Pine Tree Legal Develops National Website for Veterans, Military Families
For Immediate Release
November 22, 2010
Contact: Nan Heald
Portland Maine – At a White House conference on access to justice on November 19, officials announced the launch of a new national website for military and veteran families with legal problems.
The website, www.statesidelegal.org, is the first site in the country to focus exclusively on the unique legal needs and rights of military and veteran families around the country. The site includes user-friendly legal information and self-help tools (including videos and interactive documents) related to common legal problems, including divorce, foreclosure, and disability benefits. The website also identifies legal referral resources available though the military, State veteran services, and legal aid programs funded by the Legal Services Corporation. Information on the website is organized and searchable according to legal problem, military status, and State of residence.
“Pine Tree is honored to receive this recogni tion and to be part of an initiative to provide critical legal services to veterans, members of the military and their families,” Nan Heald, Executive Director of Pine Tree Legal Assistance, said.
Developed with funding from the Legal Services Corporation and other sources, the site has been in development since the fall of 2009. Pine Tree was chosen to serve as the lead agency for this project, based on its national reputation in developing other websites with high quality legal information written in plain English, including www.ptla.org , www.helpmelaw.org and www.kidslegal.org. Arkansas Legal Services Partnership and legal experts in Maine and around the country have also contributed content to the website. A special website advisory group includes nationally recognized experts in military and VA legal issues, as well as key leaders from the military and veteran communities in Maine.
Pine Tree’s Executive Director Nan Heald and Website Coordinator Kathleen Caldwell were present for the event at the White House, which also addressed other initiatives associated with improving access to justice. Additional content will be added to the website on an ongoing basis.
Who is behind it?
Two primary partnering organizations have worked toge ther to create the Stateside Legal website. These organizations are Pine Tree Legal Assistance of Maine and the Arkansas Legal Services Partnership. In addition, the website has received help from many volunteers, including private attorneys, members of the Judge Advocate General [JAG] Corps, civilian Legal Assistance Attorneys, and veteran service officers. See a list of our advisors.
Who pays for it?
The Legal Services Corporation, www.lsc.gov provided the initial funding.
To maintain and expand this website will require additional and ongoing funding.
If you would like to support this effort as an individual on a tax-deductible basis, click here.
If you are interested in getting more information about ways to support this effort as a business or organization, please contact Pine Tree Legal Assistance Executive Director Nan Heald at 207-774-4753.
What about local help that I'm not finding here?
This is a national website focusing initially on federal programs. Many laws vary from state to state. We hope to expand our state-specific infor mation as time goes on. If you are aware of resources in your State that should be included in this site, please let us know.
Also, you may be able to find more state-specific information on your statewide legal services website.
Nan Heald, Executive Director
Pine Tree Legal Assistance
PO Box 547, Portland, ME 04112
www.ptla.org and www.helpmelaw.org
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Pine Tree Legal Develops National Website for Veterans, Military Families
MILITARY UPDATE: Historical look at benefits reveals trends
TOM PHILPOTT 2010-11-30 16:09:37
Proposals to raise VA health care fees for some veterans in efforts to curb federal budget deficits, causes some to conclude that veteran benefits are under attack.
Bernard Rostker, former under secretary of defense for personnel and now a senior fellow at the RAND Corp., has a more optimistic perspective on how America cares for and compensates its wartime veterans.
For more than a year Rostker has researched what will be a two-volume study on the treatment of veterans and their survivors, going back to before the Revolutionary War, with a special focus on wounded warrior care.
His original premise, he said, was that veterans’ care and benefits today reflect a deeper attachment to the force, the result of moving from a military of conscripts after the Vietnam War, to a more professional force comprised of volunteers.
But as he completed volume one, covering the Colonial era through World War II, Rostker said he found the premise to be wrong. Much of what’s being done today for veterans of the all-volunteer force is “rediscovering” what’s been done before.
One exception, he said, are the unprecedented resources aimed at the invisible mental wounds, reflecting more medical knowledge, the nature of current wars and an attitude shift, even since the Persian Gulf War.
Otherwise, the infusion of money and staff for veterans’ care and benefits fits an historical pattern, Rostker said, noting the nation’s deep appreciation for those who fight for country and suffer wounds or illness.
Other patterns emerge, Rostker said. Government support tends to deepen with budget surpluses. Benefits tend to improve as veterans age, their ranks thin out, and enhancements become more affordable.
Wars bring change too. The Department of Veterans Affairs budget has more than doubled since U.S. troops invaded Afghanistan in October 2001 -- from $51 billion then to $114 billion in the fiscal years that ended Sept. 30. VA spending is set to climb another 10 percent this year, to $125 billion.
Vet groups laud a 25 percent rise in VA spending since President Obama took office. Some contrast that largess to the Bush administration difficulty in June 2005 when it had to request a $2 billion supplemental for VA to meet pressing health care obligations. Some veterans groups had called the original budget that year “tightfisted, miserly” and “woefully inadequate.”
Rostker avoids such comparisons. But his research might inform cost-conscious politicians about the perils of scrimping on veterans.
President Franklin Roosevelt made such a misstep, he said, while trying to pull the nation out of the Great Depression. At his urging, Congress in 1933 passed the Economy Act, which cut deeply into veterans’ benefits. Roosevelt told the American Legion convention “the mere wearing of a uniform” in war should not entitle a veteran, and later his survivors, to a pension for disabilities incurred after he left service.
The backlash was strong enough that the following March, Congress overrode Roosevelt’s veto and restored most benefits it had cut a year earlier.
The Continental Congress in 1776 first recognized responsibility for wounded v eterans, voting to authorize half pay for life to anyone who lost a limb or their ability to earn a living due to the revolution. By 1805 Congress approved pay for disabilities developed years after a veteran left service.
By 1818, with federal coffers flush with tariff money, the Department of War gave pensions to anyone who served in wartime, not just disabled.
Ten years later Congress settled complaints of Revolutionary War veterans by granting 850 surviving officers and soldiers full pay for life.
Rostker noted too that in 1833 Congress first approved “concurrent receipt” – payment of both an “invali d pension” and service pension. In 1836, Congress extended pension eligibility to widows and children of Revolutionary War veterans, adding enormously to the cost. The last spouse eligible for that Revolutionary War pension died in 1906, Rostker said.
The Civil War Pension Law of 1862 was viewed as the most generous any government had ever adopted, Rostker said, allowing disability payments for injuries or ailments incurred as a direct result of service. It set up a medical screening system, though reliance on hometown doctors led to rampant fraud and soon a purging of the rolls, Rostker said.
Payments to surviving spouse and children could exceed what veterans got. The last Civil War pensioners lived well into the 20th Century.
The study will span newer, more controversial periods including Gen. Omar Bradley’s reform of the VA after World War II, Korea and Vietnam and Gulf War Syndrome.
Through history, Rostker said, “you see the generosity in many ways. You see it in the amount of money given, in the change of eligibility standards. And recently in the understanding of the mental aspects of conflict.”
Historical look at benefits reveals trends
EXCLUSIVE: Controversial Drug Given to All Guantanamo Detainees Akin to "Pharmacologic Waterboarding"
Wednesday 01 December 2010
by: Jason Leopold and Jeffrey Kaye, t r u t h o u t | Investigative Report
The Defense Department forced all "war on terror" detainees at the Guantanamo Bay prison to take a high dosage of a controversial antimalarial drug, mefloquine, an act that an Army public health physician called "pharmacologic waterboarding."
The US military administered the drug despite Pentagon knowledge that mefloquine caused severe neuropsychiatric side effects, including suicidal thoughts, hallucinations and anxiety. The drug was used on the prisoners whether they had malaria or not.
The revelation, which has not been previously reported, was buried in documents publicly released by the Defense Department (DoD) two years ago as part of the government's investigation into the June 2006 deaths of three Guantanamo detainees.
Army Staff Sgt. Joe Hickman, who was stationed at Guantanamo at the time of the suicides in 2006, and has presented evidence that demonstrates the three detainees could not have died by hanging themselves, noticed in the detainees' medical files that they were given mefloquine. Hickman has been investigating the circumstances behind the detainees' deaths for nearly four years.
Interviews with mefloquine and malaria experts and a review of peer-review journals and government documents show there were no preexisting cases where mefloquine was ever prescribed for mass presumptive treatment of malaria.
All detainees arriving at Guantanamo in January 2002 were first given a treatment dosage of 1,250 mg of mefloquine, before laboratory tests were conducted to determine if they actually had the disease, according to a section of the DoD documents entitled "Standard Inprocessing Orders For Detainees." The 1,250 mg dosage is what would be given if the detainees actually had malaria. That dosage is five times higher than the prophylactic dose given to individauls to prevent the disease.
Maj. Remington Nevin, an Army public health physician, who formerly worked at the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center and has written extensively about mefloquine, said in an interview the use of mefloquine "in this manner ... is, at best, an egregious malpractice."
The government has exposed detainees "to unacceptably high risks of potentially severe neuropsychiatric side effects, including seizures, intense vertigo, hallucinations, paranoid delusions, aggression, panic, anxiety, severe insomnia, and thoughts of suicide," said Nevin, who was not speaking in an official capacity, but offering opinions as a board-certified, preventive medicine physician. "These side effects could be as severe as those intended through the application of 'enhanced interrogation techniques.'"
Mefloquine is also known by its brand name Lariam. It was researched by the US Army in the 1970s and licensed by the Food and Drug Administration in 1989. Since its introduction, it has been directly linked to serious adverse effects, including depression, anxiety, panic attacks, confusion, hallucinations, bizarre dreams, nausea, vomiting, sores and homicidal and suicidal thoughts. It belongs to a class of drugs known as quinolines, which were part of a 1956 CIA-sponsored, human experiment program to investigate "toxic cerebral states."
The Army tapped the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR) to develop mefloquine and it was later licensed to the Swiss pharmaceutical company F. Hoffman-La Roche. The first human trials of mefloquine were conducted in the mid-1970s on prisoners, who were deliberately inoculated with malaria at Stateville Correctional prison near Joliet, Illinois, the site of controversial antimalarial experimentation in the early 1940s.
The drug was administered to Guantanamo detainees without regard for their medical or psychological history, despite its considerable risk of exacerbating pre-existing conditions. Mefloquine is also known to have serious side effects among individuals under treatment for depression or other serious mental health disorders, which numerous detainees were said to have been treated for, according to their attorneys and published reports.
In 2002, when the prison was established and mefloquine first administered, there were dozens of suicide attempts at Guantanamo. That same year, the DoD stopped reporting attempted suicides.
By February 2002, there were at least 459 detainees imprisoned at Guantanamo. In March of that year, according to the book "Saving Grace at Guantanamo Bay: A Memoir of a Citizen Warrior" by Montgomery Granger, "the situation" at the prison began "deteriorating rapidly."
"There is more and more psychosis becoming evident in detainees ...," wrote Granger, an Army Reserve major and medic who was stationed at Guantanamo in 2002. "We already have probably a dozen or so detainees who are psychiatric cases. The number is growing."
"Presumptively Treating" Malaria
Though malaria is nonexistent in Cuba, DoD spokeswoman Maj. Tanya Bradsher told Truthout that the US government was concerned that the disease would be reintroduced into the country as detainees were transferred to the prison facility in January 2002.
A "decision was made," Bradsher said, to "presumptively treat each arriving Guantanamo detainee for malaria to prevent the possibility of having mosquito-borne [sic] spread from an infected individual to uninfected individuals in the Guantanamo population, the guard force, the population at the Naval base or the broader Cuban population."
But Granger wrote in his book that a Navy entomologist was present at Guantanamo in January and February 2002 and during that time only identified insects that were nuisances and did not identify any insects that were carriers of a disease, such as malaria.
Nevertheless, Bradsher said the "mefloquine dosage [given to detainees] was entirely for public health purposes ... and not for any other purpose."
"The risks and benefits to the health of the detainees were central considerations," she added.
But a September 13, 2002, DoD memo governing the operational use of mefloquine said, "Malaria is not a threat in Guantanamo Bay." Indeed, there have only been two to three reported cases of malaria at Guantanamo.
The DoD, signed by Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs William Winkenwerder, was sent to then-Rep. John McHugh, the Republican chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Military was sent to the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel. McHugh is now Secretary of the Army.
A Senate staff member told Truthout the Senate Armed Services Committee was never briefed about malaria concerns at Guantanamo nor was the committee made aware of "any issue related to the use of mefloquine or any other anti-malarial drug" related to "the treatment of detainees."
When questions were raised at a February 19, 2002 meeting of the Armed Forces Epidemiological Board (AFEB) about what measures the military was taking to address malaria concerns at Guantanamo, Navy Capt. Alan J. Lund did not disclose that mefloquine was being administered to detainees as a form of presumptive treatment.
Yund said the military gave detainees a different anti-malarial drug known as primaquine and noted that "informed consent" was "absolutely practiced" prior to administering drugs to detainees, an assertion that contradicts claims made by numerous detainees who said they were forced to take drugs even if they protested. Yund did not return calls for comment.
Bradsher declined to respond to a follow-up question about who made the decision to presumptively treat detainees with mefloquine.
An April 16, 2002, meeting of the Interagency Working Group for Antimalarial Chemotherapy, which DoD, along with other federal government agencies, is a part of, was specifically dedicated to investigating mefloquine's use and the drug's side effects. The group concluded that study designs on mefloquine up to that point were flawed or biased and criticized DoD medical policy for disregarding scientific fact and basing itself more on "sensational or best marketed information."
The Working Group called for additional research, and warned, "other treatment regimes should be carefully considered before mefloquine is used at the doses required for treatment."
Still, despite the red flags that pointed to mefloquine as a high-risk drug, the DoD's mefloquine program proceeded.
In fact, a June 2004 set of guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says mefloquine should only be used when other standard drugs were not available, as it "is associated with a higher rate of severe neuropsychiatric reactions when used at treatment doses."
According to the CDC, "'presumptive treatment' without the benefit of laboratory confirmation should be reserved for extreme circumstances (strong clinical suspicion, severe disease, impossibility of obtaining prompt laboratory confirmation)."
A CDC spokesman refused to comment about the "presumptive treatment" of malaria at Guantanamo and referred questions to the DoD.
Nevin said, if "mass presumptive treatment has been given consistently, many dozens of detainees, possibly hundreds, would almost certainly have suffered such disabling adverse events."
"It appears that for years, senior Defense health leaders have condoned the medically indefensible practice of using high doses of mefloquine ostensibly for mass presumptive treatment of malaria among detainees from the Middle East and Asia lacking any evidence of disease," Nevin said. "This is a use for which there is no precedent in the medical literature and which is specifically discouraged among refugees by malaria experts at the Centers for Disease Control."
Even proponents of limited mefloquine usage are seriously questioning the logic behind the DoD's actions. Professor James McCarthy, chair of the Infectious Diseases Division of the Queensland Institute of Medicine in Australia, who is an advocate of the safe use of mefloquine under proper safeguards, and takes it himself when traveling, told Truthout he was unaware of the use of mefloquine for mass presumptive treatment as described by the DoD, but could imagine it under certain circumstances.
However, when informed that lab tests were available and the detainees were screened for the blood product G6PD, used to determine the suitability of certain antimalarial drugs, McCarthy found the DoD's use of mefloquine at Guantanamo difficult to understand and "hard to support on pure clinical grounds as an antimalarial."
Treatment, Torture or an Experiment?
Another striking point about the DoD's decision to presumptively treat mostly Muslim detainees with mefloquine beginning in 2002 is that it is the exact opposite of how the DoD responded to malaria concerns among the Haitian refugees who were held at Guantanamo a decade earlier.
Between 1991 and 1992, more than 14,000 Haitian refugees were held in temporary camps set up at Guantanamo. A large number of Haitian refugees - 235 during a four-month period - were diagnosed with malaria. But instead of presumptively treating the refugee population at Guantanamo, the DoD conducted laboratory tests first and only the individuals who were found to be malaria carriers were administered chloroquine.
Another example of how the DoD approached malaria treatment differently for other subjects is in the case of Army Rangers who returned from malarial areas of Afghanistan between June and September 2002 and were infected with the disease at an attack rate of 52.4 cases per 1,000 soldiers.
However, the Rangers did not receive mass presumptive treatment of mefloquine. They were given other standard drugs after laboratory tests, according to documents obtained by Truthout.
Nevin said the DoD's treatment of Haitian refugees represented "a situation that arguably presented a much higher risk of disease and secondary transmission, but one which US medical experts stated at the time could be safely managed through more conservative and focused measures."
Why did the government use the "conservative and focused" approach in treating Haitian refugees and the Army rangers, but then revert to presumptive mefloquine treatment in the case of the Guantanamo detainees, who - a month after the prison facility opened in January 2002 - were stripped of their protections under the Geneva Conventions?
According to Sean Camoni, a Seton Hall University law school research fellow, "there is no legitimate medical purpose for treating malaria in this way" and the drug's severe side effects may actually have been the DOD's intended impact in calling for the drug's usage.
Camoni and several other Seton Hall law school students have been working on a report about mefloquine use on Guantanamo detainees. Their work was conducted independently of Truthout's investigation into the drug.
A copy of the Seton Hall report, "Drug Abuse? An Exploration of the Government's Use of Mefloquine at Guantanamo," says mefloquine's extreme side effects may have violated a provision in the antitorture statute related to the use of "mind altering substances or other procedures" that "profoundly disrupts the senses or the personality."
Legal memos prepared in August 2002 by former DoD attorneys Jay Bybee and John Yoo for the CIA's torture program permitted the use of drugs for interrogations. The authority was also contained in a legal memo Yoo prepared for the DoD less than a year later after Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld convened a working group to address "policy considerations with respect to the choice of interrogation techniques."
In September, Truthout reported that the DoD's inspector general (IG) conducted an investigation into allegations that detainees in custody of the US military were drugged. The IG's report, which remains classified, was completed a year ago and was shared with the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Kathleen Long, a spokeswoman for the Armed Services Committee, told Truthout at the time that the IG report did not substantiate allegations of drugging of prisoners for the "purposes of interrogation."
The medical files for detainee 693 released in 2008 shows that, two weeks after he first started taking mefloquine in June 2002, he was interviewed by Guantanamo medical personnel and reported he was suffering from nightmares, hallucinations, anxiety auditory and visual hallucinations, anxiety, sleep loss and suicidal thoughts.
The detainee said he had previously been treated for anxiety and had a family history of mental illness. He was diagnosed with adjustment disorder, according to the DoD documents. Guantanamo medical staff who interviewed the detainee did not state that he may have been experiencing mefloquine-related side effects in an evaluation of his condition.
Mark Denbeaux, the director of the Seton Hall Law Center for Policy and Research, who conducted an independent investigation into the 2006 deaths of the three Guantanamo detainees, said in an interview "almost every remaining question here would be solved if the [detainees'] full medical records were released."
The government has refused to release Guantanamo detainees' medical records, citing privacy concerns in some cases, and assertions that they are "protected" or "classified" in other instances. The few medical records that have been released have been heavily redacted.
"A crucial issue is dosage" Denbeaux said. "Giving detainees toxic doses of mefloquine has mind-altering consequences that may be permanent. Without access to medical records, which the government refuses to release, the use of mefloquine in this manner appears to be grotesque malpractice at best, if not human experimentation or 'enhanced interrogation.' The question is where are the doctors who approved this practice and where are the medical records?"
Bradsher did not respond to questions about whether the government kept data about the adverse effects mefloquine had on detainees.
An absolute prohibition against experiments on prisoners of war is contained in the Geneva Conventions, but President George W. Bush stripped war on terror detainees of those protections. Some of the "enhanced interrogation techniques" also had an experimental quality.
At the same time detainees were given high doses of mefloquine, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz issued a directive changing the rules on human subject protections for DoD experiments, allowing for a waiver of informed consent when necessary for developing a "medical product" for the armed services. Bush also granted unprecedented authority to the secretary of Health and Human Services to classify information as secret.
Briefings on Side Effects
As the DoD was administering mefloquine to Guantanamo prisoners, senior Pentagon officials were being briefed about the drug's dangerous side effects. During one such briefing, questions arose about what steps the military was taking to address malaria concerns among detainees sent to Guantanamo.
Internal documents from Roche, obtained by UPI in 2002, indicated that the pharmaceutical company had been tracking suicidal reactions to Lariam going back to the early 1990s.
In September 2002, Roche sent a letter to physicians and pharmacists stating that the company changed its warning labels for mefloquine.
Roche further said in one of two new warning paragraphs that some of the symptoms associated with mefloquine use included suicidal thoughts and suicide and also "may cause psychiatric symptoms in a number of patients, ranging from anxiety, paranoia, and depression to hallucination and psychotic behavior," which "have been reported to continue long after mefloquine has been stopped."
Cmdr. William Manovsky, who is retired from the US Navy and currently on disability due to post-traumatic stress disorder and side effects from mefloquine, said those are some of the symptoms he initially suffered from after taking the drug for several months beginning in November 2002 after he was deployed to the Middle East to work on two Naval projects.
In March 2003, "I became violently ill during a night live-fire exercise with the [Navy] SEALS," Manovsky said. "I felt like I was air sick. All the flashing lights from the tracers and rockets ... targeting device made me really sick. I threw up for an hour straight before being medevac'd back to the Special Forces compound where I had my first ever panic attack."
For three years, he had to walk with a cane due to a loss of equilibrium. Numerous other accounts like Manovsky's can be found on the web site lariaminfo.org.
In 2008, Dr. Nevin published a study detailing a high prevalence of mental health contraindications to the safe use of mefloquine in soldiers deployed to Afghanistan. Responding in part to concerns raised by the mefloquine-associated suicide of Army Spc. Juan Torres, internal Army presentations confirmed that the drug had been widely misprescribed to soldiers with contraindications, including to many on antidepressants.
A formal policy memo in February 2009 from Army Surgeon General Eric Schoomaker removed mefloquine as a "first-line" agent, and changed the policy so that mefloquine would not be prescribed to Army personnel unless they had contraindications to the preferred drug, the antibiotic doxycycline. Nor could mefloquine be prescribed to any personnel with a history of traumatic brain injury or mental illness.
By September 2009, the policy was extended throughout the DoD.
It's unknown if mefloquine is still in use at Guantanamo. New prisoners are no longer arriving and the prison population has been in decline in recent years as detainees are released or transferred to other countries. Currently, the detainee population at Guantanamo is a reported 174.
But Nevin said the justification the Pentagon offered for using mefloquine to presumptively treat detainees transferred to the prison beginning in 2002 "betrays a profound ignorance of basic principals of tropical medicine and suggests extremely poor, and arguably incompetent, medical oversight that demands further investigation."
EXCLUSIVE: Controversial Drug Given to All Guantanamo Detainees Akin to "Pharmacologic Waterboarding"
this might explain a lot of the suicides of detainees at Gitmo
Monday, November 29, 2010
By Michael Hoffman - Staff writer
Posted : Monday Nov 29, 2010 14:33:57 EST
Staff Sgt. Francisco Carrillo was a squad leader on patrol in Iraq search ing for weapons and insurgents, riding in the lead vehicle of a convoy when an improvised explosive device ripped through one of the Humvees, injuring his platoon sergeant, another squad leader in his company and the gunner.
That was five years ago. Today, Carrillo is locked in a battle with the Army. He says he has suffered symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder since he returned from the deployment in 2005.
The Army says he’s lying.
Carrillo, who has 18 years of service, is seeking medical retirement.
But a panel of doctors at Madigan Army Medical Center said the California National Guardsman with the 649th Engineer Company lied in his Fit for Duty Evaluation and faked PTSD symptoms to collect the benefits that come with medical retirement.
PTSD claims, lies or truth?
The panel recommended Carrillo return to duty and remain eligible to deploy.
Carrillo’s platoon sergeant from Iraq respectfully disagrees. He said the 29 Purple Hearts awarded to his company of 105 soldiers proves the level of violence Carrillo’s unit sustained.
Carrillo’s company was assigned to provide security for Joint Base Balad. As a squad leader, Carrillo went on patrols searching for IEDs and executing raids to capture weapons and insurgents.
“I was surprised when I heard he got denied,” s aid retired Sgt. 1st Class Norman Valdez, who was injured in the attack and has shrapnel in his body. “I have it and a lot of the soldiers working under me have it.”
Madigan’s rejection of Carillo’s PTSD claims comes as the Pentagon is trying to reduce the stigma of PTSD and encourage soldiers to come forward.
In July, the Veterans Affairs Department announced it would reduce the proof required for soldiers to seek PTSD treatment and benefits. Soldiers no longer need to provide written statements to prove they saw combat.
Many soldiers have said they suspect the Army has failed to diagnose soldiers with PTSD to save money.
Madigan doctors cited money as Carrillo’s motivation for faking his symptoms. If medically retired, Carrillo would recei ve his retirement pay immediately rather than wait until age 60, provided he finished his 20 years in the Guard.
John Wickham, a lawyer who has represented veterans with PTSD, was surprised.
“I find it incredible that an 18-year veteran, senior [noncommissioned officer] and technician with unblemished performance records would suddenly concoct a vast fraudulent scheme,” Wickham said after reviewing Carrillo’s Fit for Duty report.
The California National Guard and Madigan Army Medical Center did not comment, citing privacy laws.
When Carrillo returned to his home in Chico, Calif., he said he turned to alcohol to numb himself. Carrillo knew he needed help. He said he suffered from nightmares, difficulty sleeping, hyper-vigilance, avoidance and obsessing.< o>
He went to Darryl Lyons, the therapist with the 649th Engineer Company who diagnosed him with PTSD in 2006. In addition to Lyons, seven medical professionals have diagnosed Carrillo with PTSD. Carrillo has visited Stephen Diggs, a Chico, Calif., psychologist, once a week for the past two years.
“It was undeniable he had this,” said Diggs, who treats four other Iraq veterans suffering from PTSD.
“He will wake up and go to work and live his life in a way, but it doesn’t mean he’s not suffering from this,” said Diggs, who Carrillo allowed to speak to a reporter about his medical history.
In the Fit for Duty evaluation, the report cited Carrillo’s ability to earn his master’s degree and his marriage to his wife, Casey, followin g his return from deployment as proof he was faking the symptoms.
The panel also cited inconsistencies in Carrillo’s testimony specifically when compared to an interview Madigan’s doctors did with 1st Sgt. Darrell Taylor, the 649th Engineer Battalion’s first sergeant. Madigan did not contact Valdez or retired Staff Sgt. Mike Gilmore, who was a squad leader with Carrillo in the company.
Taylor stated that Carrillo was “never involved in a firefight or in a vehicle that was hit with an IED.”
But Gilmore said he remembers Carrillo taking charge of the convoy after the attack. Carrillo raced back to the Humvee and called for a medevac, Gilmore said.
Carrillo said he has tried to appeal the decision and contacted his congressman, Rep. Wally Herge r. With his enlistment over at the end of November, he is resigned to separating two years from reaching his 20-year mark.
“After 18 years of service, nothing is more shaming and demeaning to a soldier than not being heard, believed and being discredited,” Carrillo wrote in a letter to Madigan Army Medical Center.
Guardsman, Army at odds over PTSD claim
I do not know on how many levels that this is JUST wrong, being accused of fraud after 18 years of honorable service is the way to tell other soldiers NOT to seek help for PTSD as they will be accused of fraud, malingering the past 5 years of teaching veterans to come forward and seek help will soon be lost if combat veterans are being accued of fraud for financial gain, soon all we will have is the Army and National Guard units full of many soldiers with PTSD and alcohol problems and other issues, broken marriages, abused kids, lost jobs, bad discharges etc I see a return to the Army of the 1970s again if this is allowed to be the way the Army proceeds forward on PTSD cases.
Troops exempt from fed pay freeze proposal
By Rick Maze - Staff writer
Posted : Monday Nov 29, 2010 13:57:22 EST
Uniformed military personnel are exempt from a proposed two-year freeze on government salary increases — for now.
President Obama has decided that federal civilians, including those working for the Defense Department, should not receive pay increases for two years, beginning with the cancellation of the 1.4 percent increase that was to come on Jan. 1. Congress could override Obama’s decision, but the budget-cutting mood of lawmakers makes that seem unlikely.
Meanwhile, a presidential commission looking at ways to cut federal spending will meet on Tuesday and Wednesday to vote on several debt-reduction recommendations, including one that would impose a three-year freeze on all government salaries, both military and civilian.
Military personnel are exempted from Obama’s two-year plan, meaning they would get the 1.4 percent across-the-board increase in basic pay scheduled for this January and a 1.6 percent pay raise on Jan. 1, 2012.
The 1.4 percent raise this year seems safe because it is unlikely that Congress would pass any law revoking the raise before it takes effect. But the potential 2012 pay increase is less certain because spending cuts will be part of the legislative agenda next year.
The potential 1.6 percent raise for 2012 would match the average private-sector pay increase last year, and is the amount due to the military under a pay formula currently set in federal law, which lawmakers could change if they wanted to.
Obama’s announcement that he is seeking to freeze federal civilian pay for two year s — saving $2 billion next year and $60 billion over the next decade — comes on the eve of votes by the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform on proposals to cut military pay and benefits, including retired pay, to raise Tricare health insurance fees for military retirees, and to cut many defense programs to save money.
The commission has 18 members, and its charter requires 14 commissioners to vote in favor of a specific cut for it to become part of the final report.
One reason the administration has decided to cancel federal civilian pay increases for two years is that there were no cost-of-living adjustments in Social Security, military and federal civilian retired pay and veterans’ disability and survivor benefits in 2009 and 2010 because of the sagging U.S. economy.
If retirees and pensioners are not getting an increase, it is difficult to explain why federal workers are getting a raise, White House officials said.
Troops exempt from fed pay freeze proposal
Please visit the Army Times site