Saturday, June 20, 2009

HUD and VA announce $75 million for HUD-VASH program

Secretaries Shinseki and Donovan Host First Meeting of the United States
Interagency Council on Homelessness under the Obama Administration

Secretary Donovan Elected New Chair of the Council

HUD and VA announce $75 million for HUD-VASH program

to provide rental housing and support for homeless veterans

WASHINGTON (June 18, 2009) - The United States Interagency Council on
Homelessness (USICH) met today for the first time under the Obama
Administration. U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki
chaired the meeting, at which U.S. Housing and Urban Development
Secretary Shaun Donovan was elected rotating Chair for the upcoming year
and U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis was elected Vice Chair. U.S.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Melody Barnes,
Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, attended the

The mission of the USICH is to coordinate the federal response to
homelessness and to create a national partnership with every level of
government and the private sector to address homelessness in the nation.

"It is simply unacceptable for individuals, children, families, and our
nation's Veterans to be faced with homelessness in this country," said
President Obama. "I am confident that the Interagency Council on
Homelessness, under Secretary Donovan's leadership, will have a renewed
focus on coordinating efforts across federal agencies and working
closely with our state, local, community-based, and faith-based partners
to address these serious issues."

"Ending the continuing tragedy of homelessness demands thoughtful and
focused leadership," said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan. "President Obama
and I are committed to working through the USICH, the agencies it
represents and our state, local and non-profit partners to build a
thoughtful and compassionate response to this crisis. The bottom line
is that through our combined efforts every man, woman and child in this
nation should have access to a safe, affordable place to lay their head
at night."

Secretaries Donovan and Shinseki also announced the allocation of $75
million to local public housing authorities across the 50 states, the
District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Guam to provide permanent
supportive housing and dedicated VA case managers for an estimated
10,000 homeless Veterans. This innovative joint initiative is called
Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing Program (HUD-VASH). This funding
will provide local public housing agencies with approximately 10,000
rental assistance vouchers specifically targeted to assist homeless
Veterans in their area. Public housing authorities, that administer
HUD's Housing Choice Voucher Program, work closely with Department of
Veteran Affairs medical centers to manage the program. In addition to
the rental assistance, VA medical centers provide supportive services
and case management to eligible homeless Veterans.

"It is shameful that after serving our nation so well, some of our
Veterans leave their military life only to fall into homelessness," said
Donovan. "Working closely with the Department of Veterans Affairs, we're
able to offer a permanent home, along with critically needed supportive
services, to the very people to whom we owe so much."

"No one, especially Veterans who have faithfully served our country
should become homeless," said VA Secretary Eric Shinseki. "This
council's work is critical to providing for those at risk and on the
streets. This interagency partnership allows us to leverage our
resources, programs, talent and experience to create viable solutions
that will eliminate homelessness."

"With new service members returning home every day and the economy
sputtering, we must step up our efforts to provide all Veterans with
housing and the dignity that comes with it," said Senator Murray,
Chairman of the Senate Housing Appropriations Subcommittee. "For too
long homeless Veterans have been forgotten heroes. HUD-VASH grants are
making a real difference in ensuring that those who have sacrificed for
our nation are not coming home to sleep on our streets."

Under HUD-VASH, HUD will provide housing assistance through its Housing
Choice Voucher Program (Section 8) which allows Veterans to rent
privately owned housing. The VA will provide to eligible homeless
Veterans clinical and supportive services through its health care system
across the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Guam.
VA addresses the needs of the more than 100,000 homeless Veterans who
access VA health care annually.

The USICH is an interagency council made up of members from federal
agencies, including the Department of Housing and Urban Development,
Department of Veterans Affairs, Department of Agriculture, Department of
Commerce, Department of Defense, Department of Education, Department of
Energy, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Homeland
Security, Department of Interior, Department of Justice, Department of
Labor, Department of Transportation, Corporation for National and
Community Service, Social Security Administration, General Services
Administration, and United States Postal Service.

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Friday, June 19, 2009

Disabled veterans need mortgage Insurance

Dear Mr President and First Lady, You both have spoken out on helping this nations veterans, and I appreciate this. I am but one of the many disabled veterans of this nation.

I imagine you will be as surprised as I was to learn that disabled veterans can NOT get mortgage insurance from the Veteran Administration, or thru commercial agents even if our disabilities are service connected. How am I supposed to insure my home so that my wife and son and grand children and my step daughter, not lose our home when I pass away.

I will have a place to go, the new National cemetary at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, but when I die, my veterans benefits will stop, and my wife will get less than half of our current income, and then be forced to sell our family home, why?

I am willing to pay the premiums for mortgage insurance, but the VA refuses to make it available, is there any way to change these rules, to modernize the benefits available for todays veterans and their families.

Back when the military and Veterans insurance was set at 10,000 dollars a home was what 4-5,000 dollars? Times have changed and we need insurance products available to disabled veterans, I am refused insurance by private comapnies due to my service connected PTSD, and my heart problems, hypertension, Coronary Artery Disease, Congestive Heart Failure, what are veterans like myself supposed to do?

Can you tell Secretary Shinseki to aithorize the changes to mortgage insurance or will it take and act of Congress, do I need to go to my Congressman Joe Wilson, or either of my Senators Lindsey Graham or Senator No, Demint?

I have not had much help from the republican elected officials in South Carolina, and I don't think I will live long enough to see a Democratic elected official in the 2nd Congressional District of SC, and I can't remember the last time we had a democrat Senator.

Can you please help us find a way to protect our families, and let them keep their homes when we disabled veterans die, it's not right that we are refused mortgage insurance.

Thank you for your time.I realize with all the real important issues you are dealing with, this should be solved at a lower level, but it hasn't andas Commander in Chief, I am hoping you can fix it, for my wife and kids.

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President Obama on March 19,2009


"For their service and sacrifice, warm words of thanks from a grateful nation are more than warranted, but they aren't nearly enough. We also owe our veterans the care they were promised and the benefits that they have earned. We have a sacred trust with those who wear the uniform of the United States of America. It's a commitment that begins at enlistment, and it must never end. But we know that for too long, we've fallen short of meeting that commitment. Too many wounded warriors go without the care that they need. Too many veterans don't receive the support that they've earned. Too many who once wore our nation's uniform now sleep in our nation's streets."

-President Obama, March 19, 2009

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If your GWI claim has been denied

If your GWI claim has been denied. You should print out this and give to your Claim service officer or attorney..


No. 01-2105

James P. Gutierrez, Appellant,


Anthony J. Principi,

Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Appellee.

On Appeal from the Board of Veterans' Appeals

(Decided December 23, 2004 )

Nancy L. Foti and Barton F. Stichman, both of Washington, D.C., were on the brief for the appellant.

Tim S. McClain, General Counsel; R. Randall Campbell, Assistant General Counsel; Brian B. Rippel, Deputy Assistant General Counsel; and Kathy A. Banfield, all of Washington, D.C., were on the brief for the appellee.

Before GREENE, KASOLD, and HAGEL, Judges.

GREENE, Judge: Veteran James P. Gutierrez appeals, through counsel, a September 12, 2001, Board of Veterans' Appeals (Board) decision that denied his claim for service connection under 38 U.S.C. § 1117 for undiagnosed illnesses incurred during the Persian Gulf War. Record (R.) at 1-19. This appeal is timely, and the Court has jurisdiction under 38 U.S.C. §§ 7252(a) and 7266. Because the Board failed to provide an adequate statement of reasons or bases for its decision, the decision will be vacated and the matter remanded to the Board for further action. See Gilbert v. Derwinski, 1 Vet.App. 49, 52 (1990).


Mr. Gutierrez served honorably on active duty in the U.S. Army from May 1987 to July 1991, including service in the Persian Gulf for which he was awarded the Southwest Asia Service Medal. R. at 64, 92. Upon entering service, Mr. Gutierrez's physical condition was normal. R. at 21-26. His service medical records (SMRs) indicate that he was treated for lower-back pain in June 1990. R. at 27, 44. In March 1991, Mr. Guteirrez suffered a "Jones fracture" of his left foot. R. at 51. A Jones fracture is defined as a "fracture of the fifth metatarsal." Dorland's Illustrated Medical Dictionary 662 (28th ed. 1994). In 1991, he was awarded service connection for residuals of the Jones fracture, and assigned a 10% disability rating. R. at 76.

During a July 1996 VA Persian Gulf Registry medical examination, Mr. Gutierrez complained that since July 1991, he had experienced a loss of energy, inability to "work out," dizziness, and light-headedness. R. at 105-11. He also stated that since October 1991, he had experienced aching in his muscles and joints. R. at 106, 108. Mr. Gutierrez further related that since June 1994, he had noticed a loss of his ability to concentrate and a loss of memory. R. at 106. He also reported that he and his wife had been trying to have a child and that he had been told that he had "slow sperm." Id. The medical examiner reported that Mr. Gutierrez's most severe symptom during the examination was fatigue and that muscle and joint aches, memory loss, and inability to concentrate were all currently present. R. at 352. The examiner did not diagnose any cause for those symptoms. See R. at 105-11. He referred Mr. Gutierrez to outpatient care, but a specific reason was not noted in the examination report. R. at 354.

In March 1997, Mr. Gutierrez filed with a VA regional office (RO) a claim for service connection for "Gulf War Syndrome" as manifested by symptoms of joint and muscle pain, dizziness, fatigue, and decreased vision. R. at 79. An April 1997 radiology report showed that he had widespread spinal stenosis and protruding discs at L3-L4 and L4-L5. R. at 197. Dr. David Caldwell, a private orthopedic surgeon, opined that Mr. Gutierrez's episodic lower-back pain and complaints of left-foot numbness were probably related to the L4-5 disc protrusion. R. at 198. The report from a September 1997 VA general medical examination reflects Mr. Gutierrez's assertion that, while he was in the Persian Gulf, he had been exposed to oil-fire smoke and took nerve-gas pills every day. R. at 125. The report also records his complaints of muscle and joint pain, fatigue, a back disorder, light-headedness, and foot difficulties. R. at 125-27. There were no diagnoses made during that VA examination. Id. Additionally, medical records dated September 1997 from a VA Persian Gulf War Clinic reflect that Mr. Gutierrez was suffering from mild fatigue, aches and pains in his joints, and blood in his urine, but provided no medical etiology for these maladies. R. at 332, 367-68.

In October 1997, the RO denied Mr. Gutierrez's claim after concluding that his symptoms were not incurred in or caused by his service in the Persian Gulf. R. at 137-141. The RO found that his complaints about his claimed conditions were first made during the Persian Gulf War Registry examination in July 1996 and that his SMRs were negative for fatigue, dizziness, and joint and muscle pain. R. at 138. Mr. Gutierrez appealed to the Board and argued that he began suffering from his claimed symptoms within a year after his discharge from service and that they were now more constant and persistent. R. at 145-46, 191-92.

During an appeal to the Board, Mr. Gutierrez submitted statements from his wife (R. at 150), a friend (R. at 202) ("[I] have noticed a decline in his general health. He has [not] been as active as [I] am used to seeing him."), and his father (R. at 203). His wife stated: "I have noticed a decline in his general health. He does [not] seem to have as much energy, tires quickly, complains of aches [and] pains throughout his body, and seems to forget information easily." R. at 150. Those statements provided individual and personal observations of Mr. Gutierrez's declining health. Additionally, a February 1998 VA vision examiner diagnosed Mr. Gutierrez as having compound myopic astigmatism with hysterical visual fields. However, no cause for this defect was provided. R. at 154-55. That same month, Mr. Gutierrez was given a VA spinal examination but no diagnosis was made for any specific illnesses causing his complaints of joint and muscle pain, fatigue, dizziness, memory loss, or loss of concentration. R. at 157-59.

While being examined in March 1999, Mr. Gutierrez again complained of easy fatigability, decreased vision, and foot and back pain. R. at 227-29. No cause for his fatigue was determined. Medical records from a Gulf War Clinic, dated November 15, 1999, also revealed that he had reported having painful and aching joints. R. at 329. In May 2000, the Board remanded to the RO Mr. Gutierrez's claim for readjudication. The RO was ordered to first obtain results from VA's Gulf War Study Program and additional medical records that had been identified by Mr. Gutierrez. R. at 319. In August 2000, the RO issued a Supplemental Statement of the Case (SSOC) confirming the denial of Mr. Gutierrez's claim. R. at 383. He appealed to the Board and submitted VA medical records dated April 25, 2001, that indicated that he had complained of problems with sleeping, concentrating, and low energy, and that he had advised the examiner that he felt irritable, nonsocial, and unmotivated. R. at 426-27. VA medical records dated from March through December 2000, documented Mr. Gutierrez's continued complaints of fatigue, low energy, poor concentration, and sensitivity to loud noises, and recorded his concern that he may have arthritis in his left leg related to his claimed symptoms. R. at 327, 423-25. These records also reflect that Mr. Gutierrez complained of having trouble sleeping. Id.

After reviewing the evidence, the Board, in the September 12, 2001, decision on appeal, denied Mr. Gutierrez's claim. The Board stated: "The Board does not believe that [Mr. Gutierrez] has had fatigue, dizziness, memory loss, and a loss of concentration since his discharge from active service." R. at 17. The Board specifically found that "there is no competent evidence of an undiagnosed illness manifested by joint and muscle pain, fatigue, dizziness, decreased vision (other than the use of glasses), memory loss and loss of concentration associated with the veteran's active service" and concluded that Mr. Gutierrez's complaints of these conditions over an extended period of time were "not credible" and purely subjective. R. at 3, 17. The Board stated further:

The only evidence of record before the Board specifically linking [Mr. Gutierrez's] current alleged disabilities to his service or Gulf War [S]yndrome consist of the veteran's own evidentiary assertions. Such evidence is of limited probative weight. While the veteran is competent to describe manifestations perceivable to a lay party, he is not competent to diagnose himself with disabilities and then associate those disabilities with his active service or with any form of Persian Gulf [S]yndrome.

R. at 16. In conclusion, the Board found that "the preponderance of the medical evidence fails to indicate that these disabilities are related to service or illness associated with service." Id. Mr. Gutierrez appealed to the Court.

On appeal, Mr. Gutierrez contends that the evidence of record establishes that he has undiagnosed medical illnesses resulting from his service in the Persian Gulf that entitle him to service connection. Appellant's Brief (Br.) at 7-10. He maintains that he satisfies all requirements of section 1117 and VA regulations because he is a Persian Gulf veteran, and that his symptoms demonstrate objective indications of chronic disabilities that are not attributed to any known clinical diagnoses. Id. Mr. Gutierrez contends that a remand is not required to provide him with another VA medical examination and that reversal is the appropriate remedy.

The Secretary argues that reversal is not supported by the evidence of record. Secretary's Br. at 8. Rather, he contends that the matter should be remanded because (1) VA failed in its duty to assist by not obtaining a current VA medical examination that provided an opinion as to whether any of Mr. Gutierrez's symptomatology was attributable to a specific ongoing disease process or to an undiagnosed illness (Br. at 11-12); (2) VA failed in its duty to notify Mr. Gutierrez of evidence needed to substantiate his claim as required by the Veterans Claims Assistance Act of 2000 (VCAA), Pub. L. No. 106-475, 114 Stat. 2096, now codified in part at 38 U.S.C. §§ 5102, 5103, and 5103A (Br. at 7, 14); (3) the Board made a medical determination independent of the medical evidence, in violation of Colvin v. Derwinski, 1 Vet.App. 172 (1991)( Br. at 7, 12-13); and (4) the Board did not provide an adequate statement of reasons or bases for its decision (Br. at 12-13). In reply, Mr. Gutierrez waives consideration on appeal of any violation of VA's duty to notify and assist him. Reply Br. at 8-9.


The Board's determination of service connection is a finding of fact subject to the "clearly erroneous" standard of review set forth in 38 U.S.C. § 7261(a)(4). See Rose v. West, 11 Vet.App. 169, 171 (1998); Horowitz v. Brown, 5 Vet.App. 217, 221 (1993). A "finding is 'clearly erroneous' when, although there is evidence to support it, the reviewing court on the entire evidence is left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed." Gilbert, 1 Vet.App. at 52 (quoting United States v. United States Gypsum Co., 333 U.S. 364, 395 (1948)).

Service connection may be established for a disability resulting from personal injury or disease incurred in or aggravated by active service. See 38 U.S.C. § 1110, 1131 (2004). Service connection may be established directly or through a statutory presumption. For direct service connection to be awarded, there must be (1) medical evidence of a current disability; (2) medical evidence, or in certain circumstances, lay evidence of an in­service incurrence or aggravation of a disease or injury; and (3) medical evidence of a nexus between the claimed in­service disease or injury and the present disease or injury. Hickson v. West, 12 Vet.App. 247, 253 (1999). Alternatively, under certain circumstances service connection may be presumed when the veteran meets the requirements of the presumptions established by statute and regulation. See Winters v. West, 12 Vet.App. 203, 209 (1999) (en banc) (service connection awarded automatically on presumptive basis where the veteran served in Vietnam and has one of the enumerated diseases listed in 38 C.F.R. § 3.309), vacated and remanded on other grounds sub nom. Winters v. Gober, 219 F.3d 1375, 1380 (Fed. Cir. 2000); Brock v. Brown, 10 Vet.App. 155, 162 (1997); see also 38 C.F.R. §§ 3.307, 3.309 (2004).

Section 1117 of title 38 of the U.S. Code provides for entitlement to compensation on a presumptive basis to a Persian Gulf War veteran who complains of having an undiagnosed illness or illnesses that are 10% or more disabling during the presumption period established by the Secretary. 38 U.S.C. § 1117(a)(1)(A) and (B). Pursuant to section 1117(d)(2), the Secretary has promulgated 38 C.F.R. § 3.317, which provides, in pertinent part:

(a)(1) Except as provided in paragraph (c) of this section, VA will pay compensation in accordance with chapter 11 of title 38, United States Code, to a Persian Gulf veteran who exhibits objective indications of a qualifying chronic disability, provided that such disability:

(i) Became manifest either during active military, naval or air service in the Southwest Asia theater of operations during the Persian Gulf War, or to a degree of 10[%] or more not later than December 31, 2006; and

(ii) By history, physical examination, and laboratory tests cannot be attributed to any known clinical diagnosis.

. . . .

(3) For purposes of this section, "objective indications of chronic disability" include both "signs," in the medical sense of objective evidence perceptible to an examining physician, and other, non­medical indicators that are capable of independent verification.

. . . .

(b) For the purposes of paragraph (a)(1) of this section, signs or symptoms which may be manifestations of undiagnosed illness or medically unexplained chronic multisymptom illness include, but are not limited to:

(1) Fatigue

(2) Signs or symptoms involving skin

(3) Headache

(4) Muscle pain

(5) Joint pain

(6) Neurologic signs or symptoms

(7) Neuropsychological signs or symptoms

(8) Signs or symptoms involving the respiratory system (upper or lower)

(9) Sleep disturbances

(10) Gastrointestinal signs or symptoms

(11) Cardiovascular signs or symptoms

(12) Abnormal weight loss

(13) Menstrual disorders.

38 C.F.R. § 3.317 (2004) (emphases added); see also 38 U.S.C. § 1117(g). When promulgating this regulation, VA provided, inter alia, the following explanatory statement:

The regulation does not require that physicians make such a diagnosis [of an undefined disease]. Physicians should simply record all noted signs and reported symptoms, document all clinical findings, and provide a diagnosis where possible. If the signs and symptoms are not characteristic of a known clinical diagnosis, the physician should so indicate. This conforms with the usual standards of medical practice.

Some veterans may present with purely subjective symptoms, which, nonetheless, establish a basis for a valid claim under the provisions of this rule. We believe, however, that it is not only fair but also in keeping with Congressional intent to require some objective indication of the presence of a a chronic disability attributable to an undiagnosed illness before awarding compensation.

Ordinarily, an objective indication is established through medical findings, i.e. "signs" in the medical sense of evidence perceptible to an examining physician. However, we also will consider non-medical indications which can be independently observed or verified, such as time lost from work, evidence that a veteran has sought medical treatment for his or her symptoms, evidence affirming changes in a veteran's appearance, physical abilities, and mental or emotional attitude, etc. Lay statements from individuals who establish that they are able from personal experience to make their observations or statements will be considered as evidence when VA determines whether the veteran is suffering from an undiagnosed illness.

60 Fed. Reg. 6,660-63 (February 3, 1995). Manifestations of undiagnosed illnesses are presumed service connected unless there is affirmative evidence that an undiagnosed illness was not incurred in service or was instead caused by a supervening condition. See 38 C.F.R. § 3.317 (c)(1)(2).

Thus, in order to establish service connection under 38 U.S.C. § 1117 and 38 C.F.R. § 3.317, a claimant must present evidence that he or she is a Persian Gulf veteran who (1) exhibits objective indications; (2) of a chronic disability such as those listed in paragraph (b) of 38 C.F.R. § 3.317; (3) which became manifest either during active military, naval, or air service in the Southwest Asia theater of operations during the Persian Gulf War, or to a degree of 10% or more not later than December 31, 2006; and (4) such symptomatology by history, physical examination, and laboratory tests cannot be attributed to any known clinical diagnosis. 38 U.S.C. § 1117; 38 C.F.R. § 3.317(a).

The Board is required to consider all evidence of record and to consider, and discuss in its

decision, all potentially applicable provisions of law and regulation. Schafrath v. Derwinski, 1 Vet.App. 589 (1991); Weaver v. Principi, 14 Vet.App. 301, 302 (2001) (per curiam order). Further, the Board is required to provide a written statement of the reasons or bases for its findings and conclusions on all material issues of fact and law presented on the record; the statement must be adequate to enable a claimant to understand the precise basis for the Board's decision, as well as to facilitate review in this Court. See 38 U.S.C. § 7104(d)(1); Allday v. Brown, 7 Vet.App. 517, 527 (1995); Simon v. Derwinski, 2 Vet.App. 621, 622 (1992); Gilbert, 1 Vet.App. at 57. To comply with this requirement, the Board must analyze the credibility and probative value of the evidence, account for the evidence that it finds to be persuasive or unpersuasive, and provide the reasons for its rejection of any material evidence favorable to the claimant. See Caluza v. Brown, 7 Vet.App. 498, 506 (1995) aff'd, 78 F.3d 604 (Fed. Cir. 1996) (table); Gabrielson v. Brown, 7 Vet.App. 36, 39­40 (1994); Gilbert, supra. Where the Board fails to meet this obligation, the Court is precluded from effectively reviewing the adjudication. See Meeks v. Brown, 5 Vet.App. 284, 288 (1993). Generally, when the Board's statement is inadequate, the matter will be remanded. See Hicks v. Brown, 8 Vet.App. 417, 422 (1995).


A. Mr. Gutierrez's Credibility

The Board determined that Mr. Gutierrez's subjective assertions regarding his claimed symptoms were entitled to no probative weight. R. at 16. The Board concluded in its findings of fact: "Joint and muscle pain, fatigue, dizziness, decreased vision, memory loss[,] and loss of concentration were not evident in service and the preponderance of the medical evidence fails to indicate that these disabilities are related to service or illness associated with service." R. at 3. When addressing this issue, the Board stated:

[T]he veteran has complained of these disabilities only sporadically. He appears only to complain of these difficulties during VA examinations or when his back and foot bother him. However, during these same examinations, objective medical evidence indicating these disabilities [was] not found. In evaluations of the veteran's service-connected foot disorder, the veteran makes little reference to the disabilities at issue. A review of both the private medical records and outpatient treatment report fails to indicate the alleged disabilities at issue. The veteran's own spouse fails to note many of the veteran's alleged chronic disorders.

. . . .

In this case, the Board finds that the veteran's initial claims for VA compensation, the initial VA evaluations, and the veteran's initial statements to the VA following his discharge from active service (in which he fails to mention any disability associated with joint and muscle pain, fatigue, dizziness, decreased vision, memory loss, and loss of concentration) provides affirmative evidence that the undiagnosed illnesses were not incurred during his active military service. It further fundamentally undermines the veteran's credibility in that it is his central contention that he has had these disabilities over an extended period of time following his discharge from service. If this was the case, the Board finds no rational reason to believe that there would not be at least some evidence or indications in support of the veteran's contention or that the veteran would not have noted these difficulties earlier or during his initial examinations. The Board finds that these facts do not support the veteran's case.

The only evidence of record before the Board specifically linking the veteran's current alleged disabilities to his service or to Gulf War syndrome consist[s] of the veteran's own evidentiary assertions. Such evidence is of limited probative weight. While the veteran is competent to describe manifestations perceivable to a lay party, he is not competent to diagnose himself with disabilities and then associate those disabilities with his active service or with any form of Persian Gulf syndrome.

R. at 14-15 (emphasis added). If this were a claim for direct service connection, a nexus between Mr. Gutierrez's disabilities and his period of active service would be required. See Caluza, supra. In this case, however, evidence is not required "specifically linking" Mr. Gutierrez's disabilities to his service or the Gulf War. See Brock, supra. Congress has decided as a matter of policy, stemming at least in part from difficulty of proof, that, even though a Persian Gulf War veteran's symptoms may not at this time be attributed to a specific disease, the symptoms may nonetheless be related to conditions in the Southwest Asia theater of operations and, for that reason, are presumed to be service connected. See 38 U.S.C. § 1117; 38 C.F.R. § 3.317 (a)(1)(i). Thus, Mr. Gutierrez was not required to provide evidence linking his current conditions to events during service and the Board erred by imposing such a nexus requirement. Further, as stated above, section 1117 and § 3.317 require that undiagnosed illnesses become manifest to a degree of 10% or more during the presumption period that ends on December 31, 2006. See 38 C.F.R.§ 3.317(a)(1)( i). Accordingly, the Board erred by failing to account for that, as well as the other factors discussed below, in determining that Mr. Gutierrez's complaints were not credible because he had not sought treatment for these conditions earlier or did not complain about them during his initial medical examinations. The Board also found that, although Mr. Gutierrez had complained of joint and muscle pain, fatigue, dizziness, and loss of concentration, the objective medical evidence failed to show any such disabilities. R. at 15. The evidence of record reveals that Mr. Gutierrez consistently complained during VA medical examinations about fatigue, muscle and joint pain, neurologic signs or symptoms (loss of concentration and memory), and sleep disturbances. See R. at 98, 106-108, 125-28, 228-29, 329, 348-53, 423, 426-27. These symptoms are specifically identified by VA in its own regulation as possible manifestations of an undiagnosed illness in Gulf War veterans. See 38 C.F.R. § 3.317(b). Objective medical evidence is not required for an award of service connection under section 1117. Rather, only competent evidence is required with "signs in the medical sense of objective evidence perceptible to an examining physician, and other, non-medical indicators that are capable of independent verification." 38 C.F.R. § 3.317(a)(2); see also 60 Fed. Reg. 6,660-63 (February 3, 1995). In finding Mr. Gutierrez's subjective complaints not credible, the Board stated: "He appears to only complain of these difficulties during VA examinations or when his back and foot bother him." R. at 14. However, the Board then states: "In evaluations of the veteran's service-connected foot disorder, the veteran makes little reference to the disabilities at issue." Id. These are inconsistent findings, and such contradictory analysis undermines the reasoning of the Board's decision. The Board, however, determined that Mr. Gutierrez's lack of complaints regarding his joint and muscle pain, fatigue, dizziness, and loss of memory and concentration during VA medical examinations for his service-connected foot disorder was evidence against his claim. R. at 14. The Board failed to discuss adequately this evidence of record in support of his claim. Accordingly, the Board's decision contains flawed reasoning and lacks an adequate statement of reasons or bases.

B. Competency of Lay Persons to Provide Evidence of Symptoms

The Board found that the lay statements by Mr. Gutierrez's wife, father, and friend, were "neither competent nor probative of the issues in question." R. at 16. The Board stated:

The Court has made clear that a lay party is not competent to provide probative evidence as to matters requiring expertise derived from specialized medical knowledge, skill, training, or education. Espiritu v. Derwinski, 2 Vet.App. 492, 494-95 (1994). Consequently, the veteran's lay medical assertions to the effect that he has certain subjective disabilities and that these disabilities are related to his Persian Gulf service is neither competent nor probative of the issues in question. While the veteran is competent to testify regarding events that are alleged to have occurred, he is not competent to diagnose himself with disabilities and then diagnose the etiology of these alleged disabilities.

R. at 16. For purposes of evaluating his claim under the presumption statute and regulation, Mr. Gutierrez, as well as his wife, father, and friend, are competent to testify because his alleged symptoms of Persian Gulf War illness are capable of lay observation. See Caluza, supra (holding that where determinative issue does not require medical expertise, lay evidence alone suffices); see also Layno v. Brown, 6 Vet.App. 465, 469­70 (1994) (lay evidence is competent to establish features or symptoms of injury or illness). Contrary to the Board's finding that Mr. Gutierrez's wife "failed to note many of his alleged disorders" (R. at 14), Mrs. Gutierrez did describe her observations of her husband's symptoms (see R. at 150). She reported that she had observed a "decline in his general health" and stated that "he doesn't seem to have as much energy, tires quickly, complains of aches and pains throughout his body, and seems to forget information quickly." Id. The Board did not address this objective description when making its credibility conclusions. Indeed, those facts directly contradict the Board's finding regarding his credibility. Mrs. Gutierrez provided evidence of symptoms capable of lay observation. Accordingly, the Board's failure to address this correctly leaves its statement of reasons or bases inadequate. Gilbert, 1 Vet.App. at 57.

C. Erroneous Application of Standard for Establishing

Service Connection for Gulf War Syndrome

Under § 3.317, Mr. Gutierrez's claimed symptoms "by history, physical examination, and laboratory tests cannot be related to a known clinical diagnosis." 38 C.F.R. § 3.317(a)(1)( ii). In its decision, the Board stated:

Rather than supporting the veteran's claim, the medical evidence obtained due to his treatment fails to support [his] case. Laboratory tests and studies have been essentially normal and the medical evidence cited by the veteran during his hearing before the Board fails to indicate an undiagnosed illness manifested by joint and muscle pain, fatigue, dizziness, decreased vision, memory loss [,] or a loss of concentration.

R. at 15. Indeed, the medical evidence of record shows that Mr. Gutierrez complained of joint and muscle pain, fatigue, dizziness, sleep problems, and loss of concentration, but no medical examiner ever provided a medical etiology for these illnesses. As the Board correctly noted, the record on appeal does not contain evidence that Mr. Gutierrez's alleged symptoms were related to any current diagnosed disabilities or had a known etiology. R. at 1-452. However, his claimed symptoms by history, physical examination, and laboratory tests cannot be related to any known clinical diagnosis for compensation to be awarded under section 1117. See 38 C.F.R. § 3.317 (a)(1)(ii). Therefore, the Board erred by concluding that the failure of the laboratory tests and studies to diagnose an illness was evidence against Mr. Gutierrez's claim.

Mr. Gutierrez argues that reversal is appropriate; however, reversal is the appropriate remedy when the only permissible view of the evidence is contrary to the Board's decision. See Johnson v. Brown, 9 Vet.App. 7, 10 (1996). Where the Board has incorrectly applied the law, failed to provide an adequate statement of reasons or bases for its determinations, or where the record is otherwise inadequate, a remand is generally the appropriate remedy. See Falk v. West, 12 Vet.App. 402 (1999). In this case, the Board has made clearly erroneous findings as to certain facts relevant to the determination of service connection and has provided an inadequate statement of reasons or bases for its decision. See 38 U.S.C. § 7104(d)(1). The Court cannot, however, conclude from the evidence before it that the only "permissible view" is a finding of service connection. See Johnson, Allday, Simon, and Gilbert, all supra. Thus, the decision will be vacated and the matter remanded. See Gilbert, 1 Vet.App. at 57; Fletcher v. Derwinski, 1 Vet.App. 394, 397 (1991) (remand is meant to entail critical examination of justification for decision; Court expects that Board will reexamine evidence of record, seek any other necessary evidence, and issue timely, well-supported decision).


Based upon the forgoing analysis and the record on appeal, the Board's September 12, 2001, decision is VACATED and the matter is REMANDED for further action consistent with this opinion. On remand, the Board must provide an adequate statement of the reasons or bases for its findings and conclusions on all material issues of fact and law presented on the record, including what objective indications are lacking if it determines that Mr. Gutierrez is not suffering from a Persian Gulf War disability manifested to a degree of 10% or more in satisfaction of section 1117. See 38 U.S.C. § 7104(d)(1); see also Allday, 7 Vet.App. at 527; Simon, 2 Vet.App. at 622; Gilbert, supra. The Board must analyze the credibility and probative value of the evidence, account for the evidence that it finds to be persuasive or unpersuasive, and provide the reasons for its rejection of any material evidence favorable to Mr. Gutierrez. See Gabrielson, Caluza, and Gilbert, all supra. On remand, Mr. Gutierrez is free to present additional evidence and argument, including those arguments raised in his brief to this Court, and the Board must address them. See Kay v. Principi, 16 Vet.App. 529, 534 (2002); Kutscherousky v. West, 12 Vet.App. 369 (1999) (per curiam order).

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Number of VA claims poised to hit 1 million

My note: Promises..promises..they have been going to lower this for more than 10 years.

Doesn’t matter who is in charge.. the VA does what they want, in their own Lil world. Govt starts a war

And makes no plans for those that are going to come home..ignore, deny til they die

Number of VA claims poised to hit 1 million

By Kimberly Hefling, Associated Press

Published: Thursday, June 18, 2009 7:34 a.m. MDT

WASHINGTON — This isn't the same as getting a free duffel bag for being the millionth person to go through the turnstiles: The Veterans Affairs Department appears poised to have hit the 1 million milestone on claims it still hasn't processed.

This unwelcome marker approaches as the agency scrambles to hire and train new claims processors, which can take two years. VA officials are working with the Pentagon under orders from President Barack Obama to create by 2012 a system that will allow the two agencies to electronically exchange records, a process now done manually on paper.

Meanwhile, veterans, some of whom were severely wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan, continue to endure financial hardship while their claims are processed. They wait more than four months on average for a claim to be processed, and appealing a claim takes a year and a half on average.

Adding to the backlog are factors ranging from the complexity of processing mental health-related claims of Iraq veterans, to a change that made it easier for Vietnam veterans exposed to the Agent Orange herbicide to qualify for disability payments. The VA says it's receiving about 13 percent more claims today than it did a year ago.

The VA's Web site shows the department has more than 722,000 claims and more than 172,000 appeals it currently is processing, for a total of about 900,000. That is up from about 800,000 total claims in January, according to the site.

Since early 2007, the VA has hired 4,200 claims processors and with that has seen improvements in the number of claims it's processing. It's also working to modernize its system.

Last year, Congress passed legislation that sought to update the disability rating process. A hearing Thursday by a House Veterans Affairs subcommittee will look into whether the law's changes are being implemented and whether the VA will be able to handle a million claims.

Veterans advocates acknowledge there have been improvements in the claims process, but say it still is too cumbersome. They say some injured veterans from the recent wars are paying bills with credit cards, pending their first disability payments, at a time when it is challenging enough to recover from or adapt to their injuries.

"They keep talking about a seamless transition, but I can tell you I haven't seen it being very seamless," said John Roberts of Houston, who is national service director for the nonprofit Wounded Warrior Project, which helps veterans such as David Odom, 29, of Haleyville, Ala.

Odom, a former Army staff sergeant who did three tours in Iraq, said he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. With symptoms such as anxiety and anger, he finds it difficult to work. He said he's waited months to learn the outcome of an appeal that would give him higher compensation.

"It's added quite a bit of stress because I don't know what's going to happen. I want to know either way so I can figure out what my next step is," Odom said.

Former Marine Cpl. Patrick Murray, 25, of Arlington, Va., who was severely burned and had his right leg amputated after a roadside bomb explosion in 2006, considers himself fortunate. He got a job once he was discharged from the military, making for an easier wait as his case is processed.

"For someone that gets out of the military and doesn't have a job lined up, they have no income," said Murray, who works for a construction company. "They are sitting there making zero money, either racking up credit card bills or taking out loans, whatever it may be, all the while waiting."

Murray said the first claim he filed was lost. The second ended up at a VA office in Colorado, and the third was finally processed after a couple of months. It was mind-boggling, he said, to have spent 11 months in Walter Reed Army Medical Center and in outpatient care with stacks of medical files, only to find out he had to mail his records to the VA to prove he was injured.

"The biggest disappointment, I guess, is that it should be unnecessary," Murray said.

Ryan Gallucci, spokesman for the veterans group AMVETS, said his organization supports a law change that would make it less burdensome for a veteran to prove that an injury was from his time in war service. He said that may help with the claims process.

Rep. John Hall, D-N.Y., who is chairing Thursday's hearing, said he's confident the claims process eventually will be improved.

"Veterans who are currently waiting, it can't come soon enough to them," Hall said.

Number of VA claims poised to hit 1 million


Meanwhile, veterans, some of whom were severely wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan, continue to endure financial hardship while their claims are processed. They wait more than four months on average for a claim to be processed, and appealing a claim takes a year and a half on average.

This is optimum processing in most cases these dates are not a reality, many veterans are waiting nearly a year on having their claims adjudicated, and that is if they only have one or two medical issues, butmany compensation claims can involve as many as ten-15 medical issues, which complicate the processing of the claims, to figure out if the issues are "pyramiding" where the issues are really related to one organ like brain issues and mental health and TBI, how do you seperate PTSD and memeory issues caused by IED blasts? Even though most people would think there should be 2 seperate ratings, the VARO raters award the highest percentage allowed for the worst injury to the brain in most cases it would be the percentage awarded for PTSD. But this can take months of tests, and decisions by the rating team.

Then if you have to appeal the claims to the Board of Veteran Appeals (BVA) this can take several years just to get to the point of having a hearing scheduled, then it can be another 6 months before the Judge who hears the case can make a decision and get the award letter sent to the veteran, then the file has to be sent back to the Regional Office that is handling the claim and then it can be another 4-6 months before the raters award a percentage to the claim if the Judge grants the claim.

At this point the VARO can still award a percentage lower than the veteran feels is appropriate and then it has to go thru the entire procedure again, the veteran files a Notice of Disagreement (NOD) and explains why they do not feel the percentage is appropriate, the RO will have the Decision Review Officer (DRO) look at it, and they again will deny the higher award in 99 out of 100 cases, and again the veteran has to appeal the award to the BVA, again waiting 2-3 years, and then wait another 6 months for the Judges decision and another 6 months for the VARO to implement the Judges decision so a veteran can spend 10 years fighting the Department of Veteran Affairs for what they feel is a fair award (the infamous hamster wheel, as veterans call it) many die during this procedure and if the veteran is victorious thru this procedure, the VA does not pay interest on the money they have deprived the veteran of for the past decade of harassment.

I have seen veterans lose their homes, cars, and their families due to the VA compensation claim problems, marriages fall apart under the stress of the veteran not being able to work, there is no safety net, while they go thru this protracted battle with the nation that sent them to war, or preperation for war, when the military person was either injured or was medically stricken to the point of being unemployable.

The famous "PROMISE" is you are either killed or injured while in service to your nation, we will care for you and your family. No one ever said it would be easy to collect on that Promise, if young people coming out of sghool knew the problems they would face if they become injured on active duty, the all volunteer military would end, and the nation would be forced to restart the dreaded draft. Who in their right mind would volunteer to serve their country, if they knew the end result could be a loss of your family, your home and your vehicles?

One million reasons not to join the military can be found right here in this story....and that is a sad sommentary and who is repsonsible, the VA or Congress or the President? you decide.....

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First-ever virtual 'march' on Washington for disabled vets

First Ever Virtual March on Washington
Please Sign Up to Participate

First-ever virtual 'march' on Washington for disabled vets

The DAV is organizing a march on Washington to raise public awareness and let lawmakers know voters care about veterans. But you won't need to travel to participate and have your voice heard.

This march is going to be completely online, the first-ever Virtual March on Washington for Veterans. The DAV is working to ensure this will be the easiest and most convenient way ever to stand up for veterans. Together, we will generate greater public awareness and support for strengthening federal policies that provide health care and other earned benefits to disabled veterans.

To sign up to participate in the Sept. 15 virtual march, simply visit and enter your e-mail address at the top of the page. Your ZIP code will also be needed so lawmakers know which constituents care about the needs of veterans and their families. DAV will send you an e-mail the night before the "march" as a reminder. DAV will not share your e-mail address with or sell it to anyone, nor will DAV use it to solicit donations.

On Sept. 15, the official day of the march, there will be video messages posted from a variety of veterans, family members, veterans' advocates, lawmakers and a few surprises. There will be opportunities to chat with those leading efforts to better the lives of veterans. And there will be easy-to-use tools for you to directly contact your representatives in Washington, D.C. If you cannot visit the site the day of the march, don't worry; it will all remain online.

Remember, after you sign up, please help encourage others to do the same. Forward this e-mail, post links on your social networks, blog about it and tell everyone you know.

Those who have put their lives on the line for freedom are depending on you.

First-ever virtual 'march' on Washington for disabled vets


I commend the DAV for attempting to use the internet to harness the power of the grass roots movement to get Congress to pay attention, their is power in numbers, and there are 3.2 million disabled veterans, most have families, all have parents, most are married and have children so let's just use the number 10 as immediate family members affected by the veterans life so now we are talking more than 30 million Americans a grass roots movement supported by 20-30 million Americans will make any politician stick their head up and pay attention, I don't care who they are.

But the "astro turfed" movements which areled from the top down, never make the impact the leaders hope for, look at the now infamous Fox sponsored "T.E.A. parties" they basically became a joke, now that is an example of an "astro turfed event" the Net Root Nations week end seminars they bring the national democratic leaders to them, they don't invite them, they show up because they know these people at Net Roots nation are the bloggers and the people and activists that can make or break their campaigns and their political futures can be affected by them.

The DAV needs to find a way to let the "little people" be heard, open their blog up for idea exchanges, let the veterans and their families and supporters speak to the DAV in the open and make the exchange public, and let Congress see that it is the real people speaking to them and not a fake moevement that does not have real activists behind it.

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Older Recruits Challenge Army and Vice Versa

Older Recruits Challenge Army and Vice Versa

Older Recruits Challenge Army and Vice Versa
Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

Pfc. Shane Dixon, 38, right, gets advice from a fellow trainee half his age, Stephen Miles, 19, in basic training at Fort Sill, Okla. More Photos >

Major Military Academies Report Significant Rise in Applicants (June 18, 2009)
Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

Specialist John Butts exemplifies a new breed of recruit. More Photos »
Yet in the three years since the Army raised its age limit for enlisting to 42, from 35, a steady stream of older recruits has joined the ranks, pushing creaky muscles through road training, learning to appreciate — or at least endure — Army chow and in some cases deploying to combat zones.

And while the number of such recruits, more than 3,800, is small by Army standards, the pace of over-35 enlistment jumped sharply in the first months of this year. Motives vary, from a yearning for midlife adventure to a desire to serve their country. But rising unemployment is also a major reason, say Army officials, recruiters and training officers.

“It’s a guaranteed job, as long as you go to work every day,” said Capt. Jared Auchey, company commander of the Army Experience Center in Philadelphia, who estimates that one in 10 of the enlistments at his high-tech marketing office are over 35. “There are no layoffs in the Army.”

The Army recruits about 80,000 soldiers a year, and the older recruits are having an impact even on basic training, Army officers say. At classes here, as many as one in seven soldiers are over 35, and many drill sergeants now look to the older soldiers as mentors, or proxy disciplinarians.

Staff Sgt. Arron Barnes, Fort Sill’s drill sergeant of the year in 2009, said the older recruits tended to bring technical skills and maturity, were easier to instruct and were often more committed than teenage soldiers.

“They contribute at a higher level because they have no other place to go,” Sergeant Barnes, 26, said. “This is their life.”

The older recruits are, however, injury prone. Rusty joints, forgotten injuries and slow-to-recover muscles cause the over-35 recruits to wash out of basic training at a somewhat higher rate than younger soldiers, said Lt. Col. Michael S. Patton, commander of a basic-training battalion here.

Specialist John D. Butts, 38, exemplifies the new breed. An aspiring writer who was a house painter outside Philadelphia for two decades, he lost his steady paycheck last November after the housing market crashed.

A part-time job at Blockbuster did not pay his rent, and when his landlord threatened to evict him, his girlfriend (now his wife) and her three teenage children, he decided radical action was required. He called an Army recruiter he had met recently and signed up for a three-year stint.

Despite years as a dedicated beer drinker and smoker, Specialist Butts made it through basic here at Fort Sill and is now training with an artillery unit that may head to South Korea this year. A tour in Afghanistan could be in the cards, he says.

Over the last two months, he has been yelled at by a 24-year-old drill sergeant, forced to inhale choking gas, done more push-ups than he cares to remember and patiently put up with wise-cracking 19-year-olds who forget to flush the toilet. So far, he has made the grade and is even considering a career in the military.

“I’ve just tried to keep my head down, keep my mouth shut and not wring necks,” Specialist Butts said.

The sagging economy, of course, has bolstered military recruiting at all age levels. But the older recruits represent a new, and perhaps more challenging, opportunity for the Army, the only service that accepts recruits over 35. (The maximum age is 35 in the Navy, 28 in the Marine Corps and 27 in the Air Force.)

It is not clear yet how well older soldiers handle the rigors of combat. The Army says it does not segregate older recruits in basic training and does not consider age when deciding where to assign or deploy them. Of the nearly 5,000 military personnel killed in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, about 600 have been over 35, most of them career soldiers. The oldest was 60-year-old Steven Hutchison, who served in Vietnam and retired from the Army in 1988 only to re-enlist in 2007 under a special program for retirees. Major Hutchison was killed last month in a bombing in Iraq.

During a break in marksmanship training at Fort Sill last week, several older soldiers said the economy had not been their only motivation for enlisting. “I didn’t want to be 75 and think back, ‘I wish I had joined the Army,’ ” said Pvt. Mark O’Brien, 36, a corrections officer from Portsmouth, N.H. “There’s nothing worse than regret.”

But for Private Batson, 35, the threat of layoffs was the driving force behind his joining. A mechanical engineer from Utah with five children, he was spared when his company laid off workers last year, but the close call worried him. Deciding he needed a fall-back option, he turned to the National Guard.

Now, if he is laid off and cannot find work, he figures he can go full time with the National Guard or the regular Army. In exchange for that job security, he says there is a good chance he will do a tour in Afghanistan.

“My natural priority is my family,” Private Batson said. “I’ll do anything I have to do to take care of them.”

Along with the rigors of basic training, the older soldiers say the hardest thing is being away from their families for nine weeks. The second hardest thing, they say, is coping with undisciplined, couch-potato soft, video-game-obsessed teenage recruits who are, technically, their peers.

Private Dixon, 38, builds log houses in the Boise area but recently joined the Idaho National Guard in part because he wanted to change careers, perhaps to become a medic. He said he had been chewed out for chewing out youngsters in his platoon for what he considered slacker behavior. He was so tough on one for tromping across a newly waxed floor in his boots that the teenager broke down in tears.

“I should have taken into consideration that it was a 17-year-old kid,” Private Dixon said. “It’s not a man, not somebody that I could hold to a level of accountability. My son’s 17.”

I have been out of the Active Army for what 27 years, I was seperated as a SSG (P)
11B3M (for the civilians reading this it means I was an Infantry Staff Sergeant specialized in Mechanized Infantry Tactics back then it was M-113s) the Army didn't
even have the Bradley Fighting vehicles then, now they are on a new generation vehicle.

I did join the Army National Guard in 1988 as I missed the camaraderie of being around soldiers, also I wanted the benefits of being a retired military person, my step father was, and many friends were, so the NG gave me time towards retirement, I was activated for Gulf War One from November 1990 - April 1991. I ended up being denied re-enlistment due to medical reasons, I had a stroke and a heart attack and the NG said CYA, don't let the door hit ya.

I am now 100% P&T disabled by the Veterans Administration. I am 53 soon to be 54, I could not even imagine being back on active duty even as a senior NCO let alone as a junior enlisted man, that would be scary as hell to me. I am to long in the tooth to be out with nearly 200 pounds of equipment to manuever in, I can't imagine low crawling or "taking the hill" just bury me at the bottom. Old men could probably handle working in a Company supply room, orderly room or battalion or Brigade level staff offices but as on the ground soldiers ready and able to fight, not so much....I am all for equal opportunity, insanity I am not in favor of.

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SCOTUS finds convicts have no right to test DNA

Court finds convicts have no right to test DNA

Who's Blogging» Links to this article
The Associated Press
Thursday, June 18, 2009; 10:19 AM

WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court says convicts have no constitutional right to test DNA evidence in hopes of proving their innocence long after they were found guilty of a crime.

The decision may have limited impact because the federal government and 47 states already have laws that allow convicts some access to genetic evidence. Testing has led to the exoneration of at least 232 people who had been found guilty of murder, rape and other violent crimes.

The court ruled 5-4 Thursday against an Alaska man who was convicted in a brutal attack on a prostitute 16 years ago.

Court finds convicts have no right to test DNA


What are the right wingers on the Supreme Court afraid of the fact that an innocent man might be bale to prove by DNA evidence that is wasn't him, and the Governors that still execute might not be able to put to death an innocent man, once the man is dead it is impossible to say oops we made a mistake sorry about that, the fact that 232 death row inmates have had their convictions over turned should make all Judges question DNA evidence before signing that death warrant.....I hope President Obama gets to replace about 2-3 of those RW Judges before 2016

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Good Evening Congressman Filner, While I appreciate what you are doing…Congress is not doing enough.

SVR Radio

Good Evening Congressman Filner,

While I appreciate what you are doing…Congress is not doing enough.

My old boss at Rockwell Missile use to say “Don‘t bring me problems without resolutions.” We have offered those but no one seems to be listening. I will go over some of those again but to save time please listen.

I sent to your office the NAS review of the EPA Dioxin Reassessment. If you look at all the prestigious scientists that signed on to that review and what they know and recognize regarding dioxin and dioxin like compounds then either all these scientists are crazy or the Department of Veterans Affairs is a corrupt federal agency. Army fatigues and Marine utilities were not environmental hazard suits no matter what the VA thinks. One set of causations for civilians and one set for the Veterans/Widows and damaged offspring is not fair and falls under the classification of budget control.

For your history edification this Dioxin preliminary Reassessment was in 1992 and was finalized in 1994 and then added as they found even more data. In 1979 an EPA scientist named Delarago found holes in all the chemical company data and did a complex study and evaluation. That report was shelved and never released. The tragedy is that same report a lot of it became the basis of the Dioxin EPA Reassessment in 1992 and now most of it has been confirmed by the NAS review report that I e-mailed to your office, including the immunotoxicity effects of dioxin which explains a lot of the issues Veterans have experienced since leaving Vietnam in many areas of the immune system and are still denied; including all site cancers and systemic immune system problems with X factor outcomes. Many of them mentioned in the Ford Foundation funded report presented to Congress days ago and still denied by VA. In fact, in the EPA 1994 reassessment the conclusion was and it seems now approved by the NAS review that the amount it takes to create a cancer is far less than the amount it takes to create an immune system problem with X factors above cancer outcomes when compared to immune system damages as outcomes. My personal opinion based on the studies is while the dose may have an impact as to time to cancer manifestation; any level of dioxin exposure may lead to a cancer depending on many factors. One of which is of course genetics and genetic pathways.

Now assuming there is a dose rate; which in many cases of these toxic chemicals dose does not make the poison or the outcome but assuming, it would make more sense that more Veterans would be suffering from the lesser dose than the higher dose in autoimmune disorders. But with the Department of Veterans Affairs medical common sense is not a priority.

These immune system problems can kill and certainly contribute to the Veterans Disability. Yet, until we finally got the IOM to approve Primary Amyloidosis not one autoimmune disorder had been approved by VA. So the studies; both National and International, both Civilian and Veteran alike and the EPA assessment in their findings of decreased IgG antibodies, with increased IgA antibodies, alteration of T-cell mediated immunity from activation of peripheral blood cells with polyclonal T-cell activators. Production of Interferon gamma which is a major factor against infection and Tumoregenesis was lowered. Then you have production of Interleukin 4 and 10 increased along with the EPA conclusions of Interleukin 6 and 1b being affected resulting in an IL 4/Interferion gamma ratio that is really bad for the body. Concluding that not only does dioxin create immunotoxicity issues but they can be both ways in the body. A body that no longer protects and in fact enhances (allows or promotes) tumoregenesis but at the same time can become an inflammatory immune system with far reaching implications in organs, symptoms, and diagnosis to include cardiovascular disorders; including heart valve issues no different from the immune system damaged AIDS patient. These can be from acute to chronic depending on the damages and alterations and of course the genetic pathway affected by the immune system.

In the statement above; activation of peripheral blood cells with polyclonal T-cell activators, is more likely the reason many Veterans having Peripheral Neuropathy not diabetes as the VA has mandated for this; yes, a degenerating disorder denied by VA.

I had a VA neurologist call me three times to congratulate me on my posted issues on this matter and he concluded I was correct when he finally did a nerve biopsy on one of my Marines.

I concluded five years ago and so stated that for the Vietnam Veteran triglycerides (also found dioxin associated) was at least as important if not more important than the cholesterol issues in these inflammatory dioxin blood fat created issues. As well as recommended that the highly sensitive CRP test was a valuable tool in monitoring this inflammatory condition and treatment responses in both chronic and acute phase development of these conditions.

From the studies of both Civilian and Veterans and then doing a reverse failure analysis to other found immune system dioxin created problems to me this conclusion was quite obvious. If you watch any TV at all you will see that medicine is just now recognizing both these facts in testing, monitoring, and treatment. In other words, a novice can conclude these issues (finally admitted to for the general population by the medical profession) based on the found facts but the hired guns against Veterans cannot or at least will not associate to this finding or the many outcomes it can create with a lag time that is limitless.

In light of all the VA lies and mistruths and misconduct the following is necessary:

· Have your staff and other congressional committee members review the documents I sent.

· After review… then have closed door meetings with the oversight committee members or staff with myself, Paul Sutton, Mike Eckstein, and a few others to include a well known toxicologist and a cancer researcher to hammer out what we think should be covered based on the evidence and not the politics. (Please, no VSO members as for over 40 years now they have worked for the VA in this issue…not our Veterans.)

· We will also present the fallacy of the Ranch Hand reports that IOM uses to deny us specific associations based on what was not published but found in the official transcripts that were found associated. Some of the medical issues even found to this mythical un-established dose response.

· I would also present some Korean DMZ issues and how VA is denying these men based on nothing and in particular whoever at the VA denied Veteran David Hill (now deceased) should be investigated and then either tried or at least terminated along with his/her VA manager.

· We will also present and demonstrate how several federal agency laws in government studies have been violated and those folks should also be charged in accordance with the government established laws already on the books. Such as violation of Public Health Service Policies on Research misconduct under 42 CFR Part 93 and Veterans Health Administration Research Misconduct Handbook 1058.2.

· Once all this is done you should call in under official oversight Dr. Brown of the VA and demand how he and his predecessors are denying all of these known and identified impacts as well as VA’s Dr. Kang and former head Dr. Susan Mather, including the former heads of the Department of Veterans Affairs. If anyone is caught lying then I would expect this Congress to prosecute to the fullest as they would in any other cases expect for Veterans/Widows/Offspring it seems.

· I would also investigate the White House connection to the denials and the known and identified White House BoB memo put out not to find associations (known to congress I would add) which seems to continuing to this day.

I would also as a separate issue discuss the fact that in the current VA/BVA lawless system we have men who served side by side and one is approved and one is denied with both having the same issues. That is not justice but budget control. There is no excuse for this with the cases being on line and searchable. This also falls under the category of VA/BVA White House budget control.

I hope you will continue your efforts.

However, until I see on the House and Senate floor the same enthusiasms for Veterans Rights as they do defending Terrorists Rights; my hope is I live long enough to see the day when no one will serve in our military no matter how many sign-up bonuses or retention bonuses (bribes) are given out.

Give me one good reason why they should knowing they will be told half the truth of how they will be treated and how their citizen rights guaranteed by our constitution are set aside by our own Congress because of that honorable and in many cases “valorous service”.

Until that time I will not vote for any incumbent and I urge all Veterans/Spouses/Widows/Offspring of Veterans to do the same. RE-ELECT NO ONE! Eventually we may get some congressional officials that match their words with deeds

It seems when our government creates the Veteran; indeed his citizen rights are then set aside and then open to government sponsored fraudulent activities against them at many levels of government.

Thank you for listening.

Charles Kelley

Snellville, GA


I hate to agree with Charles Kelley, but he's right, my family has a long history of being abused by the military and then being left to our own devices to deal with the aftermath. My step father Dale (NMN) Jennings, TSGT, USAF Retired 1962, he had three kinds of cancer after being ordered to fly data gathering missions over the Nevada Test site during nuclear detonations in the late 50s and early 60s. He had breast cancer, skin cancer and lymph nodes removed. The Air Force hospital at march Field did the surgery for free, but he was never compensated for it, my mother died in 1996 and Dale died in 2000 before he learned that he was entitled to the 75,000 dollar payment authorized under the RECA Act, this law prevents the children from making the claim if the veteran or the spouse is deceased the claim died with them. Why, if they had passed the law earlier we would have inherited the funds as his heirs, so why are we prevented from making the claim for the harm done to him and we had to live thru with him, watching a loved one deal with cancer once is bad enough, three times is torturous, for the entire family.

I am a survivor of the Edgewood Arsenal experiments
Vietnam Veterans of America, et al. v. Central Intelligence Agency, et al. Case No. CV-09-0037-CW, U.S.D.C. (N.D. Cal. 2009)

What This Case Is About
Plaintiffs seek declaratory and injunctive relief only – no monetary damages – and Plaintiffs seek redress for 25 years of diabolical experiments followed by over 30 years of neglect, including:

the use of troops to test nerve gas, psychochemicals, and thousands of other toxic chemical or biological substances and perhaps most gruesomely, the insertion of septal implants in the brains of subjects in a ghastly series of mind control experiments that went awry;

the failures to secure informed consent and other widespread failures to follow the precepts of U.S. and international law regarding the use of human subjects, including the 1953 Wilson Directive and the Nuremberg Code;

an almost fanatical refusal to satisfy their legal and moral obligations to locate the victims of their gruesome experiments or to provide health care or compensation to them;

the deliberate destruction of evidence and files documenting their illegal actions, actions which were punctuated by fraud, deception, and a callous disregard for the value of human life.

The Complaint asks the Court to determine that Defendants’ actions were illegal and that Defendants have a duty to notify all victims and to provide them with health care going forward.

I am totally disabled and have been since June 2002 the Social Security Agency accepted my claim for heart disease in March 2003 effective Jun 2002, and the VA Board of veteran Appeals Judge accepted it on April 7, 2009, however in the meantime the VA diagnosed me with PTSD in 2003 and in April 2005 they awarded me 50% after I filed a Notice of Disgreement with the low ball award, on reflection in May 2006 the VARO awarded me 100% P&T just for the PTSD, which is related to the experiments at EA, and an attempted murder and robbery at Fort Wainwright, Alaksa that occurred on Feb 5, 1975, by 7 fellow soldiers from the same Battalion I was assigned to, 4 of them went to leavenworth Prison for the offenses after being convicted by a general Court Martial, the other 3 men were demoted to E1 and given bad Conduct Discharges after turning government witnesses against the worst of the 4. There is also long history of other incidents the VA calls stressors, which most people call things that scared the hell out of us, and that create nightmares that never go away and at times cause flashbacks while we are still awake, "day mares" maybe?

The government has a long history of abusing military personnel and then ignoring them as long as possible, hopefully until they die, the Edgewood veterans, Operation SHAD/112 was not even admitted to until just a few years ago by DOD and not they continue to deny the experiments caused any harm to the men used in them.

Agent Orange had been well explained by Charles Kelley, I could not offer any more than he has, except I did serve on the DMZ just a few years after they sprayed it, I ate vegetables grown in Freedom Village that the Army bought from the Koreans, grown in soil and water that was contaminated in AO, and the half life of Agent Orange is decades. The state department personnel are able to claim exposure to I believe it is 1978, military personnel are only able to claim until 1971, why? The half life of that dioxin laced soil and water affected us all not just State Department personnel.

If the youth of our nation see how you have treated these veterans why in the world would they enlist in an all volunteer Army, have them look at the 25% disabled Gulf War One veterans that have been told for the past 18 years that their physical problems are mental in nature, in other words they are crazy, that does not explain the cardiovascular problems, the pulmonary problems, the GERD and other gastrointestinal problems, psoriasis and other autoimmune diseases, rashes, migrainme like headaches, etc, the symptoms of chemical weapon exposure as shown by a 1994 CW report by the national Institute of Health and a 1975 report published by SIPRI based on Wermacht soldiers expsoed to Sarin and Mustrad agents in the german Army of WW2.

Even the Germans treated their defeated soldiers better than the US has treated American soldiers, and that is a damn shame. The only ones to blame is military leadership and Congress and the Presidents of the US since Harry S truman thru President Obama, they all could have executed executive orders mandating the Department of Veteran Affairs to correct these problems, President Obama has proclaimed a special affinity for the military and his wife Michelle the families, here is the chance for them to show their compassion, order the VA to help these veterans and their families. The benefit of the doubt rule can be used to actually help these aging disabled veterans, while they are still alive, the question is will you?

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Surprise VA inspections show continued flaws

Surprise VA inspections show continued flaws

updated 6:25 p.m. ET, Mon., June 15, 2009
WASHINGTON - Fewer than half of Veterans Affairs centers given a surprise inspection last month had proper training and guidelines in place for common endoscopic procedures such as colonoscopies — even after the agency learned that mistakes may have exposed thousands of veterans to HIV and other diseases.

The findings, from the VA's inspector general and obtained by The Associated Press, suggest that errors in colonoscopies and other minimally invasive procedures performed at VA facilities may be more widespread than initially believed.

The report is slated to be released Tuesday at a hearing before a House Veterans Affairs subcommittee, in which VA officials are scheduled to take questions. Rep. Harry Mitchell, D-Ariz., who will chair the hearing, on Monday called the situation a "damaging blow to the trust veterans place in the VA."

Mitchell said in a statement he wants to learn what the VA is doing to protect those potentially exposed and about what changes have been put in place to prevent similar mistakes.

Random inspections in May
The random inspections were conducted May 13-14 at 42 VA medical centers around the country. They found that just 43 percent of the centers have standard operating procedures in place and have properly trained their staffs for using endoscopic equipment.

The investigation comes months after the discovery of a mistake at Murfreesboro, Tenn., led to a nationwide safety campaign at the VA's 153 medical centers calling attention to potential infection risks from improperly operating and sterilizing the equipment.

Along with Murfreesboro, the agency has said mistakes were identified at a Miami center and at an ear, nose and throat clinic in Augusta, Ga. In February the agency started warning about 10,000 former patients at those facilities, some who had colonoscopies as far back as 2003, to get blood tests for HIV and hepatitis.

The VA says the chance of infection is remote. As of Friday, the VA reported that six veterans taking the follow-up blood checks tested positive for HIV, 34 tested positive for hepatitis C and 13 tested positive for hepatitis B. But there is no way to prove whether the infections came from VA procedures, and some experts say most or all of the infections probably already existed.

The VA has acknowledged that the mistakes were caused by human error. Agency spokeswoman Katie Roberts did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the report.

Click on the link above to go to the website to read these stories:

VA leaders to explain hospital equipment errors
Extent of dirty VA hospital equipment unknown
Unsterile equipment used on Miami veterans
Germs and flu are up; infection control is down

As a disabled veteran that only uses VA healthcare facilities this scares the hell out of me, where is the quality control and oversight? Why is Congress so slow to call the VA managers on the carpet and demand a fix and if not some heads of departments demoted or fired.....there is NO EXCUSE

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Monday, June 15, 2009

OPERATION PIZZA SURGE Sends 28,000 Pizzas To Our Troops Overseas

press release
Jun 15, 2009, 11:29 a.m. EST

OPERATION PIZZA SURGE Sends 28,000 Pizzas To Our Troops Overseas
--UNO Hosts Loading Event at

BOSTON, June 15, 2009 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ -- UNO Hosts Loading Event at Brockton, MA Facility


WHAT: Pizzas 4 Patriots, a non-profit organization, has teamed up with Boston's own UNO to dish out 28,000 deep-dish pizzas to U.S. troops stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan in time for the July 4 Independence Day celebration. Dubbed OPERATION PIZZA SURGE, it will be documented as the World's Largest Pizza Party (Guinness Book of World Records).

The UNO pizzas, packaged in temperature-controlled containers, will be loaded onto a refrigerated truck at UNO's facility in Brockton, MA, bound for John F. Kennedy (JFK) Airport in New York. From there, the shipment will fly directly to the Middle East, with delivery via DHL Worldwide to forward military bases just in time for July 4.

PHOTO OPP: Pizzas 4 Patriots' Founder Ret. Master Sergeant Mark Evans, a native of Elk Grove, IL, will be joining UNO CEO Frank Guidara and DHL representatives for a brief press conference attended by UNO employees and local veterans prior to a bucket-brigade loading of the pizzas onto the truck.

WHEN: Thursday, June 18 at 11:00 AM

WHERE: UNO Facility

180 Spark Street

Brockton, MA 02302

Local Phone: (617) 218-5464

About UNO:

Based in Boston, Uno Restaurant Holdings Corporation includes more than 200 company-owned and franchised full-service Uno Chicago Grill units located in 29 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, South Korea, the United Arab Emirates, Honduras, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia. The company also operates a fast casual concept called Uno Due Go(R), a quick serve concept called Uno Express(R), and a consumer foods division which supplies airlines, movie theaters, hotels, airports, travel plazas, schools and supermarkets with both frozen and refrigerated private-label foods and branded Uno products. For more information, visit

About Pizzas 4 Patriots:

Pizzas 4 Patriots is a non-profit organization with the mission of making a positive difference in the lives of our service men and women. We proudly support those patriots presently serving, as well as our wounded Veterans. It is our goal to provide our Armed Forces with unique gifts from home. We have been fortunate to receive donations, ranging from financial to products and services, from individuals, families, corporations, and other organizations, all wanting to show appreciation for the sacrifice of our brave troops. Our goal is to bring a little bit of home to the troops, and show them that they are supported by the country and residents who enjoy the freedoms that they provide for us.

For more information on our programs, please visit:

Contact: Jessie Barrett
Utopia Communications for UNO
(732) 542-9100 x123
OPERATION PIZZA SURGE Sends 28,000 Pizzas To Our Troops Overseas

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Horses as therapists: helping veterans heal

Horses as therapists: helping veterans heal

Breakthroughs occur, sometimes in a flood of tears

By Carol Ann Alaimo


Generations ago, horses were used to wage war. Now they're being used to heal the psychic wounds of war.

In an trend still viewed as strange by much of the mental-health mainstream, some Southern Arizona counselors are using the beasts as co-therapists to treat troops suffering from combat trauma.

"When I first heard about it, I thought, 'Are they kidding?' " said Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Richard Quinn, who returned from Iraq in 2007 with a brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder.

But after a recent weekend spent communing with Kairos, a hulking black draft horse, Quinn is a believer in the power of equine-assisted psychotherapy.

Almost immediately, he said, "I started feeling more relaxed and at ease" — a boon because Quinn, who served as a convoy commander overseas, has had few peaceful moments postwar.

"My wife says I cry in my sleep," said Quinn, 48, of Bisbee, whose convoys were hit twice by roadside bombs.

"At night I wake up soaking wet, and I don't even know what I dreamed about."

Animals have long been known to have a calming effect on people — witness therapy dogs that visit hospitals and nursing homes to soothe the sick. And horse-riding programs, such as those offered at Therapeutic Riding of Tucson, have been used for years to help people with disabilities improve balance and motor functions.

But equine-assisted psychotherapy is something different, experts say.

Unlike house pets, horses are prey animals. As such, they have keen abilities to take the emotional temperature of their environment, sensing distress in other creatures, which, in the wild, might mean danger is near.

"Horses have a unique ability to mirror human emotion," said Dr. Nancy Coyne, a psychiatrist who works with the Epona Center, a horse ranch in Sonoita that offers such treatment.

"They read body language and expressions. They can pick up subtle changes in blood pressure, heart rate and respiration."

Using horses to treat mental-health issues is relatively new in the world of psychotherapy — so new that it tends to raise eyebrows among traditionalists.

"Certainly, the mainstream thinks it's a little odd," said Coyne, who recently treated Quinn and several other local soldiers in a pilot program with Fort Huachuca, an Army post 75 miles southeast of Tucson.

Putting a troubled person in a pen or pasture with a therapy horse evokes responses from both beings, practitioners say.

For the humans, the impact can be more powerful than years of traditional talk therapy.

"I've had clients who can sit and talk for years about their problems and how much they'd like to change. But when they get out with the horses, things start to happen," said Toni Leo, a Sierra Vista psychologist.

Leo has treated many current and former military members and spouses for issues such as grief, anxiety, depression and childhood trauma. She's been using equine psychotherapy in her private practice for about two years with horses from a sanctuary she runs.

The therapy sessions don't involve riding, Leo said. Typically, the human clients are assigned a task — for example, they're given a halter and lead rope and told to "go catch a horse."

The interplay that follows gives clues to the client's inner state.

"It's not about catching the horse," Leo said. "We want to see how the person problem-solves and what comes up in the interaction."

Sometimes the horses avoid the humans, or come in close and crowd their space. Sometimes they'll lie down and thrash about, or sigh and rest their chins on the clients' shoulders. Or they'll gesture with their heads toward various sections of the clients' bodies.

Leo asks her clients to imagine whom the horse might represent to them, and what the horse might be trying to say.

It's at this point that breakthroughs can occur, sometimes in a flood of tears. At times, Leo said, she's seen horses "wrap their necks around someone who is crying, sort of cradle them almost like a hug."

"It sounds like magic, but it's not. The horses are just being themselves," Leo said. The method encompasses elements of other mental-health treatments such as cognitive behavioral therapy, she said.

Leo plans to expand her work to include war veterans with combat trauma at a new horse therapy center in Hereford, about 10 miles south of Fort Huachuca. The Hero Hearts Equicenter is expected to open this summer and also will offer therapeutic riding programs.

Therapeutic Riding of Tucson also may branch out into equine-assisted psychotherapy for veterans, depending on demand, said Leslie Esselburn, executive director. One of TROT's staffers recently became a licensed counselor trained in equine psychotherapy, which will allow the agency to offer such care, she said.

At some local programs, the price tag is steep. At the Epona Center, for example, a weekend stay with one follow-up visit costs $1,200 per person. The Hero Hearts program plans to charge $1,500 for three months of weekly sessions. Leo, on the other hand, charges $110 an hour in her private practice — not far off the going rate for traditional psychotherapy.

The higher-priced programs are trying to raise donations to offset the cost, so troops in need can attend for free. But fundraising has been a challenge so far in the depressed economy.

To date, only a handful of research studies have examined the effectiveness of equine psychotherapy — and none looked at the success rate for treating combat trauma. The study samples were small and drew mixed conclusions. Still, the method is gaining favor based on rave reviews of those who use it.

The American Psychological Association, for example, two years ago approved continuing-education credits for psychologists who take specialized training in such treatment. Equine therapy "was judged and found to have some validity," said Kim Mills, a spokeswoman for the association, which represents psychologists nationwide.

Prescott College, about 200 miles north of Tucson, offers the nation's only master's program in equine-assisted mental health.

For now, the impact on veterans is being measured by soldiers such as Staff Sgt. Joshua Wright.

Wright, 29, a former infantryman with the 82nd Airborne Division, returned from Iraq and Afghanistan with nerve damage, hearing loss and post-traumatic stress disorder so severe that it turned him into a recluse.

He now is assigned to a medical unit at Fort Huachuca and recently took part in the horse-therapy weekend with Quinn and several other local soldiers and spouses.

Wright, a Casa Grande native, was skeptical when he heard about horse therapy. "I thought, 'Yeah, right. Sure. Whatever.' "

In two days at Epona, he and other veterans learned breathing techniques to calm themselves and were able to see the impact it had on the animals. Once humans reduced their anxiety, the horses would cooperate, he said.

In one exercise, Wright and his wife, Heather, stood on either side of a horse, leaning into the beast as they linked hands above. They could feel their own hearts beating, and the horse's.

"It was good for us to be here," said Heather Wright, 37, who has watched her husband struggle to cope with nightmares and outbursts.

Joshua Wright said the experience "taught me to listen to my body instead of just reacting."

"It was nice," he said, "to start to understand what's going on with me."

To Learn More

The Web sites of the Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association — — and the Equine Facilitated Mental Health Association — — describe the principles of equine-assisted psychotherapy.

Contact reporter Carol Ann Alaimo at or at 573-4138.

Horses as therapists: helping veterans heal

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France to pay nuclear test compensation

France to pay nuclear test compensation

Nearly 40 years after the first of its 210 nuclear tests, France is preparing to compensate people affected by the fallout. The move leaves the UK isolated in its policy of rejecting liability for illnesses suffered by test participants, reports Aidan Lewis.

France carried out 17 tests in the Sahara and 193 in French Polynesia
Early in the morning of 13 February, 1960, several thousand French servicemen gathered in the Algerian Sahara to witness "Gerboise Bleue" or "Blue Desert Rat", an atmospheric nuclear explosion four times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

This was the moment France obtained its nuclear deterrent, to the great joy of the president of the time, Charles de Gaulle.

But the test programme it launched also exposed participants and local populations to potentially lethal radiation.

Both groups claim that they have been plagued by health problems, from aggressive cancers to minor cardio-vascular complaints.

Yet the secrecy surrounding the test programme and the difficulty of scientifically proving a link between radiation and illnesses that often emerged decades later have complicated their struggle for compensation.

Slow progress

Only now, with many of the veterans dead or dying, is the French government drawing up a bill that starts to satisfy their demands.

Hitherto, France and the UK stood side by side in denying general liability for health problems suffered by those present at the tests.

Of the major powers that tested nuclear weapons during the Cold War:

The US system offers one-off payments or healthcare costs to military and civilian test workers; the government has also made $45m (£28m) available to people affected by testing on the Bikini and Enewetak atolls in the Marshall Islands
In Russia, the government passed a series of decrees in 2004 that provide healthcare and a small monthly payment to test participants, though there is no blanket compensation scheme; the government of Kazakhstan, home to the former Soviet test site of Semipalatinsk, has been paying compensation to the local population there
In China, the government is thought to have a secret programme to compensate nuclear test personnel, but it has avoided any public discussion of the issue
In the UK, the government has maintained that there is no evidence of abnormal levels of illness in test veterans. It has said it compensates where liability is proven, but argued that claims currently being made were brought too late.
The High Court in London ruled on Friday that a group of more than 1,000 veterans has the right to sue the Ministry of Defence for compensation, but the case is likely to take years to reach any conclusion.

France's 'conscience'

For a very long time... compensating the victims of nuclear tests was to risk weakening this colossal effort that France made to give itself a nuclear weapon

Herve Morin
French defence minister
The French government long blocked compensation claims by systematically appealing - usually with success - against occasional court victories by veterans.

The new bill would offer money to people present at tests - which continued until 1996 - who have contracted one of 18 types of cancer designated by the UN. This brings France broadly into line with the US.

After presenting the bill to the cabinet late last month, Defence Minister Herve Morin said that if the government had moved sooner, the effect could have been like "sticking a pin in a balloon".

"For a very long time, engaging in a process of compensating the victims of nuclear tests was to risk weakening this colossal effort that France made to give itself a nuclear weapon, and thus to preserve its sovereignty," he said.

But he also acknowledged the "physical and psychological distress" of the veterans, and the need for France to "put its conscience at rest".

Continuing struggle

"For decades they told us that unlike others, the French nuclear tests were clean, and that there were no health consequences for the veterans or the local populations," says Jean-Paul Teissoniere, a lawyer who has represented the veterans.

1960: French nuclear test in Sahara
"Today they are telling us that there are several hundred victims to be compensated - in reality we think there are more - but the act of recognising that the French tests were toxic and caused illnesses is in itself a new phenomenon that we welcome."

The government's plan follows a gradual acceptance in the scientific and medical community that even people who received relatively low doses of radiation could suffer health problems.

Campaigners also see it as a response to their pressure.

"It became untenable to keep on denying and doing nothing after so much political, media, and judicial activity," says Michel Verger, who heads Aven, the association for French nuclear test veterans.

But they also suspect that the government's hand was forced by growing cross-party support in parliament for a bill. Rather than leaving it to members of parliament to draft, the theory goes, ministers decided to write it themselves.

They are going to give as little as possible - the struggle will continue

Aven President Michel Verger
The French government says it will provide 10m euros (£8.8m) this year, and can later supplement this sum from the defence ministry's multi-billion-euro annual pension budget.

It has dropped a requirement in early drafts that applicants must have been exposed to a specified minimum level of radiation, and estimates that a few hundred people or their dependents will be eligible.

But given that 150,000 people are estimated to have taken part in the French tests - including thousands of locally recruited workers who helped with setting up and dismantling the sites - the veterans say the government needs to go much further.

Mr Verger, 70, watched Gerboise Bleue as a young conscript with the military postal service. Despite some minor cardio-vascular problems he is now energetically leading the push to amend the bill.

"It's a bill in which the victims' associations are not represented anywhere," he says.

The veterans' association wants a dedicated fund and an independent committee that can monitor rulings on claims.

"They are going to give as little as possible. The struggle will continue."


my step father is a Atomic test participant he died in Sep 2000 after struggling with 3 kinds of cancer.

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