Saturday, April 11, 2009

Military and Veterans funerals

Pass this info on to your local Funeral Homes, and Veteran Organizations. Give a copy to your loved ones, save..printout

Here are some of the Hardest words to say

"On behalf of the President of the U.S. and the people of a grateful nation, may I present this flag as a token of appreciation for the honorable and faithful service your loved one rendered this nation."

A web site with many links for Military Funeral Honors

Below is what the Military will provide..when resources are available, for Veterans & Military Retirees.

Many local Veteran Organizations throughout the US provide Funeral Honors to area veterans. Many families are grateful to have at least one member of the detail to be in the Military Uniform of the branch of service the deceased served in. In most cases the State Headquarters of the National Guard or Military Dept is a good point of contact, and will work with DOD as needed to obtain a member from Veteran’s military branch of service. Support is also often provided by units from nearby military bases, Armories and Reserve Centers. A google search for nearby military base name, AND Casualty Assistance should provide some contacts.

Also see: Lookup Installations & Directories of Services

Many funeral directors just call the local veteran’s post, they are used to working with, and never attempt to contact the military, nor attempt to obtain a member of the Veteran’s branch of service. This is a disservice to the family and to the deceased veteran. Any assistance provided by the military does not preclude the local veterans community from assisting, providing additional members as needed, bugler, color guards, pall bearers, honor guards, etc.

A Good contact in Illinois: Illinois Military Funeral Honors
Department of Military Affairs
1301 N. MacArthur Blvd.,
Springfield, IL 62702

This will get the area Casualty Assistance Office

Army, 800-350-7746
Navy, 877-478-3988
Air Force, 618-256-4586
Marines, 866-826-3628
Coast Guard, 216-902-6269

The basic Military Funeral Honors (MFH) ceremony consists of the folding and presentation of the United States flag to the veterans’ family and the playing of Taps. The ceremony is performed by a funeral honors detail consisting of at least two members of the Armed Forces.

The Funeral Honors rendered to you or your veteran will be determined by the status of the veteran. The type of Funeral Honors may be Full Military Honors, 7 Person Detail or a Standard Honors Team Detail.

At least one of the funeral honors detail will be from the Armed Force in which the deceased veteran served. Taps may be played by a bugler or, if a bugler is not available, by using a quality recorded version. Military Funeral Honor Teams may act as Pall Bearers if requested by the veteran/family.

To obtain funeral honors as a veteran or a family member of a veteran, you must have a copy of the Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty, Department of Defense Form 214 ( discharge paperwork). This documentation should be given to the funeral home you have selected. The funeral home will contact the Casualty Area Command (CAC) that handles your respective state. The CAC will then locate a Funeral Honors Team in your area to cover your veteran’s funeral.

All requests for Funeral Honors are on a first come, first serve basis.
The only two exceptions are:

Medal of Honor Recipients

Soldiers Killed in Action

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Full Military Honors Detail

Reserved for:

Service Member Killed in Action (KIA)

Medal of Honor Recipient

General Officers (O7 and Above)

Enlisted Pay Grade E9: Sergeant Major (Army), Master Chief Petty Officer (Navy), Master Gunnery Sergeant/Sergeant Major (Marines), Chief Master Sergeant (Air Force)

Consists of:

Team of 16-21 Soldiers

3 Volleys of Rifle Fire

Playing of Taps

Fold and Present American Flag

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Seven Person Detail

Reserved for:

Retired Service Members (served 20 years of Active Duty in the Armed Forces)

Active Duty, National Guard/Reserve Solder Not KIA

Full Military Honor Detail may be received if Retiree or Soldier's unit is willing to perform Full Military Honors

Consists of:

Team of 7 Soldiers

3 Volleys of Rifle Fire

Playing of Taps

Fold and Present American Flag

Return to Top

Standard Honors Team Detail

Reserved for:

Veterans with an Honorable Discharge on their Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty, Department of Defense Form 214

Consists of:

Team of 2-3 Soldiers

Playing of Taps

Fold and Present American Flag

From an Army document


1. THE SELECTION. You have been selected by your installation commander to perform casualty assistance duties for _______________________________.

2. THE PREPARATION. You have been tasked with one of the most difficult duties you will ever be called upon to perform during your military career. You are charged by the Secretary of the Army to render all reasonable assistance needed to settle the personal affairs of a deceased soldier, active duty or retired. These duties may include assisting the next of kin (NOK) in making all necessary decisions to arrange for handling the remains, funeral arrangements, collecting death gratuity, filing for benefits and entitlements, and clearing post quarters. Your duties as a CAO have priority over all other duties.

IMPORTANT LINKS: Army G-1 | Army Homepage | AKO Homepage | Department of Veterans Affairs - Survivor Benefits | Army Families Online - Survivor Resource Library | Department of Defense - Survivors Guide | Military Services Relief Societies

OTHER CASUALTY WEBSITES: Air Force Casualty | Navy Casualty | Marine Corps Casualty

Website inquires to: CMAOC Webmaster

A Survivor’s Guide to Benefits…primarily for Active Duty

Standard Form 180 - Request Pertaining to Military Records

VA Brochure on Veterans Benefits

Presidential Memorial Certificate

Headstones and Markers Request and Applications

Arlington National Cemetery

Burial Flags

Various Bugle calls can be downloaded at:

No one available to play Taps?

Need Bugler for a funeral or an Event..
Go to

The American Ceremonial Bugle. Nickel silver 17 inch bugle, Insert that plays "Taps" and other calls*. Hard shell carry case.
Price: $525 (48 states)

Below on works for Funeral Directors

Expedited Process to Acquire a DD 214 Military Discharge

To acquire a DD 214 Military Discharge in an expedited manner when the family does not have one, the best method is to call the appropriate service branch Funeral Honors Coordinator. This individual will expedite the process through their liaisons at the Records Management Center in St. Louis. Here is a list of Funeral Honors Coordinators:

Office of the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense (Military Community and Family Policy)
Mr. Mark L. Ward or Dr. Lynda C. Davis
Office of MWR Policy
4000 Defense Pentagon
Room 5A726
Washington, DC 20301-4000

Ms. Pat Staton – 703-325-5305

Marine Corps
SSgt Jeremiah Elwell – 866-826-3628

LCDR Brian Behlke – 901-874-6672

Air Force
Mortuary Representative – 800-531-5803

Coast Guard
LT Terry Walsh – 202-475-5391

Verifying the Discharge Status of a Veteran

If a family does not have a DD 214 and you only need to verify the discharge status of the veteran, call the VA Regional office in your area. If the deceased veteran does not appear in their system, ask VA to contact the Records Management Center in St. Louis to get the verification (Again, this would just be a verification and would not necessarily involve receiving the actual DD 214 form).

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Senators propose registry for poisoned Iraq veterans

Also see:

Senators propose registry for poisoned Iraq veterans

by Jullie Sullivan
The Oregonian

Three U.S. senators want Oregon Army National Guard soldiers exposed to toxic chemicals in Iraq to be tracked and receive lifetime medical care for problems that result.

They introduced a bill Thursday to create a registry that would speed exams and treatment through the Department of Veterans Affairs. The legislation also authorizes a scientific review of evidence linking chemical exposure to health problems, much like the Agent Orange registry that was created for Vietnam veterans.

The proposal would affect at least 292 Oregon soldiers who served in Iraq in 2003, as well as hundreds from Indiana, South Carolina and West Virginia. The troops, including the first Oregonians into Iraq, may have been exposed to cancer-causing hexavalent chromium.

The bill would apply to other -- even future -- hazards.

"We have 3,000 Guard members about to deploy in May, and I want to make sure they're protected," said co-sponsor Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon. "They face enough risk, and they shouldn't have to battle their own government if they need treatment when they come home."

The bill would ease access to care that soldiers are already entitled to as veterans. But instead of veterans having to prove that certain medical conditions may be related to chemical exposure, the government would presume that connection, said Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Indiana.

"We are shifting the burden of proof," Bayh said.

Since January, more than two dozen Oregon veterans have asked to be placed on a registry and more than a dozen have reported health issues, mostly breathing problems. The troops were with the 1st Battalion, 162nd Infantry Division that served at the Qarmat Ali water treatment plant from April 2003 to June 2003. They were protecting civilian contractors from the Haliburton subsidiary KBR, which was restoring Iraqi oil production.

Bags of a corrosion fighter that contained hexavalent chromium had been spilled and piled, sometimes feet deep, at the plant. Soldiers may have been exposed while patrolling at the water plant, and they may have exposed other soldiers who shared their dusty living quarters or vehicles. Inhaling an amount as small as a grain of salt of hexavalent chromium can greatly increase the risk of cancer.

But nearly six years after their tour, some Oregon soldiers still may not know of the potential danger. A Guard spokesman said Thursday that 43 registered letters sent to 292 Oregon soldiers have been returned unopened.

Also Thursday, Rep. Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., introduced his own bill requiring the Department of Defense to notify soldiers in writing if they have been exposed to contaminants.

"When we send American soldiers overseas, we have a responsibility to protect their health and safety," Schrader said in a statement. "Our responsibility does not end when they leave the combat zone -- our responsibility to them and their families is a lifelong commitment."

Schrader has joined with Rep. Baron Hill, D-Ind., to introduce the U.S. House version of the Senate's registry bill.

Schrader has personally reached out to Larry Roberta of Aumsville whose story of being 100 percent disabled with lung and other problems since serving at the Iraqi water treatment plan was featured in The Oregonian on March 7.

"If it helps someone not have to go through the heartache we did, that would be nice," said Roberta's wife, Michelle.

Concerns about chemical exposures in Iraq had passed virtually unnoticed until last year when Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-North Dakota, held 18 hearings into waste, abuse and fraud. At one hearing in June, former civilian employees of Kellogg, Brown & Root, testified that their managers disregarded their concerns about hexavalent chromium. By the employees' own survey, 60 percent of those at the water plant were having health problems, including difficulty breathing and bloody noses. They included British and U.S. soldiers.

KBR whistleblowers had sued the company, a case now in arbitration, according to Houston attorney Mike Doyle. In September, Sens. Bayh, Dorgan, Wyden, Robert Byrd, D-W.V., and Richard Lugar, R-Ind., proposed an amendment to last year's National Defense Authorization Act to create a registry. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, then senators, were co-sponsors.

In December, 16 Indiana soldiers sued KBR. But it wasn't until Bayh mentioned the Oregon soldiers in a television program that the commanders of the Oregon Guard say they learned of the exposure.

For veterans such as Scott Ashby of Portland, the proposed legislation promises help. "After five years of living with health problems, it's so nice to see we are starting to make some headway." said Ashby, 41.

In July 2005, the Department of Defense acknowledged soldiers' exposure to other hazards in Iraq including radiation at Al Tuwaitha Nuclear Research Center; chemical and depleted uranium at Al-Samawah; lead at Camp War Eagle; the nerve-gas sarin in Baghdad; and hazardous smoke at the Al Mishraq Sulfur plant. Outside Iraq, soldiers faced industrial pollution at Ash Shuaiba Port in Kuwait and at Kharsi Khanabad in Uzbekistan.

Michelle Roberta said streamlining and informing the VA staff through a registry would help.

"You have to tell your story over and over," she said, "and that gets old." She hopes such tracking would help detect health problems that may not appear for years, especially cancer.

"It scares me to know that he might be a ticking time bomb," she said of her husband, Larry. "I keep telling him he's worth much more to me alive."

Link to Oregon Live and the article

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Friday, April 10, 2009

Military studies shed light on brain injuries

Military studies shed light on brain injuries

By Gregg Zoroya - USA Today
Posted : Wednesday Apr 8, 2009 16:33:32 EDT

ARLINGTON, Va. — Military scientists are learning how roadside bombs — the most common weapon used against U.S. troops in on the battlefield — harm the brain even when there is no other physical damage, according to research results released by the project’s lead scientist.

Researchers discovered a sliding scale of injury ranging from brain cell inflammation to cell damage or cell death, depending on the power of the blast, said Army Col. Geoffrey Ling, a neurologist at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

Future research that builds on these findings may lead to ways battlefield medics can use a combination of helmet sensors and over-the-counter pain reliever to identify and treat mild cases of blast-caused brain injury, Ling said.

Scientists also found that brain damage from an improvised explosive device can be made worse for those riding inside an armored Humvee because materials in the vehicle magnify the blast wave effect, Ling said.

Up to 360,000 veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan may have suffered brain injuries, the Pentagon announced in March. Many of those injuries are from IED blasts, and about 90 percent are so-called mild cases, in which recovery is expected.

An estimated 45,000 to 90,000 victims, however, suffer persistent symptoms such as memory loss, lack of balance and problem-solving difficulties.

“This really sheds light where there was none,” said Army Col. Mike Jaffee, director of the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center. “I think it’s extraordinarily important. It’s some of the first research and findings that help to illustrate ... the evolution of” traumatic brain injury.

During an 11-month period of research ending in December, scientists wrapped pigs in body armor and placed them in a Humvee simulator, in open fields and in a closed room and subjected them to varying degrees of explosions at a research laboratory in a location researchers declined to disclose. Pigs were used because their brains are structured much like the human brain, Ling said. Rats also were part of the study that has cost about $10 million so far.

Some key preliminary findings from the studies:

• A blast can injure the brain even without shrapnel or a victim being knocked down. The power of the explosion in the first fraction of a second — known as the primary blast effect — can damage or destroy brain cells in ways conventional imaging devices cannot see.

• The brain can tolerate low levels of blast, measured in pounds per square inch. At a certain pressure level that Ling would not disclose, brain cells become inflamed. At higher levels, cell death begins, Ling said.

• Brain cell inflammation occurs in mild TBI cases, he said. It caused balance and coordination problems in pigs, but healed in hours or weeks depending on the blast severity, Ling said. “It’s probably what a lot of the guys [in combat] are getting,” Ling said. “Shaken up a little bit, but they recover quickly. No surprise. That’s the natural order of the disease.”

• In the most severe of these mild cases, the inflammation can damage areas of the brain that have been associated with the later onset of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, Ling said. No connection between the blasts and these later diseases has been proved, he cautioned.

• Research will continue to determine whether basic over-the-counter drugs such as Motrin can help reduce the inflammation, Ling said, which could help treat troops suffering mild TBI on the battlefield. “That would be awesome,” he said.

• As scientists learn more about how much of a blast can cause brain cell inflammation or worse, they may use helmet sensors to alert medics when a service member needs a break from combat to heal a mild brain injury, Ling said. That would help scientists diagnose or identify the soldiers who are most at risk, he said.

• Unlike a blow to the head, where damage occurs at the point of impact, blast damage radiates across the brain, although it’s heaviest on the side facing the explosion, Ling said.

Pentagon: Pigs used for brain-injury testing

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Akaka applauds President’s clear commitment to secure funding for veterans’ health care


Akaka applauds President’s clear commitment to secure funding for veterans’ health care

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI), Chairman of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, praised President Barack Obama for his remarks today committing to advance funding for veterans’ health care and noted his support for the development of joint records between the Departments of Veterans Affairs and Defense. Senator Akaka is championing an advance funding bill now in Congress, and has been a consistent voice for improving cooperation and collaboration between VA and DoD.

“President Obama’s reaffirmed commitment to securing timely and predictable funding for the veterans’ health care system is welcome news. VA operates the largest health care system in the nation, but its funding has been late 19 of the past 22 years. This is no way to operate a national system that has such a solemn duty. I look forward to working with President Obama, my colleagues in Congress, and veterans across America to make the hope of budget reform a reality,” said Akaka.

Senator Akaka added, “I am also pleased by the President’s announcement on the joint VA/DoD virtual lifetime electronic record. Seamless transition from military service to veteran status requires the collaboration of these two Departments.”

Senator Akaka is the sponsor of S. 423, the Veterans Health Care Budget Reform and Transparency Act of 2009, which would secure timely funding for the veterans’ health care system through advance appropriations. S. 423 is supported by an array of national veterans service organizations, and cosponsored by nearly one-third of the U.S. Senate.

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Group helps families of suicide victims

Group helps families of suicide victims

Advocates offer free peer-to-peer support, crisis line, case assistance
By Karen Jowers - Staff writer
Posted : Saturday Feb 21, 2009 10:10:11 EST

After Pvt. Paul Bridges saw his buddies die in Iraq in a Humvee in February 2006, his mental state began going downhill, said his father, Terry Bridges.

Three months later, a mental health counselor told his chain of command that Bridges needed to leave the theater immediately. His weapon was taken away.

But nearly six months later, on Nov. 2, 2006, still in Iraq and working 12-hour days, Bridges shot himself with his roommate’s weapon.

“His command let him down,” said Terry Bridges, who has received no answers about why his son remained in Iraq. “It was something that could have been prevented.”

He said the military needs to train noncommissioned officers not to treat troops as malingerers when they exhibit mental health problems, and also train troops in how to react and protect their comrades who might be contemplating suicide.

“We can’t do anything for Paul. But if we can help change the culture to understand that just because a soldier doesn’t have an arm blown off, or a hole in the stomach, it doesn’t mean soldiers aren’t wounded ... maybe it will prevent this from happening to others,” he said.

Bridges and his wife, Sherryl Marsh, are joining forces with other families of suicide victims in the military through the nonprofit Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors to help prevent suicide in the ranks and assist families of suicide victims.

In fact, Bridges is working with the family of a sailor who recently killed himself.

“TAPS has seen a tragic increase in families whose loved ones lost their very personal battles,” said Bonnie Carroll, the group’s founder and chairwoman. “We embrace these families with a wide array of programs offering comfort and care, [and] a prevention program for battle buddies coping with the death of a fellow service member.”

TAPS offers peer-based support, crisis care, casualty casework assistance and grief and trauma resources, all free. Unlike most programs offered through the military, TAPS provides ongoing help to anyone grieving the death of a loved one in the military, regardless of the relationship to the deceased, where they live, or the circumstances of the death.

TAPS can also help connect service members, families and others to free, confidential, one-on-one, unlimited counseling through partnerships with the Veterans Affairs Department’s Vet Centers, Give An Hour and the Association of Death Education and Counseling.

In the past year, TAPS has seen a 25 percent increase in calls from survivors of suicide to its 24-hour crisis line, (800) 959-TAPS.

Missing support
Connie Scott believes a program like the battle buddies initiative might have helped save her son, Army Pfc. Brian Williams.

She will never know exactly what Brian saw in the days before he left Iraq to come home on leave in December 2006. But the day before he was supposed to return to Iraq, the 19-year-old killed himself in their garage.

“If only Brian could have reached out to someone who understood his pain,” she said. “He could have done that through TAPS. Everyone in trauma needs someone who understands.

“He was sent home in a critical state without a support group,” she said. “He had never been exposed to death before. I think he would’ve been OK if he hadn’t come home on leave ... if he’d had the support of his Army buddies.”

Williams’ troubled mental state was worsened by an e-mail from his fiancée that he received at the airport while waiting to leave Iraq, in which she broke off their engagement because she had found someone else.

“He couldn’t sleep or eat and was withdrawn,” she said. “We walked on eggshells, not knowing what to say or what not to say. There was no Army base near me. I had no one to call. I didn’t know what to do.”

‘I’m a gunny. I’m fine’
Marine widow Mary Gallagher said she is confident that military leaders are sincere about trying to eliminate the stigma that clings to seeking mental health care.

She believes the stigma played a big role in keeping her husband from seeking help. Gunnery Sgt. James Gallagher hung himself in their garage at Camp Pendleton on May 23, 2006.

After his return from Iraq — where more than 12 people in his unit were killed, including the commanding officer — “Jim never spoke of anything,” she said.

When she tried to talk about his behavioral changes — sleeping more, not showering — “he told me, ‘I’m a gunny. I’m fine.’ ”

The stigma has to be dealt with, Gallagher said.

“Depression kills. Stigma kills. That stigma was a part of Jim. No way he trusted and believed in the system set up for him to get help. I know, in his state of mind, it would have meant the end of his career.”

Just a month before he took his own life, she said her husband helped stop one of his own Marines from committing suicide.

“Jim said, ‘Doesn’t he understand what he would put his family through?’ ”

‘I can’t rest’
Army officials saw a spike in soldier suicides in January. From what TAPS is seeing, February is no better. Kim Ruocco recently talked to four newly grieving widows of Army suicide victims, offering support from one who has been there.

“It’s brought me back to square one,” said Ruocco, whose husband, Marine Corps Reserve Maj. John Ruocco, killed himself in a hotel room near Camp Pendleton, Calif., three months after returning from Iraq. “I’m exhausted with the subject of suicide, but I can’t rest because there’s too much to be done.”

Ruocco and another widow of a Marine suicide, Carla Stumpf-Patton, have begun coordinating TAPS’ nationwide peer support group program specifically for survivors of suicide.

Family members and others often say they realized later that there were red flags, and they want other people to be aware.

“You don’t want to wait until your family is in crisis mode to learn about it. Prevention and education are the key,” said Stumpf-Patton, whose husband, drill instructor Sgt. Rich Stumpf, killed himself in front of recruits and other Marines at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., in 1994.

Not everyone shows the same signs, said Ruocco.

“Looking back, there was a drastic change,” she said. “He lost a ton of weight, he was irritable and angry. I attributed it to the pressure and stress of coming back from war, and no time off. How do you separate that from a deeper problem?”

But, she added, “if there’s a drastic change and the person doesn’t seem like the person you knew, you need to get help. Don’t assume it’s normal.”

Chaplains are a first line of defense, as are VA’s Vet Centers, which are confidential.

“If I’d known, I would have taken him there at Christmas,” Ruocco said. “There’s a Vet Center 20 minutes away” from their home in Massachusetts.

But service members’ peers have to be watchful, too, she said.

“People have to start taking notice when something isn’t right. Peers have to watch over their peers psychologically, too. They need to talk about it. Realistically, most are suffering in silence.”

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Why Are Army Recruiters Killing Themselves?

Why Are Army Recruiters Killing Themselves?

When Army Staff Sergeant Amanda Henderson ran into Staff Sergeant Larry Flores in their Texas recruiting station last August, she was shocked by the dark circles under his eyes and his ragged appearance. "Are you O.K.?" she asked the normally squared-away soldier. "Sergeant Henderson, I am just really tired," he replied. "I had such a bad, long week, it was ridiculous." The previous Saturday, Flores' commanders had berated him for poor performance. He had worked every day since from 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., trying to persuade the youth of Nacogdoches to wear Army green. "But I'm O.K.," he told her.


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No, he wasn't. Later that night, Flores hanged himself in his garage with an extension cord. Henderson and her husband Patrick, both Army recruiters, were stunned. "I'll never forget sitting there at Sergeant Flores' memorial service with my husband and seeing his wife crying," Amanda recalls. "I remember looking over at Patrick and going, 'Why did he do this to her? Why did he do this to his children?' " Patrick didn't say anything, and Amanda now says Flores' suicide "triggered" something in her husband. Six weeks later, Patrick hanged himself with a dog chain in their backyard shed. (See pictures of suicide in recruiters' ranks.)

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are now the longest waged by an all-volunteer force in U.S. history. Even as soldiers rotate back into the field for multiple and extended tours, the Army requires a constant supply of new recruits. But the patriotic fervor that led so many to sign up after 9/11 is now eight years past. That leaves recruiters with perhaps the toughest, if not the most dangerous, job in the Army. Last year alone, the number of recruiters who killed themselves was triple the overall Army rate. Like posttraumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury, recruiter suicides are a hidden cost of the nation's wars.

The Wartime Challenge
Behind the neat desks and patriotic posters in 1,650 Army recruiting stations on Main Streets and in strip malls is a work environment as stressful in its own way as combat. The hours are long, time off is rare, and the demand to sign up at least two recruits a month is unrelenting. Soldiers who have returned from tours in Iraq and Afghanistan now constitute 73% of recruiters, up from 38% in 2005. And for many of them, the pressure is just too much. "These kids are coming back from Iraq with problems," says a former Army officer who recently worked in the Houston Recruiting Battalion.

The responsibility for providing troop replacements falls to the senior noncommissioned officers who have chosen to make recruiting their career in the U.S. Army Recruiting Command (USAREC). They in turn put pressure on their local recruiters to "make mission" and generate the recruits — sometimes by any means necessary. Lawrence Kagawa retired last July after more than 20 years in uniform; he spent the latter half as a highly decorated recruiter, and his tenure included a stint in the Houston battalion from 2002 to 2005. "There's one set of values for the Army, and when you go to Recruiting Command, you're basically forced to do things outside of what would normally be considered to be moral or ethical," he says.

Because station commanders and their bosses are rated on how well their subordinates recruit, there is a strong incentive to cut corners to bring in enlistees. If recruiters can't make mission legitimately, their superiors will tell them to push the envelope. "You'll be told to call Johnny or Susan and tell them to lie and say they've never had asthma like they told you, that they don't have a juvenile criminal history," Kagawa says. "That recruiter is going to bend the rules and get the lies told and process the fraudulent paperwork." And if the recruiter refuses? The commander, says Kagawa, is "going to tell you point-blank that 'we have a loyalty issue here, and if I give you a "no" for loyalty on your annual report, your career is over.' "

It's not surprising, then, that some recruiters ignore red flags to enlist marginal candidates. "I've seen [recruiters] make kids drink gallons of water trying to flush marijuana out of their system before they take their physicals," one Houston recruiter says privately. "I've seen them forge signatures." Sign up a pair of enlistees in a month and a recruiter is hailed; sign up none and he can be ordered to monthly Saturday sessions, where he is verbally pounded for his failure.

The military isn't known for treating underperformers with kid gloves. But the discipline can be harder for recruiters to take because they are, in most cases, physically and socially isolated. Unlike most soldiers, who are assigned to posts where they and their families receive the Army's full roster of benefits, 70% of Army recruiters live more than 50 miles (80 km) from the nearest military installation. Lacking local support, recruiters and their spouses turn to Internet message boards. "I hate to say it, but all the horror stories are true!" a veteran Army recruiter advised a rookie online. "It will be three years of hell on you and your family." One wife wrote that instead of coming home at the end of a long workday, her husband was headed "to Super Wal-Mart to find prospects because they're open for 24 hours."

Today's active-duty Army recruiting force is 7,600-strong. Soldiers attend school at Fort Jackson, S.C., for seven weeks before being sent to one of the 38 recruiting battalions across the nation. There they spend their days calling lists of high school seniors and other prospects and visiting schools and malls. At night, they visit the homes of potential recruits to sell them on one of the Army's 150 different jobs and seal the deal with hefty enlistment bonuses: up to $40,000 in cash and as much as $65,000 for college. The manual issued to recruiting commanders warns that, unlike war, in recruiting there will be no victory "until such time when the United States no longer requires an Army." Recruiting must "continue virtually nonstop" and is "aggressive, persistent and unrelenting." (See more about the military.)

Lone Star Losses
Nowhere has the pace been more punishing than inside the Houston Recruiting Battalion. One of every 10 of the Army's recruits last year came from Texas — the highest share of any state — and recruiters in Harris County enlisted 1,104, just 37 shy of first-place Phoenix's Maricopa County. The Houston unit's nearly 300 recruiters are spread among 49 stations across southeast Texas. Since 2005, four members recently back from Iraq or Afghanistan have committed suicide while struggling, as recruiters say, to "put 'em in boots." TIME has obtained a copy of the Army's recently completed 2-inch-thick (50 mm) report of the investigation into the Houston suicides. Its bottom line: recruiters there have toiled under a "poor command climate" and an "unhealthy and singular focus on production at the expense of soldier and family considerations." Most names have been deleted; the Army said those who were blamed by recruiters for the poor work environment didn't want to comment. While some recruiters were willing to talk to TIME, most declined to be named for fear of risking their careers. (See pictures of U.S. troops' 6 years in Iraq.)

Captain Rico Robinson, 32, the Houston battalion's personnel officer, was the first suicide, shooting himself in January 2005. But one of his predecessors, Christina Montalvo, had tried to kill herself a few years earlier, gulping a handful of prescription sleeping pills in a suicide attempt that was thwarted when a co-worker found her. Montalvo says a boss bullied her about her weight. And she was shocked by the abuse that senior sergeants routinely levied on subordinates. "I'd never been in a unit before where soldiers publicly humiliated other soldiers," says Montalvo, who left the Army in 2002 after 16 years. "If they don't make mission, they're humiliated and embarrassed."

Several months after Robinson committed suicide, Staff Sergeant Nils Aron Andersson arrived in Houston as a recruiter. Andersson had served two tours in Iraq with the 82nd Airborne and had won a Bronze Star for helping buddies pinned down in a firefight. "I asked him what he did to get it, and he just looked right at me and said, 'Doing my job, Dad, just doing my job,' and that's all he ever said," says his father Robert of Springfield, Ore. "He wouldn't talk to me about Iraq."

Aron, as he was known, had changed in Iraq. Perhaps it was the September 2003 night he gave up his exposed seat in a Black Hawk helicopter to a younger soldier who wanted the thrill of sitting there and who ended up being the only one killed when the chopper flipped on takeoff. Or maybe it was the day Andersson's squad had to destroy a speeding suicide van headed straight at their checkpoint, despite the women and children inside.

Instead of returning for a third tour, Andersson chose recruiting. He trained at Fort Jackson, filed for divorce and joined the Houston battalion in 2005. "They were working the crap out of him," Robert says. "I'd get calls from him at 9:30 at night — 11:30 in Houston — and he'd say he was just leaving the recruiting office and starting on his 40-minute drive home." His easygoing son also developed a hair-trigger temper during his time at the River Oaks and Rosenberg recruiting stations. "He wasn't really a salesman," Robert says, "and recruiters are trying to sell something."

Several months into the job, Aron threatened suicide in front of a girlfriend. After Army doctors cleared him, he returned to work. "For the two years he was in Iraq, I'd turn down the street and be terrified there'd be a car with a set of government plates on it when I got home telling me that he'd been killed," his father says. "Suicide was the last scenario I'd ever come up with."

But that was what occurred on March 5, 2007. In the week before his suicide, Andersson was ordered to write three separate essays explaining his failure to line up prospective recruits. A fellow recruiter later told Army investigators that commanders "humiliated" this decorated battlefield soldier during a training session: "He was under a constant grind — incredible pressure. He just became numb." (See pictures of British soldiers in Afghanistan.)

Andersson, 25, stopped by his recruiting station hours before he died and said he had gotten married that morning to Cassy Walton, whom he had recently met. He seemed in a good mood. "Before leaving, he played a prank on the station commander that made everyone laugh," a fellow recruiter told investigators. But the newlyweds argued that night, and Andersson, inside his new Ford pickup, put the barrel of a Ruger .22-cal. pistol to his right temple and squeezed the trigger. His widow, suffering from psychiatric problems of her own, killed herself the next day with a gun she had just bought.

"That double suicide should have stopped everything," an officer who was in the battalion says privately. Instead, he reports, the leadership in Houston said, "We're just going to keep rolling the way we've been rolling."

Inflated Requirements
The way things rolled in Houston, it turns out, was especially harsh. Until recently, the Army told prospective recruiters they'd be expected to sign up two recruits a month. "All of your training is geared toward prospecting for and processing at least two enlistments monthly," the Army said on its Recruit the Recruiter website until TIME called to ask about the requirement. Major General Thomas Bostick, USAREC's top general, sent out a 2006 letter declaring that each recruiter "Must Do Two." But if each recruiter did that, the Army would be flooded with more than 180,000 recruits a year instead of the 80,000 it needs. In fact, the real target per recruiter is closer to one a month. Yet the constant drumbeat for two continued.

The Houston battalion's punishing work hours were also beyond what was expected. In June 2007, Bostick issued a written order to the 5th Recruiting Brigade and its Houston battalion requiring commanders to clarify the battalion's fuzzy work-hour policy, which could be read as requiring 13-hour workdays. He demanded a new policy "consistent with law and regulation." The brigade and battalion commanders ignored the order.

By mid-2008, a Houston battalion commander complained to subordinates of "getting numerous calls on recruiters being called 'dirtbags' or 'useless' when they do not accomplish mission each month." He'd heard that recruiters who had been promised birthdays or anniversaries off were being "called back to work on the day of the anniversary and during the birthday and/or anniversary party when they already had family and friends at their homes." To improve morale, the battalion's leadership decided to hold a picnic last July 26. "Family fun is mandatory," read an internal e-mail.

Crying Like a Child
Staff Sergeant Flores, a married father of two, who'd looked so haggard last August, was the station commander overseeing the pair of recruiting offices in Nacogdoches. The job required the veteran of both Afghanistan and Iraq to dial into two daily conference calls from his office at 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. "On a regular basis, he would complain to me that the 15 to 19 hours we worked daily were too much," a colleague told Army investigators.

When Flores' station failed to make mission, his superiors ordered him to attend what the Army calls "low-production training" in Houston on Saturday, Aug. 2. "When you're getting home at 11 and getting up at 4, it's tough, but it's the dressing down that really got to him," says a recruiter who worked alongside Flores. "They had him crying like a kid in the office, telling him he was no good and that they were going to pull his stripes."

Flores, 26, was told his failure as a station commander meant he'd soon be returning to a basic recruiter's slot. "He was an emotional wreck," said a soldier who spoke with him the evening of Aug. 8. "He said he felt he failed as a station commander," the colleague told investigators. "He had asked me for a firearm. I told him I didn't have one. It actually never crossed my mind that it might have been for himself." Flores hanged himself that night. "The leadership is the major cause for SFC Flores taking his own life, he was a prideful soldier," a fellow station commander wrote in a statement, carefully noting Flores' posthumous promotion. "I believe this was a snap decision because SFC Flores stated to me that he grew up without a father and he would never do that to his kids."

Amanda Henderson had worked alongside Flores in Nacogdoches. Her husband, Sergeant First Class Patrick Henderson, 35, served at a recruiting office 90 minutes away in Longview. Patrick met Amanda at recruiting school after a combat tour in Iraq, and they married in January 2008. With their new jobs, though, "there was no time for family life at all," Amanda says. While Patrick didn't want the assignment, his widow says, the Army told him he had no choice. He masked his disappointment behind a friendly demeanor and an easy smile.

But things got worse after Flores' death. "He just kept saying it was the battalion's fault because of this big bashing session that had taken place" six days before Flores killed himself, Amanda says. "I can't tell you how mad he got at the Army when Flores committed suicide." Two weeks later, Patrick spoke of killing himself and was embarrassed by the fuss it kicked up. "He started to get reclusive," Amanda says now.

"He sounded pretty beat up," a fellow recruiter told investigators later. "He seemed to be upset about recruiting and didn't want to be out here." Patrick was taken off frontline recruiting and assigned to company headquarters. But it didn't stop his downward spiral. The day after a squabble with his wife on Sept. 19, Patrick hanged himself.

A Senator Demands Answers
It wasn't until reports in the Houston Chronicle provoked Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas to demand answers that the Army launched an investigation into the string of suicides. "It's tragic that it took four deaths to bring this to the attention of a U.S. Senator and to ask for a formal investigation," Cornyn says. After Cornyn began asking questions, the Army ordered Brigadier General F.D. Turner to investigate. Recruiters told him that their task is a "stressful, challenging job that is driven wholly by production, that is, the numbers of people put into the Army each month," Turner disclosed Dec. 23 after a two-month probe.

The report found that morale was particularly low in the Houston battalion. Its top officer and enlisted member — Lieut. Colonel Toimu Reeves and Command Sergeant Major Cheryl Broussard — are no longer with the unit. (He left for another post in USAREC; she was removed from her post until an investigation into her role is finished, and she is working in the San Antonio Recruiting Battalion.)

In an interview, General Turner would not discuss the personal lives of the victims, but his report noted that all four were in "failed or failing" relationships. Yet he conceded that "the work environment might have been relevant in their relationship problems." The claim of a failing relationship is denied by Amanda Henderson and by testimony from fellow recruiters. And an Army crisis-response team dispatched to Houston in October to look into last summer's two suicides cited a poor work environment — not domestic issues — as key.

After Turner's report, Lieut. General Benjamin Freakley, head of the Army Accessions Command that oversees USAREC, asked the Army inspector general to conduct a nationwide survey of the mood among Army recruiters. The Army also ordered a one-day stand-down for all recruiters in February so it could focus on proper leadership and suicide prevention. The worsening economy is already easing some of the recruiters' burden, as is the raising of the maximum enlistment age, from 35 to 42. But with only 3 in 10 young Americans meeting the mental, moral and physical requirements to serve, recruiting challenges will continue.

Amanda Henderson, who lost both her husband and her boss to suicide last year, has left that battlefield. "The Army didn't take care of my husband or Sergeant Flores the way they needed to," she says. Though still in the Army, she has quit recruiting and returned to her former job as a supply sergeant at Fort Jackson. Because of the poor economy, she says, she plans to stay in uniform at least until her current enlistment is up in 2011. "Some days I say I've just got to go on," she says. "Other days I'll just sit and cry all day long."

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Insomnia doubles suicide risk, study finds

Insomnia doubles suicide risk, study finds

Even those without any psychiatric disorder had increased odds

updated 6:31 p.m. ET, Wed., April 1, 2009
LONDON - People who suffer chronic sleep problems are more likely to think about suicide or actually try to kill themselves, researchers said on Wednesday.

The more types of sleep disturbances a person had — such as waking up too early, difficulty falling asleep or lying awake at night — upped the odds of suicidal thoughts, planning a suicide, or attempting it, researchers told a conference.

"People with two or more sleep symptoms were 2.6 times more likely to report a suicide attempt than those without any insomnia complaints," Marcin Wojnar, a researcher at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and the Medical University of Poland, who led the study, said in a statement.

"This has implications for public health as the presence of sleep problems should alert doctors to assess such patients for a heightened risk of suicide even if they don't have a psychiatric condition."

According to the World Health Organization, some 877,000 people worldwide kill themselves each year. For every suicide death, anywhere from 10 to 40 attempts are made, the U.N. agency estimates. Quiz

Are you getting enough sleep?
We all lose a little sleep now and then, but many suffer from sleep problems. Do you?

Scientists have linked sleep disturbances to increased suicidal risk in people with psychiatric disorders and in adolescents but it is unclear whether the association also exists in the general population, the researchers said.

In the study presented at the World Psychiatric Association International Congress in Florence, Italy, Wojnar and colleagues looked at the relationship between sleep problems and suicidal behaviors among 5,692 U.S. men and women.

About a third of the volunteers reported at least one type of sleep disturbance over the preceding year, which included either difficulty falling asleep, trouble staying asleep or waking at least two hours earlier than desired.

After adjusting for factors such as substance abuse and depression as well as for the influence of age, gender, marital and financial status, the researchers found the most consistent suicide link with waking up early.

People who reported that problem were twice as likely to have had suicidal thoughts or planned a suicide and were nearly three times more likely to have tried to kill themselves.

The researchers do not know exactly why, but said lack of sleep may affect cognitive function and lead to poorer judgment and increased hopelessness. A malfunction involving the brain chemical serotonin may also play a role, Wojnar added.

"Our findings also raise the possibility that addressing sleep problems could reduce the risk of suicidal behaviors," Wojnar said.

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Thursday, April 9, 2009

Gould Sworn in as Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs

WASHINGTON (April 9, 2009) - W. Scott Gould, a retired naval reservist and senior executive with experience in the Federal government and the private sector, has taken the oath of office as the Deputy Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

"As a Veteran, as a corporate and government leader known for his transformation management skills, and now, as VA's Chief Operating Officer, Scott Gould will help me advance President Obama's vision for transforming the Department of Veterans Affairs," Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki said. "Together with the men and women of the VA, we will work with Veterans, VSOs, the Congress, and other stakeholders to serve those who have sacrificed for our country and their families."

As the number-two executive in the VA, Gould will oversee the day-to-day operation of the Federal government's second-largest cabinet department, which provides health care to more than 1 million patients per week and benefits checks to about 3.7 million people monthly.

"I look forward to working with President Obama and Secretary Shinseki to serve our Nation's Veterans," Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs W. Scott Gould said. "The key to transforming a large organization like the VA will be innovation and collaboration. I look forward to working with VA employees and stakeholders in transforming the agency. Under Secretary Shinseki's leadership we will become a Veteran-centric, results-oriented and forward-looking Department."

Secretary Shinseki noted that Gould possesses a unique set of skills in information technology, acquisition, budget, human resources and leading the modernization of large, complex organizations.

As a naval reservist, Gould served at sea aboard the guided missile destroyer Richard E. Byrd and was assistant professor of naval science at Rochester University. He was recalled to active duty for both operations Noble Eagle and Enduring Freedom as a naval intelligence officer.

Gould recently served as vice president for public-sector strategy at IBM Global Business Services, where he also founded and led IBM's Global Leadership Initiative. Prior to IBM, he was chief executive officer of The O'Gara Company, a strategic advisory and investment services firm, and chief operating officer of Exolve, a technology services company.

Gould's previous service in the Federal government includes positions as the chief financial officer and assistant secretary for administration at the Commerce Department and, later, as deputy assistant secretary for finance and management at the Treasury Department. As a White House Fellow, he worked at the Export-Import Bank of the United States and in the Office of the White House Chief of Staff.

A fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration, Gould is a former member of the National Security Agency's Technical Advisory Group and the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award Board of Overseers. He has been awarded the Department of Commerce Medal, the Treasury Medal and the Navy Meritorious Service Medal.

Gould is the coauthor of The People Factor: Strengthening America by Investing in Public Service. He holds an AB degree from Cornell University and a Masters degree in business administration and a Doctorate of Education, both from the University of Rochester.

Gould is married to Michèle A. Flournoy, and has three children.

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Wednesday, April 8, 2009

"I am under a lot of pressure to not diagnose PTSD"

If you are aware of a soldier who has served or is serving in the Iraq or Afghanistan conflicts and is having trouble getting a PTSD diagnosis or proper benefits, please contact Mark Benjamin at
mbenjamin at

"I am under a lot of pressure to not diagnose PTSD"
A secret recording reveals the Army may be pushing its medical staff not to diagnose post-traumatic stress disorder. The Army and Senate have ignored the implications.

By Michael de Yoanna and Mark Benjamin

Editor's note: Last June, during a medical appointment, a patient named "Sgt. X" recorded an Army psychologist at Fort Carson, Colo., saying that he was under pressure not to diagnose combat veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. Listen to a segment of the tape here.


Apr. 08, 2009 |

"Sgt. X" is built like the Bradley Fighting Vehicle he rode in while in Iraq. He's as bulky, brawny and seemingly impervious as a tank.

In an interview in the high-rise offices of his Denver attorneys, however, symptoms of the damaged brain inside that tough exterior begin to appear. Sgt. X's eyes go suddenly blank, shifting to refocus oddly on a wall. He pauses mid-sentence, struggling for simple words. His hands occasionally tremble and spasm.

For more than a year he's been seeking treatment at Fort Carson for a brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder, the signature injuries of the Iraq war. Sgt. X is also suffering through the Army's confusing disability payment system, handled by something called a medical evaluation board. The process of negotiating the system has been made harder by his war-damaged memory. Sgt. X's wife has to go with him to doctor's appointments so he'll remember what the doctor tells him.

But what Sgt. X wants to tell a reporter about is one doctor's appointment at Fort Carson that his wife did not witness. When she couldn't accompany him to an appointment with psychologist Douglas McNinch last June, Sgt. X tucked a recording device into his pocket and set it on voice-activation so it would capture what the doctor said. Sgt. X had no idea that the little machine in his pocket was about to capture recorded evidence of something wounded soldiers and their advocates have long suspected -- that the military does not want Iraq veterans to be diagnosed with PTSD, a condition that obligates the military to provide expensive, intensive long-term care, including the possibility of lifetime disability payments. And, as Salon will explore in a second article Thursday, after the Army became aware of the tape, the Senate Armed Services Committee declined to investigate its implications, despite prodding from a senator who is not on the committee. The Army then conducted its own internal investigation -- and cleared itself of any wrongdoing.

When Sgt. X went to see McNinch with a tape recorder, he was concerned that something was amiss with his diagnosis. He wanted to find out why the psychologist had told the medical evaluation board that handles disability payments that Sgt. X did not, in fact, have PTSD, but instead an "anxiety disorder," which could substantially lower the amount of benefits he would receive if the Army discharged him for a disability. The recorder in Sgt. X's pocket captured McNinch in a moment of candor. (Listen to a segment of the recording here.)

"OK," McNinch told Sgt. X. "I will tell you something confidentially that I would have to deny if it were ever public. Not only myself, but all the clinicians up here are being pressured to not diagnose PTSD and diagnose anxiety disorder NOS [instead]." McNinch told him that Army medical boards were "kick[ing] back" his diagnoses of PTSD, saying soldiers had not seen enough trauma to have "serious PTSD issues."

"Unfortunately," McNinch told Sgt. X, "yours has not been the only case ... I and other [doctors] are under a lot of pressure to not diagnose PTSD. It's not fair. I think it's a horrible way to treat soldiers, but unfortunately, you know, now the V.A. is jumping on board, saying, 'Well, these people don't have PTSD,' and stuff like that."

Contacted recently by Salon, McNinch seemed surprised that reporters had obtained the tape, but answered questions about the statements captured by the recording. McNinch told Salon that the pressure to misdiagnose came from the former head of Fort Carson's Department of Behavioral Health. That colonel, an Army psychiatrist, is now at Fort Lewis in Washington state. "This was pressure that the commander of my Department of Behavioral Health put on me at that time," he said. Since McNinch is a civilian employed by the Army, the colonel could not order him to give a specific, lesser diagnosis to soldiers. Instead, McNinch said, the colonel would "refuse to concur with me, or argue with me, or berate me" when McNinch diagnosed soldiers with PTSD. "It is just very difficult being a civilian in a military setting."

McNinch added that he also received pressure not to properly diagnose traumatic brain injury, Sgt. X's other medical problem. "When I got there I was told I was overdiagnosing brain injuries and now everybody is finding out that, yes, there are brain injuries," he recalled. McNinch said he argued, "'What are we going to do about treatment?' And they said, 'Oh, we are just counting people. We don't plan on treating them.'" McNinch replied, "'You are bringing a generation of brain-damaged individuals back here. You have got to get a game plan together for this public health crisis.'"

When McNinch learned he would be quoted in a Salon article, he cut off further questions. He also said he would deny the interview took place. Salon, however, had recorded the conversation.

On the tape and in his interview with Salon, McNinch seemed to admit what countless soldiers not just at Fort Carson but across the Army have long suspected: At least in some cases, the Army tries to avoid diagnoses of PTSD. But McNinch did not directly address why the Army discourages these diagnoses, in either the interview with Salon or the tape-recorded encounter with Sgt. X.

The answer probably has to do with money. David Rudd, the chairman of Texas Tech's department of psychology and a former Army psychologist, explained that every dollar the Army spends on a soldier's benefits is a dollar lost for bullets, bombs or the soldier's incoming replacement. "Each diagnosis is an acknowledgment that psychiatric casualties are a huge price tag of this war," said Rudd. "It is easiest to dismiss these casualties because you can't see the wounds. If they change the diagnosis they can dismiss you at a substantially decreased rate."

A recently retired Army psychiatrist who still works for the government, speaking on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution, said commanders at another Army hospital instructed him to misdiagnose soldiers suffering from war-related PTSD, recommending instead that he diagnose them with other disorders that would reduce their benefits. The psychiatrist said he would be willing to say more publicly about the cases and provide specific names, but only if President Obama would protect him from retaliation.

Salon has dubbed the soldier in this article Sgt. X because he asked not to be identified for fear that it might affect the medical evaluation process meant to gauge his level of disability. He was highly reluctant to speak, but agreed to do so after learning Salon obtained the recording and other information about it from a medical worker at Fort Carson and a congressional aide.

The sergeant spoke with Salon in the presence of his Hogan & Hartson attorneys who are helping him to secure a proper disability discharge from the Army for PTSD and a brain injury, diagnoses now affirmed by independent doctors. Sgt. X never planned to go to the media -- he says, if asked, he will not talk further about the recording with news organizations.

Sgt. X probably received his traumatic brain injury when his Bradley Fighting Vehicle buckled in an explosion during his second deployment to Iraq in 2005-06. It was the worst of a handful of nearby blasts he'd survived, and it knocked him unconscious for 30 seconds.

When Sgt. X regained consciousness, he saw that the toes of another soldier had been sheared off. The tank hull had buckled and the inside had filled with smoke. Some of his fellow soldiers were soaked in blood..

Even after that, as a point of pride, the crew insisted on accompanying their disabled tank back to their headquarters. Besides causing his brain injury, the blast had exacerbated an injury to Sgt. X's hip, but he faced the problem with little complaint. He numbed the pain with Motrin. "You don't report problems," he said. "It's a stigma."

When Sgt. X returned from the war to Colorado Springs, though, he had a problem with anger. After he terrified his young son by screaming at him, Sgt. X's wife suggested he seek help.

Nearly breaking into tears while recounting the screaming bout to Salon, Sgt. X said he agreed to his wife's request and sought mental care for the first time in his 16-year military career. Sgt. X, like so many others on the post, went to the fourth floor of Evans hospital in search of mental-health assistance.

There is some evidence that Sgt. X's experience with McNinch represents part of a broader scandal, as suggested by the former Army psychiatrist who told Salon about identical problems at another post. Last year, and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) released an e-mail from Norma Perez, a psychologist in Texas, to staff at a Department of Veterans Affairs facility there. In addition to the Army, that department also provides veterans with benefits. "Given that we are having more and more compensation seeking veterans, I'd like to suggest that you refrain from giving a diagnosis of PTSD straight out," Perez wrote in the e-mail dated March 20, 2008. She suggested the staff "consider a diagnosis of Adjustment Disorder." As opposed to those with PTSD, veterans with adjustment disorder, a temporary condition, typically do not receive disability payments from the government.

Then-Illinois Sen. Barack Obama fired a letter off to the V.A. about that previous controversy, calling the e-mail "outrageous," demanding an investigation. The Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee last June held a hearing on that e-mail. Perez claimed she sent that e-mail "to stress the importance of an accurate diagnosis." End of story. and CREW, the two groups who unearthed the V.A. e-mail, reacted viscerally to this new tape obtained by Salon. "This is further evidence our troops are not receiving the mental health treatment they need and deserve," said Melanie Sloan, CREW executive director. "The president and congressional leaders must hold those responsible accountable and make sure the message is sent far and wide that our returning troops are to be diagnosed as their symptoms, not the military's finances, dictate."

"We've heard all kinds of stories from vets who had trouble getting PTSD diagnoses," said Chairman John Soltz. "It's crucial that we have department-wide investigations at the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs to determine if this came from someone high up, and how many troops and veterans were jilted out of a proper diagnosis from the government."

Many publications, including Salon, and even some government agencies have documented other instances of reluctance to recognize mental wounds caused by war at bases across the country.

· A recent weeklong series in Salon showed how apparent resistance to identifying combat stress ends up grinding down the lowest-ranking troops, sometimes with deadly results. Those articles included, for example, the story of Pvt. Adam Lieberman, who suffered with severe symptoms of PTSD. For two years, the Army blamed his problems on a personality disorder, anxiety disorder or alcohol abuse but resisted diagnosing him with PTSD until after his suicide attempt last October.

· The Government Accountability Office, Congress' investigative arm, last October questioned why 2,800 war veterans were labeled with personality disorder diagnoses, another cheap label the Army has been accused of plastering on soldiers instead of PTSD.

· In November 2005 the Department of Veterans Affairs halted a review of 72,000 veterans who receive monthly disability payments for mental trauma from war. The department wanted to make sure the veterans were not faking their symptoms. Salon first exposed the review that August. Then Daniel L. Cooper, the V.A.'s undersecretary for benefits, told Salon at the time that, "We have a responsibility to preserve the integrity of the rating system and to ensure that hard-earned taxpayer dollars are going to those who deserve and have earned them." The department stopped the process a month after a Vietnam veteran in New Mexico, agitated over the review, shot himself to death in protest. .

· In early 2005, Salon exposed a pattern of medical officials searching to pin soldiers' problems on childhood trauma instead of combat stress at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Salon will explore Thursday how the Army was made aware of Sgt. X's tape, how the Senate Armed Services Committee declined to conduct an investigation, and how the Army absolved itself of any blame for wrongdoing. A unit of the Army's Medical Command (which oversees Fort Carson's Department of Behavioral Health) conducted an "informal" investigation last summer that found potential "systemic" problems that could influence diagnoses, but determined that no one in the Army's Medical Command was to blame. In a report dated July 28, it specifically found that no Fort Carson or Medical Command staff "attempted to coerce or otherwise influence" diagnoses. This directly contradicts McNinch's statements on the tape and in his interview with Salon.

If you are aware of a soldier who has served or is serving in the Iraq or Afghanistan conflicts and is having trouble getting a PTSD diagnosis or proper benefits, please contact Mark Benjamin at mbenjamin (at) salon (dot) com.

the tape recording

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National Association of Atomic Veterans

National Association of
Atomic Veterans

also see resources below at web sites

Thanks James,Colonel Dan, The information and support is greatly appreciated.

Check the links below.I am well aware of how hard the fight is. I am also a member of NAAV.

George. George Maynard Theresa Maynard

Subject: [VeteranIssues] FW: Southbury 'atomic vet' fights for recognition of illness

Southbury 'atomic vet' fights for recognition of illness

By Robert Miller, STAFF WRITER

Posted: 04/04/2009 02:31:25 PM EDT


The above are some links about the nuclear Cold War exposures my step father was used in the above ground data gathering at nevada test site and he could never tell our family about the tests until just before his death and I didn't learn I could tell him about my use in the chemical weapons and drug experiments at Edgewood Arsenal in 1974. The government uses National Security threats to keep stuff like this quiet for decades, but all the premature deaths and disabilities pushed it all open eventually.

The VA and DOD still manage to deny most of the veterans compensation due to the fat we can't "prove" our exposures caused our medical problems, how much radiation is safe? How much Sarin and Mustard gas is safe? How much LSD is "safe" how much of the 254 substances they used at Edgewood were "safe"? We will never know because a lot of the information is still classified and DOD and the Army are sitting on it.

Also they manage to avoid a lot of the stuff in the NAS/IOM studies, they know how to word the contracts to the IOM, and so far they have managed to ignore the stuff they know that causes problems with the medical studies.

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Monday, April 6, 2009

VA website and Gulf War news and OIF/OEF

Well, whaddaya know? It DOES seem like they've fixed a few things noted here. Thanks for checking things out, Vicki. I don't know if I, personally, had anything to do with it, because I'm sure I wouldn't have been the only one complaining.

It would be great if you (and everyone else) would just browse through the VA website for various GW issues and make a note of what isn't available, current or working. It seems to me like they should be publishing and updating these GW Reviews, Reports, and other publications at least annually (if not sooner), instead of waiting until someone complains.

I've tried to list and keep current many of the VA links in the Index of VA Resources, and that's how I frequently find out that the VA has changed something:;f=14;t=000001

So, if you see something in the Index of VA Resources that isn't working, please feel free to note it there or to send me a message about it and I'll bring it up-to-date. I really think the VA should be keeping a comparable index, instead of the one they have here:
You have to know what the name of the issue or office is to look anything up there. Most noteably, is that you have to know where that VA index link is within the VA website to begin with! There's no link to it from the main VA homepage or Gulf War page.

Then, the next thing I do when I get a list of discrepancies together is to challenge their information, noting what ISN'T mentioned in the reports, as well as what is. One example is finding that the old VA M-10 policy manuals (approx 150 pages) had been replaced with the VA Handbook 1303.2 (38 pages). Then, finding that the OEF soldiers had been eliminated from the GW Registry exams in that handbook:
(excerpt from VHA HANDBOOK 1303.2 - )

"NOTE: Veterans who served in Afghanistan (Operation Enduring Freedom) are not eligible for
GWR examinations. Information on Afghanistan or other combat areas can be accessed on
website .
(2) Eligible GW and/or OIF veterans applying for treatment in a VA medical center and/or
outpatient clinic need to be encouraged to undergo an initial (i.e., “first-time”) GWR
March 7, 2005 VHA HANDBOOK 1303.2"

Also, the link (above) they've provided for the OEF veterans is broken (at least as of this date) Both, OIF and OEF veterans were at one time included in the GW Registry evaluations, and although the VA acknowledges that the OEF and OIF troops have similar health problems, the poor OEF veterans have been lost in the consideration for environmental health issues:
"VA Health Care Use by Enduring Freedom Veterans.

In a report issued in 2004, VA analysts found that among 43,600 OEF veterans who have separated from active duty nearly 10 percent (about 4,300) have sought health care from VA. OEF veterans have a wide range of both medical and psychological conditions. Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom veterans have experienced about the same kinds of health problems since returning to the U.S. even though they served in separate theaters of operations. Those OEF veterans examined by VA are not necessarily typical of all OEF veterans."

So, it's things like that we have to be on the lookout for because as these policies are quietly and arbitrarily changed and/or deleted, we find ourselves losing more and more benefits.

At this point, I can only ask that we make note of these things here so we can refer back to the problem(s) as they occur. You don't need to know how to interpret laws to see what's been changed or eliminated. Then, when it comes time to address these and other issues in congress, we'll have it here to look back to. It's like reviewing your medical records... You don't have to know medical terminology so much to know what's been omitted, or misrepresented by your doctor(s) when documenting your records.

Gulf War Vets Bulletin Board

If you have ever served in the Middle East this is a board you should at least look at and read if not join there are some very knowledgeable people there on VA claims and the process and already posted data and research projects I have been a member for years I am number 6 on the board and joined this new board after the old one crashed I am not part of the administrators but I post a lot there

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Chairman Filner Names Martin L. Herbert Majority Staff Director of Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee





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Chairman Filner Names Martin L. Herbert Majority Staff Director of Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee

Washington D.C. – Congressman Bob Filner (D-CA) named Lieutenant Colonel (Retired) Martin L. Herbert Majority Staff Director for the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. As the Staff Director, Herbert will direct oversight efforts on programs and operations that pertain to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), as well as those of other federal agencies that pertain to veterans.

Mr. Herbert retired from the United States Army in July 2005 after a distinguished military career of 20 years. LTC (Ret) Herbert commanded soldiers in combat during Operation Desert Storm in 1991, Operation Enduring Freedom in 2002 and Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003-2004. Before coming to Capitol Hill, he served as a Homeland Defense Analyst in the Office of the Undersecretary for Defense for Booz Allen Hamilton. He is a graduate of the University of Louisville with a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics and also holds a Master’s Degree in Human Resource Development from Webster University.

“I am proud to work with this talented and dedicated individual,” said Malcom Shorter, Staff Director for the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. “I am confident that the Members of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee will greatly benefit from his counsel and experience.”

“Marty Herbert’s record of military service and experience allows him to fully understand the wide-range of challenges faced by veterans,” said Filner, Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

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Elmo, John Mayer, and Queen Latifah look to help families of soldiers on PBS

Elmo, John Mayer, and Queen Latifah look to help families of soldiers on PBS


Elmo and some of his "Sesame Street" pals move to prime time Wednesday night with a special to help children understand that sometimes, when Daddy becomes a soldier, Daddy can come home hurt.

Presumably that's also true for Mommy if Mommy is a soldier, but all the wounded vets who join Queen Latifah for this serious but ultimately hopeful show Wednesday night happen to be men.

Put together by "Sesame Street" and David Letterman's production company, "Coming Home" is part of a wider campaign called "Talk, Listen, Connect." As the name suggests, it urges everyone to be open and honest about how they're affected by a life-changing injury in the family.

To punctuate the point, John Mayer does an acoustic performance of the theme song toward the end of Wednesday night's program.

"Coming Home" is similar to the Linda Ellerbee specials that break down complex, grownup issues into simple terms, with a sprinkling of actual kids and a general tone of reassurance.

The show features several soldiers who suffered severe injuries in Iraq and have returned to their families. Now they are adjusting to the new rules of their lives.

The most reassuring part is that they don't feel the important things in their lives have changed. They may not be able to play wide receiver in the family pickup football game, but once they are confident they can still play with their kids, or simply pick them up and walk them across the yard, the rest seems easier to live with.

Accordingly, the most heartwarming sentence in "Coming Home" is spoken by a young girl who, when asked about her father, says, "He's the same Daddy," even though he now buckles on his leg in the morning.

Another vet talks about how he had hoped to regain function in a wounded hand. But it isn't happening, so he's going to have it amputated and replaced with an artificial model. He explains how he prepared his children for this, a process that doesn't happen with one conversation.

The tougher injuries, of course, aren't the ones that take away a limb. They're the ones that affect Daddy's behavior and demeanor, so he yells when he doesn't mean to, or you can't always tell what he's going to do next.

This special includes one vet in that situation who talks about the long path he's slowly taking to overcome that frustrating affliction.

"Coming Home" isn't all upbeat and doesn't promise all happy endings. But it does assure its audience that if they are patient and understanding, the most important pieces can usually be put back together.

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Congressman wants Troops to Teachers expanded

Congressman wants Troops to Teachers expanded

The Associated Press
Posted : Monday Apr 6, 2009 10:36:18 EDT

WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Tom Petri of Wisconsin is pushing legislation to make more schools eligible for a program that recruits veterans as teachers.

The Troops to Teachers program has placed more than 11,500 veterans in American schools since it started in 1994. The program gives veterans a $5,000 stipend to help them obtain teaching certification in return for three years of teaching in a “high-need” school.

In 2005, the federal government defined “high need” in a way that excluded many rural and small communities from the program and focused efforts on poor, urban areas. The number of eligible school districts in Wisconsin dropped from 395 to nine.

Petri says many veterans who would like to participate in the program now can’t because no schools in their area qualify.


Information from: The Post-Crescent.

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Army: No plan to move sea-dumped munitions

Army: No plan to move sea-dumped munitions

The Associated Press
Posted : Monday Apr 6, 2009 10:01:17 EDT

HONOLULU — Several thousand World War II-era chemical munitions have been found by deep-diving submersibles under a joint Army-University of Hawaii team.

So far, no large cache of weapons has been discovered.

The U.S. military dumped some 2,500 tons of weapons containing lethal mustard, cyanide, lewisite, cyanogens and chloride at three deep-sea sites several miles off Oahu. More than 16,000 individual bombs were dumped there.

Over 17 days, a $3 million effort involving remote devices and the university’s two submersibles found several thousand bombs at depths of 1,500 feet by using sonar. The examined area totaled 240 square miles.

Water and sediment samples also were taken near the bombs that were found. The Army has no plans to remove the munitions.

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Several Army enlistment bonuses slashed

Several Army enlistment bonuses slashed

By Michelle Tan - Staff writer
Posted : Monday Apr 6, 2009 9:50:12 EDT

The Army has reduced or eliminated a number of enlistment bonuses offered to new soldiers, following similar cuts to re-up bonuses.

The changes were effective March 1. Here is a look at some of the key changes, as provided by Recruiting Command.

• The Army Advantage Fund pilot program, implemented in February 2008, has ended. The program set aside up to $45,000 as a tax-free payment that soldiers could spend on items such as a down payment on the purchase of a home or seed money for a business.

• A $20,000 bonus is no longer being offered for eligible non-prior service applicants who enlist in the active Army for two years plus training, followed by four years in the National Guard or Army Reserve in certain military occupational specialties.

• A seasonal bonus of up to $20,000 for non-prior service recruits in select MOSs who enlist for two years and agree to report for basic training within 30 days has been reduced to a maximum of $15,000.

Depending on the MOS, the bonus can range from $3,000 to $15,000.

Qualified recruits who report to training within 31 to 60 days can earn a $3,000 bonus.

• Qualified non-prior service recruits with an associate, bachelor’s or higher degree who enlist for three or more years in select MOSs now can earn $5,000 instead of the previous high of $8,000.

• The Army is no longer offering bonuses to prior-service recruits.

The exceptions are those who enlist in the Army Reserve and former 09L interpreter/translator soldiers who enlist in the active Army for at least four years. Those 09Ls may be eligible for a $15,000 bonus.

Prior-service soldiers who enlist in a critical skill position in the Reserve can earn up to $15,000 for six years or $7,500 for three years.

Apart from these changes, other enlistment incentives remain in place: Active Army recruits who enlist for four or more years still can earn up to $40,000 through a combination of bonuses, and Reserve recruits still can earn a maximum of $20,000 in enlistment bonuses.

Recruits who earn more than $10,000 in cash bonuses will receive their initial payment of $10,000 when they complete basic training. The remaining bonus amount will be paid in annual increments of up to $10,000 a year until they are paid in full.

Bonuses totaling less than $10,000 will be paid in one lump sum when the recruit completes basic.

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Medical Journal Praises VA Electronic Health Record

Medical Journal Praises VA Electronic Health Record

VA Continues to Lead Health Care Industry

WASHINGTON (April 6, 2009) - A recent study in the prestigious New
England Journal of Medicine singles out the Department of Veterans
Affairs (VA) for its successful implementation of a comprehensive system
of electronic health records.

The study's authors, led by Dr. Ashish K. Jha of Harvard University,
noted that VA's use of electronic health records has significantly
enhanced the quality of patient care. They also found that only 1.5
percent of U.S. hospitals have comprehensive electronic health records;
adding VA hospitals to the analyses doubled that number.

"VA hospitals have used electronic health records for more than a decade
with dramatic associated improvements in clinical quality," the study's
authors wrote.

VA clinicians began using computerized patient records in the mid-1990s
for everything from recording examinations by doctors to displaying
results of lab tests and x-rays. Patient records are available 100
percent of the time to VA health care workers, compared to 60 percent
when VA relied on paper records.

Dr. Michael J. Kussman, VA's under secretary for health, said VA has
"one of the most comprehensive and sophisticated electronic systems" for
patient records in the nation.

"VA's electronic health record system has largely eliminated errors
stemming from lost or incomplete medical records, making us one of the
safest systems in the health care industry," Kussman said.

The authors of the NEJM article are the latest to praise VA for its
technology and commitment to patient safety. In 2006, VA received the
prestigious "Innovations in American Government" Award from Harvard's
Kennedy School of Government for its advanced electronic health records
and performance measurement system.


Since they quit using paper records at the VA and went digital veterans health care has been improved, I have extensive healthcare issues, regardless of where I go, my entire treatment record is available to the VA doctor I am seeing, it is a vast improvement over what used to be, prior to the creation.

I will be happier when they improve the ability of the veteran to get lab work, doctors appointments etc online, via MyHealthvet being able to order prescription refills is a major advance but they need to take it to the next step and make HealthQuest or Ask a nurse or even your primary care or mental health doctors an e mail away.

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