Panel approves record $3.3 billion IT budget for VA, with stipulations
By Bob Brewin 07/10/2009
A review by VA Secretary Eric Shinseki (shown here) and CIO Roger Baker may shift funding for IT development.
The House and Senate Appropriations committees both approved a record $3.3 billion information technology budget for the Veterans Affairs Department for fiscal 2010, but the Senate restricted obligation of $1.1 billion in development funds until the department's chief information officer completes a review of VA IT systems.
The Senate Appropriations Committee said in its report on the VA spending bill it passed on Tuesday that it will not approve expenditure of IT development funds until VA CIO Roger Baker or department Secretary Eric Shinseki identify which projects will receive funding in fiscal 2010 and the budget for the projects. Baker announced his review in June.
The committee added that the Program Management Accountability System launched by Shinseki and Baker in June to avoid long-term project failures by renewing focus on governance and accountability "is imperative if the VA is to modernize and transform its IT systems."
The House Appropriations Committee, which passed its version of the VA spending bill on June 23, did not restrict the department from spending development funds. But Rep. Chet Edwards, D-Texas, said in a statement that he anticipated changes to the IT budget once Baker completes his review.
Baker has examined more than 280 VA projects and found many were at least 13 months behind schedule, more than half exceeded initial cost estimates and the quality of software had decreased substantially between releases.
Shinseki indicated in June that VA could halt development of IT projects that are behind schedule, saying it would "prevent wasteful spending and demand accountability from everyone involved in delivering and supporting the technologies that will help transform the VA."
Robert Charette, a risk management consultant who works with federal agencies, said Baker faced a daunting task to thoroughly evaluate 280 IT projects between now and Oct. 1, the start of the 2010 fiscal year. Baker "needs to do this right, as he will only get one chance" and he should not be forced to work against a tight deadline, he said.
Charette agreed that the Senate should restrict development funding until Baker completes his review because some projects could be canceled and others could require more funding than VA requested in its fiscal 2010 IT budget proposal drawn up months ago.
The House and Senate fully funded VA's fiscal 2010 IT budget request, an increase of $767.9 million, or 30 percent, from fiscal 2009. Funding for key development projects in fiscal 2010 includes $360.4 million, up $47.3 million, for HealtheVet systems, designed to replace the aging Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture system by 2018.
VA budgeted $397 million for its umbrella Enterprise IT Development Fund in fiscal 2010, unchanged from fiscal 2009, and $292.2 million for systems that support the Veterans Benefits Administration, more than double the $136.5 million fiscal 2009 budget.
Panel approves record $3.3 billion IT budget for VA, with stipulations
Thats an awful lot of software and hardware and they don't break it down, what programs are they working on? I have to admit I like the Health E Vet program that allows us veterans sing on the the VA system and order medication refills from the comfort of our living rooms, they say by next year we will be able to exchange notes with our healthcare providers and check on our schedualed appointments and check lab test results. Now this is first class healthcare, we have been hearing for years it was coming it has just taken them a long time to bring these programs online, I have been ordering meds for over 4 years online though.
Friday, July 10, 2009
Panel approves record $3.3 billion IT budget for VA, with stipulations
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 10, 2009
House Passes Advance Appropriations for Veterans Health Care in Veterans Funding Bill
Enactment of veterans’ funding bill will amount to a 58% increase in the past 2.5 years under Democratic leadership
Washington, D.C. – House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Bob Filner (D-CA) released the following statement upon House passage of H.R. 3082, the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs spending bill:
“Today, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 3028, a bill to fund the Department of Veterans Affairs for Fiscal Year 2010. The bill provides $108.9 billion, the same as the President’s request and $14.5 billion above 2009, for veterans medical care, claims processors, and facility improvements. This is the third budget in a row that exceeds the request of the Independent Budget, which is formulated by a coalition of veterans’ organizations!
“Unlike any veterans funding bill before it, this legislation provides funding for medical-related accounts for the next fiscal year one year in advance. Responding to 19 late budgets over the course of the last 22 years, this bill delivers adequate and timely funding for veterans’ health care and offers a historic new approach to caring for our veterans.
“To be sure, great strides have been made to increase VA health care funding under the leadership of the New Democratic Congress - $17.7 billion provided over the last two years. Regardless of efforts to provide sufficient resources, veterans’ funding continues to get caught up in the political wrangling of the federal budget process. H.R. 3028 provides $48.2 billion in advance appropriations for Fiscal Year 2011 for three medical accounts: medical services, medical support and compliance, and medical facilities. This is an eight percent increase over Fiscal Year 2010 and will allow VA officials to plan spending levels for the coming year, meet the continuing wave of new patients, and maintain operations at VA facilities.
“As Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, I am committed to assisting the VA in its goal of becoming a model 21st Century organization. I want to thank Chairman Edwards for crafting bipartisan legislation and Chairman Obey for his leadership, as well as their Republican counterparts. The House of Representatives joins the Obama Administration’s commitment to improving health care for all veterans, increasing access to mental health services, addressing and preventing homelessness among veterans, and honoring the veterans of previous generations. President Obama has proven that veterans are a top priority by requesting a record veterans’ budget, and the New Direction Congress has answered.”
CHAIRMAN BOB FILNER
HOUSE COMMITTEE ON VETERANS’ AFFAIRS
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 10, 2009
House Approves Filner Amendment to Support Paralympic Program for Injured Vets
Washington, D.C. – Bob Filner (D-CA), Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, announced that the House of Representatives approved a critical funding increase for a paralympic program for veterans and members of the Armed Services. Hundreds of injured veterans now actively participate in paralympic sports and training programs that enhance their rehabilitation and promote healing from the wounds of war.
Last year, Congress authorized $10 million to fund the Office of National Veterans’ Sports Programs and Special Events to oversee rehabilitative adaptive sports programs for severely injured service members and veterans. The severely injured service members and veterans tend to be traumatic brain injury veterans, amputees, paraplegic, and quadriplegic veterans. Today, the House voted to approve Chairman Filner’s amendment to provide full funding for the program in H.R. 3028, the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act of 2010.
“When severely injured military began returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States Olympic Committee began offering Paralympic Military Sports Camps at its training facilities, including the USOC training facility in my district in Chula Vista, California,” said Filner. “I strongly believe that providing this dynamic program the needed funding to assist our injured service members and veterans will enrich the quality of life of our severely injured service members and veterans as they explore new limits.”
Read VA OIG Report
The subject [physician] saw 5,879 Veterans during his tenure at the VAMHCS.
We concluded that the VISN and the medical center were initially impeded in this task by an ABI process and product that did not sufficiently address the complainant’s allegations.
Finally, in the course of performing this oversight review, numerous additional concerns regarding the provision of care to veterans were identified.
VA physician fired after investigation
MARTIN J. KIDSTON Of The Independent Record | Posted: Friday, July 10, 2009 12:20 am |
FORT HARRISON - A doctor at the VA Medical Center accused of improperly conducting patient exams and fudging medical records to reflect care that was never provided was fired by the hospital based upon the findings of an investigation that started in 2008.
The VA Medical Center at Fort Harrison declined to confirm the doctor's name, but a spokesperson with the hospital said veterans once under the doctor's care were notified of the findings and assigned to another practitioner.
The doctor was terminated in March.
"If veterans are concerned about their individual care, and they would like to talk to someone, they can speak to our patient representative," said Teresa Bell, the hospital's spokeswoman. "We've been very proactive in this. We pride ourselves in giving the highest care to our veterans."
A report released Wednesday by the VA's Inspector General's Office said the allegations first appeared in a letter dated April 13, 2008. A complainant accused the doctor of providing poor care to veterans and engaging in irregularities when documenting treatment in their medical records.
This falsely documented treatment, the complainant added, led to misdiagnoses, prompting delays in treatment and prolonged suffering by patients.
"At best, I believe that you will find gross incompetence on the part of the" physician, the complainant wrote. "At worst, some cases will lead you to believe that sham examinations are performed and therefore fraud is taking place."
The complainant, who is not identified in the report, provided the VA's Inspector General's Office excerpts from the medical records of 28 hospital patients.
Bell said the physician's patients were notified that their doctor had come under investigation.
On April 17, 2008, two senior physicians from the Office of Healthcare Inspections reviewed the allegations and brought them to the attention of the VA Central Office in Washington, D.C.
A panel known as the Administrative Board of Investigation, or ABI, was created to review the allegations while the physician was placed on administrative leave.
"Through our internal ongoing review process, we discovered the potential that one of our providers may not have met standards of care," Bell said. "The provider was removed from patient care and an action plan was put in place."
The review by the ABI "did raise patient care concerns," the report notes. It adds, however, that the evidence reviewed by the panel "largely did not substantiate the allegations."
Of the 38 cases reviewed, the ABI found evidence supporting the allegations in just three of the cases. In those three cases, the panel wrote, "all appear to be missed diagnoses by" the physician.
But additional allegations surfaced against the doctor. The report said the ABI's own investigation had failed to sufficiently address the complainant's allegations.
The hospital hired an external doctor practicing in the same field to re-examine one of three cases. It was this external doctor and not the ABI who "identified serious quality of care deficiencies by the subject physician."
Bell could not say how many patients the doctor was seeing at the Helena-based hospital. Nor could she release the physician's name, saying instead that the VA's Inspector General's Office did not include the doctor's name in its report and, therefore, the hospital was only following the Inspector General's lead.
The Inspector General reached several conclusions in Wednesday's report, saying the hospital's managers complied with current policies in pursuing its actions.
It also noted that the ABI impeded the task by failing to fully address the complainant's allegations.
The report suggested that the undersecretary of health create a panel of specialists and administrators to review the care in the specialty once filled by the terminated doctor.
Bell would not confirm the doctor's specialty, saying again that such information was not included in the Inspector General's report.
Veterans concerned about their individual care at the Montana VA should call patient representative Susanne Corbette at 447-9770, or toll free at 877-468-8387.
VA physician fired after investigation
Thursday, July 9, 2009
CONGRESSIONALLY MANDATED NATIONAL REVIEW OF VA DOMICILIARIES RELEASED; VA AGREES REFORM NEEDED
Chairman Akaka championed law requiring the review
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI), Chairman of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, issued the following statement today on a newly released congressionally-mandated national review of VA’s residential mental health care facilities, dedicating the effort to a young Iraq war veteran who died in a VA domiciliary facility while receiving care for PTSD and a substance abuse disorder:
“The tragic death of Justin Bailey after he came home from Iraq demonstrated the need for a national review of VA mental health care facilities. This report indicates what we and the Bailey family feared – some VA facilities still have not corrected the errors that may have contributed to his death, more than two years after his passing,” said Senator Akaka. “I am encouraged by the Administration’s full agreement with the report’s recommendations, and I stand ready to assist in implementing these needed changes.”
Akaka championed Public Law 110-387, the Veterans’ Mental Health and Other Care Improvements Act of 2008, a sweeping veterans’ mental health care bill which included a tribute to Bailey and required this national review.
The report, by VA’s Office of Inspector General, found the following based on a national survey and random review of 20 sample sites:
· Less than half of the sites visited had appropriate policies for screening patients to be admitted into the VA residential mental health facility programs,
Post-discharge monitoring was not evident for nearly 3-out-of-10 residents based on residential patient records, and
An estimated 11 percent of VA Self Medication Policy patients on narcotics received more than a 7-day supply of medication.
The IG made 10 recommendations based on the review, all of which were accepted by VA.
The full report, which includes a list of the locations and programs visited during the inspections, is available here.
Residential Mental Health Care Facilities
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
1 in 8 combat troops needs alcohol counseling
Military testing pilot programs to erase stigma of seeking help
By Kelly Kennedy - Staff writer
Posted : Monday Jun 29, 2009 13:27:53 EDT
One in eight troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan from 2006 to 2008 were referred for counseling for alcohol problems after their post-deployment health assessments, according to data from the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center.
Service members complete their initial health assessments within 30 days of returning home.
The authors of the study, published in the Medical Surveillance Monthly Report, compared numbers of active-duty service members who had an alcohol-related medical encounter with those who received counseling for alcohol, noting that studies have shown troops with post-traumatic stress disorder are more likely to be substance abusers.
Defense officials said they are aware of the data. “Substance misuse/abuse is a psychological health issue, and thus one we are actively involved with,” said Navy Capt. Edward Simmer, Senior Executive Director for Psychological Health Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health.
In recent years, a number of soldiers and Marines have been discharged because of a “pattern of misconduct” stemming from alcohol abuse. Earlier this month, Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Chiarelli ordered military leaders to do a better job of getting treatment for soldiers or discharging offenders if they have received help and still have problems.
In an internal memo, Chiarelli wrote that “a growing population” of soldiers with substance abuse problems — identified either through urine tests or through “alcohol-related actions” — have not been referred to the Army Substance Abuse Program by their commanders.
Joyce Raezer, executive director of the National Military Family Association, sees a deeper issue.
Troops “fear seeking help, so they self-medicate,” she said. “You’ve got competing stigmas going on here.”
In other words, troops may use alcohol to numb themselves from thinking about friends they’ve lost or people they’ve shot because they’re afraid to seek mental health counseling. But they also don’t seek help for the alcohol issues because, again, they’re afraid doing so might hurt their careers.
Simmer said the military is testing two new policies to address the problem. In one, a service member’s command will not automatically be notified if the member seeks treatment. Simmer said the hope is that this will lead more people to seek treatment.
In a second pilot program, if a service member screens positive for alcohol issues on a post-deployment health assessment but is not referred for counseling by a health care provider, the provider must document why.
“It’s quite possible that when the provider talks with the member, the provider finds, very appropriately, that a referral is not clinically indicated,” Simmer said. “By having this documented on the form, however, we will be able to track these reasons and make better-informed decisions to increase the number who receive needed interventions for alcohol use.”
Simmer said identifying an alcohol problem also could help military doctors dig up combat-stress issues, so each person who comes in on an alcohol referral is also screened for PTSD.
According to the new report, 61 percent of soldiers who receive an alcohol-related diagnosis are treated within a year.
Only 42 percent of Marines and 59 percent of sailors receive treatment within a year. For airmen, 63 percent receive treatment within a year.
The report said further research is needed to see whether troops referred for alcohol problems after deployment get appropriate counseling and treatment.
When service members return from Iraq or Afghanistan, where they are not allowed alcohol, they are briefed about the dangers of using alcohol to deal with stress. However, younger service members often celebrate their return home with a boozy night out at the bars — and for many, the practice lingers.
Researchers found that 65,269 service members — including those who hadn’t deployed — had at least one alcohol-related medical encounter over the three years studied, and 7,188 people had at least one acute alcohol-related hospitalization. Of those with medical encounters, 50,296 were in paygrades E-4 and below, 6,526 were female and 31,320 were ages 21 to 24.
“The services should target alcohol and other substance-abuse programs to the youngest and most junior female members — beginning in recruit training,” the report states.
For all active-duty service members — including those who haven’t deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan — the Army still had the highest rate of medical encounters, with about one out of 44 soldiers with an alcohol-related clinic or hospital visit.
The figures were one out of 115 for the Air Force; one out of 60 for the Marine Corps; and one out of 77 for the Navy. About one in 150 service members had three or more acute alcohol diagnoses separated by at least 30 days.
People who have a medical encounter for alcohol use before they deploy are 2.5 times more likely to mark at least one item on their post-deployment screening for alcohol issues.
Researchers speculated that because a person is unlikely to succeed in the military if they have an alcohol problem, older officers and enlisted troops may be avoiding counseling.
“In turn, prevalences and rates of alcohol and other substance-abuse problems are likely underestimated from diagnoses and procedures documented on standard medical records — more so among officers and senior enlisted members than other military members,” the report states.
Who’s having problems
Rates of alcohol-related medical encounters were highest among junior service members, according to a recent report.
Acute alcohol diagnoses (per 1,000)
E-1 to E-4, 28.6
E-5 to E-9, 8.6
Hospitalization with acute diagnoses (per 1,000)
E-1 to E-4, 3.1
E-5 to E-9, 1.0
Source: Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center
How quick they forget the lessons of Vietnam but at least the military isn't buying the booze anymore, I still remember the company parties where the Army bought the beer, Bosses Night at the NCO Clubs and right arm night at the Officer Clubs, drinking was expected back then, kind of like church attendance is required now. If you want to get promoted you have to play the game the way the system mandates.
VA Releases HUD-VASH Handbook
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has released a handbook on the VA portion of procedures for the Housing and Urban Development (HUD)-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH) Program. The handbook sets forth the national authority for the administration, monitoring, and oversight of HUD-VASH services. This new handbook clarifies the admission process and procedure for homeless veterans into the HUD-VASH Program and the duties of those assigned responsibilities under the program. The handbook also addresses staffing changes associated with implementing and monitoring HUD-VASH-funded programs nationally and addressing program enhancements as a result of recent program expansion. This resource is available online by clicking here.
Helpful info for disabled indivs filing a claim for disability
Social Security Disability And The SSI Programs
Also see: appeals process
also see: http://tinyurl.com/ceq7vd
How does this compute with the Iowa Story recently sent?
Vets get benefits they didn't know they had
By Kyung M. Song
Seattle Times staff reporter
Every month for most of the past decade, Benjamin "Frank" Jordan has forked over as much as $2,000 of his Social Security and veterans benefits to help Medicaid offset the cost of his nursing-home care.
What Jordan didn't know was that he shouldn't have paid a cent.
Jordan, a Navy veteran with a service-connected disability, should have gotten his nursing-home care free from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Now Jordan, 71, who uses a wheelchair, has his room at a Mercer Island nursing home completely paid for from nearly $40,000 a year in newfound veterans benefits, thanks to a state program that matches poor veterans with thousands of dollars in federal benefits they've missed.
"My husband keeps saying we can spend money now, but I'm still in shock," said Jordan's wife, Loretta, 68, who lives in the couple's home in Bellevue.
The Veterans Enhancement Project, which began in Clark County in 2001, was the first in the nation to use a database, originally created to catch welfare cheats, to stretch Washington's Medicaid budget by finding people eligible for VA benefits instead.
So far it has boosted benefits for more than 300 Medicaid nursing-home patients in Western Washington, officials say. Nearly 40 of those have left Medicaid completely. Another 2,000 vets and their dependents have been enrolled in military health plans.
Are you eligible for VA benefits?
• Generally, honorably discharged veterans who had at least two years of active service can apply to receive medical care from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The VA may also pay for nursing-home care for veterans with at least 70 percent service-connected disability. Also, veterans who meet income limitations and served at least 90 days of active duty, with at least one day during a period of war (including the beginning of the Gulf War in 1990 to the present) and who are totally disabled or 65 or older can apply to get a VA pension.
• The VA also may pay tax-free disability compensation to veterans who were injured while on active duty or whose conditions were made worse by active military service.
In addition, military retirees and their spouses and children, along with widows or widowers of veterans who died or were disabled by service-related conditions, may be eligible for health-care coverage.
For more information, contact the Veterans Project at the state Department of Health and Social Services, 800-280-0586 or www.aasa.dshs.wa.gov/topics/paris; or contact the state Department of Veterans Affairs at 800-562-2308 or www.dva.wa.gov.
The project, which is now reaching into Eastern Washington and being emulated in other states, saved Washington Medicaid an estimated $3.5 million last fiscal year.
Medicaid, a health-insurance program for the poor, is funded equally by Washington state and the federal government. Medicaid patients can pay certain living expenses with their monthly incomes, but must use any remainder to cover the cost of their nursing-home care. And state law requires Medicaid to recover remaining long-term-care costs — on which it spends more than $1.2 billion a year — from the beneficiaries' estates after they and their spouses die.
Veterans, on the other hand, do not have to repay VA benefits because they earned them by serving in the military. Yet VA officials admit they have failed to contact many eligible veterans or their dependents about billions of dollars in unclaimed pensions and disability payments.
Loretta Jordan had worried for years that the couple's assets would be used to repay Medicaid. Frank Jordan bought his house near Clyde Hill for $65,000 in 1979. The house is now paid off and assessed at $445,000. In 1995, Frank Jordan deeded the house to Loretta to keep the house out of reach of Medicaid estate recovery. Even so, Medicaid could go after any other property, vehicles, savings and assets owned jointly by Frank and Loretta Jordan after their deaths.
Many others share the Jordans' situation. Roughly 670,000 veterans live in Washington — more than 10 percent of the state's population. When spouses and dependent children are considered, the total number of people potentially eligible for veterans benefits could be more than twice that. But only 5 percent of all Medicaid patients currently receiving long-term care are collecting VA benefits, said Bill Allman, who launched the new program as a manager for the state Department of Social and Health Services.
"That number should be higher," he said. "A lot of veterans don't know they have veterans benefits."
Allman, a Vietnam veteran, said he started the program partly as a personal quest to use the welfare database to help both vets and the state save money.
For many veterans, financial gains have been unexpected.
Charles St. George Jr. is a Navy veteran who suffered a stroke in 2002. St. George, 73, who lived in a studio apartment near SeaTac and has never married, applied for Medicaid after depleting all but $2,000 of his savings.
Until this year, the retired Delta Air Lines reservations agent was paying about $1,200 a month, most of his veterans and Social Security income, for a room at a Federal Way nursing home and later at an Auburn adult home.
Then on May 1, his longtime friend, Loretta Abel, who has power of attorney to care for St. George, discovered that his bank account was suddenly nearly $20,000 richer.
"I was flipping out there," Abel said.
But it turned out the money was a lump-sum pension payment from the VA.
Allman had discovered that St. George had become entitled to a full VA pension of $1,397 a month when he moved from the nursing home to the adult home.
Veterans in nursing homes receive only $90 a month. But those residing in adult homes, assisted-living facilities or their own homes can get their full pensions. The $19,595 deposit was a 15-month retroactive payment.
St. George's $1,300 in extra VA benefits now go to Medicaid, reducing the state's expense. Allman said few veterans notify the VA when they move out of a nursing home because they don't know the rules.
Abel said she was happy to have the extra money for her friend — once the shock wore off.
"If someone's going to give me $19,000, it would have been nice if they'd called me" first, she said.
As for the Jordans, they say they're grateful that the VA is finally paying the pension and all the nursing-home costs.
But elation is mixed with rue. Because of their particular situation, the Jordans are unlikely to collect on their missed benefits.
"All those thousands of dollars we paid over the years," Loretta Jordan said. "We could have had that for our savings."
Kyung Song: 206-464-2423 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Pass to your Marine friends
More vets report cancer
By William R. Levesque, Times Staff Writer Published Friday, July 3, 2009
Scientists studying drinking water contamination at Camp Lejeune were startled when 11 men with breast cancer and ties to the North Carolina base were identified over the last two years.
Six more have been found in one week.
Five additional men with breast cancer and a sixth who had a double mastectomy after doctors found precancerous tumors contacted the St. Petersburg Times last week after reading a story about the 11 men with the rare disease.
"This male breast cancer cluster is a smoking gun," breast cancer survivor Mike Partain said on Friday. "You just can't ignore it. You don't need science to tell you something is wrong. It's common sense. It begs to be studied."
Partain, 41, of Tallahassee, was born at the Marine Corps base and diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007. He has worked for two years to find other men with breast cancer who lived at Camp Lejeune.
He found the first nine men before the Times profiled his search in a story on June 28, a story that noted the newspaper had found another man not on Partain's list.
In the days after that story, other male breast cancer survivors called or e-mailed the Times.
Scientists studying what some call the worst public-drinking water contamination in the nation's history said the numbers are unsettling.
"My gut tells me this is unusual and needs to be looked into," said Richard Clapp, a Boston University epidemiologist who has studied Camp Lejeune water. "I'm sure there are still more out there in other states."
Camp Lejeune's drinking water was contaminated for 30 years ending in 1987 with high levels of industrial degreasers called trichloroethylene (TCE) and tetrachloroethylene (PCE). Clapp said both have been linked to other suspicious male breast cancer clusters elsewhere.
The chemicals were dumped there by the Marine Corps and a private dry-cleaning business, according to investigators.
Congress, which has dubbed ill Marines "poisoned patriots," ordered the Marines last year to notify those who might have been exposed. Some estimates put the number at up to 1 million people.
Many Marines, however, are still unaware.
One who didn't have a clue about the contamination is South Florida resident Jim Morris.
Morris said he was astonished when he was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2000 at the age of 54. His family had no history of breast cancer. He didn't realize men could get the disease.
Male breast cancer is exceedingly rare. Just 1,900 men are expected to be diagnosed with breast cancer this year compared with nearly 200,000 women, the American Cancer Society says.
A man has a 1-in-1,000 lifetime chance of getting the disease.
Men who get it are often over 70, though it is rare even in older males. Of the 17 men identified by Partain and the Times, just three are over 70 — the youngest was Partain at 39 — and many have no family history of breast cancer, male or female, according to interviews.
Morris said his sister lives in Pasco County and saw the Times article about Partain. She immediately called her brother.
"It was almost a relief to find out my cancer actually came from somewhere," said Morris, who has worked as a surveyor. "I'm not just some idiot who got breast cancer for no reason. I never expected to find out. It was going to be one of those lifetime puzzles you never figure out."
Scientists, however, are careful to say that it is extremely difficult to prove a link between pollution and a disease. The Marine Corps declined to comment for this story.
Two federal studies are expected to be completed in coming years that will look at the incidence of all disease among those who lived at Camp Lejeune. The stakes are enormous, with potentially billions of dollars in health claims by more than 1,500 people who say the water made them ill.
University of Pittsburgh Cancer Center epidemiologist Devra Davis also is preparing a case report on the breast cancer cluster.
Partain is among those who believe Camp Lejeune's water may have caused a variety of cancers and other ailments. A growing community of Camp Lejeune veterans, including many who say they are ill, have connected on the Web, many at a popular Internet site called tftptf.com.
More than 10,000 Floridians with Lejeune ties have signed up for a health survey, the most from any state except North Carolina.
Joe Moser, 69, of Riverview was diagnosed with breast and thyroid cancer in February 2008. He was stationed at Camp Lejeune from 1957 to 1960. He said he didn't know about water problems at the base and was stunned to read about the breast cancer link.
"This is too weird," Moser said. "All these men with breast cancer? Come on. There's got to be a lot more of us out there. God, so many of the guys I served with were from Trenton or Philadelphia, all over the place. Who knows if they're sick, too."
William R. Levesque can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 269-5306.
Were you at Camp Lejeune?
If you or a family member lived at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina and have been diagnosed with male breast cancer, the St. Petersburg Times is interested in talking to you. Please call reporter William R. Levesque at (813) 269-5306 or toll-free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 5306.
Anyone who lived or worked at Camp Lejeune in 1987 or before can register with the Marine Corps for a health survey. To register or to get more information, visit https://clnr.hqi.usmc.mil/clwater/ or call (877) 261-9782.
Salem-News.com (Jul-04-2009 16:05)
Marine Spouse Battles Navy Over Contamination at Naval Base in Japan
Robert O'Dowd Salem-News.com
Shelly Parulis, wife of a retired Marine Master Sergeant, is engaged in a running battle with the Navy over dioxin and other toxins at NAF Atsugi, Japan.
(ATSUGI, Japan) - No one assigned to Naval Air Facility (NAF) Atsugi, the home of Carrier Air Wing 5, would have suspected that duty in Japan could exposed them to toxic chemicals, including deadly dioxin, the carcinogen infamously associated with Agent Orange.
Pollutants at NAF Atsugi
In fact, prior to the closure of Atsugi’s privately owned Envirotech (formerly Shinkampo) incinerators in 2001, that is exactly what happened to military, dependents, and civilian workers stationed at NAF Atsugi during the period 1985 to 2001. Your browser may not support display of this image.
NAF Atsugi is located on Honshu, the main island of Japan. The base, about 20 miles from Tokyo, was originally built in 1938 by the Japanese Imperial Navy as Emperor Hirohito's Naval Air Base to address the threat posed by foreseen American bombing raids of the Japanese mainland.
Shelly Parulis, a spouse of a retired Marine Master Sergeant who was stationed at Atsugi from 1995 to 1998, and her family suffered the results of toxic exposure and leads the effort to obtain compensation and health benefits for Atsugi veterans, dependents ad civilian workers.
The Navy has funded a number of engineering and technical reviews on NAF Atsugi. Four air quality studies conducted from 1989 to 1997 found chemicals in the incinerator complex’s smoke and ash known or suspected by the EPA “to cause cancer and/or upper respiratory injury and disease.” (See: srp.usmc.googlepages.com/USDOJPetitionSummaryofPreviousAmbien.pdf)
Despite the risks of serious disease, the Navy continued to assign personnel and their families to NAF Atsugi while the privately owned incinerator complex spewed its smoke and ash over the base from 1985 until 2001.
Incinerators running at NAF Atsugi
The immune systems of children are especially vulnerable to toxins. There’s no evidence that limiting assignments to military only was under consideration by the Navy once the data on increased risk of cancer and upper respiratory injury and disease was known.
After making contact with hundreds of other Atsugi veterans and dependents, Parulis learned that many of them were seriously ill with diseases linked to toxic exposure.
There is currently no Navy initiative to fund compensation and/or health benefits for any Atsugi veterans and dependents. Funding for this would have to be appropriated by Congress.
In 2001, the United States Justice Department sued Envirotech, the private owner of the incinerators, in a Yokohoma court, but before any judgment was made, the Japanese bought out the company and the closed the facility by year end.
At the end of the day, the polluter walked away with $40 million while the Japanese government “saved face” by closing the complex.
After nearly a decade, the Navy finally decided to study the environmental health effects of exposure. The findings of the Navy Marine Corps Public Health Center epidemiological study are expected to be released shortly.
The objective of the epidemiological study is to determine if the incidence of diseases associated with exposure to emissions from the Atsugi incinerators was significantly different for residents of NAF Atsugi from 1985 to 2001 when compared to a similar population at Naval Base Yokosuka over the same time period.
Justice Department Lawsuit
The U.S. Department of Justice initiated a lawsuit against the private owner and operator of the of the Atsugi’s incinerators in March 2000.
A Justice Department press release of March 27, 2000, stated that a civil lawsuit had been filed in Yokohama, Japan, against the owner and operator of a waste disposal incinerator adjacent to the Atsugi U.S. Naval Air Facility outside Tokyo.
“The suit alleges that toxic emissions from the incinerator complex, owned by Enviro-Tech (formerly Shinkampo), threaten the health and safety of the more than 8,000 American and Japanese civilian and military personnel living and working at the base. It further alleges that the incinerator spews high levels of dioxin, a suspected carcinogen, as well as numerous other toxic substances.”
“The suit charges that Enviro-Tech's operation interferes with the U.S. government's rights of property use and possession. It seeks immediate suspension of the company's incinerator operations in order to stop the toxic pollution.”
“The U.S. complaint cites considerable scientific and technical evidence of the existence of high levels of dioxin and other toxic substances found at the Atsugi base. A joint monitoring study, conducted last year under Japanese and U.S. government auspices, revealed dioxin levels as high as 90 times the current Japanese ambient air standard and pointed to Enviro-Tech's operation as the source. Such dioxin levels are reported to be the highest ambient air dioxin levels ever recorded in Japan.”
The Justice Department lawsuit was still ongoing when the Japanese government announced their decision to purchase the Atsugi incinerator for about $40 million in April 2001. The Japanese government then proceeded to dismantle and eventually closed the complex at the end of 2001.
Video shows base resident’s viewpoint of the Jinkanpo/Shinkampo incinerator at NAF Atsugi, Japan
For the Navy, the Japanese government, and Envirotech, this is a story with a happy ending. For those injured by the toxics, it’s a whole different matter.
All the evidence supports that Envirotech and its predecessor operated an incinerator complex not in compliance with sound environmental laws for years, thousands were exposed to toxic chemicals, the United States Department of Justice filed a lawsuit in a Yokohoma court to stop the toxic pollution, the Japanese government purchased the company for $40 million, and then closed the incinerator complex the same year. Every one is happy except for those unfortunate individuals exposed to the toxins, now seriously ill, out of work, and without health care.
The questions raised by Shelly Parulis relate not to only to the legal but to the moral obligation on the part of the Navy to provide compensation and health care for Navy veterans, dependents and civilian workers injured by the toxins at NAF Atsugi.
How could toxic fumes and smoke from incinerators smoke stacks impact an entire military base? At NAF Atsugi, the geography and the relative location of the base and the incinerators couldn’t have been worse.
A February 2001 news story in The Japan Times reported that: “Atsugi base sits on a plateau about 16 meters above the incinerators. The smokestacks rise a scant 23 meters. This means the stacks stand only 7 meters above the base's ground level. On both days I visited, smoke was blowing toward the base, and a "downwash" effect was causing the smoke to billow across playing fields into base housing and schools.”
As it turns out, the relative location of the incinerator complex and the base was an open invitation to toxic exposure.
In 2007, Shelly Parulis, wife of a retired Marine Master Sergeant, set-up a web site at www.atsugi-incinerator-group.com after learning that her husband was diagnosed with kidney cancer. Parulis believes that upwards of 70,000 people were exposed to the toxic chemicals at Atsugi.
Parulis points to a quote by Captain Frank Sweigart, Commander, NAF Atsugi, in the base newspaper on October 2, 1997 as an example of the Navy’s PR campaign to dismiss any possibility of exposure to toxic chemicals, Captain Frank Sweigart, Commander, NAF Atsugi, stated in the base newspaper: “Unfortunately we don’t have anything in writing that says Jinkanpo is a serious health risk! All we have is a 94-95 study that shows the waste by products do not meet U.S Environmental Protection Agency standards. It would not be justifiable grounds for transfer”.
“Neither myself, nor family had any indication that we were at risk because we trusted the Navy and we trusted the word of our commanding officer. We never thought our country, in which my husband faithfully served, would cut orders and assign military families, especially our children, to a place that they would be put in harms way and be exposed to deadly chemicals. As a military wife, I can attest that at times I knew my husband may have been put in harms ways for the greater good of our beloved country, however, I would have never imagined or believed that that the Navy would knowingly put innocent children in harms way or the commanding officer of the base in which we resided would put our children at risk and mislead or tell untruths to military personnel and their families. The general consensus on the base was that the Navy would not put families at risks and that the SIC issue was more of a political issue because the local residents’ complaints of the noise issues that surrounded NAF Atsugi, Japan.”
Parulis claim stated that: “As a result of the Navy’s negligence, failure to warn, failure to disclose actual facts regarding levels of contamination, failure to advise of latency health effects and failure to protect military personnel and their dependents, including my family and I from NAF Atsugi toxic chemicals exposure, as documented by the Navy, my family and I have suffered an array of health problems to include kidney cancer, migraines, rectal bleeding, irritable bowel syndrome, depression, Supraventricular Tachycardia, spindle cell tumors, hair loss, skin disorders and other health issues and we are currently under medical evaluation for Thyroid Nodules, and other illnesses confirmed by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), to occur from toxic chemical exposure.”
Federal Military Claims Act
The Military Claims Act (MCA) allows non-active duty personnel to file a compensation claim for injuries outside of the United States and its territories.
Parulis Federal MCA claim was denied by the government. On January 12, 2009, the Air Force Legal Operations Agency provided the rational for denial of Parulis’ claim for injuries at Atsugi:
* The Military Claims Act requires that the government be liable to the same extent as a private individual under similar circumstances and under the general principles of American tort law, the Navy cannot be responsible for the actions of a private Japanese corporation.
* The statue of limitations for timely filing of the claim was two years from the date of the incident and the claim was not received until almost a decade after the Parulis family left Atsugi. The lawsuit in 2000 and the purchase and closure of the facility in 2001 should have provided notice of the problems associated with the facility. The claim for injuries was not filed until 2008.
* The discretionary function defense protects the United States for decisions that are not required or mandated by law, but rather involve some element of judgment. This means that the United States Navy cannot be liable for its actions in this instance.
* The Feres doctrine prevents service members from receiving compensation for personal injuries related to their service and bars derivative family member claims which are based upon the same injury to the member.
Parulis now looks to “Congress to investigate and provide health care, and compensation to those exposed just like they did they did for Agent Orange and 911 victims. Because this didn't happen in the United States, but in Japan, I have had a hard time getting a representative to champion this issue.”
While Jinkampo incinerators are now closed, no action has been taken by the Navy to notify those who served on the base and now suffer the health effects of exposure. Parulis noted that “dependents and Japanese and American civilian workers are now seriously ill, can’t work and many are without health care.”
According to Parulis, “While we faithfully served our country, military dependents, were exposed to high levels of Dioxin, Heavy Metals, PCBs, VOC and more toxic chemicals that exceeded Maximum Contaminant Levels. The Navy knew they were putting families at risk by stationing them at NAF Atsugi, Japan. Military personnel and dependents deserve the truth and medical care.”
As early as 1989 the Navy knew the toxic plume was a danger to residents on the base since York Research Consultants, a Navy contractor, recommended, “when the plumes come over the base keep all personnel indoors and send as many people off base as possible. Keep all pregnant women off of the base.”
Parulis said she had to fight to get the Navy to approve full health screenings for her husband, their two children and herself. She wants others who have lived at Atsugi to be aware of the potential link to health problems from exposure to contaminants at Atsugi.
Parulis has received hundreds of emails from former sailors and Marines on the health problems experienced by their families after duty at Atsugi. These serious illnesses include kidney disease, cancer, neurological problems, and intestinal problems, miscarriages and birth defects.
Normally, you expect the Navy to take the lead in contacting former residents of Atsugi to make them aware of the health effects of exposure to the contaminants on the base. However, this has not been the case. Parulis said she personally contacted approximately 350 former Atsugi residents. Out of the 350, 57 have cancer; several have died, including children.
In an email to me, Parulis included a list of other former NAF Atsugi dependents seriously ill. These included:
* At least two children have died of AML Leukemia after spending a tour of duty NAF Atsugi.
* A son was born with birth defects, his mother was pregnant while at Atsugi. He now has varicocele of the testes and is sub-fertile.
* Six former residents have been diagnosed with thyroid cancer.
* Three residents were diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. One was a young man, age 31.
* Three children have died of brain cancer.
Parulis now looks to “Congress to investigate and provide health care, and compensation to those exposed just like they did they did for Agent Orange and 911 victims. Because this didn't happen in the United States, but in Japan, I have had a hard time getting a representative to champion this issue.”
Shelly Parulis can be contacted on email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bob O’Dowd is a former U.S. Marine with thirty years of experience on the east coast as an auditor, accountant, and financial manager with the Federal government. Half of that time was spent with the Defense Logistics Agency in Philadelphia. Originally from Pennsylvania, he enlisted in the Marine Corps at age 19, served in the 1st, 3rd, and 4th Marine Aircraft Wings in 52 months of active duty in the 1960s. A graduate of Temple University, Bob has been married to Grace for 31 years. He is the father of two adult children and the grandfather of two boys. Bob has a blog site on former MCAS El Toro at mwsg37.com. This subject is where Bob intersected with Salem-News.com. Bob served in the exact same Marine Aviation Squadron that Salem-News founder Tim King served in, twenty years earlier. With their combined on-site knowledge and research ability, Bob and Tim and a handful of other ex-Marines, have put the contamination of MCAS El Toro on the map. The base is highly contaminated with TCE, trichloroethelyne. You can email Bob O’Dowd, Salem-News.com Environmental and Military Reporter, at this address: email@example.com
The military itself has some of the most toxic real estate in the US and does everything it can to avoid liability, Camp Lejuene, Edgewood Arsenal, Fort Lewis, Camp Pendleton, there is some levels of toxic chemicals in the ground water of many bases due to the old chemicals they used in dry cleaning, solvents, fuels, etc.
I know Edgewood Arsenal has 77 toxic substances listed in their EPA Super Fund report from 1988, in 1978 the EPA forced the Army to cap the water wells on EA and in the town of Edgewood and pipe clean water in from the White Mountains. In the meantime the VA denies any medical problems caused by exposure. Under the Feres Act we can't sue and the VA just denies veterans benefits based on the fact we can't prove exposure, excuse me we were there and the chemicals were in the drinking water, how could we avoid them?
Monday, July 6, 2009
More female veterans are winding up homeless
VA resources strained; many are single parents
By Bryan Bender, Boston Globe Staff | July 6, 2009
WASHINGTON - The number of female service members who have become homeless after leaving the military has jumped dramatically in recent years, according to new government estimates, presenting the Veterans Administration with a challenge as it struggles to accommodate the hundreds of thousands of returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan.
As more women serve in combat zones, the share of female veterans who end up homeless, while still relatively small at an estimated 6,500, has nearly doubled over the last decade, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
For younger veterans, it is even more pronounced: One out of every 10 homeless vets under the age of 45 is now a woman, the statistics show.
And unlike their male counterparts, many have the added burden of being single parents.
“Some of the first homeless vets that walked into our office were single moms,’’ said Paul Rieckhoff, executive director and founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. “When people think of homeless vets, they don’t think of a Hispanic mother and her kids. The new generation of veterans is made up of far more women.’’
Overall, female veterans are now between two and four times more likely to end up homeless than their civilian counterparts, according to the VA, most as a result of the same factors that contribute to homelessness among male veterans: mental trauma related to their military service and difficulty transitioning into the civilian economy.
But while veterans’ services have been successfully reaching out to male veterans through shelters and intervention programs, women are more likely to fall through the cracks.
“While the overall numbers [of homeless vets] have been going down, the number of women veterans who are homeless is going up,’’ Peter Dougherty, director of homeless veterans programs at the Department of Veterans Affairs, said in a telephone interview.
The trend has alarmed top lawmakers and veterans groups, who fear that the federal government - which is already straining to care for new veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, brain injuries, and other physical ailments - is ill-prepared to deal with the special needs of female veterans who find themselves on the street.
Many of them are like Angela Peacock, a former Army sergeant who was diagnosed with PTSD when she returned from Iraq in 2004 and became addicted to pain-killers.
Later evicted from her apartment in Texas, she spent more than two years “couch-hopping’’ between friends and family before moving in as a squatter in an empty house in St. Louis.
“They could kick me out anytime they want,’’ Peacock said in an interview. “I have been clean for two and a half years and am working on getting my life back, but it doesn’t happen overnight.’’
According to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, a nonpartisan advocacy group in Washington, about 23 percent of the homeless population in the United States are veterans. Nearly half are from the Vietnam era and three-fourths experience some type of alcohol, drug, or mental heath problem.
Most of the homeless vets, who are estimated by the Veteran’s Administration to number at least 130,000 on any given night nationwide, are men older than 50.
With a new generation of veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan leaving the armed forces, however, the demographics are swiftly changing. And with more women serving on active duty - a full 15 percent of the military is now female - the share of female homeless veterans has grown from about 3 percent a decade ago to 5 percent, according to the VA.
Among younger veterans, meanwhile, the share of women is nearly double, making up 9 percent of homeless veterans under the age of 45.
“There are twice as many under 45 than above,’’ said Dougherty, who is also the executive director of the Interagency Council on Homelessness, which coordinates the federal government’s efforts to combat homelessness.
In recent days, senior members of Congress have called for an expansion of some of the VA’s programs to ensure they are properly suited to meeting the needs of the growing female population.
“Women veterans and veterans with children often have different needs and require specialized services,’’ Senator Patty Murray, a Democrat of Washington and a member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, said in a statement.
Senator Jack Reed, Democrat of Rhode Island and a former Army officer, also believes more women-focused veterans services are needed.
“We need to adapt services for our veterans to reflect this shift and provide more gender-specific resources, such as housing and counseling to prevent female veterans from becoming homeless,’’ Reed said.
For example, Rieckhoff, who served in Iraq before founding the Iraq and Afghanistan veterans group, said female veterans often face unique homelessness risk factors, including sexual assault while in the military and diminished earning potential in civilian life.
But he also believes that the culture of the VA is mostly geared toward meeting the needs of men.
“They are having a tough time evolving to meet the demands of women, who are at a higher risk for homelessness to begin with,’’ Rieckhoff said.
The Obama administration has taken some steps toward combating homelessness among all veterans, including allocating $75 million to public housing authorities in the 50 states, Puerto Rico, and Guam to provide permanent housing and dedicated case managers for an estimated 10,000 veterans.
“For a woman veteran in particular, this is a way for them to have a place to live and not have to ditch the child while they take care of other needs that they have,’’ said Dougherty.
But Murray, Reed, and others say far more needs to be done, especially for homeless veterans with children.
They have sponsored legislation that calls for $50 million in extra funding over the next five years to allow the Veterans Affairs and Labor departments to make special grants to homeless veterans with children, including for transitional housing.
The legislation would also allow the Labor Department to fund facilities that provide job training and child care for female veterans.
Bryan Bender can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I feel any veteran with children should be at the head of the line for emergency housing male or female or an entire family, sometimes they have no where else to turn, they have no family to help them out, and this is when government does need to step up and help, should veterans always get a hand out from the govt NO that is not what I am saying but they should get a hand UP and a chance to get their life back together.
WASHINGTON (July 6, 2009) - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)
officially opened its 129th national cemetery June 25 with the first
burials at Alabama National Cemetery in Montevallo.
"With the opening of this new national shrine, many thousands of Alabama
Veterans and their families will have a no-cost burial option nearby, in
a setting that is worthy of their service," said Secretary of Veterans
Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. "Providing lasting tributes to their sacrifice
is one of VA's most honorable missions, one we are proud to fulfill."
The new 479-acre national cemetery in the Birmingham area will serve
Veterans' needs for at least the next 50 years. The cemetery is located
on State Highway 119, 15 miles south of Birmingham, just north of the
town of Montevallo and west of Interstate Highway 65.
In October 2008, VA awarded a construction contract for $3.7 million to
BSI Contracting Inc., a service-disabled, Veteran-owned small business
in Birmingham, to develop a small burial area. That 12.7-acre section,
with 1,095 casket gravesites and nearly 1,000 in-ground cremation sites,
will provide approximately two years of burials, enabling VA to begin
providing services while the remainder of the cemetery's larger first
phase of development is completed.
When complete, the first phase will consist of approximately 45
developed acres with more than 6,000 additional gravesites and 2,700
columbarium niches, as well as facilities needed to operate and to
provide burials for approximately 10 years. The new cemetery will
include an administration and public information center complex,
including an electronic gravesite locator and public restrooms, a
maintenance building, an entrance area, a flag assembly area, a memorial
walkway and two committal shelters for funeral services. Other
infrastructure elements include roadways, landscaping, utilities and
The new cemetery serves approximately 200,000 veterans in the region and
will be the third national cemetery in Alabama. The state's other
national cemeteries are in Seale and Mobile.
Veterans with a discharge issued under conditions other than
dishonorable, their spouses and eligible dependent children can be
buried in a VA national cemetery. Other burial benefits available for
all eligible veterans, regardless whether they are buried in a national
cemetery or a private cemetery, include a burial flag, a Presidential
Memorial Certificate and a government headstone or marker. Families of
eligible decedents may also order a memorial headstone or marker when
remains are not available for interment.
In the midst of the largest expansion since the Civil War, VA operates
130 national cemeteries in 39 states and Puerto Rico and 33 soldiers'
lots and monument sites. More than three million Americans, including
veterans of every war and conflict, are buried in VA's national
cemeteries on nearly 18,000 acres of land.
Information on VA burial benefits can be obtained from national cemetery
offices, from the Internet at http://www.cem.va.gov or by calling VA
regional offices toll-free at (800) 827-1000.
For information on the Alabama National Cemetery, call the cemetery
office at (205) 665-9039. To make burial arrangements at the time of
need, call the national cemetery scheduling office at (800) 535-1117.