[Attachment(s) from Colonel Dan included below]
If you have a VA claim in Pennsylvania…READ carefully… pass to your PA contacts & Veterans
See attached PDF file below
any questions contact this attorney; graham@FederalTortClaim.com
W. Robb Graham
Law Offices of W. Robb Graham, LLC
803 Route 130 South
Cinnaminson, NJ 08077
856.786.5050 F. 856.786.5271
From: W. Robb Graham [mailto:graham@FederalTortClaim.com]
Sent: Thursday, September 24, 2009 6:25 PM
Subject: VA's refusal to promptl release the contract for the doctors involved with Brachtherapy at the Phialdelphia VA
Attached please find a copy of the complaint which I have filed against the Department of Veterans Affairs under the Freedom of Information Act. I have filed his complaint, because I represent several of the veterans who were notified by the VA that there brachytherapy treatment at the Philadelphia VA did not meet the standard of care.
I am providing this information to you, because it is my belief that the Philadelphia VA is essentially trying to get all of the veterans to file for benefits under section 1151, or file a Federal Tort Claim. (All of the veterans involved received information from the VA on the procedures to be used to make these types of claims). The VA will then, after the statute of limitations against University of Pennsylvania and the physicians as individuals has expired, will deny all the Federal Tort Claims, claiming that Dr. Gary Kao, and the University of Pennsylvania were independent contractors; therefore, the United States is not liable for their actions under the Federal Tort Claims Act. The effect of this will be to help the University of Pennsylvania, at the expense of the veterans.
In the event that you are aware of any veterans who are pursuing claims as a result of the Philadelphia VA's brachytherapy program, you may want to consider advising those veterans that a claim under the Federal Tort Claims Act, is not likely to be successful, due to the employment status of the medical providers involved and that if they desire to seek any compensation outside of the VA claims process, that they need to consider filing claims against University of Pennsylvania and the doctors who treated them, as individuals because the statute of limitations is quickly approaching for this type of claim.
If you want further information about this issue I will forward it to you. If you do not want further information about this please let me know and I will not contact you again. Finally, I would like to thank you for providing such a useful group, that performs a real service in providing up to date info on the VA.
W. Robb Graham
Law Offices of W. Robb Graham, LLC
803 Route 130 South
Cinnaminson, NJ 08077
856.786.5050 F. 856.786.5271
Certified as a Civil Trial Attorney by the Supreme Court of NJ
Member NJ & PA Bars
I seldom if ever have endorsed an attorney's advertising for veterans claims, but the mess with dirty equipment, misplaced isotopes in cancer patients, the VA medical centers are getting beyond acceptable limits, yes mistakes are made in hospitals everywhere, but civilians have a much easier time in obtaining financial judgements in these cases of malpractice, intentional or not there are still repurcussions that these veterans and their families have to deal with, in some cases for life or it becomes a life and death matter where they contract medical problems like HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis C etc, so I have passed this along from Colonel Dan, now there is a veteran I really respect and admire.
Friday, September 25, 2009
[Attachment(s) from Colonel Dan included below]
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Shortchanging a Military Hospital
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Stephen Schimpff's Sept. 13 Local Opinions commentary regarding the Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) process for combining Walter Reed Army Medical Center with the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda ["The New Walter Reed: Less Than 'World Class'?"] documented a milestone in this exercise in kicking the can down the road.
Although it was clearly stated from the beginning that BRAC funding would only go toward merging the two medical centers, this was not practical. It was obvious that as the process went on, the warts in the plan would become clearer.
Dr. Schimpff's description of the new operating rooms being built alongside the Naval Medical Center's antiquated ones is a prime example. Clearly additional funding was necessary to create the world-class medical campus that our military needs. The presumption was that funds to upgrade the new facility would come from the various services.
The problem is that the budgets of each of the services' surgeons general are cut every year, and the money wasn't there. The silver lining to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is that Congress has been generous in supporting Walter Reed and the Naval Medical Center. Once support for the wars diminishes and domestic issues take up more of the federal budget, then what?
JOHN H. CHILES
The writer is a contract physician at Walter Reed.
The New Walter Reed: Less Than 'World Class'?
By Stephen Schimpff
We Americans owe our servicemen and women, especially our wounded warriors, the very best in medical care. With the construction of a “new Walter Reed” in Bethesda, we have a unique opportunity to ensure that they get such world-class care. But for that to happen, much more needs to be done.
Care for military personnel in the Washington area has long been provided by Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington and National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda. But in 2005, the Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) mandated consolidation into a new Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on the grounds of the naval hospital. This facility will provide primary and more complex care to all military personnel who live in the northern half of the capital area, as well as tertiary care — high-level specialty care — to those from the entire region, including complete care for wounded service members.
About a year ago, following reports that the new facility was not on track to meet a stated requirement of “world class,” Congress passed legislation calling for a review by a subcommittee of the Defense Health Board. I was nominated to join this 15-member group by Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.).
There is much to commend in the work that has been done so far. For example, the view of the facility from Wisconsin Avenue will be very pleasing, with the iconic 1930s tower flanked by a new outpatient building and a revamped, extended inpatient building — and these will provide not only good but excellent care. But a master facility plan has never been done for the campus, which currently serves multiple functions and includes many older buildings that, over time, should be replaced in an orderly manner. During our review, we were told that such a plan was not within the scope of the BRAC budget.
Similarly, no analysis has been performed to determine future needs based on local demographic changes (the number of retired military personnel in the area is increasing), changing types of wounds (such as from improvised explosive devices) or advances in the delivery of medical care. Instead, the consolidation was planned using a static approach, whereby the functions performed at Walter Reed were simply shifted to the future facilities. Again, the rationale we were given for this was that the BRAC law did not allow for any other approach.
This has led to other issues. For example, three new operating rooms are being built for the new medical center. That’s good; they will be up to modern size and technology standards. But seven older ones to be incorporated from the naval hospital will remain as they were constructed — too small for all of today’s operating room technologies — and will depend on nearly 25-year-old air-handling systems. Logically, this is the moment to update those operating rooms. We also found that there would be no in-house simulation laboratories for learning and practicing operating room procedures and other hard-to-master technical skills, ostensibly because there is an excellent simulation facility a few miles away. These learning labs are critical to a modern hospital, but they must be immediately accessible to trainees to be useful.
One more issue: Most of the beds at the naval hospital are semi-private. Today the standard is one patient per room, not just for privacy but for infection control and other medical imperatives. Only one floor of the new facility will be renovated to have private rooms. On the remaining floors are two-bed rooms and bathrooms that are too small for those with amputations or in a wheelchair. These should also be renovated, for obvious reasons.
Our report recently went to Congress. I hope it will encourage those in decision-making capacities to move ahead with a master facility plan, a true demand analysis and appropriate renovations to ensure that these issues and others get resolved before the new Walter Reed opens in a few years. It may require some rebudgeting, but our military personnel deserve no less than world-class facilities.
The writer is a retired CEO of the University of Maryland Medical Center and author of “The Future of Medicine — Megatrends in Healthcare.”
The "New Walter Reed" deserves to be a world class hopsital in all aspects, not just a few rooms for the politicians that will be treated there, or the flag rank officers and their spouses, but for all who walk in or get wheeled in those doors. No one expects the Ritz Carlton, but they do expect operating rooms to be an adequate size, private rooms which are the norm is hospitals across the nation to keep these new germs from spreading MRSA or whatever it is they can NOT stop from being spread. Our soldiers, sailors, Marines and Airmen and Coast Guards personnel deserve a new Walter Reed that is the best we can give them, not a half hearted effort, and the Armed Services Committee's from both the House and Senate should be involved now, not afterwards when it won't mean anything. It's time our elected officials to do their jobs, it's called OVERSIGHT do it or you can be primaried all of you.....
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
He Would Have Been 89 Today
written by Celtic Merlin a Daily Kos writer on September 23, 2009
It seems that the most uncommon acts of generosity, humanity, and bravery most often come from the most common of us. These acts of selflessness seem to be committed overwhelmingly by those who would have most likely passed through this world with no more notice than is given the average sparrow. Today, I would like you to join me in taking just a moment or two to pause and reflect upon the life of one such sparrow man – one of us average folk.
Charles E. Kelly (Yes, even his name is unremarkable.) was born on September 23, 1920 in Pittsburgh, PA. I cannot tell you anything about his home or family life other than he was one of nine brothers. Else, I was able to locate no further information on Mr. Kelly’s early life in Pittsburgh. It seems that none may exist. Of the first 100 results in a Google search, no information about this man’s life before he joined the US Army is available. He was likely no more than the definition of "a common man".
His uncommon deeds are detailed over the fold. Join me there, won't you?
Mr. Kelly joined the US Army in May of 1942. It seems that there was a war raging in Europe and across much of the eastern Pacific at that time. Why Mr. Kelly waited 5 months from the attack on Pearl Harbor to join the military is unknown as he was over the age of 21 when that attack took place and would have needed no permissions from his parents nor to lie about his age in order to be inducted in December of 1941.
Again, I was unable to locate any details of the man’s life in the Army before one significant date. That date is September 13, 1943 – a Monday. By that date, Kelly had advanced in rank to Corporal – up from Private but not as far as Sergeant. Corporal Kelly was serving as a member of Company L, 143rd Infantry Regiment, 36th Infantry Division. His unit was in Italy, fighting the German Army near a town known at the time as Altavilla and known today as Altavilla Silentina. The terrain is there steep and hilly, but not quite mountainous. What follows is the Army’s account of Corporal Kelly’s activities of that day, taken from his Citation for the Medal of Honor:
Rank and organization: Corporal, U.S. Army, Company L, 143d Infantry, 36th Infantry Division.
Place and date: Near Altavilla, Italy, 13 September 1943.
Entered service at: Pittsburgh, Pa.
Birth: Pittsburgh, Pa.
G.O. No.: 13, 18 February 1944.
Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at risk of life above and beyond the call of duty.
On 13 September 1943, near Altavilla, Italy, Cpl. Kelly voluntarily joined a patrol which located and neutralized enemy machinegun positions. After this hazardous duty he volunteered to establish contact with a battalion of U.S. infantry which was believed to be located on Hill 315, a mile distant. He traveled over a route commanded by enemy observation and under sniper, mortar, and artillery fire; and later he returned with the correct information that the enemy occupied Hill 315 in organized positions.
Immediately thereafter Cpl. Kelly, again a volunteer patrol member, assisted materially in the destruction of 2 enemy machinegun nests under conditions requiring great skill and courage. Having effectively fired his weapon until all the ammunition was exhausted, he secured permission to obtain more at an ammunition dump.
Arriving at the dump, which was located near a storehouse on the extreme flank of his regiment's position, Cpl. Kelly found that the Germans were attacking ferociously at this point. He obtained his ammunition and was given the mission of protecting the rear of the storehouse. He held his position throughout the night.
The following morning the enemy attack was resumed. Cpl. Kelly took a position at an open window of the storehouse. One machine gunner had been killed at this position and several other soldiers wounded. Cpl. Kelly delivered continuous aimed and effective fire upon the enemy with his automatic rifle until the weapon locked from overheating. Finding another automatic rifle, he again directed effective fire upon the enemy until this weapon also locked. At this critical point, with the enemy threatening to overrun the position, Cpl. Kelly picked up 60mm. mortar shells, pulled the safety pins, and used the shells as grenades, killing at least 5 of the enemy. When it became imperative that the house be evacuated, Cpl. Kelly, despite his sergeant's injunctions, volunteered to hold the position until the remainder of the detachment could withdraw. As the detachment moved out, Cpl. Kelly was observed deliberately loading and firing a rocket launcher from the window. He was successful in covering the withdrawal of the unit, and later in joining his own organization.
Cpl. Kelly's fighting determination and intrepidity in battle exemplify the highest traditions of the U.S. Armed Forces.
That citation is quoted in its entirety from a US government website which lists the Medal of Honor citations of all recipients. Corporal Kelly's is
The Medal of Honor Citation
KELLY, CHARLES E.
Rank and organization: Corporal, U.S. Army, Company L, 143d Infantry, 36th Infantry Division. Place and date: Near Altavilla, Italy, 13 September 1943. Entered service at: Pittsburgh, Pa. Birth: Pittsburgh, Pa. G.O. No.: 13, 18 February 1944. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at risk of life above and beyond the call of duty. On 13 September 1943, near Altavilla, Italy, Cpl. Kelly voluntarily joined a patrol which located and neutralized enemy machinegun positions. After this hazardous duty he volunteered to establish contact with a battalion of U.S. infantry which was believed to be located on Hill 315, a mile distant. He traveled over a route commanded by enemy observation and under sniper, mortar, and artillery fire; and later he returned with the correct information that the enemy occupied Hill 315 in organized positions. Immediately thereafter Cpl. Kelly, again a volunteer patrol member, assisted materially in the destruction of 2 enemy machinegun nests under conditions requiring great skill and courage. Having effectively fired his weapon until all the ammunition was exhausted, he secured permission to obtain more at an ammunition dump. Arriving at the dump, which was located near a storehouse on the extreme flank of his regiment's position, Cpl. Kelly found that the Germans were attacking ferociously at this point. He obtained his ammunition and was given the mission of protecting the rear of the storehouse. He held his position throughout the night. The following morning the enemy attack was resumed. Cpl. Kelly took a position at an open window of the storehouse. One machine gunner had been killed at this position and several other soldiers wounded. Cpl. Kelly delivered continuous aimed and effective fire upon the enemy with his automatic rifle until the weapon locked from overheating. Finding another automatic rifle, he again directed effective fire upon the enemy until this weapon also locked. At this critical point, with the enemy threatening to overrun the position, Cpl. Kelly picked up 60mm. mortar shells, pulled the safety pins, and used the shells as grenades, killing at least 5 of the enemy. When it became imperative that the house be evacuated, Cpl. Kelly, despite his sergeant's injunctions, volunteered to hold the position until the remainder of the detachment could withdraw. As the detachment moved out, Cpl. Kelly was observed deliberately loading and firing a rocket launcher from the window. He was successful in covering the withdrawal of the unit, and later in joining his own organization. Cpl. Kelly's fighting determination and intrepidity in battle exemplify the highest traditions of the U.S. Armed Forces.
You may read the citations of many others if you desite here Medal of Honor
The President, in the name of Congress, has awarded more than 3,400 Medals of Honor to our nation's bravest Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen since the decoration's creation in 1861. For years, the citations highlighting these acts of bravery and heroism resided in dusty archives and only sporadically were printed. In 1973, the U.S. Senate ordered the citations be compiled and printed as a Committee on Veterans' Affairs report. This book was later updated and a reprint published in 1979.
The citations provided here are taken from the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs Report, Medal of Honor Recipients: 1863-1978 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1979).
For awards made after 1978, the citations are taken either from the CRS Report for Congress: Medal of Honor Recipients: 1979-2008 dated 4 June 2008, or in some cases, from the citations officially released and published at the time of award by the White House.
N.B.Some minor misspelling and other errors unfortunately, may be duplicated from the 1979 government publication. These were likely the result of the original transcriptions and reflect the nature of the published compilation. Other errors, however, may have crept into the citations during the course of digitizing the original report for website posting, every effort will be made to identify and correct those conversion errors.
The following is an index of the full-text citations by war.
So reads the citation for the very first enlisted man to earn the Medal of Honor in the European Theatre of Operations, Corporal Charles E. "Commando" Kelly – "The One-Man Army".
In an interview conducted for television some time in 1956 or ‘57 by Mike Wallace (of "60 Minutes" fame), it was revealed that Kelly was credited with killing 40 German soldiers in a matter of only 20 minutes. This was, in my opinion, an impressive feat in 1943 – before the advent of body armor, Kevlar helmets, and today’s level of weaponry. Personally, I find it impressive that the man got away with pulling the safety pins on 60mm mortar shells and lobbing those at the enemy without being killed by enemy fire or one of those mortars. And he accomplished all of this without suffering so much as a scratch.
You can watch the entire TV interview
Mike Wallace of 60 Minutes interviews Charles E Kelly
Warning: Cigarette commercials are included in the recording of this program, as they were commonplace in the 1950’s. In this interview, Mr. Kelly expresses opinions which would likely be considered extreme by today’s standards, but were not considered to be out-of-line some 50+ years ago when the Cold War was a very important part of American daily life.
Mr. Kelly’s Wikipedia entry on Charles E. Kelly states that after receiving his MOH,
...Kelly toured the country with a group of other infantrymen as part of the Army Ground Forces' "Here's Your Infantry," demonstrating various battle techniques and selling war bonds. When the tour ended, Kelly was assigned to the Infantry School at Fort Benning, Georgia. Kelly received an honorable discharge from the Army in 1945, at the rank of technical sergeant.
So ends the man’s military service. Quietly and without fanfare.
Mr. Kelly’s life after his discharge is somewhat better documented. Again, from Wikipedia:
He opened a service station on the North Side of Pittsburgh in 1946, but was forced to sell it in 1947 after a downturn in business and a robbery. His wife Mae was diagnosed with uterine cancer that same year, and died in 1951. The cost of the radiation treatments for Mae eventually resulted in Kelly losing his home in foreclosure.
He married again, had several children, and was divorced from his second wife in 1962. In late 1984, Kelly was admitted to the Veterans Administration Hospital in Pittsburgh, suffering from kidney and liver failure. He died January 11, 1985 at age 64, and was buried at Highwood Cemetery in Pittsburgh.
Here is a man who started life from humble beginnings, served his nation with distinction, saved the lives of many of his fellow soldiers, and was then neglected by his country – our country – despite his amazing feats in battle against a determined enemy. Forty German soldiers didn’t die in retreat from an ammo dump. They died attacking with resolve to take that position he was defending. Kelly’s medal citation can’t realistically cover the details of actions he took, the fear he felt, or the extreme direness of his situation. He surely expected to die in that storehouse as others had before him.
I'm taking the opportunity to honor a very brave man on what would have been his 89th birthday. He died nearly 25 years ago. I want to add the Celtic Merlin version of a "Special Comment".
Please Note: The title of the award is "Medal of Honor" and not "Congressional Medal of Honor". Recipients of this award are so highly considered by the military community itself that when they are displaying the ribbon signifying themselves as recipients of the MOH they are not required to be the first to salute higher-ranking military personnel, as is customary. Rather, ALL military personnel are required to salute these men first as a sign of respect.
As respected as this man was while he wore the uniform of our nation's Army, the story of Charles Kelly’s life after his military service is one which we, as a nation, can’t afford to allow to be repeated. Medical care, education assistance, and counseling services are owed these people. It seems that the cost of medical care was just as financially devastating 60 years ago as it is today, even for the families of decorated veterans. Medical bills cost this man his home. Hell, we owe ourselves and each other – all of us – the benefit of good and timely medical care. But beyond that, we owe the people who risk their lives in service to our nation the benefit of taking better care of them than we have in the past. If we are to maintain a strong defense, we will need the personnel to do so. If we can’t promise a higher level of support for those who voluntarily take up arms and risk their very lives for us, we may find that we won’t have the people we need to accomplish anything meaningful. We may find that we’re stuck with extremely expensive (in so very many ways) no-bid contracts to companies like Halliburton and Blackwater.
The United States of America spends more money on its defense budget than anything else that it spends money on. If attracting enough new recruits and then caring for these people once their duty is done takes closing some of our 700 overseas military bases that we maintain in roughly 130 countries, cutting the pay and benefits of top military officials (who leave military service very well taken care of), and/or canceling a few of the more ridiculous programs and contracts that the Pentagon has.....that’s all fine with me. The well-being of the average "grunt" soldier, sailor, airman, and marine are worth it to me. How about you?
I welcome your comments and questions.
My profound thanks to Celtic Merlin, he has brought a true American hero to life for us, and how even his story of personal courage, ties in todays healthcare debate, he lost his home due to his wife's battle with cancer. He battled life's injustices just as he fought our wars, quietly and efficiently without demanding help, he did what he had to do, this nation is a better place because of the Charles E. Kellys of this nation. I will atek the time to learn about a new Medal of Honor awardee weekly from now on, it's the least I can do, to help these hero's live on, if nowhere else but in my mind, the documentation is there, please take a few minutes a week and learn about the true hero's who walked amongst us quietly for decades.Sphere: Related Content
Incarcerated veteran challenges loss of benefits
An oddball case arising through the U.S. Court of Veterans Appeals raises the question about the difference between a public and private prison.
As far as benefits are concerned, the court ruled Sept. 18, there is no meaningful difference.
Army veteran William H. Wanless brought this case.
Following his two year peacetime service, Mr. Wanless won VA compensation payments for what the court described as "enucleation of the right eye, chronic lumbar strain with degenerative disc disease, tinnitus, high-frequency hearing loss, and residuals of a cervical strain."
Then life really turned bad, and in 1991 Wanless was convicted of strangling his wife and ultimately sentenced in Oklahoma to life in prison without possibility of parole.
Consequently, the Veterans Administration -- following set policy concerning incarcerated veterans -- cut his compensation payments from $808 a month to $85 a month.
Creatively, Wanless argued that he was still eligible for his full VA payments because he was being held in a privately run prison rather than a state-owned facility.
The appellate court rejected the argument, noting that the state is still paying for the prison, and that "Congress has explicitly concluded that if the taxpayers are financing a veteran's incarceration, it is contrary to the public good to also pay him full VA disability benefits."
I am amazed at some of the arguments that veterans can come up with to try and convice the court they should keep getting paid despite being locked up. All veterans know or should that is you go behind bars tour VA comp is being reduced to 10% regardless of your rating he is still getting 85 dollars a month more than other life witout parole prisoners
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Congressman Filner, I don't know who else to correspond with concerning this issue, but I find myself a frustrated veteran with it appears an insolvable issue. I am service connected at 100% for PTSD which makes me uninsurable thru commercial insurance companies for life or mortgage insurance. I am also 60% service connected for Coronary Artery Disease which also makes me uninsurable thru any company, due to the stroke and 7 heart attacks and the failed triple by pass surgery, I am also SC at 10% for hypertension. No insurance company will write life insurance for me or any other veteran in my medical situtation.
I am grateful to the VA for the free 10,000 dollar life insurance they waived the premiuims for and then allowed me to purchase another 20,000 life insurance which is the maximum allowed currently by law.
Congressman Filner, when this was passed in 1956 under the changes in VA regulations under then General Omar Bradley 30,000 dollars was a lot of money and would pay for the veterans funeral and pay off the family home, and leave a small amount left besides the DIC payments the spouse and children would continue receiving.
However, in 2009, this amount would not pay off anyone's home, in some cases not even mobile homes as most of them cost more than this. I do not live an expensive lifestyle, I think it is just a "normal middle class lifestyle", we owe 168,000 on our home, we made a 20% down payment, we did not purchase it as a sero down VA loan, we bought it thru our bank at regular mortgage loans. We have a fixed rate 30 year loan, no extravagant or strange loan. We have lived well within out income, we even manage to save money from our VA Compensation and SSD.
However when I do pass away, my family will be forced to sell this home, as the DIC payments and reduced SSD benefits will not cover the mortgage, utility bills and living expenses.
I know the government raised the life insurance for active duty military from 20,000 dollars to 400,000 dollars if the member dies on active duty, which with inflation is a dollar amount that enables the surviving spouse to pay off the home and continue their life.
Disabled veterans should deserve the same treatment, no we should not get 400,000 dollars, but it seems it would be apppropriate if the Congress would allow 100% disabled veterans to purchase additional life insurance from the government up to 100,000 or even 50,000, or maybe make mortgage insurance available to all 100% veterans, since we are prohibited from buying it from the "free market" veterans are being discriminated against, and I realize the Congress can NOT force private companies to sell us mortgage insurance or life insurance, but Congress can make these type of policies available thru the Veterans Administration, and I am sure other veterans like myself would be more than willing to pay fair market value for these products, if Congress would make them available.
Congressman Filner, after almost 60 years, it is time to make insurance amounts available to disabled veterans equal to what is needed to provide for their families, none of us want to leave our families "rich" but we would like enough to make them secure, like anyone else, yet our service connected medical problems prevent this, can you help us?
Military Update: The strain of eight years of war is starting to show
September 21, 2009
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The profound strain of eight years of war on the volunteer force permeated a daylong conference of military leaders, policymakers, health experts and family advocates as they shared ideas to address the "unseen injuries" of post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury.
A theme struck by many participants, including Navy Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, was that government must seek greater involvement from communities across the country to support wounded warriors, traumatized veterans and damaged military families.
Mullen expressed concern over rising numbers of homeless veterans, slow expansion of a pilot program to streamline the disability evaluation system and a lack of solutions from medical research for timely diagnosis and treatment of PTSD and traumatic brain injury.
Mullen said he and his wife, Deborah, also are seeing more families — both spouses and children — being worn down by the strain of long and frequent deployments.
"When they go home after the parade, when they go home after the recognition ceremony, their dreams haven't changed ... to raise a family, go to school, send their kids to school, own a home. ... The only way I can see us meeting (those needs) is through a community-based connection, a broad connection, that is sustained for them over the entirety of their lives," Mullen told the 2009 Defense Forum in Alexandria. It was sponsored jointly by the U.S. Naval Institute and the Military Officers Association of America.
"When I talk about a long time, think decades," Mullen said. "These are 20-somethings who are wounded (and) these are 20-something spouses with a couple of children who have 50, 60, 70 years to live. That's where this sustained effort has got to come in."
Leslie Kammerdiener, mother of severely wounded Army Cpl. Kevin Kammerdiener, visibly moved attendees with her account of how the VA has failed to provide adequate support to her and her son on multiple occasions since Kevin was injured in Afghanistan in May 2008.
One of their worst experiences occurred Labor Day weekend last year when she and Kevin, who was severely burned and lost the left side of his brain to an explosion, arrived at the VA Polytrauma Center in Tampa, Fla., for follow-up treatment and no one knew he was coming.
"We had no medications for him. We had no bed for his burned body and we had no food for his feeding tube — for 30 hours," Kammerdiener said. "My son suffered for 30 hours because this system was not ready."
Just a week ago, she said, Kevin signaled that he wanted to take his own life by hanging. She called the VA hospital for help.
"Days went by and nobody called me." Finally, she confronted a VA doctor at a social event "and said, 'Look, you guys have to help us ... I'm not trained. I'm not a nurse. I'm not a neurosurgeon. I'm not a psychologist. I'm not a therapist. I'm just a mom. And I don't have any help with this.'"
Kammerdiener told the forum, "It's a very sad thing that this country — your Army or your VA or whatever — has let us down so incredibly. I am asking you to step up to the plate and take care of somebody who went over there and did what you asked him to do."
Forum attendees gave her a standing ovation in support for what she and her son have sacrificed and endured. Asked later to list any part of the system that has worked well, Kammerdiener praised the help she received through her advocate in VA's Federal Recovery Coordinator Program.
On the same panel with the spouse care-givers was Noel Koch, deputy undersecretary of defense for transition policy and care coordination. He said, "I'm not going to sit here and tell you what a great job we're doing."
Obviously affected by the Kammerdieners' story, Koch said with self-deprecating sarcasm, "We do some things well. Power Point. We do story boards. We have dynamite [office] conferences. ... We generate paper. The thing that we don't do very well is see anything come out of it [to] provide care for our wounded warriors."
E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, write to Military Update, P.O. Box 231111, Centreville, VA, 20120-1111 or visit: www.militaryupdate.com
disabled veterans and their families need more than words we need help, my wife is not a nurse, but due to all of my medical problems she has been turned into one, 24/7, she is not compensated for this, I am grateful that she loves me enough to stay with me, I am sure this is not what she imagined life would be like when she married me years ago before I became totally disabled by my SC medical problems, and my PTSD worsened. She needs help to cope herself and how to help me, not a power point presentation, and more unkept promises.Sphere: Related Content
The Commission made 113 recommendations. All are important and should
receive attention from Congress, DoD, and VA. The Commission suggests that
the following recommendations receive immediate consideration. Congress
should establish an executive oversight group to ensure timely and effective
implementation of the Commission recommendations.
Recommendation 4.23 Chapter 4, Section I.5
VA should immediately begin to update the current Rating
Schedule, beginning with those body systems addressing the
evaluation and rating of posttraumatic stress disorder and other
mental disorders and of traumatic brain injury. Then proceed
through the other body systems until the Rating Schedule has been
12 Honoring the Call to Duty: Veterans’ Disability Benefits in the 21st Century
comprehensively revised. The revision process should be
completed within 5 years. VA should create a system for keeping
the Rating Schedule up to date, including a published schedule for
revising each body system.
Recommendation 5.28 Chapter 5, Section III.3
VA should develop and implement new criteria specific to
posttraumatic stress disorder in the VA Schedule for Rating
Disabilities. VA should base those criteria on the Diagnostic and
Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and should consider a
multidimensional framework for characterizing disability due to
posttraumatic stress disorder.
Recommendation 5.30 Chapter 5, Section III.3
VA should establish a holistic approach that couples posttraumatic
stress disorder treatment, compensation, and vocational
assessment. Reevaluation should occur every 2–3 years to gauge
treatment effectiveness and encourage wellness.
Recommendation 6.14 Chapter 6, Section IV.2
Congress should eliminate the ban on concurrent receipt for all
military retirees and for all service members who separated from
the military due to service-connected disabilities. In the future,
priority should be given to veterans who separated or retired from
the military under chapter 61 with
• fewer than 20 years service and a service-connected disability rating
greater than 50 percent, or
• disability as a result of combat.
Recommendation 7.4 Chapter 7, Section II.3
Eligibility for Individual Unemployability (IU) should be consistently
based on the impact of an individual’s service-connected
disabilities, in combination with education, employment history, and
medical effects of an individual’s age or potential employability. VA
should implement a periodic and comprehensive evaluation of
veterans eligible for IU. Authorize a gradual reduction in
compensation for IU recipients who are able to return to
substantially gainful employment rather than abruptly terminating
disability payments at an arbitrary level of earning.
Recommendation 7.5 Chapter 7, Section II.3
Recognizing that Individual Unemployability (IU) is an attempt to
accommodate individuals with multiple lesser ratings but who
remain unable to work, the Commission recommends that as the
VA Schedule for Rating Disabilities is revised, every effort should
Executive Summary 13
be made to accommodate such individuals fairly within the basic
rating system without the need for an IU rating.
Recommendation 7.6 Chapter 7, Section III.2
Congress should increase the compensation rates up to 25 percent
as an interim and baseline future benefit for loss of quality of life,
pending development and implementation of a quality-of-life
measure in the Rating Schedule. In particular, the measure should
take into account the quality of life and other non-work-related
effects of severe disabilities on veterans and family members.
Recommendation 7.8 Chapter 7, Section III.2
Congress should consider increasing special monthly
compensation, where appropriate, to address the more profound
impact on quality of life of the disabilities subject to special monthly
compensation. Congress should also review ancillary benefits to
determine where additional benefits could improve disabled
veterans’ quality of life.
Recommendation 7.12 Chapter 7, Section VI
VA and DoD should realign the disability evaluation process so that
the services determine fitness for duty, and service members who
are found unfit are referred to VA for disability rating. All conditions
that are identified as part of a single, comprehensive medical
examination should be rated and compensated.
Recommendation 7.13 Chapter 7, Section V.3
Congress should enact legislation that brings ancillary and specialpurpose
benefits to the levels originally intended, considering the
cost of living, and provides for automatic annual adjustments to
keep pace with the cost of living.
Recommendation 8.2 Chapter 8, Section III.1.B
Congress should eliminate the Survivor Benefit Plan/Dependency
and Indemnity Compensation offset for survivors of retirees and inservice
Recommendation 9.1 Chapter 9, Section II.5.A.b
Improve claims cycle time by
• establishing a simplified and expedited process for well-documented
claims, using best business practices and maximum feasible use of
information technology; and
• implementing an expedited process by which the claimant can state
the claim information is complete and waive the time period (60 days)
allowed for further development.
14 Honoring the Call to Duty: Veterans’ Disability Benefits in the 21st Century
Congress should mandate and provide appropriate resources to
reduce the VA claims backlog by 50 percent within 2 years.
Recommendation 10.11 Chapter 10, Section VII
VA and DoD should expedite development and implementation of
compatible information systems including a detailed project
management plan that includes specific milestones and lead
Recommendation 11.1 Chapter 11
Congress should establish an executive oversight group to ensure
timely and effective implementation of the Commission’s
recommendations. This group should be cochaired by VA and DoD
and consist of senior representatives from appropriate departments
and agencies. It is further recommended that the Veterans’ Affairs
Committees hold hearings and require annual reports to measure
and assess progress.
Congress nor the VA has taken any action on this commission nor the Dole/Shalala Commission, they sent them out for further review by another group, now they want to hold more hearings and do more studies, I wonder if any Vietnam era veterans will still be alive when they get done studying the proposal for changes. Did it take General Omar Bradley this long back inthe 1950s the redo the VA compensation rules? I don't think so.