Saturday, April 4, 2009

A unique partnership: Behavioral Health collaborates with Veterans Services

This is in King County Calif.. More counties need to collaborate services to Veterans

From: James []
Sent: Friday, April 03, 2009 5:38 AM
To: coloneldan
Subject: A unique partnership:

A unique partnership: Behavioral Health collaborates with Veterans Services

By Cynthia J. Wright, Advance Editor

When our nation's veterans return from the horrors of war, many of them need help to reintegrate into mainstream society. More than that, some need help remembering how to interact with their children, spouses and other family members.

Of those returning from war-torn posts, nationwide, 15-20 percent will suffer symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), according to the Kings County Veterans Services Office (VSO). The percentages are even higher when referring to those who have suffered traumatic brain injuries (TBI).

Yet many don't get the help they need.

"The symptoms are not as obvious as most injuries and are often overlooked," Joe Wright, veterans services officer/public guardian for Kings County, said. "The veterans sometimes don't recognize that what they are dealing with may be related to PTSD/TBI."

Wright said the process to diagnose PTSD/TBI can be very lengthy and talking about the stressors that may be causing the PTSD related issues are sometimes very difficult for the veteran. Throw in Kings County's relative isolation from a veterans hospital, the closest being in Fresno, and getting Kings County area veterans the help they need becomes even more difficult.

"A couple of years ago I realized that we had veterans coming to us for services that weren't being met by the VA," Wright said. "We had veterans that came into our office with PTSD issues. We would get them set up with the Veterans Center in Fresno to begin the process of getting a PTSD diagnosis so we could then file a claim."

Wright explained that process has several steps over a two to three month period. He said some veterans don't complete the process for various reasons. Without a PTSD diagnosis the VSO can't file a claim. Without the claim, veterans aren't designated as having serviced-connected PTSD. While counseling help is still available at the Veterans Center, more in-depth care is harder to get from the Veterans Hospital.

"It's not that VA isn't providing adequate services, the problem is the services provided don't always work for the veteran," Wright said. "Getting to and from the appointments is sometimes an issue. Veterans with PTSD many times have trouble 'opening up' to talk about their experiences."

He said the relationship between the veteran and the doctor is critical.

"We've had a case where the local doctor was replaced" Wright said. "Several veterans who were seeing this doctor did not 'click' with the new doctor and just quit going."

Wright said once he saw what was happening he went to Mary Anne Ford Sherman for help.

Ford Sherman is the director of Kings County Behavioral Health (KCBH) and a veteran herself. Wright and Ford Sherman have been working to find ways to provide services to veterans who fall through the cracks of the VA system. Through the collaboration between the two county departments, veterans who have had trouble getting the care they need through the VA can seek help through KCBH.

"The commitment to serve vets and active duty military families is about keeping our promise to them and all they have sacrificed. We have an obligation to recognize, acknowledge and reach out to our veterans with all that we can to ensure their physical and emotional wellness and safety," Ford Sherman said. "It is the least we can do because they give that to us every day they serve."

The relationship that Kings County's VSO and KCBH have formed to meet this growing need is unique for a county the size of Kings County.

"It always boils down to two people in a room having a desire to do something better, and coming up with a plan," Ford Sherman said. "I think for us, we discovered we both have the same mission in a nano second and we just ran with it."

Ford Sherman said KCBH is partnering with the VSO and funding several projects, including:

1. Brochures and outreach materials for veterans and their family members to increase awareness on services and challenges veterans and their families face.

2. A media campaign with billboards to educate, acknowledge military contributions and reach out to veterans regarding mental health issues, addiction challenges or other opportunities to receive help in their community.

3. Behavioral Health is launching a training program for clinicians/case managers regarding PTSD/TBI resources and approaches of help.

4. Funding, building and launching a "Veteran's Network of Care" Web site for Kings County.

5. A full time public guardian tech to provide financial guidance to individuals who need help navigating their money in a positive way (which ensures less homelessness, models for consumers how their finances can stabilize their lives, take responsibility and make sound decisions).

There are about 14,000 veterans living in Kings County, according to Wright. Most of those are married and have children. That equates to about 25 to 30 percent of the county population who are eligible for some sort of veteran benefit.

In many counties, Wright said, there is no working relationship between the VSO and the behavioral health department.

"As a department head, I have direct access to the Behavioral Health department head," Wright said. "In most small counties, the VSO is buried in some other department making it very difficult to work closely with their BH departments. Plus, Mary Anne is a veteran and understands the issues better than most."

Ford Sherman recently spoke at a state-wide VSO conference about the possibilities of what could be done in a small county, using the collaboration between Kings County's BH and VSO as an example.

"The VSOs in each county are hungry for information on how to access care for their veterans," Ford Sherman said. "Veterans are trying to access mental health and AOD (alcohol and other drugs) systems and are sometimes being turned away."

She said the assumption is made that because they are vets, they are getting services from the VA. But as she and Wright have learned, this isn't always the case.

"Joe and I have educated ourselves on the resources together, through a Veterans Center orientation and meeting, a VA Hospital meeting, monthly meetings together and a review of legislation," Ford Sherman said.

Ford Sherman said the media campaign and the billboards are aimed at the families, letting them know there is help within the county if there is a problem when their sailor, marine, airman or soldier comes home. The billboards' other purpose is to let the community know there is a problem.

"Many times the problems are filtered through the family, not the sailor or soldier," she said. "That's where we need to (watch for) problems in the home."

The billboards, which are specifically tailored for the Kings County community, went up in four locations late last week. For more information about KCBH, call 582-3211, ext. 2382. For more information about VSO call 582-3211, ext. 2662. Both departments can be accessed through the Kings County Web site,

(April 2, 2009)

A unique partnership: Behavioral Health collaborates with Veterans Services

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Friday, April 3, 2009

Palmetto woman sentenced for cashing dead woman's checks

Palmetto woman sentenced for cashing dead woman's checks

Halle Stockton

Published: Friday, April 3, 2009 at 1:56 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, April 3, 2009 at 1:56 p.m.
MANATEE COUNTY – A Palmetto woman was sentenced to five years in federal prison Thursday in the embezzlement of nearly $63,000 from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Lynn Weber, 55, pleaded guilty in December to stealing government funds by cashing $1,324 monthly checks made out to her boyfriend’s mother who died in 2003.

That woman was receiving the checks through a program designed to aid veterans’ widows who had not remarried.

The VA realized in February 2008 that the woman had died but the checks were still being sent to a Parrish residence and the funds were being used.

The checks were retrieved, and investigators found the woman’s name forged with “Weber” written on the back, according to court documents. A clerk also identified Weber as the person who cashed the checks.

Weber will serve five months on house arrest after the prison sentence and was also ordered to pay $62,960 in restitution.
Palmetto woman sentenced for cashing dead woman's checks

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Thursday, April 2, 2009

Admiral says war veterans will suffer for years

Admiral says war veterans will suffer for years
By ROBERT BURNS – 9 hours ago

NEW YORK (AP) — Homelessness, family strains and psychological problems among returning veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars will persist in the U.S. for generations to come, the top U.S. military officer said Thursday.

"This is not a 10-year problem. It is a 50- or 60- or 70-year problem," Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a lunchtime audience at the Hudson Union Society, a group that promotes nonpartisan debate.

Mullen said he was particularly disturbed by the emergence of homelessness as a problem among war veterans.

"I have started to meet with, in veterans hospitals, homeless veterans" of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, he said. "And they are every bit as homeless and every bit as tragic as any homeless vet we've ever had. We as a country should not allow that to happen."

At a White House news conference last week, President Barack Obama said that some of the funding increases in his proposed budget for veterans affairs are directed at alleviating the problem of homelessness among veterans, which he said is a bigger problem, proportionally, than is homelessness in the rest of the American population.

Mullen said he also was worried by a rising number of suicides among U.S. military members.

"The trends are all in the wrong direction," he said, adding that "we're just at the beginning of understanding" how to deal with the psychological wounds and scars that military members incur during combat service.

In a wide-ranging question-and-answer session with his audience, Mullen also said he was "reasonably comfortable" that Pakistan's nuclear weapons are secure amid a rising tide of insurgent violence aimed at the government.

"We have invested in that (effort), they've taken significant steps in recent years, so I'm comfortable," he said. "My biggest concern is that if Pakistan gets to a point where it implodes, you've got a country that could be an Islamist, theocratic country with nuclear weapons which could both use them and proliferate them. One of our goals is to make sure that doesn't happen."

He also explicitly linked the Pakistani military's intelligence arm, the Inter-Services Intelligence, to elements of the insurgency inside Pakistan, a connection that others have said helps empower extremist groups.

"They've got an intelligence organization that must, in my view, change its strategic approach and be completely disconnected from the insurgents. And they're not right now," he said.

The role of Pakistani intelligence was discussed Wednesday at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in which Army Gen. David Petraeus, the top commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East and in Afghanistan, said there have been cases where Pakistani intelligence warned the insurgents of impending U.S. or Pakistani military strikes against them.

Petraeus called those episodes troubling. He said he and Mullen have raised the problem directly with the chief of Pakistani intelligence, Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha.

On the Net:
Joint Chiefs of Staff:
Admiral says war veterans will suffer for years

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VA announces stimulus spending

VA announces stimulus spending


WASHINGTON (AP) — The Veterans Affairs Department said Thursday it will issue a one-time payment of $250 to qualifying veterans as part of its stimulus spending.

Altogether, the VA said it will spend more than $1.4 billion in stimulus money as part of President Barack Obama's economic recovery plan.

Some of the money will go to hire and train 1,500 temporary claims processors to help reduce a six-month backlog in disability claims, but a large amount will go to upgrade veterans hospitals and cemeteries across the country.

The $250 payments will be issued as early as June. To be eligible, a veteran must have received a qualifying compensation between November of last year and January. It is estimated that $700 million will be spent on the payments.

The approximate $1 billion in construction projects range from $550,000 to relocate a sleep lab in Northport, N.Y., to $1.1 million to replace roads and gutters in a facility in Battle Creek, Mich.

About $50 million will go to improve veterans cemeteries, with projects ranging from about $9,000 for a lawn tractor for Indiantown Gap National Cemetery in Pennsylvania to $28,500 for a casket carrier in Black Hills, S.D.

On the Net:

* Department of Veterans Affairs stimulus spending:

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Senator Burr R NC is blocking Tammy Duckworth nomination please call his office

We need phone calls dumped into Sen. Richard Burr's office in protest of his playing political games with VA. Burr is holding Duckworth's confirmation. The message is:

Obama has chosen VA Administrators for their competency, experience, and service. He is the first President in 50 years to honor veterans with that respect. Burr's decision to block this nomination is bringing politics into the administration of VA when it is in critical need of competant management. The Senator needs to remove that hold and he needs to apologize for insulting Tammi Duckworth for placing it.

Burr's Contact Phones. Please note, if you live in North Carolina, call the office closest to you. These phone calls need to continue until his office releases an apology - however lame it might be.

Federal Building
151 Patton Avenue, Suite 204
Asheville, NC 28801
Phone: (828) 350-2437
Fax: (828) 350-2439

Rocky Mount
100 Coast Line Street, Room 210
Rocky Mount, NC 27804
Phone: (252) 977-9522
Fax: (252) 977-7902

Washington, DC
217 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Phone: (202) 224-3154
Fax: (202) 228-2981

2000 West First Street
Suite 508
Winston-Salem, NC 27104
Phone: (800) 685-8916
Phone: (336) 631-5125
Fax: (336) 725-4493

City Hall
181 South Street, Room 222
Gastonia, NC 28052
Phone: (704) 833-0854
Fax: (704) 833-1467

201 North Front Street
Suite 809
Wilmington, NC 28401
Phone: (888) 848-1833
Phone: (910) 251-1058
Fax: (910) 251-7975

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Yesterday they had the hearing, finally, on the Tammy Duckworth and Scott Gould nominations to the Veterans Administration.

During the hearing Senator Burr, of North Carolina, stated he had some questions he wanted to pass on to Tammy in written form and have answered. I thought that very odd at the time as the reason for these hearings is to have the nominees answer questions, also if there were more than he thought his alloted time would take he had plenty of time to have already written and sent to her, this hearing had already been delayed far to long, especially as we need these personal in place with these two theaters still on going and Afghanistan ramping up.

Senator delays VA nomination for Duckworth

Well apparently he's playing some sort of delaying game, obstructionism anyone, for only his own purposes and certainly not the veterans. Maybe sending some sort of message as to him being the senior senator from NC. He and Dole were AWOL on a whole lot of issues but especially on Military Care, i.e. Walter Reed and more, and on Veterans issues. Ask anyone here, North Carolina, how many responses they received from either staff as to requests for information or just questions.

Disabled Iraq war veteran Tammy Duckworth’s hopes of a Friday swearing-in ceremony at Walter Reed Army Medical Center to become part of the Obama administration are on hold because the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee won’t vote Thursday on her nomination.

Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina, ranking Republican on the veterans committee, objected to allowing a vote on Duckworth’s nomination, but will allow a Thursday vote to confirm Scott Gould as the deputy secretary of veterans affairs.

Visit his site and make your thoughts known. I've sent him a message already as well as an LTE to the Charlotte Observer. I've been making a bit of noise lately as all of a sudden he seems to have remembered there re Military Bases in North Carolina as well as many Veterans of. He's started to finally mention these in recent rhetoric, I welcome any support but don't buy hs speak, it wasn't there before and seems odd it is coming now.

I told him in my letters we're watching , very closely!

Dole is gone, Burr could well be next if game playing and not representation is his politics!

But this is about helping Tammy get confirmed and sworn in and seated in the VA we need them to start correcting what hasn't been these last 7plus years and helping us older veterans get what they already should be getting, the help for their service!!

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Fed judge upholds Army electrocution lawsuit

Fed judge upholds Army electrocution lawsuit

The Associated Press
Posted : Wednesday Apr 1, 2009 19:00:45 EDT

PITTSBURGH — A federal judge in Pittsburgh refused to dismiss a lawsuit brought by the parents of a Pittsburgh-area soldier who was electrocuted in an Army barracks shower in Iraq last year.

U.S. District Judge Nora Barry Fischer rejected arguments by an electrical contractor, KBR Inc., that it was not responsible for Staff Sgt. Ryan Maseth’s death in January 2008.

Army investigators determined a water pump shorted out and electrified water flowed into Maseth’s shower. Maseth is one of 18 people electrocuted in the Iraqi theater whose deaths are being investigated by the military.

Attorneys for KBR said they were disappointed by the decision, which will allow the lawsuit filed in Pittsburgh to go forward.

Maseth was 24 when he died.


• House wants details on electrocutions in Iraq

• Contractor under fire for Iraq electrocutions

• 13 electrocutions, few answers

• July 29 hearing focused on Iraq electrocutions

• DoD IG backs off Iraq electrocutions report

Fed judge upholds Army electrocution lawsuit


It isn't about the money, it's about justice for the military people that KBR's negligence have killed, they are not above accountability, they got paid to do the job right, they did not, they used poor electricians and bad inspectors and our young men and women have been dying due to their errors. They were well paid to do it right, I hope the jury gives the family the moon. Whatever they give them it will NOT briong back their son, but maybe KBR will get the message, do the job you were paid to do and use qualified people to do it. Otherwise juries will make you pay. I am glad they didn't use "Feres Act" to try and stop this. I don't believe private contractors should be able to use Feres to save themselves from being sued.

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Study links Gulf War exposures, brain changes

Follow-up story to one I sent out 24 Mar

Study links Gulf War exposures, brain changes

By Kelly Kennedy - Staff writer, Army Times

Posted : Wednesday Apr 1, 2009 12:06:55 EDT

A new study of veterans of the 1991 Gulf War suggests that exposure to neurotoxins such as anti-nerve agent pills, insect repellent and Sarin caused neurological changes to the brain.

However, brain imaging shows those changes appear to differ depending on what and how much each person was exposed to. The changes also correspond to different sets of symptoms.

Researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Southern Methodist University, and the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Dallas performed digital brain scans on 21 chronically ill Gulf War veterans from the same Naval Reserve construction battalion, all of whom had symptoms of “Gulf War syndrome.”

According to a study published in Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging Journal, previous studies defined three categories of symptoms associated with Gulf War veterans:

• Complex 1: mild cognitive problems, such as distractibility, forgetfulness, feeling depressed, and excessive daytime sleepiness.

• Complex 2: a more debilitating state with confusion and a gross lack of muscle coordination.

• Complex 3: continuous joint and muscle aching.

The three complexes suggest “an overall syndrome with variants,” according to the researchers. But they also found the variants depended on what the vets had been exposed to: Complex 1 was associated with troops who had worn flea collars to ward off sand fleas; Complex 2 — the most disabling of the three — was associated with low-level Sarin exposure and anti-nerve agent pills; and Complex 3 was associated with insect repellent and anti-nerve agent pills.

In new study, researchers wanted to see how brain blood flow in the veterans changed if they were exposed to a cholinesterase-inhibiting chemical. All the Gulf War exposures — insect repellent, anti-nerve agent pills (pyridostigmine) and Sarin — are such cholinesterase-inhibiting chemicals, and the researchers wanted to see if the previous exposure permanently damaged the way the brain works.

Previous studies also had found that some people are genetically less able to process such chemicals out of their bodies, which could explain why some troops exposed to the same chemicals have no symptoms.

Research has shown that vets exposed to Sarin gas had a lower volume of white matter than people who had not been exposed, and that their fine motor skills were comparable to someone 10 years older than the exposed veterans.

The new study, which the researchers were quick to point out was small, included 11 men with Complex 2 symptoms, five with Complex 1 symptoms, and five with Complex 3 symptoms.

For the study, they injected each veteran with saline solution through an IV, then performed a digital brain scan to check cerebral blood flow. Two days later, they used an IV to send 2 milligrams of physostigmine, another cholinesterase-inhibiting chemical, into their systems.

Robert Haley, lead researcher on the study, wrote that they expected the brain activity of the exposed veterans to respond differently to the chemical than a control group of civilians did, and they were correct.

But they were surprised that the veterans’ brains responded differently to the saline, as well as to the physostigmine, based on which symptom complex they fell into. They differed significantly on baseline blood flow after the saline, with the Complex 2 group having significantly less than the control group.

But after the injection of physostigmine, both the Complex 1 and 3 groups had a slight reduction in blood flow in some regions of the brain, while the Complex 2 group had an increase. There were differences in the areas of the deep brain where the researchers saw reductions of blood flow based on which group they were looking at.

The findings seem consistent with the “impaired cognition, attentional deficits, reduced intellectual functioning, audiovestibular dysfunction and emotional changes” in Complex 1 and 2 veterans, versus the “primary pain and sensory dysfunction” of Complex 3 veterans, the study states.

The Complex 2 patterns were similar to those found in Alzheimer’s disease, but were obviously not the same because of the pattern of the symptoms, they wrote.

“Our findings further suggest that milder-symptom Complexes 1 and 3 involve different neuropathologic mechanisms from those underlying the more severe-symptom Complex 2,” the study states. “This condition might be appropriately referred to as an encephalopathy — a term for any diffuse disease of the brain that alters brain function or structure.”

They said the brain scans could provide an “objective diagnostic test” for war-related chronic encephalopathic illnesses.

Study links Gulf War exposures, brain changes


On a personal note I was NOT present in the Gulf when they destroyed the Ammo dump at Kamisayah Iraq in March 1991, I am however one of the men used in the "control group" we were the 7120 men used in chemical weapons experiments at Edgewood Arsenal from 1955 thru 1975. Test vets sue Army, CIA and other government officials Jan 2009 I have the brain scans that show similar damage to my brain and the nuero docs have told me at the age of 45 that my brain is shrinking like that of an 80 year old and I have the white splatches thruout my brain, I have memory issues, loss of muscle use primarily on the right side of my body. Yet the VA maintains the experiments at Edgewood were "safe" excuse me I don't believe you I trust Dr Haley from Texas more.

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Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Obama Nominates More Key People to Department of Veterans Affairs Posts

Obama Nominates More Key People to Department of Veterans Affairs Posts

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, President Barack Obama announced his intent to nominate the following individuals to key administration posts: Anne Castle, Assistant Secretary for Water and Science, Department of the Interior; Mathy V. Stanislaus, Assistant Administrator for the Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response, Environmental Protection Agency; Jo-Ellen Darcy, Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works), Department of Defense; John U. SepĂșlveda, Assistant Secretary of Human Resources, Department of Veterans Affairs; Roger Baker, Assistant Secretary for Information and Technology, Department of Veterans Affairs; and William Gunn, General Counsel, Department of Veterans Affairs.

President Obama said, "These fine public servants will be valuable additions to our team as we confront the many challenges our nation faces. Their talent and dedication will be of great service to the American people, and I look forward to working with them in the coming months and years."

President Obama announced his intent to nominate the following individuals today for the Department of Veterans Affairs:

Roger Baker, Nominee for Assistant Secretary for Information and Technology

Roger Baker is the former President and Chief Executive Officer of Dataline, LLC, a mid-sized technology products and services company headquartered in Norfolk, VA. Previously, Baker served as the Chief Information Officer at the Department of Commerce from 1998 to 2001.

Prior to joining the federal government in 1998, Baker had an extensive career with software and Internet technology firms, including leading the development of Internet and online banking systems at VISA International. He has also been a senior technology management executive at CACI International and General Dynamics. Baker left the private sector in May of 2008 to volunteer on President Obama’s campaign, serving on the Technology, Media, and Telecommunications policy group. After the President’s election, Baker served on the Technology, Innovation, and Government Reform (TIGR) and the Veterans Agency Review Teams for the Presidential Transition Team.

Baker is active in the federal technology community, and has written extensively on improving the management and results of the government’s information technology investments. He was the Vice Chair of the Industry Advisory Council’s Transition Study Group, and a co-author of the group’s capstone paper entitled "Returning Innovation to the Federal Government with Information Technology." He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science and a Masters in Business Administration from The University of Michigan.

William Gunn, Nominee for General Counsel

A recipient of the American Bar Association’s Outstanding Career Military Lawyer Award, Will A. Gunn is an attorney who represents military members and veterans in private practice in Northern Virginia. He retired from the Air Force in 2005, where he served as a Colonel in the Judge Advocate Generals (JAG) Corps. He is also a former White House Fellow. In 2003, Gunn was named the first-ever Chief Defense Counsel in the Department of Defense Office of Military Commissions. Gunn built a defense team and supervised all defense activities for detainees selected for trial before military commissions.

His efforts earned respect and admiration for his principled leadership and commitment to ensuring that detainees received effective representation. A native of Fort Lauderdale, FL, Gunn is a graduate of the United States Air Force Academy and is a Cum Laude graduate of Harvard Law School. While at Harvard, he was elected President of the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, the nation’s oldest student run legal services organization. He also has a Masters of Laws degree in Environmental Law from the George Washington University School of Law and a Master of Science degree in National Resource Strategy from the Industrial College of the Armed Forces.

Gunn is active in the civic life of his community. He chairs the American Bar Association’s Commission on Youth at Risk and serves on the board of Christian Service Charities. In 2005 Gunn was named President and CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington. He has been featured in The New Yorker magazine and The Wall Street Journal. Gunn has also received many awards and honors including the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau’s Outstanding Alumni Award.

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Hearing testimony and statements


WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI), Chairman of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, held a hearing today on two of President Barack Obama’s nominees for top VA leadership positions: W. Scott Gould to be Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs and L. Tammy Duckworth to be Assistant Secretary for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs. After the hearing, Chairman Akaka made the following statement:

“Secretary Shinseki has been the only confirmed Obama Administration appointee at VA for over two months now. He needs a leadership team behind him to accomplish the President’s goal of transforming VA. Mr. Gould and Major Duckworth are worthy nominees who will help Secretary Shinseki achieve that goal.

“Mr. Gould has valuable experience leading complex organizations in the private sector, in addition to his government and military service. He will need this kind of know-how as Deputy Secretary, which traditionally serves as VA’s chief operating officer.

“Major Duckworth has proven herself as a veterans’ advocate. She is a rising star among the newest generation of returning servicemembers and I know she will be a valuable asset at VA.”

“The veterans who VA serves deserve a quick confirmation of both of these fine nominees.”

Chairman Akaka’s full statement on both nominees, and their written testimony, are available here: LINK

Hearing: Nomination of W. Scott Gould to be Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs and the nomination of L. Tammy Duckworth to be an Assistant Secretary of Veterans Affairs for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs.

United States Senate

Committee on Veterans' Affairs

April 1, 2009 9:30 a.m.

Russell 418

Hearing on the nomination of W. Scott Gould to be Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs and the nomination of L. Tammy Duckworth to be an Assistant Secretary of Veterans Affairs for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs.

Click Here to View Hearing click on above link to see the DVD
1 - Committee Leadership

Chairman Daniel K. Akaka
2 - Committee Leadership

Ranking Member Richard Burr
Panel I

W. Scott Gould, Deputy Secretary-designate of the Department of Veterans Affairs
Panel II

L. Tammy Duckworth, Designate to be Assistant Secretary of Veterans Affairs for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs, Department of Veterans Affairs


Year: [2009], 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005
Month: May, [April], March, February, January
April, 2009
Hearing published on: April 22, 2009
Hearing: Pending health-related legislation
[April 22, 2009]

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Administration Is Debating Release of Interrogation Memos

Administration Is Debating Release of Interrogation Memos

Published: March 31, 2009

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is intensely debating whether and when to release documents from the Bush administration related to harsh interrogation methods used on prisoners belonging to Al Qaeda, according to administration and Congressional officials.

Doug Mills/The New York Times
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. has argued for releasing classified material.

Some officials, including Gregory B. Craig, the White House counsel, and Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., have argued for disclosing the material as quickly as possible to distance the new administration from the most controversial policies of the Bush years. Mr. Holder and other top officials have condemned the most extreme of the past interrogation techniques, waterboarding, as illegal torture, and they see no reason to hide from public view what they consider the mistakes of their predecessors.

But some former and current Central Intelligence Agency officials say a rush to release classified material could expose intelligence methods and needlessly offend dedicated counterterrorism officers. Some administration and Congressional officials said John O. Brennan, a C.I.A. veteran who now serves as President Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser, has urged caution in disclosing interrogation documents.

One test on the disclosure issue will come this week in federal court in New York. By Thursday, the Justice Department must tell a judge overseeing a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union whether it will release three legal memorandums from 2005, signed by Steven G. Bradbury, who worked in the department’s Office of Legal Counsel under President George W. Bush, that offered legal justification for harsh interrogation.

The Justice Department had asked Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein of Federal District Court in Manhattan to delay a decision on whether to order the release of the memorandums, suggesting that the government might voluntarily release them. Government lawyers could turn them over this week or seek a further delay.

A White House spokesman, Ben LaBolt, declined to comment on internal talks about the disclosure issue, noting that the matter involved current litigation. A Justice Department spokesman, Matt Miller, said only that “the memos are being reviewed for possible release.”

The Obama administration has already made public some legal opinions from the Bush Justice Department, and both President Obama and Mr. Holder have pledged a new policy of openness. But they are listening to the objections of intelligence officials. Newsweek reported this week that Michael V. Hayden, who stepped down in February as C.I.A. director, was lobbying against disclosing the Bradbury memorandums.

Meanwhile, some Congressional Democrats have become frustrated with what they consider to be the slow pace in releasing information.

On Tuesday, two Democratic senators, Richard J. Durbin of Illinois and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, wrote to the Justice Department to complain about delays in the release of a report by the its ethics office on the role of department lawyers in providing legal advice on waterboarding and other interrogation methods under President Bush.

A draft of the report completed in December by the department’s Office of Professional Responsibility is described by officials who have been briefed on its contents as highly critical of three authors of legal memorandums on interrogation: Jay S. Bybee, John C. Yoo and Mr. Bradbury.

Answering a query from the two senators last week, M. Faith Burton, the acting head of legislative affairs at the Justice Department, suggested that the report was far from ready for public release. She said copies had been given to the former department lawyers whose work it criticizes and the department was awaiting their comments before beginning additional reviews.

“Due to the complexity and classification level of the draft report, the review process described above likely will require substantial time and effort,” Ms. Burton wrote.

In their reply on Tuesday, Mr. Durbin and Mr. Whitehouse objected to the delays and expressed concern that the multiple reviews might water down the report.

In his presidential campaign, Mr. Obama repeatedly criticized the C.I.A.’s interrogation program and other counterterrorism programs. Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. repeated the criticism at C.I.A. headquarters during the swearing in of the agency’s new director, Leon E. Panetta. But Mr. Obama has said he prefers to look forward rather than backward and has not endorsed a Congressional proposal for a “truth commission” to investigate Bush counterterrorism programs.

The question of what documents will be declassified and released promises to be a continuing challenge for the administration. As part of its lawsuit, the A.C.L.U. is seeking, among many other documents, material related to the destruction of C.I.A. interrogation videotapes, reports by the agency’s inspector general and Defense Department documents related to the abuse and death of prisoners.

I don't normally touch on political decisions on this veterans news site, however so far the only ones ever held accountable were low ranking enlisted personnel from Abu Graib, and I for one do not believe "Rumsfeld or Cheney's explanation that they were jsut bad apples" the apparent problems at Abu Graib started within 2 weeks after General Miller and a training team arrived from Gitmo in Iraq and less than weeks later the pictures of the abuse were taken, also none of the non identified Intelligence people in the pics were prosecuted just the MPs, why?

I am sick and tired of low ranking personnel having to take the fall for programs that were obviously approved at the highest levels, and these memo's are just the beginning of the doors being opened on this nasty American history.

Spain is doing what our justice department should be doing, starting an investigation into war crimes approved by lawyers that worked at DOD, Justice and the White House and all the people involved SHOULD be held accountable. Not just the privates and NCO's, it's time the leaders and decision makers paid their debts to society.

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If you served in Iraq and were exposed to Burn pits

If you served in Iraq and were exposed to Burn pits

See to provide your info

Other people you can contact for more information about burn pits:

Kerry Baker (Disabled American Veterans), 202-314-5229

Patrick Campbell (Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America), 202-544-7692

Kelly Kennedy, Military Health/Science Reporter (Military Times), 703-642-7317

Will Jenkins (Office of U.S. Congressman Tim Bishop), 202-225-3826

Lawmakers seek details of burn pit data

By Kelly Kennedy - Staff writer
Posted : Tuesday Mar 31, 2009 16:54:07 EDT

Troops exposed to fumes from open-air burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan face “significant danger,” according to independent scientists hired by Congress to look at a study conducted by the military on the burn pit at Joint Base Balad, the largest U.S. facility in Iraq.

“Independent scientists who have reviewed the joint study of Balad Air Base have informed us that there is a significant danger that veterans may become ill as a result of exposure to fumes emanating from such burn pits,” states a letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates signed and sent by eight lawmakers on March 30. “They also noted that the underlying data supporting the study was not included and that it will be difficult to ascertain the potential health care implications of exposure to the fumes without this data.”

The letter asks Gates to provide that data to Congress and the Government Accountability Office, even if it needs to be reviewed in a classified setting.

The letter is signed by Sens. Russ Feingold, D-Wis.; Evan Bayh, D-Ind; and Ron Wyden, D-Ore.; and Reps. Tim Bishop, D-N.Y.; Steve Cohen, D-Tenn.; John Hall, D-N.Y.; Maurice Hinchey, D-N.Y.; and Carol Shea-Porter, D-N.H.

“We are concerned that veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan may be ill, and some may have actually died, as a result of exposure to dangerous toxins produced by burn pits used to destroy waste,” the letter states. “The Military Times reports that scores of returning veterans who were exposed to burn pits display similar symptoms: chronic bronchitis, asthma, sleep apnea, chronic coughs and allergy-like symptoms. Several also have cited heart problems, lymphoma and leukemia.”

Lawmakers also have sent letters to Secretary of Veterans Affairs Erik Shinseki, who said VA is working with the Defense Department to connect troop exposure data with possible ailments; and to Gen. David Petraeus, chief of U.S. Central Command, asking that the burn pits be monitored for safety.

Petraeus said the military would monitor the pits, and that incinerators are being added to reduce exposure to chemicals, such as dioxins, benzene and volatile organic compounds known to cause cancer.

More than 150 veterans have contacted Military Times with illnesses and ailments that they believe are related to the burn pits, which have been used to burn everything from plastic bottles to petroleum products to medical waste. In some small locations — such as combat outposts with only a couple of hundred people — trash has been dumped and burned within feet of troops’ living quarters.

At Balad, as much as 240 tons of waste was burned every day in monstrous pits that created large plumes of black smoke. Service members say their living quarters were often filled with smoke and even ash, though Air Force officials say Balad now has two incinerators to handle the waste.

Kerry Baker, Disabled American Veterans’ assistant national legislative director, has been gathering a database of those sick combat vets, and said he now has 182 people on his list. Of those, 48 have developed lymphoma, leukemia or another form of cancer; 55 have pulmonary disorders including asthma and asthma-like symptoms; and others report multiple sclerosis, sleep apnea and heart problems. At least 16 veterans in the database have died, Baker said.

Defense officials have said there are no known long-term health effects due to burn-pit exposure, but lawmakers say the issue deserves closer scrutiny.

“Our experience with treating illnesses caused by Agent Orange and Gulf War Illness taught us that we must be vigilant in monitoring and treating our veterans long after they have returned from the battlefield,” the letter states. “Although the Department of Defense currently maintains that there are no health dangers to troops from exposure to burn pits, we believe it is premature to dismiss concerns raised about burn pits after only a few years.”

Will Jenkins, a spokesman for Rep. Tim Bishop, also has created a Web site for people who would like more information about the burn pits, including the studies released by the military. People may also share their burn pit stories at the site, learn how to seek help, or read media accounts of the burn pits.

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NYC Veterans versus Bloomberg

From: Joseph A. Bello []
Sent: Tuesday, March 31, 2009 9:24 PM
To: Joseph A. Bello
Subject: Huffington Post: Mayor 3? NYC Veterans 0

Article regarding MOVA and Mayor Bloomberg that Luis Carlos Montalvan and I co-wrote. Please pass to others. Enjoy...Joe


Bloomberg 3? NYC Veterans 0
by Joe Bello & Luis Carlos MontalvĂĄn

Every Memorial and Veterans' Day, elected officials praise veterans and the sacrifices they have made while in uniform. However, that sacrifice does not end when they return home to their families and communities.

For many veterans, the hardest and most enduring sacrifice begins the moment they return home. The combat load they shouldered for their country endures long after war is over.

For most, it lasts a lifetime.

This is especially true in New York.

New York has sent over 70,000 troops to Iraq and Afghanistan and has the fourth largest veteran population in the country. Overall, there are almost 12,000 service members from the state currently deployed in both the Iraq and Afghanistan theaters of combat, many of whom are from the New York City area.

However, six years into the war in Iraq, and eight into the war in Afghanistan, many Active Duty, Reserve and National Guard veterans have come home to a city administration that does a lot of talking and thanking but nothing, other than a breakfast at Gracie Mansion on Veterans' Day, in terms of actual, tangible services.

Ask any veteran and he or she will tell you that over the past several years New York City's Mayor's Office of Veterans' Affairs (MOVA) has done little or nothing to assist the hundreds of thousands of veterans in New York City, if these courageous and honorable individuals even know the office exists at all.

In January 2007, Crain's New York Business reported that New York City veterans would need help with housing, mental health issues, and job counseling and that they will turn increasingly to city agencies that are ill-equipped to handle the influx.

Two years later, that shameful truth has not changed, except to get worse.

According to a statement on the MOVA website, Commissioner Newman asserts that the office "is committed to expanding opportunities and services for the veteran community and to give back to the men and women who have given so much for our country."
However, this lofty sentiment has not resulted in any real tangible actions that benefit our heroes.

Despite Mayor Bloomberg's year-old decision to elevate the office to a Commissioner-level position, the situation for veterans has not changed. MOVA's communication and outreach to the veteran community is still virtually non-existent.

This has resulted in a situation in which veterans, returning service members and even their families find themselves stumbling through a frustrating web of city government bureaucracy, complete with aggravating runarounds and shameless stonewalling.

Even the free 311 hotline the city consistently promotes has not been helpful, as many veterans say their calls are met with no real informational assistance.

Most disturbing, however, is the lack of leadership, conviction and direction from MOVA. As a result, the majority of veterans view MOVA as an office that is unresponsive, unhelpful, and a waste of taxpayer's dollars.

New York City's veteran community has all but given up on trying to deal with MOVA. Instead, veterans turn to veteran service organizations, veteran resource centers, and an increasing number of community-based organizations that offer services not only to veterans, but to their families as well.

In essence, MOVA has become a redundant operation that can only refer veterans to those who offer actual services or, as they like to call it, "partnerships."

However, even with all of MOVA's problems, the main problem is the Bloomberg administration.

When asked for assistance by constituent veterans, the majority of our local elected officials, including the Mayor, repeatedly regurgitate the same phrase,

"Veterans issues are federal issues, not local issues."

This response belies the very existence of MOVA, which was established in 1987 to:

" with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the New York State Division of Veterans' Affairs (NYSDVA), City Agencies, veterans' organizations and other stakeholders to offer services to veterans, their dependents and survivors; while encouraging innovative partnerships to ensure creative problem solving."

To underscore this lack of support, the Mayor's Office of Veterans' Affairs is consistently underfunded by the city while the state continues to fund more to the office. For fiscal year 2009, out of a city budget totaling $59 billion dollars, the Bloomberg administration contributed a grand total of $175,000 to MOVA (his own office); while New York State contributed $181,000.

The majority of these funds go to the salaries of four individuals who work at MOVA. Thus, no money is or can be directed towards any tangible services that could help any city veterans looking for actual assistance.

Perhaps the most flagrant evidence of the Mayor's negligence towards veterans is the fact that his semi-annual Mayor's Management Report (MMR), which covers 46 city agencies and organizations, does not even include MOVA.

The February 2009 MMR does not even once mention the word "veteran" and yet the report states that it addresses:

"...those [agencies] that have a direct impact on citizens - including the provision of fundamental support services to other agencies involved in serving citizens."

For too many years now, MOVA has acted merely as window-dressing for the Mayor to point to a couple of times a year when Memorial and Veterans' Day rolls around or when the VA Secretary comes to visit.

In reality, MOVA should act as a powerful veterans advocate for the city. One of MOVA's missions is to advise the Mayor on issues and initiatives impacting veterans and the military community. Yet here again, MOVA is derelict in its job.

When the ongoing New York VA Regional Office scandal first came to light last year, the Mayor and MOVA's Commissioner were noticeably quiet.

Perhaps the Mayor did not want to embarrass the Secretary of Veterans' Affairs as that might have jeopardized the city's VA's Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) funding that is currently used to attempt to lower the numbers of homeless veterans in the city.

Whatever the reason, the fact remains that the Mayor and his Commissioner have been MIA on this issue.

With President Obama announcing plans to start bringing the majority of troops home by next year, many believe that the coming years will bring a new surge of returning veterans with real needs. These new veterans, most of whom will have served multiple tours, will bring home with them a range of issues including PTSD, TBI, and other readjustment and reintegration issues.

There are already 800,000 veterans in New York City from past military conflicts. Because there has been no leadership from the Mayor or MOVA with respect to caring for these individuals who freely chose to serve this nation and this city, how can Mayor Bloomberg or Commissioner Newman expect to address the influx of veterans which soon will arrive?

It seems sensible that if veterans in New York City are not receiving substantial assistance from MOVA, then the time has come to close shop and allocate these funds towards services that would actually be of support to veterans.

For too long, veterans have watched the Mayor's left hand work in disharmony with the right. His message towards veterans and their families during his past two terms has been long on thanks but short on substance.

Years into the wars in the Middle East, 2009 has turned into another election year for Mayor Bloomberg. The Mayor and his Office of Veterans' Affairs have done little or nothing for our city's veterans during this same period of time.

If Mayor Bloomberg has been unwilling to step up to the plate and go to bat for veterans during his last two terms in office -- but can move heaven and earth to attain his own self-centered ends -- then we veterans (and our family members) who have served the people of New York City by defending their freedoms at the cost of physical and emotional harm, deserve a better Mayor and a better candidate!

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California Law Firm Seeks Injured El Toro Veterans & Workers

California Law Firm Seeks Injured El Toro Veterans & Workers

by Robert O'Dowd, Staff Writer, Posted on March 30, 2009

A legal review and evaluation of possible injuries and deaths related to exposure to TCE/PCE and radium at former MCAS El Toro is underway by a Southern California law firm. There is no cost for the review or commitment for legal representation. Veterans, dependents, and civilian workers are encouraged to contact the law firm.

A trichloroethylene (TCE) toxic plume was discovered in 1985 off of Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) El Toro, California. El Toro was placed on the EPA Superfund list in 1990, closed in July 1999, and most of the land sold at a public auction in 2005. Once the Marine Corps’ premier air station, the former base sits deserted, a number of building torn down, part of the former base leased to Cal State Fullerton for classes, buildings demolished, most of the runways, taxiways and aprons still in tack, while according to the OC Register, Lennar has spent the “the last few months demolishing and removing existing El Toro structures to make way for grading.”


Two huge maintenance hangars in the industrial portion of the base were found to be the source of the toxic plume spreading off the base. Multiple contaminants were found on base near landfills, including radionuclides (Uranium 235, Radium 226 and Radium 228).

A radium 226 paint room and administrative office space in Hangar 296 were contaminated with radium. The radium 226 paint room was used decades ago to make a fluorescent paint for aircraft gauges and instruments. Some of the radium waste wound up in base landfills. The administrative space above the radium paint room was once occupied by the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing’s Supply Support Division. The California Department of Public Health, citing concerns over the radiological survey conducted by the Navy, has not released this hangar for unrestricted use, even though the Navy completed a “final” radiological report in 2002.

As is the case with the other 132 military bases on the EPA Superfund list, no veteran, dependent or civilian employee has been notified of their possible exposure to contaminants and the health effects.

El Toro’s Laundry List of Contaminants
EPA lists multiple Contaminants of Concern for El Toro on their internet site. According to EPA: “COCs are the chemical substances found at the site that the EPA has determined pose an unacceptable risk to human health or the environment. These are the substances that are addressed by cleanup actions at the site. Identifying COCs is a process where the EPA identifies people and ecological resources that could be exposed to contamination found at the site, determines the amount and type of contaminants present, and identifies the possible negative human health or ecological effects that could result from contact with the contaminants.” (See:

For each COC, the EPA internet site links the reader to the health effects identified by the Agency for Toxic Substances Registry (ATSDR). ATSDR under the Department of Health and Human Services, is responsible for performing for performing public health assessments of EPA Superfund sites.

Trichloroethylene (TCE) and tetrachloroethylene (PCE) are two toxic chemicals found in the base’s the soil and groundwater. TCE and PCE are both excellent cleaning solvents. TCE was used at El Toro for decades to degrease aircraft parts and for other applications. PCE was used as a metal degreaser and dry cleaning solvent in the base drying cleaning facility in the industrial portion of the base, now repository of the administrative records supporting the Navy’s clean-up activities.

What are the health effects of TCE/PCE exposure?

ATSDR reported a number of health problems in children who were exposed in the womb from their mother drinking water contaminated with TCE and/or PCE include:

Small for gestational age
Low birth weight
Fetal death
Major heart defects
Neural tube defects
Oral cleft defects (including cleft lip)
Chonal atresia (nasal passages blocked with bone or tissue)
Eye defects
Major malformations
ATSDR reported health problems in people of all ages from drinking water contaminated with TCE and/or PCE include:

Non-Hodgkins lymphoma
Bladder cancer
Breast cancer
Lung cancer

ATSDR reported health problems in people of all ages from working with TCE and/or PCE include:

Hodgkins disease
Non-Hodgkins lymphoma
Cervical cancer
Kidney cancer
Liver/biliary cancer
Ovarian cancer
Prostate cancer
Neurological effects (delayed reaction times problems with short-term memory, visual perception, attention, and color vision)
Radium 226 Health Effects
ATSDR reported that: “Radium has been shown to cause effects on the blood (anemia) and eyes (cataracts). It also has been shown to affect the teeth, causing an increase in broken teeth and cavities. Patients who were injected with radium in Germany, from 1946 to 1950, for the treatment of certain diseases including tuberculosis were significantly shorter as adults than people who were not treated.”

How likely is radium to cause cancer?

ATSDR noted that: “Exposure to high levels of radium results in an increased incidence of bone, liver, and breast cancer. The EPA and the National Academy of Sciences, Committee on Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation, has stated that radium is a known human carcinogen.” (See:

No Cost or Commitment for Legal Review
El Toro veterans, dependents, and civilian workers with injuries possibly related to exposure to TCE/PCE, radium and other contaminants at former MCAS El Toro can contact Mr. Michael E. Gates, Carroll, Kelly, Trotter, Franzen and McKenna, 111 W. Ocean Boulevard, 14th Floor, Long Beach, California 90802-4646, Telephone: (562) 432-5855. Facsimile: (562) 432-8785.

Mr. Gates told me that there is no cost to this legal review. However, there is a need for information from injured parties: “Now that we are moving forward on this, I will need names and contact info, although I do not necessarily need to be contacted personally. I will also need retainers signed by everyone individually, but I will send out a standard PDF version that can be printed, signed, and sent back to me. This retainer will just say that the injured party agrees to have us represent them and also binds us with confidentiality.”

Mr. Gates emphasized that: “Until a retainer is signed by the injured party, NO LEGAL REPRESENTATION HAS COMMENCED, and the "review" is merely exploratory. However, any and ALL communication is strictly confidential.”

With exception of Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, no veteran, dependent or civilian employee of El Toro and the other 131 military bases on the EPA Superfund list has been notified of their possible exposure to contaminants and the health effects. The Navy and Marine Corps are attempting to notify Camp Lejeune veterans and civilians but only after Congressional legislation and the tragic deaths of children from the TCE contaminated wells on base.

One positive outcome of any legal review is that depending on the number of injured El Toro parties, the government may be forced to notify veterans and civilian workers of El Toro of their possible exposure to contaminants and the health effects. There’s no question that this is the right thing to do for those who served our county honorably.
California Law Firm Seeks Injured El Toro Veterans & Workers

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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

VA secretary opens Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic

VA secretary opens Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic

by Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

3/30/2009 - SNOWMASS VILLAGE, Colo. (AFNS) -- Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki opened the 23rd annual National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic here March 29, encouraging more than 400 participants he said had found their way "to the top of the mountain in search of miracles."

"Thank you for your service. Thank you for your examples of courage and determination," the former Army chief of staff told the group, which includes about 150 veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. "You have overcome a lot of obstacles in life to be here, and you will overcome many more by the time this clinic is over."

The clinic, jointly sponsored by the Department of Veterans Affairs and Disabled American Veterans, uses recreation as a rehabilitative tool for veterans with disabilities ranging from spinal cord injuries and orthopedic amputations to visual impairment and neurological conditions.

As they learn adaptive Alpine and Nordic skiing and get introduced to rock climbing, scuba diving, trapshooting, wheelchair fencing, snowmobiling and sled hockey during a six-day program, the veterans' eyes get opened to a whole new world of opportunity.

"I think you will do things this week some of you thought you would never do again," Secretary Shinseki told the veterans. "I hope you are as excited about the experiences you are going to have as all the rest of us are at being here to witness your triumphs."

Secretary Shinseki, a disabled veteran who lost part of his right foot in Vietnam, said experiencing a life-altering event changes the body, but not the person.

"Your dreams and hopes are just as real today," he told the veterans. "It's the heart and the mind that keep hope alive."

The secretary praised the strides the veterans have made in proving the human spirit's ability to triumph over adversity.

"Your courage and determination speak for themselves," he said. "We marvel at your spirit. We marvel at your perseverance. We celebrate your accomplishments."

He urged the veterans to take those accomplishments a step further this week as they experience the "exhilaration and healing powers of these mountains" and the support of corporate sponsors and volunteers who make the winter sports clinic possible.

"This is not just about this one week," Secretary Shinseki said.

He expressed hope that the participants will gain newfound confidence here that helps them through the next 51 weeks, so they return to next year's clinic even further along in their rehabilitation.

Raymond E. Dempsey, national commander of Disabled American Veterans and a first-timer at the clinic, encouraged the veterans to think of the week ahead as a battle they're entering together.

"We all have a fight in front of us this week," he said. "We will meet the mountain as individuals, and also as a band of brothers."

Mr. Dempsey said he looks forward to experiencing the camaraderie disabled veterans find at the winter sports clinic.

"This is a chance to gather inspiration, an opportunity to be mentors and be mentored," he said. "And you won't be the same when you go home."

Another newcomer to the clinic is Chad Erumpton, a Marine Corps staff sergeant who had both legs amputated last year as a result of an improvised explosive device attack in Iraq in 2005.

Sergeant Erumpton, who was medically retired in April 2006, snowboarded for 10 years before being wounded. Now, he's looking forward to taking his first whirl down the slopes using adaptive snowboard techniques.

"This is a great program," he said of the clinic. "I'm meeting some great people, and networking and learning about resources. But most of all, I'm just here to have fun."

Comment on this story (comments may be published on Air Force Link)

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Congress passes bill to make Vets’ Corps

Congress passes bill to make Vets’ Corps

By Rick Maze - Staff writer
Posted : Tuesday Mar 31, 2009 16:28:19 EDT

Legislation that would create a Veterans’ Corps as a new element of the AmeriCorps national service plan has passed Congress and is on its way to the White House for President Barack Obama’s signature.

Rep. Phil Hare, D-Ill., one of the chief sponsors of the Veterans’ Corps portion of the national service expansion, said he has high hopes for the new program that will give veterans a way to help other veterans make the transition to civilian life.

“As more and more troops return from Iraq and Afghanistan, fulfilling our promise to them will be an even greater priority for this nation,” Hare said in a statement. “The Veterans’ Corps will help us recruit and mobilize veterans into service projects providing educational and economic opportunities, job training, mentoring and outreach to other veterans.”

Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., who helped shepherd the national service expansion through the House of Representatives, said having a program aimed at veterans makes sense.

“With the economy in crisis, and unemployment for veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan at 11 percent, this bill rightly addresses the harsh realities facing veterans and their families,” he said. “Veterans understand better than anyone the unique needs of their fellow servicemen, servicewomen and military families.”

There is little doubt the bill will be signed into law, as the details are modeled after an expansion of national service that Obama called for last year during the presidential campaign.

The bill, HR 1388, does not specify how many people will be able to sign up for the Veterans’ Corps, but it greatly expands the size of the U.S. national service program.

Under the bill, which lawmakers decided to name the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, the number of national service positions would be about 88,000 in 2010 but would grow to 250,000 by 2017.

The Corporation of National and Community Service, which oversees the program, will decide how many of the positions would fall to the Veterans’ Corps.

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Published in the Federal register today the NEW GI Bill


This is the link to the entire 42 page PDF about the entire program all you need to know.

March 31, 2009
Part III
Department of
Veterans Affairs
38 CFR Part 21
Post-9/11 GI Bill; Final Rule

38 CFR Part 21
RIN 2900–AN10
Post-9/11 GI Bill
AGENCY: Department of Veterans Affairs.
ACTION: Final rule.
SUMMARY: The Department of Veterans
Affairs (VA) is issuing this final rule to
establish regulations regarding a new
educational assistance program for
individuals who serve on active duty
after September 10, 2001. The new
program, known as the Post-9/11 GI Bill,
was authorized by title V of the
Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2008
(Post-9/11 Veterans Educational
Assistance Act of 2008). This final
regulation includes the rules necessary
to implement the provisions of the Post-
9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance
Act of 2008 that govern the Post-9/11 GI
DATES: Effective Date: This final rule
will become effective on August 1, 2009.
Brandye R. Terrell, Regulation
Development Team Leader, Education
Service, Department of Veterans Affairs
(225C), 810 Vermont Avenue, NW.,
Washington, DC 20420. Telephone:
(202) 461–9822. (This is not a toll-free
document published in the Federal
Register on December 23, 2008 (73 FR
78876), VA published a proposal to
establish VA regulations to implement
the provisions of the Post-9/11 Veterans
Educational Assistance Act of 2008 that
govern the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Interested
persons were invited to submit written
comments on or before January 22,
2009. We received comments from 38
organizations and 8 individuals. We
have made several changes based on
these comments.

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Coming Home: Military Families Cope with Change

Coming Home: Military Families Cope with Change

Tune in to PBS on April 1, 2009 at 8 p.m. to join Queen Latifah, John Mayer, and your Sesame Street friends for “Coming Home: Military Families Cope With Change.” This family television special tells the stories of military families coping with the challenges and impact of combat-related injuries—both visible (such as the loss of a limb) and invisible (such as post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury). Join these families as they recount their heroic struggles and discover the remarkable resiliency that sets them on the path to finding a “new normal.” With help from Elmo, Rosita, and the Sesame Street friends, "Coming Home" gives voice to children as they play a central role in the family's adjustment process, and encourages them to be what they are: kids. The program also features coping strategies and powerful real stories aimed to help these families and others find ways to be there for each other.

Join us as we salute the extraordinary courage of children, offer the general public ways to support service members in their communities, and provide a powerful glimpse into the lives of military families. We encourage children to watch “Coming Home” with a parent or caregiver so they can ask an adult any questions they might have.

“Coming Home” is part of Sesame Workshop’s “Talk, Listen, Connect” initiative, providing support and resources for families experiencing deployment, multiple deployments, or changes due to combat-related injury. “Talk, Listen, Connect” kits include DVDs and print materials for children and parents.

Preview show at web site

Some materials available for download

Find your station http://tinyurl.

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Monday, March 30, 2009

VA Process Overly Burdensome - House Subcommittee Reviews Combat PTSD

VA Process Overly Burdensome - House Subcommittee Reviews Combat PTSD

Written by Imperial Valley News
Monday, 30 March 2009
Washington, DC - The House Veterans’ Affairs Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs Subcommittee, led by Chairman John Hall (D-NY), conducted a hearing to examine the issues surrounding how the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) applies the provision “engaged in combat with the enemy” when veterans suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of military service.

The hearing focused on the difficulties veterans encounter when asked to prove stressors to support their claims. The Subcommittee examined how combat is defined and PTSD evaluated by the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) versus the Department of Defense.
“The nature of wartime service has changed as many can agree,” said Chairman Hall. “Warfare encompasses acts of terrorism, insurgency, and guerilla tactics. No place is safe and the enemy may not be readily identifiable. What does it mean to have been engaged in combat with the enemy to a sufficient enough degree to prove a stressor that in turn warrants service connection for PTSD by the VA? I believe we need to re-open this dialogue.”

Ian De Planque, Assistant Director of Rehabilitation at The American Legion, explained that it can be very difficult for a veteran to prove that a medical condition is service-connected, as required by Title 38, Section 1154 (b), United States Code. A veteran must show three distinct things: that the event happened during military service, medical evidence of the disability, and also medical evidence of a relationship between the current medical condition and the in-service precipitating injury, disease or event. “Unfortunately for many veterans, the most difficult burden is establishing themselves as a combat veteran in order to benefit from the advantages by statute.”

De Planque continued: “Due to the fluidity of the modern battlefield and the nature of the enemy’s tactics, there is no defined front line or rear (safe) area. It is simply a reality of today’s warfare that service members in traditional non-combat occupations and support roles are subjected to enemy attacks such as mortar fire, sniper fire, and improvised explosive devices (IED) just as their counterparts in combat arms-related occupational fields. Unfortunately, such incidents are rarely documented making it extremely difficult, if not impossible in some instances, for many veterans to verify in order to prove that they ‘engaged in combat with the enemy,’ to the satisfaction of VA, to trigger the combat presumptions of Section 1154(b).”

Veteran Carolyn Schapper, a representative from Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, explained how women veterans have a greater burden of proof when it comes to establishing combat-related PTSD. “The traditional understanding of female servicemembers’ military duties has been the biggest hurdle to getting them adequate compensation for their injury,” said Schapper. “The nature of PTSD and other psychological injuries makes it difficult to identify the exact stressor, and therefore, disability may be determined based on the claims processor’s perception of exposure to combat. While a service-connection for PTSD would seem obvious for a male infantryman, it could easily come under more scrutiny for a female intelligence soldier despite how much actual contact either of us had with enemy forces.”

Officials from the VA discussed the PTSD claims process and the challenges met by VA through the years as PTSD claims and warfare tactics have evolved. Bradley Mayes, Director of Compensation and Pension Service at VBA testified, “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.”

Deputy Chief Consultant Antonette Zeiss from the Office of Patient Care Services at the Veterans Health Administration reported that VA treated 442,862 unique veterans for PTSD in VA medical centers, clinics, inpatient settings, and residential rehabilitation programs.

Chairman Hall concluded the hearing and said, “The original intent of Congress was to extend full cooperation to our war-time wounded veterans. Over time, VA regulations and procedures, coupled with narrowing court decisions, have resulted in a more restrictive process for our veterans trying to prove an injury incurred in combat. The reality is that VA relies on a 1941 statute to determine benefits for our war-time veterans. It is time to clarify the meaning of ‘combat with the enemy’ to better reflect a more modern era for purposes of establishing service-connected disabilities.”

“There has got to be a better way for VA to assist veterans suffering from PTSD,” said Bob Filner, Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. “We know the costs in lost lives, health impacts, and decreased employment productivity when the fallout from combat issues is not addressed. We need to address the needs of our returning veterans and understand that PTSD is a consequence of war - and the true cost of war includes the cost of the warrior.”

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Homeless Veterans Could Get Home of Their Own

Homeless Veterans Could Get Home of Their Own

Isaac Paul Vasquez - KFOX Weekend Producer
Posted: 8:09 pm MDT March 30, 2009
Updated: 8:24 pm MDT March 30, 2009

EL PASO, Texas -- The housing authority of the city of El Paso approved a plan to help homeless veterans find a place to live.

The Shelter Plus Care Veterans Lodge Program will provide more than $400,000 in rental assistance to chronically homeless disabled veterans.

Along with housing, veterans will also get counseling to help with any mental, drug or alcohol problems. “So they get the shelter plus the care that they have earned and deserve and need to regain self-sufficiency to lead happy and productive lives," said representative for the Housing Authority of El Paso Shane Griffith.

Homeless veterans must be referred through the V.A. To schedule an interview call 564-6159

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10 colonoscopy patients have hepatitis, VA says

10 colonoscopy patients have hepatitis, VA says

Equipment used on thousands at 3 facilities wasn't properly sterilized

updated 1:52 p.m. ET, Fri., March. 27, 2009
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. - The Veterans Affairs department says 10 people have tested positive for infectious liver disease since they were exposed to contaminated colonoscopy equipment.

The 10 are among thousands of patients who have been warned to get blood tests since being treated at VA facilities in Murfreesboro, Tenn., Miami and Augusta, Ga. All three sites failed to properly sterilize equipment between treatments.

VA spokeswoman Katie Roberts said Friday that four Tennessee patients have tested positive for hepatitis B. Six have tested positive for hepatitis C, a potentially life-threatening form of the viral infection that can cause permanent liver damage.

She says the VA will make sure they get treatment even though it's not known if the infections came from colonoscopies at its facilities.

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