Saturday, March 28, 2009

Time to update Veterans Benefits 1950 era benefits aren't enough

Time to update Veterans Benefits 1950 era benefits aren't enough

I know this will seem like a whine to many people, but the truth of the matter is that General Omar Bradley was in charge of the last committee that rewrote veterans benefits rules.

A few years ago the Ex President from Crawford Tx, near "WACO" had a heavily Republican leaning Committee created in the hopes that they would give him recommendations to fix the "veterans benefits" that he thought were to generous, instead he got this 'Vets Commission Report October 2007 needless to say this heavily recruited Republican committee did not give the President or anyone in his administration, anywhere near what they wanted. Honoring the Call to Duty: Veterans’ Disability Benefits in the 21st Century

Instead they got a document that actually did support veterans and quite well I may add. I am not usually this kind to Republican appointees, but these Republlican appointees all had one thing in common, they were retired military.

The 13 members of the Commission are:

Chairman: James Terry Scott, LTG, USA (Ret)

Nick D. Bacon, 1SG, USA (Ret)
Larry G. Brown, Col, USA (Ret)
Jennifer Sandra Carroll, LCDR, USN (Ret)
Donald M. Cassiday, Col, USAF (Ret)
John Holland Grady
Charles "Butch" Joeckel, USMC (Ret)
Ken Jordan, Col, USMC (Ret)
James Everett Livingston, MG, USMC (Ret)
William M. Matz, Jr. , MG, USA (Ret)
Dennis Vincent McGinn, VADM, USN (Ret)
Rick Surratt (Former USA)
Joe Wynn (Former USAF)

Twelve of the thirteen Commission members are veterans and nine are combat veterans. Combined they have over 260 years of military experience.

Among their awards are:

2 Congressional Medals of Honor

2 Distinguished Service Crosses
9 Silver Stars
6 Distinguished Flying Crosses
5 Bronze Stars for Valor
13 Purple Hearts, and
8 Combat Infantry Badges or Combat Action Ribbons

Not exactly a widely liberal committee by anyone's standards, yet here are some of the highlights they did recommend:

Recommendation 7.6 Chapter 7, Section III.2
Congress should increase the compensation rates up to 25 percentas an interim and baseline future benefit for loss of quality of life,
pending development and implementation of a quality-of-life
measure in the Rating Schedule. In particular, the measure should
take into account the quality of life and other non-work-related
effects of severe disabilities on veterans and family members.

Recommendation 7.8 Chapter 7, Section III.2

Congress should consider increasing special monthly
compensation, where appropriate, to address the more profound
impact on quality of life of the disabilities subject to special monthly
Congress should also review ancillary benefits to
determine where additional benefits could improve disabled
veterans’ quality of life.

Recommendation 7.12 Chapter 7, Section VI
VA and DoD should realign the disability evaluation process so that
the services determine fitness for duty, and service members who
are found unfit are referred to VA for disability rating. All conditions
that are identified as part of a single, comprehensive medical
examination should be rated and compensated.

Recommendation 7.13 Chapter 7, Section V.3
Congress should enact legislation that brings ancillary and specialpurpose
benefits to the levels originally intended, considering the
cost of living, and provides for automatic annual adjustments to
keep pace with the cost of living.

Recommendation 8.2 Chapter 8, Section III.1.B
Congress should eliminate the Survivor Benefit Plan/Dependency
and Indemnity Compensation offset for survivors of retirees and inservice

Recommendation 9.1 Chapter 9, Section II.5.A.b
Improve claims cycle time by

• establishing a simplified and expedited process for well-documented
claims, using best business practices and maximum feasible use of
information technology; and

• implementing an expedited process by which the claimant can state
the claim information is complete and waive the time period (60 days)
allowed for further development.

14 Honoring the Call to Duty: Veterans’ Disability Benefits in the 21st Century

Congress should mandate and provide appropriate resources to
reduce the VA claims backlog by 50 percent within 2 years.
Recommendation 10.11 Chapter 10, Section VII
VA and DoD should expedite development and implementation of
compatible information systems including a detailed project
management plan that includes specific milestones and lead
agency assignment.

Recommendation 11.1 Chapter 11
Congress should establish an executive oversight group to ensure
timely and effective implementation of the Commission’s
recommendations. This group should be cochaired by VA and DoD
and consist of senior representatives from appropriate departments
and agencies. It is further recommended that the Veterans’ Affairs
Committees hold hearings and require annual reports to measure
and assess progress.

There are a few more issues I have that I think should also be changed but then I am a "progressive thinker" and not as conservative as the Republican committee members were.

Totally disabled veterans like myself can NOT buy life insurance, nor mortgage insurance, many of us are uninsurable. PTSD is a red flag and will get all life policies cancelled, and the VA has a rule that only veterans who qualify for the 50,000 dollar home allowances are allowed to buy 90,000 dollars worth of mortgage insurance. The rest of us are just up the proverbial "creek without any paddles"

The policy needs to be changed that if a veteran had any service connected medical issues that prevent them from being able to obtain life insurance or mortgage insurance then the VA should be required by law to sell it to them at a reasonable rate that a healthy person would pay for the same type of policy. (In other words make us whole) As it stands now if I dropped dead my wife and son would receive the free 10,000 life insurance the VA gave me because I am 100% disabled by my service connected PTSD, and I did purchase the maximum allowable policy they have for disabled veterans, another 20,000 dollars policy.

My wife will recieve 3/4 of my SSD when she turns 60 and if I have been service connected for at least 10 years by the time I pass then the VA will pay her Dependency Indemnity Compensation (DIC) (see I am a great husband, I am making sure my wife gets DIC from the government for the rest of her life. (Now I just have to live until Dec 2012 to make her eligible for her permanent DIC)

I think Congress and the Veterans Service Organizations should be working to correct these deficincies rather than playing "cheer leaders" for militarizing the Mexican Border, or as they did in the past root for the Long Wars of Bush/Cheney and Rumsfeld.

I feel they should be working to get the VDBC recommendations made into law, these men spent almost 2 years holding hearings, finding out the changes that have occurred since 1950 and how the Veterans Benefits have not adjusted with time. The problem that ahppened to this report is that is was delivered at the time the Walter Reed mess hit the front pages of the Washington Post and President Bush appointed Bob Dole and Donna Shalala as a Bi-Partisian team to "fix" the problems.

Senator Dole recommended a 2 tier veterans system "old vets" versus "new vets" in other words veterans from Vietnam, Korea, WW2 etc would stay stuck on the old system and they would create a new system for the Iraq and Afghanistan veterans or "GWOT" veterans as they are also called.

Excuse me a veteran is a veteran, I don't care if your are Frank Buckles the last living WW1 veteran (who went in the Army the year after my Dad got out, Buckles went in 1917, my dad gout out in 1916 after the Mexican Punitive March (they chased Pancho Villa for weeks) with General Blackjack Pershing) or is you are serving in the middle east now, when we go to the grocery stores, or pay our power bills, or any other of life's necessities, like a roof, a car etc they cost the same. When I went in the Army I was paid 198.00 a month now a Private E1 is paid a lot more than that, times change and pay changes, it's a fact of life.

It's bad enough that disabled veterans are disabled because of their military service, but then to deny them the proper amount of funds to live a "normal life" is dispicable. Mortgage Insurance 90,000 why is that the maximum a median home price is what 150,000 now, and we are not talking LA, Chicago or New York, we are talking boonie ville South Carolina (for those that don't know where it is,
it's past Bum Fluck Egypt)

I advocate they pull out that expensive 2 year report they spent millions of dollars creating and let the NEW Democratic controlled Congress and let them vote on it. I am very pleased with President Obama's handling of the VA so far, the increase is the largest in more than 30 years, his wife our First Lady has made military families one of her signature issues, I think this falls into that category, all military families WILL become veterans families.

PS when are we going to see the confirmation hearings for Tammy Duckworth, us disabled veterans want to see her at 810 Vermont Street maybe a job for Max Cleland there to, he already knows where the bodies are buried there.

Is it time for a new 21st Century VA

Hell yes 90% 29 votes
can't we do it without the pay raise? Maybe a 10% raise instead 0% 0 votes
waste that expensive study since it didn't come out the way Bush wanted 0% 0 votes
all of the above 6% 2 votes
3.14 squared 3% 1 votes

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Friday, March 27, 2009

The evolving PTSD claims process and the application of 38 U.S.C. § 1154

Below is one of many witnesses appearing before House Committee on Mar 23rd.

Go to web site above to read other testimony

Statement of Bradley G. Mayes

Director, Compensation and Pension Service
Veterans Benefits Administration, U.S. Department of Veterans

The evolving PTSD claims process and the application of 38 U.S.C. § 1154

Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee:

I would like to thank the Chairman for this opportunity to testify on the important topic of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Mr. Richard Hipolit of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Office of General Counsel accompanies me today. The number of veterans receiving service-connected compensation for PTSD from VA has grown dramatically. From fiscal year 1999 through fiscal year 2008, the number increased from 120,000 to 345,520. We all share the goals of preventing this disability, minimizing its impact on our veterans, and providing those who suffer from it with just compensation for their service to our country. Consequently, VA has expanded its efforts to assist veterans with the claims process and keep pace with the increased number of claims. Today I will describe the PTSD claims process and explain how VA applies the statutory requirements of 38 U.S.C. §1154 to the processing of these claims. I will also describe the challenges met by VA through the years as PTSD claims and warfare tactics have evolved.

38 U.S.C. §1154

Section 1154, which was enacted by Congress in 1941, requires that VA consider the time, place, and circumstances of a veteran’s service in deciding a claim for service connection. Section 1154(b) provides for a reliance on certain evidence as a basis for service connection of disabilities that result from a veteran’s engagement in combat with the enemy. As a result, veterans who “engaged in combat with the enemy” and file claims for service-connected disability related to that combat are not subject to the same evidentiary requirements as non-combat veterans. Their lay statements alone may provide the basis for service connecting a disability, without additional factual or credible supporting evidence. In PTSD claims, a combat veteran’s personal stressor statement can serve to establish the occurrence of the stressor.

The PTSD Claims Process

The processing of PTSD claims is governed by 38 C.F.R. § 3.304(f). This regulation states that, in order for service connection for PTSD to be granted, there must be: (a) medical evidence diagnosing the condition, (b) medical evidence establishing a link between current symptoms and an in-service stressor, and (c) credible supporting evidence that the claimed in-service stressor occurred. The first two requirements involve medical assessments, while the third requirement may be satisfied by non-medical evidence. PTSD is defined as a mental disorder that results from a stressor. The third requirement of the regulation emphasizes the importance of the stressor and the obligation of the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) to seek credible evidence supporting the occurrence of that stressor.

In PTSD claims where the stressor is not combat-related, VBA personnel will conduct research and develop credible evidence to support the claimed stressor. However, the statutory directives of § 1154(b) have been incorporated into PTSD regulations at § 3.304(f)(2), so that when there is evidence of combat participation, and the stressor is related to that combat, no stressor corroboration is required. The veteran’s lay statement alone is sufficient to establish the occurrence of the stressor. In Moran v. Peake, 525 F.3d 1157, 1159 (Fed. Cir. 2008), the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit held "the term 'engaged in combat with the enemy' in § 1154(b) requires that the veteran have personally participated in events constituting an actual fight or encounter with a military foe or hostile unit or instrumentality, as determined on a case-by-case basis." The Court said that "[a] showing of no more than service in a general “combat area” or “combat zone” is not sufficient to trigger the evidentiary benefit of § 1154(b)." When no combat award has been received, VBA relies on the circumstances of the individual case, as determined from the veteran's service records and other sources, to evaluate whether the veteran engaged in combat.

VBA responses to the changing circumstances of PTSD and warfare tactics

Through the years VA has made changes to § 3.304(f) based on the §1154 mandate to consider the time, place, and circumstances of a veteran’s service.

The definition and diagnostic criteria for PTSD evolved to a great extent from the psychiatric community’s attempt during the 1970's to explain the psychological problems of some Vietnam War Veterans. Once the medical community recognized this mental disorder, VA added it as a disability to the VA rating schedule. VA then moved to incorporate PTSD diagnostic criteria from the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) into the PTSD claims evaluation process. According to DSM-IV, the symptoms of PTSD “usually begin within the first 3 months after the trauma, although there may be a delay of months, or even years, before symptoms appear." Given the delay that may occur between the occurrence of a stressor and the onset of PTSD and the subjective nature of a person’s response to an event, VA concluded, when it first promulgated § 3.304(f) in 1993, that it is reasonable to require corroboration of the in-service stressor, a conclusion with which the Federal Circuit agreed in Nat’l Org. of Veterans' Advocates, Inc. v. Sec’y of Veterans Affairs, 330 F.3d 1345, 1351-52 (Fed. Cir. 2003). Work is currently underway to update the disability rating schedule to compensate more effectively for disability due to PTSD.

As the military incorporated more female members into its ranks, VBA recognized that PTSD could result from personal assault and sexual trauma. These types of claims were increasing in numbers and are difficult to document. To meet this evolving situation, VA added §3.304(f)(4), which provides for acceptance of evidence for stressor corroboration in such cases from multiple sources other than the veteran’s service records. This evidence may include local law enforcement records, hospital or rape crisis center records, or testimony from family, friends, or clergy members. In addition, this evidence may be submitted to an appropriate medical or mental health professional for an opinion regarding the occurrence of the stressor. This expanded concept of potential evidence to corroborate the stressor in personal assault PTSD claims shows a positive and sensitive responsiveness on the part of VA to the changing demographics of the veteran population.

For the evaluation of PTSD claims where the stressor is not combat-related or the claimed stressor is related to combat but there is no initial evidence of combat participation, VBA has provided claims processing personnel with special tools to research veterans’ stressor statements. A website was developed that contains a database of thousands of declassified military unit histories and combat action reports from all periods of military conflict. In many cases, evidence is found in these documents to support the veteran’s stressor statement or confirm combat participation. Nationwide training was conducted to explain the use of this database and other official websites that can aid with stressor corroboration. This initiative illustrates the VBA commitment to assisting veterans with PTSD claims.

Although the combat participation provisions of §1154 have been in effect for many years, VA has recently provided a PTSD regulatory change that further carries out the intent of that statute and recognizes the changing conditions of modern warfare. Section 3.304(f)(1) now provides for service connection of PTSD when there is an in-service diagnosis of the disability. In such cases, the veteran's lay stressor statement and the medical examiner's association of PTSD with that stressor is sufficient to establish service connection when PTSD is diagnosed. This liberalization of regulatory requirements is due to the recognition by VA of the heightened awareness of PTSD among military medical personnel, resulting in increasing numbers and reliability of PTSD diagnoses for personnel still on active duty. This regulation also facilitates the timely resolution of PTSD claims and provides expedited payment of needed benefits to veterans.

These descriptions of PTSD-related initiatives make it clear that VA is committed to following the mandate of § 1154 and adjusting the PTSD claims process as necessary to better serve veterans. This concludes my testimony and I would be happy to answer any questions the committee members may have.

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new hospitals for Camp Pendleton and Fort Hood

The Department of Defense (DoD) announced details of the military construction and facility improvement projects funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).
The $5.9 billion budget for the 3,000 construction and repair projects represents the bulk of the approximately $7.4 billion in defense-related funding provided by the ARRA signed by President Barack Obama on Feb. 17, 2009.

The two largest DoD projects to be constructed under the ARRA will be new hospitals at Camp Pendleton, Calif., and Fort Hood, Texas.

The new Navy hospital for Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton will replace the current Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton (NHCP), which was designed in 1969, with construction completed in 1974.
The new multi-story replacement hospital will provide the latest in inpatient and outpatient technology and improve the ability to remain fully operational after an earthquake. The building is expected to be more than 500,000 square feet and the estimated cost is more than $500 million. Construction is anticipated to begin in late 2010. The building should be complete in 2013 and equipped and fully operational by 2014.

The replacement hospital will continue to provide the full spectrum of medical care from maternity and newborn care to adult intensive care. This includes: an inpatient medical facility, ancillary departments, emergency care, primary care and specialty care clinics.

The new hospital for Fort Hood will replace the current facility at the Killeen post, Darnall Army Medical Center, which was opened in 1965 and was expanded in 1984.
The first phase of the new hospital should break ground in September 2010 and take about three years to complete. It will include 585,000 square feet, with a primary care clinic, a pediatric clinic and new operating rooms. It also will include a behavioral services facility that is now spread out in three separate locations on Fort Hood.

Darnall is one of the busiest medical treatment facilities in the Army. On an average day, the staff handles 3,867 visits, 26 surgeries, 31 admissions, 170 emergency room visits and 5,000 prescriptions. It serves 55,000 active duty soldiers and 176,451 eligible beneficiaries. It was originally built to serve 17,000 troops. Because Darnall is too small, soldiers and their families must make 15,000 trips annually to other medical centers.

ARRA funds are also being used to support DoD high priority programs such as care for wounded warriors and energy security.

The DoD said it intends to spend ARRA funds as quickly as possible with full transparency and accountability. To view a complete list of the specific projects announced today, please visit and .

You know you are starting to get old, when hospitals that opened in 1974 while you were in the Army are now considered "old and out dated" and are scheduled for replacement ouch

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Lay Me Doone set to American Pics

this has a better sound to it

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A moving tribute from our Canadian Neighbors

I think this is the music from "We were Soldiers Once" about La Trang Valley starring Mel Gibson

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Military Widows Hit the Open Road

Military Widows Hit the Open Road

Hoping That America Never Forgets, Young War Widows Take Up Cross-Country Crusade


March 25, 2009—

The women of the American Widow Project, an online support network and nonprofit organization dedicated to unifying a new generation of widows, are far from traditional. They surf, skydive and now road-trip to honor their husbands, who died serving their country in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Widows Taryn Davis and Nicole Hart, both 23, will spend most of the next few months driving cross-country, sleeping in campgrounds and knocking on doors. They are traveling to military towns, offering understanding and hope to an ever-growing band of sisters.

"I really believe if we can lessen the pain and lessen the grief that just one widow can go through, then we are accomplishing our mission," Davis told ABC News correspondent Bob Woodruff.

Click here for more information on the American Widow Project.

Davis and Hart are traveling in a black RV custom-painted with the names of more than 4,000 of the fallen from Iraq and Afghanistan, including their husbands, Cpl. Michael Davis of San Marcos, Texas, and Sgt. David Hart of Lake View Terrace, Calif.

"We really just hope to, if anything, not have them disappear," Davis said.

Stacey Markham was one of the first women to find her husband's name, Sgt. Jonathan Markham, on the list. "It is amazing that everybody's name is up there," she said. "Wherever this RV is at, people will be reminded, not just, 'Oh, we lost another soldier today, but look at all these families that have suffered this loss."

Davis and Hart launched the road trip last month in San Marcos, Texas, where Davis met and fell in love with her husband. In a moving ceremony, surrounded by widows and veterans groups, San Marcos' mayor Susan Narvaiz presented the widows with the key to the city.

More than 30 Patriot Guard Riders -- a national organization of motorcycle riders who honor the sacrifice of the military and their families -- stood with flags and wearing leather jackets as the widows spoke, ready to escort them on the first leg of their journey.

Putting the large RV in reverse, Davis said, "All righty. Let's do this."

'We Regret to Inform You'

It was nearly two years ago that two soldiers in Class-A uniforms approached Davis' home with devastating news.

"One of them had his head down and the other one was shaking," Davis said. "And then the words that I think are burned into every widow's and widower's mind: 'The secretary of defense regrets to inform you your husband, Michael Davis, was killed.'"

Many widows have shared their memories of those words with Davis.

"I heard the dogs bark and I looked out the window and I saw a white van and there were two soldiers in it and I knew," said Nina Carr, widow of Sgt. Robert M. Carr. "Like my heart dropped to the floor." Csilla Lyerly, widow of Capt. Sean Lyerly, said, "I just fell to the floor and I was just screaming, `No, no, no, no.' And I paused, and I looked at them, like, `Ma'am we regret to inform you.' `No, no, no, no,' I am just screaming at the top of my lungs."

"I said, `now what do I do?'" recalled Jessica Ardron, widow of Sgt. Brian Ardron. "And, he said, `Well, we are going to have a casualty officer call you.' And, I said, `No, what do I do with my life?'"

A Love Story

Michael and Taryn Davis were high school sweethearts and married right before Christmas in 2005, months before he deployed to Iraq. "I found my soul mate," Davis said.

Then, on May 21, 2007, she lost him. Taryn Davis was a widow, at 21.

Davis remembered her husband's friend calling two days after his death and saying, "'He was really proud of you, Taryn.' And when he said that ... I think that's when it hit me that he wasn't coming home."

In the days and weeks after his death, Davis did not leave her home. "You just want to end your life at some points," she said.

Davis scoured the Internet and attended widows' support groups that were filled with senior citizens; she felt even more alone. If she looked older, Davis remembers thinking, perhaps people would understand the depth of her grief and stop telling her she would move on.

"I look at those married for 50 years before they lost their husbands, and I say they had 50 years, where I have to live 50 years knowing I can't have him here with me," she said.

Desperate to talk to other war widows who could understand, Davis set out to find them. She found six young widows and began documenting their stories of love and tragedy on film. That's when she began to realize how much widows could help each other.

"I have cried with these women, and they have cried with me," Davis said. "I feel like it's an honor that I am in the presence of someone whose husband is just as honorable as mine."

'Finding A Way to Still Live'

Davis created "The American Widow Project" (AWP) in late 2007. Despite many women telling her they hate the word 'widow,' Davis chose it to reclaim the word and help replace the stigma with honor. "They're like, 'I'm not 80, I'm not with big-rimmed glasses with a shawl around my neck. I am full of life still,'" Davis explained.

With half a million visitors so far, the Web site is a thriving community where women share love stories and thoughts on surviving. There are notes about everything from what to do with a husband's toothbrush to telling children the bad news.

"I went through the first year of my grief alone, miserable," Markham said. "I didn't think I could make it another day and then I found the AWP on MySpace and everybody just helps each other, encourages each other. It just gives me hope, makes me get up another day."

Davis arranged American Widow Project retreats last year that featured zip-lining, river-tubing and surfing lessons. "I felt bad the first time that I laughed," Davis said. "Michael can't laugh, I shouldn't laugh. In the beginning, I hated to take even one step without Michael. I have taken a lot of steps now."

Davis is rewarded seeing widows begin to open up and laugh. "They were able to relax and really maybe do the first fun thing that they have really even done since their husband was killed," she said

Angelee Lombardi, widow of Staff Sgt. Keith Lombardi, said, "It's about still finding a way to have fun. Even though our husbands are gone, you know, finding a way to still live."

On the web-site and in person, the widows of American Widow Project talk about the little things, the little things they miss and the little things they still have.

In her closet, Davis keeps the black box the military gave her with her husband's personal effects inventoried, including 40 pairs of socks and 15 pictures. "What my husband's life was over there has now been put down into little tiny plastic bags."

Davis described her disappointment when she discovered that the Army had sanitized most of her husband's possessions. "But there are things like his pillow that they didn't wash, and I have actually kept that in the box because I am afraid to open it and lose whatever scent might still be in there."

"The second year, people had told me, was harder," Deborah Petty, widow of Capt. Christopher Petty, told Davis in the documentary. "All of a sudden you come out of that fog and you start feeling all of it, and even though you may have had your first anniversary or you may have had the first birthdays, feeling it numb and feeling it 100 percent is so different. And it is very, very hard."

Military Stays Quiet on Widows

Davis hopes to be able to speak with military casualty officers and chaplains on her trip, to thank them for the honorable work they do and to create a dialogue to help future widows. She has reached out to 60 military bases since September but, so far, has received no response.

Officials at Fort Hood, the first road-trip destination, never replied to Davis' request to meet with casualty officers or chaplains. In a statement to ABC News, public affairs officer Ben Danner said, "We cannot at this point give the impression, implicit or otherwise, that we endorse the American Widow Project (which seems, by all accounts, to be a fantastic initiative)."

One day, Davis hopes to convince the military to include her documentary in the black binder two service members carry to a new widow's door. Davis hopes future widows could press play and feel like a group of women who truly understand are right there for them in their living rooms.

And maybe they won't feel quite as alone as she did when she heard the words "we regret to inform you."

For more information on the American Widow Project, visit their Web site at,

Copyright © 2009 ABC News Internet Ventures

From: James []
Sent: Wednesday, March 25, 2009 8:07 PM
To: Jim
Subject: War Widows Soldier On

ABC Video Report:

Their Site:

The ABC Report:

'Hearts and Minds', "The ultimate victory will depend on the hearts and minds of the people who actually live there." -- President Lyndon Johnson

when life hands you lemons these women made lemonaide

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Kawika Riley (Veterans’ Affairs)

March 25, 2009 (202) 224-9126


Chairman holds hearing on VA’s progress in using IT to improve benefits delivery

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI), Chairman of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, delivered a clear message on the need for VA to implement the new GI Bill on-time and effectively.

“Failure simply is not option with this program. When VA flips the switch on August 1, 2009, to implement the new Post-9/11 GI Bill, all manual and IT systems must be in place and properly functioning so that eligible recipients get their checks on time,” said Akaka. “After hearing VA’s update, I am cautiously optimistic about the progress so far.”

Chairman Akaka made the comments in response to today’s hearing on VA’s efforts to use information technology to improve the delivery of benefits. Akaka was also pleased to hear more details about VA’s contingency plans for dealing with any potential delivery problems and efforts to transform the VA benefits process to a paperless system.

Today’s statement echoes earlier remarks by Akaka on the need for VA to prepare a smooth rollout of the new educational benefit and his commitment to working with the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs to achieve that goal. Chairman Akaka was a cosponsor of the Post-9/11 GI Bill and a vocal advocate for its passage. A veteran of World War II, Akaka attended college using the original GI Bill.

Akaka’s full statement, as well as the written testimony from today’s witnesses, is available here.

- END -

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VVA In Full Support of Budget Chairman Spratt's "Mark" in the House

Vietnam Veterans of America

March 25, 2009

No. 09-07

Mokie Porter

VVA In Full Support of Budget Chairman Spratt's "Mark" in the House

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) expressed full support for the "Chairman's Mark," put forth by the Honorable John Spratt (S.C.) in the House of Representatives' Budget Committee today.

"While we had hoped to have more research funds for VA to compensate for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) ignoring the health of veterans, and funding for Advanced Appropriations for VA, we are nonetheless very pleased that the Chairman has budgeted for full funding of the President's request. VVA appreciates that Chairman Spratt continues to make it possible, even in this difficult budget year amidst tough economic times, for the Appropriators to be able to properly fund healthcare and other vital services for veterans," said VVA National President John Rowan.

VVA has previously expressed gratitude to President Obama for the most generous budget for VA proposed by any President in at least 30-plus years. That the House budget resolution will make it possible to fully fund the President's budget request is cause for praise of the entire Leadership of the House, from Speaker Pelosi to Chairman Spratt.

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Help Bring Charles Newkirk Back home to NC

Help Bring Charles Newkirk Back home to NC

From: James []
Sent: Tuesday, March 24, 2009 4:39 AM
To: Jim
Subject: Uncle Charlie's War

{ }

Video Report:

Greensboro, NC -- This is the story of a World War II veteran and his family who is desperately trying to get him home. We have come to know him as Uncle Charlie. He was lost in the system for years. Now his family wants to bring him back to North Carolina, but no one can seem to help, not the Veterans Administration or even a US Congressman.

"I told him I would come and get him," says Laurica Oliver, "because it's family."

In fact, Charles Newkirk is Laurica's only living uncle, and the one sibling her mother has left.

Uncle Charlie's story begins during World War II, as he fought alongside others from the "Greatest Generation."

He came home in 1947 suffering from shell shock. Laurica says her grandmother talked about how "the war made my son crazy." Uncle Charlie wandered off into the woods and did other things that scared people. Laurica's grandmother contacted the Army who then came for Uncle Charlie. The family says he was placed in the care of the Army and the Veterans Administration.

Uncle Charlie was moved to a VA supervised group home in Tennessee. He stayed there for many years and in the 1960's, Uncle Charlie was moved to another supervised home in Ohio. In 1974, the VA determined that Mr. Newkirk was incompetent and an attorney, Richard Dimond, became legal guardian. Later, Uncle Charlie was diagnosed with schizophrenia by health care professionals. In 2002, Uncle Charlie was admitted to the VA in Chillicothe and has remained there since.

"This man has no one in Ohio, nobody. I am not giving up on that man's life. He deserves to be a man" says Laurica.

Around 2003, Laurica says she found her uncle and took her mother to visit. So in 2006, Laurica went to court to try to gain guardianship over Uncle Charlie from Richard Dimond, "Now why does this man want to keep this man that he has no feelings or no person liaison with him and does not have to visit and does not visit."

Richard Dimond was very forthcoming about Uncle Charlie's situation. He said the court was acting in the best interest of the veteran, not the family. Dimond also says the court believed it's too traumatic to move Uncle Charlie with his medical conditions. Dimond admits he does not go to visit Uncle Charlie very often, but he said he was there last week to take him some clothing and new pajamas.

Laurica disagrees and believes the fight is really over money. According to the Probate Court in Ohio, Uncle Charlie had $292,083.72 in 1993. With the last accounting in 2008, Uncle Charlie now has $788,362.63.

Laurica offered to allow Dimond to keep guardianship of Uncle Charlie and control of the money, if he would just allow Uncle Charlie to come home to North Carolina. "Have a human being life, not an existing life, not a surviving life but a living loving life and Diamond cannot give it to him."

She turned to the VA who couldn't help because of the court's ruling. Then, she asked Congressman Howard Coble for help.

"Ms. Oliver has no ulterior motive except for the good will that would be generated within the family to have Uncle Charlie back home," says Congressman Coble who personally wrote the VA. "Most of the time we can work through the snafus. But, we've run into a brick wall on this one."

Laurica and her family have made the long driver to visit Uncle Charlie several times always hoping for more.

"We put him in a wheel chair, we rolled him down to the solarium. My son plays the piano and so does my daughter. We put him in there, he sat there, he enjoyed it. My son was singing, he was all out of step and just had a ball. When we got ready to take him back to the room, the nurse, one of the nurses came in and she said Charlie that's the first time I've seen you smile," recounts Laurica.

At this point, it seems she has only one way to get Uncle Charlie back home.

"We have no idea about our uncle except to sit, wait and let him die for them to ship him to North Carolina in a box for us to bury him."

For now, Uncle Charlie will stay in Ohio. The guardian says he was ordered by the court to pay for the family to come visit out of Uncle Charlie's account. When asked about Uncle Charlie's will and the remainder of the money, Dimond said he couldn't comment for ethical reasons.

WFMY News 2

'Hearts and Minds', "The ultimate victory will depend on the hearts and minds of the people who actually live there." -- President Lyndon Johnson

The man belongs near home........

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this is what an appeal to the Court Of veteran Appeals appears like

Many cases take much longer.. the HAAS case goes back to Feb 2004

Below is case I have been following.. shows how long it takes to get NOTHING done. And of course,

The court will remand it back to BVA or VARO, and it will start all over, deny, appeal, remand, deny, etc etc

The Case started at VARO in 1998

Below is just while it was at the Court of Veteran Appeals

Notice of Appeal (MCCRAV) (MCCRAV)

FILED:US Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims' Filing Fee - $50.00 (Not Assigned)

Notice of Docketing for BVA's decision w/in 30 days; DR w/in 60 days (GASKIA)

Copy of BVA Decision (MCCRAV) (M - 9/18/2007) (AMANSARAY)

Appearance of attorney for Appellee (M - 10/23/2007) (HAYESR)

Mot of appellee to ext time to file DR by 12/31/07 (M - 10/23/2007) (HAYESR)

Clerk's ord granting Appellee's 10/23/07 Mot until 12/31/07 (HAYESR) (HAYESR)

Designation of Record (MCCRAV) (M - 1/2/2008) (HAYESR)

Notice to Counter-Designate Record within 35 days (HAYESR)

Pro Bono's Mot for stay of proceedings until 3/27/08 (H - 2/8/2008) (HAYESR)

Clerk's ord granting Pro Bono's 2/8/08 Mot until 3/27/08 (HAYESR) (HAYESR)

Pro Bono's Mot for stay of proceedings until 4/28/08 (H - 3/25/2008) (HAYESR)

Clerk's ord granting Pro Bono's 3/25/08 Mot until 4/28/08 (HAYESR) (HAYESR)

Appearance of attorney for Appellant, w/o charge (M - 4/10/2008) (HAYESR)

Ord the stay is lifted; w/in 35 days, Appellant file the CDR or a statement accepting the record as it has been designated by the Appellee (RH) (HAYESR)

Mot of appellant's counsel to withdraw (M - 4/18/2008) (HAYESR)

Ord Appellant's Mot is granted; Appellant is treated as self-represented until a qulaified rep enter an appearance; proceedings are stayed 30 days to permit substitution of counsel (CPS) (HAYESR)

Pro Bono's Mot for stay of proceedings until 6/26/08 (H - 5/22/2008) (HAYESR)

Clerk's ord granting Pro Bono's 5/22/08 Mot until 6/26/08 (HAYESR) (HAYESR)

Appearance of attorney for Appellant (M - 6/4/2008) (HAYESR)

Fee Agreement (M - 6/4/2008) (HAYESR)

ORD that the stay is lifted; appellant file a counter designation of record or a statement accepting the record as designated by the Appellee within 30 days after the date of this order. (RH) (HAYESR)

Statement in lieu of Counter Designation of Record (M - 7/7/2008) (HAYESR)

Mot of appellee to ext time to file record by 9/18/08 (M - 7/17/2008) (HAYESR)

Clerk's ord granting Appellee's 7/17/08 Mot until 9/18/08 (HAYESR) (HAYESR)

Record on Appeal (M - 9/18/2008) (MEYERK)

Notice to File Brief within 60 days (MEYERK)


Notice to File Brief within 60 days (MEYERK)

ORDERED that the Court will initiate a telephonic briefing conference on November 18, 2008, at 3:00 PM (ET).

Rule 33 Certificate of Service

Appearance of co-counsel for appellant


Conference held

ORDERED that the appellant's brief is due within 30 days after the date of this order.

Appellant's Brief


Appearance of Attorney(s) OGC-ICM0 for party(s) Appellee James B Peake, M.D., as non-attorney

Mot of Appellee to extend time to file appellee brief. Requested date 04/03/2009 at 11:59 pm.


Clerk's stamp ord granting appellee's motion to extend time to file appellee's brief until 4/3/2009

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Abnormal Brain Response To Specific Chemicals Displayed In Gulf War Veterans

Abnormal Brain Response To Specific Chemicals Displayed In Gulf War Veterans

24 Mar 2009

A new study by UT Southwestern Medical Center researchers is the first to pinpoint damage inside the brains of veterans suffering from Gulf War syndrome - a finding that links the illness to chemical exposures and may lead to diagnostic tests and treatments.

Dr. Robert Haley, chief of epidemiology at UT Southwestern and lead author of the study, said the research uncovers and locates areas of the brain that function abnormally. Recent studies had shown evidence of chemical abnormalities and shrinkage of white matter in the brains of veterans exposed to certain toxic chemicals, such as sarin gas during the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

The research, published in the March issue of the journal Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, enables investigators to visualize exact brain structures affected by these chemical exposures, Dr. Haley said.

"Before this study, we didn't know exactly what parts of the brain were damaged and causing the symptoms in these veterans," he said. "We designed an experiment to test areas of the brain that would have been damaged if the illness was caused by sarin or pesticides, and the results were positive."

In designing the study, Dr. Haley and his colleagues reasoned that if low-level sarin or pesticides had damaged Gulf War veterans' brains, a likely target of the damage would be cholinergic receptors on cells in certain brain structures. If that was so, administering safe levels of medicines that stimulate cholinergic receptors would elicit an abnormal response in ill veterans.

In the study, 21 chronically ill Gulf War veterans and 17 well veterans were given small doses of physostigmine, a substance which briefly stimulates cholinergic receptors. Researchers then measured the study participants' brain cell response with brain scans.

"What we found was that some of the brain areas we previously suspected responded abnormally to the cholinergic challenge," Dr. Haley said. "Those areas were in the basal ganglia, hippocampus, thalamus and amygdala, and the thalamus. Changes in functioning of these brain structures can certainly cause problems with concentration and memory, body pain, fatigue, abnormal emotional responses and personality changes that we commonly see in ill Gulf War veterans."

A previous study funded by the U.S. Army found that repetitive exposure to low-level sarin nerve gas caused changes in cholinergic receptors in lab rats.

"An added bonus is a statistical formula combining the brain responses in 17 brain areas that separated the ill from the well veterans, and three different Gulf War syndrome variants from each other with a high degree of accuracy," Dr. Haley said. "If this finding can be repeated in a larger group, we might have an objective test for Gulf War syndrome and its variants."

An objective diagnostic test, he said, sets the stage for ongoing genetic studies to see why some people are affected by chemical exposures, and why others are not. New studies would also allow the selection of homogenous groups of ill veterans in which to run efficient clinical trials for treatments.

Dr. Haley first described Gulf War syndrome in a series of papers published in January 1997 in the Journal of the American Medical Association. In previous studies, research from Dr. Haley showed that veterans suffering from Gulf War syndrome had lower levels of a protective blood enzyme called paraoxonase, which usually fights off the toxins found in sarin. Veterans who served in the same geographical area and did not get sick had higher levels of this enzyme.

Dr. Haley and his colleagues have closely followed the same group of tests subjects since 1995. In 2006, UT Southwestern and the Department of Veterans Affairs established a dedicated, collaborative Gulf War illness research enterprise in Dallas, managed by UT Southwestern.

Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, a longtime supporter of Gulf War research, facilitated that agreement and secured a $75 million appropriation over five years for Gulf War illness research.


This study was funded, in part, by the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command.

Other UT Southwestern researchers involved in the current study included Drs. Jeffrey Spence and Patrick Carmack, assistant professors of clinical sciences; Drs. Michael Devous and Frederick Bonte, professors of radiology; and Dr. Madhukar Trivedi, professor of psychiatry. Researchers from Southern Methodist University also participated.

Source: Katherine Morales
UT Southwestern Medical Center


Article URL:

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

.Veterans Affairs Official to Plead Guilty to Conspiracy and Wire Fraud

.Veterans Affairs Official to Plead Guilty to Conspiracy and Wire Fraud

Spouse And Company Also Agree To Plead Guilty To Wire Fraud Conspiracy

WASHINGTON, March 23 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Associate Director of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Consolidated Mail Outpatient Pharmacy in Hines, Ill., agreed to plead guilty to being part of a conspiracy to defraud the VA and the Small Business Administration (SBA), the Department of Justice announced today. His wife and the temporary staffing company she founded agreed to plead guilty to participating in the same conspiracy.

In three separate plea agreements filed today in U.S. District Court in Chicago, William J. Brandt, the associate director of the VA facility from 1996 until April 2007, his wife, Esperanza A. Brandt and Pronto Staffing Inc. (Pronto) each agreed to plead guilty to one charge of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. William Brandt also agreed to plead guilty to one charge of wire fraud, which deprived the VA and the public of his honest services. The Outpatient Pharmacy in Hines, one of seven regional VA mail-out pharmacies, currently processes and sends out more than 90,000 prescriptions each day to veterans. Under the plea agreements, which are subject to court approval, the Brandts and Pronto have agreed to cooperate with the Justice Department's ongoing investigation.

"The Department of Veterans Affairs supports and cares for our nation's veterans and their families," said Scott D. Hammond, Acting Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Department's Antitrust Division. "We are committed to pursuing prison terms for those who would corrupt the vital mission of the VA by misusing their official position for private gain."

The Brandts and Pronto admitted to conspiring with others to commit wire fraud in a scheme to fraudulently allow Pronto to provide temporary pharmacists to the Outpatient Pharmacy where William Brandt worked supervising pharmacists. Pronto was created by the Brandts in 2000 to provide pharmacists to the Hines Outpatient Pharmacy. The company later sought SBA certification as a woman-owned, minority-owned small disadvantaged business and 8(a) Program participant. As part of the conspiracy, the Brandts agreed to allow another company to fraudulently masquerade as Pronto and qualify for contracts set aside for SBA and 8(a) participants.

William Brandt also agreed to plead guilty to wire fraud for making materially false misrepresentations to the VA and other government officials to hide his involvement with Pronto. Brandt claimed that Pronto was solely managed by his wife in order to avoid conflict of interest laws governing federal employees. During the course of the scheme, William Brandt, working with others, secretly agreed that the billing rates charged to the VA for certain pharmacists provided by Pronto should be increased. Between 2000 and 2007, the Brandts and other unindicted co-conspirators used Pronto to bill the VA for more than $8 million in services to the Hines, Ill., Outpatient Pharmacy facility. This conduct deprived the VA and the public of Brandt's honest service.

This is the second case involving the Hines Outpatient Pharmacy facility. On July 24, 2008, Joel M. Gostolmelsky, the director of the facility, pleaded guilty to conspiracy and to accepting illegal gratuities in connection with awarding staffing and supply contracts, including for temporary pharmacists.

William Brandt faces a maximum sentence of 20 years imprisonment and a fine of $250,000 for the wire fraud offense. William and Esperanza Brandt each face a maximum sentence of five years imprisonment and a fine of $250,000 for the conspiracy charge. Pronto faces a maximum fine of $500,000. The maximum fine for each of these violations may be increased to twice the gain derived from the crime or twice the loss suffered by the victims of the crime, if either of those amounts is greater than the statutory maximum fine. Their actual sentences will be determined by the court.

"The VA Office of Inspector General vigorously investigates every credible allegation against VA employees who betray the trust of our veterans and taxpayers by committing crimes related to the programs and operations of VA. Mr. Brandt is the fourth supervisory employee of VA's Consolidated Mail Outpatient Pharmacy program, including his former supervisor at Hines, to be prosecuted since 2005 for abusing their government positions for private gain," said George J. Opfer, Inspector General of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Today's charges reflect the Department's commitment to protecting U.S. taxpayers from procurement fraud through its creation of the National Procurement Fraud Task Force. The National Procurement Fraud Initiative, announced in October 2006, is designed to promote the early detection, prosecution and prevention of procurement fraud associated with the increase in contracting activity for national security and other government programs.

The guilty pleas announced today resulted from an ongoing investigation of unlawful conduct concerning the VA's Consolidated Mail Outpatient Pharmacies conducted jointly by the Department of Justice Antitrust Division's Chicago Field Office and the Department of Veteran's Affairs, Office of Inspector General, with assistance from the Small Business Administration, Office of Inspector General; the Department of Defense, Criminal Investigative Service; and the U.S. Secret Service.

Anyone with information concerning bid rigging, fraud, kickbacks, bribery or other crimes relating to violations of federal procurement laws meant to foster competition concerning any of the VA's Consolidated Outpatient Pharmacies should contact the Chicago Field Office of the Antitrust Division at 312-353-7530 or the VA Office of Inspector General at 1-800-488-8244.

SOURCE U.S. Department of Justice

It has taken me 7 year of appeals thru the RO system to get my cardiac problems which started within a year of discharge after Gulf War One, (a stroke in April 1992) service connected either directly or as a secondary condition to my PTSD and these people are stealing millions, where's the justice?

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Soldiers: Army forced us to deploy despite health woes

Soldiers: Army forced us to deploy despite health woes

By Gregg Zoroya, USA TODAY
FAIRBANKS, Alaska — When the "Arctic Warriors" Stryker Brigade left for Iraq from nearby Fort Wainwright late last year, commanders told soldiers who were suffering medical problems that they would also go to war.
Spc. Mark Oldham was on a plane to Iraq by Dec. 5 despite being declared unfit because he passes out during training and requires a 30-day heart-monitor exam, his medical records show.

ARMY: Report targets policy on combat fitness

Sgt. Jesse McElroy, a combat veteran who had shoulder surgery in September and could barely move his arm, according to his medical records, was told to deploy or face charges for malingering.

Chief Warrant Officer Adisa "A.J." Aiyetoro, a 19-year veteran who is stricken with active tuberculosis and unable to wear body armor because of back injuries, according to medical and court records, refused to go. "I'm not getting on that plane," he says. His court-martial on charges of disobeying an order and missing a deployment is scheduled for Monday.

"The only reason that I'm being deployed is they want (greater) numbers" of troops in the field, Oldham said before leaving. He is assigned to communications.

A recent Army inspector general's report says the process for deciding a soldier's fitness for combat is so confusing that it increases the chance of sending ailing troops to war.

At Fort Wainwright, 80 soldiers with health issues were left behind when the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team deployed in September, says Lt. Col. Jonathan Allen, an Army spokesman.

Twenty-three were later brought to Iraq to help "maintain (the brigade's) personnel strength" — but only after their health improved, he says. Oldham and McElroy were among those left behind. Oldham was among those later deployed.

Army Col. Ronald Stephens, commander of Bassett Army Community Hospital at Fort Wainwright, says his doctors work well with commanders and follow all fitness guidelines.

Several soldiers caught in the process and willing to speak out tell a different story. They describe a climate where commanders constantly pressure soldiers with health issues to deploy, even when their medical records — which they provided — show physical problems.

In response, a group of soldiers that includes McElroy plans to meet Monday at the Alaska Peace Center here to gather signatures for a petition to mail to members of Congress. The petition says, "As the shortage of troops has become more and more difficult to overcome, our commanders have become more and more aggressive in deploying soldiers with injuries and illnesses."

"What we're trying to do is just get our stories heard," says Sgt. Stephen Scroggs, who tracks the progress of ailing soldiers left behind for the 1st Battalion, 5th Infantry Regiment. He is part of the rear detachment and is involved in the petition drive. "A lot of soldiers are suffering, I just don't want them to suffer anymore."

Allen says all medical cases were thoroughly vetted and when doctors determined that soldiers met deployment health criteria, they were deployed. Those with persistent issues stayed home, he says.

Aiyetoro began developing chronic, debilitating back pain after an earlier combat deployment. He is an armament maintenance technician with the 25th Brigade Support Battalion.

Medical records show that Army orthopedic surgeon Nick Sexton classified him as non-deployable Aug. 25. Sexton wrote that Aiyetoro is unable to wear his body armor and recommended a medical review that could lead to a medical discharge.

Central Command specifically forbids a solder to deploy if body armor cannot be worn: "In general, individuals should not deploy … (with) conditions which prevent the wear of personal protective equipment, including … body armor."

A revised evaluation issued for Aiyetoro a few days later by another doctor found that he could wear body armor but "only during mission-essential movements."

The Army did not make Sexton available for an interview. Stephens, the hospital commander, declined to discuss Aiyetoro's case despite a waiver Aiyetoro signed allowing Stephens to do so. Stephens said in situation's like Aiyetoro's, it is possible for an initial medical opinion to later be overruled.

Since then, doctors have again changed Aiyetoro's medical status. In February, doctors concluded that Aiyetoro needed further tests on his back to determine the extent of injuries and he needs additional tests to determine whether his tuberculosis is active, according to court records.

Aiyetoro says commanders cared more about filling their ranks than about him getting better when they ordered him to deploy in September. They made him feel like a malingerer for complaining about his back pain, he says, and "they pretty much classified me as a dirt bag."

"They were not intending on getting me better (as much as) getting me on that plane," says Aiyetoro, 36, married and the father of four.

The command offered to allow him to resign. Aiyetoro chose a court-martial instead, the trial is slated for Monday at Fort Richardson, outside Anchorage. "If I walk right now, it's as if I never served in the military," he says, explaining that he would lose benefits if he resigned.

McElroy says he also felt pressured by commanders. A veteran of a previous tour in Iraq, McElroy aggravated a shoulder injury in 2006 when his Stryker vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb.

An initial surgery after his return from combat failed to correct the damage, according to his records, and he underwent another operation last September. His surgeon, Gregory Komenda, wrote in a December report that McElroy "should be considered unable to perform his duties." Military doctors reached the same conclusion with one, Mark Clifford, writing in a January report, "Soldier is unable to perform Infantry tasks."

Yet McElroy's immediate commander continued to tell him he would deploy, first saying the second surgery should be delayed and then saying McElroy would leave for Iraq after a 30-day, post-operative convalescence, McElroy says.

After months of haggling, records show, McElroy was finally slated for a medical review and a possible discharge for health reasons. McElroy says he was accused of malingering and being a "sorry excuse for a non-commissioned officer," because of his health issues.

In December, he says, he was told that if he was not in Iraq, he would be charged with malingering. The charges never came, and at the urging of Army doctors, McElroy was eventually slated for a medical board review that could lead to a medical discharge.

"I signed up … knowing that at some point I would be sent into combat. I have risked my life to defend this country," McElroy says, adding that he feels "belittled, humiliated, threatened, angry, (in) mental shock."

Allen says that soldiers have the right to complain to rear detachment commanders about any mistreatment and that no complaints were made in McElroy's case. "It is the Army's long-standing policy to treat all soldiers with dignity and respect," he says.


with stories like these becoming more and more commonplace I am really beginning to wonder why anyone enlists in the military any more, and I am a Nam era vet and a Gulf War veteran. But this is getting ridiculous.

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Senate looks into expanding AmeriCorps

Senate looks into expanding AmeriCorps

The Associated Press
Monday, March 23, 2009; 7:24 PM

WASHINGTON -- The Senate agreed Monday to take up legislation to triple the size of the AmeriCorps program and open up opportunities for more people to serve their communities.

Lawmakers voted 74-14 to move to the legislation that would expand AmeriCorps from its current 75,000 positions to 250,000 over the course of eight years. Sixty votes were needed to bring the bill to the floor. The measure is expected to come up for a final vote in the Senate sometime this week.

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., who is being treated for brain cancer, made a rare appearance on the Senate floor to vote for the bill that he co-sponsored with Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. Kennedy's office said he is expected to be on Capitol Hill until Congress goes on recess April 4.

The legislation would also create five groups to help poor people, improve education, encourage energy efficiency, strengthen access to health care and assist veterans.

Sen. Barbara Mikulski, a Maryland Democrat, said the proposal is an investment that "will pay dividends long beyond anything that we can imagine."

The House last week passed a similar bill to add 175,000 participants to AmeriCorps and other national service programs. President Barack Obama backs the legislation and has said he is eager for Congress to pass a bill so he can sign it.

Both bills would set up a fund to help nonprofit organizations recruit more volunteers and establish a Summer of Service program for middle and high school students, who would earn a $500 education award. Each measure would also create fellowships for older people who get involved in public service. Both would also increase the education awards of AmeriCorps participants, whose work ranges from teaching young people to responding to disasters.

After completing their service, AmeriCorps participants can receive up to $4,725 to help pay for college or pay off student loans. The Senate and House bills would increase that award to $5,350 and require that it match any future increases in Pell Grant scholarships. Unlike the House bill, the Senate version would allow older AmeriCorps members to transfer their education awards to their children or grandchildren.

Some AmeriCorps participants get a living stipend while they are working for 10 to 12 months. The stipend ranges from $11,400 to $22,800 for the year. Most participants, who are predominantly 18 to 26, get $11,800.

The Senate measure is slated to cost $5.7 billion over five years, while the House version is an estimated $6 billion over five years. Obama's proposed budget for next year calls for more than $1.1 billion for national service programs, an increase of more than $210 million.


The House bill is H.R. 1388.

The Senate bill is S.277.


Doing public service either internationally or within the United States is a good thing, it allows people to expand their own horizons and see places and other examples of lifestyles they would not normally come into contact with. As a soldier for more than a decade I traveled to Korea, Germany, Oman, Guam, Japan, Philippines, and Thailand, in each country I learned new things and saw different lifestyles, even here in the United States the Army took me from the Northwest Fort Lewis near Tacoma ( I was there twice 74/75 and again in 1980 and 1981 so I was there when Mount Saint Helens blew up) I was sent to Fort Wainright Alaska in Feb 1975 and got to experience the the Northern lights up close and personal, got to see Moose and other animals walk across the Army base as if they owned the place. The monsoons of the Far East and the sand storms of the mid-east and 130 degree temps. Life is an education, I think it is a great thing to expand the amount of positions in this program and to enable more young people to learn and help others at the same time.

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veterans with Parkinson's disease.

Tell your congressman to support & pass this bill

Co-sponsor H.R. 1428

“ To amend title 38, United States Code, to direct the Secretary of

Veterans Affairs to provide wartime disability compensation for certain

veterans with Parkinson's disease.”

H.R. 1428, “To amend title 38, United States Code, to direct the Secretary of Veterans

Affairs to provide wartime disability compensation for certain veterans with Parkinson's disease” is sponsored by Rep. Bob Filner (CA), Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. This bill directs the Secretary of Veterans’ Affairs to provide presumption of service connection for Parkinson’s disease for certain Veterans who served in the Republic of Vietnam.

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive and degenerative disease with no cure. These Veterans with Parkinson’s disease face a less than bright future. Current regulations do not recognize Parkinson’s disease as presumptive to the exposure of herbicides (Agent Orange and other herbicides) during military service. This legislation would allow those veterans to obtain the medical care and disability compensation that they have earned, deserve and so desperately need.

At a time when these Veterans’ and their families are struggling to deal with devastating impact of Parkinson’s disease, it is hard for them to find the strength to fight through the current VA claims process. Often as the disease progresses, the quality of life and financial struggle become worse and the spouses of these Veterans leave their own jobs to provide the care these Veterans require.

Scientific studies provide ample evidence establishing that Parkinson’s disease is associated with military service in Vietnam and to these chemicals. The Mayo Clinic found that herbicides significantly increased the risk of Parkinson’s disease. The Agent Orange herbicide 2,4-D was at the top of the list of herbicides in the study. In another study the Dr. L. Nelson from Stanford University found that Veterans who deployed to Vietnam have a 2.6 times higher incident of Parkinson’s disease than Veterans of the same era who did not deploy.

Currently the VA almost exclusively denies claims for Parkinson’s disease related to these chemical exposures. However in December of 2008, the VA Regional Office in Detroit Michigan approved a claim for Parkinson’s disease due to exposure to exposure to Agent Orange. This approval was the only one we are aware of that has been approved by the VA at this level. The approval cited the Mayo Clinic study and other extensive research documentation as a reason for approval. There are also two known cases where the Board of Veterans’ Appeal ruled in favor of the favor of the Veteran in regard to Parkinson’s disease and service in Vietnam. In January

2009 the VA posted a clinical trial recruitment notice on the internet. In this notice the VA acknowledged that there is a higher incident of Parkinson’s disease in Veteran than in non-Veterans.

The Vietnam Veterans in our grass roots group have already suffered with Parkinson’s disease for an average of almost 7 years now and some for over 25 years. Others in the group passed away under the age of 60. These Veterans need help now not after they die. Please co-sponsor this bill.

To become a co-sponsor please contact Jeff Burdette at 59154 or

U.S. Military Veterans with Parkinson’s (USMVP) March. 2009.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Frequently Asked Questions About Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) & Employment

What is PTSD?

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that can develop in response to exposure to an extreme traumatic event. These traumatic events may include military combat, violent personal assaults (e.g., rape, mugging, robbery), terrorist attacks, natural or man-made disasters, or serious accidents. The trauma can be directly experienced or witnessed in another person, and involves actual or threatened death, serious injury or threat to one's physical integrity. The person's response to the event is one of intense fear or helplessness.

What are some possible behaviors associated with PTSD?

Many people with PTSD repeatedly re-experience their ordeal in the form of flashback episodes, intrusive recollections of the event and nightmares. A stress reaction may be provoked when individuals are exposed to events or situations that remind them of the traumatic event. Avoidance of those triggering cues is a very significant feature of PTSD. Symptoms of PTSD may also include feeling detached from others, emotional "numbing," difficulty sleeping, problems concentrating, irritability, being hyper-alert to danger, feeling "on edge," and an exaggerated startle response. PTSD symptoms usually emerge within a few months of the traumatic event; however symptoms may appear many months or even years following a traumatic event. It is normal for most people to experience some symptoms following a traumatic event. PTSD diagnoses are based on the intensity and duration of these symptoms. For many, PTSD symptoms will resolve completely while, for others, symptoms may persist for many years.

How prevalent is PTSD?

Studies suggest that about 8% of the U.S. population (approximately 24 million people) will develop PTSD at some point in their lives. Compared to men, women are about twice as vulnerable to developing PTSD following a traumatic event. Among military veterans, PTSD is quite common. Approximately 30% of Vietnam War veterans experience PTSD over the course of their lifetimes. Recent data compiled by the Rand Corporation suggest that approximately one in five service members who return from deployment operations in Afghanistan and Iraq have symptoms of PTSD or depression.

Is PTSD a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)?

The ADA does not contain a list of medical conditions that constitute disabilities. Instead, the ADA has a general definition of disability that each person must meet. Therefore, some people with PTSD will have a disability under the ADA and some will not. A person has a disability if he/she has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a record of such an impairment, or is regarded as having such an impairment. For more information about how to determine whether a person has a disability under the ADA, visit

Are employees with PTSD required to disclose their disability to their employers?

No. Employees need only disclose their disability if/when they need an accommodation to perform the essential functions of the job. Applicants never have to disclose a disability on a job application, or in the job interview, unless they need an accommodation to assist them in the application or interview process.

Can an employer ask an employee with PTSD to submit to a medical examination?

Yes, if the need for the medical examination is job-related and consistent with business necessity. Typically, employers will ask an employee with PTSD to submit to a medical examination (also called a fitness-for-duty exam) after the employee has an incident on the job that leads the employer to believe that the employee is unable to perform the job, or to determine if the employee can safely return to work, and if any accommodations will be needed on the job.

Do employees with PTSD pose a direct threat to themselves or others?

In general, people do not pose a direct threat to themselves or others solely by virtue of having been diagnosed with PTSD. Employees who effectively manage their symptoms through medication or psychotherapy are very unlikely to pose a threat to themselves or others. Employers can also help reduce the overall stress in the work environment or mitigate known vulnerabilities to stress by providing a job accommodation.

How and when does a person with PTSD ask for an accommodation?

An employee with PTSD can ask for an accommodation at any time when he/she needs an accommodation to perform the essential functions of the job. The employee can make a request verbally or in writing and is responsible for providing documentation of a disability.

Can an employer discipline an employee with PTSD who violates conduct or performance standards?

Yes, an employer can discipline an employee with PTSD who violates conduct standards or fails to meet performance standards, even if the exhibited behavior is influenced by the employee's disability, as long as the employer imposes the same discipline on an employee without a disability who violates conduct or performance standards. However, an employer is obligated to consider reasonable accommodations to help the employee with PTSD meet the conduct or performance standards.

Why does employment play such an important role in the recovery of returning service members with PTSD?

Employment enables many people with disabilities and combat-related conditions, including those with PTSD, to fully participate in society. In fact, according to the National Council on Disability, people who regain employment following the onset of a disability report higher life satisfaction and better adjustment than do people who are not employed. At the most fundamental level, employment generates income that is vital to individual and family economic well-being. Given how closely our identities are tied to our occupation, employment plays a critical role in maintaining our self-concept. Further, employment affords opportunities to experience success and build self-esteem, which are critical elements toward psychological health. It facilitates social interaction and connections that can reduce the isolation that is commonly experienced through depression and PTSD. For these reasons, gainful employment can be an important component in the recovery and rehabilitation of people with PTSD.

What challenges might people with PTSD encounter in the workplace?

Although their condition may not be visible, service members with PTSD may face some difficulties-especially with respect to employment. These individuals may experience memory deficits, difficulty sustaining concentration, disorganization, and poor sleep patterns, among other challenges. All of these can interfere with everyday activities, inside and outside of the workplace.

How can employers help people with PTSD do their jobs more effectively?

A variety of promising practices can help people with PTSD succeed in the workplace. These include:

Flexible work schedules and/or job sharing with another employee.
Schedule-reminders (telephone, pagers, alarm clocks).
Scheduled rest breaks to prevent stimulus overload and fatigue.
Work task checklists, clipboards and tape recorders as memory aids.
Stop watches or timers for time management.
Job coaches who make frequent, scheduled site visits.
White noise or environmental sound machines (to help eliminate distractions).
Mentoring by a co-worker or retired worker.
Providing encouragement, moral support, and a listening ear.
Understanding that PTSD and symptoms of any psychological condition may ebb and flow, and that the person may experience good days and more challenging days.
Support for pursuing treatment and assistance, even during work hours. Employers should know that treatment is a process that can be effective in managing psychological symptoms and conditions. Supporting employees in their need to regularly follow up or comply with treatment recommendations is an important part of their recovery.

What resources are available to help employers meet
the needs of employees with PTSD?

The America's Heroes at Work Web numerous tools and resources to help employers and workforce development professionals understand and address the needs of employees with PTSD. It offers additional fact sheets on PTSD-related job accommodations, as well as links to the Web sites of other agencies and organizations such as:

The Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury
The National Center for PTSD
Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve
Hire Vets First
The Job Accommodation Network
Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment

This fact sheet was developed in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Labor's (DOL) Office of Disability Employment Policy, the Job Accommodation Network, the Veterans' Employment and Training Service, the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury, and the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center.

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Army scales back use of anti-malaria drug

Army scales back use of anti-malaria drug

Concerns centered on soldiers with brain injury, anxiety
By Kelly Kennedy - Staff writer
Posted : Sunday Mar 22, 2009 14:53:47 EDT

The Army has dropped Lariam — the drug linked to side effects including suicidal tendencies, anxiety, aggression and paranoia — as its preferred protection against malaria because doctors had inadvertently prescribed it to people who should not take it.

Lariam, the brand name for mefloquine, should not be given to anyone with symptoms of a brain injury, depression or anxiety disorder, which describes many troops who have deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan.

The Army’s new choice for anti-malarial protection is doxycycline, a generic antibiotic.

“In areas where doxycycline and mefloquine are equally efficacious in preventing malaria, doxycycline is the drug of choice,” Army Surgeon General Lt. Gen. Eric Schoomaker said in a memo dated Feb. 2.

Schoomaker said mefloquine should be given only to troops who can’t take doxycycline, and that it is “critically important” that mefloquine not be given to anyone with mental health issues or a recent history of traumatic brain injury.

Col. Scott Stanek of the Army Surgeon General’s preventive medicine directorate said the policy change recognizes the concerns about inadvertent prescription of mefloquine to soldiers who should not take it.

The change also “emphasizes the screening health care providers should perform to identify these contraindications before prescribing mefloquine,” Stanek said. “Mefloquine will still be available for individuals who have contraindications to doxycycline but do not have contraindications to mefloquine.”

The services or a combatant command surgeon usually determines which drug to use based on the malaria threat in each area. In many cases, that puts the decision in the hands of the Army.

Navy officials said sailors and Marines follow those guidelines for malaria, which for Iraq means no malaria prophylactic because the threat there is not significant enough to need it.

In Afghanistan, the policy since 2004 puts doxycycline above mefloquine. In the Horn of Africa, Army directives have preferred mefloquine over doxycycline, but that should change under Schoomaker’s memo.

The Air Force also will continue to use mefloquine in some cases, but not as a “blanket prescription” for an entire unit, said Betty-Anne Mauger, spokeswoman for the Air Force Surgeon General.

She said pilots may not use it, and that doctors must review an airman’s medical records and counsel him about possible side effects before prescribing it.

In the past, the military has used mefloquine because troops have to take it only once a week, while doxycycline must be taken daily. And in some areas, the malaria parasite has become resistant to doxycycline.

But critics have long said the military exposed service members to an unacceptable risk by giving them a drug that could cause psychotic episodes. As long ago as 1993, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., asked the Pentagon to look at other options after media reports cited possible links between Lariam and suicides and other erratic behavior.

Jeanne Lese, co-director of Lariam Action USA, has petitioned the military — as well as the Peace Corps — for years to stop using the medication.

“We’ve heard story after story,” she said. “The risk ... is just unacceptable. Why would you take this when you have other alternatives that are safer?”

Mefloquine was approved in 1989 by the Food and Drug Administration only to prevent malaria. Doxycycline has been used as an antibiotic for decades, with the worst side effect being photosensitive skin.

Mefloquine has been found to cause side effects in as many as 25 percent of people who take it, including vomiting, convulsions, psychosis, nightmares, dizziness, confusion, insomnia, unusual dreams, lightheadedness, vertigo, visual disturbances, ringing in the ears, rash and irritability.

It also can cause anxiety, paranoia, depression, agitation, panic attacks, hallucinations, mood changes, aggression and psychotic behavior, according to the Deployment Health and Readiness Library.

A 2004 study by the Walter Reed Institute of Research said mefloquine produces severe seizures and hallucinations and hospitalizations in one out of 10,000 people who take it, and dizziness, headache, insomnia and vivid dreams in up to 25 percent of patients. The study also found that the drug crosses the blood-brain barrier and accumulates in the central nervous system.

A 2006 study out of Walter Reed found that rats given a single dose suffered impairment of motor function and degeneration of brain stem nuclei, as well as activity that suggested sleep disorders. The data also suggested the drug could lead to permanent damage to the central nervous system.

This action is only about 6 years late

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Sunday, March 22, 2009

Carmel man recalls heartbreak of Iwo Jima

Carmel man recalls heartbreak of Iwo Jima

Herald Correspondent
Posted: 03/22/2009 01:31:06 AM PDT

Click photo to enlargeHarry McLaughlin, 89, of Carmel holds a photo of himself as a young... (ORVILLE MYERS/The Herald)«1»Meeting Harry McLaughlin, it's easy to be impressed by the irrepressible vitality of this 89-year-old Carmel resident.
He would be a tough man to kill.

A shrapnel scar and a growling battlefield voice are clues to the history of his time spent fighting the Japanese 64 years ago in the Battle of Iwo Jima, which ended March 26, 1945.

Capt. McLaughlin is retired from the wholesale garden supply business and today lives a quiet life with his wife, Muriel. It is a far cry from his days in the South Pacific during World War II.

"I still think about Iwo Jima," he said. "You never forget."

The battle of Iwo Jima began Feb. 19, 1945, McLaughlin's birthday. As he sat with the Third Marine Division on transport ships off the coast of Iwo Jima, he could see sand flying from explosions on the beach. Everyone had heard about the casualties. Tokyo Rose had even joked that when it was over, the Marines that were left could fit into a telephone booth.

McLaughlin spent a lot of time that day studying maps. His job was to interrogate captured Japanese soldiers. It was hard to imagine there were many left. After 74 days of aerial bombing, Iwo Jima was a scorched, volcanic flyspeck of an island — ugly, but strategically critical.

When McLaughlin finally landed on Iwo Jima at daybreak on Feb. 24, he found himself slogging through a black sand salvage yard of overturned vehicles and shell-torn bodies.

Rising 556 feet above the carnage was Mount Suribachi, the



sulphurous volcano into which the Japanese army had burrowed 11 miles of tunnels. Heavily fortified with artillery in pillboxes and caves, the Japanese could direct their fire at almost any point on the island.
The Marines were ducks in a shooting gallery.

"Hundreds were killed before they even saw the enemy," McLaughlin recalled. "It was very bad, heartbreaking. We covered (the bodies) up with sand and ash and put a marker there."

McLaughlin took refuge behind a few small rocks. Glancing up, he was amazed to see the American flag waving on top of Mount Suribachi.

But when you're pinned down, watching enemy mortars blowing up so many of your buddies, you're not thinking about witnessing history, McLaughlin said. "You're thinking about trying to save your neck."

Inch by inch, McLaughlin crawled toward headquarters, which he described as "a crummy-looking foxhole with sandbags around it up there maybe 100 yards or so."

Iwo Jima, the admirals and generals said, was to have been secured in four days. Instead, it was a 36-day nightmare.

"How I got out of there alive I'll never know," McLaughlin said. "I did a lot of praying."

Many of the troops were scarcely out of boyhood when they joined the Marines. McLaughlin was no exception.

McLaughlin grew up in Oakland. "A good Irish lad," he excelled in sports and graduated from St. Mary's College in 1942.

When the manager of Hagstrom's Food Store introduced him to Muriel, her pretty teenage daughter, he was smitten. But the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and all of a sudden, McLaughlin said, the whole country was very gung ho to go to war.

He and Muriel wed five days before he shipped out.

Assigned to the Headquarters Company, McLaughlin's orders on Iwo Jima were to find out how many Japanese soldiers were in those caves.

When artillery failed to blast them out, the Japanese were burned out and blown up — but rarely captured. To surrender was to be dishonored, to have their families ostracized.

"They were instructed to die first," McLaughlin said, "but some of them realized living was pretty good. One day, we got about 25 of them out of there. They'd say 'Me no savvy. C'est la guerre! (It's the war.)'"

Other times they told everything — like how they were trained to shoot American officers in the head and soldiers in the legs to disable them and draw more targets into the open. "They'd tell us where their fortifications were and how many were still in the caves."

With virtually no water on the island, the Japanese were dying from dehydration, starvation and lice infection.

The American soldiers lived with filth, rot and the terror of enemy mortar shells the size of 55-gallon drums tumbling end over end, seemingly headed right for them.

"You adjusted to it as best you could," McLaughlin said.

Nights were worse. Two men shared a foxhole. One watched and listened while the other tried to sleep. Huge land crabs crawling in the night sounded like the enemy approaching. Intermittent gunfire kept them awake, McLaughlin said.

McLaughlin even jumped into a foxhole once and landed on an angry patrol dog.

Sometimes, the Japanese infiltrated their ranks and yelled in perfect English, "Corpsman, help me! I'm hit!"

But his thoughts always returned to Muriel and his parents.

One day, McLaughlin was delivering a map and bumped into his good friend Oscar Salvos, a company commander. Salvos looked despondent.

"'I don't like this Mac,' he told me, 'I don't have enough machine guns and they want us to go on a night attack.'

"Oscar had a Purple Heart — a real Marine, this guy. Well, he was killed. I remember the day I was looking for his body. I went down to the beach. There were thousands of them lined up on these stretchers. They were all dead. I was thinking these kids' folks don't even know about it yet."

When the battle was declared over on March 26, McLaughlin headed to Guam. As the ship pulled out, he was overwhelmed by a terrible melancholy about people he left behind, "people who were alive when we got there."

President Franklin Roosevelt, it is said, literally gasped at the count: 7,000 Marines dead, 24,000 wounded.

For a man who witnessed some of the most ghastly sights of war imaginable, McLaughlin remains remarkably warmhearted.

He plays golf every Monday and visits with his two sons and five grandchildren.

Five years ago, he and Muriel went to the 60th reunion for veterans who fought in the Battle of Iwo Jima. McLaughlin was the only Marine there out of his company of 300.

He had traveled a long road from playing stickball on the streets of Oakland.

"You never forget it. You've seen the worst of the worst," McLaughlin said. "It's very abhorrent, the whole thing, war."

Leslie Dunn can be reached at


War is UGLY it is not a John Wayne movie

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'Atomic veterans' slowly gain recognition

'Atomic veterans' slowly gain recognition


'Atomic veterans' slowly gain recognition


Salina Journal

The check stub and a notification letter rest in a file stuffed with Salinan James Trepoy's military paperwork.

The sum -- a whopping $75,000 -- initially made Trepoy afraid to cash the check. Then he kept all the money in the bank for a time, fearing someone had a mistake and he would get a call to send it back.

The letter accompanying the check looked official enough, bearing letterhead from the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Division, in Washington, D.C.

"This is to inform you that your claim for compensation under the Radiation Exposure Compensation Program has been approved," the letter read.

Trepoy, 88, is among an estimated group of more than 200,000 former soldiers who were witnesses to above-ground and undersea atomic tests conducted between 1945 and 1963.

Nicknamed "atomic veterans," the soldiers were part of the testing because various governments wanted to see if troops could operate on battlefields contaminated by radiation from nuclear bombs.

Retired veterans Larry Halloran, of Mulvane, and Gary Thornton, of Leon, have made it a mission to track down atomic veterans in Kansas, particularly older vets such as Trepoy, to make them aware of their eligibility for financial compensation from the government under the Radiation Exposure Compensation Program Act.

"If it hadn't have been for him (Halloran), I'd have never known," Trepoy said.

Money for veterans

In 1990, Congress passed the act, offering veterans who took part in the tests a payment of $75,000 each. Payments of $100,000 were offered to miners employed in above-ground or underground uranium mines scattered across the western U.S. Those working downwind of the Nevada test site were offered payments of $50,000.

"They're called atomic veterans, but they should be called atomic guinea pigs," Canadian lawyer Tony Merchant said recently.

Merchant represents a group of Canadian veterans who filed a class-action lawsuit in February seeking compensation from Canada's government for their radiation exposure and resulting ailments.

An estimated 900 Canadian military personnel were subjected to atomic testing in the U.S. and other locations starting in the late 1950s.

The Canadians' lawsuit alleges the veterans weren't told about the dangers of radioactivity, and weren't provided protective equipment or fully decontaminated after the atomic blasts.

Like many of the U.S. atomic veterans, Trepoy today has a taxing list of infirmities ranging from degenerative arthritis to a coronary artery bypass, diabetes and lymphoma (cancer of the lymph nodes), which was diagnosed after physicians noticed a skin rash on his back.

Lymphoma is one of 16 cancers the government presumes to be military service-connected if a veteran participated in a radation-risk activity.

Volunteers for atomic duty

Trepoy relies on a power-chair for mobility. But more than 50 years ago, the then strapping young Army draftee was serving in the Philippines waiting to be sent with other allied forces to fight in Japan when the United States dropped bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, bringing about the end of World War II.

Trepoy and his unit were sent to Fort Polk, La., but his fascination and curiosity about the atomic bomb never ceased. When the call came in 1953 for volunteers to participate in nuclear testing, he volunteered.

He was a member of two infantry battalions that were to participate in one of 11 blasts as a part of Operation Upshot-Knothole in Nevada.

Soldiers were required to have security clearances, and no cameras were allowed. Trepoy said the soldiers didn't think the military would put the troops in any danger.

For the test, troops were dressed in routine basic-issue uniforms and leather gloves, Trepoy said. They were positioned in trenches eight miles from "ground zero," the tower where the bomb was detonated.

The soldiers were told to stand with their shoulders against the trench wall, to cover their eyes with their arms and hands and not to look up.

They were told there would be two explosions for comparison, the first with 2,700 pounds of dynamite. The second would be the nuclear device.

He could see his bones

On the second blast, Trepoy heard the countdown, and then the bomb went off.

"To this day I never heard the noise (of the explosion)," he said. But he felt the heat of the blast, and looking down at his hands he could see his bones, Trepoy said.

The blast at 4:30 a.m. produced a bright light and the ground shook. Sand blasted over the troops' heads and the desert suddenly got hot, as if someone had opened an oven.

The bomb, equal to a 43-kiloton explosion, shattered windows of vehicles eight miles away and cracked windows in Las Vegas 60 miles away. Fifty kilotons is roughly equivalent to 50,000 tons of TNT.

The soldiers were allowed to leave the trench after the detonation to watch the mushroom cloud forming. The cloud formed two separate caps, reaching as high as eight miles into the atmosphere, Trepoy said.

The soldiers were told to advance toward ground zero. Along the way they came across a pit where six live sheep had been positioned. The wool on the sides of the sheep facing the blast was charred.

"We were told the sheep would be all right, but I swear we had mutton about two days later," Trepoy said.

He said the troops were stopped about a half-mile from ground zero and told to turn back because the radiation was too high.

Begged for medical aid

Today, the largest group of atomic veteran survivors is the National Association of Atomic Veterans, and Gary Thornton is a member and former commander of the state chapter.

Thornton witnessed eight nuclear detonations in 1962 off of Johnston Island in the Pacific Ocean. Thornton says thousands of atomic veterans have died while they begged for medical help, as the government was reluctant to acknowledge the health problems created by atomic tests.

The 225,000 military personnel involved with testing between 1945 and 1963 weren't even authorized to speak about their experiences, as the information about their service remained classified until 1996, he said.

The National Association of Atomic Veterans Web site states there are now as many as 195,000 atomic veterans left across America who either don't know that their oath of secrecy about their service has been rescinded, or are not aware of the potential monetary benefits due them for their radiation induced illnesses.

Thornton said that in the early 1980s there were more than 800 atomic veterans estimated to be in Kansas.

"Now, the best we can tell, there are only 99 of us left," he said.

Trying for recognition

Most of the surviving atomic veterans have long ago given up on seeing any medical or financial compensation for their service-related injuries, Thornton said. He and Halloran are doing their best to help those they can find.

The pair have also worked to get recognition for the atomic soldiers. They enlisted former state representative Everett Johnson of Augusta, himself an atomic veteran, to get a resolution adopted in 2004 to recognize and honor Kansas Atomic Veterans.

That led Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius to present a certificate of recognition to each known atomic veteran from Kansas.

Due to illness and age, more than half of the identified veterans could not attend the governor's presentation ceremony in Topeka. Those who didn't make it got their certificates in the mail.

Just another day's work

For his part, Trepoy plans to use his $75,000 to reward charities that help soldiers. He's also already given some money to his church and the American Cancer Society, he said. And he sent some money to Halloran, he said, "to thank him."

"I just feel sorry for the men who've died and the families who have broken up," Trepoy said.

In his memory, the sand that Trepoy saw coming out the trench after the atomic blast is still melted. The glass from the shattered vehicle windows still scrunches under his feet. The sheep with the charred wool bleat with fear.

His trust remains firm in his superior officers that the troops were in no harm as they watched the mushroom cloud rise.

"When we got back to the base camp, we all took showers and threw our clothes in the trash. Then we went back to town," Trepoy said.

"It seemed like just a day's work for us."

n Reporter David Clouston can be reached at 822-1403 or by e-mail at

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