Saturday, May 2, 2009

Rick Sanchez of CNN nails Senator Demint

Maybe this will help explain to the nation why South Carolina has a Governor like Mark Sanford, and John McCains BFF Senator Lindsey Graham and the second highest unemployment rate in the nation and the elected officials do NOT care, they are running around supporting Fox's "Tea Parties" instead of caring for the citizens of this state.

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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Filner Applauds Passage of Budget Resolution that Increases Veterans’ Funding

Filner Applauds Passage of Budget Resolution that Increases Veterans’ Funding

Washington, D.C. – House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Bob Filner (D-CA) released the following statement upon Congressional passage of S.Con.Res. 13, the Fiscal Year 2010 Budget Resolution:

“Congress voted to support President Obama’s budget – a budget that puts veterans first. The Obama budget calls for the biggest increase for veterans programs ever requested by an Administration. The Budget Resolution provides for a $5.6 billion increase over fiscal year 2009, an increase of 11.7% for veterans health care and other programs.

“I am pleased the budget resolution contains language allowing Congress to provide funding for veterans’ health care one year in advance of the regular budget process. Advanced funding is supported by many veteran service organizations as a way to ensure sufficient, timely and predictable funding for veterans health care.

“As Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, I would like to thank my colleagues for their commitment to assisting the VA in its goal of becoming a model 21st Century organization. This Congress shares the Obama Administration’s commitment to improving health care for all veterans, increasing access to mental health services, addressing and preventing homelessness among veterans, and honoring the veterans of previous generations. President Obama has proven that veterans are a top priority by requesting a record veterans’ budget, and I am confident that under the leadership of VA Secretary Shinseki, we will restore and revitalize the services provided to veterans.”

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Start the Conversation new IAVA ad

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Condi declares if President authorizes it, it's not illegal

shades of Nixon

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Marine with swine flu prompts quarantine

Marine with swine flu prompts quarantine

About 30 Marines are being segregated from others at Calif. military base

TODAY Biden: ‘Wouldn’t go anywhere in confined places’
April 30: TODAY’s Matt Lauer talks to Vice President Joe Biden about what the government is doing to stop the spread of the swine flu and President Obama’s prime-time news conference.

updated 5:31 p.m. ET, Wed., April 29, 2009
WASHINGTON - The Pentagon said Wednesday a Marine based in Southern California has been confirmed to be ill with swine flu and is under quarantine, along with about 30 other Marines.

A Marine spokesman at the Pentagon, Maj. David Nevers, said the sick Marine was doing well and his condition continued to improve. Nevers said approximately 30 other Marines who had been in contact with the sick Marine at the Twentynine Palms base will be held in quarantine for five days as well as to see whether they show symptoms.

Officials earlier had said 37 Marines who had come into contact with the sick Marine were being restricted from going to the mess hall and troop formations. It wasn't immediately possible to reconcile the conflicting numbers.

The sick Marine's roommate also was in quarantine but was not showing any symptoms of swine flu.

'He's doing fine'
The ill Marine suffered from vomiting and other flu-like symptoms, Gen. James Conway, the Marine Corps commandant, said at a Pentagon briefing before the Marine was confirmed with the flu.

But, he added, "He's doing fine. He's up and about, he says he feels pretty good. ... There appears to be no threat him in terms of loss of life."

The Pentagon would not identify the Marine.

His roommate and the other Marines were receiving Tamiflu, Conway said. But the ailing Marine was not because "Tamiflu would not help him at this point."

The Marine first complained of being sick on Saturday.

It's not clear how he may have contracted the virus. Conway said the Marine had not been to Mexico, but had traveled around the San Bernardino Valley area of Southern California.

Military has 7 million doses of Tamiflu
Conway said no additional doctors or medications have been needed at the base so far. The military has 7 million doses of Tamiflu and other anti-viral treatments stockpiled for its troops.

"Our concern is the obvious exposure to other people and the potential spread," Conway said. "And I'm confident we have a very aggressive doctor out there that is going by the book and being a little aggressive even beyond that, in terms of making sure that Marines are not exposing themselves to other Marines."

As many as 15,000 Marines are usually stationed at Twentynine Palms, the Marine Corps' largest base. But many are currently deployed across the world, and Conway did not immediately know how many were on base now.

The Marine is the first possible case of the illness that has shown up in America's armed forces of some 1.4 million soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said.

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Wednesday, April 29, 2009


April 29, 2009 (202) 224-9126


WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI), Chairman of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, held a hearing today reviewing pending veterans’ benefits legislation. The committee questioned witnesses and reviewed legislation in preparation for next month’s scheduled markup.

“Improving the vocational rehabilitation program and easing the burden on combat veterans seeking disability compensation will help veterans receive the benefits they have earned through their service,” said Akaka.

The bills reviewed at today’s hearing include:

S. 407, the Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2009:
This bill would provide a cost-of-living increase for millions of disabled veterans and their families by updating veterans’ disability compensation, dependency and indemnity compensation for surviving spouses and children, and additional related benefits.

S. 514, the Veterans Rehabilitation and Training Improvements Act of 2009:
Following the enactment of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, this legislation would upgrade the other critical aspect of VA’s education and training benefits system: rehabilitation for disabled veterans. S. 514 would increase VA’s flexibility in paying for veterans’ rehabilitation-related expenses, boost the living stipend for rehabilitating veterans, and remove the existing cap on participation in VA’s independent living services.

S. 728, the Veterans’ Insurance and Benefits Enhancement Act of 2009:
This comprehensive bill focuses on providing assistance to veterans disabled while serving their country and assisting veterans as they transition from military to civilian life. Improvements include a new insurance program for disabled veterans, better coverage options for existing insurance programs, extended benefits for burn injured servicemembers and veterans, and increases to certain benefits that have not been updated for many years for veterans and their survivors.

S. 919, the Clarification of Characteristics of Combat Service Act of 2009:
S. 919 would ease the burden on many combat veterans seeking compensation for service-connected disabilities. VA would be required to issue regulations including standards that VA adjudicators would use for evaluating the consistency between lay evidence and claimed matters, such as exposure to factors common to servicemembers serving in particular combat areas.

For the Chairman’s full statement and the written testimony of the witnesses, click here. The Committee’s markup is scheduled for May 21, 2009. For more information, visit

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Schroer is a former U.S. Army colonel

Transsexual Wins $500, 000 Lawsuit

Published: April 29, 2009
Filed at 11:00 a.m. ET

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A federal judge has awarded a former Army Special Forces commander nearly $500,000 because she was rejected from a job at the Library of Congress while transitioning from a man to a woman.

Diane Schroer of Alexandria, Va., applied for the terrorism analyst job while she was still a man named David Schroer. He was offered the job, but the offer was pulled after he told a library official that he was having surgery to change his gender.

U.S. District Judge James Robinson ruled Tuesday that Schroer was entitled to $491,190 in back pay and damages because of sex discrimination.

The Library of Congress and the Justice Department argued unsuccessfully that discrimination because of transsexuality was not illegal sex discrimination under the Civil Rights Act.

The American Civil Liberties Union had argued the case on Schroer's behalf. Paul Cates with the ACLU's Lesbian and Gay Rights Project said the ruling was significant because a federal judge said that discriminating against someone for changing genders is sex discrimination under federal law.

Schroer is a former U.S. Army colonel who directed a classified group that tracked and targeted terrorists. Schroer retired in 2004 and worked briefly in the private sector before applying for the Congressional Research Service job at the Library of Congress.

After being offered the job, Schroer had lunch with a Library of Congress official and explained the upcoming surgery. Schroer testified the official called the next day and said the position would not be a ''good fit.''

Transsexual Wins $500, 000 Lawsuit

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VA advance funding one step closer to reality

VA advance funding one step closer to reality

By Rick Maze - Staff writer
Posted : Tuesday Apr 28, 2009 17:41:35 EDT

There is good news for military and veterans’ organizations in the 2010 budget agreement reached Monday night by House and Senate negotiators.

The budget, which includes $606 billion for the Defense Department and $106.5 billion for the Veterans Affairs Department next year, also creates a window of opportunity for passage of some high-priority issues this year.

For example, the agreement opens the door for the top priority of veterans’ organizations, providing money for veterans’ health care one year in advance. The key language, in this case, is a provision preventing a point of order being raised against legislation to provide a 2011 VA health funding bill this year.

Sen. Daniel K. Akaka, D-Hawaii, the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee chairman and a sponsor of advanced appropriations legislation, said the provision “brings us closer to our goal of providing on-time funding for veterans’ health care, allowing VA to plan ahead and make better use of taxpayer money.”

Raymond Dempsey, national commander of Disabled American Veterans, called the budget “good news for our nation’s veterans.”

“Not only does it provide a record increase for the Department of Veterans Affairs, it clears the way for much-needed legislation to ensure sufficient, timely and predictable funding for veterans health care,” Dempsey said.

In addition to advance funding, the resolution leaves open the chance for Congress to approve big and expensive benefits, such as allowing both disabled military retirees and the surviving spouses of deceased disabled retirees to receive any earned military and veterans benefits without requiring offsets in payments.

There is no money to specifically cover full concurrent receipt of benefits, but the agreement allows Congress to provide funding with a gimmick — a “deficit-neutral reserve fund” — that would pay for an increase in benefits. In essence, this would allow Congress to approve a new benefit without having to fully pay for it, not unlike the way that lawmakers have paid for economic recovery bills.

However, the budget resolution is not binding; it serves only as a guide for lawmakers to use when approving detailed budgets. But the resolution does list some priorities for defense spending, beginning with reform of the weapons acquisition process and a review of weapons plans to avoid buying systems that are redundant or not applicable to current threats.

The resolution also asks for a Defense Department review of the role that contractors play in contingency operations and an assessment about whether the missile defense program needs an adjustment because some technologies may not be viable.

Miltary pay and benefits “should be enhanced to improve the quality of life for military personnel and their families,” the resolution says, without including specifics.

The resolution assumes Congress will end up providing a 3.4 percent basic pay raise for the military that will take effect on Jan. 1.

VA advance funding one step closer to reality

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From Colonel Dan great veterans site assistance

Save this in your saved message files, also see my web site.. did you know you can see

All past messages I have sent.. click on messages on left side.. can search for a topic as needed

From: LLOYD Evans
-- Original Message -----


Sent: Saturday, April 25, 2009 10:47 AM

Subject: Please forward to all veterans


Good list to print for reference.

Below are web-sites that provide information on Veterans benefits and how to file/ask for them. Accordingly, there are many sites that explain how to obtain books, military/medical records, information and how to appeal a denied claim with the VA. Please pass this information on to every Veteran you know. Nearly 100% of this information is free and available for all veterans, the only catch is: you have to ask for it, because they won't tell you about a specific benefit unless you ask for it. You need to know what questions to ask so the right doors open for you -- and then be ready to have an advocate who is willing to work with and for you, stay in the process, and press for your rights and your best interests.

Board of Veteran's Appeals
CARES Commission
CARES Draft National Plan
Center for Minority Veterans
Center for Veterans Enterprise
Center for Women Veterans
Clarification on the changes in VA healthcare for Gulf War Veterans
Classified Records - American Gulf War Veterans Assoc
Compensation for Disabilities Associated with the Gulf War Service
Compensation Rate Tables, 12-1-03
Department of Veterans Affairs Home Page
Directory of Veterans Service Organizations
Disability Examination Worksheets Index, Comp
Due Process
Duty to Assist
Electronic Code of Federal Regulations
Emergency, Non-emergency, and Fee Basis Care
Environmental Agents
Environmental Agents M10
Establishing Combat Veteran Eligibility
See also,
Depleted Uranium Fact Sheet
Federal Benefits for Veterans and Dependants 2005 OR,
Forms and Records Request
General Compensation Provisions
Geriatrics and Extended Care
Guideline for Chronic Pain and Fatigue MUS-CPG

Guide to Gulf War Veteran's Health
Gulf War Subject Index
Gulf War Veteran's Illnesses Q&As
Homeless Veterans
HSR&D Home
Index to Disability Examination Worksheets C&P exams
Ionizing Radiation
Iraqi Freedom/Enduring Freedom Veterans VBA
M10 for spouses and children
M10 Part III Change 1
M21-1 Table of Contents
Mental Disorders, Schedule of Ratings
Mental Health Program Guidelines
Mental Illness Research, Education and Clinical Centers
MS (Multiple Sclerosis) Centers of Excellence
My Health e Vet
NASDVA.COM National Association of State Directors
National Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention
Neurological Conditions and Convulsive Disorders, Schedule of Ratings
OMI (Office of Medical Inspector)
Online VA Form 10-10EZ
Parkinson's Disease and Related Neurodegenerative Disorders and,
Peacetime Disability Compensation
Pension for Non-Service-Connected Disability or Death
and, eriii_..html

Persian Gulf Registry
This program is now referred to as Gulf War Registry Program (to include Operation Iraqi Freedom) as of March 7, 2005:
Persian Gulf Registry Referral Centers p?pub_ID=1006
Persian Gulf Veterans' Illnesses Research 1999, Annual Report To Congress'_Illnesses_Appendices.doc
Persian Gulf Veterans' Illnesses Research 2002, Annual Report To Congress
Phase I PGR
Phase II PGR
Policy Manual Index
Power of Attorney
Project 112 (Including Project SHAD)
Prosthetics Eligibility

Public Health and Environmental Hazards Home Page

Public Health/SARS
Publications Manuals
Publications and Reports
Records Center and Vault Homepage
Records Center and Vault Site Map
Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans Illnesses April 11, 2002
Research Advisory Committee on Gul f War Veterans Illnesses
Research and Development
Survivor's and Dependents' Educational Assistance

Title 38
Parts 0-17

Part 18

Title 38
Part 3 Adjudication
Subpart Aa"Pension, Compensation, and Dependency and Indemnity Compensation

Title 38
Pensions, Bonuses & Veterans Relief
(also A 3.317 Compensation for certain disabilities due to undiagnosed illnesses found here)

Title 38

Title 38
A 4.16 Total disability ratings for compensation based on unemployability of the
Subpart Aa"General Policy in Rating

U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims
VA Best Practice Manual for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
VA Fact Sheet
VA Health Care Eligibility
VA Life Insurance Handbook a" Chapter 3
VA Loan Lending Limits and Jumbo Loans
VA MS Research
VA National Hepatitis C Program
VA Office of Research and Development
VA Trainee Pocket Card on Gulf War
VAOIG Hotline Telephone Number and Address
Vet Center Eligibility - Readjustment Counseling Service
Veterans Benefits Administration Main Web Page
Veterans Legal and Benefits Information
VHA Forms, Publications, Manuals
VHA Programs - Clinical Programs & Initiatives
VHA Public Health Strategic Health Care Group Home Page
VHI Guide to Gulf War Veteransa(tm) Health
Vocational Rehabilitation
Vocational Rehabilitation Subsistence
VONAPP online
WARMS - 38 CFR Book C
Wartime Disability Compensation
War-Related Illness and Injury Study Center - New Jersey
Welcome to the GI Bill Web Site
What VA Social Workers Do
WRIISC Patient Eligibility

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KBR Faces Wrongful Death, Toxic Exposure Claims Over Iraq and Afghanistan Burn Pits, According to Burke O'Neil LLC

KBR Faces Wrongful Death, Toxic Exposure Claims Over Iraq and Afghanistan Burn Pits, According to Burke O'Neil LLC

Last update: 5:03 p.m. EDT April 28, 2009
WASHINGTON, April 28, 2009 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ -- Nine new lawsuits allege that KBR, Inc. jeopardized the health and safety of American soldiers and contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan by burning vast quantities of unsorted waste in enormous open-air burn pits with no safety controls.
The lawsuits are being filed today and Wednesday in state courts in Alabama, California, Georgia, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, and Wyoming by the Burke O'Neil LLC law firm and co-counsel on behalf of 21 named current and former military personnel, private contractors, and the families of men who allegedly died as a result of exposure to toxic emissions from KBR burn pits.
KBR is accused of allowing thick, noxious smoke - coming off of flames sometimes colored blue or green by burning chemicals - to hang over U.S. bases and camps across Iraq and Afghanistan since 2004. Round-the-clock hazardous emissions from the burn pits allegedly caused serious respiratory illnesses, tumors and cancers in the plaintiffs.
According to the complaints, "U.S. soldiers and other residents of the military bases and camps have become seriously ill, been diagnosed with serious and potentially fatal diseases and in some cases have died from the physical injuries and diseases caused by the exposure to hazardous smoke and fumes."
The burn pits are so large that tractors are used to push waste onto them and the flames shoot hundreds of feet into the sky, according to the lawsuits. KBR allegedly burned waste such as biohazard materials including human corpses, medical supplies, paints, solvents, asbestos, items containing pesticides, animal carcasses, tires, lithium batteries, styrofoam, wood, rubber, medical waste, large amounts of plastics, and even entire trucks.
Attorney Elizabeth Burke, of Burke O'Neil LLC, stated, "KBR knew or should have known that operating vast open-air burn pits jeopardized the health and safety of thousands of Americans. The hazards of operating large open air burn pits were well known. KBR showed an utter disregard for the safety of the troops when they chose to use open air burn pits and failed to use incinerators and other safer methods of waste disposal."
The plaintiffs include:
-- Robyn Sachs, of Buffalo, N.Y., whose husband Christopher J. Sachs, died
in November 2008 of complications of leukemia allegedly caused by his
prolonged exposure to KBR burn pit smoke, fumes and ash during his
military service in Iraq.
-- Melissa Ochs and Joanne Ochs, of Fuquay Varina, N.C., the surviving
spouse and mother, respectively, of Iraq and Afghanistan veteran Steven
Ochs, who died, in July 2008, from the same type of leukemia as Mr.
Sachs, allegedly caused by exposure to KBR burn pits.
-- Albert Paul Bittel III, of Golden, Mo., an Army veteran who was
stationed at Balad Air Force Base in Iraq, where he and his squad were
exposed to KBR burn pit emissions. Upon his return from Iraq, he was
diagnosed with cancer of the testicles, stomach and lymph nodes. After
surgeries, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy, he continues to suffer
from memory problems and chronic numbing and swelling of his feet and
hands and was forced to end his military career.
-- James Morgan, of Statesville, N.C., who served in Iraq and was stationed
at a guard tower located directly above KBR's Balad Air Force Base
burn pit, suffered from chronic cough and respiratory problems before
developing lung cancer which has spread to his back.
-- Michael Auw, of Hesperia, Calif., a disabled former soldier who was a
guard in the tower located directly above the enormous burn pit at Balad
Air Force Base and who is now completely disabled due to severe
neurological damage as a result of constant extreme exposure to toxic
emissions from the burn pits.

-- Michael Douglas Moore, of Hinesville, Ga., a former soldier who was
stationed at and then medically evacuated from Balad Air Force Base
after burn pit emissions exposure. His exposure to the burn pit
emissions caused severe respiratory disease and he later underwent jaw
surgery to address related breathing problems and sleep apnea and was
left with facial scars and lasting medical effects.

Other named plaintiffs are Richard Ronald Guilmette, of Enterprise, Ala.,; Albert Paul Bittel III, of Golden, Mo.; Cory Casalegno, of San Diego, Calif.; Michael Douglas Moore, of Hinesville, Ga.; David U. Lackey, of Moline, Ill.; Randall L. Robinson, of Cherry Valley, Ill.; Dean Guy Olson, of Owatonna, Minn.; Fred Robert Atkinson, Jr., of Plattsburgh, N.Y.; Jennifer Montijo, of Watertown, N.Y.; Steven A. Flowers, a New York resident who is serving abroad; David Newton, of Spring Lake, N.C.; Chris Boggiano, of Huntersville, N.C.; Benny Lyle Reynolds, Jr.; of Fort Bragg, N.C.; Earl Chavis, of Pembroke, N.C.; SMSgt Glen S. Massman of Warren AFB, Wyo.; and Ssgt Wendy L. McBreairty, of Cheyenne, Wyo.
The collective claims against the defendants include wrongful death, negligence, battery, breach of duty to warn, medical monitoring, future medical expenses, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and breach of contract.
The legal team for the plaintiffs intends to seek class certification of the lawsuits to cover costs of medical monitoring, future medical expenses, and other damages for other individuals exposed to KBR burn pit emissions.
Ms. Burke stated, "KBR promised to minimize the environmental effects of the burn sites they operated in Iraq and Afghanistan and to minimize smoke exposure to people in and near the bases and camps. Instead, by forsaking safety for money, KBR willfully endangered these men and women who honorably served their country in military service or in support of the military."
The defendants are KBR, Inc., of Houston; Kellogg, Brown & Root LLC, of Austin, Texas; Kellogg, Brown & Root Services, Inc., of Houston; and Halliburton Company, of Houston.
The first five cases filed today are:
-- "Richard Ronald Guilmette, et al., v. KBR, Inc., et al.," in
the Circuit Court of Alabama, Twelfth Judicial Circuit, Coffee County,
Alabama (71-CV-2009-900036.00).
-- "Dean Guy Olson, et al., v. KBR, Inc., et al.," in the
District Court of the State of Minnesota, Third Judicial District,
Steele County, Minnesota (74 CV091013).
-- "Michael Douglas Moore, et al., v. KBR, Inc., et al.," in the
Superior Court of Georgia, First District, Atlantic Judicial Circuit,
Liberty County, Georgia (09-SV-169).
-- "Fred Robert Atkinson, Jr., et al., v. KBR, Inc., et al," in
the Supreme Court of the State of New York, 8th District, Erie County,
New York (filing confirmed).

-- "David U. Lackey, et al., v. KBR, Inc., et al.," in the
Circuit Court for Cook County, Illinois (filing confirmed).

Additional cases will be filed today and Wednesday in state courts in San Diego County, Calif., Barry County, Mo., Wake County, N.C., and Laramie County, Wyo.
Attorney Contact: Elizabeth Burke, of Burke O'Neil LLC, Charlottesville, Va., 434.249.1275.
Media Contact: Erin Powers, Powers MediaWorks LLC, for Burke O'Neil LLC, 281.703.6000.

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US does about-face on Camp Lejeune's tap water

US does about-face on Camp Lejeune's tap water
By RITA BEAMISH – 1 hour ago

Nearly 12 years ago, a federal report told Marines and their families that adults faced little or no increased cancer risk from drinking and bathing in chemical-tainted water at North Carolina's Camp Lejeune. That report — long challenged by skeptical veterans — no longer stands.

Federal health officials said Tuesday they were withdrawing their 1997 assessment of health effects from the water contamination because of omissions and scientific inaccuracy.

"We can no longer stand behind the accuracy of the information in that document, specifically in the drinking water public health evaluation," William Cibulas, director of health assessment for the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, said at a meeting in Atlanta. "We know too much now."

The agency, charged with protecting public health around toxic sites, said some parts of the document — dealing with lead, soil pesticides and fish contamination — remain accurate in characterizing the past environmental hazards.

But the water section, analyzing toxins that seeped into wells from a neighboring dry cleaner and from Camp Lejeune industrial activity, contained "troublesome" information, said Cibulas.

As many as 1 million people may have been exposed to water toxins over 30 years before the bad wells were closed in 1987, health officials now say. The Marines estimated the number at 500,000.

When former Marines took their stories last year to Congress, they were dubbed "poisoned patriots."

Some people have interpreted the 1997 report as, "No way, no how, would any person who drank contaminated water at Camp Lejeune be expected to suffer any adverse health effects, be they cancerous or non-cancerous," said Cibulas. "The science is just not that good for us to make that determination."

Problems in the document included omission of the cancer-causing chemical benzene, despite high levels found in a well in 1984, said Cibulas.

Additionally, the contaminating solvents the report focused on have been characterized in newer science as even more potent, he added. Levels of one solvent, called TCE, measured higher than in any known public water supply, an ATSDR scientist said.

Cibulas also noted the report underestimated the extent of the contamination in base housing areas. The mistake, due to inadequate information from the Marines, was reported by The Associated Press in a 2007 investigation of the toxic water.

The health agency did not make any new conclusions, but pulled its flawed document from the Internet to redo its analysis with new science. People who want the still valid parts of the report now have to contact the agency in Atlanta.

The health officials are continuing a separate study into whether fetuses might have been harmed by the water. Agency scientists are conducting elaborate water models to get to the bottom of the contamination.

Tuesday's unusual about-face came at a meeting of the health agency, part of the Health and Human Services Department, with its community advisory panel that works on follow-up to Camp Lejeune's past water problems.

It comes at a sensitive time, after congressional investigators last month accused the agency of obscuring or overlooking potential health hazards at toxic sites. The agency's director, Howard Frumkin, assured Congress he was working to improve on any shortcomings.

The Camp Lejeune report ambiguously stated both that adults faced no increased cancer risk from the water, and that cancer was not likely but that more study was needed.

It said children's cancer risk was unknown, but it raised concerns about fetuses exposed to the water, citing studies elsewhere on leukemia and birth defects.

Rep. Brad Miller, D-N.C., said he hoped Tuesday's development signaled "that the leadership of ATSDR is now willing to acknowledge their past mistakes and to take measures to protect the public's health in the future."

The reversal Tuesday was cold comfort for some former Marines.

Allen Menard believes his rare non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is linked to his time at Camp Lejeune in the early 1980s. "They knew about the benzene," he said. "Why didn't they tell us?"

According to the Navy's legal office, which handles claims, 1,500 former Camp Lejeune residents have filed claims for $33.8 billion in damages. The military is waiting for conclusions from the study of fetal effects before deciding the claims.

On the Net:
Federal health information on the water contamination:

US does about-face on Camp Lejeune's tap water

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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Soldier’s cry for help

Soldier’s cry for help
When Samuel Smith developed post-traumatic stress syndrome overseas, the Canadian Forces threw him out. Now he has rebuilt his life on his own
By IAN ELLIOT Kingston Whig-Standard KINGSTON, Ont.
Tue. Apr 28 - 6:42 AM

Samuel Smith hugs his son Jaxxon outside their Kingston, Ont., home. Smith suffered a breakdown while serving in the Canadian Forces in the former Yugoslavia. He has strug­gled to rebuild his life since then, without the help of the army. (IAN MacALPINE / Kingston Whig-Standard)

WHEN SAMUEL SMITH was deployed to the former Yugoslavia in 1997, it marked the end of his military career, not the beginning of another chapter in it.

While serving on the peacekeeping mission, he developed sleeping disorders, nightmares about his infant daughter who died of a rare heart condition and a mysterious ailment that put him in a Sarajevo hospital for a month.

He was branded a malingerer within his unit and developed a cocaine habit after being medically returned to Canada in mid-tour. So haunted by what he had seen, Smith slept in his car and under bridges because he didn’t feel safe indoors.

He staged a suicide attempt to try to get the help that he knew he needed. He didn’t get it.

His once-promising army career ended with him being marched to the gates of CFB Petawawa by military police with his belongings in a garbage bag. He received one final order: "(Expletive) off and don’t come back."

These days, what Smith was suffering from is recognized as post-traumatic stress disorder. Smith has just won a lawsuit against the Canadian Forces, one of more than two dozen filed by a Quebec City lawyer who argued that the former soldiers were ignored, discriminated against and refused help for conditions they came down with while on active duty.

"Nobody wants to admit that they have PTSD — whether it’s shame or bravado, no one wants to admit that they have a mental disorder," said Smith during a recent interview in his Kingston home.

"All I wanted was for them to acknowledge what they did to mess up my life. I lost my career, I lost my marriage, I lost custody of my child — everything was taken away from me and I had to build it back up."

The terms of his settlement with the government are confidential, but Smith said the recognition that he was suffering from a medical disorder — and the government’s pledge to pay for further counselling if he requires it — means more to him than the small cash payout.

Since leaving the forces, Smith has undergone extensive psychological counselling and has rebuilt his life. He has regained partial custody of his young son, he is studying to go into the health-care field and he has been clean for years, but his tale is typical of others who served in the Balkans.

"Things were different back then," he said.

"We didn’t get any training. There was no place for us to turn. I don’t want to say I won this because that’s not how I feel. I just want to know that things are right and what’s supposed to be there is there for any other veterans who find themselves in my position."

His lawyer, Jacques Ferron, said the cases he is taking to court, including Smith’s, are an attempt to rectify a past wrong.

"These were peace tours, and they did not recognize PTSD, so the cases of these guys are different than the guys who are going to Afghanistan today," he said.

"They didn’t have the preparation before they left and they didn’t do anything when they came back, and while we suspect that they knew there were cases of PTSD, they didn’t do anything about it."

Following the high-profile case of Gen. Romeo Dallaire, who suffered from the syndrome after leading a mission in Rwanda, identification and treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder has taken on a higher profile in the army. Troops learn about it in basic training and they are screened for it, even when they are in theatre.

The Forces has also established special post-traumatic stress disorder clinics at bases around the country, although in a report last year interim ombudsman Mary McFadyen said while the military has taken steps to address the issue, more remains to be done.

"Investigators found and the office is aware of a number of individual cases where military members and/or their families were not treated fairly by the Canadian Forces or, for a variety of reasons, did not get access to the care and treatment that they so desperately needed," her report last December found.

"Injured soldiers, sailors, airmen and airwomen who have served their country with courage and dedication are slipping through the cracks of an ad hoc system."

She also noted post-traumatic stress disorder still has a stigma and people are reluctant to seek help in case it is seen as weakness.

Smith, whose father was a non-commissioned officer, joined the army right out of high school, looking for some structure in his life.

A driver with a service battalion, he worked in Ottawa for several chiefs of staff before being deployed to the former Yugoslavia in 1997.

He was not in combat, but driving through the ruined country, seeing amputee children and the effects of the nation’s civil war started taking a toll on him.

"It was hard," he recalled. "I’ve always been a family man and I was driving around seeing the destruction, seeing the kids with no arms and no legs, and I started dreaming about my daughter. I dreamed she was in a cooler somewhere there with bandages around her head, and I’d never had dreams like that before."

He developed nightmares, irritability, sleep disorders and, finally, a baffling medical condition that caused him to be hospitalized for a month as doctors speculated he had everything from tuberculosis to HIV. He dropped from 210 to 170 pounds during his hospitalization and when he was released from hospital — with a diagnosis of pneumonia — he returned to his unit only to find that he was seen as a slacker, or in military terms, an MIR commando, a disdainful term referring to soldiers who report to the medical inspection room with vague symptoms to get out of their duties.

"I didn’t understand what was happening," Smith said. "I was ashamed because I was being repatriated, and because I couldn’t understand what was wrong with me."

"I couldn’t understand how I could go from being a good soldier to someone who was seen as a disruptive influence on his unit."

The story he tells is a familiar one. The Bosnian conflict was seen as a peacekeeping exercise, and troops were expected to tough it out — the saying in the Forces was that a soldier would rather die than cry — and neither the troops nor the chain of command knew much about post-traumatic stress disorder, let alone how to deal with it.

The prevailing ethos was "suck it up or get out," and Smith remembers adopting that ethos.

Upon his return to his unit, he says his symptoms continued and he was increasingly ostracized by his superiors. What little psychological help he was offered was of no use.

"I’d go see them, and the only thing they wanted to know was if I was thinking of hurting myself, and I wasn’t."

"Of course, I was sleeping under a bridge in below-zero weather, so maybe I wasn’t trying to kill myself, but it might happen anyway."

He finally took a handful of pills and walked over to a friend’s shack to tell him what he had done in hopes that he would get help.

When he came to in hospital, he confessed to his drug use and the army put him into a rehab program, first insisting that he sign his own release papers in addition to the rest of the paperwork.

He completed the program and, when he returned to his unit, found himself medically discharged with a 5F classification — disgraceful discharge — and escorted off the base. He is still trying to get that classification changed to an honourable release.

Smith cleaned himself up. He spent months in in-patient psychological facilities — with pride, he said he did it himself — although he still feels the army let him down.

"When you’re in the army, they’re supposed to be like your mom and dad," he reflected. That was what his late father, the career man, drilled into him and it was one of the reasons he enlisted. It was also one of the reasons he kept going because he felt his father wouldn’t have wanted him to quit.

"They always tell you the army will take care of you, and they didn’t," he said. "I didn’t want my kids to think that I was some unstable guy who was just mad at the army. I just wanted what was right."

"You shouldn’t be ashamed or punished for saying you need some help, and I hope what I’ve been through helps someone else who needs it."

Smith says he’s just glad to be getting well again.

"It’s nice to hear my family say that they like to see me smile again and say, ‘It’s nice to have you back.’ "

‘All I wanted was for them to acknowledge what they did to mess up my life. I lost my career, I lost my marriage, I lost custody of my child — everything was taken away from me and I had to build it back up.’

SAMUEL SMITHFormer member Canadian Forces

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Monday, April 27, 2009

Stressed soldiers lack support, ex-chaplain maintains

Stressed soldiers lack support, ex-chaplain maintains

Forces personnel often left to suffer post-traumatic illness

April 25, 2009

The circumstances surrounding non-combat deaths of troops in Afghanistan often remain mysterious.

Of the handful that have occurred, at least two have led to criminal charges, several were accidental and two have been ruled suicides.

The death of Major Michelle Mendes has not publicly been ruled a suicide, but has brought increased attention to the mental health of Canadian Forces personnel.

"It does underline the need for a very strong emphasis on mental health services within the Canadian Forces," said Allan Studd, a marriage and family therapist who served for eight years as a chaplain for the Forces.

"This is combat, it's extremely tense and extremely dangerous, firefights are common and you know that there's an enemy out there who's just waiting to pick you off so you just have to live with being constantly on guard, always."

The need for mental health support among Canadian Forces personnel outweighs supply, he said, in part because the military officials "are still looking at the provision of mental-health services through maybe a 1950s lens."

The variety of mental- health professionals made available is too limited, and does not include marriage and family therapists, he said.

In March of 2008, Bombardier Jérémie Ouellet, part of the latest rotation of troops to arrive in southern Afghanistan, was found dead in his sleeping accommodations at Kandahar Air Field. The death of the 22-year-old native of Matane, Que., was recently attributed to a self-inflicted gunshot wound. His family has said he was "not the type of person to commit suicide."

Major Raymond Ruckpaul was found dead in his living quarters with a gunshot wound at the Kabul headquarters of the NATO-led forces in Afghanistan in August of 2007. The death was deemed a suicide by the military's National Investigation Service.

That same year, Canada's Defence Ombudsman Yves Côté said the National Defence Department and Canadian Forces treat military families like "second-class citizens" and leave their concerns and complaints to languish for months on end.

He made the comment in the context of a 21/2-year investigation into the treatment of sniper Master Corporal Graham Ragsdale, who returned from Afghanistan suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

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Magnitude of dirty VA hospital equipment unknown

Look like Vets need to ask their VA Dr to be tested for HIV & Hepatitis

April 25, 2009

Magnitude of dirty VA hospital equipment unknown

By BILL POOVEY Associated Press Writer

Thousands of veterans were at first shocked to learn they should get blood tests for HIV and hepatitis because three hospitals might have treated them with unsterile equipment. Now, just a couple of months after the Department of Veterans Affairs issued the dire warnings, veterans are growing frustrated by the lack of information from the tightlipped federal agency.

Nearly 11,000 former sailors, soldiers, airmen and Marines could have been exposed to infectious diseases because three VA hospitals in the Southeast did not properly clean endoscopic equipment between patients. On Friday, the VA revealed that another patient had tested positive for HIV, bringing the total to four such cases among patients who got endoscope procedures at hospitals in Miami, Murfreesboro, Tenn., and Augusta, Ga.

The agency also said a new hepatitis case had been discovered, increasing the number of positive tests to 26. More than 4,270 veterans still have yet to get test results.

Beyond those skimpy facts, the VA has said little else, citing an ongoing investigation.

It hasn't answered questions from The Associated Press about why problems with cleaning the equipment — and possibly co-mingling infectious body fluids — went on for five years at the Miami and Murfreesboro hospitals and about a year in Augusta. The VA also refuses to say if it found similar problems at its other 150 hospitals or if more patients should get blood tests.

The VA has stressed that the positive tests are "not necessarily linked" to medical treatment at its hospitals, and infections don't always cause symptoms and can go undetected for years.

Still, veterans are calling on the agency to release more information.

"This effort must involve continual updates on what the VA is learning about the extent of this situation," Vietnam Veterans of America President John Rowan said in a statement Thursday.

More facts are little comfort, though, to those who are already infected — and those that don't know.

A 60-year-old Navy veteran who had a colonoscopy at a VA hospital last year got an unimaginable phone call recently — a blood test showed he had HIV. A second test by the VA was negative, and now, the Tennessee man doesn't know what to think.

"I screamed out loud, `No' and went over and held my wife and told her what happened," said the veteran, who spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because he was afraid of repercussions against himself and his employer. "We had a nice, good cry. The things that go through your mind. You think your whole world is going to end. Her world could end, too."

It was not clear whether the Tennessee man was counted as a positive HIV test by the VA.

The VA said the problems with the endoscopic equipment had gone on for years, but were discovered in December when it learned the Murfreesboro facility wasn't following cleaning procedures the manufacturer recommended. It issued an internal alert for hospitals to check their procedures, and the problem at Augusta was discovered in January.

On Feb. 9, the VA announced a nationwide safety check of endoscopic equipment used in colonoscopies and ear, nose and throat treatments. The procedure involves a narrow, flexible tube fitted with a fiber-optic device such as a telescope or magnifying lens that is inserted into the body.

Some veterans were warned in February to get tested, and more were alerted in March when the Miami hospital backtracked on its previous conclusion that it didn't have a problem.

The day after the first HIV infection became public April 6, the VA announced that its top medical official, Dr. Michael Kussman, was retiring. Kussman still works at the VA but could not be reached for comment. VA spokeswoman Katie Roberts said there was "no connection whatsoever."

The endoscopic equipment is made by Center Valley, Pa.-based Olympus American Inc., and the company has said its recommended cleaning procedures are clear.

The VA and its inspector general have started investigations, and congressional members of the Veterans Affairs Committee have asked for a hearing in late May to discuss how the VA has been handling the problem.

U.S. Rep. Steve Buyer, R-Ind. and ranking member of the committee, said in a statement he and his staff have been briefed weekly by senior VA officials. His office declined to release more information.

Private hospitals have also spread infectious diseases with unsterile equipment, but requirements to report such problems vary by state and there's no national regulation requiring disclosure, according to Barbara Rudolph, director of The Leapfrog Group, which advocates for quality health care.

The VA is providing a hot line for veterans and their families and posts the information it is releasing on its Web site. Because the VA hasn't ruled out other hospitals having had problems, some veterans are wondering if its more widespread.

In Cedar Rapids, Iowa, former Marine Allen Lusk had several colonoscopies at the VA hospital in Iowa City and tested positive for hepatitis B in December.

"I never had it till I started going to the VA," said Lusk, 51.

He started using the VA in 2006 after he was injured when a car fell on him and he didn't have health insurance. After seeing news reports about the contaminated equipment problems elsewhere, Lusk went to his county health department for an HIV test. He tested negative.

"To be honest, I'd like to see them come out and be honest about how big this really is," he said. "It might be embarrassing, but in the long run it might be better for them."

From: James []
Sent: Monday, April 27, 2009 4:43 AM
To: Jim
Subject: Magnitude of dirty VA hospital equipment unknown

Thousands of veterans were at first shocked to learn they should get blood tests for HIV and hepatitis because three hospitals might have treated them with unsterile equipment. Now, just a couple of months after the Department of Veterans Affairs issued the dire warnings, veterans are growing frustrated by the lack of information from the tightlipped federal agency.


Beyond those skimpy facts, the VA has said little else, citing an ongoing investigation.

It hasn't answered questions from The Associated Press about why problems with cleaning the equipment — and possibly co-mingling infectious body fluids — went on for five years at the Miami and Murfreesboro hospitals and about a year in Augusta. The VA also refuses to say if it found similar problems at its other 150 hospitals or if more patients should get blood tests.

Rest Here:


As a disabled veteran who gets all of my treatment at the Augusta Georgia VAMC also known as the Charlie Norwood Medical Ceneter for Veterans.....I get excellent health care there, but I have not had any invasive tests since 1997, I have refused a colonoscopy due to the severity of my heart problems if I have colon cancer I don't wwant to know about it, more than likely the operation to remove it would kill me, so why go thru the mental stress that would cause my wife and I?

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Sunday, April 26, 2009

Drugs, Death and the Manufacture of Doubt

Drugs, Death and the Manufacture of Doubt

April 26, 2009
Drugs, Death and the Manufacture of Doubt
By Dan Olmsted

I hope regular readers of this site will indulge a fairly extended incursion into a topic that, on the surface, is unrelated to autism but that connects at a deep level with our point and purpose. It concerns what I would call an analogous situation, and analogies sometimes have just as much power as direct argument and evidence.

This piece is triggered by two articles written last week on The Huffington Post by Greg Mitchell, editor of Editor & Publisher magazine and nine books including “Wrong for So Long: How the Press, the Pundits -- and the President -- Failed on Iraq.” Greg is one of the really smart guys orbiting the media universe, and was among the first to raise questions about the weak and wobbly performance of the press in covering the so-called “war on terror.”

My own experience with Greg comes from something he wrote in March 2004: “My vote for Iraq reporter of the year goes to a low-profile journalist who did not cover the war itself and has never even been to Baghdad. His name is Mark Benjamin, 33, and he serves as investigations editor for United Press International out of Washington, D.C. E&P has documented his work since last autumn, and now the heavy hitters - The New York Times and The Washington Post - are following his lead, taking a long look at the forgotten American victims of the war: the injured, the traumatized, and the suicides.”

At that point, Mark and I were colleagues at UPI -- I was his editor on those stories, although we were first and foremost co-conspirators in trying to bring attention to the woeful way the military was treating its soldiers and veterans. We had already been working together a couple of years at that point, starting in early 2002 with an investigative series on an anti-malaria drug called Lariam. The Army invented it as older malaria pills were losing effectiveness during the Vietnam era, and rushed it onto the market with inadequate testing under a licensing deal with Roche. It didn’t take long for the pharmaceutical version of “sin in haste, repent at leisure” effect to appear -- by the late 1980s, severe mental problems that included suicide and aggressive behavior were showing up in the military and also in the general traveling population, which was being prescribed Lariam as the new wonder drug.

I wandered into this story in an odd but oddly powerful way -- two friends of mine took trips within a few months of each other, one to India, one to the Amazon, and returned to say that a malaria medication they’d taken had driven them crazy. I mean, really and truly crazy; psychotic; barking mad, as the Brits so vividly put it. I started reading up on this drug and found that the FDA, which approved it, and the CDC, which recommended it, and the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, which invented it, and Roche, which manufactured it, all backed it to the hilt. The malaria surveillance officer at the CDC attributed all the carping to travel stress that the Internet had fanned into some kind of urban myth about a wonderfully safe and effective drug. (All the Peace Corps kids who claimed it drove them crazy -- well, they’re an odd, hypersensitive, idealistic bunch, he claimed.)

We weren’t buying it, and we wrote a long investigative piece for Newsday in 2002 that began:

WASHINGTON, May 21 (UPI) -- Mounting evidence suggests the anti-malaria drug Lariam -- prescribed to Peace Corps volunteers, travelers and U.S. soldiers -- has triggered mental problems so severe that in a small percentage of users it has led to the ultimate side effect: suicide.

We were right, and we were wrong: Suicide turned out NOT to be the ultimate side effect. The next month, three Special Operations soldiers who returned from Afghanistan to Fort Bragg, N.C., killed their wives and then themselves. This made big headlines -- was the war on terror and its new and stealthy nature driving our best troops over the edge? We had our own ideas, and we went down to Fort Bragg and talked to enough people to see a pretty clear pattern. These soldiers had messed-up marriages, yes, but they also had zero history of domestic violence, which almost always precedes domestic homicide. I remember standing in the back yard of one of these now-dead couples and talking to a friend of theirs who was cleaning out a shed that held fishing gear the father took on outings with his three sons (now dispersed to relatives in Ohio -- collateral damage that never gets written about). This friend said, yes, the soldier had taken Lariam and lots of it, and yes, he had been very strange since he came back -- “jacked up” was the quote I scribbled on my business card, the first overt sign that something was off kilter in these highly trained and seasoned soldiers. Other Special Ops families were talking openly about seeing similar behavior. They were concluding on their own -- no help from the Internet or prodding from the pesky press required -- that Lariam was behind the cluster of murder-suicides.

We wrote about all that -- and wrote about it, and wrote about it some more, which is what you have to do if you want to break through the Gary-Condit-Craigslist-Killer static in this media day and age. For several weeks we piled up the evidence but our story just lay there, until our far bigger competition, the Associated Press, picked it up as their own (better to be copied than ignored). Suddenly, one morning, it was everywhere. CNN was running crawls about how the drug had been linked to suicide, about internal company documents discussing that fact (we had unearthed them in our original investigation, including a section titled Special Review: Lariam and Suicide, Suicide Attempt and Suicidal Ideation), and about how the Army itself was now going to do an investigation. Wow. Attention would be paid.

But that was the problem, right there: The Army itself was going to do an investigation. The media was satisfied by this “response” and the story faded away; no one seemed to realize that the Army investigating a drug it invented, and rushed onto the market, and ordered its soldiers to take without proper warnings, might not be the most direct route to the truth. And remember, this was the summer of 2002; America had just “won” in Afghanistan in the wake of 9/11, and now the drums were beating for an invasion of Iraq before the WMD question mark turned into a mushroom cloud over Manhattan. Hoo-AH!

Later that year, the Army Surgeon General’s Office -- the department directly responsible for the use of Lariam -- issued its report. I have to say it was the day I lost what remained of my naivete about government and drug safety and the mainstream media’s ability to connect even two dots with a straight line. The report concluded there was no cluster of Lariam-related murder-suicides at Fort Bragg. They did this by expanding the parameters of the “cluster” they were examining. Besides the three Special Operations murder-suicides, there had been two other murders at Fort Bragg that summer of 2002 -- a cook stabbed his wife and set her trailer on fire in a jealous rage, and a wife got her boyfriend to murder her Army major-husband for the insurance money. The report lumped these in with the three Special Operations murder-suicides -- the ones people were concerned about -- and said, see, only three of these five had taken Lariam, so, voila, no cluster.

This was jaw-droppingly, self-evidently bogus and cynical, but no one outside the world of those who had taken the drug and knew its effects (and a gutsy group called Lariam Action USA) bothered to question it. The Army leaked its report to USA Today, which in the short space it had to “break” the story could only report the facts as offered: “An Army investigation of possible medical and behavioral causes behind a series of domestic killings and suicides at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, has ruled out the antimalaria drug Lariam, officials said. Speculation about possible explanations for the killings has run the gamut from the stress of combat to psychotic side effects from Lariam. Three of the four soldiers involved in the killings had recently returned from Afghanistan.”

What a relief -- Army rules out Lariam. On that day I felt a chill of isolation from mainstream journalism that has settled deep into my bones in the intervening years. (And I was an original editor at USA Today, which hurt even more.)

Predictably, more mayhem ensued. By the summer of 2003, we were in Iraq, and tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers were taking Lariam (even though the CDC didn’t recommend it for Iraq -- there was no malaria risk and other, older, safer drugs worked just as well). And, guess what, there was an immediate spike in the Army suicide rate. Once again, they did a study: “A new Army report reveals that soldiers committed suicides at elevated rates during 2003, with those deployed to Iraq and Kuwait experiencing the greatest increase.”

And once again, the Army acquitted itself. “’We have no data that indicate that Lariam was a factor in any Army suicides in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan).’ Instead, the Army said, the deaths were linked to ‘failed personal relationships, financial crises, legal difficulties and mental problems like depression and psychosis’ -- the same factors that trigger suicide in the general public, magnified by ready access to guns.” ABL -- anything but Lariam.

Which brings us back around to Greg Mitchell, who wrote two pieces in the last week about a soldier who killed herself in Iraq in 2003. “With each new revelation on U.S. torture in Iraq, Afghanistan and Gitmo (and who, knows, probably elsewhere), I am reminded of the chilling story of Alyssa Peterson, who I have written about numerous times in the past three years but now with especially sad relevance. Appalled when ordered to take part in interrogations that, no doubt, involved what we would call torture, she refused, then killed herself a few days later, in September 2003.”

This rang a bell. I have long since tossed out boxes full of documentation about Lariam and the military (it was getting hard to get the car into the garage), but I still have the Roche internal safety reports from the 1990s where they catalog the reports of insanity, suicide and violence and pass it off as part of the decline in our social fabric. (Truly, they do! Their “Special Review” on suicides in previously well-adjusted travelers attributes the death to "the progressive break down of traditional values" and family structure, substance abuse and unemployment, not to Lariam use.)

And I still have the folder in which I kept track of those suicides in Iraq. I dug it out last night. The first page lists 21 suicides in 2003. At the top of the page is a note to myself: “Like Fort Bragg -- got caught in the headlights.” By that, I meant that just as the murder-suicide cluster at Fort Bragg threatened to expose the widespread problems the drug was causing soldiers in Afghanistan, the suicide spike the next summer in Iraq showed the same thing was happening all over again. This time, though, it was worse, if one death can ever be said to be worse than another death. This time, the Army had fair warning, the media should have been alert, and soldiers didn’t even need the drug in Iraq whereas there was a technical case for it in Afghanistan.

In that folder, I listed “OIF [Operation Iraqi Freedom] Suicides in calendar year 2003” and put a circle next to the name if they were “in L unit” -- a unit that took Lariam. Figuring this out was a tedious process -- I recall spending a good chunk of the summer of 2004 on this one task, because the Army Surgeon General had told Congress (under oath) that Lariam couldn’t possibly be a factor because only four of the suicides occurred in units that were taking it. I counted at least 11 suicides in such units -- enough to fully explain the big increase in the suicide rate. After we wrote about that, the Army had to go back and quietly “amend” the surgeon general’s sworn statement based on “more complete information.” (It was in fact another cluster-fuck, the Army manipulating epidemiology to mask malfeasance. The tactic was also evident in the case of a soldier who was airlifted out of Iraq that summer of 2003 in the midst of a complete psychotic break. He hanged himself at Walter Reed a short while later but was not counted as an Iraq war suicide; he was almost certainly a Lariam psychosis victim.)

Looking at my list now, I see the first suicide occurs on April 13, 2003, about three weeks after the invasion of Iraq. Then they really take off in June, July and August -- just when the weekly load of Lariam toxicity would have peaked (it is fat soluble and settles in your brain and has a half-life -- the amount of time it takes half the drug to leave your body -- from hell). Then there is this entry:

-- Sept. 15, Army Spc. Alyssa R. Peterson, 27, of Flagstaff Ariz. Died in Teafar, Iraq, from a non-combat weapons discharge. Assigned to C Company, 311th Military Intelligence Battalion, 101st Airborne (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, Ky.

I have the date circled. It’s impossible to be sure at this point, but I assume that means I had connected Lariam to her unit, through what process I no longer recall. Of course, even if that is correct, it doesn’t mean she actually took Lariam; even if she took it, that doesn’t mean it affected her; even if she took it and it did affect her, that didn’t mean she killed herself solely and proximately due to this drug rather than because of her concern about torture. But on that same list, I also note four other Iraq suicides in 2003 in soldiers who were either stationed at Fort Campbell or were part of the 101st Airborne Division headquartered there. In other words, it was another cluster.

This confusion is just how the Army liked it -- they kept almost no records of who took the drug, let alone which units prescribed it, completely contrary to their own written regulations. They never bothered to find out retrospectively, to say the least,, and they did everything they could to obstruct those who were trying. A classic example: Mark Benjamin and I had put in a request to determine how many veterans of the Somalia conflict -- where Lariam was first used -- had subsequently committed suicide. We put that question to the VA in the form of a Freedom of Information request. I happen to know that a conversation took place inside the VA in which the person in charge of fulfilling that FOI request asked, Do we have that information? He was told, Well, not on one piece of paper, but all we have to do is push a button and the program will spit it out. The response: Well, then, we DON’T have that information. Deny the request.

As I said, I keep seeing stories like Greg Mitchell’s attributing suicides to all kinds of triggers -- and once again, Greg is a superb journalist, mining the facts he has to work with. But those facts, as they’ve been filtered, fudged and filibustered over the past few years, may not comprise all the relevant data.

Another and more bizarre instance is a cluster of suicides among Army recruiters in Texas that recently made news and was the subject of a Congressional hearing in which Army officials declared themselves gobsmacked, absolutely shocked -- shocked. Time magazine wrote a big piece about it April 13, promoted on the cover as “The Tragic Tale of Army Recruiter Suicides.” It goes five full pages, and starts with an anecdote about an Army staff sergeant who was exhausted and demoralized by his job as a recruiter and told a colleague, “’I had such a bad, long week, it was ridiculous.’” He hung himself in his garage. Time called recruiting “perhaps the toughest, if not the most dangerous, job in the Army.”

Oh, for pity’s SAKE! What about this stray fact mentioned in the next paragraph: “Soldiers who have returned from tours in Iraq and Afghanistan now constitute 73% of recruiters, up from 38% in 2005.” In other words, many if not most recruiters for the United States Army served in areas where the Army made them take a drug that can cause severe and long-lasting (let’s call them what they are -- permanent) psychiatric problems, including suicide and aggression, and covered it up not once but twice. To review the official product label one last time:

“Mefloquine [the generic name] may cause psychiatric symptoms in a number of patients, ranging from anxiety, paranoia, and depression to hallucination and psychotic behavior. On occasions, these symptoms have been reported to continue long after mefloquine has been stopped. Rare cases of suicidal ideation and suicide have been reported though no relationship to drug administration has been confirmed.”

Note the bland phrase “a number of patients.” Believe me, if they could establish it was a SMALL number, they would say so. But they have no clue, in large part because they won’t look, and the government and media won’t make them. And maybe a link to suicide hasn’t been “confirmed,” another artful phrase, but trust me, drug manufacturers do not warn of death on official product labels unless they well know it can happen, has happened, and will happen again, and the warning is needed to protect them in any ensuing legal action.

What has happened here, in summary, is the bad guys won, and they’re still winning. Because of the cover-ups and misdirection committed by Army medical doctors -- a direct violation of their oath to put patients first and do no harm -- we find ourselves discussing how being an Army recruiter is the hardest and most dangerous job in the military, and how it’s perfectly logical to kill yourself after “a bad, long week,” and how failed personal relationships, financial crises, legal difficulties and mental problems like depression and psychosis are picking off our soldiers faster than Iraqi snipers, and how the breakdown of traditional values is causing travelers to kill themselves, and how Alyssa Peterson committed suicide because of Army torture tactics she abhorred. We’re right back where I started, when the head of malaria surveillance at the CDC said those Peace Corps volunteers were, frankly, a little weird.

Well, we’re not quite where we started. I’ve learned a little more about science and its methods since I worked on the Lariam story, and now I know why this whole episode has gone on so long: “Entia non sunt multiplicanda sine necessitate.” Allow me to translate this epigram attributed to philosopher and theologian William of Occam centuries ago:

“Entities must not be multiplied unnecessarily.” This is the law of ontological parsimony that -- allow me to translate further -- means, in essence, the simplest explanation for unusual phenomena is the one that should be studied first, and either disproven or embraced, before more complicated theories -- ones that require more facts and theories, more “entities” -- are embraced. In practice, it means that if the Army gave a drug that can cause psychosis, suicide and homicide to tens of thousands of soldiers, and those effects can persist long after they stop taking it, and we observe a pattern of psychosis, suicide and homicide in those soldiers, some of it quite persistent, we need to check that correlation out pretty carefully.

I said this is a case where the bad guys won, but I should point out the following dispatch from Stars and Stripes last month: “The Army has dropped Lariam — the drug linked to side effects including suicidal tendencies, anxiety, aggression and paranoia — as its preferred protection against malaria because doctors had inadvertently prescribed it to people who should not take it.

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

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

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

So no more Lariam and no one accountable -- just the death and destruction it caused our Army and the mayhem it will wreck on our veterans. Maybe Eric Shinseki, who spoke truth to power as Army chief of staff and lost his job over it before the Iraq war, and is now head of the VA, ought to check it out.

After our Lariam investigation and Mark’s stellar work on the mistreatment of Iraq vets, we went our own ways, Mark to Salon, where he continues to do the best work on veterans problems of any reporter in the country (he broke the Walter Reed story, of which The Washington Post’s Pulitzer Gold Medal investigation was derivative -- better to be copied than ignored). I took the drug angle, looking more deeply into whether the same kinds of conflicts, self-dealing and media blindness we saw with Lariam could be playing out on an even bigger and more catastrophic stage -- autism.

I’ll let you be the judge of that.
Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of Autism.

Veterans and their families really should read this story.

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Nuclear bomb tester relatives to get medical help

Nuclear bomb tester relatives to get medical help

By Susie Boniface 26/04/2009

Children and grandchildren of servicemen involved in Britain's nuclear bomb tests are to get medical help for the first time.

The families - who have 10 times the normal rate of birth defects - are to take part in a landmark £500,000 study, it was announced last week.

It follows a Sunday Mirror campaign demanding help after we reported they have been left with a 500-year legacy of genetic damage.

Veterans Minister Kevan Jones last week said there will be a wide-ranging medical assessment of the families - which is expected to lead to new research and therapies to help them.

He told Parliament money had already been put aside and that the work would begin within weeks.

More than 20,000 servicemen were ordered to stand and watch as Britain exploded hundreds of nuclear devices in Australia and the South Pacific between 1952 and 1967.

Many of their children were born with twisted limbs, deformed bones, eye, heart and teeth defects or blood and brain disorders.

Work has already begun to contact the families. The results of the study are expected to be announced next year..

Maybe these tests and studies will help American families of America;s Nuclear experiments and exposures in the 50s and 60s.

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Vets face higher co-pays

Vets face higher co-pays

Retirees targeted amid debate on healthcare reform
Fight over name of road isn't over
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By John Yaukey
Gannett Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON — Lawmakers and the Pentagon appear poised for what promise to be contentious talks about how to reform the healthcare system for veterans — now the fastest-growing component of the defense budget.

One suggestion being debated would require that working-age military retirees contribute more in co-payments and premiums through the armed forces' Tricare system.

It's not yet clear how much more, or whether the measure would even make it through Congress.

But it marks yet another attempt by the Pentagon to deal with rising health costs — unsuccessfully so far — and the significant hurdles it faces on Capitol Hill, where concern for veterans' well-being now runs high.

"Rising healthcare costs are claiming a larger portion of the defense budget," said Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawai'i, chairman of the Veterans' Affairs Committee.

"But we must be sure that any changes do not impact the quality and access to healthcare earned by those who have served our country honorably."

One of those is Will Heinze, who lives near York, Pa., and was invited along with other retired veterans from Pennsylvania to attend a recent Senate hearing on veterans' benefits.

"Many of us are on fixed incomes," he said. "Raising any of these costs will price some of us out."

The military healthcare debate will unfold as lawmakers and the Obama administration — via the Pentagon — negotiate military spending over the coming months for the fiscal 2010 budget.

The Pentagon is projected to spend roughly $47 billion on healthcare in fiscal 2010, out of what's expected to be a $533 billion defense budget request.

"Healthcare is eating the (Defense) Department alive," Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in an April 15 speech at Alabama's Maxwell Air Force Base.

"Part of the problem is we cannot get any relief from the Congress in terms of increasing either co-pays or the premiums," he said.

It's not for lack of trying.

During each of the past three years of the Bush administration, the Pentagon tried to raise Tricare fees. But Congress rejected the increases and added the money back into the defense budget each time.

Even lawmakers known for their strong advocacy for veterans acknowledge there's a serious problem with health costs. But they argue the Pentagon has been too heavy-handed in the past, attempting to foist unacceptably large cost increases onto retirees in too short a time span.

"That would be a total breach of the promise this country made to our career military personnel, and it is simply unacceptable," said Rep. Neil Abercrombie, D-Hawai'i, a senior member of the Armed Services Committee.

"On the other hand, many retirees and the organizations that represent them want a permanent freeze on fees and co-pays, and that is not practical. Congress and the Pentagon must have a reasonable dialogue about phasing in acceptable fee increases for Tricare and controlling the costs of healthcare, and we must do it very soon," Abercrombie said.

The headline is inflammatory, the article discusses military retirees having their Tricare costs rise, NOT co pays for VA hospital care. I don't think there has been an increase on Tricare in the past decade despite double digit annual medical care costs, even at the Post Office we had annual cost increases on out health care policies and increaed co-pays. Yes, I know the arguments, but realistically most military retirees also get health care from their civilian jobs after they get a new job after leaving the military in their late 30s or early 40s.

Between the healthcare from the new job and the Tricare most retirees pay no out of pocket expenses, so it isn't exactly like you are being pried loose of your last nickel is it?

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