There’s never been a systematic movement like this, to teach therapists to use evidence-based treatments. The VA has invested in this, and I think we’re having an impact.”
One big question that remains unanswered involves the experiences of women in combat settings. Women are prohibited by law from serving in direct ground combat troops, but in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, any deployment is a combat deployment. “This is guerilla war, so anything you do is dangerous,” says Amy Street, the specialist in military sexual trauma. She and colleagues at the National Center for PTSD are launching a study that she hopes will provide some of the first solid information on combat-induced trauma in women and on the kinds of MST women experience in war zones. “And the thing we really don’t know is how women are doing following deployment.” she continues. “Because we get asked the question all the time, about whether these direct ground combat positions should be open to women. It’s a hot political topic.
“I want to be like I was”
National Guard veteran Michele Parkinson, who is not a part of any Boston University research project, is proud of her military service.
She says she loves the camaraderie of the military, and her life still revolves around her National Guard duties. She is taking medication and seeing a counselor, and she says her dog helps her keep calm and focused when she’s in a crowd. But she still has days when “my mind is going a thousand different ways.” Like a paranoid mob boss, she sits with her back to the wall when she goes to restaurants; she can’t stand to have people behind her, people she can’t see.
“My doctors tell me this is going to get better, and it has,” she says. “But I want to be like I was, and I don’t think that’s going to happen.”
Devin Hahn can be reached at email@example.com.
Please go to the website linked above and watch the video, there is not enough reporting on the rates of PTSD and female veterans. This is an under reported story and it is NOT getting enough attention and not enough resources thru the VA. More needs to be done for this segment of veterans.