Friday, May 15, 2009

Transparency Bloggers to our community!

First and foremost, we’re excited to welcome the new members of
Transparency Bloggers to our community!

We are excited to have great voices like Tracy Viselli writing over
at Reno and Its Discontent ( and Chetly
Zarko from Outside Lansing (
participating in the conversation - and new voices like Sunlight's new
engagement director Jake Brewer. We also wanted to take this
opportunity to update you on new developments happening around the
Sunlight network and ask for your feedback.

Sunlight has recently expanded its teams and projects, and is now in
an even better position to support our efforts towards greater
government transparency through technology, policy and citizen

Citizen engagement and citizen journalists like all of us, in
particular, are playing an ever more important role in ecosystem of
making our government more transparent – and as such, this list has a
tremendously important place in the Sunlight ecosystem.

In these next months, as the elected officials vote on bills that will
shape our collective next decade, our voices will be needed more than
ever to ensure our local, state and federal governments are
transparent and accountable to us.

We believe local bloggers are the backbone of citizen journalism and
good government initiatives, and this list is here to support you as
best we can.

This list is seen as a place for you to share your work with each
other, seek advice when government information is being evasive, and
share ideas about what’s working and what’s not as we propel the
transparency movement forward.

We also need your ideas for engaging new audiences, what data you
would like to see, projects you might need help creating, and
resources you need to be connected with.

The real sources of transparency are the people that work tirelessly
to hold those we elect to the highest standards – and that’s us.

So let’s get to work.

The first thing you can help with is to fill out this simple form
which will be shared with the group, letting others know who you are,
where you’re from, your topic of focus and your URL.

Form is linked here: Transparency Bloggers Form

We can’t wait to work with you all more over these next few months and

Nisha Thompson

P.S. Please let us know who is missing from this conversation. We
need as many voices as possible to help strengthen the movement toward
accountable and transparency governance. So feel free to let us know
who should be invited.


Due to my personal history with "classified programs" in the past I am a firm believer in "sunlight being the greatest disinfectant" and I support all moves towards transparency and accountability for elected officials and appointed government employees. Not everything is done with the best intentions as we are all well aware of, i.e the current mess with "enhanced interrogations" and "torture" the difference being how the term is apparently being used and by whom.

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Thursday, May 14, 2009

Remains of 61 US Cavalry soldiers to be reburied

Remains of 61 US Cavalry soldiers to be reburied

Remains of 61 US Cavalry soldiers to be reburied

Associated Press - May 14, 2009 10:44 AM ET

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) - The remains of 61 U.S. Cavalry soldiers and some of their dependents exhumed from the downtown Tucson site of a future courts complex will be re-interred Saturday at the Southern Arizona Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Sierra Vista.

The remains will be escorted from All Faiths Cemeteries by scores of motorcyclists from the Veterans of Foreign Wars Patriot Riders. They will be reburied with full military honors at the new historical cemetery near Fort Huachuca.

The remains were among more than 1,800 exhumed and stored as part of an archaeological dig at the site of the future County-City Joint Courts Complex.

The site was territorial Tucson's first cemetery. The soldiers were stationed at Fort Lowell from the 1860s to 1880s.

Information from: Tucson Citizen,


Many of these calvarymen were in the same Civil War Regiment my grandfather rode in, the California 4th which was from the San Francisco area, and entered the Army on the Union side and were sent to Arizona to stop the Southern troops from coming to california and Arizona and New Mexico to obtain gold and silver for use by the Confederacy.

My grandfather Joshua Eaton Bailey was discharged in Jan 1865 and returned to Yuma to work for the Army Supply Deport as a civilian employee after the war, he then started running trading establishments along the Colorado River north of Yuma, until 1874 when he took a wagon train of Mormons to an area now known as Graham County and started the town of Safford in 1874 and Baileys Wells in 1882

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Annette McLeod speaks on behalf of the IAVA

I met Annette and her husband Dell on one of their trips to Columbia SC when he had to come to Fort Jackson for one of his medical appointments, she is quite a woman and she has earned my respect and admiration, I spend some time advocating for veterans but I am nowhere near her level or have half the contacts she has, many times the contacts can do wonders when you hit "brick walls" and she has helped me cut thru a few of them in my attempts to help veterans that found their way to me.
She has earned my SALUTE.

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

US can't vouch for cancer assurances to Marines


US can't vouch for cancer assurances to Marines

By RITA BEAMISH, Associated Press Writer Rita Beamish, Associated Press Writer Tue Apr 28, 7:08 pm ET

In an about-face, the government Tuesday disavowed a 12-year-old federal report that found little or no cancer risk for adults who lived on a Marine base where drinking water was contaminated for three decades.

Up to 1 million people could have been exposed to toxins that seeped from a neighboring dry cleaner and industrial activity at Camp Lejeune, N.C., federal officials say. Now, a report that minimized the cancer threat for adults has been discredited.

"We can no longer stand behind the accuracy of the information in that document," 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."

Sick veterans, who became known as "poisoned patriots," and their advocates never believed the report's conclusions. Their families have filed claims for $33.8 billion in damages. A study continues on whether fetuses might have been harmed.

The agency, charged with protecting public health around toxic sites, said it was rescinding the 1997 assessment on health effects of water that residents of the base drank and bathed in, because of omissions and scientific inaccuracy. That study found the water contamination began in the 1950s and continued until wells were shut down in 1987.

The agency offered no new health conclusions but will pull the flawed document from the Internet while incorporating new science to rewrite what Cibulas called "troublesome" sections.

Jerry Ensminger, a retired Marine who has spent years digging through military and health documents at Camp Lejeune and believes his daughter Janey's leukemia death at age 9 was due to the water, welcomed the government's reversal on the report.

"We are in Day 99 of change, and by God we're starting to see it," he said, meaning the change promised by President Barack Obama. The report in question dates to Bill Clinton's administration.

Officials said that some sections of the document were still valid, including those dealing with past concerns about lead in water and contamination of fish, and analysis of pesticide hazards in soil. People now will have to contact the health agency in Atlanta via e-mail or phone to obtain that information now removed from the Web site, a spokeswoman said.

Among its problems, the document omitted mention of the cancer-causing chemical benzene, which military sampling found in a base well in 1984. Researchers should have mentioned its high levels and tried to verify whether it reached the drinking water, said Cibulas. He said Ensminger recently brought the omission of benzene to his attention.

Additionally, the contaminating solvents that officials focused on have been characterized by new science as even more likely to cause cancer, he noted.

Cibulas also cited findings, reported in a 2007 Associated Press investigation of the water contamination, that the study underestimated the extent of the contamination on the base due to inadequate information from the Marines.

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

Members of the panel have long criticized the health document's failings. Lawmakers who heard the Marines' stories last year dubbed them "poisoned patriots."

A table in the document stated unequivocally that adults faced no increased cancer risk from the water. Elsewhere, the report said cancer was not likely but more study was needed.

Cibulas voiced concern that the report was misinterpreted by Veterans Affairs and others as saying: "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.

"The science is just not that good for us to make that determination," he said.

The 1997 assessment said children's cancer risk was unknown, but it cited studies showing potential cancer dangers from solvent-tainted water for fetuses. That led to an ongoing study by the agency into whether babies whose mothers drank the water were born with elevated leukemia or birth defects.

The agency estimated as many as 1 million people at the Atlantic-seaboard base could have been exposed to the toxins; the Marines have estimated 500,000.

Levels of one solvent, known as TCE, were the highest ever measured in a U.S. public water supply, according to an agency scientist.

"We keep coming up with more and more stuff," said Allen Menard, a former Marine on the community panel who suffers a rare non-Hodgkin's lymphoma that his doctors linked to chemical exposure.

"They knew about the benzene," he said. "Why didn't they tell us?"

The reversal comes at a sensitive time for the toxic substances agency, following a blistering report last month by congressional investigators who accused it of obscuring or overlooking potential health hazards at toxic sites. The agency's director, Howard Frumkin, promised Congress he was working to improve on any shortcomings.

Military families "have suffered needlessly because of the agency's flawed work," Rep. Brad Miller, D-N.C., said Tuesday.

Health officials wrote to Veterans Affairs last month warning that a VA report had read too much into the Camp Lejeune health assessment and it should not be used as the basis to deny disability benefits.

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


On the Web:

Federal information on the base and its water:


It's about the billions this could possibly cost "it's always about the money"

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IAVA and Rieckhoff sent out a “pooorly” written and thought out press release.

See messages below and


IAVA and Rieckhoff sent out a “pooorly” written and thought out press release.

Veteran’s have almost always been divided..the Pols love that… my war was better/worse than your war, you must have been a REMF, oh you were in the reserves, corp, a grunt, a flyboy, a cook, etc, it was tougher when I was in, my service did good work, while yours did…,I spent more time in the chow line, than you did in the service, etc, etc… vote those other Bums out of office… my Pol is OK, it’s those dam liberals, Dems, commies, etc…. no it’s those nazi, right wingers, those Repubs, My side is patriotic, yours is un-American… so on.. and so on..the crap and BS I get everyday about Bush regime, or McCain, or Obama, or…etc… mostly all lies depending on one’s agenda. I hate wings… left wings or right wings

Go into any post… hear how great the VA is, or how bad it is… want to start an argument? Just bring up the VA…. Hear how the well they treated my brother.. my dad, or hear how they killed them…. Get 2 guys one 100% s/c, and one 10%, talking… usually 2 different perspectives.

See how many foreign cars are parked in the Post parking lot, how many employees are veterans… hell go to the VA and see how many vets work there.. Spend some time in the neighborhood, at different times, and see how many homeless vets are nearby the Post area… many barred from the post as trouble makers, drunks, bums, etc. How many VSO’s hang up on veterans, who are unhappy with what/ how their claim is going. You got a vet that suffers from depression, PTSD, anger, homelessness, any or all, etc.. the guy that needs the most help..usually gets the least. The family throws them out, the post won’t serve him, and the VSO won’t return his calls, and despite many years of service, or multiple tours, has been discharged with a pre-existing personality disorder, or non-retained.. Any military service is stressful to some extent, and affects some more than others.. then to feel abandoned by family, the system..well that will create some anger issues, and the VA and VSO’s better get better at dealing with it..

Almost every message I send out to a large group of vets, gets some kind of a response…either thanking me for the great info, or how dumb I am to send out such rubbish. Just serve the vets, all vets, Focus and… Keepon’ Keepin’ On

e mail address removed

For your information. I, like many others, were sadden by yesterday's events at Camp Liberty and I have always said (and agreed with others) that sending someone on two, three - five tours to Iraq and/or Afghanistan is like playing a game of "Russian Roulette." Mental health issues are going to be a major issue for the foreseeable future, and long after these wars have ended. Now, I have known Paul for a number of years, including when his organization was OpTruth and I have known Larry for a number of years as well. In Larry's case, his VA Watchdog site is considered a bible to many veterans and elected officials. I originally did not see/read Paul's comments but having looked at both, I will guess that everyone who reads Paul's (IAVA's) PR and Larry (and Jim's comments) may read them with a jaded eye depending on your era of service. However, once again, we must stick together as a community or we can/will be easily divided, and everyone knows I have been saying this regarding MOVA and our local elected officials for years. In this regard, I agree with Jim's comments: "a warrior is a warrior is a matter the era, we stand united, we fall divided." Decide for yourself what this is all about...Joe


Calls Vietnam veterans unprofessional and takes a swipe at all draftees.
by Larry Scott, VA Watchdog dot Org

In 2004, Iraq War veteran Paul Rieckhoff founded Operation Truth.

Operation Truth was an almost-anti-war, definitely anti-Bush organization funded by vast amounts of left-wing money ... which is not necessarily bad, but it always helps to know where the money comes from. (The editor at a well-known military web site names George Soros as the source of much of the funding.)

The goal was to co-opt veterans' issues by using the media contacts of the left-wing money ... to make the country think of "veterans" as those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Rieckhoff became a star on such programs as the Rachel Maddow Show on Air American Radio and MSNBC-TV.

Realizing that he needed a broader base, Rieckhoff changed the name of the organization to Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA).

IAVA became a lobbying powerhouse on Capitol Hill. Even though Iraq and Afghanistan vets make up just 3% of the veteran population, and IAVA membership is just a few thousand of that 3%, IAVA became a loud voice.

Rieckhoff's agenda has always been a divisive force in the veteran community.

Because of Rieckhoff's work, we now have a two-tiered VA system, with vets from Iraq and Afghanistan getting priority treatment for health care and first-in-line status for disability claims ... while the other 97% of veterans just have to wait.

In fairness, Rieckhoff has worked hard for his constituency, and it has paid off ... to the detriment of other veterans.

Now, we see Rieckhoff's feelings about other veterans, especially those who served in the Vietnam War.

Today, it is reported that a GI in Iraq killed five fellow soldiers. Rieckhoff issued a press release about this, and said, in part:

"Unlike during the Vietnam War, today's military is a professional, all-volunteer force."

The full press release is here...

With the above statement, Rieckhoff has shown his true colors. Divide ... conquer. My vets first ... the unprofessionals later.

Not only does his statement diss Vietnam veterans, but all vets who served during times of a draft ... and that would include my Father who served with distinction during World War II.

So, while Rieckhoff uses his connections to party with the elites of Broadway, 97% of veterans wait for their health care and benefits.

Veterans' Advocate Jim Strickland also has strong feelings about Rieckhoff's comment:


by Jim Strickland

The boss over at IAVA issued a press release earlier today. In it he defended the murder of five soldiers by a madman in part by saying, "Unlike during the Vietnam War, today’s military is a professional, all-volunteer force."

Somehow that remark is supposed to divert your attention that there's been a whole lot of friendly fire goin' on in Iraq.

I can't remember a moment in the last 30 years where I've been more offended. The sentence neatly insults the more than 58,000 US personnel who died for our country in Vietnam and the millions of the
rest of us who served honorably.

The "Vietnam Era" ran from 1961 to 1975. It wasn't until 1979 that Public Law 96-22 established the first Vet Centers in recognition of what the war had done to the nearly 3 million veterans who had served
"In Country". That's 3 million minus 58,000 of course.

The current veterans who are arriving home are finding that there is a better understanding of their physical wounds and the PTSD that stalks them because of those 3 million Vietnam veterans and the millions more of us "Vietnam Era" veterans who served back then.

That the leader of IAVA would make such a divisive statement is shocking and almost unbelievable. We can debate for months about which group of soldiers was better educated, more patriotic, better equipped or who fragged who the most. But the fact is that a warrior is a warrior is a matter the era, we stand united, we fall divided.

The VBA is enjoying the game of playing the groups against one another. There is no possible gain for our own leaders to support such nonsense.

I guess the next thing we may expect from IAVA is a quick one about how much smarter the current soldier is when compared to the WWII veteran. Those farm hands and dirt laborers who couldn't read nor
write sure weren't much of a "professional, all volunteer force" were they?

But somehow those farmers like Audie Murphy and 440 Medal of Honor recipients (250 awarded posthumously) managed to become what is now commonly known as The Greatest Generation. Ten's of thousands of them haven't made it home yet...I know, I've visited their graves all over Europe.

Back off Paul. We didn't need this slap from you.

We are all veterans from the time this nation began my family has served in every war since the Revolutionary War and many others served during the "peace time" military over the centuries. My father served before WW1 in D Troop 7th Calvary he went on the Mexican Punitive March out of Douglas Arizona, my Uncle Gideon was in the same unit, they followed and served under General Pershing chasing Pancho Villa, and luckily they had completed their enlistments before WW1 started. They missed the trench warfare and the Spanish Flu of 1918 that decimated the military.

My step father flew with the 8th Army Air Force and bombed Germany, he could not even watch the movie "The Memphis Belle" he knew the crew they were in the same unit, but the flak scenes took him back to 1942, you could see the terror in his eyes, just before he walked out of the room, after he had tore the arms off his easy chair.

My cousins served in Vietnam as draftees, their numbers were called and away they went, they did not go to Canada, they went and did their duty. My brothers and I enlisted he wanted to go to Nam, I let the Army decide where they wanted to send me, some how we both ended up on the DMZ in South Korea, at the time it was still considered hazardous duty and the men assigned to the 1/31st Infantry stationed north of the Imjin River doing patrols, living on compounds north of the river, were still paid hazardous duty pay and awarded the 2nd ID Patch as a "combat patch" for the right shoulder of their uniforms.

I left the Army in 1982 as a Staff Sergeant 11B3M, I missed the Army and decided to get my 20 years in by joining the National Guard, surprise the summer of 1990 Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait and my firends and neighbors called me back to active duty for the First Gulf War as it is now called.

I have served my nation for my entire life, my family has served this nation since it began, no veteran is better than any other veteran and any statements that are made to try and seperate the men or women and their service by claiming asteriks like they were draftees, WW2 soldiers didn't have the equipment modern soldiers now have to carry, etc, none of it matters, did you wear this nations uniform, and did you show up when and where you were ordered to? That is all that matters, attempts to make different tiers of veterans is wrong, all veterans should be treated the same, no differences, no extra privileges, no jumping older vets to get "new vets" claims handled faster, process the claims as they enter the VA compensation system.

The last thing veterans need is for us to be fighting each other.

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Monday, May 11, 2009

Course focuses on PTSD effects on families

Course focuses on PTSD effects on families

By Terry J. Goodman
Deputy Public Affairs Officer

Photo by Terry J. Goodman
Psychologist Bettina Kanitz (center) discusses the impact of post traumatic stress disorder on their families with Army spouses during a recent week-long program sponsored by the Defense Health Clinical Center at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. The program is designed to give spouses useful tools to help their husbands adjust to being at home.

The life of a military spouse is as intricately woven as that of a hand-sewn quilt. Each rich, colorful square tells a story about the creator�s life � good and bad.
For five women who recently completed a week-long military spouse course at the Defense Health Clinical Center (DHCC) at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, many of the recent patches in their life-quilts tell a lonely and sometimes sad tale as their husbands continue to rebuild their lives after being diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

However, after a week of professional guidance, and sharing their stories with other women without fear or rejection, the group was ready for an afternoon (April 24) of sightseeing and reflection before returning to their families. Three will return to Fort Bragg, N.C., one to the U.S. Military Academy in New York, and another will travel the 40-mile drive up I-95 to Baltimore.

Carrie Louque, wife of a Fort Bragg Soldier, feels better equipped to continue to help her husband reconnect with their family and deal with the challenges PTSD can bring.

�This week was very beneficial,� said Louque, who was only married for 15 months before her husband�s deployment. Learning the scientific reasons behind PTSD and the symptoms give me such a better understanding of what my husband is going through.�

Previously referred to as �shell shock� or �battle fatigue,� PTSD follows a terrifying physical or emotional event, and causes the individual to have persistent, frightening thoughts and memories or flashbacks. Soldiers with PTSD may have any of three kinds of symptoms for weeks or months after the event: re-experiencing the event over and over; avoiding people, places or feelings that remind them of the event; and feeling keyed up or on-edge.

According to Bettina Kanitz, a DHCC psychologist, the symptoms can have a dramatic and sometimes terrifying impact on the family.

�Spouses have to deal with so much, deployments, death, injuries and the unknown, which all have a psychological impact on the marriage and family,� she said. �We wanted to provide a way for spouses to learn about PTSD with others who share similar experience.�

The Army has tried to help and educate Soldiers and their families with initiatives such as the 2008 launch of Battlemind training, which consists of modules that target all phases of the Warriors� deployment and life cycles, and includes Battlemind training for Warriors, Leaders and families, along with a �chain-teaching� program developed in 2007 to assist leaders to openly discuss the signs and symptoms of behavioral health and mental health issues.

The Depart-ment of Defense opened the Defense Center of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury in 2007 for warriors and their families needing help and promoting resiliency, recovery and reintegration.

One of the goals of the DCoE is to reduce and eventually eliminate the stigma that prevents some servicemembers from seeking treatment for PTSD and TBI. According to Louque, at Fort Bragg, home of the 82nd Airborne, reducing the negativity associated with PTSD is still a challenge.

�You have to think about the culture at Fort Bragg to understand why Soldiers don�t want to admit or seek help for PTSD,� she said. They think it�s a sign of weakness, even though it�s not.�

The Deployment Health Clinical Center, one of six agencies within the DCoE, began as the Gulf War Health Center in 1994. In 2001, it transformed into the DHCC, and its mission was expanded to include clinical care of veterans of all conflicts.

At that time, DHCC was also tasked with providing deployment-related health research and developing deployment-related health education and training programs and products for both clinicians and servicemembers and their families.

About four years later, the Specialized Care Program Track II (SCP-Track II) was developed to treat servicemembers with combat stress, PTSD or difficulties readjusting to life upon return home. The program is based on the best available evidence regarding effective treatments for PTSD.

According to Dan Bullis, DHCC director of administration and operations, each SCP-Track II treatment plan, a three-week program, is designed to meet individual patient needs. Patients are put into a group-oriented treatment program to deal with physiological, behavioral, emotional and cognitive effects of stress and trauma on their lives.

�Many Soldiers who take part in Track II have said they wished there was something their spouse or significant other could take part in,� Bullis said. So, we developed this week-long program.�

�There was no funding for this program,� Bullis added. �This wouldn�t have been possible without the support of the Walter Reed Society. We hope to have another session in August.�

The �Army wives� learned about roles and relationships within the family; parenting issues; impact of combat on Soldiers; how to communicate and manage power struggles that can occur after return from deployment; and how to take care of you while taking care of spouse and family.

Devon Walsh thought the entire week of education, training and kinship was incredible but found the session that emphasized �taking care of you� as the take-away event.

�When your husband is coming back to you, your focus is him and your children,� said Devon, who lives at Fort Bragg. �You forget about your needs, but you can�t. I need some alone time to recharge. This is a wonderful program that is long past due.�

For these five ladies, their life-quilts are still a long way from being complete, and thanks to their week at Walter Reed, the new patchwork may be more vibrant than planned

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Suits against KBR allege burn pit fumes affected troops

Suits against KBR allege burn pit fumes affected troops

Stars and Stripes
Mideast edition, Thursday, April 30, 2009
Fumes from burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan have imperiled the health of troops and contractors, according to lawsuits filed in several states Tuesday against defense contractor KBR.

Six lawsuits were filed in state courts on behalf of current and former military personnel, private contractors and families of people whose deaths allegedly stemmed from the fumes, reported. More were expected to be filed Wednesday.

A total of 70 plaintiffs will be filing lawsuits, lead attorney Elizabeth Burke told CNN.

In a statement to CNN, KBR said the assertion that KBR knowingly harmed soldiers or contractors is unfounded.


I know the family of one of the Air Force personnel who died from brain cancer less than a year after returning from Balad AFB, Major Kevin Wilkins, I hope this lawsuit brings some justice for all of the families affected by this preventable toxic exposures, they knew this stuff should have been containerized and removed for proper destruction or a proper incinerator built on sight. Someone should be held accountable for the future and already present health effects of this. Do it for Kevin and his legacy.

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Study: Communities must do more for vets

Study: Communities must do more for vets

By Kelly Kennedy - Staff writer
Posted : Wednesday May 6, 2009 13:36:12 EDT

The military prides itself on taking care of its own. But a researcher who has studied post-traumatic stress disorder said local communities must play a larger role in the safety net for combat veterans.

If local organizations do not reach out proactively to the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments to become more engaged in treating the veterans returning to their communities, they can expect the veterans’ pain to affect their families, their ability to contribute to society, and even their ability to care for themselves, said Audrey Burnam, senior behavioral scientist at the Rand Corp. think tank.

Burnam said vets returning from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq represent a “historic opportunity” for communities to learn more about PTSD, educate others about the illness and come together to deal with it.

Burnam, who spoke at a Health Affairs Journal panel May 5 in Washington, is the lead author of a new Rand report, “Mental Health Care for Iraq and Afghanistan War Veterans,” that makes a case for a broad reform of services that looks beyond VA.

She said American communities can expect the return of as many as 300,000 veterans dealing with symptoms of PTSD or traumatic brain injury. Though many will get the help they need while still in uniform, or their symptoms will resolve on their own, many more will deal with sleep disorders, nightmares, relationship issues, anger and flashbacks until they get the help they need.

But in addition to a continued reluctance among veterans to seek care, there are only about 500,000 mental health care professionals nationwide. Some areas have as few as eight psychiatrists per 100,000 people.

The report said policy reform is needed to push health insurance plans, professional organizations, states and local communities to improve veterans’ access to high-quality services, citing example of mental health workers in New York state who have offered services pro bono, and a free PTSD counseling program in Washington state that also trains school teachers about the effects of deployment on children.

Burnam sharply criticized using only medication or counseling programs that have not been proven effective on combat vets. She recommended evidence-based treatments such as cognitive behavioral therapy, prolonged exposure therapy and eye-movement desensitization and reprocessing.

She said psychotherapy is much more effective for PTSD than medications, and such treatments have been proven to work.

“Effective treatments for PTSD and depressions exist,” Burnam wrote. “Yet they are not being provided systemically to most affected veterans because of significant challenges that extend beyond the [Defense Department] and VA service systems to the broader communities in which veterans reside.”

In some cases, veterans don’t qualify for VA services because their incomes are too high, or they go through their own employer-based health insurance, she said.

Matthew Friedman, executive director of VA’s National Center for PTSD, agreed with Burnam’s study, but said he thinks VA and the Defense Department can meet the clinical needs of service members and veterans — if people are reached early.

Thousands of VA clinicians have undergone training for prolonged exposure and cognitive behavioral therapy, and there has also been “large-scale” training in the Defense Department, he said.

Still, he acknowledged, “I’m convinced many civilian mental-health providers are not adequately trained.”

That can be an issue when a combat veteran sees a family therapist who has no idea how to use exposure treatments, what military acronyms mean or where Fallujah is. Friedman also agreed that medications are not yet as effective as psychotherapy in treating PTSD.

He added that there may soon be new treatments using medications that mediate new learning and could turn a 10-appointment treatment into a five-appointment treatment, or determining a genotype that lets doctors know when someone is more at-risk for PTSD, or finding a “psychological vaccine” that makes people more resilient to trauma exposure.

Burnam of the Rand Corp. think tank proposes six ways to improve mental-health services for veterans:

• Give combat vets confidential treatment for combat stress, unless they have a severe illness or need medication.

• Teach combat vets about evidence-based treatments so they can be their own advocates.

• Train and certify the mental-health workforce in those evidence-based treatments

• Encourage more people to go into mental health care fields.

• Study and craft quality-improvement for veterans health care.

• Offer technical assistance to states seeking to offer or expand programs for combat veterans.

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Some fear perfect storm' for VA with 2 wars, economy

Some fear perfect storm' for VA with 2 wars, economy

McClatchy Newspapers
WASHINGTON -- From the economic crisis at home to a troop increase in Afghanistan, veterans' advocates are warning of a "perfect storm" that could flood an already beleaguered health care network for former service members.

Even with the troop count in Iraq scheduled to wind down, the demands on the Department of Veterans Affairs could increase.

"The crisis is not going away," said Paul Sullivan, the executive director of Veterans for Common Sense, a nonpartisan advocacy group. "Everyone thinks that with bringing the troops back from the war, things (at the VA) are going to get better. They're not."

The VA has treated 400,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans since 2001, but it's often underestimated how many of those former troops would need its help.

What impact the pullout from Iraq will have is unclear. President Barack Obama wants to withdraw around 100,000 of the 142,000 U.S. troops there by August of next year.

"It is something we need to be watching," said Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington state, a leading veterans' advocate in Congress. "We don't yet know the percentage of those who will be coming home, but we do know there will be some. There is a combination of factors that are sending a big, yellow, blinking caution light."

Since 2001, the twin wars have stretched the VA's capacity as it's been called on to provide long-term treatment for the kinds of devastating physical wounds that have become signatures of modern combat, as well as a host of unseen, but no less searing, mental health traumas.

Veterans' advocates said they were concerned about the agency's ability to handle more patients since its health system already was operating at full tilt.

"We are really getting slammed left and right," said Kathy Lee, a service officer for the Veterans of Foreign Wars at the Kansas City, Mo., VA Medical Center.

Lee is a former Army nurse in Vietnam who helps veterans access the VA system.

"Our parking lot is so full, we're doing overflow at the church across the street," she said. "It just makes me sick to think about what we're going to be doing this time next year. We're all behind as it is."

Dr. James Sanders, the hospital chief of staff, said, "I think we're all in the same situation of not knowing what to expect."

Sanders said that while 400,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans had gone to the VA, "the numbers are significantly less for any one facility than you might think."

Repeated attempts to seek a comment from VA officials about the impact of the troop pullout and other developments on the agency were unsuccessful.

According to interviews with veterans' advocates, as well as a little-publicized report earlier this year from Veterans for Common Sense, those developments include:

-A lack of jobs for returning veterans, which could leave many without health insurance and dependent on the VA. Even before the economy sank, a 2007 VA survey of troops mostly discharged in 2005 found that their unemployment rate was more than 18 percent.

-Free VA health care for five years for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, courtesy of Congress.

-Repeat deployments, including the posting of more troops to Afghanistan, which will increase the chance of more combat injuries.

-Recognition that mental health problems such as post-traumatic stress disorder affect a lot of veterans, which could erase the stigma and make them seek VA help.

The VA has treated nearly 180,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans for at least one mental health condition, according to its most recent health analysis. That's 45 percent of all the veterans of those conflicts whom the VA has treated.

The department operates more than 1,000 hospitals, clinics and Vet Centers. It has 5.5 million patients, including an ever-increasing stream of men and women who have served in the Middle East and southwest Asia, as well as veterans of past conflicts going back to World War II.

"Right now we're being flooded with Vietnam vets and Iraqi vets," Lee said, "but I've got a 90-year-old World War II vet, the Battle of the Bulge. He wants a hearing aid. He just wants to hear them call out his number at bingo."

The veterans community has unanimously applauded Obama's plan to increase VA funding by $15 billion, but few doubt that meeting the growing demand will be hard.

"The VA is seeing a flood of new veterans who are entering the job market during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression," said Vanessa Williamson, the policy director for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. "The American dream of buying a home is being put on hold. Unemployment rates are sky high, and for those who can find a job, many aren't getting health care coverage through work. All of these things combine to put real stresses on the VA."

In addition, with recent veterans comes a troubling array of problems that the VA tries to handle: rising levels of domestic violence, drug abuse and suicide.

About 1,000 veterans under VA care attempt suicide each month, according to internal e-mails. Several advocacy groups, including Veterans for Common Sense, obtained the e-mails as part of a 2007 lawsuit against the agency.

"It isn't just about getting somebody in for that first visit," said Joy Ilem, the assistant national legislative director of Disabled American Veterans. "What is needed is somebody willing to admit they have a problem. That takes a number of appointments, not just one. That, I think, will be the real challenge for VA. Are they going to be able to handle the volume in a timely manner?"

VA inspector general reports show that veterans can wait a month or more to see doctors. Meanwhile, the agency takes six months to process disability claims, and it has a backlog of more than 700,000. That's a third more than it was five years ago, according to VA records.

"They can barely handle the patient load and claim load now," Sullivan said. "The crisis may become catastrophic, especially for those veterans who can't get into the system."

My own recent interaction with the VA has taken since November 2002 until a Board of Veteran Appeals (BVA) Judge awarded my claim for coronary artery disease and hypertension as service connected, way past the 6 months the VA claims it takes to settle compensation claims.

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Man on a Mission

In case you missed it...

CongressDaily AM


Man on a Mission

May 11, 2009

This Memorial Day will find Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C, on a mission to help the thousands of mentally wounded service men and women coming out of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is determined to transform a Marine mother's anguish into a safety net for what he sees as a "tidal wave" of soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen suffering from invisible wounds inflicted by combat.

"Congressman," wrote Denise Becker in the letter about her son, Marine Lance Cpl. Jeremy Smerud, 27, which launched Jones on his mission, "do you know what it is like to listen to your once-strong son cry like a baby at 3:30 in the morning three or four times a week because he can't handle what he has been through; wanting to kill himself because he doesn't feel he is worthy to live, because his brothers were shot down?

"Do you know what it's like to be 1,500 miles away and not have the ability to help him through this, all the while wondering and asking why the Corps that he served so proudly ... has written him off as worthless and weak and offer no help to prevent him from faltering further?"

Mrs. Becker of Lansing, Iowa, a nurse for 18 years, asked these searing questions of Jones and other officials whom she thought might aid her suffering son. In her view as a health professional, the combat her son went through during three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan had left him with a serious case of post-traumatic stress disorder.

She said he kept trying to block out the demons tearing apart his mind by getting blind drunk. He would call her at all hours of the night to tell her he was about to shoot himself, that he, not his buddy, should have been the one killed in Iraq when they stormed into a house.

The 66-year-old Jones -- whose district includes the Marines' Camp Lejeune -- calls himself "a man of faith" and unashamedly invokes the blessing of God in his speeches on the House floor. He took Becker's letter to heart. He demanded that Marine leaders come to his office and explain why the Corps was not taking better care of the obviously stressed-out Smerud, an Eagle Scout who had never been in trouble in high school.

"The night before the Marine generals came to see me I got down on my knees and prayed to God that his case would touch their hearts," Jones said. His visitors turned out to be Maj. Gen. Michael Regner, legislative assistant to the Marine commandant, and Brig. Gen. James Walker, staff judge advocate. They heard Jones out on March 12, promised to look into Smerud's plight and did.

I read the summary of Smerud's Marine career prepared by Marine Capt. John Diefenbach, his defense counsel for scrapes with the Corps.

The document struck me as one Marine's desperate scream for medical help. Smerud was decorated several times for his performance in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan but kept turning to alcohol to block out his nightmares and other trauma.

A health professional at Lejeune recommended that Smerud be hospitalized for treatment, but the Marine Special Operations Command did not act on the recommendation. He was arrested several times for drunken driving by county cops near Lejeune. On Jan. 13, Pender County, N.C., sentenced the troubled Marine to serve two years for drunken driving and driving without a valid license.

Smerud's Special Operations Command began proceedings to kick him out of the Corps with a less-than-honorable discharge. That would disqualify Smerud from receiving many of the healthcare benefits that his mother believes he will need for the rest of his life.

"That hurt him more than anything," said his mother of the decision to kick him out of the Corps with a less-than-honorable discharge. "I messed up," she said he told her, "but I did my job for them."

The veteran nurse said she sent a certified letter to her son's battalion commander, Lt. Col. Robert Tanzola, asking him 16 pointed questions, including included these: "Why did Jeremy not receive the inpatient treatment that was recommended for him in January, 2008? Why, when the medical professional advised him to be placed in the Wounded Warrior Barracks, [was] the request declined by your command?"

She said her certified letter was sent back to her unopened. I called Tanzola and asked him why he did this. His Special Operations Command, in response to my query, said they could find no record of Tanzola receiving Becker's letter.

Because of Jones' prodding, Marine and state officials have entered the case. They are trying to get Smerud out of jail and into a treatment program at the Portsmouth, Va., naval hospital. Rather than leave it at that, Jones through his spot on the Armed Services Committee, wants to add language to the FY10 defense authorization bill to put a safety net under those suffering from PTSD or traumatic brain injury. Separation boards would have to give active-duty service members with those invisible wounds special consideration while ones already separated with less-than-honorable discharges could appeal those findings before a review board within the Defense secretary's office.

The review board could grant honorable discharges so the veteran would become eligible for government health and other benefits. Such legislation would be hard to oppose. So Jones soon might be able to say, "Mission accomplished."

by George C. Wilson

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The President's Budget for 2010 Includes Full Restoration of Concurrent

Other than in fact sheets.. the actual wording in the budget on Concurrent Receipt is not present, other than the brief statement below..which shows it being phased in? The moneys are in the Defense Budget not the VA Budget… remember the Budget comes in two parts, Appropriation and Authorization. What a few thinks it says, and what a few of the old DOD bean counters, will make it say.. are 2 different things. Remember DOD & OMB have never supported full concurrent receipt… they have been dragged kicking and screaming to where we are today… and we must keep the pressure on them… so yes.. we must take action

Not enough money is in there for full concurrent receipt… plain & simple



Program and Financing (in millions of dollars)

=========== ==== =============== ======= =============== ==== ==== ==== ===== === ==== ==== ===

Identification code 97-0041-0-1-051 2008 actual 2009 est. 2010 est.

Obligations by program activity:

00.01 Concurrent receipt payment to the Military Retirement Fund ..... 2,776 3,745 4,693

10.00 Total new obligations (object class 12.2) .............................. 2,776 3,745 4,693

The budget increases pay 2.9 percent for men and women in uniform, an amount that will improve their purchasing power, and phases in concurrent receipt of military retired pay and Veterans Disability Compensation to all retirees receiving disability retired pay. Beginning in 2010, DOD disability retirees will receive both their full DOD retired pay and their Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) disability compensation. The benefit will be phased in by the VA disability level. In 2010, retirees with 90 percent or greater VA disability ratings will receive the full value of both benefits. In each succeeding year, the benefit will be extended to more retirees, with full implementation by 2014.

while the VA fact sheet says this:below… DOD’s does NOT

Provides greater benefits for veterans who are medically retired from active duty. For the first time, highly disabled veterans who are medically retired from service will be eligible for concurrent receipt of full disability benefits from VA in addition to Department of Defense retirement benefits.

--- On Sat, 5/9/09, USDR Action Alerts wrote:

From: USDR Action Alerts
Subject: The President's Budget for 2010 Includes Full Restoration of Concurrent

The President's Budget for 2010 Includes Full Restoration of Concurrent Receipt

The President's Budget for 2010 Take Action!

Full Restoration of Concurrent Receipt

Please send the following editable message to your two Senators and Representative --

This past Thursday, May 7, 2008, the President submitted the 2010 budget request. Within that budget is a line item for full restoration of concurrent receipt of military retirement for ALL retirees receiving Veterans Disability Compensation. This request is historic as President Obama is the first President in history to request the total correction of this injustice.

As your voting constituent and a disabled Veteran, I implore you to ensure that this line item from the President's budget is retained for ALL retirees to include those that were retired under Chapter 61 with less than 20 years of service due to injuries incurred while protecting this great nation.

Concurrent Receipt is NOT a benefit, it is NOT an entitlement, it is DEBT owed and 118 years OVERDUE.

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