Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Lawsuit against the VA Fiduciary Program and the veterans rights to appeal

William E. Freeman link to VA Watchdog Today article by Jim Strickland

William E. Freeman
Eric K. Shinseki
Secretary of Veterans Affairs,

"The Freeman case stands to change the way the VA views fiduciary-related matters.

Currently, a veteran who has been found incompetent and appointed a VA fiduciary has no say in the appointment process nor any recourse whatsoever if he or she wants a different fiduciary, is having problems with the VA fiduciary, etc. This is because the VA currently interprets the law regarding fiduciary-related matters (38 USC section 5502) as being at the Secretary's discretion.

The Freeman case is important because it stands to show how fiduciary-related issues "affect the provision of benefits" to a veteran and therefore must be able to be reviewed by the Board of Veterans' Appeals and the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. Given that the VA's Fiduciary Program only has some 102,000 beneficiaries (according to VA OIG report from Mar 2010), the outcome of this case will not affect many veterans.

But, for this group of veterans, if the outcome is favorable for Mr. Freeman, then this case will improve all incompetent veterans' rights to say who can control their VA benefits."

Katrina Eagle, Esq.
President, National Organization of Veterans Advocates, Inc.


I really encourage all veterans and their family members to go to the link to VA Watchdog Today and read what Jim Strickland has written about this subject, all veterans who get benefits from the VA might one day be affected by the outcome of this court case and you should know what your rights are in dealing with the VA when they deny you appeal rights to a determination of incompentency and mandate a fiduciary of their choice and deny the veterans and their spouses of the right to manage theiir own funds, deny to pay bills, insurance policies, utility bills and provide the necessities of life that most people take for granted.

Some veterans die with tens of thousands of dollars in accounts that the families do not even know about and the veterans were denied funds to fix their vehicles, and in some cases buy their children health insurance, and even Christmas presents because the fidicuary could not be troubled.

This is important to all veterans as this could be you one day.

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Families At Ease VA Program Helps Families Help Their Veterans

Do you know a Veteran who needs help?

“Families At Ease” is a new program developed by Department of Veterans Affairs that works with family members and friends of Veterans of any era to help them help their Veteran get care.

Many Veterans are reluctant to get help for the symptoms or difficulties they are having, or may not recognize their need for help.

It could be difficulty at work or at home, problems sleeping, driving too fast, or drinking too much. Or it could just be that they seem irritable or sad.

Whatever the problem, family members are often very aware of Veterans’ mental health difficulties and want to play a positive role in helping Veterans seek the help they need.

The “Families At Ease” educational campaign attempts to reach new Veterans through their concerned family members and provides information and support to help the Veteran access VA facilities for services and benefits.

A multi-site call center was developed at the Philadelphia, Pa. and Durham, N.C. VA Medical Centers to answer calls from family members and friends, as well as Veterans.

Callers can get information on how to enroll in VA care. They can also get free telephone-based coaching by a mental health consultant to help when a Veteran is reluctant to admit having difficulties.

According to Dr. Steven Sayers, “Familes At Ease” Director, “We take a positive approach to motivating the Veteran, which means while we work with the family member to motivate the Veteran, the choice to come in is always in the Veteran’s hands.”

Dr. Sayers is a Clinical Psychologist with the Mental Illness, Research, Education, and Clinical Center at the Philadelphia VA Medical Center.

Dr. Steven Sayers
Families At Ease Director
He adds that, “Coaching of family members involves discussing ways to talk to the Veteran about the difficulties they are having and offering help without trying to force the Veteran to go for this help. A family member may have one, two or several coaching calls over the span of a few days or weeks in order to try to help them encourage the Veteran to seek care.”

The program has served about 50 family members and Veterans so far and has had positive results. About half of the calls pertained to Veterans who served in Iraq or Afghanistan, with the rest serving in Vietnam, the first Gulf War, and other conflicts.

Seventy percent of Veterans associated with callers were already enrolled in VA care; the coaching of family members has resulted in an increase from 70% to 85% for enrollment in VA care.

A significant improvement was seen in Veterans receiving mental health care, with an increase from 24 percent to 45 percent, thanks to the coaching of family members.

Explaining the importance of the program, Dr. Sayers notes, “The role of family members in supporting treatment of our military Veterans is now a key part of the services provided by VA. ‘Families At Ease’ is an example of the innovative strategies now part of VA services.”

The pilot phase of the program was launched in Philadelphia and Durham in January 2010. By January 2011, “Families At Ease” will being to take calls during expanded business hours and start the process of becoming a national program.

Following the pilot phase of the new program, “Families At Ease” will be a national program with an additional call center site in Los Angeles.

VA is getting the word out on the new program with web-based advertising and networking on Facebook and Twitter.

VA has also reached out through clergy, Welcome Home events, newspaper ads, mass transit ads and grocery store carts.

Family members or Veterans can reach “Families At Ease” at 888-823-7458 (8:00 a.m.-5:30 p.m. ET), by e-mailing Families.Ease.PA@va.gov, or on the web at www.mirecc.va.gov/FamiliesAtEase.

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Thursday, December 23, 2010

Defense Department Wrongfully Discharges Nearly 26,000 Veterans Refuses to Release Records

Special Notice: If you are a veteran in emotional crisis and need help RIGHT NOW, call this toll-free number 1-800-273-8255, available 24/7, and tell them you are a veteran. All calls are confidential.
National Call Center for Homeless Veterans:
1-877-4AID-VET or 1-877-424-3838
Defense Department Wrongfully Discharges Nearly 26,000 Veterans,
Refuses to Release Records

Washington, D.C.--The Defense Department's (DoD) failure to comply with the law in releasing records that show it has blocked disabled veterans from receiving disability compensation and other benefits, earned as a result of service to our nation has prompted Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) and VVA Chapter 120 in Hartford, Connecticut, to file a federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit.

The complaint, filed today at the U.S. District Court in New Haven by the Veterans Legal Services Clinic of the Jerome N. Frank Legal Services Organization at Yale Law School, charges that, since the beginning of the Global War on Terrorism, DoD has systematically discharged nearly 26,000 veterans, wrongfully classified as suffering from Personality Disorder, a characterization that renders the service member ineligible for receiving rightful benefits. Personality Disorder is a disability that begins in adolescence or early adulthood and can present with symptoms which may mimic Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

"DoD's Personality Disorder designation prevents thousands of wounded veterans from accessing service-connected disability compensation or health care," said VVA National President John Rowan.

In 2007, the Veterans Affairs Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives charged DoD with deliberately misusing personality disorder diagnoses in order to reduce to the cost of health care and disability compensation by at least $12.5 billion. Since then, DoD has dramatically decreased the number of soldiers it has discharged on the basis of Personality Disorder. After discharging an average of 3,750 service members per year for Personality Disorder between 2001 and 2007, DoD has discharged only 960 service members in 2008; 1,426 in 2009; and 650 to date in 2010. However, rather than repairing the harm it has caused to the veterans it misdiagnosed, DoD is refusing to admit that veterans were inappropriately discharged with Personality Disorder before 2008.

"While DoD protects its reputation and its pocketbook, veterans with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury continue to be denied the benefits and medical care they are due," said Dr. Thomas Berger, Executive Director of VVA's Veterans Health Council. Since 2007, VVA has publically criticized DoD's systematic misuse of Personality Disorder discharges, in correspondence to DoD Secretary Gates and in testimony before the House Veterans Affairs Committee, with the intent of curbing the wrongful discharge practice and assisting those wrongfully discharged veterans in receiving the benefits to which they are entitled.

"If DoD truly believes that all Personality Disorder discharges were lawful, why does it refuse to provide records responsive to VVA's Freedom of Information Act request?" asked Melissa Ader, a law student intern in the Jerome N. Frank Legal Services Organization at Yale Law School, which is counsel in the case. "We hope that this lawsuit will allow the public to assess for itself whether DoD has treated veterans unjustly."


as a veteran with PTSD I am glad to see at least one veterans organization trying to hold DOD accountable

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Phantom Charity Takes Flight Leaves Veterans Stranded

Phantom Charity Takes Flight
Leaves Veterans Stranded
The United States Navy Veterans Association (USNVA) certainly looked like a legitimate organization on the surface. This multi-million dollar charity, operating since 1927, was registered with the IRS, run by ex-military men, and had dozens of chapters and 66,000 members nationwide. Legitimate, that is, until media investigations revealed that the charity was not in operation until 2002, had only one member or charity official that could be located, was run out of an individual's duplex in Florida, and appears to have consisted of one man using a fake name for whom no record of U.S. military service could be found.

A man we will refer to as "John Doe" stole the name, social security number, and birth date of another man, Bobby Thompson, according to an August 2010 article in the Roanoke Times. He then used this fake identity to set up a sham charity and bilk donors out of nearly $100 million over a seven year period. Authorities have since charged him with identity fraud and issued a nationwide warrant for his arrest. "The real Bobby Thompson, whose identity was stolen…has absolutely no connection to the U.S. Navy Veterans Association," according to a news release on Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray's website. While John Doe abandoned his former residence and has yet to be located by authorities, he will not soon be forgotten by the donors, government lobbyists, politicians, and fundraisers he had dealings with, or by his former lawyers and cohorts he left behind.

Trouble started for John Doe when the St. Petersburg Times (SP Times) began a six-month investigation into USNVA in late 2009. When attempting to locate the charity's national headquarters using the same address the group filed on its tax form and listed on its web site, only a "rented mailbox…at a UPS shipping store" was found, according to the paper. The SP Times had no better luck when trying to locate many of the charity's chapters throughout the country, or any of the officers and directors reported on the charity's tax return and state registration documents. It found that "most state chapter addresses…also are rented mailboxes," and that "none of the three officers listed in Florida registration papers could be found." One officer's address was non-existent, one was the address for the Hilton hotel in Miami, and the last was the address of a condo owned by someone with a different name. Among other searches, the paper looked for the physical address of the commander of the New Mexico chapter, Howard Bonifacio, but found the address did not exist. If it did, it "would sit on a parking lot adjacent to a car dealership," reported the SP Times. For six months the paper conducted "hundreds of searches of directories, online public records databases and newspaper and broadcast stories going back more than 25 years" and reported it was unable to locate 84 of the 85 officers or directors named in the charity's IRS filings.

The only charity representative the paper could locate was John Doe, who apparently ran the charity's operations out of his Florida duplex, but he was not a big fan of transparency. "We are a great charity," he told the SP Times, citing the paper's "character assassination" and "McCarthy-like witch hunts" as an explanation for why the USNVA's state officers and executive board did not want to disclose their whereabouts or respond to the reporter's inquiries. Searches for the charity's internal auditor, Deborah Johns, were also unfruitful. The paper reported in its March 20th, 2010, article that when it asked USNVA for Johns' contact information, John Doe said the charity would release a copy of her audit when "pigs fly."

USNVA was registered with the IRS under a special section of the tax code that exempted it from some of the public disclosure requirements most public charities must follow. For example, USNVA had to report its total expenses each year but did not have to publicly disclose how much it was spending on its programs vs. fundraising and other overhead. For John Doe, however, even this level of transparency was too much for his taste. When asked by the SP Times to supply copies of USNVA's tax returns and IRS exempt status application, which it is required to do within 30 days under IRS rules, John Doe falsely claimed that his charity was exempt from this rule.

If you do not like the rules, change them. This seemed to be John Doe's attitude when he hired attorney Samuel F. Wright to lobby Senator Patsy Ticer of Virginia. The state of Virginia has a large military presence, making it a key fundraising area for veterans and military charities. The vast majority of U.S. states, including Virginia, require charities to register financial and other information with oversight agencies as a condition of being allowed to solicit contributions from residents in their state. Ticer reported to the SP Times that Wright showed up at her office with another Northern Virginia lobbyist whom she knew and that Wright asked her to sponsor legislation that would exempt certain veterans groups like USNVA from registration. She agreed to sponsor the bill, and it passed the state Senate and House unanimously in February and March 2010, respectively. By the time Ticer became aware of the serious problems at USNVA and wanted to squash her bill, it was too late to prevent Governor Robert McDonnell from signing it.

USNVA "has never made a contribution to any candidate for office, ever," John Doe told the SP Times, according to the paper's March 20th, 2010, article. Contributions were definitely made by John Doe to various politicians and officeholders in Virginia, but with so little accountability over the charity's finances, it is difficult to confirm whether he used the charity's funds or his own. Among campaign donations to politicians in that state, $1,000 went to Senator Ticer; $5,000 went to Governor McDonell; $2,000 went to House Speaker Bill Howell, and the largest donation, $55,500, went to Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. Once major issues at USNVA were brought to light, most quickly agreed to donate the contributions they received to other veterans charities, except for Cuccinelli, who held out for about two months before publicly stating he would do the same.

The information on USNVA's web site, navyvets.org, made the group seem impressive, even if its low quality design could have clued donors in that something was amiss. In addition to boasting of its 66,000 members and dozens of state chapters throughout the U.S., it also cited substantial contributions from several foundations, and claimed to have received an award for international news reporting. According to the SP Times, USNVA "refused to provide addresses or phone numbers for the foundations." The paper could not locate any "tax records, web sites, or news stories" about the Irene T. Boyar Foundation, the John F. Kearney Foundation, or the Deborah & Charles Pissot Foundation, nor could it find them listed "in major reference directories of U.S. foundations." As for the Jill Dando Award the charity claimed to have received in 2003, an official from this institution told the SP Times it had "no record of giving any award to the U.S. Navy Veterans Association."

Perhaps most disturbing are the countless thank-you notes and other praise the charity posted on its web site from soldiers who had supposedly received care packages from the group. Disturbing because the SP Times confirmed that many of the notes of praise were substantively copied without permission from the web site of anysoldier.com, an organization that helps Americans connect with active duty soldiers and send them care packages. "Everyone in the unit who received a package from you wants to thank you so much. And for your [web] site," reads a thank you letter on USNVA's web site from Gina Pronzati, U.S. Navy, Afghanistan. The paper reported finding seven thank-you letters on USNVA's web site that "were near duplicates of messages written to anysoldier.com or anysailor.com." According to a June 2010 article in the SP Times, Pronzati told the paper that she never received a package from USNVA, and never wrote the group a thank-you. "I knew immediately it was some sort of scam, because it was exactly what I posted on anysailor.com. It's a pretty horrible thing for someone to do," said Pronzati.

Throughout the SP Times' investigation, USNVA communicated with the paper primarily through its attorney, Helen MacMurray, who also happens to be former Chief of the Consumer Protection Section of the Ohio Attorney General's Office, the department that oversees charity regulation in that state. In response to the paper's allegations that USNVA lifted soldiers' thank-you notes from other web sites, the charity responded through MacMurray that "sometimes out of haste, negligence or simply a belief that charity is its own reward," they did not always include something in the care packages that would identify them as coming from USNVA. For this reason, the group claims that when it saw a thank-you note posted on anysoldier.com from care package recipients, it "felt justified in changing some language and advertising that thank-you message as its own," reported the SP Times.

USNVA made efforts to legitimize the organization in the eyes of donors by associating itself with all things veterans and military related. For example, until recent events compelled the Department of Veterans Affairs to remove the charity from its list, USNVA was listed on the Department's web site as a resource for veterans. John Doe referred to himself as "Commander Bobby Thompson" on the charity's web site and told the SP Times he was a lieutenant commander in the Navy Reserves. Assisted by the nonprofit veterans rights group, the POW Network, the paper searched for Bobby Thompson's military service records but could find none. The charity's tax records listed "Jack Nimitz" as the group's "Director & CEO," who shares a familiar last name with Chester William Nimitz, a well-known five-star admiral in the U.S. Navy during World War II for whom the famous USS Nimitz ship was named. According to the SP Times, the charity "would not say" if Jack Nimitz was related to Admiral Nimitz, and "provided no help locating him…" when the paper requested to speak with him directly.

As bad press drew more and more negative attention to the group, pressure mounted and USNVA scrambled to show that it was doing something charitable. It recruited several acquaintances to pose for photos to be posted on the charity's web site to show that real people were involved with the organization, and rushed out a handful of grants to various charities. While these grants were likely appreciated by the charities that received them, they are surely of little comfort to the donors who contributed millions to the group and for whom little evidence exists that much of what they gave was ever used for the charitable purposes they intended. The charity reports in its 2008 tax return that its national office spent over $2.6 million of its $4.2 million budget on "grants and other assistance to individuals in the U.S." When the SP Times could find no evidence that such assistance was actually provided, it asked the charity for backup. USNVA responded that it can account for the funds, but was not willing to share any of the documentation with the SP Times.

USNVA's last-ditch efforts to provide charity were too late for some state regulators, who by that time had launched their own investigations into the charity or had barred it from soliciting in their respective states. Florida ordered USNVA to cease operations in its state, and launched an investigation into its "potentially unfair and deceptive trade practices." Hawaii began an investigation to find out whether the association fabricated its chapter officials and deceived the public. New Mexico ordered the charity to cease and desist operations in its state after finding that the addresses the association provided in its registration documents are fictional. In May 2010 Senator Jim Webb of Virginia made a request to the IRS that it launch a federal level investigation which would look into USNVA's activities nationwide.

Things began to unravel quickly from here. USNVA's attorneys, MacMurray, Petersen & Shuster LLP, told the SP Times that John Doe "disappeared" around June 20th, 2010, and shortly thereafter the law firm broke ties with the group. The charity's professional fundraisers soon followed suit. On July 30th, 2010, federal and state agents seized documents and computer records from a Florida mother and daughter who were associates of John Doe, according to a SP Times article of the same date. Nancy Contreras and her mother, Blanca Contreras, a former citrus processing plant employee, had signed registration papers in several states claiming to hold official positions at USNVA ranging from acting vice president, to chief financial officer, to acting secretary, according to the SP Times. They had also been described as association members and were featured in photographs on the charity's web site. Months earlier the SP Times had attempted to contact one of the associates, Nancy Contreras, 20, and was warned by USNVA's then attorney, Helen MacMurray, that any future attempt on the paper's part to contact her might "constitute criminal 'stalking'," according to the paper.

Of the nine states currently investigating USNVA, Ohio has arguably been the most aggressive, freezing the charity's bank accounts and shutting down its fundraising in the state. Its investigation into the charity uncovered that John Doe, in addition to stealing the identity of "Bobby Thompson," also stole the identity of a leader of another veterans charity in New Mexico. On October 15th, 2010, an Ohio grand jury indicted both John Doe and Blanca Contreras on corruption, theft, and money laundering charges, according to a SP Times article of the same date. Contreras was arrested in a Charlotte, North Carolina airport, according to the paper, and booked into jail there on an Ohio warrant. John Doe has yet to be located by authorities as of the date this article was published.

The story of John Doe and the U.S. Navy Veterans Association is an unfortunate example of how easily the public can be duped out of millions of charitable dollars by failing to properly research a charity before deciding to give. Many donors automatically assume that a charity is "legitimate" if it is registered with the IRS and are too often impressed by the claims made by a charity in its solicitations, on its web site, or in self-reported tax filings. It is tragic that a large portion of the donations USNVA collected over the years will unlikely be recovered and used to help deserving veterans.

Leaves Veterans Stranded


This is one of the reasons you seldom see me mentioning any veterans charity organizations, and the grades some of the well known organizations make many veterans question how well their donations are being used even by the so called "good ones"

I always recommend going to any "watch sites" and learn about the group or charity you are donating to BEFORE you write the check

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Christmas Poem






















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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Fort Detrick to clean up contaminated Area B

Fort Detrick to clean up contaminated Area B
by Pat Dulnier on December 20, 2010

Officials at Fort Detrick in Frederick, Maryland, have signed an agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Defense outlining how to clean up the groundwater contamination located in Area B.

Area B was added to the EPA’s National Priorities List in 2008. The list is a collection of the country’s most contaminated land that is in immediate need of remediation, the Frederick News-Post reports.

The clean-up falls under the recently signed Federal Facilities Agreement, which is a required pact for any federal land that has been placed on the National Priorities list. It is a legally enforceable document that details roles, responsibilities and timeline for the departments involved.

The agreement includes a history of Area B and the contamination, which includes chemical and biological warfare testing in the 1960s and the discovery in 1992 of high levels of carcinogens in a nearby water well, the Frederick News-Post reports. The document also details the steps needed to examine and cleanup the contamination.

The EPA can fine the Army if it fails to comply with the timeline, which includes $5,000 for the first week and $10,000 a week for additional weeks.

Chuck Gordon, a Spokesman for Fort Detrick, told the Frederic News-Post that the Army is glad to see an agreement reached and wants to move forward with the environmental cleanup.

Fort Detrick to clean up contaminated Area B


For some reason I don't think the idea of being fined bothers the DOD or Department of the Army to hurry up, the clean up effort. Why did it take them so long to even find out it is contaminated, the EPA listed Edgewood Arsenal on the clean up list in 1978 when they found the contaminated wells and soil, they are still working on it 32 years later and they aren't finished yet according to the EPA Super Fund web site. When will they start fining them?

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Rep. John Hall Accomplishments - 2006-2010 on Scribd

Rep. John Hall Accomplishments - 2006-2010

John Hall has been a great veterans advocate and veterans will miss the strong voice he has been for us during his past 4 years in Congress, we need more representatives like he has been not fewer, he will be missed.

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Deadline for Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay Extended

{ http://vato21stcentury.blogspot.com/2010/12/deadline-for-stop-loss-special-pay.html }

Deadline for Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay Extended

Washington - December 22, 2010 - The deadline for eligible service members, veterans and their beneficiaries to apply for Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay (RSLSP) has been extended to March 4, 2011, allowing personnel more time to apply for the benefits they've earned under the program guidelines.

The deadline extension is included in the continuing resolution signed by President Obama today, providing funding for federal government operations through March 4, 2011.

"There was a surge of applicants as we approached our earlier deadline, but there may still be more out there who have yet to apply," said Lernes Hebert, director, Officer and Enlisted Personnel Management. "We are pleased that this extension was included in the continuing resolution which will give those remaining the opportunity to apply as we continue to work through the current applications."

The RSLSP was established to compensate for the hardships military members encountered when their service was involuntarily extended under Stop Loss Authority between Sept. 11, 2001, and Sept. 30, 2009. Eligible members or their beneficiaries may submit a claim to their respective military service in order to receive the benefit of $500 for each full or partial month served in a Stop Loss status.

When RSLSP began on Oct. 21, 2009, the services estimated 145,000 service members, veterans and beneficiaries were eligible for this benefit. Because the majority of those eligible had separated from the military, the services have engaged in extensive and persistent outreach efforts over the past 14 months. Outreach efforts including direct mail, engaging military and veteran service organizations, social networks and media outlets, will continue through March 4, 2011.

To apply for more information, or to gather more information on RSLSP, including submission requirements and service-specific links, go to Stop Loss.


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VA to consolidate Lejeune water claims at Louisville office

Posted on Mon, Dec. 20, 2010

VA to consolidate Lejeune water claims at Louisville office

By BARBARA BARRETT McClatchy Newspapers

Responding to heightened publicity and an uneven smattering of decisions on claims, the Department of Veterans Affairs will begin training a specialized cadre of workers this week to handle disability claims related to historic water contamination at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C.

The agency will consolidate claims at one office in Louisville, Ky. Eight employees there will focus on culling, researching and adjudicating disability claims related to the contaminated water.

The move is more than bureaucratic; it could prove significant to Marine veterans across the country who are suffering from cancers and other diseases that they think are related to the poisonous chemicals that flowed through Lejeune's water from the mid-1950s to the mid-1980s.

"Great. Great!" Marine veteran Peter Devereaux of North Andover, Mass., said when he heard about the VA's decision. "It seems they're steppin g up and trying to take control."

Devereaux, 48, suffers from a terminal form of male breast cancer. It took him two years to finally earn service-connected disability benefits in August, and all along the way, he said, he had to explain the Lejeune water problems to VA officials.

"It felt like I had to beg," he said. "You try to be a man. You know, I served my country. The last thing you want to say 20 years later is, 'I need benefits."'

McClatchy Newspapers reported in June that the VA's decisions on Lejeune-related claims appeared uneven and that they varied for Marines across the country. That led to questions from Congress about whether the VA was doing enough to track cases related to the contamination. Devereaux was among those who testi fied on the issue.

A million people - civilian workers, Marines and their family members - are thought to have been exposed to the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune, and more than 160,000 have registered with the Marine Corps to learn more about the case.

From the mid-1950s to the mid-1980s, water wells at Lejeune were poisoned with trichloroethylene (TCE), tetrachloroethylene (PCE), benzene, vinyl chloride and other volatile organic chemicals. The wells were shuttered in the mid-'80s, but many Marine veterans and their families had no idea of the contamination until Congress required the military to notify them beginning in 2008.

Bradley Flohr, the VA's assistant director for policy in compensation and pension service, said in an interview that the agency was acting now because it had grown concerned that disability decisions hadn't been consistent across regional offices.

"Perhaps we're not getting as consistent decisions as we would like to have," Flohr said. "We've committed to do training for staff dedicated to do these claims."

The department found about 195 adjudicated disability claims that listed Camp Lejeune's contaminated water as a cause. Of those, just 32 have been approved.

In September, Thomas J. Pamperin, now the VA's deputy undersecretary for disability assistance, testified to the House of Representatives that the VA hadn't found conclusive evidence to link the water to a host of cancers and other diseases. Instead, the VA reviewed claims on a case-by-case basis, which resulted in scattershot d ecisions.

Now the agency has decided to have one office review all incoming Lejeune claims. So far, about 100 new ones await adjudication, Pamperin said in an interview.

Flohr plans to travel to Louisville this week to educate workers about the exposure, the types of chemicals that were in the water and the associated diseases. He said Louisville was chosen as the central site because it was a high-performing regional office.

"We know for certain benzene is most often associated with leukemias, acute myelocytic leukemia, and others," Flohr said. "Kidney cancer as well, with TCE and PCE, and liver cancer is associated with vinyl chloride."

The VA's move to consolidate Lejeune-relat ed claims comes even as federal scientists in Atlanta continue a years-long project to understand the contamination's health effects better. Results of water-modeling and other studies from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry are expected in 2013, Flohr said.

The VA already had tried this year to update regional offices about the water contamination - but not always with the most up-to-date information. The agency sent a memo last spring to regional offices, but it referenced a controversial 2009 report from the National Research Council that left out significant contaminants and that epidemiologists have disputed.

Flohr said the letter was updated this past summer to include other contaminants, such as benzene and vinyl chloride.

This fall, the direct or of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry sent a letter to the Department of the Navy and the Marines warning them that the National Research Council report had flaws, including leaving out certain contaminants, low-balling potential impacts of exposure to the chemicals and not fully appreciating how more scientific study would better explain the health effects of the contamination.

"Let me be perfectly clear; there was undoubtedly a hazard associated with drinking the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune," wrote Christopher Portier, the director of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry and the National Center for Environmental Health.

The VA also received a copy of the letter, Flohr said.

In response to congressional inquiries, the agency has begun tagging claims that list Lejeune's water as a cause; traditionally claims have been tracked by disability, not cause.


To apply for service-connected disability, a veteran must fill out VA Form 21-526, Veteran's Application for Compensation and/or Pension. More information is online at http://vabenefits.vba.va.gov/vonapp/main.asp.

In order to have a service connection for a disability, a veteran must show that exposure to the contaminated water "as likely as not" caused the disability. That comes through what's called a "nexus letter," which is written by a physician and shows the connection. The veteran also could request a medical opinion from a VA doctor.

To learn more about the Marines' registry on historic water contamination at Camp Lejeune, go to https://clnr.hqi.usmc.mil/clwater/index.html or call 877-261-9782.


Department of Veterans Affairs information on Camp Lejeune water contamination:


Department of Veterans Affairs benefits:


The Few, The Proud, The Forgotten: Camp Lejeune Toxic Water:

< span style="font-size:14.0pt;">http://www.tftptf.com/

Camp Lejeune Historic Drinking Water:


About Camp Lejeune:


"Keep on, Keepin' on"
Dan Cedusky, Champaign IL "Colonel Dan"
See my web site at:

VA to consolidate Lejeune water claims at Louisville office

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Monday, December 20, 2010

Defense Department Wrongfully Discharges Nearly 26,000 Veterans, Refuses to Release Records

Defense Department Wrongfully Discharges Nearly 26,000 Veterans, Refuses to Release Records

Washington, D.C.--The Defense Department's (DoD) failure to comply with the law in releasing records that show it has blocked disabled veterans from receiving disability compensation and other benefits, earned as a result of service to our nation has prompted Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) and VVA Chapter 120 in Hartford, Connecticut, to file a federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit.

The complaint, filed today at the U.S. District Court in New Haven by the Veterans Legal Services Clinic of the Jerome N. Frank Legal Services Organization at Yale Law School, charges that, since the beginning of the Global War on Terrorism, DoD has systematically discharged nearly 26,000 veterans, wrongfully classified as suffering from Personality Disorder, a characterization that renders the service member ineligible for receiving rightful benefits. Personality Disorder is a disability that begins in adolescence or early adulthood and can present with symptoms which may mimic Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

"DoD's Personality Disorder designation prevents thousands of wounded veterans from accessing service-connected disability compensation or health care," said VVA National President John Rowan.

In 2007, the Veterans Affairs Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives charged DoD with deliberately misusing personality disorder diagnoses in order to reduce to the cost of health care and disability compensation by at least $12.5 billion. Since then, DoD has dramatically decreased the number of soldiers it has discharged on the basis of Personality Disorder. After discharging an average of 3,750 service members per year for Personality Disorder between 2001 and 2007, DoD has discharged only 960 service members in 2008; 1,426 in 2009; and 650 to date in 2010. However, rather than repairing the harm it has caused to the veterans it misdiagnosed, DoD is refusing to admit that veterans were inappropriately discharged with Personality Disorder before 2008.

"While DoD protects its reputation and its pocketbook, veterans with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury continue to be denied the benefits and medical care they are due," said Dr. Thomas Berger, Executive Director of VVA's Veterans Health Council. Since 2007, VVA has publically criticized DoD's systematic misuse of Personality Disorder discharges, in correspondence to DoD Secretary Gates and in testimony before the House Veterans Affairs Committee, with the intent of curbing the wrongful discharge practice and assisting those wrongfully discharged veterans in receiving the benefits to which they are entitled.

"If DoD truly believes that all Personality Disorder discharges were lawful, why does it refuse to provide records responsive to VVA's Freedom of Information Act request?" asked Melissa Ader, a law student intern in the Jerome N. Frank Legal Services Organization at Yale Law School, which is counsel in the case. "We hope that this lawsuit will allow the public to assess for itself whether DoD has treated veterans unjustly."

For more information visit: http://www.vva.org/ppd.html

Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) is the nation's only congressionally chartered veterans service organization dedicated to the needs of Vietnam-era veterans and their families. VVA's founding principle is “Never again will one generation of veterans abandon another.”


For combat veterans to be discharged under these type of discharges after returning back to the states after their tour of duty in either Iraq or Afghanistan is just plain wrong. If they had Personality disorders they should have been detected during either Basic Training or Advanced Individual Training which together take about 6 months of time if not more, their inability to conform to military rules would have exposed them during this time period, to wait until they return from combat and now have possible PTSD or TBI issues affecting them and for the military to resort to tactics they used during the Vietnam war to discharge war veterans without benefits of the Veterans Administration or possiblle Chapter 61 medical discharges is a very sad fact affecting tens of thousands of American veterans, and it does need to be investigated.

I am a disabled Infantry NCO who served from 1973 (Vietnam War Era) to Sep 1982 and then I joined the National Guard and was activated for Gulf War One in November 1990 and discharged in May 1991 after the end of the active part of GW1. I did not become disabled until June 2002. I am also a "test vet" from the Cold War research program at Edgewood Arsenal that took place from 1955 thru 1975, my time was from June 25 1974 - August 22 1974 and I was test subject 6778A.

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Saturday, December 18, 2010

Bobsledder Chose War to Repay the Army

Bobsledder Chose War to Repay the Army

Napier, a sergeant in the Vermont Army National Guard, returned to competition this month, just 16 days after coming home from a six-month tour in Afghanistan.

“Sometimes I dream that I’m back in Afghanistan going on missions,” said Napier, 24, who served with the 86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. “But it’s completely normal to have those sleep problems after what I’ve been through, so I’m O.K. with that. I know those dreams will fade with time. Bobsled keeps my mind busy, and that’s a good thing.”

His unit was based in the turbulent southeast, near the Pakistan border. Yet it was by choice — not by obligation — that Napier ended up there.

Through the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, he was in the Army’s World Class Athlete Program, which gives Olympians and elite Olympic hopefuls full Army salaries and benefits as they train. In turn, those athletes promote a positive image of the military, helping with recruiting.

But for Napier, being an Army promoter simply was not enough. In a move Army officials say is rare, he asked to be released from the World Class Athlete Program for the opportunity to join his National Guard unit in Afghanistan.

In Vancouver, he finished 10th as the driver for the USA-2 two-man bobsled, but his sled crashed during the four-man event, and he did not finish. Even during the Olympics, he dreamed of becoming “a real soldier,” he said, to repay the Army.

Napier said he could not forget how Capt. Brian Freeman, an American former bobsled athlete, was killed in Iraq after being taken hostage in 2007. Freeman’s death, Napier said, was additional motivation for him to serve.

“I just kept asking to go because I couldn’t get away from the guilt of being here while other guys were over there fighting,” Napier said.

First Sgt. Christopher Button, who helps run the World Class Athlete Program, said he was impressed with Napier’s enthusiasm but warned him to be careful of what he asked for.

“I don’t have people knocking down my door to go,” Button said, adding that one of Napier’s Olympic teammates, First Lt. Chris Fogt, was serving in Iraq now.

Napier’s life had been built around the close-knit community of bobsledding, with the war a world away. He grew up with the sport. His father, Bill, who died of cancer in 2005, was a bobsled driver from the 1960s to the ’80s and later became president of USA Bobsled and Skeleton, the sports’ national governing body.

John’s mother, Betsy, also drove bobsleds in her day. She is volunteering at this weekend’s World Cup event, where she is the unofficial den mother for the competitors.

The Napiers called Schenectady home but spent many weekends at their Lake Placid cabin on Bobsled Run Lane, the street that leads to the track here.

By the time John was 8, Bill Napier was teaching him how to drive a bobsled, propping him atop a telephone book so he could see. Napier later become one of the best drivers in the country in a sport in which the sleds often scream down the track at 85 to 90 miles an hour.

“My dad was a former Marine, a tough son-of-a-gun, so that was a lot to live up to,” said Napier, now 6 feet 3 inches and 205 pounds.

John Napier joined the National Guard in 2006 for the money. His father had just died and the family was in debt from financing John’s bobsled career. Napier was accepted into the World Class Athlete Program two years later, and a huge financial burden was lifted.


You should go to the NY Times story on the above link and read the entire story, this is a story of a real patriot and should be an inspiration to all Americans, he didn't have to do this, he insisted and that say's plenty about his character, I am sure his father would be proud of him, despite the fact he became a National Guardsman rather than a Marine. He served his nation well, and that is all that matters.

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Friday, December 10, 2010

Local veterans in need of Christmas

Local veterans in need of Christmas

Posted: Dec 10, 2010 4:23 PM EST
Updated: Dec 10, 2010 4:23 PM EST

By Jillian Capobianco - bio | email

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - When we think of giving during the Christmas season, we often think of children and families, but there are others in need, including veterans.

This Sunday is the 10th annual Charity Ride. It helps bring Christmas presents to hospitalized veterans at Dorn V.A. as well as their two homeless shelters. Medal of Honor recipient John Baker says it's what Christmas is all about.

With his 5'2" stature and strong silent demeanor, you may just walk by Baker in the lobby of Dorn V.A. Hospital, but if you did, you would miss out on the stories he could tell. They're stories as to why there is now a bridge and a monument in his name.

On November 5th, 1966, John's life would never be the same. He was fighting in Vietnam when his unit came under fire. Men were going down, but Private First Class Baker stepped in. "I knocked out eight machine gun bunkers and carried eight of my wounded soldiers back to be evacuated," says Baker.

It was his heroism that awarded him the highest military honor, the Medal of Honor. Baker says it was amazing when President Johnson pinned the nation's highest military decoration on him. "I felt great at the time," says Baker, "When they read the citation, I just felt like I was right back."

42 years later, Baker still says the medal is not just his own. " I wear it, not because I won it," says Baker, "It belongs to the men that served our great country of ours. It belongs to them, not me."

It's the love he has for his military brothers that has him involved in this year's Vets' Christmas Charity Ride. The ride raises money to give veterans staying at Dorn V.A. at Christmas. " They're my brothers, my family," says Baker.

The 10th annual Vets' Christmas Charity Ride is happening Sunday, December 12th at 2:00pm. Riders will meet at the Carolina Honda Powerhouse store on 901 Buckner Road in Columbia and depart for the Dorn V.A. Hospital.

You can find out more by calling (803) 252-3381, and to read more about how you can get involved in or donate to this cause, click Give Veterans a Christmas.


It is nice to see veterans helping veterans especially the likes of men like John Baker he really stepped up in 1966 while in Vietnam and he is still stepping up in 2010 SALUTE

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Iraqi War veteran says he's suffering from exposure to burn pits, but is happy to receive military honor

Iraqi War veteran says he's suffering from exposure to burn pits, but is happy to receive military honor

By Kathleen Berger

St. Charles, MO (KSDK) -- The Missouri Air National Guard presented the Hometown Heroes Salute to an Iraqi War Veteran, whose health has been in failure since his return. His family members have become huge advocates in raising awareness about burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan.

That's what the Retired Tech Sgt. Tim Wymore blames for his health problems that have only gotten worse since he returned from Iraq. But the St. Charles man was all smiles Friday as he received a very special honor.

Iraqi War Veteran Tim Wymore was supposed to have received his Hometown Heroes Salute last January, but somehow his name was missed. When the Missouri Air National Guard discovered the mistake, they arranged a ceremony just for him.

"It is kind of amazing that they did this for me, because now I got the whole thing to myself," said Wymore.

The medal and framed letter of appreciation are well deserved for Wymore's 181 days of service in Iraq. Especially after everything Wymore and his family have gone through after they say he was exposed to hazardous chemicals.

"Did a lot of runs to what they call the burn pits, that's what's affected me," said Wymore. "I came home sick, they took a softball size infection out of my colon and small intestine, and I've been kind of sick ever since."

As more health problems persist, Wymore's wife, Shanna, has become an advocate for thousands who've been exposed.

"It's 2010, we've got to shut these burn pits down," said Shanna Wymore.

But the Wymores call the burn pits the new Agent Orange.

"I have to fight and fight and fight," said Shanna. "Arms, limbs, corpses from the dogs, they burn all the water bottles, the Styrofoam, all the plastic, all the food stuff, all the medical supply," said Shanna.

While she focuses on that fight, Tim Wymore is focusing on another.

"I just want to get better. I don't want to have to wear this oxygen or be in this wheelchair the rest of my life, so that's my goal," said Tim Wymore.

Through it all, Tim Wymore says he's very patriotic. He waves American flags from his house. And he considers the hometown Heroes Salute a huge honor.

I first became interested in the "Burn Pits" when I was contacted by Jill Wilkins whose husband had died from brain cancer that started after being assigned to Balad AFB, and she was looking for some help in how to deal with the VA Regional Office about the DIC and CHAMPVA benefits her and the children were entitled to. The VA is making some major improvements in handling claims related to the Burn Pit exposure, but to many veterans and their families are still having to fight to hard and to long for service connection. Like Agent Orange the VA is still coming to terms more than 40 years after that war what medical issues are related to the exposures, hopefully the VA will not make this new generation of war veterans wait 40 years for full disclosure of medical conditions related to the exposures.

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"What's TRICARE Anyway?"

We read your blog, military & veterans: politics for the deserving, and
believe you can help us spread the word to your readers about our upcoming
Webinar. "What's TRICARE Anyway?" is an interactive Webinar co-hosted by
TRICARE and Military OneSource and will be held Monday, Dec. 13, from 11
a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Eastern time.

The webinar will cover general benefit information and participants can
submit questions online or over the phone to be answered following the
information session. More information can be found at:
http://www.health.mil/ or

Monday, Dec. 13, from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Eastern time.

Fpr all retired military members who use Tricare for some or all of their medical care this is a place where you need to be on Dec 13, 2010



Thse are the links to the Tricare information you need

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Thursday, December 9, 2010

Report: Defense faces large and growing mental health problem

Report: Defense faces large and growing mental health problem

By Bob Brewin bbrewin@govexec.com December 6, 2010 During the past decade, 767,290 active-duty military personnel have received a diagnosis of a mental health disorder, according to a series of reports expected to be released today by the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center in Silver Spring, Md. Overall, from January 2000 through December 2009, such diagnoses increased 60 percent.

The center also reported that mental health disorders rank as the top cause of hospitalization for male service members and the second cause of hospitalization for women after pregnancy-related conditions. The Army topped the number of admissions.

RELATED STORIES Number of Army suicides already surpasses 2009 total 11/22/10 Soldiers struggle emotionally under stress of war 10/04/10 Agencies examine combat-related substance abuse 08/26/10 Grim trend in Army suicides continues 01/21/10 Suicide prevention continues to elude Army leaders 01/12/10

During this period, 94,391 active-duty service members experienced 109,895 mental disorder hospitalizations. The number of hospitalizations remained fairly stable and then sharply increased from 2006 to 2009, with 15,328 hospitalizations in 2009, up 50 percent from 10,262 in 2006.

The Health Surveillance Center said the findings in the four mental health reports in its November Medical Surveillance Monthly Report "document a large and growing mental health problem among U.S. military members." The reports examined five selective disorders from 2007 through 2009, mental health problems across the active component from 2000 through 2009, hospitalizations for mental health, and the relationship between childbirth and mental health diagnoses.

This includes a sharp increase in mental health disorder diagnoses from 78,658 active-duty troops in 2003, or 5.6 percent of the force, to 123,374, or 8.5 percent of the force in 2009, which reflects the increase in troops deployed to Afghanistan or Iraq, the report said. This upsurge reflects the "increasing psychological toll" combat operations had on deployed troops, the center said.

To put the numbers in context, the center noted a recently completed national survey that showed at least half of all adult Americans will meet the criteria for a mental disorder diagnosis sometime in their life, and that "clearly the large and growing problem of mental disorders among military members reflects to some extent the similar experience of the general U.S. population."

The Army experienced twice the rate of mental disorder hospitalizations than any of the other services during the past decade, the Health Surveillance Center reported: 3.09 hospital years per 10,000 person years (one person year is equivalent to one year in the life of one person) versus 1.52 hospital years for the Marine Corps, 1.51 hospital years for the Air Force and 1.4 hospital years for the Navy.

The report that examined the prevalence of five mental disorders -- post-traumatic stress disorder, major depression, bipolar disorder, alcohol dependence and substance dependence -- found that from 2007 through the second quarter of 2010, the Army had the highest rates of new diagnoses for these disorders while the Air Force the lowest.

The only exceptions were in 2007, 2008 and the first two quarters of 2010, when the Marine Corps exceeded the Army in rates of new diagnoses for alcohol dependence.

The Army also had the highest percentage of troops on active duty with prior mental health diagnoses, 10 percent versus 5.7 percent of Marines. The 10-year study noted "the overall incidences of mental disorders were higher in the Army than in any of the other services."

The Health Surveillance Center also examined the effect of childbirth and deployment on the mental health of female troops and determined mental disorders were linked to early deployment after childbirth. The rate of mental disorders diagnosed within six months of returning from deployment was 37 percent higher among women who had deployed within six months of giving birth compared with women who had deployed later after giving birth.

Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the Army's vice chief of staff, acknowledged the connection between mental health problems, alcohol and substance abuse, and troop suicides at a Pentagon news briefing in July when the service released its comprehensive report on suicide in the Army. (

That report said, ""No one could have foreseen the impact of nine years of war on our leaders and soldiers," including PTSD and other mental health problems.

According to Tom Vande Burgt, an Army National Guard veteran who served in Iraq and runs the PTSD peer support group Lest We Forget in Charleston, W.Va., with his wife Diane, the mental health reports did not make any attempt to link the abuse of drugs and alcohol to the rise in prescription drugs given to troops diagnosed with PTSD.

The center reports also do not detail the Defense Department's treatment methods for mental health problems. But a June 2010 report from the Department of Defense Pharmacoeconomic Center at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, shows 20 percent of active-duty personnel are on high-risk medications, including psychotropic and anti-depressant medications used to treat mental health problems.

Paul Sullivan, executive director of Veterans for Common Sense, said he is "highly alarmed the military continues reporting record mental health and suicide statistics." Sullivan added, "As suicides skyrocket and drug use soars, top military leaders need to be held accountable for their failures to care properly for our troops."

The Defense Department needs to fill hundreds of vacancies in mental health positions, expand efforts to reduce the stigma associated with seeking treatment, and treat mental health wounds of war as equal to physical wounds, Sullivan said.

The Health Surveillance Center noted the data it used to compile its reports resulted in lower estimates for mental health disorders, such as PTSD, than previous reports widely disseminated in the media. The rates of mental health disorders found by the center are not directly comparable to other published rates and the reports generated by the data do not examine the relationship between deployments and mental health, which is something future reports will explore, the center said.

Information in the reports was drawn from health records maintained in the Defense Medical Surveillance System, which documents visits to military hospitals and clinics and civilian facilities covered by military insurance plans. The reports did not include medical facilities serving deployed troops, but included the 39 percent of the force that has not deployed to a combat zone during the past decade.

The information in the reports, which is based on a formal diagnosis entered into an electronic health record, showed an overall PTSD rate of 9.2 percent versus previous reports that showed a 12 percent or higher rate.

The Health Surveillance Center said previous studies relied on self-reported data in post-deployment health assessments, anonymous questionnaires and retrospective interviews in which service members affirm or deny the presence of symptoms associated with mental health disorders. Such screening does not carry the weight of formal diagnosis.

The center said its reports document the incidence of mental health disorders for all 1.4 million active-duty personnel and did not focus solely on the those who have served in a combat zone, which it cited as a risk factor for most, if not all, mental disorders.

The reports also did not contain data about the mental health of National Guard and reserve members who have served combat tours. Nor did they take into account the barriers to care, such as a shortage of military mental health personnel and the stigma that keeps troops from reporting mental health problems and seeking help.

As a result, the Health Surveillance Center said its reports "very likely underestimate the true incidence and prevalence" of mental health disorders in the military.

this is a graph that is in the article that shows the break down by service and the different diagnosis PTSD, Depression, substance abuse etc this is a very eye opening document and should be looked at

to me this shows that the problems are a lot larger than the DOD has been telling the general public and tells me that a lot more help is needed in the military for more mental health professionals to help the soldiers and marines and other military members that have served us during this turbulent period of the past decade and the "war on terror". We have a PROMISE to care for these people while inservice and after they leave active duty and become veterans, are we doing enough? I don't think so.

I am a veteran who is rated as 100% P&T by the Veterans Administration with an effective date of Dec 2003. My stressors go back to Feb 1975 and I have numerous incidents in my 20 years of Army service but one of the easiest to prove was an attempted murder and robbery by fellow soldiers while at Fort Wainwright, Alaska in Feb 1975, they were given general court martials and 4 of the 7 were sentenced to 15 years in leavenworth for their attack on me. I also served in the Korean DMZ during the fall of 1975 and thru Operation Paul Bunyan in August 1976. There were many more incidents that are related to my service conencted PTSD. Like many veterans with PTSD I also had problems with alcohol during service and after, it doesn't help PTSD it just masks the issues and is a terrible method for coping with the issues.

PTSD and substance abuse are usually present in most people with PTSD and they must be treated at the same time. We are failing to do enough and there are not enough beds in VA mental health facilities for the veterans who are falling thru the cracks.

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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Valley of the Shadow of Death

words from the soldier awarded a Silver Star the entire mission in his words

I was returning fire to those bastards from behind a tree when all of a sudden I hear the soft voice of New Dick attempting to yell “Doc’s hit, Doc’s hit.”

Side Note: this is exactly why I wanted that kid to start speaking the fuck up. You MUST be loud in this job. That kid never grasped the concept. He’s lucky I even heard him.

I looked all around me and finally, thirty-five meters to my right, I see Doc laying face down in the dirt on the porch of one of the houses. My stomach dropped out. There are literally no words I can use to fully understand the feeling you get when you see that. I ran over to where he was and dropped directly, but carefully, on top of him. You do that in a fire fight to protect the casualty. The first thing I noticed was the blood on his neck. The second thing I noticed was that he was alive and responding to me. That immediately made me feel better. Doc said he was hit in the left arm, but upon inspection of his arm there was nothing visibly wrong with it. That’s when I started to look more closely at his neck. He had been shot right through the left side of his neck and I could not see an exit wound.
I decided, since the enemy had that spot locked down with heavy machine gun fire, it was time to move him. Yes, he had a gunshot wound to the neck, but if we had stayed there we both would have been killed. That’s when I started to move him.

Wearing all his combat gear, Doc probably weighed two hundred and ten pounds or so. Moving him myself was a slow process. While I was dragging him to a nearby room in this random village, I noticed two things almost simultaneously. The first thing was that the wall to my right was being peppered with incoming small arms fire that originated from the corn fields to my left. The second was that New Dick was about five feet away from Doc in the doorway of a small barn and he had obviously been there the whole time. He had frozen and couldn’t bring himself to come out and help Doc. I’m still not sure if I should have beat his ass or tried to understand his position. I’ve been working with Doc as our Platoon medic for a long time and he’s a good friend of mine. The first thing I thought when I saw him was that I needed to help him right away. New Dick’s first thought was probably something along the lines of “Oh shit, I’m gonna get shot.” He doesn’t know Doc that well and he’s not at all seasoned as a combat Infantryman. So, as I said, I’m still on the fence as to either beating the living crap out of him or telling him to use that instance as a learning experience.

When I saw New Dick I continued to drag Doc to the room (that was now about 10 feet away) and screamed at the top of my lungs to him the following words…


He didn’t move.


That’s when New Dick worked up the courage to take his first step toward Doc and I. And as he took that step, a round hit him right in his left hand. By that time, Washout had made it to our position. I yelled at him to grab New Dick and get back inside the barn, which he did immediately. Shortly after that, Vice City and The Situation had run over, grabbed up Doc, and got him into the room.

Then there is the article about the award of his Silver Star Sec of Defense Robeert Gates awards some Silver Stars for Heroism

St. Charles native and U.S. Army Spc. Richard Bennett thought only of his fallen comrade’s peril when he bolted through heavy gunfire to aid the injured medic during a mission in eastern Afghanistan.

Bennett remained focused on his “brothers” Tuesday after he and Army 1st Lt. Stephen R. Tangen of Naperville each collected a Silver Star medal for their separate actions under fire there this summer. The pair was among six Army soldiers earning the third-highest award for bravery in combat given by the military. U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates presented the honors in person to the soldiers for their actions during various Operation Strong Eagle missions in the Kunar province.

“It was an incredible honor that the secretary of defense would come. It was a little overwhelming,” said Tangen, according to a Department of Defense news account. “Forward Operating Base Joyce gets attacked almost every day, so just the fact that he would come to a remote FOB like this and put his life on the line it doesn’t happen every day.”

Noted recipients of the honor include Lt. Col. Oliver North, Gens. George S. Patton and Douglas MacArthur, as well as Sens. John Kerry and John McCain. More recently, former Arizona Cardinals football player Pat Tillman, who died in friendly fire in Afghanistan, was given the award posthumously.
Heroic actions must be “performed with marked distinction” to earn a Silver Star, an honor bestowed for acts that do not rise to the level deserving of a Medal of Honor or Distinguished Service Cross.

“As far as the award, it is for my platoon. I may have gotten it, but we were all there that day and all of us went through that,” Bennett wrote in e-mail from Afghanistan.

Bennett and his 101st Airborne platoon were on a mission on foot in a valley along a mountainside when they came under heavy fire. During the skirmish, the platoon medic was shot in the neck and he was lying face down on a porch.

“My stomach dropped out,” Bennett wrote. “There are literally no words I can use to fully understand the feeling you get when you see that. … I’ve been working with Doc as our platoon medic for a long time and he’s a good friend of mine. The first thing I thought when I saw him was that I needed to help him right away.”
Seeing the fellow soldier was pinned down by enemy bullets, Bennett left his cover provided by a tree and ran to provide aid and protection for his comrade.
“He ran 35 meters under a hail of gunfire,” said his mom, Lisa Bennett.
Bennett dropped down atop the injured man using his own body to shield the medic while he assessed his injuries, he recalled.

He then pulled the man into the vacant house as gunfire continued. Bullets “peppered” the building, and as he waited for the gunfire to subside, he looked at the bullet-ridden wall and was reminded of a scene from the movie “Pulp Fiction.” In the scene, two characters survive a hail of gunfire unscathed, much like Bennett.

“It was one of the single craziest moments I’ve ever experienced,” he wrote.
The man Bennett saved, and another soldier who was nearby and wounded by a bullet to the hand, survived and are recovering from their wounds.
The award-winning soldiers’ parents were thrilled for their sons.
“I’m incredibly proud of him, but I always have been,” said Bennett’s mom, Lisa Bennett, of Geneva. “He’s always been a person with courage in his convictions … and unafraid.”
She continued, “He’s with an impressive group of soldiers over there too. He really sees those guys in his platoon as brothers. He knows they would do the same for him. They’re all heroes.”

Bennett’s father, South Elgin Police Sgt. Richard Bennett, said it was the second-best news he could get about his son.
“The Silver Star … wow. I’m on the verge of tears now,” said his father, who lives in Elgin. “It doesn’t surprise me. He’s been a heck of a kid his whole life. I don’t think he even thought about it. He just reacted. The only better news is if he was coming home.”
Likewise, Andrew Tangen was impressed but not surprised by his 24-year-old son’s heroic actions.

“They’re like his family,” said Tangen, whose three sons are all Eagle Scouts. His eldest son, Andrew, is a lieutenant in the Navy and also deployed in Afghanistan. “It’s just who they are. They’re doing what needs to be done.”
Tangen suspects his son, who didn’t share details in a weekend call home, was honored for his efforts to save his staff sergeant and close friend during one of the mission’s firefights. Staff Sgt. Eric Shaw of Massachusetts died in Stephen Tangen’s arms as he tried to move him to safety, Tangen wrote to his family.
“He’s a very humble young man,” Andrew Tangen said of his son.
Bennett, 29, graduated in 2000 from St. Charles High School. He attended Aurora University and Northern Illinois University, and then worked as a personal trainer for a few years before enlisting just after President Barack Obama’s election to office.

Bennett and Tangen, who are in the 101st Airborne based out of Fort Campbell in Kentucky, arrived in Afghanistan in May for a one-year deployment.
Bennett plans to return to college for an education degree. Tangen, who is a 2004 Naperville North High School and 2008 West Point graduate, plans to attend medical school and become a doctor.

Read more: http://www.dailyherald.com/article/20101208/news/712099904/#ixzz17Zvu5GhH


this is the story of a true hero, even though he does not want this label, his actions have earned him this award and distinction, and I am an old Infantry NCO SALUTE him.

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New Approach to Smoking Cessation Boosts Quit Rates

New Approach to Smoking Cessation Boosts Quit Rates

for Veterans with PTSD

WASHINGTON -- Smoking cessation treatment that is made part of mental
health care for Veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
improves quit rates, according to a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)
study published in the Dec. 8 Journal of the American Medical

"The smoking cessation techniques used in this new approach will give
Veterans an important step towards a better quality of life," said VA
Under Secretary for Health Dr. Robert Petzel. "Veterans will be at a
lower risk for cardiovascular or lung disease if they do not smoke."

On measures of smoking abstinence for shorter periods of time,
researchers found that quit rates were as high as 18 percent for the
integrated care group, versus 11 percent for those receiving usual care.
When compared to usual care-referral to a standard smoking cessation
clinic-the new, integrated approach nearly doubled the rate at which
study volunteers stayed smoke-free for a year or longer, from 4.5
percent to almost 9 percent.

Importantly, Veterans in the study who quit smoking showed no worsening
of symptoms of PTSD or depression. In fact, study participants averaged
a 10-percent reduction in PTSD symptoms, regardless of which treatment
they received or whether they quit smoking or not. The findings help
dispel concerns that combining care for PTSD and smoking cessation
detracts from PTSD treatment or makes it less effective.

Study leaders Miles McFall, Ph.D., and Andrew Saxon, M.D., say the
results validate a promising new VA model of care that can make safe,
effective smoking cessation treatment accessible to far more Veterans
with PTSD. The new approach may also be effective for smokers receiving
mental health care for other psychiatric illnesses, they add.

Says McFall, "One of the most important things mental health providers
can do to improve the quality and length of their patients' lives is to
help them stop smoking by using proven, evidence-based practices."

McFall is director of PTSD Programs and Saxon is director of the
Addictions Treatment Center at the VA Puget Sound Health Care System.
Both are professors in the department of psychiatry and behavioral
sciences at the University of Washington.

VA smoking cessation care generally involves a mix of group and
individual counseling, typically in combination with nicotine
replacement therapy or other medication prescribed by a VA health care
provider. In VA's study, Veterans in the integrated-care group worked
with the same therapist on PTSD and smoking issues. Medication for
smoking cessation, if used, was prescribed on an individual basis by the
same medical provider managing pharmacologic treatment of the Veteran's
PTSD symptoms.

The study followed 943 Veterans at 10 VA medical centers nationwide.
Prolonged abstinence from tobacco, as reported by participants, was
confirmed using breath and urine tests to detect evidence of smoking.
Using such "bio-verification" measures in combination with self-reports
is considered the "gold standard" in smoking cessation research, says

Of some 400,000 Veterans being treated for PTSD in the VA health care
system, roughly 30 to 50 percent are smokers, compared to a smoking rate
of about 20 percent among VA enrollees and U.S. adults in general.
Research shows, also, that those with PTSD smoke more heavily than
smokers without PTSD and have an especially hard time quitting.

"We've come a long way in understanding that nicotine dependence for
many Veterans with PTSD is a chronic, relapsing condition that responds
best to intensive treatment extended over time," McFall says. "These
study findings will help us empower more Veterans with the resources
they need to quit smoking. Single-shot, brief episodic care for nicotine
addiction is no match for what is a chronic, relapsing disorder for many
of our Veterans."

Based on the findings and evidence from prior research, VA has begun
piloting the integrated smoking cessation approach as a standard of
practice at six VA medical centers. The researchers say they hope to see
the new approach further expanded over time.

McFall notes that while most of the participants in the study were
Vietnam-era Veterans, integrated smoking cessation care may be
especially beneficial for younger Veterans with PTSD, such as many of
those returning from Iraq or Afghanistan, who stand to benefit greatly
from quitting smoking relatively early in life.

Says McFall, "Ideally, we can help Veterans quit smoking before it
becomes a chronic or intractable condition and causes irreversible
health problems such as cardiovascular or lung disease."

The study was conducted by VA's Cooperative Studies Program. For more
information on CSP, visit www.csp.research.va.gov.

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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Veterans' Caregiving Often Falls to Spouse

Veterans' Caregiving Often Falls to Spouse

96% of Veterans’ Caregivers Are Women, and the Burden Can Be Heavy, Study Finds
By Bill Hendrick
WebMD Health NewsReviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD Nov. 10, 2010 -- When veterans with service-related injuries or illness need caregivers, the role typically falls on women, usually spouses or partners, a new report finds.

The study by the National Alliance for Caregiving and the United Health Foundation reports that 96% of veterans’ caregivers are women, compared to an overall nationwide finding that 65% of family caregivers are women. The study also says that 70% of veterans’ caregivers are their spouses or partners, compared to 6% nationally.

The youngest veterans requiring caregivers are those whose ranks are growing from Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, says the report. More than 40% of veterans who need caregivers are between the ages of 18 and 54, the report finds.

Younger Veterans Receive Help From Parents and Family
About one in four (26%) of the youngest veterans are being cared for by parents who are likely to need more caregiving support as they age.

Conditions for which veterans need help differ widely, depending on when and in which war they served, the report says.

Among key findings:

70% of caregivers say the veteran they help has a mental illness, such as depression, anxiety, or posttraumatic stress disorder. Nationally, mental or emotional health problems are reported by only 28% of caregivers.
29% of caregivers say their veteran has traumatic brain injury, 28% list diabetes, and 20% paralysis or spinal cord injury.

80% of veterans’ caregivers say they deal with two or more of the 10 specific conditions they were asked about, and 67% named additional conditions, with 24% mentioning problems such as bone, joint, or limb trouble, 12% hearing or ear problems, 9% heart conditions, and 9% neuropathy or nerve issues.
The time involvement for caregivers of veterans is also much greater than for other people, with 30% reporting being in their role for 10 years or more, compared to only 15% of caregivers of others nationally.

Toll of Caring for Veterans

“Not only are caregivers of veterans in their role for a longer period, but their burden of care is also heavier -- 65% are in a high-burden caregiving situation, compared to 31% nationally,” the report says. “The increased burden is due to a greater likelihood of helping with activities of daily living, including dressing, bathing, feeding and dealing with incontinence.”

The burden on caregivers also can affect their physical and mental health, the report says. Those who take care of veterans with mental problems, including PTSD and depression, are much more likely to report feeling emotionally stressed, isolated, and financially pressed. The report says that:

68% of caregivers of veterans feel highly stressed, compared to 31% of those who take care of other adults nationally.

Among the 30% of veterans’ caregivers who have children under 18 in their homes, two-thirds report spending less time with their kids than they would like.
57% of veterans’ caregivers said their children or grandchildren had emotional or school problems as a result of their caregiving or the veteran’s condition.
60% of caregivers report declines in healthy behaviors, such as going to the dentist or their own doctor.

The study was based on an online survey of adult caregivers who provide care to a veteran whose injury or illness is related to military service. The report also includes finding from focus groups that discussed caregiving and telephone interviews with people from the online survey. The report puts the total number of survey respondents at 462.

My wife Dori, had to quit working in the spring of 2003 as I was at the point I could not be left alone during the day, she turned into a full time care giver, luckily we are able to live on the SSD and VA benefits and her lost income from working did not leave us unable to pay our bills, it has cut down on some of the frills and spending on wants and the grand kids don't get everything they want.

I regret having to put her into this position but my health is what it is and that is not going to change, I am lucky that she has stuck by me as I have fallen apart, that part where they say thru sickness, richer or poorer I don't think they imagined the part where we turned our sposues into full time nurses. My depression has to have an affect on her, but she never complains, but I can see where many disabled veterans would have problems with family members being turned into full time care givers and there is no vacations for them, they deal with it 24/7 365 days a year, year in and year out.

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Medical care lacking, some veterans say

Medical care lacking, some veterans say

Specialty services often require traveling.
War may be hell, but peace is no little slice of heaven.

At least some of the county's military veterans feel that way about their post-service health care.

But others say they've been treated fairly once they hung up their uniforms.


Larry Garcia, who is retired from the military reserves and served in Iraq in 2004-2005, gets his lungs checked by Dr. Jeanette Paz Kuizon, at the VA Merced outpatient clinic in Merced.

Eli PaintedCrow has complained for years about the lack of medical services available for military veterans in Merced County.

The Veterans Affairs Merced Outpatient Clinic, whose parent company is the VA Central California Health Care System in Fresno, has limited services, PaintedCrow said. "They don't have therapists in Merced, period. The VA has never bothered to look for qualified therapists to work in Merced. They also don't provide physical therapy, which I'm in need of."

PaintedCrow, 50, who served in the U.S. Army and completed two tours of duty in Iraq, has to travel to the main facility in Fresno to get the services she needs -- and that's not easy. In addition to the long travel, appointments can be as much as two months away, she said. "They brag about being the No.1 in the nation, yet they fail to see the places that need correction, even if they've been told year after year about what's not happening in Merced County," she said of the VA Central California. "I really think Merced needs to improve its services."

While some veterans in Merced County have a tough time getting the services that are owed to them, others have had a positive experience, but say improvements could be made.

Antonio Talamantes, 27, who served in the Marine Corps, said he usually seeks services in Merced, but also travels to Fresno when he needs specialized services.

He was at the clinic in Merced recently and was told that he was going to have to travel to Fresno to get X-rays done. Talamantes, who suffers from lower-back pain, received a letter in the mail a few days later indicating his appointment to get the X-rays done is on Dec. 2. "That was pretty quick," he said.

Sean Hinds, acting program director for Public Affairs at the main facility in Fresno, said their goal is to see a patient within 30 days of the referral.

Talamantes said overall, he can't complain about the service in Merced or in Fresno. "I think they've been doing a really good job in helping us out," he said. Still, he said he "could always hope that there would be more doctors" at the clinic in Merced.

VA services in Merced

Shannon Deen, clinical nurse manager at the Merced clinic, said it has three primary care physicians. Two of them are full-time and one is part-time.

One of the providers is a woman, and she sees most of the female patients, Deen said. Overall, they serve more than 3,000 veterans in primary care.

There are about 12,000 veterans in Merced County. According to the most recent figures, as of 2008, there were an estimated 23.4 million living veterans in the U.S. Only about 8.4 million of them received veterans benefits and services that year, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Deen said the facility in Merced is mainly a primary care clinic. Mental health is provided, since they employ a psychologist and a psychiatrist. Lab work also is done in Merced.

Deen said the clinic is going to begin using a telehealth system. The system, which consists of a monitor and a camera, connects the patient with a provider via videostream. "It's going to allow us to prevent some of the travel to Fresno for specialty services," she said. "We will be able to connect people with a specialist, but the patient will come to Merced to be seen."

Depending on a patient's issue, providers in Merced will be able to take images and send them to Fresno to be examined. Deen said some specialist visits will still have to made to Fresno, but the new telehealth system will help reduce the number of trips.

The clinic also plans to expand other services, such as group therapy and diabetes education, among others.

According to Deen, the clinic in Merced will have to expand its staff as the demand increases. "Once we get enough patients to require more staff, we'll look at hiring," she added.

Hinds said the clinic in Merced used to be located in Atwater, but it was recently transferred to a new location in Merced on East Yosemite Avenue. He said the new location has more space to accommodate demand in Merced.

Deen said new veterans are welcome to stop by the clinic and register for services.

The VA Central California's budget is $164 million a year, Hinds said. The VA satellite clinics in Merced and in Tulare are under the same budget, and so is the new clinic in Oakhurst, which is scheduled to open in 2011.

Transportation to Merced and Fresno The Disabled American Veterans offers a shuttle service from Merced to the facility in Fresno, Deen said. Also, the clinic in Merced recently began a program to bring patients to the clinic from surrounding communities, such as Atwater, Los Banos, Turlock and Mariposa. To bring patients "into the clinic even from across town," she continued.

She said the transportation program will also help homeless veterans. There's a pickup point near a homeless shelter in Merced.

Other services for veterans in Merced County:

Merced County Veteran Services Officer Darren Hughes said the county helps veterans file claims and referrals for other services. He said the CVSO sees more than 2,000 office visits a year.

Hughes said his agency enjoys a 99 percent success rate in the claims that are awarded. The awarded claims bring in an average of $1.8 million a year in benefits.

The CVSO also helps bring in an average of $250,000 worth of college fee waivers per year, but not all of them are spent in Merced, Hughes said.

However, he said not all veterans are aware of these services. "It's always a challenge to reach out to every deserving veteran to make them aware that these benefits may be available to them," he added.

According to Hughes, many of their clients are still from the Vietnam era and a few from World War II. A couple of veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan also seek their services. "We serve all," he said.

Just as his clients did for their country.

Reporter Yesenia Amaro can be reached at (209) 388-6507, or yamaro@mercedsun-star.com.
Read more: http://www.mercedsunstar.com/2010/11/23/1664976_p2/medical-care-lacking-some-veterans.html#ixzz17SLjEBaq


I get all of my medical care from the VA health care system and I have since I became totally disabled in June 2002, and I have nothing but good things to say about it, but then I live near two major VAMC's the one in Augusta Ga which has two facilities Downtown and Uptown, and then I live 5 miles from Dorn VA in Columbia SC, I choose to drive to Augusta for my medical care as I like the doctors and support staff that work there, I have no respect for the people at Dorn, they treat veterans like they are a nuisance, rather than the reason they have a job.

Not all VA treatment facilities have all services and even at Dorn they send people to salisbury NC for some treatments, as far as I know Augusta VA treats all medical conditions.

Veterans that choose to live in small towns or near small VA community based clinics have made the shoice to accept the available care available to them, if they really wanted better healthcare they would move to a town or city that would allow them access to the services they want or desire, the VA will provide healthcare for all service connected veterans but no where have I ever seen where they said they would provide full medical facilties in every town in America, if you live in a town or the country you will have to travel to where the facility is, if you have a service connected issue they do pay veterans travel pay to get to these facilities.

I know I have extensive medical issues and I need to be near a major medical center due to my cardiac issues, so I bought a home near a VA medical center for this reason, my future is more medical care and I needed to be near a VA medical center so after I was medically retired I moved to be near a VA medical center, all veterans have that option, no one is forced to live anywhere. Is it not cost effective to build major VA facilties in every town in America, and it is not the VAs fault it is the fact of having a budget that Congress sets.

Not all VAMCs have PTSD lock down wards, not all of them do open heart surgery etc if you need these services they pay to transport the veteran to a facility that does provide these services or they authorize the service thru the fee-basis program in the local community.

I have seen far more satisfaction with VA health care than I have seen people upset with it, most veterans I know would much rather keep the VA health care system as it is today, than to go to a national health care card and be told we can go to any hospital or doctor for treatment and then they would close all the VA hospitals, no veterans I know advocates that type of system, VA doctors and nurses understand the medical issues that concern veterans, most if the issues and the causes are similar and veterans seem to enjoy being with other veterans when they are seriously ill and or hospitalized. Regardless of what branch they served in there is a brotherhood with all veterans regardless of what war, what branch etc. VA health care is still one of the most approved government services we have.

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