N.C. veteran's questions lead to class-action lawsuit against government
Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/2012/10/10/2404391/nc-veterans-questions-lead-to.html#storylink=cpy
By Martha Quillin - firstname.lastname@example.org
By Martha Quillin The News and Observer
A North Carolina man’s quest to learn how the military experimented on him in the 1960s has turned into a class-action lawsuit for as many as 100,000 veterans the government used to test hundreds of drugs, chemicals and biological agents over more than 50 years.
U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken in the Northern District of California last week said the case could go ahead on behalf of any current or former service members who were subjected to chemical or biological testing without their informed consent. The government has said as many as 100,000 people were used for such testing between 1922 and 1975, when the military says it halted human experimentation.
The suit seeks to lift the oath of secrecy soldiers say they swore about what they went through, and asks the court to compel the government to provide the health care it promised subjects when they participated in the tests. It does not ask for monetary damages because the government is immune from most damage claims brought by military personnel.
Defendants in the case are the Department of Defense, the Army, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the CIA, which worked together to plan and conduct the tests. Representatives of the VA and the Defense Department each said they could not comment on ongoing litigation.
In the 1980s, the National Academies of Science determined that the tests caused no significant long-term physical harm, except in veterans exposed to larger doses of mustard gas, according to VA. In 2004, the NAS followed up and said veterans could suffer post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of “perceived exposure to biochemical warfare agents.” The VA advises any veterans concerned about exposures during testing to contact their health care provider or local VA Environmental Health coordinator.
The plaintiffs in the case have uncovered documents that indicate veterans were exposed to mustard gas, Sarin, phosgene gas, Thorazine, LSD, amphetamines, barbiturates and other agents – sometimes at 10 or more times known tolerances. In response to the lawsuit, the government says the experiments did not cause long-term problems. The judge in the case said the government’s own documents indicate otherwise.
Subjects volunteered for the tests, but most weren’t told what they were exposed to, or what the risks were, according to the lawsuit.
“This action chronicles a chilling tale of human experimentation, covert military operations, and heretofore unchecked abuses of power by our own government,” the suit says.
‘Used as guinea pigs’
“These people were used as cannon fodder, as guinea pigs,” said Gordon Erspamer of Morrison & Foerster, a San Francisco law firm that brought the suit in January 2009 on behalf of several veterans and two organizations: Vietnam Veterans of America and Swords to Plowshares. Since the testing ended, Erspamer says, the agencies involved have resisted Congressional instructions to find the people it tested and notify them that they may have ongoing problems associated with the tests.
“The government looks at them this way: ‘It’s not in our interest to try to find them; it’s not in our interest to treat them. It’s just going to cost us money,’ ” Erspamer said.
Erspamer also has represented soldiers injured by exposure to Agent Orange and has worked on behalf of veterans who were exposed to radiation during atomic testing. He agreed to take the case of the test vets after talking to Frank D. Rochelle of Jacksonville.
Rochelle grew up in Onslow County and was drafted into the Army in 1968 at age 20. He went through boot camp at Fort Bragg and was assigned to Fort Lee in Virginia, where he soon saw notices asking for volunteers to test new military uniforms and equipment. The young private, enticed by the promise of no kitchen or guard duty for the duration of the tests, volunteered and was sent to what was then called the Edgewood Arsenal, north of Baltimore.
Once at Edgewood, Rochelle says, he was told some servicemen might be given the chance to test therapeutic drugs and those who did would be given Fridays off and a medal. He says they were promised they wouldn’t be harmed, that the drugs were risk-free and would be given at normal doses. Rochelle signed up. In one experiment, he says, he got one breath of an aerosol chemical so potent that he immediately had trouble breathing and seeing. He felt dizzy and nauseous, he says, and felt as if his legs were “falling through the floor.” He recalls being carried out of the room, and said, “I stayed high for two days.”
During that episode, Rochelle hallucinated that animals were coming out of the walls. He thought his freckles were bugs moving under his skin and used a razor to try to cut them out.
Before Rochelle left Edgewood, he says, he was told never to discuss his experiences there with anyone. He returned to Fort Lee and later served in Vietnam before getting out of the Army in 1970.
Confusing health issues
A few years ago, Rochelle was having some health and psychological problems he couldn’t explain, including high blood pressure, memory loss, eye problems and PTSD-type symptoms including nervousness, sudden bursts of anger, and problems sleeping. At the time, Rochelle was still working in a civilian job at Camp Lejeune. He has since retired.
“I started thinking, ‘What has happened in my life that could be causing this?’ ” Rochelle said. “I started thinking about those tests and I realized I knew nothing about the types of drugs I had taken.”
Eventually, Rochelle, now 64, got his military medical records, which included information about his time at Edgewood. He now believes some of his current problems are related to a high dose of a drug he was given with properties similar to atropine, which works on the nervous system, and another drug, a powerful synthetic analogue of THC, the active component of cannabis.
Some 7,600 service members were used in experiments at Edgewood, and thousands more in testing done elsewhere, according to the lawsuit.
Erspamer says Rochelle is one of a rare few who have been able to get the VA to treat him for problems he believes are related to his time at Edgewood. Most are turned down because of the government’s position that the substances given in the experiments had no harmful effects.
The whole purpose of many of the tests, Erspamer says, was to determine what doses of different drugs, chemicals or biological agents could be administered without causing death. During the Cold War years, especially, the government was searching for substances that could be used to get spies to talk during interrogations, that could incapacitate large numbers of people without killing them, allow them to be hypnotized, confuse them, lower their productivity, paralyze them or have other effects.
Like other veterans, Erspamer says, Rochelle was reluctant to tell even his own doctor that he had been involved in the tests because he had been instructed never to discuss them. Some wouldn’t even tell the VA.
The case is scheduled to go to trial in San Francisco next summer.
Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/2012/10/10/2404391/nc-veterans-questions-lead-to.html#storylink=cpy
Monday, October 15, 2012
Wednesday, July 25, 2012
Remarks by Secretary Eric K. Shinseki
VFW Annual Convention
July 24, 2012
Senior Vice Commander-In-Chief [John] Hamilton, thank you for that kind introduction, and congratulations on your election as the next Commander-in-Chief. I look forward to working with you on making things better for Veterans.
Commander-in-Chief [Richard] DeNoyer, thank you for your many years of devotion to Veterans, and for your significant leadership of the VFW this past year. Godspeed to you and your family as you turn over leadership to John.
Let me also acknowledge National Adjutant "Gunner" Kent, National Executive Director Bob Wallace, National Service Director Bill Bradshaw, and other members of your leadership.
To Gwen Rankin, President of your VFW National Ladies Auxiliary, let me offer my thanks for the unwavering support the Auxiliary has provided to Veterans and their families for 100 years now. Congratulations to you and your members—past and present—on reaching such a distinguished milestone of service on behalf of America's Veterans!
Other members of the VFW, fellow Veterans, VA colleagues, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen:
I am greatly honored to be addressing an organization that has been, for well over a century now, a powerfully important voice for Veterans' rights in the halls of Congress, in the Oval Office, and across the country. Bob Wallace has been your diligent representative and our reliable partner in doing what's needed.
I am especially honored to be following President Obama, who addressed you yesterday, to thank you and your families for your patriotism and service to the Nation. The President's commitment to Veterans was clear from our first meeting. It is genuine, it runs deep, and it is unwavering. His vision to transform VA resonated with me when we first met in November of 2008. His initiatives to provide Veterans and families better transitions from the military; better healthcare—especially mental health; faster and more accurate processing of compensation claims; better educational opportunities, jobs counseling, employment opportunities—that's why I am proud to be here today to report to you on the state of your VA.
Let me review how things looked three and a half years ago, what changes we have put into motion since, and where we are headed in the future.
Three and a half years ago, the country was heavily engaged in two operations—the first major war of the 21st century being fought by a smaller, all-volunteer force. Repeated deployments of that force have created issues that don't show up until later deployments. It takes a superb, disciplined fighting force to handle this kind of strain. The men and women who wear our Nation's uniforms today are magnificent. More of them are surviving catastrophic injuries because of improved body armor, better combat lifesaving skills, and rapid medical evacuation from battle zone to state-side hospitals.
But higher battlefield survival rates also mean more complex casualties—the compounding effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), and multiple amputations—five quadruple amputees from this war—with complications of blindness and deafness and genitourinary injuries. We had to create a word for this—polytrauma—and we have since built five polytrauma centers of excellence, the best in the world, and an entire system of polytrauma care to treat these patients and enable them to go home.
Three and a half years ago, we were also still grappling with unresolved issues from two past wars—the Gulf War, over 20 years ago, and the Vietnam War, nearly 50 years ago now. We didn't take care of business back then, when we should have, and some Veterans were dying without benefits.
Three and a half years ago, 107,000 Veterans were estimated to be homeless in this rich and powerful country. The President has said, "[We won't] be satisfied until every Veteran who has fought for America has a home in America." But this rich and powerful country had suffered an economic downturn the likes of which we had not seen since the Great Depression—certainly, not in my lifetime. In spite of a collapsing economy, the President was determined not to let Veterans homelessness spiral out of control.
In 2009, there were over 23 million living Veterans in this country, but only 7.4 million of them were enrolled in VA healthcare and only 3 million were receiving compensation and pension benefits from VA. With less than a third of the Veteran population enrolled in VA, we had an outreach problem: Many didn't know about VA or their possible benefits. We had an access problem: Even if they knew about us, they had difficulty getting the services they needed. And we had, even then, a backlog in disability claims, one which had been there for decades.
Well, that was the landscape in 2009, and we needed to put things into motion. We immediately focused on three key priorities that came out of my talks with a variety of stakeholders. Bob Wallace and I, and the executive directors of the five other major VSO's, still meet near monthly today. Those priorities are unchanged:
•Increase Veteran access to VA benefits and services—one-third market penetration is not good enough;
•Eliminate the backlog in disability claims in 2015;
•And end Veterans homelessness in 2015.
Folks tighten up whenever you tag dates to goals, meaning the sense of urgency is probably about right.
The first order of business was to establish closer, more collaborative working relationships with DoD. As I often remind folks, very little of what we do in VA originates in VA—most originates in DoD. It takes both departments to create a seamless transition for separating Servicemembers to return home "career ready" to live, work, raise children, and contribute to restoring the strength of our economy.
The Secretaries of Defense—Bob Gates and Leon Panetta—and I have personally met nine times in the past 17 months. Leon Panetta is a dedicated public servant, who has been insightful, decisive, and a good friend to me and to Veterans, as is Bob Gates. Tomorrow, Secretary Panetta and I will testify together before a joint hearing of the house Armed Services and Veterans Affairs Committees—perhaps for the first time.
Our second priority was to fix VA's budget process. You can't create change without resources, and money is firepower. For the past three and a half years, VA has presented compelling arguments for strengthening VA's budget, and the President has been stalwart in his support.
In 2009, VA inherited a budget totaling $99.8 billion—a good budget, not spectacular, but a good one. In 2010, the President increased our budget to $127.2 billion—a near 30 percent increase in a single year. The President's 2013 budget request, currently before the Congress, is for $140.3 billion—a 40 percent increase since 2009.
During this period of economic downturn, few private-sector businesses and federal departments have sustained this kind of budget growth. In a discussion about values, I was once lectured, "Show me your budget, and I'll tell you what you value." Now, by that standard, there is no question where the President stands. He gets it—he understands our obligation to Veterans. He's provided VA the budgets that allow for meaningful change.
So, what have we put into motion these past three and a half years? First, we took care of some long overdue business:
•For you Vietnam Veterans, we granted presumption of service connection for three new Agent-Orange–related conditions: Parkinson's disease, hairy cell and other chronic b-cell leukemias, and ischemic heart disease.
•For you Gulf War Veterans, we granted presumption of service connection for nine diseases associated with Gulf War illness for Veterans of Desert Storm and Afghanistan. While we must continue to research what might have caused this illness, our responsibility is to diagnose and treat symptoms of these verifiable diseases.
•And for all combat Veterans with verifiable PTSD—World War II, Korea, Dominican Republic, Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, Somalia, Operation Desert Storm, Iraq, Afghanistan, and others—we granted the presumption of service connection.
These three decisions alone have dramatically expanded access to VA medical care for hundreds of thousands of Veterans. In addition, we have mounted an aggressive outreach campaign to educate Servicemembers and Veterans about VA's capabilities and their benefits. Since January 2009, enrollment in VA healthcare is up by nearly 800,000—a 10 percent increase. That's great news—we are expanding access.
And in expanding outreach and increasing access to VA healthcare, we also, understandably, increased the number of compensation claims—also good news. Veterans who previously had no access are now enrolling and submitting claims.
Three and a half years ago, the total claims inventory was roughly 400,000. Today, it's approximately 880,000. The backlog—the number of claims older than 125 days—was about 135,000 in 2009 and is roughly 580,000 today. Growth in these numbers—total and backlogged claims—is what happens when we increase access. But it was the right thing to do—for Vietnam Veterans, for Gulf War Veterans, and for combat Veterans of all wars.
One last snapshot of the claims backlog. In 2009, we completed 900,000 claims decisions—but took in one million claims in return. In 2010, we completed, for the first time, one million claims decisions—and took in 1.2 million claims. In 2011, we again produced a million claims decisions, but took in 1.3 million claims in return. Now look, if the total number of claims in our inventory today is 880,000 and we generated nearly three million claims decisions over the past three years, you know that today's inventory and backlog are not the same claims that were there three years ago, two years ago—not even a year ago. Now, there are sure to be a handful of exceptionally complex cases, but the process is dynamic.
It's also a big numbers process, and we do most all of it on paper. Paper is what we receive from DoD. With the planned draw-down of up to a million troops over the next five years, the number of new claims will continue to grow. It will take both departments for VA to go paperless. Hence, my close working relationship with Secretary Panetta—he and I are pulling our departments into the future.
You heard the President yesterday—solve the backlog! We are working hard and smart to solve this correctly. We already have a new automation tool called VBMS—the Veterans Benefits Management System—being piloted at two regional offices for over a year now. We'll have it up and running at 16 regional offices by the end of this year, and at all 56 regional offices by the end of 2013. We are also re-directing 1,200 of our most senior claims adjudicators—37 percent of our experienced staff—to the backlog, which ballooned while I asked them to focus on the 250,000 Agent Orange claims they just completed.
I have committed to ending the claims backlog in 2015, by putting in place a system that processes all claims within 125 days at a 98 percent accuracy level. With the President's strong support, we have the resources we need, and we are on track to do it.
To further increase access, we have added 57 new community-based outpatient clinics, 20 more mobile health clinics, and our fifth polytrauma center, opened in San Antonio last year. We have four new hospitals under construction—in Denver, Orlando, Las Vegas, and New Orleans. We will open Las Vegas on 6 August—the first new VA hospital opened in 17 years—and provide Veterans and Servicemembers stationed nearby the state of the art facility they need and deserve. As the President said yesterday, we keep our promises.
We have also invested heavily in new telehealth-telemedicine technologies to overcome the tyranny of distance and extend our reach into the most remote rural areas where Veterans live. Enhanced IT technologies are also making it easier for Veterans to make appointments, access their medical records, and find out about available benefits and services.
We have placed full-time women Veterans' program managers at 144 medical centers to advocate for women Veterans, and named women Veterans coordinators at all 56 regional offices to assist women with their claims. Since 2009, we've opened 19 clinics designed specifically to serve women, and provided training in women's health to more than 1,200 healthcare providers.
We've also increased access to our national cemeteries, opening three new national cemeteries and 14 new state cemeteries. Additionally, five more national cemeteries are planned, as well as five columbaria-only cemeteries in urban areas, and eight burial grounds in rural areas, owned and managed by VA but collocated with non-VA cemeteries. As some of you know, for the past 10 years, NCA has been the top-rated public or private customer service organization in the country, according to the University of Michigan's American Customer Satisfaction Index—outperforming Google, Lexus, Apple, all the others—not a surprise when nearly three-quarters of NCA employees are Veterans.
In 2009, I told you that Veterans lead the Nation in homelessness, depression, substance abuse, suicides, and they rank right up there in joblessness, as well. As I mentioned earlier, 107,000 Veterans were estimated to be homeless in 2009. By January 2011, that estimate was down to 67,500. We believe that when the Department of Housing and Urban Development announces its 2012 estimate before the end of the year, that the estimated number of homeless Veterans will be below 60,000, keeping us on track to break 35,000 in 2013 and moving to end the rescue phase of Veterans' homelessness in 2015.
The prevention phase of defeating Veterans homelessness is ongoing and requires VA to focus all our capabilities to keep an invisible "at risk" population of Veterans and families from slipping into that downward spiral that ends up in homelessness. We have over 900,000 Veterans and eligible family members in training and education today—universities, colleges, community colleges, tech schools, and in the trades. Part of our prevention mission is to see them all graduate. Every one who flunks out in this economy is at high risk of homelessness. So my one-word speech to any student Veteran audience is "Graduate!" If I sound like your dad, I am. I'm paying most of your bills. So, graduate!
In 2005, at the height of operations in Iraq, we had 13,000 mental health professionals handling the healthcare needs of our Veterans. Today, we have over 20,000. We recently announced that we are hiring another 1,600 to increase our ability to address the growth in mental health requirements spawned by a decade of repetitive deployments.
We know that when we diagnose and treat, people usually get better, and the long-term trends of our treatment efforts are good. Among the 8.6 million Veterans enrolled in VA healthcare, the number receiving mental health treatment is up. At the same time, for Veterans who receive treatment, our suicide rates are down—an indication that treatment, including evidence-based therapies, works.
However, too many Veterans still leave the military with mental health issues we never find out about—because the issues weren't noted in their DoD records or because Veterans never enrolled in VA's healthcare system. Most Veterans who commit suicide—perhaps as many as two out of three—were never enrolled in VA. As good as we think our programs are, we can't help those we don't treat—another reason two secretaries meet regularly, and another reason increasing access is so important.
One of our most successful outreach efforts is our Veterans Crisis Line. DoD knows it as the Military Crisis Line—same number, same trained VA mental health professionals answering the phone, no cost to DoD. Since start-up in 2007, over 640,000 people have called in, including over 8,000 active-duty service members. We've made over 99,000 referrals for care and rescued over 23,000 from potential suicide. Some younger Veterans are more comfortable with chatting and texting, so in 2009 we added an on-line chat service and in 2011 a texting service.
We have worked to ensure greater collaboration between VA and DoD, especially in that critical phase before Servicemembers leave the military. We simply must transition them better. We do this best with warm handoffs between the departments—that is key to preventing the downward spiral that often leads to homelessness and sometimes to suicide. Last year we completed expansion of our joint DoD/VA Integrated Disability Evaluation System (IDES) from the original 27 sites to 139 sites—a major improvement towards a seamless transition to Veteran status. But there's still more VA and DoD can do together.
Secretary Gates and I worked these initiatives hard, and Secretary Panetta and I have worked them even harder. We are both committed to a fully operational integrated electronic health record (IEHR) by 2017.
Good jobs are essential for Veterans, and we are proud to have partnered with the First Lady's Joining Forces initiative and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Hiring Our Heroes campaign. The President, the First Lady, Dr. Biden have provided strong leadership in increasing employment opportunities for Veterans and spouses of military members. The President challenged private companies to hire or train 100,000 Veterans and spouses by the end of 2013. They have already received commitments from 2,100 companies for 175,000 hires—and 90,000 Veterans and spouses have already been hired.
VA has also joined private companies and other departments, like Defense, Homeland Security, and Transportation, in efforts to hire Veterans and assist others in hiring them.
In January, our hiring fair in Washington, DC, attracted over 4,100 Veterans, resulted in over 2,600 on-the-spot interviews, and more than 500 job offers on one day. We followed that success with an even bigger hiring fair last month in Detroit—in conjunction with our national Veterans small-business exposition. Over 8,000 Veterans participated, more than 5,700 were interviewed, and over 1,200 received job offers on the spot.
Simultaneously, 3,500 people participated in the Veteran small-business training exposition—it was our opportunity to bring Veteran small business owners into direct contact with our acquisition decision makers so they could better understand our procurement requirements, demonstrate their capabilities, and improve their ability to prepare competitive proposals for government contracts. It also increased the opportunity to hire unemployed Veterans—because Veterans hire Veterans.
So, where are we headed? I intend to be here to update you again next summer, and here's what I intend to report:
•We will have increased spinal chord injury funding by 28 percent between 2009-2013. By 2014, that increase will likely be 36 percent.
•We will have increased TBI funding by 38 percent between 2009-2013. By 2014, that increase will likely be 51 percent.
•We will have increased mental health funding by 39 percent between 2009-2013. By 2014, that increase will likely be 45 percent.
•We will have increased long-term care funding by 39 percent between 2009-2013. By 2014, that increase will likely be 50 percent.
•We will have increased prosthetics funding by 58 percent between 2009-2013. By 2014, that increase will likely be 75 percent.
•We will have increased women Veterans funding by 123 percent between 2009-2013. By 2014, that increase will likely be 158 percent.
•We will have increased OEF/OIF/OND funding by 124 percent between 2009-2013. By 2014, that increase will likely be 161 percent.
•Our Veterans Benefit Management System will be fully operational at most regional offices, and just 40 percent of claims will be older than 125 days.
Now, who doesn't think the President gets it down deep where it counts? "Show me your budget, and I'll tell you what you value." There is no question that our President highly values what Veterans, their families, and our survivors have meant to this country.
God bless our country. God bless our President. And may God continue to bless the men and women who serve and have served our Nation in uniform.
"Show me your budget, and I'll tell you what you value."
There are many people who blame Gen Shinseki for not getting all the homeless vets off the street fast enough, or cleaning up the back log of compensation claims, instead he made the problem worse, he added three new presumptive medical issues for Vietnam veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange and it added hundreds of thousands veterans entitled to service connection for Parkinson's disease, hairy cell and other chronic b-cell leukemias, and ischemic heart disease.
For the tens of thousands who died before these conditions were granted presumptive status, they were denied service connection for a medical problem that should have been SC and their families were denied compensation, CHAMPVA coverage and DIC benefits hopefully the ones that did file claims and were denied will be found and will be paid under the Nehmer decision.
Benefits delayed is benefits denied, it does not help the veteran if he dies before they are granted.
Previous VA Secretaries have gone on to positions with medical companies that do a lot of business with the VA thru private contracts, now while this is all legal is sure does appear strange to the average veteran.
Myself I hope we keep the President that has shown us how he values our service and has proved it from his request for funding for the VA, approved the VA to grant the 3 medical issues related to AO, that will cost billions of dollars, but was the right decision, and did not wait for Congress to play games with it, they tried to stop it once they heard about it, but General Shinseki had the law and the Oval Office on his side of the fight and Congress backed down.
4 more years
Friday, July 20, 2012
DOJ Press Release
Smithville Man Sentenced to Three Years in Prison for the Internet Sale of Phony Military Documents
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASEJuly 16, 2012 Robert E. Neener, 65, of Smithville, Tenn., was sentenced in federal court on July 13, 2012, to three years in prison for possessing and selling documents bearing counterfeit federal agency seals, and pretending to be a federal officer or employee, announced Jerry E. Martin, U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee. Chief U.S. District Court Judge Todd Campbell also ordered Neener to pay more than $43,000 in restitution to over 600 victims who had purchased documents from Neener through his Internet website, believing that the documents he sold were authentic and genuine.
“The results of this case should send a strong message to those who are either engaged in similar fraudulent activity, or are thinking about it,” said Jerry Martin, U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee. “Such persons should know that if evidence demonstrates that you have used the Internet to commit wire or mail fraud, you will be investigated, prosecuted and sentenced accordingly.”
Neener pleaded guilty in March 2012 and admitted that from January 2007 through December 2008 he operated a document vending business from his residence in Smithville, Tenn., which he advertised via the Internet. In these advertisements, Neener falsely represented that he could provide customers with “authentic” military replacement documents which were “exact reproductions” of those originally issued and that he had contracts with military branches of the government.
Neener obtained more than $200,000 from customers who ordered thousands of
documents, which included honorable discharges and military awards. Neener had no authorization from any federal agency to either make or sell these documents.
Neener also used the official seals of various federal agencies on most of these documents, including the Air Force; the Army; the Navy; the Department of Defense; Homeland Security; the Department of Justice; Veterans Affairs; the Drug Enforcement Administration; the Coast Guard; and the Marine Corps, without authorization to do so. He also either signed or copied signatures of various federal officials on these documents, which made it appear that the various awards or certificates were endorsed and authorized by such officials. On some documents Neener fabricated the names and official positions of federal officials and on others, he forged the signatures of real persons, identifying them by the federal positions they actually occupied, including a former Secretary of the Navy and a former President of the United States.
Quentin G. Aucoin, Special Agent- in- Charge of the VA Office of Inspector General- Southeast Field Office, stated, “the VA Office of Inspector General is committed to aggressively investigating unauthorized use of the official VA seal for personal gain.”
The case was jointly investigated by the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and the Postal Inspection Service, with assistance from the U.S. Secret Service, the Tennessee Highway Patrol- Criminal Investigations Division, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The United States was represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Hilliard Hester.
I am glad this scumbag was prosecuted, but I am kind of curious as to why he got only 3 years, the forgery he was doing made it possible for people to make claims, and who knows what the people were doing with the documents he was selling them. The sums make it sound like they were a lot more than 19.95.
Saturday, July 14, 2012
Monday, July 2, 2012
Since I am on a fixed income due to medical disability and rely on Social Security Disability and VA compensation, I have to watch where I spend the dollars and pennies. Like most Americans the home we bought in 2006 at the height of the market has since lost value, not as bad as some areas like Las Vegas or Southern California where the values have dropped as much as 50%.
But our home is underwater and we checked into the HARP program thru our bank who handles the mortgage, like most banks our mortgage was sold to Freddie Mac. Last week the mortgage department of our bank called and is ready to process the HARP paperwork, it seems to have been done with a few phone calls for information, they e mailed my wife the estimates of the new data to see if this is what she wanted to do.
It will reduce our interest rate from 6.5% to 4.25 amd our payments from 1200 a month to 870.00, now that is a pay raise we can appreciate. It seems as if everyone else has not heard of the recession, SCE&G has filed for nearly a 7% increase in electric rates, I have never received a 7% increase in income.
So while I may be able to "save" some major money on the mortgage, other people seem to be determined to get it back in some other form, the sad part of it is, even if I was not able to utilize the HARP program, corporations like SCE&G will still be seeking large rate increases.
What makes me shake my head over the reasoning for the rate increase is that they seem to be shocked to learn they have thousands of miles of lines, poles and substations etc, that need maintenance, replacement etc, this is 2012, they have been putting this equipment in the ground for decades, and they just now realize it cost money to repair or replace these items, I would have assumed these costs would have been built into the rates long before this. Why go for 7% all at once, why couldn't this have been phased in over years at one half percent or one percent a year, this proposal is harmful to the elderly and disabled, some people will either have to turn off the air conditioners or start buying more Ramen noodles so they can keep the lights on.
I am grateful to President Obama and his team that have made HARP available to my family and millions of others that need the ability to refinance underwater mortgages, that would not normally be able to. This will also help to stabilize the national housing market which benefits us all.
Monday, June 25, 2012
MKULTRA LEGACY: the Stain of Dishonor and
the Prerequisites for Redemption
by Gordon P. Erspamer
Despite the passage of four decades, America, and its military, has never come to grips
with its own ghastly programs of using soldiers as guinea pigs to test chemical or biological
weapons such as LSD, sarin, nerve gases, plague, mescaline, anthrax, and hundreds of others. At the same time, they also conducted mind control experiments, as soldiers and others were administered drugs, and septal implants were inserted in the sinus cavities ala The Manchurian Candidate. The secret research programs, originally code-named MKULTRA, but continued under a long succession of other code names, were conducted mainly by the US Army from 1943 until at least 1975. However, the CIA provided planning, financial support, and field testing.
The participants in the experiments were recruited by the U.S. Army and lured by promises of no KP duty, a four-day work week, the promise of medals and special recognition. At the same time, they were sworn to secrecy and forced to sign a general consent form without informed consent or even knowing the nature of the toxic substances that were sprayed in their faces, applied to their skin or injected into their veins. And the government continues to try to hide the fact that Nazi members were recruited to help devise these experiments as part of Operation Paperclip, and that many of the biological experiments were modeled after those conducted by the notorious Colonel Shiro Ishi in Manchuria and Japan.
When word of these programs leaked out in the mid-1970s, the CIA Director, Admiral
Stansfield Turner, promised Congress that they would notify and provide medical treatment to the affected veterans. See Final Report of the Senate Select Committee (Church) on Intelligence Activities, 94th Cong. (1976), Book I: XVII (“Foreign and Military Intelligence: Testing and Use of Chemical and Biological Agents by the Intelligence Communities”), at
http://www.aarclibrary.org/publib/church/reports/book1/html/ChurchB1_0197a.htm. See also Project MKULTRA, The CIA’s Program of Research in Behavioral Modification: Joint Hearing. Before the Senate Select Committees on Intelligence and Human Resources, 95th Cong. (1977), Testimony of CIA Director Admiral Stansfield Turner at
However, that promise was more observed in the breach, as the process of notifying and
treating the victims of human experimentation has barely scratched the surface of their acts of treachery. And now we learn that the DOD will not even compile an initial roster of affected veterans until 2012. Unlike Britain, which long-ago compensated its veteran participants in a parallel group of tests at Porton Down, America is waiting patiently for these veterans to die, and it is one of the greatest injustices of our time.
Yet, despite the long passage of time, the agents responsible for this program continue to
offer rationalizations to justify their own acts or those of their predecessors. They cite the fears engendered by the Cold War, real or imagined, and raise the chance that our enemies might beat us to the punch. You hear a lot of denial or outright lies, and the trail of documents suddenly disappeared in a document purging ordered by the CIA Director, Richard Helms. And they speak of sacrifices for the common good (not their own, but of those men exposed). The doctors
among them don't like to talk about the Hippocratic Oath or basic principles of morality. Rather, they talk a lot about science, advances in learning, and the thrills of discovery. They forget that “Blood does not wipe out dishonor, nor violence indicate possession” (Julia Ward Howe). And you hear nothing or very little about the long-term health effects of their programs, and their failure to notify, monitor or treat the victims, who have experienced a panoply of adverse health effects such as PTSD, breathing and lung problems, problems with internal organs, and countless others.
Walter Lippman once said that a man has honor if he holds himself to an ideal of conduct
though it is inconvenient, unprofitable, or dangerous to do so. The perpetrators of these
programs have stained their honor. In a time of admitted polarization and confrontation, they
sacrificed their scruples, and victimized their fellow man. Their honor will never be restored
unless they candidly admit their complicity and fault, and do everything in their power to help
restore the health and well-being of their victims. With each death, their debt swells, and the
possibilities of redemption become more distant and unlikely. And a miasma of shame, as toxic as the clouds created by biological weapons, continues to hang over this great nation.
And when the last man standing succumbs, a pall of infamy and shame will become
indelible, and choke the last glimmer of redemption, and history will justly record another
chapter in the annals of infamy.
The views expressed herein are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the
views of any institution or person to whom he is affiliated. Gordon P. Erspamer is the lead
counsel in the class action compliant which is pending in San Francisco Federal District Court,
Vietnam Veterans of America, et al. v. Central Intelligence Agency, et al., Case No. 09-0037 CW
(ND Cal. 2009). More information regarding this lawsuit can be found at
www.edgewoodtestvets.org. See the following links for the complaint in this action and its
exhibits. VVA, et al. v. CIA, et al. First Amended Complaint, First Amended Complaint Exhibit
A, First Amended Complaint Exhibit B, First Amended Complaint Exhibit C
31 January 2008Sphere: Related Content
Today, 31st January, the lawyers representing 359 of the Porton Down Test Veterans and the Ministry of Defence announced that a settlement had been reached for the claims of the Veterans for the sum of £3m to be split between the veterans.
Further, an apology has today been given by Derek Twigg Under Secretary of State for Defence and Veterans Minister in the House of Commons. The wording of the apology is:
‘The Government has in the past made clear the debt owed by the nation to those who took part in the trials at Porton Down designed to ensure that the United Kingdom had the defensive and deterrent capabilities to counter the very real and horrific threat that chemical weapons would be used against our Armed Forces or civilian population as they had against others; the security of the country rested on the contribution of those people who took part in these trials.
The trials which were carried out in the period of the Cold War were in many cases undertaken under considerable pressures of time as new threats emerged. The Government accepts that there were aspects of the trials where there may have been short-comings and where, in particular, the life or health of participants may have been put at risk. The Government would wish sincerely to apologise to those affected.’
Then there was the settlement by the Canadian Government for the similar tests that were being done at the same time as Porton Downs and Edgewood Arsenal. These were compensations outside of the normal VA compensation, the Canadian and British soldiers still receive disability compensation and medical care, none of the soldiers or veterans or their dependents were made "wealthy" by the settlements, it was just more of an apology and a small financial stipend. In other words an apology with meaning.
Thursday, June 14, 2012
THE CHOICE IN THIS ELECTION
This election offers the American people a chance to break the stalemate between two fundamentally different visions of how to
grow the economy, create middle-class jobs, and pay down the debt.
President Obama believes the economy grows not from the top down, but from the middle class out. His economic plan does
that by investing in education, energy, innovation and infrastructure, and by reforming the tax code—each of which will create
American jobs—and paying down our debt in a balanced way that ensures everyone pays their fair share.
Governor Romney and his allies in Congress believe that if you take away protections for consumers and workers and cut taxes
even more for the wealthiest Americans, the market will solve all our problems on its own. Their refusal to ask the wealthiest
Americans to pay even a nickel more in taxes is the biggest source of gridlock in Washington, and the reason we haven’t reached
a grand bargain to bring down our deficit and Congress hasn’t passed a jobs plan that would put a million people back to work.
President Obama’s Vision to Create an Eco nomy Built to Last
To create jobs, reduce our deficit, and build a stronger economy from the middle class out,
President Obama believes we need to:
• Invest in education to make sure we have the best-educated, best-trained workers in the world
• Control our energy future by ending taxpayer subsidies to oil companies and use the savings to become the global
leader in clean energy technology, including wind, solar, biofuels, clean coal, nuclear, and natural gas
• Invest in our most promising scientists, researchers, and entrepreneurs so the greatest innovations of this century
are made in America
• Rebuild our infrastructure to attract businesses to America and move our goods and information all over the world
• Reform our tax code to create jobs in America, pay down our deficit in a balanced way, and ensure everyone from
Wall Street to Main Street plays by the same rules and does their fair share
Mitt Romney Would Return to Failed Policies that
Crashed our Eco nomy and Hurt the Middle Class
Governor Romney and his allies in Congress believe that the best way to grow the economy is from the top down—the same
approach that benefited a few but crashed the economy and hurt the middle class.
According to independent economists, Romney’s economic plan would increase the deficit, fail to create new jobs in the
short term, and even make our economy worse. His plan would:
• Roll back financial reform and let Wall Street write its own rules again
• Repeal health reform, costing tens of millions of Americans their health coverage and allowing insurance companies
to discriminate based on preexisting conditions
• Provide a $5 trillion tax cut weighted to millionaires and billionaires, blowing a hole in the deficit
Monday, June 11, 2012
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 11, 2012
VA Announces Aggressive National Recruitment Effort to Hire Mental Health Professionals
WASHINGTON (June 11, 2012)- Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki recently announced the department would add approximately 1,600 mental health clinicians as well as nearly 300 support staff to its existing workforce to help meet the increased demand for mental health services. The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) has developed an aggressive national recruitment program to implement the hiring process quickly and efficiently.
“The mental health and well-being of our brave men and women who have served the Nation is the highest priority for this department,” said Secretary Shinseki. “We must ensure that all Veterans seeking mental health care have access to timely, responsive and high-quality care.”
VA has developed an aggressive national mental health hiring initiative to improve recruitment and hiring, marketing, education and training programs, and retention efforts for mental health professionals, to include targeted recruitment in rural and highly-rural markets. This will help VA to meet existing and future demands of mental health care services in an integrated collaborative team environment and continue to position VA as an exemplary workplace for mental health care professionals.
It is critical for VA to proactively engage psychiatrists and other mental health care providers about the vital mission to deliver high-quality mental health services, especially for returning combat Veterans.
“The VA mental health community is aggressively transforming the way mental health care services are provided to the Veteran population. As the mental health care workforce continues to increase, VA is committed to improving Veterans’ access to services, especially for at-risk Veterans,” said VA’s Under Secretary for Health Dr. Robert Petzel.
The national recruitment program provides VHA with an in-house team of highly skilled professional recruiters employing private sector best practices to fill the agency’s most mission critical clinical and executive positions. The recruitment team consists of 21 national, dedicated health care recruiters targeting physician and specialty health care occupations. These recruiters also understand the needs of Veterans because each member is a Veteran.
VHA has also established a hiring and tracking task force to provide oversight for this initiative to move the process forward expeditiously in a focused manner to ensure challenges, issues, or concerns are addressed and resolved. This task force is accountable for reporting progress in hiring of mental health professionals in these occupations: psychiatrists, psychologists, mental health nurses, social workers, mental health technicians, marriage and family therapists and licensed professional counselors.
VHA anticipates the majority of hires will be selected within approximately six months and the most “hard-to-fill” positions filled by the end of the second quarter of FY 2013. VA has an existing workforce of 20,590 mental health staff that includes nurses, psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers.
Interested mental health care providers can find additional information about VA careers and apply for jobs online at www.vacareers.va.gov. To locate the nearest VA facility or Vet Center for enrollment and to get scheduled for care, Veterans can visit VA’s website at www.va.gov. Immediate help is available at www.VeteransCrisisLine.net or by calling the Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 (push 1) or texting 838255.
Thursday, June 7, 2012
Sphere: Related Content
For Immediate Release April 26, 2012
AN INTIMATE LOOK AT THE LIFE AND CAREER OF GEORGE H.W. BUSH,
DEBUTS JUNE 14, EXCLUSIVELY ON HBO
A Film By Jeffrey Roth;
Executive Produced By Jerry Weintraub
The first documentary to tell George Herbert Walker Bush’s story in his own words, the exclusive HBO presentation 41 is a rare, intimate glimpse at the life and times of the 41st president of the United States. Featuring unprecedented access to Bush as he reflects on the highs and lows of his life from his beloved summer home in Kennebunkport, Me. and presidential library in Texas, 41 debuts THURSDAY, JUNE 14 (9:00-10:45 p.m. ET/PT), commemorating the president’s 88th birthday on June 12.
Other HBO playdates: June 14 (3:50 a.m.), 17 (noon), 18 (9:00 a.m.), 20 (12:45 p.m. 12:30 a.m.), 23 (2:00 p.m.) and 29 (6:15 p.m.)
HBO2 playdates: June 20 (9:15 p.m.), 25 (2:15 p.m., 11:15 p.m.) and 30 (noon)
One of the most experienced politicians ever to achieve the presidency, George H.W. Bush shares anecdotes from his childhood, family, service in World War II and political career, including his roles as U.S. envoy to China, director of the CIA and vice president of the United States in the Reagan administration, as well as his term as president.
Written and directed by Jeffrey Roth, 41 was filmed over a 17-month period, from Sept. 2009 to Feb. 2011. The film is executive produced by Jerry Weintraub, a long-time personal friend of the Bushes, and himself the focus of “His Way,” an acclaimed HBO documentary.
41 – 2
“I am so proud to be a friend of George H.W. Bush and his wife, Barbara Bush,” comments Weintraub. “And so proud that our friendship includes this wonderful film about two wonderful people.”
41 captures the personal side of a very public figure who cherishes his family life, in particular wife Barbara, his spouse for 67 years, a record among presidential marriages. President from 1989 to 1993 and father of the 43rd president, George W. Bush, the elder Bush continues to make public appearances today and spends much of his time on his boat or with children and grandchildren. An avid fisherman, Bush last parachuted on his 85th birthday and swears he will do it again on his 90th, which he says proves that “old guys can still do fun things.”
Born June 12, 1924, George H.W. Bush spent much of his childhood at his family’s summer home, built by his grandfather in 1902, at Walker’s Point in Kennebunkport, Me. His close-knit family was fortunate to avoid the hard times of the Great Depression, with George attending boarding schools, where he excelled in sports, serving as captain of the soccer and baseball teams and playing basketball. At 17, he met 16-year-old Barbara Pierce at a Christmas dance. “We fell in love. Old fashioned, falling in love,” he recalls.
After Pearl Harbor was bombed, the 18-year-old Bush became a naval aviator. He describes the events of Sept. 2, 1944, when his plane was shot down by anti-aircraft fire; he ejected and parachuted into the sea, and was rescued by a sub. Bush went home and married Barbara, and when the war ended a short time later, like many G.I.s, he entered college – at Yale – where they had a son, George Walker.
Following the advice of a family friend, he went to work in the oil fields of West Texas. Their family continued to grow with the birth of daughter Robin, who died of leukemia at age three. Robin’s death remains an emotional subject for Bush. Though they had three more sons and another daughter, he admits he couldn’t talk about losing her for years.
41 – 3
In Texas, despite the fact that the state at the time was overwhelmingly Democratic, Bush decided to run for Senate. He lost, but rebounded by running for the House of Representatives and won, becoming a rising star in Washington. President Nixon subsequently appointed Bush ambassador to the U.N. and later, chairman of the Republican National Committee.
Then came Watergate. “I wanted to believe Nixon as long as I possibly could,” he notes, but with evidence mounting that the White House lied, he wrote a memo suggesting the president resign. In hindsight, Bush has mixed emotions about Nixon, reflecting, “On the one hand you can never get over the lie. On the other, in many ways, he was a very good president.”
After serving as U.S. envoy to China and director of the CIA, Bush ran for president unsuccessfully, but became Ronald Reagan’s vice president. Ascending to the presidency in 1989, his years in office were marked by numerous historic events, including the fall of the Berlin Wall, the end of the Cold War and the protests in Tiananmen Square.
When Iraq invaded Kuwait, Bush says he knew America would have to act. He considered Iraq’s invasion an “overt, crystal-clear wrong,” and despite opposition, felt the war was just. Bush was heartened when Saddam Hussein was driven out of Kuwait.
After losing his bid for reelection to Bill Clinton, George returned with Barbara to a “normal” life in Houston and Kennebunkport. He calls his beloved summer home the “anchor” to his “windward.” It’s where the memories are, where his family comes to visit and where he’s been coming his whole life. “And where,” he says, “I will remain until my last days.”
The president, who to this day has not written a memoir telling his life story, agreed to participate in the documentary after meeting Roth and seeing his first film, “The Wonder of It All,” a documentary about the Apollo moon walkers. 41 is Roth’s second documentary film.
41 – 4
41 is produced and directed by Jeffrey Roth; executive produced by Jerry Weintraub and Stephen Beck; written by Stephen Beck and Jeffrey Roth; edited by Janice Hampton.
Wednesday, June 6, 2012
On: 06.06.12 23:09
A Truthout analysis of historical records concerning government research and nonmedical use of antimalarial medications has revealed that such drugs were the objects of experimental research under the CIA's MKULTRA program. Even more, one of these drugs, cinchonine, was illegally stockpiled by the CIA as an "incapacitating agent."
Antimalarial drugs were studied as part of the CIA's mind control program MKULTRA. Cinchonine, an antimalarial drug derived from chichona bark, was one of the drugs used by the operational components of MKULTRA, code-named MKNAOMI and MKDELTA. The CIA worked with researchers for the Army's Special Operations Division, a secret component of the US Army Chemical Corps based at Fort Detrick, to develop delivery systems for the drugs.
Revelations concerning CIA interest in use of antimalarial drugs would be of historical interest, as it has never been written about before. But such interest gains contemporary significance in the light of actions taken by the Department of Defense (DoD) in the "war on terror," and the fact that a key DoD expert on antimalarial drugs was a psychiatrist involved in training personnel for Guantanamo interrogations.
In January 2002, the DoD deliberately decided that all incoming detainees at Guantanamo would be given a full treatment dose of the controversial antimalarial drug mefloquine, also known as Lariam. The purpose was supposedly to control for a possible malaria outbreak, in deference to concerns from Cuban officials.
But specialists in malaria prevention have said they have never heard of such presumptive treatment for malaria by mefloquine in this type of situation. Furthermore, a summary of antimalarial measures at Guantanamo given to Army and Center for Disease Control (CDC) medical officials at a February 19, 2002, meeting of the Armed Forces Epidemiological Board failed to describe the mefloquine procedure approved a month earlier.
Was mefloquine used at Guantanamo to help produce a state of "learned helplessness" in detainees? Were experiments conducted on adverse side effects of mefloquine on the prisoners held there?
Some years ago, this might have been considered a crazy scenario to even consider. While there is no smoking gun that can prove mefloquine was used for nefarious purposes, a strong case can be made that use of the drug at Guantanamo was not related to malaria control.
Antimalaria Drugs and MKULTRA
The revelation concerning cinchonine came from hearings the Senate's Church Committee held in September 1975 on CIA "Unauthorized Storage of Toxic Agents." The agency's illegal stockpile of chemicals and drugs, which included the antimalarial drug cinchonine, was supposed to have been destroyed by order of President Nixon in December 1969.
At the time of the president's order, the US had also signed an international agreement that such chemical and biological weapons would be destroyed, so the revelation of the CIA's stockpiling of such substances was highly embarrassing to the US government at the time.
At the behest of Congressional investigators, the CIA provided an inventory of all "lethal" and "incapacitating agents" they had kept contrary to presidential order. On this list, the CIA indicated it held two grams of cinchonine, stored as an incapacitating agent, that is, a substance meant to temporarily disable an individual. Temporary incapacitant or not, the CIA inventory listing for cinchonine states, "Overdose leads to severe cardiac convulsions, nausea and vomiting."
In separate testimony from another Senate investigation, a CIA-linked researcher, Dr. Charles F. Geschickter, told Sen. Edward Kennedy in 1977 hearings that the CIA was interested in antimalarial drugs that "had some, shall I say, disturbing effects on the nervous system of the patients." Geschickter's CIA researchers became interested in these antimalarial drugs as part of the work they were doing in the CIA's MKULTRA program. Dr. Geschickter ran the Geschickter Fund for Medical Research, and the Kennedy hearings also revealed how the fund laundered money for MKULTRA projects.
According to MKULTRA documents released as part of a related Senate investigation in 1977, research into quinolines, the class of drugs that include cinchonine, quinine and the modern antimalarial drug mefloquine (Lariam), was part of MKULTRA subprojects 43 and 45.
The CIA prior to the Congressional investigations destroyed most records concerning MKULTRA and chemical, biological and bacteriological research. Moreover, according to Senate testimony by former CIA Director William Colby, many of the organizational directions concerning both research and operationalization of such weapons were never written down.
An Antimalarial "Incapacitant"
Cinchonine is a quinine-derived drug and similar in some ways to the artificial quinine derivative antimalarial drug mefloequine, also known as Lariam. Mefloquine, a product of Army research, has been the subject of numerous controversies over its side-effect profile, and as recently as 2009, the DoD significantly cut back on its use for the military.
The stockpiling of cinchonine as an "incapacitating" agent was directly contrary to Nixon's order that all such toxic and bacteriological stockpiles held by the DoD and the CIA be destroyed. Other incapacitating agents held by the CIA for years after the disposal order included the powerful hallucinogen BZ; the anticholinergic drug Cogentin; digitoxin; and Phencyclidine HCL, commonly known as "Angel Dust"; among other drugs.
The CIA's stockpile of dangerous substances also included numerous "lethal agents," including shellfish toxin; cobra venom; fish toxin; and numerous substances only known by their code names ("E-4640," "F-270" etc.). It is not known if any of the lethal or incapacitating agents were ever used, or if so, by whom or where. (The one exception the CIA admitted to was the use of an arsenic suicide pill provided to Francis Gary Powers, a U-2 pilot shot down over the Soviet Union in 1960. Powers did not use the pill.)
According to Senate testimony, the stockpile was discovered after a review of secret programs ordered by Colby. Originally, the various drugs and weaponized biological substances were kept at the Army's Fort Detrick compound and were apparently moved later to a CIA storage facility.
The neurological side-effects of mefloquine are similar to the side effects of cinchonine. Cinchonism (or quinism) includes such side-effects as blurred vision, tinnitus, skin rashes, vertigo, nausea, headaches and other even life-threatening serious health problems. Mefloquine has been cited for neurological, but also psychological side-effects, including depression, anxiety, panic attacks, confusion, hallucinations, bizarre dreams and suicidal and homicidal behavior. The effects can be long or short-term.
But even the "short-term" effects can be debilitating, as one military doctor, Captain Monica Parise, told a group of other physicians at a government meeting in May 2003. Parise told the meeting of the Armed Forces Epidemiological Board (AFEB) that "there are a host of other more acute less severe neuropsychiatric issues that occur short-term [with mefloquine], such as insomnia, strange dreams, fatigue, lack of energy, inability to concentrate and some people have reported that those effects have lasted a very long time."
Parise noted that it takes "three, four, or five months to really wash the drug out of your system," and that she'd "heard that there might be some data in DoD ... that might shed light" on how the drug had "ruined people's lives." As we shall see, a psychiatrist present at this same meeting was also involved in training other psychiatrists to assist Guantanamo interrogators.
Administering Mefloquine to All the Guantanamo Detainees
In December 2010, Truthout and Seton Hall School of Law's Center for Policy and Research revealed that it was medical standard operating procedure (SOP) to give all arriving detainees full treatment doses of the antimalarial drug mefloquine upon arrival at the US prison camp. The military's own newspaper, Stars and Stripes, followed up with their own story a few weeks later.
A treatment dose of mefloquine is five times the amount taken weekly by those who use the drug for prophylactic purposes. Larger doses are associated with a higher percentage of side effects.
The Truthout investigation showed that at the time the SOP was put in place, internal discussions within the DoD and an Interagency Malaria Working Group were expressing strong doubts about the serious neuropsychiatric side effects of the drug. Despite this, the surgeon general of the JTF-160 Task Force at Guantanamo signed off on the unprecedented mefloquine protocol.
The chief surgeon, who also served as commander of the Navy Hospital at the base, was Capt. Albert Shimkus. Shimkus told Truthout in late 2010 that he had first sought consult regarding the use of malaria drugs from an assortment of agencies, including officials from the CDC, the Navy Environmental Health Center (NEHC) and the Armed Forces Medical Intelligence Center at Fort Detrick, Maryland. All three agencies have told Truthout they were not involved in this decision or had no documents related to such consultation.
Shimkus told Truthout in a phone interview last October that the US State Department "would have been involved" in discussions about malaria concerns at Guantanamo, though he maintained no State Department officials were directly involved in the "clinical decision making."
In June 2004, the CDC announced, "'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)." Hence, "presumptive treatment" - the mass administration of a drug without knowing whether or not it is actually necessary - is reserved for situations when there is no possibility of laboratory confirmation of malaria, but that was not the case at Guantanamo.
Yet, even a year later, the mefloquine SOP was renewed at Guantanamo.
DoD spokeswoman Maj. Tanya Bradsher told Truthout, "A decision was made 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."
According to Bradsher, "The mefloquine dosage was entirely for public health purposes to prevent the introduction of malaria to the Guantanamo area and not for any other purpose." Nevertheless, when hundreds of contract workers from malaria-endemic countries such as India and the Philippines were brought by Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown and Root (KBR) to build the new Guantanamo Delta Block in 2002, there was no DoD scrutiny of any exposure by these workers to malaria.
According to Bradsher, KBR alone was responsible for its own workers, belying a concern over possible reintroduction of malaria to Cuba, which, according to Captain Shimkus, had produced State Department concerns when it came to the arriving detainees.
In his October 2011 interview, Shimkus also said he sent "pretty detailed reports" regarding the mefloquine decision to JTF-160's Commanding Officer, Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Michael R. Lehnert. He had nothing further to say about a statement made to Truthout a year earlier in which he stated that he had been told not to talk about the mefloquine decision.
When Shimkus was asked if he was aware of any detainees who had suffered psychiatric problems because of drugs administered to them, he said, "Maybe. That's confidential," adding a moment later, "No for that."
He also rejected the opinions of two medical researchers who wrote in PLoS Medicine in April 2011 that "medical doctors and mental health personnel assigned to the DoD neglected and/or concealed medical evidence of intentional harm" to detainees. "They have an opinion and it should be out there," Shimkus said.
Army Mefloquine "Specialist" Trained Psychiatrists for Interrogations
A top psychiatrist working for the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs (OASD-HA), Col. Elspeth Cameron Ritchie, traveled to Guantanamo in October 2002, purportedly to investigate a spurt of suicide attempts among the detainees. Within weeks, according to the AFEB minutes cited earlier, she attended an "experts" meeting on "Malaria Chemoprophylaxis" at the CDC in January 2003 that considered problems with the "neuropsychiatric adverse drug reactions" of mefloquine. Indeed, according to the AFEB speaker, Captain Parise, they specifically included a psychiatrist - presumably Ritchie - in their discussions.
Did Colonel Ritchie bring knowledge of the effects of mass mefloquine administration at Guantanamo to this meeting? We don't know and Colonel Ritchie, now retired from the military and chief clinical officer for the District of Columbia's Department of Mental Health, would not return a request for comment. A public spokesperson for OASD-HA told Truthout it had no connection with any decision to use mefloquine at Guantanamo.
It would be strange, if not highly unlikely that, given the widespread interest in mefloquine adverse reactions at the DoD and contemporaneous statements that the DoD was conducting research on this, that the effects of the Guantanamo mefloquine SOP were never examined.
Ritchie's involvement in mefloquine issues can also be ascertained by the fact that, in 2004, Ritchie, by then "Psychiatry Consultant" to Army Surgeon General Kevin Kiley, gave a presentation to the DoD's Deployment Health Clinical Center on the "Neuropsychiatric Side-Effects of Mefloquine."
Of convergent interest is the fact that, according to Dr. Ritchie, she taught psychiatrists slotted for assignment to the military's Behavioral Science Consultation Teams (BSCTs) working at Guantanamo and possibly elsewhere. She is, at this point, the only known person potentially linking military activities surrounding both mefloquine and interrogations or torture.
According to an Army surgeon general description of BSCT training during the period Colonel Ritchie was involved, such training included instruction in methods of inducing "learned helplessness."
"Learned helplessness" is a condition of near-total psychological breakdown produced by inability to escape an extreme set of stressors. Its study is associated with the work of psychologist Martin Seligman, who did research on the subject as far back as the 1960s. In the 1990s, all the Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape schools except the Navy school discontinued the use of the waterboard in their training program precisely because it tended to produce "learned helplessness" in its students, the opposite of the kind of effect they were seeking.
A Guantanamo Autopsy Tests for Mefloquine
The months-long period of time it takes for mefloquine to leave the system may have been involved with a decision to test a detainee at Guantanamo who had committed suicide for the presence of mefloquine in his bloodstream. But the detainee, whose autopsy report included toxicology results that show he was tested specially for mefloquine, had been at Guantanamo for five years at the time of his death.
Abdul Rahman Al Amri entered Guantanamo in February 2002 and would have been given a treatment dose of mefloquine at that time. We do not know why he would have been tested for its presence over five years later. All but one of the other detainees for whom we have autopsy reports due to purported suicides were not tested for mefloquine, showing such testing was not standard procedure.
Al Amri was also found dead with his hands bound behind his back, and his death as well as that of 2009 suicide Mohamed Salih Al Hanashi are under investigation by the UN Special Rapporteur for Extrajudicial Executions, primarily because of Truthout's coverage of these events.
A Plausible Hypothesis
The discovery that the CIA researched antimalarial drugs as part of its mind control program and, moreover, operationalized at least one of these drugs as an "incapacitating agent" means that the hypothesis that mefloquine was used for similar purposes at Guantanamo is not inconsistent with a known pattern of governmental behavior.
There are many reasons to question the supposed use of mefloquine at Guantanamo for purely public health purposes. Consider the following:
The mass use of treatment levels of mefloquine at Guantanamo was unprecedented.
The drug was limited to only one group of potential malaria carriers.
Use of mefloquine for presumptive treatment continued for years past the point when the DoD was already manifestly aware of the drug's dangers.
The mefloquine SOP was hidden from medical authorities at the Armed Forces Epidemiological Board.
Finally, there is the fact no government agency will admit to advising use of the drug, even when a Guantanamo medical officer states they were involved.
As a result of all the above, it appears highly possible that the motive for the drug's use was to psychologically disorient and physically debilitate all or some portion of incoming prisoners.
sad to see some of the past may be showing it's ugliness again. I had hoped that MKULTRA and everything related to Edgewood Arsenal and the illegal experiments were a closed door.
LITTLE ROCK - In less than three months three top ranked administrators have left the Arkansas Department of Veterans Affairs, and they each have left scandals behind them.
On Friday, Deputy Director Lawrence Pickard was fired because the VA says he collected almost $600,000 in illegal maintenance fees from veterans at the Little Rock Veterans Home.
Newly-appointed Director Cissy Rucker fired Pickard after he admitted to knowing he was collecting excess fees since December 2010.
"Because he did not take immediate action he was terminated," said VA spokesperson Kendall Thornton.
Former Director David Fletcher resigned last month after an audit revealed $200,000 in funds that were improperly logged. Janet Levine, a former VA Home administrator, was fired in April for misappropriating nearly $600,000 at the Little Rock Veterans Home, according to the Arkansas VA.
"We're going through transitions and we have a new state director that's been in place to correct these issues and to make sure that it does not happen again," said Thornton.
At the center of it all is the Little Rock Veterans Home, where the VA claims Levine and Pickard have collected a combined $1.1 million in illegal fees to veterans living there.
"The Little Rock Veterans Home was collecting fees from residents who had a disability rating of 70 percent or above after a federal rule change ended that practice in 2009," said Thornton.
She says the affected veterans will receive their money back over a period of time that has not yet been determined.
Still, one advocacy group isn't satisfied and they're letting the department know.
They recently created a YouTube video entitled "Swindling Arkansas Veterans" that blasts the troubled the state Department of Veterans Affairs for its recent money mismanagement.
"Our goal was to create a higher level of accountability and transparency," said Teresa Oelke, State Director of Americans for Prosperity - Arkansas Chapter. "Hard-working Arkansas taxpayers and especially our v eterans deserve better," said Teresa Oelke
The VA believes its new director will restore credibility to the department.
"We are working every single day hard to make sure that this does not happen again and that we are going to rebuild the trust of the veterans of Arkansas," said Thornton.
Criminal charges against Pickard are unlikely, according to the VA.
Why are charges unlikely? Where is the Attorney General or the States Attorney General, if veterans were stealing the money they would be prosecuted, so why are not officials who used their position to steal money not being prosecuted? Send them to jail and demand restitution, the same that would happen to a veteran or their spouse or child who stole from the government, in this case these were government employees stealing from disabled veterans, by the power of their position, there is nothing lower in my opinion. Then to tell us the veterans community that they won't even be charged is a double whammy, hold them accountable.
Friday, June 1, 2012
Sphere: Related Content
New Education Benefit for Unemployed Veterans Has Strong Response
VA Outreach for Veterans Retraining Assistance Program Garners Over 12,000 Applicants since May 15
WASHINGTON (May 31, 2012) – Within two weeks of being announced, a program to give skills training to some unemployed Veterans has garnered over 12,000 online applications, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
“VA is committed to supporting Veterans as they seek employment. This initiative will help provide education and training so that Veterans have an opportunity to find meaningful employment in a high-demand field,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “We will continue to build on the success of our initial outreach efforts to Veterans.”
Called the Veteran Retraining Assistance Program (VRAP), the program allows qualifying Veterans between the ages of 35 and 60 to receive up to 12 months of education assistance. Maximum payments are equal to the full-time rate for the Montgomery GI Bill – Active Duty, currently $1,473 monthly.
Under VRAP, Veterans apply on a first-come, first-served basis for programs that begin on or after July 1. VA began accepting applications on May 15. Forty-five thousand Veterans can participate during the current fiscal year, and up to 54,000 may participate during the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, 2012.
The goal of the program is to train 99,000 Veterans for high-demand jobs over the next two years.
To qualify Veterans must:
Be 35 to 60 years old, unemployed on the day of application, and have been issued discharges under conditions other than dishonorable;
Be enrolled in education or training after July 1, 2012, in a VA-approved program of education offered by a community college or technical school leading to an associate degree, non-college degree or a certificate for a high-demand occupation as defined by the Department of Labor;
Not be eligible for any other VA education benefit, such as the Post-9/11 GI Bill, the Montgomery GI Bill, or Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment;
Not have participated in a federal or state job training program within the last 180 days; and
Not receive VA compensation at the 100 percent rate due to individual unemployability.
While the initial response has been encouraging, VA officials stress the need for a sustained effort to reach potential VRAP applicants.
“Besides the Veterans themselves, we are asking anyone who knows of an unemployed Veteran to help us get the word out so everyone can take advantage of this new benefit,” said Curtis Coy, VA’s deputy undersecretary for economic opportunity. “With the help of our Veterans community and our partners in the Department of Labor, we hope to reach as many eligible Veterans as possible.”
In addition to its national outreach campaign, VA will seek out potential VRAP-qualified Veterans through online applications and at the National Veterans Small Business Conference being held in Detroit June 26-28. During 2012, VA representatives will also provide VRAP information and assistance at hiring fairs sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce through the Hiring Our Heroes campaign.
For more information on the Veterans Opportunity to Work (VOW) program, the Hire Heroes Act of 2011, VRAP, high demand occupations, and application procedures, visit the website at www.benefits.va.gov/VOW, or call VA National Call Center toll free at 1-800-827-1000.
Veterans may also access the VRAP application online at https://www.ebenefits.va.gov through eBenefits, a joint project between VA and the Department of Defense.
Veterans are also encouraged to visit the nearly 3,000 One-Stop Career Centers across the nation for assistance from staff, Local Veterans’ Employment Representatives (LVERS), and Disabled Veterans’ Outreach Program (DVOP) specialists. Center locations are listed at www.servicelocator.org.
Thursday, January 5, 2012
First meeting of IOM SHAD II Committee January 19 in Washington, DC
***We invite you to share this announcement with other interested individuals or organizations***
In response to the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010 and an ensuing request from the Department of Veterans Affairs, the IOM has assembled a committee of experts to conduct an epidemiological study comparing the health status of the SHAD veterans with a comparison population. This study will build on knowledge gained from a prior study conducted by IOM between 2003 and 2007.
As part of the data collection process, the committee will plan and conduct meetings to receive suggestions and input from SHAD veterans about their experiences so that the study can be informed by the insights of these veterans.
The first meeting of the Committee on Shipboard Hazard and Defense will take place on January 19-20, 2012, at the Keck Center of the National Academies, 500 Fifth St. NW , Washington , DC. An agenda for the open session of the meeting on January 19th is available at http://www8.nationalacademies.org/cp/projectview.aspx?key=IOM-BSP-10-08 and at an IOM study site: http://www.iom.edu/Activities/Veterans/SHADII.aspx A second committee meeting will be held February 23-24, 2012, in Sacramento, California.
If you would be interested in providing brief comments at the meeting on January 19 in Washington , DC or on February 23 at the meeting in Sacramento , CA , please contact Jon Sanders at email@example.com. On January 19, public comments will be heard during the late afternoon. Time constraints may limit the number of speakers who can be accommodated, but all written submissions will be welcome.
Written materials can be submitted to the committee through the IOM staff at the e-mail or postal addresses shown below. Please note that any comments or materials submitted to the committee in paper or electronic form will normally become part of the study’s public record.
Committee on Shipboard Hazard and Defense II
Institute of Medicine, Keck 775
500 Fifth Street, NW
Washington, DC 20001
From 1962 to 1973, more than 5,800 military personnel, mostly Navy personnel and Marines, participated in Project SHAD (Shipboard Hazard and Defense) -- a series of tests of U.S. warship vulnerability to biological and chemical warfare agents. Only some of the involved military personnel were aware of these tests at the time. Many of these tests used simulants, which are substances with the physical properties of chemical or biological warfare agents, that were thought at the time to be harmless. The existence of these tests came to light many decades later.
In 2007, the Institute of Medicine ’s Medical Follow-up Agency (MFUA) published a report on the long term health effects of participation in Project SHAD, based on the results of a health survey (the report is available at http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=11900). In the new study, an expert committee will work in conjunction with IOM's MFUA and build on knowledge gained from the previous IOM study. The SHAD II study will use the established list of SHAD participants and the comparison population determined from the prior study.
The results of the study will be provided in a brief IOM report by the study committee and an analytic paper for publication.
Questions about the study or providing materials for the committee’s consideration should be directed to study director Lois Joellenbeck (firstname.lastname@example.org) or program associate Jon Sanders (email@example.com).
Lois Joellenbeck, Dr.P.H.
Institute of Medicine
The National Academies
500 Fifth St. N.W.
Washington, DC 20001
Lois Joellenbeck, Dr.P.H.
Institute of Medicine
The National Academies
500 Fifth St. N.W.
Washington, DC 20001