Thursday, June 30, 2011

Iraq Veteran slashed himself after reading about friend killed in action


Parents’ plea for their troubled son

War vet knifed his own face

Published on Friday 24 June 2011 02:31

A FORMER soldier with post traumatic stress disorder slashed himself with a knife after reading a newspaper report about a friend killed in action.

Lee Murray, who had served in Bosnia and Iraq, called police from home to say he had cut his arms, head and face with a knife, a court heard.

Officers went to his address and saw cuts to his forehead and face and the article about the soldier’s death.

“He asked police what they would do if he ‘kicked off’,” said Helen Griffiths, prosecuting at Chesterfield Magistrates’ Court.

“He then cut himself on his arms, forehead and stomach, each strike drawing blood.”

Murray, whom the court heard had clearly been drinking, told officers he would have both of them and they snatched knives from the property.

He followed them outside, demanding to know where the knives were, and was sprayed with CS gas to subdue him.

Murray, aged 37, of Holmefield Road, Whitwell, Chesterfield, appeared in court in custody and admitted using threatening behaviour on Tuesday, June 16.

He had committed a similar offence in April.

The court was told Murray suffered from post traumatic stress disorder after serving in the Army in Iraq.
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War vet knifed his own face

Study finds meditation helps soldiers overcome trauma, PTSD

Study finds meditation helps soldiers overcome trauma, PTSD

More than 20 percent of soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, according to the Department of Defense.

New research suggests one way to combat the symptoms is through meditation.

David George was sleeping in his cot during his deployment to Iraq when a car bomb exploded 25 yards away.

“I turn the lights on, and see a white cloud billowing into the room,” the 27-year-old recalls. “All the windows were blown out.”

Since then, he's struggled with PTSD, is often anxious, angry and depressed. At one point, back at home in Maryland, he stopped himself from buying a pistol.
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Study finds meditation helps soldiers overcome trauma, PTSD

Tank vandalized outside Michigan VFW post

Tank vandalized outside Michigan VFW post
The Associated Press
Posted : Thursday Jun 30, 2011 7:03:33 EDT
CORUNNA, Mich. — A Veterans of Foreign Wars post in Corunna, Mich., is offering a $400 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for vandalizing an M-60 Patton tank displayed in front of the post.
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Tank vandalized outside Michigan VFW post

Homeless female veteran on the streets after 4th suicide attempt

Female veterans struggle with homelessness

by Brad Woodard / KHOU 11 News
Posted on June 29, 2011

HOUSTON -- Some female veterans are struggling and homeless, and it's a problem that is becoming increasingly common.

A group of female veterans are taking a life skills class at the Santa Maria Hostel – the group of women are on the verge of being homeless.

“I could go anywhere and no one would know that I'm homeless,” said Army veteran Jacqueline Wright. “The recession hit. I was unable to find work, and that just led to a downward spiral.”

Some of the women said they’ve spent half their lives on the streets.

“I've slept in bushes, in parks, the backs of people's yards, abandoned cars,” said Navy veteran Cheryl Jett.

Their reasons for being here are as varied as their stories.

“My addiction was pain pills -- Xanax and sleeping pills. I tried committing suicide four times,” said Aimee Dewolfe, a homeless Navy veteran.

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Female veterans struggle with homelessness

Cape soldier’s death in Iraq under investigation

Cape soldier’s death is under investigation
By John Basile
Posted Jun 29, 2011

The United States Army continues to look into the death of Army Sgt. Matthew Gallagher of North Falmouth.

Gallagher, 22, died Sunday in Wasit province, Northern Iraq under circumstances that still are not clear.

The Army confirmed Wednesday that Gallagher’s death is listed as non combat-related, a designation leaving open a number of possibilities according to Capt. Matthew Merrill of the 6th Squadron, 9th Cavalry, the unit in which Gallagher served.

Read more: Cape soldier’s death is under investigation

Homes for our Troops to build Afghanistan veteran home

Homes for our Troops to build Afghanistan veteran home in July
Published: Thursday, June 30, 2011
By Sara K. Satullo
The Express-Times

Even as Rob Kislow lay in a hospital bed at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, he could only focus on one thing.

“’I just want the American Dream,’” Kislow, now 25, recalls telling a reporter interviewing him. “That was my entire mindset.”

It took several years, 16 prosthetic legs and lots of hardship but come July, Kislow’s American dream is headed into overdrive. He’s set to become a father and homeowner within days of one another.

The national nonprofit Homes for Our Troops, which builds homes for seriously injured post 9/11 veterans at no cost to them, is set to begin work on Kislow’s Moore Township home July 22.
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Homes for our Troops to build Afghanistan veteran home

VA Cemetery Accused of Censoring Religious Speech

First let me say that I am against forced religious talk of any kind. This includes forcing people to not say what they believe. I do not support someone saying that someone else is going to hell if they do not covert or believe the "right" way, especially when they are in need of spiritual help. It's one of the reasons why I became a Chaplain. I have no church. While I am Greek Orthodox, my own branch of Christianity does not support the role of women as ministers. It is my job to address people in need no matter what faith they have or if they have no faith at all and I am free to discuss whatever will help them heal spiritually but I am careful to not cross the line and offend them. If I know I am talking to a non-Christian, I will invoke "God" but limit the use of "Christ" even though they know I am a Christian.

This is also the reason why I do not believe a speaker addressing a mixed group should focus on Christ instead of God, but that is what I believe much like I believe no one in the government should attempt to force anyone to convert or force them to listen. They are supposed to be able to say what they want and use their own judgment. If this nation can protect the free speech rights of the hateful Westboro Group because they use the title of a church, then they should also protect the rights of everyone to use their own judgment of what they will or will not say.

VA Cemetery Accused of Censoring Religious Speech
June 29, 2011
Houston Chronicle

Local veterans and volunteer groups are accusing Department of Veterans Affairs officials of censoring religious speech -- including banning the word "God" -- at Houston National Cemetery.

In one example cited in documents filed this week in federal court, cemetery director Arleen Ocasio reportedly told volunteers with the National Memorial Ladies that they had to stop telling the families, "God bless you," at funerals and that they had to remove the words "God bless" from condolence cards.

The new allegations of "religious hostility" by VA and cemetery officials follow on the heels of a controversy over a prayer in Jesus' name by Pastor Scott Rainey at a Memorial Day service in the cemetery.

U.S. District Judge Lynn N. Hughes ruled May 26 that Ocasio couldn't stop Rainey from using the words "Jesus Christ" in his invocation.

Attorneys with the nonprofit Liberty Institute, which represented Rainey, filed an amended complaint this week after allegedly finding other instances of religious discrimination by cemetery officials against members Veterans of Foreign Wars District 4, The American Legion Post 586, and the National Memorial Ladies, a volunteer group that attends funerals of fallen service members.

The complaint accuses VA of "a widespread and consistent practice of discriminating against private religious speech" at the cemetery.
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VA Cemetery Accused of Censoring Religious Speech

DoD to Employers: Hire Spouses or Go Away

DoD to Employers: Hire Spouses or Go Away
June 30, 2011|by Amy Bushatz

The Pentagon launched a program on June 29 that provides incentives for top-tier companies to add servicemember spouses to their payrolls.

The DoD initiative -- dubbed the “Military Spouse Employment Partnership” -- includes 79 Fortune 500 plus companies and is intended to make hiring military spouses attractive to employers by offering them good public exposure while highlighting spouses as a potential workforce solution.

“We’re really holding their feet to the fire with this,” said Robert Gordon, the Pentagon’s chief of military community and family policy. “We want documentation -- who they’re hiring, how many they’re hiring, in terms of what kind of jobs our spouses are getting.
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Hire Spouses or Go Away

Growing Concern over Vets' Financial Issues, PTSD

Is it better for the troops coming home today than four years ago? Sure, but with the "better than nothing" thought, it is not as good as it should be when you think about the money spent. When you think about some folks in congress playing games with the lives of the combat veterans coming home, it should be sending warning bells across the nation. As bad as it is, it could have been worse had congress not acted in 2007, 08, 09 and 2010. Bills were flying out of congress to make it right but the troops had been in combat since 2001 in Afghanistan and 2003 in Iraq. They had a lot to make up for.

Four Years After Walter Reed, Government Still Faulted for Troop Support
Growing Concern over Vets' Financial Issues, PTSD


About a third (34%) of those who say the government has not done enough for returning troops point to mental health issues as the biggest area of concern; that is unchanged from 2008. However, specific mentions of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have doubled – from 5% to 11%.

As President Obama begins to draw down U.S. forces in Afghanistan, most Americans continue to say that government support for troops returning from war is falling short.

The public remains divided over whether the American people give enough support to soldiers who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Opinions on this tilt more negative, however, among the families of those who have served in the military since the 9/11 terror attacks.

The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted June 15-19 among 1,502 adults, finds that the government gets better marks for supporting returning troops than it did in 2007, amid the scandal over military medical care at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, or a year later.

Nonetheless, just 32% say the government gives enough support to soldiers who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Nearly twice as many (62%) say the government does not provide enough support for the returning troops. In 2007 and 2008, even fewer said the government was providing adequate support for the troops (21% in 2007, 22% in 2008).
read more here
Government Still Faulted for Troop Support

Was shooting Matthew Speese justified?

I have read a lot of reports, too many of them, where police had to face off with combat veterans. Most of them end the way Matthew Speese's life did. Police have a very difficult job to do and we cannot ignore it is dangerous for them to have to come face to face with an armed combat veteran. Most of the time they know it will not end well. The problem is, it does end well for a lot of veterans and they finally get the help they need.

This editorial in Grand Rapids Press points out that Speese had dropped his gun. He reached for something in his belt when he was shot. It turned out to be a knife. Why not use a taser on him instead of bullets? Why not wait until they knew what it was? They had their weapons drawn and pointed at Speese. Why not wait one split second to find out what it was? We can ask a lot of questions but even if we ask ourselves what we would have done, we will never know for sure what that would have really been.

This issue needs to be addressed in all urgency. There have been increased face offs between veterans and law enforcement. The issue of why they reach this point at all needs to be addressed before there are more in crisis and more lives of cops on the line.

Editorial: Why the police shooting of Matthew Speese was justified, but calls attention to veterans' needs
Published: Wednesday, June 29, 2011
By The Grand Rapids Press Editorial Board

Police are frequently called to make split-second decisions in confusing circumstances.
So it was with the death of Matthew Speese.

Police shot and killed Mr. Speese at his home in Montcalm County June 1 after he repeatedly threatened officers. Montcalm County Prosecutor Andrea Krause made the right decision by clearing the officers involved of any criminal wrong-doing.

Too much second-guessing of police work after the fact will only lead to hesitations that can be dangerous to law enforcement and the general public. Law enforcement officials should not have free rein to do anything, of course. However, society should recognize their duties carry special burdens and agonizing decisions. The facts in this case support the officers’ actions as self defense.

The death of Mr. Speese offers another lesson: the need to provide good psychological care to military veterans. The 47-year-old Mr. Speese, a Marine, served in the Gulf War and suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). He had suicidal tendencies. In fact, a suicide threat led police to Mr. Speese’s home near Howard City after he called a Veterans Crisis Line.

In the call, he threatened to kill himself and said he would shoot police officers if they responded.
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Why the police shooting of Matthew Speese was justified

Senator Nelson takes on fight for Iraq Vet facing deportation

Jacksonville Iraq War Veteran Faces Deportation
11:33 PM, Jun 29, 2011

Written by
Lewis Turner

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Just last year Elisha Dawkins was getting pinned, having just graduated from the FSCJ school of nursing. His plan was to take the boards after he returned from his deployment to Guantanamo Bay.

That plan changed, though, when he was arrested upon his return in April. Immigration officials said there was a problem with Dawkins' passport paperwork. They said he checked the box stating he never applied for a passport before, when in fact he had.

read more here
Jacksonville Iraq War Veteran Faces Deportation

From the New York Times
Iraq Veteran Offered Deal in Passport Violation Case
Published: June 28, 2011

MIAMI — The federal government on Tuesday took the unusual step of offering to drop a passport violation prosecution of a Navy petty officer if he completed a term of probation.

Even if he is able to resolve the criminal case, the petty officer, Elisha L. Dawkins, 26, is facing deportation based on an order issued in 1992, when he was 8 years old, his lawyer said.

Petty Officer Dawkins was brought to the United States from the Bahamas as a baby and was raised in Miami believing he was a United States citizen, said his lawyer, Clark Mervis.

In March, while he was on active duty at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, Petty Officer Dawkins was indicted on a charge of making a false statement on a 2006 passport application. The statement, according to prosecutors, was that he had never applied for a passport before, when he had actually abandoned an application he filled out the year before.

Judge Cecilia M. Altonaga of Federal District Court noted the unusual nature of the prosecutors’ offer, saying she had seen the government use the pretrial diversion program only twice before in her eight years on the bench.

“I’m almost speechless,” the judge said. “It’s a kinder, gentler day over there. It happens so infrequently.”
read more of this here
Iraq Veteran Offered Deal in Passport Violation Case
Iraq Veteran locked up for not being a citizen

71 year old veteran faced off with SWAT at VA hospital

Flash grenade ends standoff at VA office
A 71-year-old veteran from Creswell is taken to the hospital after a SWAT team defuses a tense confrontation

The Register-Guard
A Eugene police SWAT team on Wednesday used a percussion grenade to end a standoff with a military veteran who allegedly threatened to shoot a local Veterans Affairs clinic manager and later pointed a shotgun at a federal police officer who works at the facility.

Eugene police took 71-year-old Milan Jackie Boon into custody following the standoff, which ended shortly after noon in the parking lot of the VA clinic at 100 River Ave.

Boon, a Creswell resident, was cited on charges of menacing, pointing a firearm at another person, unlawful use of a firearm and disorderly conduct. He was not jailed, police said.

Though Boon had blood on his face when he was loaded into an ambulance, he did not suffer serious injuries in the incident, police Lt. Doug Mozan said.

According to police and a VA spokeswoman, an employee of the clinic notified police at 11:24 a.m. that an agitated veteran had arrived there a short time earlier.

The man complained about what he perceived as subpar service, then allegedly told the clinic’s operations manager that he would shoot her with a shotgun. Police later recovered the weapon from Boon’s Plymouth minivan, which he had parked in a handicapped spot in the clinic’s front lot.

“He was upset,” VA spokeswoman Sharon Carlson said. “We can’t determine exactly why. When he came in, he stated that the (clinic) staff wasn’t doing anything.”

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Flash grenade ends standoff at VA office

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Iraqi Vet Says Tuesday Saved His Life

Iraqi Vet Says Tuesday Saved His Life
A man and a dog named Tuesday brought a message of salvation to Miami
By Christina Hernandez
Tuesday, Jun 28, 2011
A dog can be a man's best friend and for one war veteran, his dog named Tuesday, saved his life.

The pooch had such an impact on Luis Montalvan's life, that he wrote a book about it and brought it to Miami.

Montalvan and his golden retriever with the odd first name have been inseparable for more than two years. Montalvan got the service dog in 2008 after serving two tours in Iraq.

Montalvan was suffering from post traumatic stress disorder and a doctor suggested a four-legged companion might be the perfect prescription.

He said Tuesday is a gift from God - bringing back ambition the former U.S. Army captain lost fighting over seas.

"I needed support and the fact that there were highly trained, loving dogs there to help mitigate these disabilities was a godsend," Montalvan said at a book signing at Books and Books in Coral Gables
read more here

Iraqi Vet Says Tuesday Saved His Life

ORLANDO VA MEDICAL CENTER for 90,000 veterans

June 28, 2011 · By ANN STRAUB

The Orlando VA Medical Center, serving an area of nearly 90,000 veteran patients in Central Florida, is one of seven members of the VISN 8 Healthcare System.

The Orlando VA Medical Center includes the Orlando VA Medical Center, the Community Living Center, the Residential Rehabilitation Program, the Viera Outpatient Clinic, the Daytona Outpatient Clinic, and four Community Based Outpatient Clinics located in Clermont, Kissimmee, Leesburg, and Orange City.

The East Central Florida veteran population is slated for a new hospital to be built in 2012. This much needed facility will make it easier for East Central Florida veterans to access VA’s world-class medical center and relieve the burden of traveling long distances for their inpatient care.

In addition to the main facility in Orlando, the VA offers services in several outpatient clinics in their six county patient service area. These clinics are located in Daytona Beach and Viera.

Community-based outpatient clinics include Clermont, Kissimmee, Leesburg, Orange City, Crossroads Annex and Lake Nona Annex.
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Titusville police shut down 11 homeless camps with veterans

Homeless raid in Titusville questioned

It's one thing to want to get rid of homeless people but another to have a place for them to go. Where are these people supposed to go? People seem to forget that about a third of the homeless are veterans on top of it and most of them suffered after their service.

Titusville police shut down 11 homeless camps
Sites shut down because of safety concerns
9:30 AM, Jun. 29, 2011

Written by

"This a veterans' town and this is a veterans' county, and they will not get away with it," Taylor said.

TITUSVILLE -- — Police have cleared out 11 homeless camps throughout the city in a push to remove people who are trespassing on private property.

Titusville Police Department and fire officials say the camps are a safety hazard, and a growing problem in the city, partly resulting from the increased unemployment.

But George Taylor Sr., founder and president of the Titusville-based National Veterans Homeless Support Inc., said he is concerned about the efforts to clear out local homeless camps.
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Titusville police shut down 11 homeless camps

Honor denied some families of fallen troops

Honor denied some families of fallen troops
By Elaine Quijano

(CBS News) INDIANAPOLIS - President Obama has spoken often about the weight he feels every time he signs a letter of condolence to a military family. And, he has said, there are few days when he doesn't sign one.
But you may be surprised to learn what CBS News correspondent Elaine Quijano found out -- not every military family that suffers a loss gets a letter from the commander in chief.

"I miss you Chance, I do," says Gregg Keesling as he touched his son's headstone.

Father's Day marked two years since Gregg and Jannett Keesling's son, 25-year-old Army Specialist Chance Keesling, died.

"We did get a full military burial, with the 21 gun salute and the playing of "Taps," Gregg says.

Keesling was on his second tour in Iraq. His marriage had broken up during his first deployment, and he was struggling with emotional problems this time. But no one knew how much he was suffering.

In June 2009, he recorded a video for his girlfriend's niece. But days later, after a fight with that girlfriend, Keesling shot himself on his post in Iraq.

His father Gregg says, "I think his last words to Jannett were "I think my day's not going to go very well.'"
read more here
Honor denied some families of fallen troops

Veterans Charity Fraud

When I see men standing around in intersections wearing their uniforms, holding a bucket in one hand and flags in the other, I get really angry now. People see Disabled Veterans Foundation and think about the DAV. The Disabled American Veterans do not solicit donations in intersections. They don't dress up and they do not pay people to collect money. I asked a few of the men standing near where I live and they said they were not veterans. The website claims the men collecting are veterans on the video they have up. If you see someone collecting on your street, they are not part of the DAV but this is not the only problem out there as the American public deals with having their hearts tugged and wanting to do something for our veterans. Read this and you'll be angry too.

Veterans Charity Fraud: Despite Widespread Outrage, Groups Continue To Abuse Public Trust
Marcus Baram

For hundreds of thousands of veterans returning home from the battlefronts in Iraq and Afghanistan, making it home alive is just the first challenge.

An estimated 25 percent of returning U.S. service members will experience combat-related problems such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), depression or anxiety disorders. More veterans are committing suicide than are dying in combat overseas -- 1,000 former soldiers receiving care from the Department of Veterans Affairs attempt suicide every month. About 50,000 veterans are experiencing chronic homelessness, according to nonprofit housing group HELP USA. And the unemployment rate for 18 to 24-year-old veterans is 21 percent, much higher than the 16.6 percent rate for non-veterans of the same age.

Though the VA has come a long way from the 1970s, when many Vietnam veterans failed to reintegrate into society and became homeless and addicted to drugs, the department still has problems. The VA bureaucracy is notoriously difficult to navigate, and veterans are left to figure out on their own what benefits they are eligible for. As a result, many fall through the cracks -- more than 720,000 veterans do not take advantage of VA benefits for which they are eligible.

To fill in the gap, veterans charities are a crucial resource -- providing financial assistance and job training, funding medical research and rehabilitative services, and helping veterans obtain government benefits. Every year, Americans give millions of dollars to such groups, expecting that the money will assist those who've served their country.

But as a group, veterans charities are prone to abuse, profiteering and outright fraud, say philanthropy watchdogs. Almost half of the 39 veterans charities rated by the American Institute of Philanthropy in its April/May 2011 report received F grades, largely because they devoted only a small ratio of their expenses to charitable programs, in part due to excessive fundraising expenses. Some of these groups defend their spending by arguing that reliance on such ratios is misleading, claiming that new nonprofits may have to spend over 50 percent of their revenue on outreach, education and fundraising for a while. But charities that spend up to 90 percent of their donations on overhead have been widely condemned and were the subject of congressional hearings in 2007.
Veterans Charity Fraud

Veterans Die Facing Mountains of Red Tape For a Reason

Chaplain Kathie

While the following is a very good article, I find it stunning that what was left out is the biggest part of the reason they are waiting longer. Money. If you read news reports, you only get part of what has been going on. You have to talk to the VA employees to get to the bottom of what they see everyday. First, the situation of not being able to replace claims processors when older workers retire or leave. Yes, there is a hiring freeze even with the VA.

At a Disabled American Veterans Auxiliary conference in Lake Mary last week, the situation was presented loud and clear by one of the speakers. It takes two years to train a claims agent, so they are already behind on having people able to process claims. When you take into account that there were not enough new hires to handle the flood of veterans entering because of Agent Orange and PTSD rules being changed, it made a bad situation turn into a crisis.

Then there is the issue of the Suicide Prevention Hotline getting so many calls but no one seems to be asking why there are more veterans in crisis while the government has been spending so much money on PTSD. Why do they ever have to find it so impossible to survive combat that suicide is even a thought in their mind? We've been at this since the 70's and should have been a lot closer to making sure they are getting appropriate care instead of better than nothing.

Medications are not the answer but the DOD and the VA seem to approach "treatment" with a bottle of pills. Therapy needs to be developed for the individual. Some do well in group therapy while others need one to one. When they start talking about what's going on inside of them, what they feel and think, then they start to heal. Medications can take "feeling" away from them, basically numbing them. Their help cannot end with pills.

Then there are other programs going on from sports, to horses and dogs. There is a growing list of programs available for a reason. There is not a one-size-fits-all for everyone. The bottom of the list that should be at the top is getting the families involved in the care of our veterans. Too many family members have little or no knowledge of what PTSD is, what they can do to help or what help is available for them in the form of support.

It is not that the VA is broken but the media does not seem interested in what is the reason for all of this still happening after so much time and money has gone into helping veterans heal.

Veterans Die Facing Mountains of Red Tape
By Lena Groeger
June 29, 2011

When Clay Hunt returned home to Texas after two combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, the struggle didn’t end. Tormented by flashbacks and post-traumatic stress, he sought medical help from the Department of Veteran Affairs – but faced a pile of paperwork. While waiting for help, he turned his energy towards helping his fellow veterans, raising money for the wounded and appearing in public service announcements for veterans struggling, like him, with the psychological trauma of war.

Hunt took his own life on March 31, 2011. His disability checks arrived five weeks later.

Tragically, Clay’s story is not unique. Every day, 18 veterans of the nation’s armed forces become casualties by their own hands. One thousand more attempt to take their own lives every month. The numbers are as grim for active duty and reserve soldiers: The Army just reported 27 suspected suicides for the month of May, higher than any other month this year.

“Those numbers are just the tip of the iceberg,” Paul Rieckhoff, executive director of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, tells Danger Room. “This is a problem that’s clearly out of control.”

As Obama promises a drawdown of troops in Afghanistan and Iraq is coming to a close, the number of soldiers returning home is only rising. But after fighting for their country, these veterans are forced to fight a health care system that is not sufficiently able to help them. Last month the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals berated the Department of Veteran Affairs for delays in treating veterans who have the combat-related mental injuries that put them at an increased risk of suicide.

“The VA’s unchecked incompetence has gone on long enough; no more veterans should be compelled to agonize or perish while the government fails to perform its obligations,” the judges wrote in the majority ruling.

read more here
Veterans Die Facing Mountains of Red Tape

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

No-conscience lawmakers going after military retirement pay?

Lawmakers flirt with retired-pay overhaul
By Rick Maze - Staff writer
Posted : Tuesday Jun 28, 2011 13:12:39 EDT
Two cuts in military retired pay are under discussion as part of negotiations between Congress and the White House over the size of the U.S. national debt, but getting an agreement is proving difficult.

One cut is small, involving how annual cost-of-living adjustments are calculated. It could apply to military and federal civilian retirees, disabled veterans and survivors. The net effect would be annual adjustments that average one-quarter of a percentage point below what they would be under the current formula.

The second retired-pay option involves a complete overhaul of the benefit, replacing the 20-year model, which pays immediate benefits, with a new plan that could provide some retirement benefits for as few as five years of service — with the actual payments not starting until at least age 60 for any service members who do not retire on a full military disability.

As it stands, this proposal would apply only to future troops, not current retirees or anyone already in uniform.

The talks come as the U.S. has run out of borrowing power after reaching its current $14.3 trillion debt limit. The Treasury Department has warned the U.S. will run out of cash reserves to pay bills Aug. 2, which has become the deadline for reaching an agreement.
read more here
Lawmakers flirt with retired-pay overhaul

Marine/firefighter John Slivinski left behind a lot of questions

Fireman suspended for posing topless on charity calendar commits suicide
Last updated at 10:51 PM on 27th June 2011

A fire-fighter who was disciplined for posing shirtless on a charity calendar has committed suicide, it was announced today.

Tragic: Philadelphia firefighter John Slivinski, at right, is photographed by Katherine Kostreva at Logan Circle. Colleagues are baffled after his suicide on Saturday

John Slivinski was found dead at his Lawndale, Philadelphia home on Saturday, with Police and colleagues saying the cause was suicide.

It is not known why he took his own life.

In April the 31-year-old former Marine was suspended from the city's prestigious 'Rescue One' unit after posing topless for a national fund-raising calendar.

Read more: Fireman suspended for posing topless on charity calendar commits suicide

VA pays $925,000 in Bridgeport exploding eyeball suit

VA pays $925,000 in Bridgeport exploding eyeball suit
Daniel Tepfer, Staff Writer
Updated 11:25 p.m., Monday, June 27, 2011

BRIDGEPORT -- The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs agreed Monday to pay $925,000 to a man whose eyeball exploded during a routine outpatient cataract operation at the West Haven Veterans Affairs hospital.

The settlement, on behalf of 60-year-old Jose Goncalves, of Hartford, was reached as the case was being prepared for trial in U.S. District Court here.

"Jose suffered excruciating pain after that botched surgery and continued to have severe pain for months afterward," said Christopher Bernard, Goncalves' lawyer. "The damage to the eye is obvious because his iris is missing and his eyelid droops. If anything should ever happen to the undamaged left eye, he could face total blindness."

Read more: VA pays $925,000 in Bridgeport exploding eyeball suit

Vietnam Vet killed by hit and run driver

Fort Worth hit-and-run victim, 70, had just started new job to help ill wife

FORT WORTH -- Jerry Winton was a Vietnam veteran, a strong, quiet man who rebuilt old cars and made providing for his family his top priority, his daughter said.

That's why the 70-year-old recently started a mechanical engineering job. His wife of 42 years has medical issues and, during the two years he was out of work, he paid about $1,000 a month for her health insurance.

"He was so happy to be working again," his daughter Cindy King said. "His whole life was about taking care of us."

Mr. Winton's family grieved Monday, two days after he was run over outside an east Fort Worth business. Police said that at 11 a.m. Saturday another driver backed his car into Mr. Winton's Chevrolet pickup in the parking lot of a doughnut shop in the 5600 block of Meadowbrook Drive, about four miles from his home.

Read more: Fort Worth hit-and-run victim

Vietnam vet who hit the Lottery four years ago may finally get some

65-year-old Vietnam vet who hit the Lottery four years ago may finally get some of his winnings


Monday, June 27th 2011, 6:01 PM

A down-on-his luck Brooklyn vet who hit the Lottery four years ago may finally collect some of his winnings.

Walter Carver, 65, won $10,000 in 2007, but officials took more than half the money because he had once worked a welfare-to-work program.

Carver, who got about $1,000 after taxes, challenged the ruling but was slapped down in state court. A state appeals court has paved the way for the Vietnam veteran to get his winnings back.

"It was a scratch-off game," Carver told the Daily News. "I scratched it off and I was jumping around…then they told me there's a red flag on it."

"I said 'Wait a minute, wait a minute. I was working for my money. I'm not a deadbeat dad. I never signed anything that says they can take my money.' We've been fighting for this money for four years. I still haven't seen it."

Read more:
Vietnam vet who hit the Lottery four years ago may finally get some

Purple Mind movie covers PTSD on Facebook

Purple Mind seems to have it all. Flashbacks, nightmares, mood swings, rage and a veteran disconnected from his family. Above that, it has a Sheriff trying to help, fully aware of what Roy is going through.

Roy tried to go back to work, but his job was gone. Then he tried to file a claim but was called a liar since he answered "no" to every question before his discharge. They had to move out of their home, like to many other families. This is a story that is being played out across the country everyday.

A wise Vietnam Vet helps Roy journey back to healing by helping him put what he's feeling into words. Therapy is the best way to begin to heal. They are able to see that because they are carrying around so much pain, their soul is still there but grieving.

Roy talked about having to kill and survivor's guilt.

Once Roy started talking, he started healing.

Award-Winning PTSD Awareness Movie 'PURPLE MIND' Opens Internationally Online Directly to Facebook's Nearly 700 Million Users

Using the social power of Facebook, Purple Mind hopes to bring more attention to the serious issue of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that military vets and families are dealing with

BERKELEY, Calif., June 28, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Landfall Productions and independent filmmaker Eric Stacey today announced their independent feature film "Purple Mind," which is a family/war drama about an Iraq combat vet's return home and subsequent battle with PTSD, is set to break new ground and premier on an international stage to almost 700,000,000 computer screens via FlickLaunch, "the first global film distribution platform built on Facebook."

Purple Mind recently won Best Actor award for its star, Will Shepherd, at the Bare Bones International Film Festival where it was also nominated for Best Drama, and received an Award of Merit from Indie Fest.

In late May, First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden launched a Military Families Initiative to educate, challenge and spark action from all sectors of our society to ensure military families have the support they have earned. With 350,000 to 900,000 current GIs or recent veterans suffering the effects of PTSD, there is great need for support. Communities across the country are feeling the after-effects of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Approximately half the GIs with a PTSD diagnosis or major depression fail to seek treatment and wind up abusing alcohol and prescription drugs while divorce and serious crimes often follow.

Director Eric Stacey says, "'Purple Mind' is to help folks understand what military vets have been through and how difficult it is for many to re-adjust to 'normal' life. The general public needs to appreciate what these brave men and women are dealing with and encourage veterans suffering with PTSD to reach out and seek help."

In honor of "National PTSD Awareness Day", and in an effort to support the many groups and organizations dedicated to soldiers' and veterans' health and healing, the film's international release invites 500 free rentals of "Purple Mind," with subsequent 7-day rentals costing a dollar ($1). Stacey supports veterans groups such as Veterans for Peace and Iraq Veterans Against the War and plans to donate a share of the film's rentals to the groups. Watch Purple Mind.

Northrop Grumman Foundation and USO team up for Wounded Warriors

Northrop Grumman Foundation Helps Break Ground on USO Wounded Warrior and Family Center at Fort Belvoir

ARLINGTON, Va., June 27, 2011 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The Northrop Grumman Foundation participated in today's groundbreaking of the United Service Organization's (USO) Wounded Warrior and Family Center, to stand adjacent to the new hospital located on the grounds of Fort Belvoir in Virginia.

In front of a standing room only audience of over 250 military and industry representatives, media and invited guests, shovels wielded by elected officials, military dignitaries, industry supporters and USO leadership were used to break ground on the USO's first stateside Wounded Warrior and Family Center. Today's event also launched the Operation Enduring Care initiative of the USO.

The center at Fort Belvoir will be a high-end, 25,000 square foot facility where wounded troops and their families can find respite and renewal in "home away from home" surroundings. The center will be operated by the USO of Metropolitan Washington.

In April this year, the Northrop Grumman Foundation announced a $5 million pledge to Operation Enduring Care, which is the largest single gift to the USO in the 70-year history of the organization, and the founding donation to this initiative.
read more here
Northrop Grumman Foundation Helps Break Ground on USO Wounded Warrior

Soldiers Raising Awareness of PTSD

Soldiers Raising Awareness of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
June 27 declared PTSD Awareness Day by US Senate

Published : Monday, 27 Jun 2011
Bob Barnard
By BOB BARNARD/myfoxdc

WASHINGTON - Did you know that June 27 is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Awareness Day and it has been declared so by the United States Senate?

North Dakota Sen. Kent Conrad sponsored the resolution honoring the efforts of a North Dakota Army National Guard unit that is trying to spread awareness of PTSD after one of their own, Sgt. Joe Biel, killed himself while battling PTSD.

June 27 was Sgt. Biel's birthday.

"We have a problem with mental health stigma in this country," says Tom Tarantino of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. "We don't talk about it. We don't look at it the same way we look at physical wounds. It's not something that we're all aware of."

"It is treatable," says Army Sgt. Juan Alcivar. "As long as you just take it one step at a time."
Alcivar has suffered from PTSD since 2007 when he was wounded in Iraq.

Read more: Soldiers Raising Awareness of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

News station focuses on Iraq veteran in sex crime sting

"A cook, a firefighter and then there was this man, an Iraq War Veteran" So the news station thought the biggest part of this story was that there was an Iraq veteran among the 25. Why is it when a few of them commit crimes they are all too willing to put the spotlight on them but when they need help to stay alive, the news never seems interested?

This is the headline for the video
Iraq veteran caught in child sex sting
Twenty-five men were arrested for allegedly trying to have sex with young girls and boys, including a man who earned the Purple Heart while serving in Iraq.

Long Island man impersonated soldier for upgrade on flight

N.Y. man accused of impersonating soldier
The Associated Press
Posted : Monday Jun 27, 2011 9:14:56 EDT
NEW YORK — Police say a Long Island man is accused of posing as a soldier so he could be bumped to first class on a flight to Kennedy International Airport.

Port Authority police arrested 22-year-old Rock Diaz of Freeport on charges of second-degree impersonation.
read more here
N.Y. man accused of impersonating soldier

Fort Bragg soldier accused of stabbing ex-wife

Police: Soldier stabbed ex-wife, held her captive

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — A Fort Bragg soldier has been charged with attacking his ex-wife over the weekend and then holding her captive for hours, police said Monday.

Sgt. Vincent Mark Berry, 26, of Pepperbush Drive, was charged Sunday with assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill or inflict serious injury, first-degree kidnapping, assault on a female and communicating threats. He was being held under a $210,000 bond in the Cumberland County Detention Center on Monday afternoon.

Spc. Sherrell President said Berry stopped by her home on Geiberger Drive early Sunday. The couple divorced in December, police said.

President, who is newly pregnant, said Berry was "talking so crazy." They went to a bedroom, and he pulled out a chef knife he grabbed from the kitchen, she said.

read more here
Soldier stabbed ex-wife, held her captive

Monday, June 27, 2011

Anti-oxidants could ease Gulf War Syndrome, study finds

Anti-oxidants could ease Gulf War Syndrome, study finds
Published: June 27, 2011
A recent medical school study states anti-oxidant supplements significantly can reduce symptoms of Gulf War Syndrome, USA Today reports, an illness suffered by tens of thousands of veterans more two decades after the first conflict to free Kuwait after an invasion by Iraq.

The DOD-funded research, by Beatrice Golomb of the medical school at the University of California-San Diego, is slated to be released Monday to the Department of Veterans Affairs, USA Today reports.

In 2010, the VA approved $2.8 million in new research spending to fund three separate projects designed to find new treatments to the mysterious Gulf War Syndrome that has affected tens of thousands of veterans from the 1990-91 war. About 697,000 troops served in operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, more than a third suffer from a collection of chronic symptoms such as fatigue, gastrointestinal problems, cognitive dysfunction, persistent headaches, and respiratory conditions.
read more here
Anti-oxidants could ease Gulf War Syndrome, study finds

U.S. Marine injured in hit-and-run crash

U.S. Marine injured in hit-and-run crash

A U.S. Marine home on leave was injured in a hit-and-run crash Friday night.

Thai Huu Lam, 19, was walking on Southeast Oatfield Street when a truck hit him from behind, throwing Lam 30 feet. The driver left the scene without stopping.

Despite hitting his head on a tree, Lam is doing fine, said his cousin Kimberly Dang.

"He's talking. He remembers stuff," said Dang. "He's doing good. He's sore."

Dang said Lam has a fractured eye socket and cuts and scratches on his face, but that he is conscious and eager to be released from Oregon Health and Science University.
read more here
U.S. Marine injured in hit-and-run crash

Man accused of posing as Air Force General got past security at Fort Huachuca

Man Accused of Posing as Air Force General
June 24, 2011
Arizona Daily Star
A Tucson man is being jailed until his July arraignment on suspicion he posed as a two-star general to get onto Southern Arizona's largest military installation.

Jeffery Lee Bennett, 46, is accused of donning a U.S. Air Force uniform with the rank of major general and entering the Fort Huachuca Army post in Sierra Vista on two occasions in March and April.

He's also accused of possessing a fake military identification card and of knowingly putting a phony Department of Defense vehicle sticker on the silver Volkswagen used to drive past the fort's guard gates.

While dressed as a general, the suspect went shopping at the fort's commissary and post exchange and bought $62 worth of groceries and tax-free items, federal court records say.
Man Accused of Posing as Air Force General

Marine to receive Bronze Star for valor

Marine to receive Bronze Star

June 26, 2011 4:31 AM
A Camp Lejeune Marine will receive a Bronze Star with Combat “V” at a June 29 ceremony aboard Camp Lejeune, officials with 2nd Marine Division announced recently.

Gunnery Sgt. Chad Miller, a Marine with 10th Marine Regiment, is scheduled to receive the award at a 9 a.m. ceremony held at the 10th Marine Regiment Landing Zone.
read more here
Marine to receive Bronze Star

Vet nabs foul ball at Yankee Stadium with hat in his only hand

Video: Nice catch, soldier! Vet nabs foul ball at Yankee Stadium
By Ian Casselberry

Friday night was already shaping up to be a good one for Michael Kacer.

He took his 13-year-old nephew, Isaiah, to his first New York Yankees game. And as part of a group with Achilles International — a non-profit organization devoted to athletes with disabilities — Kacer got to hang out on the field before the game, meeting Nick Swisher(notes) and posing for a photo with Joe Girardi. Kacer served 11 years in the National Guard and lost his left arm in a 2008 rocket attack.
read more here and see video
Vet nabs foul ball at Yankee Stadium

Veterans good enough for Wall Street, why not your company?

They know what it is like to work well as a team. They had to because it kept them alive. They know what it is like to finish the job no matter how tired they are. They did it without sleep for most of the year they were deployed. They spent it working everyday and didn't even think about calling in sick. Devoted? You bet. Focused on the task? Yep, that too. So while some companies won't consider hiring a veteran, Wall Street is.

Wall Street recruits war veterans as financial jobs decline

By William McQuillen, Published: June 24
Updated: Sunday, June 26, 8:58 PM

June 24 (Bloomberg) — Veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are being recruited by banks such as Citigroup Inc. and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. as Wall Street jobs wane.

The New York-based banks joined Credit Suisse Group AG, Bank of America Corp. and Deutsche Bank AG at a job fair hosted yesterday by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for service personnel aboard the USS Intrepid, a museum in the Hudson River.

“We’re looking for the right talent at the right time,” Suni Harford, Citigroup’s head of markets for North America, said while gripping a stack of resumes collected at the fair.

The veterans are aiming to work in an industry where jobs fell in 2010 for a fourth straight year to an average 7.63 million, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, or 8.4 percent below a 2006 peak. For veterans, unemployment rose to 12.1 percent in May from 10.6 percent a year ago. President Barack Obama said on June 22 he will withdraw 33,000 troops from Afghanistan by September 2012.
Wall Street recruits war veterans as financial jobs decline

PTSD Awareness Day:More soldiers seeking help for PTSD

Chaplain Kathie

This is PTSD Awareness Day. This is also post number 12,000! While I had high hopes this day would come there were many times I thought that nothing would do any good. How is a person supposed to find hope with reports of suicides and attempted suicides going up all the time? How does anyone find hope after reading about Marine Clay Hunt's suicide not counted after he did everything that experts said had to be done in order to save their lives? Too many reports over the years and I've been reading them for almost 30 years now. While this blog is less than 4 years old, I began in 1982 when PTSD became part of my life. I fell in love with a Vietnam Veteran. Hard to believe after all we've been through, we're still in love, still married, but above all that, he's living a better life. With therapy and medication, he finally reached the point where he is unashamed of what Vietnam did to him. Knowing that all is not hopeless because I have seen it with my own eyes has been torture, grieving for families suffering the loss of someone they loved. The worst emails I receive are from families when it is too late to help their veteran heal.

Defeating the stigma of PTSD is step one in overcoming it. Knowing what it is and what it is doing to their lives helps them understand they are not "defective" or "crazy" or anything else but a person who cared enough to risk his/her life for the sake of someone else. Brave? You bet or they wouldn't have been able to do anything more than sit it out like the majority of the people in this country. Beyond the bravery is compassion. They cared deeply about other people and that opened the door to the pain they came home with.

After reading the following report, it seems as if the enemy called "stigma" is losing this battle for their lives and that's a wonderful thing.

More Lewis-McChord soldiers seeking mental help
Officials at Joint Base Lewis-McChord believe they're making progress against the stigma that keeps some soldiers from getting help for mental-health issues.

By The Associated Press

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD — Officials at Joint Base Lewis-McChord believe they're making progress against the stigma that keeps some soldiers from getting help for mental-health issues.

More soldiers and military families are reaching out for mental-health care at the base, and post-traumatic stress diagnoses and prescriptions for common antidepressants are on the rise at Madigan Army Medical Center, The News Tribune of Tacoma reported.

What's not clear is how much of that increased pace is the result of distress caused by combat and long separations, and how much is the result of the sheer numbers of soldiers returning to the base from overseas. More than half of the base's 40,000 service members were gone from mid-2009 to mid-2010.

"I think we're actually starting to win this battle on stigma," said Madigan's commander, Col. Dallas Homas.
More Lewis-McChord soldiers seeking mental help

Community comes together for Staff Sgt. Kyle Malin

Thanks all around, as Army Staff Sgt. Kyle Malin and family show gratitude to Lakeville community
By Rachel Wedlund

When Army Staff Sergeant Kyle Malin is thanked for his military service, he responds as many veterans do - with humility.

At a homecoming party Saturday night for Malin, 28, at Lakeville's VFW Post 210, he told a grateful Vietnam veteran, "Hey, all I did was step in the wrong spot."

Malin's parents planned the party not for people to thank Malin, but for him and his parents to express their gratitude to the community for its help after his injury in the line of duty.

Malin's life changed forever last summer in the pomegranate and grape fields of the Afghanabad Valley in Afghanistan. The Lakeville native and father of two was a month into a tour with the Army's 101st Airborne Unit on that July day. His team was coming to the aid of a wounded soldier when Malin stepped on an improvised explosive device He ended up losing both legs.

"I remember hearing a really loud noise and being thrashed into a sandstorm," Kyle Malin said. "The next thing I knew, I was waking up in Walter Reed (Army Medical Center)."

Jon Malin, Kyle's father and high school wrestling coach, said the support of family, friends and community - who raised more than $50,000 for the Malins with a golf benefit last fall - has helped Kyle and his family stay strong during Kyle's recovery.
read more here
Thanks all around

Bars offer vets more than drinks

Bars offer vets more than drinks
The Los Angeles Times
DALE CITY, Va. — The minute one of her regulars comes into VFW Post 1503, Dori Keys starts to pour. Rich gets a Captain Morgan and Diet Coke. Sam drinks Old Crow on the rocks. Bruce likes Miller Lite.

The men she serves have one thing in common: They are American combat veterans. After seven years of listening from behind the bar, she knows a lot more about them than what they drink.

For instance, Bruce Yeager, 62, came in one day complaining about a sore on his foot that wouldn't heal. A former Army medic in Vietnam, he knew what was wrong. But it took Keys to persuade him to see a doctor. She even drove him. His gangrenous leg was amputated a few weeks later, the result of diabetes linked to his exposure to Agent Orange.

“I listened to Dori because she is a real good person,” Yeager said. That's about all he can put into words before his eyes mist up.

When it comes to dispensing health care, war veterans are a hard group to reach — and a growing group, thanks to ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Combat vets came up in a military system that rewards toughness and discourages complaints, particularly concerning psychological problems such as post-traumatic stress disorder.

A researcher in Ohio thinks bartenders like Keys might be part of a solution.

“In social work, you try to meet the clients where they are. If that happens to be a bar, then that's where the first line of help needs to be,” said Keith Anderson, an assistant professor of social work at Ohio State University. He is lead author of “The Healing Tonic,” a report on a pilot study that explored the family-like relationships between bartenders and vets at VFW canteens around Ohio.

The results suggest the women behind the bar — most of them happen to be women — could be an untapped resource for steering vets in crisis toward professional help.
read more here
Bars offer vets more than drinks

Britney Spears meets YouTube Marines

Britney Spears Marine Spoof (Video) Meets The Youtube Marines!
by Jack Ryan
Britney Spears has met the HMLA-169 and VMM-266 REIN Marines who did a spoof of her song "Hold It Against Me." The spoof video was shot in Afghanistan. It featured members of the Marines dancing and lip synching to her new audacious hit single.

The popstar met the marines on Friday before her show in Anaheim, California. She wrote on her twitter: "So honored to meet the marines of HMLA-169 'Vipers' who made that amazing HIAM video." She posted a photo of her and the marines who did the video.
read more here

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Former Iraq POW looks back

Former Iraq POW looks back
20 years ago, Mike Roberts was shot down and captured by Iraqi troops
Jun 26, 2011
COLUMBUS -- The colonel in the olive drab flight suit picks up a remote control lying on his desk, aims it at the television mounted to his office wall and pushes play. The screen flickers on to a crude black and white video overlaid with numbers and symbols.

On the screen, from this bird's-eye view, jets careen through a morbid and magnificent fireworks display as rockets race up from below. The horizon tilts sharply as just ahead, a rocket finds its target. "Stroke One took a hit! Stroke One took a hit!" says an adrenaline-laced voice that transports the colonel in the flight suit back 20 years into the cockpit of his F-16 fighter jet. A moment later, another missile finds its mark.
read more here
Former Iraq POW looks back

Fallen soldier returns home as "everyone's son"

A fallen hero becomes everyone's son when he returns home for the final time
By GREG JAFFE The Washington Post

Publication: The Day

Many in Woodstown, never knew the soldier killed in Afghanistan; but for a few moments, they pause their lives to think of him - and that distant war

Woodstown, N.J. - The silver hearse rolls out the main gate of Dover Air Force Base, where America's war dead return to U.S. soil.

"He's coming," yells John Davis, a 73-year-old retired electrician and Vietnam veteran. He and about 20 other bikers scramble for their Harleys.

Davis has a droopy gray mustache, a small soul patch and trifocals. He swings an artificial knee over his bike, drapes an ice pack over the nape of his neck and fires up his black motorcycle. The bikers pair off, forming a line leading away from the base. The hearse falls in behind them.

At 1:15 p.m., the convoy is heading north on Route 1 out of Delaware, toward the soldier's home town. The guttural rumble of the Harleys, softened by the hum of highway traffic, fills the air.
Most of the bikers don't even know the name of the soldier in the hearse.

Sixty miles away, in Woodstown, N.J., the three local employees of the John M. Glover Insurance Agency wonder why the police have posted temporary "no parking" signs on South Main Street. They check the borough of Woodstown's Web site to see whether there are plans to trim the trees in town. Then they notice the firemen hanging a big American flag between the ladders of their two trucks.

One of the agency employees, William Seddon, calls his son, a volunteer firefighter, to ask what is happening.

"The body of a soldier is going to come down the street later in the afternoon," his son tells him.

A fallen hero becomes everyone son

Duckworth stresses women's service history

Duckworth stresses women's service history

Sun, 06/26/2011
Dave Hinton

Even today, Tammy Duckworth says she gets questions about whether women belong in combat.

"Where do you think I was?" she responds. "In a bar fight?"

Duckworth lost both legs and partial use of one arm when the Black Hawk helicopter she was co-piloting was shot down during a 2004 mission in Iraq.

A major in the Illinois National Guard, she now serves as assistant secretary for public and intergovernmental affairs at the Department of Veterans Affairs — a position for which she was nominated by President Barack Obama.

She recently resigned the latter post and is rumored to be planning a run for U.S. Congress. Appearing Saturday at the annual Women With Wings event at Chanute Air Museum, Duckworth said she cannot speak about any potential run for Congress yet.

Duckworth said women serving in the military are becoming increasingly common. But she said many people forget that women's service started many years ago, citing the World War II service of the Women's Army Corps.
Duckworth stresses women's service history

Vietnam Veteran with PTSD finds peace in Oregon's coast

Ron Cronin: A photographer with an obsession for the Oregon coast
Published: Saturday, June 25, 2011
By David Stabler, The Oregonian
Ron Cronin
You can look at Ron Cronin's photographs and not know humans exist. "What I want is comfort, being in the moment, something that goes directly into the soul of the viewer."

Ron Cronin hoists a 70-pound pack onto his surly back and scrambles over rocks the size of filing cabinets to a spot 25 feet from the heaving surf. One big one and he'd be sucked into the cold churn, but after decades of visits, he knows the waves here, as well as the tides, temperatures, wind and light.

This rock shelf at Boiler Bay is Cronin's favorite spot on the coast, where power and fury drown out his demons for a few hours.

Out of his backpack come his tools: a tripod, a large-format camera, a lens, glass slides, a light meter and a black cloth. Cronin assembles his gear and ducks under the cloth, waiting for the perfect wave.

Maybe this one. Or this one. He watches the waves like a surfer, looking for signs of chaos and harm.

"I'm a power junkie. I absolutely love storms," he says. "It's hypnotic and mesmerizing. It may be because I'm a Vietnam veteran."

After his Ecola days, he came back to Portland, married an opera singer, Maria Novak Cronin, had a son and found ways to cope. Years later, he was diagnosed as 50 percent disabled with PTSD, he says.

"I knew I could never work with people or in a corporate office. I was unemployable, so I created my own occupation.
read more here
A photographer with an obsession for the Oregon coast

Iraq Veteran died in a psychiatric hospital in El Paso

Elgin man dies after serving in Iraq

By Elena Ferrarin
A 21-year-old Elgin man died Tuesday in Texas after suffering from traumatic brain injury resulting from an Army training exercise accident last year, his family said Saturday.

Timothy John “T.J.” Hansley died in a psychiatric hospital in El Paso, said his mother Trish Hansley. “We don’t know what happened; they can’t find the cause of death,” she said.

read more here
Elgin man dies after serving in Iraq

Veteran in Westboro case looks to move beyond his legal troubles

Veteran in Westboro case looks to move beyond his legal troubles

The Wichita Eagle

Ryan Newell is resting on his three-wheeler in a row of motorcycles in a Wichita garage, its door open to the steamy weather.

Just sitting there, it's hot enough to sweat, but the 26-year-old looks comfortable, calm, wearing his ball cap backward and smiling.

The garage is a refuge for the Iraq and Afghanistan war veteran. Just being there with his friend and fellow veteran Tony Sparling among the shiny, powerful machines boosts Newell's morale after what he's been through — disabling war wounds, PTSD, and a run-in with a controversial Topeka church that got him in trouble with the law and drew national attention.

People still call him Sgt. Newell even though he's no longer in the Army. He was a sergeant returning from a mission in Afghanistan in 2008 when an improvised bomb detonated.

"We lost everybody in the Humvee that day except for me," he says.
read more here and see video report
Veteran in Westboro case looks to move beyond his legal troubles

PTSD Will No Longer Be 'Invisible' In The Military

PTSD Will No Longer Be 'Invisible' In The Military
Written by
Anita Brikman
WASHINGTON (WUSA) -- The organizers of "Honor for All; Visible Honor for Invisible Wounds" are hoping to bring the debilitating effects of PTSD and traumatic brain injuries to the forefront.

Thousands of current service men and women are returning from Iraq and Afghanistan haunted by nightmares and memories of friends lost and the carnage they witnessed. Yet they may appear "OK" on the outside, compared to some of their fellow veterans with combat injuries.

Efforts are underway both in Washington, DC and across the nation to help suffering soldiers in new ways.

In Atlanta, Georgia, 27-year-old former Army Staff Seargeant Jeff Matthews is back on the battlefield in Afghanistan, thanks to a virtual reality computer program and the helmet covering his eyes and ears.

"There's bullets everywhere," he describes, as he takes part in an experiment at Emory University for more than 90 vets with PTSD.
PTSD Will No Longer Be Invisible In The Military

Joint Base Lewis-McChord soldier who killed self fell through cracks

We tell them to ask for help if they need it. Spc. Derrick Kirkland did. We tell them that if their buddies need help, tell someone. His buddies did. The Army sent him back to the states for help. That's where it all ended. All the efforts made before that were wasted because he was left alone after two suicide attempts. Any idea how many people including his family are asking "why" when it didn't need to happen? When they did everything they were supposed to do? Any idea what that kind of grief and "what ifs" does to the people left behind? I wonder if the person responsible for making the decision to give this troubled combat veteran his "privacy" has any clue so that something like this never happens again.

JBLM soldier who killed self fell through cracks, soldiers and mom say
Derrick Kirkland’s friends thought they got him the care he needed in southern Iraq when they told commanders the 23-year-old Army specialist had raised a shotgun to his mouth and threatened to kill himself.
MATT DETRICH The Indianapolis Star
Mary Corkhill Kirkland, 49 of Indianapolis holds a photograph of her son Spc. Derrick Kirkland, who committed suicide while serving in the Army.

Derrick Kirkland’s friends thought they got him the care he needed in southern Iraq when they told commanders the 23-year-old Army specialist had raised a shotgun to his mouth and threatened to kill himself.

Their alarms – and a second suicide attempt – led the Army to evacuate Kirkland early last year from his base to Landstuhl, Germany. His next stop was Madigan Army Medical Center at his home station, Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

But Kirkland’s distress, so apparent to fellow soldiers, fell short of what a Madigan psychiatrist regarded as “high risk behavior” that would have kept him in the hospital under constant watch.

Instead, the Army assigned him a private bedroom in the barracks south of Tacoma on March 15, 2010, and sent him to work with his unit’s rear detachment.
He hanged himself four days later.

Among the cases of troubled soldiers that played out badly:
• Since April 2010, four soldiers and two military contractors killed themselves within Lakewood’s city limits. The total number of Lewis-McChord soldiers committing suicide has held steady, with nine in each of the past two years and seven in 2008.

• In addition to the suicides that happen quietly, two Lewis-McChord killed themselves in the past year very publicly. In August, Spc. Brandon Barrett went AWOL and died in a shootout with police in Salt Lake City. In April, Sgt. David Stewart killed his wife and then himself off Interstate 5 in Thurston County. Police later found their 5-year-old son dead in their Spanaway home.

• Some soldiers who’ve sought counseling at Madigan report receiving superficial help that doesn’t address problems including sleep deprivation or depression. They worry that a failure to find the right therapist could lead to dangerous behavior or suicides.

read more here
JBLM soldier who killed self fell through cracks

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Help available for Lejeune Marines with PTSD

Help available for Lejeune Marines with PTSD

6/24/2011 By Lance Cpl. Walter D. Marino II , 2nd Marine Division

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. — Imagine you’re driving down a road with loved ones and suddenly a deer leaps in front of your car. Maybe you’re able to avoid the crash, maybe not – either way, that moment will affect you for the rest of your drive and maybe the rest of your life. Now multiply that by 100 and you might have an idea of what it’s like to encounter an improvised explosive device.

Psychiatrists at the Deployment Wellness Clinic aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., such as Robert Wilson, who described the above situation, help Marines and sailors who deal with issues like post traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression and family problems. Their goal is to help the service members recover and get back to full duty status through therapy and medication.

They follow a chart that categorizes Marines and sailors into four colored-stress levels: green, yellow, orange and red. The green zone represents a service member in an optimal state of mind while the red zone signifies disabling distress. Wilson stated that they usually receive service members in the red and work to get them to green.

While each Marine and sailor is different, so is the program, explains Sarah S. Spar-Alexander, a clinical psychologist for the clinic.

“Some thrive in group therapy, and for others, individual therapy is better,” said Spar-Alexander. Service members with serious issues sometimes feel separate from others in their workplace, explained Spar-Alexander. A group-setting involving Marines and sailors with similar problems gives them a chance to relate with one another and feel a sense of camaraderie.
read more here
Help available for Lejeune Marines with PTSD

Veterans’ needs in spotlight

Veterans’ needs in spotlight
U.S. Army Col. David W. Sutherland of the Pentagon was in Duluth to help veterans agencies unite to improve services
By: Jana Hollingsworth, Duluth News Tribune

Chuck Smith has walked through the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Minneapolis and seen what improvised explosive devices have done to men and women who served in Afghanistan and Iraq.

He’s upset with how long it can take for benefits to reach some of the people who have lost limbs or experienced other life-changing injuries while at war.

“When someone’s legs are blown off and they can’t return to work and they’ve answered the call to defend their country, there should be a way to fast-track (help),” Smith said. “No one should have to wait six months to a year and a half.”

Smith is head of the veterans service office for the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, who was a “grunt” in the Vietnam War. He was one of several area veterans who met Friday for a picnic at the Duluth Veterans Place in West Duluth with U.S. Army Col. David W. Sutherland.
read more here
Veterans’ needs in spotlight

GOP trying to cut back on homeless veterans?

Democrats, Veterans Advocates Discuss Impact of Reckless Republican Budget Plan on Homeless

Suicide total for Minnesota's Guard members ranks among nation's worst

Battle on home front is Guard's most perilous
Article by: Star Tribune Updated: June 25, 2011 - 12:20 AM
Suicide total for Minnesota's Guard members ranks among nation's worst.

Their names are tucked into the Minnesota Department of Health database that catalogues the state's suicides, with no hint of their common bond.

There is the 17-year-old girl from Kerrick who shot herself on the railroad tracks in Pine County. The 38-year-old man who made his living selling rides on a World War II-era tank until he killed himself in Inver Grove Heights. The 19-year-old born in Thailand who shot himself in Minneapolis.

Some were mechanics, some were students, some worked construction. All were soldiers in the Minnesota National Guard.

Their deaths have helped give the state Guard an unwanted distinction: It's second in the nation in the number of suicides that occur in its ranks.

Since 2007, 18 members of the state National Guard have killed themselves. Only Oregon, with 20, has had more. The Minnesota cases have been part of a worrisome trend of more suicides in the military, one which saw more service members kill themselves last year than died in combat.
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Battle on home front is Guard's most perilous

Camp Pendleton veteran writers mentored by Hollywood writers

Everyone has a story to tell: Local veteran writers mentored by Hollywood writers

I Marine Expeditionary Force
Story by Sgt. Marcy Sanchez Follow This Journalist

The Veterans' Writing Group-San Diego County, is a group of local veteran writers who conduct a monthly meeting for lectures and workshops from Hollywood professionals.

CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. - Veterans throughout San Diego County have found a way to speak their minds through a writer’s group mentored by Hollywood professionals.

The Veterans Writing Group – San Diego County consists of writers of all ages and backgrounds who come together to receive lectures and workshops from professional writers.

The idea started when the Writers’ Guild Foundation, an organization that educates and inspires writers, hosted a military veterans writing workshop last year. The workshop was held to help veterans improve their skills as writers, producers, screenwriters, journalists and novelists.

Since April 2008, the foundation has held weekend-long writing workshops in which professional writers mentor veterans and active duty military personnel, encouraging them to express themselves in writing.
read more here
Local veteran writers mentored by Hollywood writers

Missing soldier listed as "deserter" while people still search for him

Volunteers plan Sunday search for missing Dugway soldier, now listed as a deserter
Published: Friday, June 24, 2011 3:51 p.m. MDT
By Steve Fidel, Deseret News

DUGWAY — Volunteers are planning a search on Sunday for Army Spc. Joseph Bushling, assigned to Dugway Proving Ground, who has been missing since Mother's Day.

The search is being coordinated on an open Facebook page under Bushling's name.

"I've been taken by this story and I'm familiar with the area a little. We're hoping for ATVs, casual or intermediate hikers and anybody else available," said search coordinator Adam Lux. "Please tell friends, family and spouses to join us and some of the Bushling family."

read more here
Volunteers plan Sunday search for missing Dugway soldier

"Pledge to America" hurt veterans

There has been something going on in this country that reminds me of the movie "Something Wicked This Way Comes." While congress has been patting themselves on the back in front of veterans groups, they have been using their free middle finger hidden from view.

Veteran trapped in 800,000 paperwork backlog but while congress passed rule changed to allow Vietnam Veterans to file claims for the growing list of Agent Orange related health problems along with making it easier to file PTSD claims, the number of claims processors has been cut. Cut? Yes. For all the talk about getting it right for veterans, they wait without money for months wondering how to keep a roof over their heads and feed their families.

House passes government funding measure, sends on to President Obama
By Felicia Sonmez
Updated: 7:40 p.m.

The House on Tuesday night passed a bill that would continue to fund the government through March 4, 2011, sending the measure to President Obama for his signature ahead of a midnight deadline.

The bill passed by a 193-to-165 vote, with about 80 members not present. The House vote was closer than the Senate's vote on the measure earlier Tuesday; 79 senators voted in favor of the bill and 16 voted against it.

President Obama must sign the bill by midnight in order to avert a federal shutdown.

If you read the newspapers you'd think that the hiring freeze exempted the VA, but it didn't. Across the country it seems every state has been cutting the people working for veterans.

The following departments, agencies, and/or budget units of the executive branch of the State of Louisiana (hereafter “Unit and/or “Units”), as described in and/or funded by appropriations through Acts 11 and 41 of the 2010 Regular Session of the Louisiana Legislature (hereafter “Acts”), shall be subject to the hiring freeze as provided in this Executive Order:
Executive Branch
Schedule 01 — Executive Department Schedule 03 — Veterans Affairs

Sioux City
County department seeks to break hiring freeze
By Bret Hayworth | Posted: Wednesday, April 27, 2011

SIOUX CITY -- All Woodbury County governmental departments have been under a hiring freeze for more than a year, but with a doubled workload the commission of veteran affairs director is looking to expand the staff to three.
Danille Dempster, Veteran Affairs director, and commission chairman Ronald Kerr on Tuesday told the five county supervisors an additional worker is needed.
"The amount of veterans that are eligible (for programs) is increasing every year," Kerr said, citing Vietnam War veterans who are just now coming in for Agent Orange-related ailments.

Errors in making decisions have also added to the pain veterans suffer.
Veterans' Disability
Advocate for the Disabled

VA Retraining Mental Health Claims Processors

A Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) internal investigation revealed a high number of errors being made on disability claims evaluations filed by veterans suffering from traumatic brain injuries (TBIs). In response to those results, the VA is implementing new training for both their health care workers and their benefits processors.

The results of the investigation were somewhat shocking. The VA's Office of Inspector General (OIG) found 8% of veterans claims filed for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) contained errors. For those claims filed for TBIs, however, the error rate jumped to 19%. More than 50% of the TBI claims directly affected veterans' benefits.

There was an overall 23% error rate in all the OIG-reviewed cases. Most of the errors were technical, meaning they did not affect benefits. More than 80% of the claims, however, involved 100% disability ratings, and were made based on a need for surgery or other treatment stemming from a service-related disability.

The OIG examined 16,000 disability files based solely on PTSD claims. Investigators found there was no way the claims processors could be accurate with the limited training and experience they possessed. The VA noted the largest number of mistakes were made verifying specific events qualifying for PTSD benefits. The VA, however, has made that verification process much easier, and has therefore eliminated this issue.
Veterans' Disability

But it was not the hiring of Federal Employees that got us into this mess and if things go as planned by the GOP with their "Pledge to America" things are going to get a whole lot worse for our veterans.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Federal Workforce, Postal Service and Labor Policy once again played host to a contentious debate centering on proposed cuts to the civil service. During a May 26 hearing titled, “Rightsizing the Federal Workforce,” lawmakers from both sides of the aisle sparred over data relating to the size and composition of, along with compensation received by, the federal workforce. The Federal Managers Association (FMA), along with the Senior Executives Association (SEA) and the Professional Managers Association (PMA), submitted joint testimony for the record urging lawmakers to consider the scope of work carried out by employees to achieve agency missions, not just the number of active civil servants.

In his opening statement, Subcommittee Chairman Dennis Ross (R-Fl.) exclaimed that the number of federal employees has exploded over the last few years, to the tune of 2.1 million in sum, reaching unprecedented heights in recent United States history. He also stated that federal workers, on average, earn $101,751 in compensation, a figure he said far outpaces the private sector average. Ranking Member Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.) countered the Chairman’s opening statement by refuting his compensation figure and declaring it is important to remember there are two types of federal workers: federal employees and federal contractors. Lynch said there are 10.5 million contractors and grantees working for the federal government, nearly four times the number of civil servants, military personnel and postal employees. He said too often the finger of blame for our fiscal woes goes around and around before falling on federal employees.

Appearing before the Subcommittee, Representatives Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) and Tom Marino (R-Penn.) detailed their respective legislative measures introduced in the 112th Congress to pare down the size of the civil service. The Federal Workforce Reduction Act (H.R. 657), introduced by Lummis, would restrict federal hiring to one new employee for every two who leave the civil service. The legislation exempts the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs from the attrition policy. Marino’s bill, the Federal Hiring Freeze Act (H.R. 1779), would enforce a hiring freeze until the budget deficit is eliminated.

Both Lummis and Marino argued that federal employees provide essential services, but American taxpayers cannot afford to maintain the workforce on its current growth trajectory, maintaining their bills represent measures necessary to address the current economic environment. Lummis said she believes reducing the workforce through attrition, as opposed to other means, is sensible and will not hurt federal families’ economic wellbeing.

In the joint testimony, FMA, SEA and PMA cautioned that the two legislative proposals ignore the real concern of whether federal workforce levels enable agencies to achieve their congressionally-mandated objectives.

“We are primarily concerned that enacting proposals promoting a government-wide workforce reduction or hiring freeze absent of a comprehensive strategic plan will severely impede agencies’ efforts to acquire the proper staffing levels based on their established missions,” the trio wrote. “H.R. 657 and H.R. 1779, along with similar efforts to cap the federal workforce, fail to account for the services that agencies provide to taxpayers or the necessary personnel levels to effectively provide such services.”

Andrew Biggs of the American Enterprise Institute, also testifying before the Subcommittee, said a problem in analyzing the federal workforce is the lack of a model to compare it to. He argued it is difficult to say if it would be appropriate to reduce the workforce by a hard, arbitrary number; but he acknowledged there is also a danger that government officials could “study the issue to death,” which would be detrimental given the state of the budget and the rising national debt.

H.R. 657
Rep. Cynthia Lummis [R-WY]

Todd Akin [R-MO2]
Marsha Blackburn [R-TN7]
Dan Burton [R-IN5]
Jeff Denham [R-CA19]
Scott DesJarlais [R-TN4]
John Fleming [R-LA4]
Bill Flores [R-TX17]
Trent Franks [R-AZ2]
Bob Gibbs [R-OH18]
John Gingrey [R-GA11]
Louis Gohmert [R-TX1]
Paul Gosar [R-AZ1]
Ralph Hall [R-TX4]
Dean Heller [R-NV2]
Tim Huelskamp [R-KS1]
Samuel Johnson [R-TX3]
Steve King [R-IA5]
Jack Kingston [R-GA1]
John Kline [R-MN2]
Doug Lamborn [R-CO5]
Kenny Marchant [R-TX24]
Mick Mulvaney [R-SC5]
Pete Olson [R-TX22]
Bill Posey [R-FL15]
Scott Rigell [R-VA2]
Phil Roe [R-TN1]
Todd Rokita [R-IN4]
Peter Roskam [R-IL6]
Jean Schmidt [R-OH2]
Aaron Schock [R-IL18]
Addison Wilson [R-SC2]
Rob Bishop [R-UT1] (withdrawn)

Did you notice what party is standing behind this? Cutting government spending sounds good because no one wants to pay taxes but part of the taxes we pay takes care of the men and women serving this country everyday and veterans injured serving it yesterday.

What would make them want to do this especially to veterans in a time when two wars are producing more and more wounded topped off with the new claims coming in for Agent Orange and older veterans with PTSD? Is outsourcing still their goal?

But none of this is really that new. There is a dangerous game being played behind the backs of veterans expecting to get the "best care possible" after their service to this country. Maybe they think if they just break the VA their plan to turn it over to private, for profit corporations will happen and their rich buddies will fund them getting back into office?

VA Diverted Healthcare Funds for Illegal Studies
December 4, 2005
Funds were diverted from veterans’ healthcare to pay for studies on outsourcing jobs and closing VA hospitals – The dismantling of the VA is leading to privatization

by Larry Scott

One of the maxims of the Bush administration is: Never let the law get in your way. The political appointees who run the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) certainly know how to play by those rules.

Between 2001 and 2004 the VA illegally diverted funds earmarked for veterans’ healthcare to pay for studies on outsourcing jobs at VA facilities and to fund other studies on closing VA hospitals. The report detailing the VA’s misdeeds was released last week by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). (The full GAO report is available here -- )

The VA officially denies any wrongdoing. VA Secretary Jim Nicholson argued, "Congress clearly did not intend to preclude all manner of cost analysis necessary for the day-to-day administration of our health-care system …” However, Congress did pass legislation in 1981 that prohibits the diversion of funds appropriated to VA medical care accounts for studies on the cost of keeping work in-house versus that of contracting it out.

During the time VA officials were misappropriating funds they were working with Republicans in Congress to try to change the 1981 law that they were breaking. Senator Larry Craig (R-ID), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, introduced legislation (S. 1182 Sec 7) to do away with the prohibition and allow the VA to spend healthcare funds on outsourcing studies.

Also during this time the VA asked Congress for funds to conduct outsourcing studies. The amounts ranged from $16 million to $50 million. The VA was turned down every time. Since the VA couldn’t get the funds, they just broke the law.

It takes two years to train processors to do it right. Even if the VA was exempt in every state from hiring workers today, it would take two more years before they would be able to address the backlog pile. Maybe this is what they had planned for all along?

McCain defends VA health proposal

Aigne Treworgy
NationalJournal.comAugust 27, 2008

PHOENIX -- Although much attention this past week has been focused on political conventions and running mate selections, one of John McCain's only campaign events involved a somewhat defensive speech to a group that many consider a big part of his base. Following up on an appearance at the Disabled American Veterans convention in Las Vegas two weeks ago, McCain addressed the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Florida last week and responded to the allegation that his veterans' health care plan is a step towards privatizing veterans' health care.
For many months, McCain has proposed giving every veteran a "plastic card" to be used for the treatment of routine health care needs outside the Veterans Affairs system. In March, McCain held a town hall at a VFW in Chula Vista, Calif., and used a line he had repeated throughout his campaign to promise the audience he would fix the VA health care system.
"The thing that disturbs all of us is that for a routine health care need, too often someone goes down to the VA and stands in line to stand in line to get an appointment to get an appointment," McCain said at the time. "My friends, that's not right, and what I intend to do as president is for a routine health care need I intend to give a veteran a plastic card" which he or she would take "to the doctor or the health care provider of their choice and never have to stand in line to stand in line again."

And almost before McCain's speech was over, the Obama campaign had released a statement from the chairman of the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Subcommittee, Rep. Chet Edwards, D-Texas, fulfilling the GOP senator's predictions.

"Not only has John McCain repeatedly voted 'no' on needed funding for veterans supported by the VFW, American Legion and Disabled American Veterans, he has now come up with a plan to privatize VA health care that the Disabled American Veterans is saying would be a disservice to veterans," Edwards' statement read.

Why would they want to do this? There is a lot of money to be made by corporations if they take it over. For example, here's a look at the 2010 budget proposal.

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

2010 Budget: $112.8 billion (total including collections) – $55.9 billion in discretionary funding (including collections) and $56.9 billion in mandatory funding

Enacted 2009: $97.7 billion (total including collections) -- $50.4 billion in discretionary funding (including collections, not including ARRA funds) and $47.3 billion in mandatory funding
To honor America’s veterans and expand the services they receive, the Fiscal Year 2010 budget increases funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs by $25 billion over the next five years. The budget includes an 11 percent increase in resources for a discretionary funding level of $55.9 billion. The budget increases health care funding for veterans, enabling the VA to provide timely, high-quality care to 5.5 million veterans, develop Centers of Excellence, and enhance access to mental health and cognitive care. It also restores health care eligibility for modest-income veterans, steps up investment in technology for the delivery of services and benefits to veterans, and provides improved benefits for veterans who are medically retired from active duty. The budget provides for a collaborative pilot program with non-profit organizations to help veterans avoid homelessness, and for the timely implementation of the Post-9/11 GI Bill to Americans who have served the country though military duty.


Increases funding for VA by $25 billion above the baseline over the next five years. The President’s budget takes the first step toward increasing funding for VA by $25 billion during the next five years in order to honor our nation’s veterans and expand the services they receive.

Dramatically increases funding for VA health care. This increase will provide adequate resources to give 5.5 million veteran patients timely and high-quality care. This funding also enables VA to create Centers of Excellence and provides additional veteran-oriented specialty care in areas including prosthetics, vision and spinal cord injury, aging, and women’s health.
Restores health care eligibility for modest-income veterans. The President’s budget expands eligibility for VA health care to non-disabled veterans earning modest incomes. This expansion will bring more than 500,000 eligible veterans into the VA health care system by 2013 while maintaining high-quality and timely care for the lower-income and disabled veterans who currently rely on VA medical care.

Provides greater benefits for veterans who are medically retired from active duty. For the first time, highly disabled veterans who are medically retired from service will be eligible for concurrent receipt of full disability benefits from VA in addition to Department of Defense retirement benefits.

Enhances outreach and services related to mental health care and cognitive injuries with a focus on access for veterans in rural areas. VA will increase the number of Vet Centers and mobile health clinics to expand access to mental health screening and treatment in rural areas. In addition, new funding will help veterans and their families to stay informed of these resources and encourage them to pursue needed care.

Invests in better technology to deliver services and benefits to veterans with the quality and efficiency they deserve. Through improved electronic medical records, VA will more efficiently retrieve active duty health records from the Department of Defense and enable all VA care sites to access the records of veterans needing care. VA will also invest in the development of rules-based electronic processes to increase accuracy, consistency, and timeliness in veterans’ receipt of benefits.

Facilitates timely implementation of the comprehensive education benefits veterans earn through their dedicated service. This budget provides the resources for effective implementation of the Post-9/11 GI Bill -- providing unprecedented levels of educational support to the men and women who have served our country through active military duty.

Combats homelessness by safeguarding vulnerable veterans. The President’s budget expands VA’s current services to homeless veterans through a collaborative pilot program with non-profit organizations. This pilot will help to maintain stable housing for veterans who are at risk of falling into homelessness while helping VA to continue providing them with supportive services.

White House Seeks $125 Billion for Veterans in 2011
Homelessness, Claims Increases and Access - Priorities for VA Budget

WASHINGTON – To expand health care to a record-number of Veterans, reduce the number of homeless Veterans and process a dramatically increased number of new disability compensation claims, the White House has announced a proposed $125 billion budget next year for the Department of Veterans Affairs.

“Our budget proposal provides the resources necessary to continue our aggressive pursuit of President Obama’s two over-arching goals for Veterans,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “First, the requested budget will help transform VA into a 21st century organization. And second, it will ensure that we approach Veterans’ care as a lifetime initiative, from the day they take their oaths until the day they are laid to rest.”

The $125 billion budget request, which has to be approved by Congress, includes $60.3 billion for discretionary spending (mostly health care) and $64.7 billion in mandatory funding (mostly for disability compensation and pensions).

“VA’s 2011 budget request covers many areas but focuses on three central issues that are of critical importance to our Veterans – easier access to benefits and services, faster disability claims decisions, and ending the downward spiral that results in Veterans’ homelessness,” Shinseki said.

Reducing Claims Backlog

The president’s budget proposal includes an increase of $460 million and more than 4,000 additional claims processors for Veterans benefits. This is a 27 percent funding increase over the 2010 level.

The 1,014,000 claims received in 2009 were a 75 percent increase over the 579,000 received in 2000. Shinseki said the Department expects a 30 percent increase in claims – to 1,319,000 – in 2011 from 2009 levels.

One reason for the increase is VA’s expansion of the number of Agent Orange-related illnesses that automatically qualify for disability benefits. Veterans exposed to the Agent Orange herbicides during the Vietnam War are likely to file additional claims that will have a substantial impact upon the processing system for benefits, the secretary said.

“We project significantly increased claims inventories in the near term while we make fundamental improvements to the way we process disability compensation claims,” Shinseki said.

Long-term reduction of the inventory will come from additional manpower, improved business practices, plus an infusion of $145 million in the proposed budget for development of a paperless claims processing system, which plays a significant role in the transformation of VA.

Automating the GI Bill

The budget proposal includes $44 million to complete by December 2010 an automated system for processing applications for the new Post-9/11 GI Bill. VA also plans to start development next year of electronic systems to process claims from other VA-administered educational programs.

The Post-9/11 GI Bill authorizes the most extensive educational assistance opportunity since the passage of the original GI Bill in 1944. Over $1.7 billion in regular Post-9/11 GI Bill benefit payments have been issued since the implementation of the program on Aug. 1, 2009. In 2011, VA expects the number of all education claims to grow by 32 percent over 2009, going from 1.7 million to 2.25 million.

“To meet this increasing workload and process education claims in a timely manner, VA has established a comprehensive strategy to develop industry-standard technologies to modernize the delivery of these important educational benefits,” Shinseki said.

Eliminating Homelessness

The budget proposal includes $4.2 billion in 2011 to reduce and help prevent homelessness among Veterans. That breaks down into $3.4 billion for core medical services and $799 million for specific homeless programs and expanded medical care, which includes $294 million for expanded homeless initiatives. This increased investment for expanded homeless services is consistent with the VA secretary’s established goal of ultimately eliminating homelessness among Veterans.

On a typical night, about 131,000 Veterans are homeless. They represent every war and generation, from the “Greatest Generation” to the latest generation of Veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. To date, VA operates the largest system of homeless treatment and assistance programs in the nation.

Targeting Mental Health, Preventing Suicides

“The 2011 budget proposal continues the department’s keen focus on improving the quality, access and value of mental health care provided to Veterans,” Shinseki said.

The spending request seeks $5.2 billion for mental health, an increase of $410 million (or 8.5 percent) over current spending, enabling expansion of inpatient, residential and outpatient mental health services, with emphasis on making mental health services part of primary care and specialty care.

The secretary noted that one-fifth of the patients seen last year in VA’s health care facilities had a mental health diagnosis, and that the department has added more than 6,000 new mental health professionals since 2005, bringing to 19,000 the number of employees dedicated to mental health care.

The budget request will enable the department to continue expanding its programs for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI), along with the diagnosis and treatment of depression, substance abuse and other mental health problems. Shinseki called PSTD treatment “central to VA’s mission.”

The proposed spending will continue VA’s suicide prevention program. Since July 2007, the department’s suicide prevention hotline has received nearly 225,000 calls from Veterans, active-duty personnel and family members. The hotline is credited with saving the lives of nearly 7,000 people.

Reaching Rural Veterans

For 2011, VA is seeking $250 million to strengthen access to health care for 3.2 million Veterans enrolled in VA’s medical system who live in rural areas. Rural outreach includes expanded use of home-based primary care and mental health.

A key portion of rural outreach – which shows promise for use with Veterans across the country – is VA’s innovative “telehealth” program. It links patients and health care providers by telephones and includes telephone-based data transmission, enabling daily monitoring of patients with chronic problems.

The budget provides an increase of $42 million for VA’s home telehealth program. The effort already cares for 35,000 patients and is the largest program of its kind in the world.

Serving Women Veterans

The 2011 budget provides $217.6 million to meet the gender-specific health care needs of women Veterans, an increase of $18.6 million (or 9.4 percent) over the 2010 level. Enhanced primary care for women Veterans remains one of the Department’s top priorities. The number of women Veterans is growing rapidly and women are increasingly using VA for their health care.

Shinseki said the expansion of health care programs for women Veterans will lead to higher quality care, increased coordination of care, enhanced privacy and dignity, and a greater sense of security among women patients.

Among the initiatives for women in the 2011 budget proposal are expanded health care services in Vet Centers, increased training for health care providers to advance their knowledge and understanding of women’s health issues, and implementing a peer call center and social networking site for women combat Veterans. This call center will be open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Delivering World-Class Health Care

During 2011, VA expects to treat 6.1 million patients, who will account for more than 800,000 hospitalizations and 83 million outpatient visits.

The total includes 439,000 Veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, for whom $2.6 billion is included in the budget proposal. That’s an increase of $597 million – or 30 percent – from the current budget.

The proposed budget for health care includes:

· $6.8 billion for long-term care, an increase of $859 million (or 14 percent) over 2010. This amount includes $1.5 billion for non-institutional long-term care;

· Expanding access to VA health care system for more than 99,000 Veterans who were previously denied care because of their incomes;

· $590 million for medical and prosthetic research; and

· Continuing development of a “virtual lifetime electronic record,” a digital health record that will accompany Veterans throughout their lives.

VA is requesting $54.3 billion in advance appropriations for 2012 for health care, an increase of $2.8 billion over the 2011 enacted amount. Planned initiatives in 2012 include better leveraging acquisitions and contracting, enhancing the use of referral agreements, strengthening VA’s relationship with the Defense Department, and expanding the use of medical technology.

Preserving National Shrines

“VA remains steadfastly committed to providing access to a dignified and respectful burial for Veterans choosing to be buried in a VA national cemetery,” Shinseki said. “This promise requires that we maintain national cemeteries as shrines dedicated to the memory of those who served this nation in uniform.”

The requested $251 million for cemetery operations and maintenance will support more than 114,000 interments in 2011, a 3.8 percent increase over 2010. In 2011, the department will maintain 8,441 acres with 3.1 million gravesites. The budget request includes $37 million to clean and realign an estimated 668,000 headstones and repair 100,000 sunken graves.

Building for the Future

$1.15 billion requested for major construction for 2011 includes funding for medical facilities in New Orleans; Denver; Palo Alto, Calif.; Alameda, Calif.; and Omaha, Neb. Also budgeted for 2011 are major expansions and improvements to the national cemeteries in Indiantown Gap, Pa.; Los Angeles; and Tahoma, Wash., and new burial access policies that will provide a burial option to an additional 500,000 Veterans and enhance service in urban areas.

A requested budget of $468 million for minor construction in 2011 would fund a wide variety of improvements at VA facilities.

Now while this all looks great, even if the congress provides funds for these efforts, if they don't have workers to process the claims, it will all seem like money wasted since veterans will continue to suffer in claims backlog hell. The average person will look at the money being spent along side of reports of veterans waiting for help we owe them and think it is a failure. They may end up thinking turning it all over to for profit companies is a good idea.

This "Pledge to America" hurt veterans but we weren't supposed to notice any of this.

We were also not supposed to notice that as congress holds hearings on the problems veterans have had to endure, we haven't heard any solutions. We weren't supposed to notice that as millions are spent on "Suicide Prevention" the number of suicides and attempted suicides have gone up. We weren't supposed to notice that even as the "Suicide Prevention Hotline" has seemed to be a "success" the number of desperate veterans increases when we should be asking why they even have to reach that level of pain suicide is seen as an option.

All in all, we've been deluded by a lot of talk and smiles but if you read this blog, even occasionally, you know the news has not been good for our veterans and now we all know why.