Saturday, May 31, 2014

Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl captive since 2009 released by Taliban

Freed Soldier Bowe Bergdahl's Idaho Town Plans Celebratory Homecoming
NBC News

HAILEY, Idaho — The news Saturday of U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl's release from captivity spread quickly in his hometown in southern Idaho, and residents immediately began making plans for a welcome-home celebration.

An annual event called "Bring Bowe Back" scheduled for June 28 was quickly renamed "Bowe is Back."

"It is going to be Bowe's official welcome-home party even if he's not quite home yet," organizer Stefanie O'Neill said Saturday.

Bergdahl, 28, had been held prisoner by the Taliban since June 30, 2009.

In Hailey, a town of 7,000 residents just down the road from upscale Sun Valley, residents have hung yellow ribbons from trees and utility poles and planted a tree in a local park each year since he was held. Signs reading "Bring Bowe Home" were placed in shop windows.
read more here

Who was held accountable for suicide deaths in the military?

Military Suicide Event Report for 2012

National Guards not included.
For 2012, there have been 143 potential not on active-duty suicides 96 Army National Guard and 47 Army Reserve

All services combined suicides for 2012
318, 295 males and 23 females
Attempted Suicides
869, 663 males and 206 females, 829 Active and 32 Reservists

Air Force
57, 51 males and 6 females
Attempted Suicides
229, 157 males and 72 females

155, 145 males and 10 females 143 were Active and 12 were Reservists
Attempted suicides
365, 283 males and 82 females
Self Harm 173, 106 males and 67 females
Suicidal Ideation 836, 660 males and 176 females

Marine Corps
47, 44 males and 3 females 47 were active duty
Attempted Suicides
169, 150 males and 19 females 166 were Active and 2 were Reservists

US Navy 
59, 55 males and 4 females 57 were active duty and 2 were Reservists.
Attempted Navy Suicides
106, 73 males and 33 females

In 2010 17.5% went to 18.0% in 2011 went to 22.7% in 2012

World Warrior Shaft

Jon Stewart covers this mess with the VA. World Warrior Shaft
Backlog problems Stewart points out that Bush didn't fix them before Obama didn't fix them.

Then Stewart follows all of this up with World Warrior Shaft Terrible Memory Lane

Marine gets death penalty for murder of 2nd Class Petty Officer Amanda Snell

Former Marine sentenced to death in murder of Navy woman
Chicago Tribune
By Katherine Skiba
Published: May 31, 2014

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Saying Jorge Torrez had committed “unconscionable crimes,” a federal judge Friday sentenced him to death for strangling a female sailor near the Pentagon in 2009.

Torrez, a Marine at the time of the murder, also stands accused of killing two young girls in Zion, Ill., on Mother’s Day 2005, and prosecutors in Illinois plan to try him for those crimes.

The death sentence, handed down by federal Judge Liam O’Grady in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, was expected after a federal jury voted unanimously April 24 that Torrez should be put to death for killing Amanda Jean Snell, 20.

Torrez, wearing handcuffs shackled to his waist, said little during Friday’s brief court proceeding, but his lawyers said they would file an appeal in the case.

When Torrez was asked by the judge if he wished to make remarks before the sentencing, he said: “There’s nothing I want to say, your honor.”

The defendant, in forest green jail-issued clothing, was led into the courtroom at 1:32 p.m. EDT.

Seven minutes later, Judge Liam O’Grady said Torrez’s crimes supported the jury’s death penalty recommendation.

“I sentence you to death at this time,” O’Grady stated.
read more here

Veteran Graduate with PTSD Service Dog

Army Veteran Graduates, with Service Dog at His Side
By: Carmel Delshad
May 30, 2014

Orlando - A man and his four-legged best friend graduated today.

Army Veteran Paul Aragon stands with his service dog, Zoey, after graduating from the Motorcycle Mechanics Institute on Friday.

It looks and sounds like any other graduation---proud parents beam with joy as camera flashes flicker throughout the room. But the leader in the procession of graduates is holding a leash.

Army Veteran Paul Aragon walked through the Orlando Motorcycle Mechanics Institute graduation ceremony with his service dog, Zoey.

Aragon was diagnosed with PTSD in 2009. He says Zoey played an integral part in getting him through school- and helping him assimilate back into civilian life.
read more here

Congress Collective Amnesia on Veterans Affairs

Wounded Times
Kathie Costos
May 31, 2012

Congress is suffering from collective amnesia regarding the plight of our veterans.
Fits of social amnesia after difficult or trying periods can sometimes cover up the past, and fading memories can actually make mythologies transcend by keeping them "impervious to challenge"

Veterans are with us forever but politicians come and go. As you will read, when heads of the VA have gone, nothing really changed. Sure money was spent but it was never enough to cover the number of veterans politicians were creating by starting wars. With WWII it seemed as if they got their act together and veterans were held in such high regard, they didn't even try to mess with them, or at least that is what they wanted us to think. They did it with Korea and Vietnam just as they did it with the Gulf War. They repeated it with Afghanistan and Iraq. Praise the veterans during election time then shove them into the ditch right afterwards.

It is just another round of politicians pretending to care because of the latest scandal but there have been oh so many more.

Anthony Principi Secretary of Veterans Affairs from 2001-2005 stepped up to complain about VA problems and offered his thoughts on how to fix it.
As a former secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, I am deeply troubled by reports involving the falsification of records to conceal waiting times for veterans at VA hospitals—with at least 40 of them dying while awaiting treatment. A preliminary review by the VA inspector general, released Wednesday, found that at least 1,700 veterans waiting for care at the Phoenix Veterans Affairs medical facility were not even on a wait list.

He replace Hershel W. Gober, acting Secretary of Department of Veterans Affairs from 2000-2001, replaced Togo West (1998-2000) and this is facinating since part of the article on Wiki contains a flashback military sexual assault survivors will find interesting.
West held several posts in the administration of Jimmy Carter: General Counsel of the Navy (1977–1979), Special Assistant to the Secretary and to the Deputy Secretary of Defense (1979), and General Counsel of the Department of Defense (1980–1981). As the Secretary of the Army, West weighed in on the Aberdeen scandal, prompting stricter enforcement and investigation into the Army's sexual harassment policies.
President Clinton's appointment to head the VA was Jesse Brown, a disabled Vietnam veteran. The number of veterans receiving healthcare benefits went from 2 million in 1993 to over 3.7 million in 2000. The budget went from $36 billion to $48 billion for 2001. Sexual trauma counselors in Vet Centers was a new division in National Center for PTSD.

While I hate to slam Jon Stewart on his reporting on the records the VA and DOD were supposed to be getting together, that also started under President Clinton. "The Government Computer Based Patient Record Framework Program originated as a joint VA and Department of Defense (DOD) response to satisfy a 1997 presidential directive to create a comprehensive, lifelong medical record for all service personnel." They also started "Virtual VA" as a way of providing a paperless way to file claims.

Here is another flashback U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims
In the mid-1980s, 75 million U.S. citizens—one-third of the population of the United States—were eligible for some form of veterans' benefits. Then, as in the early 2000s, war veterans and their dependents and survivors could apply to one of the 58 regional offices of the veterans administration (VA) for disability, loan eligibility, education, and other benefits. In an average year in the 1980s, nearly 800,000 disability claims were filed, about half of which were granted by the regional offices. Before the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims was created, people whose claims were turned down had limited recourse, which did not include review by a court of law. If a regional office of the VA denied a claim, the claimant could appeal that decision within the VA to the BVA. If the BVA denied the appeal—which it did in about 75 percent of cases—the claimant had just one remaining option: to reopen the claim on the basis of new and material evidence and begin the process over again.
In July 1999 the court issued a decision which held that the veterans affairs department (VA) did not have a duty to assist veterans in developing their claims unless those claims were "well-grounded." In response Congress passed the Veterans Claims Assistance Act (VCAA) of 2000 (Pub.L. 106-475, Nov. 9, 2000, 114 Stat. 2096). Signed into law by President bill clinton in November 2000, the act eliminated the "well-grounded" language and stated that the VA was required to provide assistance in developing claims unless there was no reasonable possibility that VA aid would help the veteran's claim.
The Bush Administration walked into a VA claim backlog.
All this didn't happen overnight. Gregg Carlstrom reported for Federal Times that "Poor planning by agency leaders and underfunding by Congress created these debilitating backlogs that may take years to resolve, according to federal officials, legislators and watchdog groups. At the start of the Bush administration in 2001, VA had more than 400,000 pending claims for disability ratings, which determine a service-disabled veteran’s employability and disability benefits. The department made progress reducing that number: By 2003, the backlog was down to around 250,000."

Too bad Principi didn't have many thoughts when he had the job. Nicholson took over his chair and got blamed for most of what he walked into before he ended up letting things get even worse.

Jim Nicholson 2005-2007 Resigned
VA chief Jim Nicholson resigned in 2007. Most of us have seen few changes since he left office. This is the mess we were in back then. Nicholson walked into what Principi left behind.
"Within months of taking office at the VA, Nicholson had to deal with a $1 billion shortfall at the agency, requiring the administration to appeal to Congress for emergency spending.

Republicans blamed the shortfall on unexpected health care demands from veterans. But Democrats said it was an example of what they said was the administration's inadequate planning for the war in Iraq.

Nicholson came under harsh criticism in Congress after it was revealed in May 2006 that VA computer files with personal data, including Social Security numbers, for 26.5 million veterans and military troops, were missing."
"As a veteran, I am outraged. Frankly I'm mad as hell," Nicholson said, pledging strong action against those responsible. "I can't explain the lapses of judgment on the behalf of my people. We will stay focused on these problems until we get them fixed."

Why did people want him to resign?
Nicholson Underestimated Funding for Veterans' Health Care by at Least One Billion Dollars. "House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Steve Buyer (R-Ind.) and Veterans Affairs Secretary Jim Nicholson, who had both argued that the department could get through this year without additional cash, held a joint news conference to announce "immediate action" to fill a fiscal 2005 shortfall of at least $1 billion, and another shortfall of at least $1.5 billion in the House-passed appropriation for VA health care in fiscal 2006. Nicholson told lawmakers Tuesday that the administration had vastly underestimated the number of service personnel returning from Iraq and Afghanistan who would seek VA medical treatment." (Washington Post, 6/30/05)

Nicholson Repeatedly and Incorrectly Assured Congress that VA had Adequate Funds for Veterans' Health Care. An April 5 letter written by Nicholson to the Senate stated: "I can assure you that VA does not need emergency supplemental funds in FY2005 to continue to provide timely, quality service that is always our goal." (Washington Post, 6/24/05)
American Legion Commander: ‘I Blame Bush And Congress’ For Veterans Cuts President Bush spoke to the American Legion today, claiming that “support of our veterans has been a high priority in my administration,” and that one of his priorities is “making sure that our veterans have got good, decent, quality healthcare.”

President Bush should save his rhetoric. In an interview with National Public Radio, even American Legion National Commander Paul Morin, a regular political ally of the White House, pointed out that Bush has consistently skimped on veterans funding. “We are not pleased with the budget for the military and for the VA hospitals for our veterans,” Morin said. “I blame the President and Congress for insufficient funding of the VA health care system.”
And this from the GAO
For fiscal year 2005, Congress appropriated $31.5 billion for all of VA's medical programs, and VA provided medical care to about 5 million veterans. During fiscal year 2005, the President requested a $975 million supplemental request for that fiscal year and a $1.977 billion amendment to the President's budget request for fiscal year 2006. In congressional testimonies in the summer of 2005, VA stated that its actuarial model understated growth in patient workload and services and the resources required to provide these services.

"An unrealistic assumption, errors in estimation, and insufficient data were key factors in VA's budget formulation process that contributed to the requests for additional funding. According to VA, an unrealistic assumption about the speed with which VA could implement a policy to reduce nursing home patient workload in VA-operated nursing homes for fiscal year 2005 led to a need for additional funds. VA officials told us that errors in estimating the effect of a nursing home policy to reduce workload in all three of its nursing home settings--VA-operated nursing homes, community nursing homes, and state veterans' nursing homes--accounted for a request for additional funding for fiscal year 2006. VA officials said that the error resulted from calculations being made in haste during the OMB appeal process. Finally, VA officials told us that insufficient data on certain activities contributed to the requests for additional funds for both years. For example, inadequate data on veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan resulted in an underestimate in the initial funding request.

In other words the GAO found they did not plan for the return of wounded and disabled veterans from Afghanistan and Iraq.

Joe Galloway wrote a great piece on what all of this meant. In "At long last sire, have you left no sense of decency?" in a piece on McClatchy
Nicholson, on White House orders, blocked four congressional attempts to streamline the VA's handling of a disgraceful six-month backlog in veterans benefit claims — a backlog that's only grown worse in subsequent years.

With its eyes on maintaining public support for Bush's war in Iraq, and not on those it sent to fight it, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's Pentagon pressured the Army and Marines to discharge their wounded as fast as possible with the lowest possible disability ratings.

As a result, those who had borne the battle were abandoned to the dysfunctional VA healthcare system, in which it takes six months just to get into the system and a month or more to get a doctor's appointment.

The Bush administration grossly underestimated the flood of post-traumatic stress disorder cases coming home from combat and, when confronted with the reality of more than 320,000 new veterans suffering from PTSD, major depression and TBI, it did little or nothing to expedite their care. In fact, of the 84,000 new veterans diagnosed with PTSD, only half, or 42,000 have managed to get their disability claims approved by the VA.

Some veterans committed suicide while they awaited medical and financial help, itself evidence of the abject and disgraceful failure of the system, and the nation and the administration of George W. Bush. The VA responded by understating the numbers of veterans' suicides and then covering it up. Only after a veterans group sued it did the VA establish a suicide hotline. A heckuva job.

President Bush proposed a half-percent increase in the VA budget for fiscal 2006 after his own appointees at the agency told Congress that they needed a 13 percent increase to meet — barely — the urgent needs for medical and mental health care for the wounded coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan.
In 2007, Bush threatened to veto a bill to boost VA spending by 10 percent, or $3.2 billion. He said that was too expensive and countered with an offer of 2 percent. After Congress passed the bill almost unanimously, Republicans included, The Decider decided to swallow it and signed the bill.
James Peake 2007-2009 walked into this.
The VA's backlog is between 400,000 and 600,000 claims, with delays of 177 days. Nicholson in May pledged to cut that time to 145 days, but he has made little headway with thousands of veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan returning home.

VA staff charged $2.6 billion to their government credit cards
Investigators Review VA Credit Charges

WASHINGTON (AP) — Veterans Affairs employees last year racked up hundreds of thousands of dollars in government credit-card bills at casino and luxury hotels, movie theaters and high-end retailers such as Sharper Image and Franklin Covey — and government auditors are investigating, citing past spending abuses.

All told, VA staff charged $2.6 billion to their government credit cards.

The Associated Press, through a Freedom of Information request, obtained the VA list of 3.1 million purchases made in the 2007 budget year. The list offers a detailed look into the everyday spending at the government's second largest department.

So yet again we have yet another head of the VA saying they "regret" but no one in congress seems to be able to admit the same thing even though they are in charge or who has been in charge all along. Had they fixed any of this before then Veterans for Common Sense would not have had to file a lawsuit because veterans were committing suicide and the VA was covering it up in 2008!

Friday, May 30, 2014

Veterans Suffering Decades "But Why"

This is what the Senate was "focused on" in 2007.
"The Army report indicates that suicides among soldiers has reached a 26-year high, with as many as 101 suicides during 2006, compared with 88 during 2005, 67 in 2004 and 79 in 2003."
Why would anyone be surprised considering at the same time this came out?
Department of Defense to Armed Forces:It's your fault "The military, however, has changed the terms and given many thousands of enlisted men and women a new diagnosis: "personality disorder." While the government would be obliged to care for veterans suffering from combat-related trauma, a personality disorder – defined as an ingrained, maladaptive way of orienting oneself to the world – predates a soldier's tour of duty (read: preexisting condition). This absolves Uncle Sam of any responsibility for the person's mental suffering."
But as you can see, they were not even close to being ready for any of them.
"The real problem is that the Veterans Administration is unable to handle the growing number of current and former service members needing assistance. Hancock learned that when he tried to get help for his illness from the VA. Amazingly, he was put on a waiting list for the post-traumatic stress disorder program at the Temple Veterans Administration Hospital. The VA says between 12 percent and 20 percent of Iraq war veterans suffer from the disorder, although a study cited by a Department of Defense task force puts that number at 38 percent for Army soldiers and 31 percent for Marines. Alarmingly, the study found that 49 percent of its respondents in the National Guard reported problems."
But veterans were fighting back. Not just for themselves, but all veterans.
FORT WAYNE-More than a decade ago, U.S. Army veteran John Evans was trying to alert the nation to a serious healthcare crisis when it came to treating military men who had served their nation admirably in times of war. He largely was ignored. Now with recent startling and embarrassing revelations about conditions and treatment at once-highly regarded military healthcare facilities such as Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C., Evans finally is being vindicated by many who once tried to ignore him-including some politicians. But, rather than retiring from the fight, Evans is planning to step up his battle to find justice for veterans. That includes organizing a public protest for Sept. 5 through Sept. 7 in front of the Federal Building, 1300 S. Harrison St.-right here in Fort Wayne, where it all began.

In 1994, Evans, a decorated Vietnam War veteran who said he had been declared 100 percent disabled due to Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, woke up to find his world had collapsed around him. His veteran's benefits mysteriously had disappeared leaving him unable to pay his bills and his bank account had been closed. After frantically calling the Veterans Administration and the bank, Evans discovered that he mistakenly had been declared dead by the Social Security Administration, which had confused him with his son, John Patrick Logan, who had passed away. According to Evans, it was two months before he received a letter informing him that he had been-mistakenly-declared dead. During that time, stress began to mount until he suffered a severe heart attack.

And more money got spent as if there were no other studies after Vietnam veterans came home and pushed for all of them.
The Department of Veterans Affairs awarded a $6.5 million contract to evaluate its mental health services to Altarum Institute and The Rand/University of Pittsburgh Health Institute. The two institutes will look at Veterans Health Administration services throughout the country, concentrating on services to veterans with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major-depressive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and substance-abuse issues. The group will conduct surveys, review medical charts and interview patients to determine what works well and what could be done better — including making sure veterans have timely access to care. VHA officials say 36 percent of the 1.5 million veterans enrolled in the VA health system have at least one mental health issue. Demands upon the mental health care system have increased greatly as troops have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan, overwhelming the administrative system used to process claims as well as the medical staff that provides care.,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

And then there was this too
In fiscal year 2006, the reports show, some of the VA's specialized PTSD units spent a fraction of what the average unit did. Five medical centers — in California, Iowa, Louisiana, Tennessee and Wisconsin — spent about $100,000 on their PTSD clinical teams, less than one-fifth the national average.

The documents also show that while the VA's treatment for PTSD is generally effective, nearly a third of the agency's inpatient and other intensive PTSD units failed to meet at least one of the quality goals monitored by a VA health-research organization. The VA medical center in Lexington, Ky., failed to meet four of six quality goals, according to the internal reports.

A top VA mental-health official dismissed the reports' significance, saying veterans receive adequate care, either in specialized PTSD units or from general mental-health providers. In addition, he said, some of the spending differences aren't as extreme as the documents indicate, and the department is working to increase its resources for mental health treatment.
But oh well, why should President Obama remember what has been going on all along?
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Barack Obama (D-IL) and Christopher Bond (R-MO) sent the following letter to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, requesting a full accounting of service members’ psychological injuries, including Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), since October 2001.

The senators also requested a detailed report on how the military monitors other psychological injuries. Recent media accounts indicate that the number of service members seeking care for PTSD from the Veterans Administration (VA) increased 70% over a 12-month period, or an increase of some 20,000 cases. In addition, reports of the total number of cases of PTSD treatment at the VA since 2001 – 50,000 cases – far exceed the number of wounded documented by the Pentagon.

In the letter, Obama and Bond request information including the total number of PTSD among active duty service members; the total number of other reported psychological injuries; the procedures and referral mechanisms for service members to seek counseling while in combat; the number of mental health staff deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan; the number of mental health staff for each major mobilization and demobilization site; the incentives in place to attract additional behavioral health specialists; and the total annual expenditure on mental health care for active duty service members.

In 2008 it was taking up to 4 years for a claim to be approved after appeals. but worse than that was my husband's claim took 6 years from 1993-1999. Not much changed but again, it is still bad.

But this very well may be what has veterans furious about today because nothing has changed after all these years.
GAO finding: No accountability for claims processors
GAO faults training for VA claims processors
By Kelly Kennedy - Staff writer
Posted : Wednesday May 28, 2008 6:18:36 EDT

Although the Veterans Affairs Department has added thousands of staff to help process disability claims, a new study finds those new employees face no consequences if they don’t attend mandatory training.

And because the caseload is so heavy, instructors aren’t always available to provide on-the-job training for new employees.

The Veterans Benefits Administration “is taking steps to strategically plan its training, but does not adequately evaluate its training and may be falling short in some areas of training design and implementation,” the Government Accountability Office said in a report released Tuesday.

Rep. Bob Filner, D-Calif., chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, asked GAO to find out what training is provided and whether it is uniform; how well it is implemented and evaluated; and how it compares with performance management practices in the private sector.

The questions came after veterans testified that the disability compensation system is Byzantine in complexity, and that it takes months — sometimes years — to make it through the process.

From September 2007 to May 2008, GAO looked at four VBA regional offices, in Atlanta; Baltimore; Milwaukee; and Portland, Ore.

VA officials said it takes at least two years to properly train disability claims employees, and they must complete 80 hours of training a year. New employees have three weeks of intense classroom training before they begin several months of on-the-job training at their home offices.

But “because the agency has no policy outlining consequences for individual staff who do not complete their 80 hours of training per year, individual staff are not held accountable for meeting their annual training requirement,” the GAO found. “And, at present, VBA central office lacks the ability to track training completed by individual staff members.”

In 2007, VBA conducted 67 centralized training sessions for 1,458 new claims processors, compared with 27 sessions for 678 new employees in 2006.

VBA’s online training tool, the Training and Performance Support System, was found to be out of date, too theoretical, and lacking in real-life examples. Employees at one office did not know what the system was.

GAO also found that more experienced staff members felt training was not helpful because it was redundant or was not specific to the work they do, and some said the training is adapted directly from training for new employees. They also said they did not have time to spend 80 hours a year in training because their caseloads are too heavy.

“A number of staff from one regional office noted that instructors were unable to spend time teaching because of their heavy workloads and because instructors’ training preparation hours do not count toward the 80-hour training requirement,” the GAO said. “Staff at another regional office told us that, due to workload pressures, staff may rush through training and may not get as much out of it as they should.”

Another crisis and another job lost but the truth is, far too many lives have been lost as well. Congress just keeps letting history repeat.

Fort Hood Identifies another non-combat death

Ft. Hood officials identify soldier found deceased in barracks
Michael Wesp
Online Editor
Thursday, May 29, 2014
FT. HOOD, TEXAS — Fort Hood officials have identified a soldier who was recently found unresponsive in his barracks room on Tuesday.

According to the Fort Hood Public Affairs Office, Sgt. Gene Robert Brandes, Jr., 28, of Oakridge, New Jersey, was the soldier found deceased earlier this week. Brandes entered the military in August 2006 as a Patriot Launching Station enhanced operator/maintainer. He was assigned to 4th Battalion, 5th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, 69th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, Fort Hood, since April 2014.
read more here

Fort Hood Decorated Major Died of Gunshot Wound

Decorated Fort Hood Officer Who Died Of Gunshot Wound Identified
FORT HOOD (May 29, 2014)

Fort Hood Thursday identified an officer who died earlier this month of a gunshot wound in Harker Heights as Maj. James D. Mullin, 40.

No further details of the shooting were released.

Mullin, of Harker Heights, joined the Army as an armor officer in January 1997 and had been assigned since November 2013 to the 1st Cavalry Division’s Headquarters Company, 3rd Brigade Combat Team.

Mullin, who deployed to Afghanistan from February 2004 to April 2005 and again from February 2012 to July 2012 was the recipient of two Bronze Stars.
read more here

Shinseki leaving solves nothing

How many times does this have to happen before Congress takes responsibility for what they got paid to do but refused to do? If they actually believe veterans have no clue what has been going on for decades then members of congress deserve what they get when veterans expose the decades of suffering they have had to go through.

How many more crisis reports do we have to get all upset about before veterans, all veterans, matter enough to fix the VA?
VA Secretary Eric Shinseki resigns
Stars and Stripes
By Jon Harper and Travis J. Tritten
Published: May 30, 2014

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama on Friday accepted the resignation of Veteran Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki.

The move comes two days after the inspector general found VA officials throughout the system had been aware of records falsified to hide long delays before veterans could receive care.

Earlier Friday, Shinseki said senior leadership at the Phoenix VA will be fired and executive pay bonuses frozen as punishment for systemic scheduling abuses in the nationwide health care system.

The moves were among a series of initiatives, also including the removal of wait times in employee evaluations and support of legislation that removes administrative roadblocks to firing executives, unveiled by Shinseki during a rare public appearance amid increasing calls for his resignation.

Congress has called for firings and bold moves by VA leadership. On Friday, Shinseki offered an apology for what he called a “systemic totally unacceptable lack of integrity” in his department.

“I can’t explain the lack of integrity among some of the leaders of our health care facilities. This is something I rarely encountered in 38 years in uniform,” Shinseki said. “So, I will not defend it because it is indefensible. But I can take responsibility for it, and I do.”
read more here
Shinseki had support of many vet groups until end
Associated Press

WASHINGTON — He's one of them — a disabled veteran who lost part of his right foot to a mine in Vietnam, a soldier who riled his superiors in the Bush years by telling Congress the U.S. needed more troops in Iraq than the administration wanted.

That bond is why veterans groups overwhelmingly endorsed Eric Shinseki as Veterans Affairs secretary in 2009. And it's part of the reason many continued to support him until his resignation Friday in the firestorm surrounding lengthy waits for veterans to get care at VA hospitals and reports that employees had tried to cover them up.

"I extend an apology to the people whom I care most deeply about — that's the veterans of this great country — to their families and loved ones," Shinseki told advocates for homeless veterans Friday before giving President Barack Obama his resignation.

Support for Shinseki among vets groups was not universal. The American Legion led the call for his resignation.

"It is not the solution, yet it is a beginning," National Commander Daniel M. Dellinger said.

By all accounts, the VA is difficult to manage. Consider the numbers: 9 million veterans get health care from the VA and nearly 4 million receive compensation for injuries and illnesses incurred from their service. The department runs 150 hospitals and more than 800 outpatient clinics.

Shinseki, 71, served longer than any other VA secretary since 1989, when the agency became a cabinet-level department. President George W. Bush had three VA secretaries and one acting secretary during two terms. Shinseki's longevity gave him ownership of — and responsibility for — for the VA's myriad problems, many exacerbated by the needs of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
read more here

PTSD Discussion to Spouses of Sufferers

NBC 5 Expands PTSD Discussion to Spouses of Sufferers
By Meredith Land
Thursday, May 29, 2014

We are looking at a completely different side to post-traumatic stress disorder.

As a news organization, NBC 5 has reported on PTSD and its effects on service members. Now, we're expanding the discussion by talking with the spouses of PTSD sufferers — courageous women who chose to speak publicly about supporting their husbands after deployment and the affects their spouse's condition has had on their families.

Jeremy Lanning, a psychotherapist in Fort Worth at The LifeWorks Group, is helping women who suffer with what he refers to as "secondary trauma."

"The idea of having group work is you can highlight people's successes," Lanning said.

Lanning connects complete strangers, Like DJ Jacobson and April Cantrell. They bond and share their coping strategies.

"If you talk to any service members or anyone who suffers from PTSD, one of the biggest things for them is that all their behaviors and actions are taken personally," Lanning said.

In these intense group therapy sessions, Lanning gives them a tray of sand and tiny toys. He told them to illustrate their lives.

Cantrell, who has been married for seven years creates hers first.

"I met a fireman and his son. Everything was really good. We got married, had small animals, then he went over to Iraq," Cantrell said.

Jacobson, married 32 years, does the same. Instantly the women, who rarely talk about living with PTSD sufferers relate.

"If we get off the path we are supposed to go, it causes everything to fall apart," Jacobson said.

"Yeah, I am kind of in my own little world here," Cantrell agrees.

Emotions in these sessions run high. Cantrell cries when she describes the journey she and her husband have been on since he return from Iraq.
read more here

This WWII veteran on ultimate wait list

This WWII veteran on ultimate wait list: He gets benefits after 68 years
FOX News
Cristina Corbin
May 29, 2014
"What drove me crazy was that they had the same information in 2008 and they denied me," he told "That’s what blows me out of the water. Ever since 1974, when I first asked for benefits, they've had the same information."

The Veterans Administration is under fire for its long waiting lists, but it's unlikely any of America's service members can match the claim by Milton Rackham: It took 68 years before he was given the benefits he earned in battle.

The 89-year-old Rackham, of Belding, Mich., lived for decades without any benefits because the VA told him his records were lost in a fire in Missouri, the World War II veteran and Purple Heart recipient told

"They always said, 'we can't help you,'" recalled Rackham, a former engine mechanic with the U.S. Navy who suffered injuries during the war and later struggled to find work.

"It made me feel like I was worthless," he said.

In 2011, Rackham's friend, Myrl Thompson, began writing about Rackham's war stories, and arranged meetings between the veteran and VA officials over the benefits he allegedly never received. Roughly two months ago, Rackham claims he started receiving $822 a month from the VA as well as $7,000 in back-pay.
read more here

Ohio veteran finally applies for benefits at 106

This one explains part of what was going on back in 2008.
PTSD:WWII veterans first time claims rise
Still fighting war stress: VA granting more first-time disability claims to veterans in their 80s than ever before
The Press-Enterprise
April 13, 2008

They beat Hitler, turned back the tide of Japanese imperialism and when the war ended, returned to civilian life to forge careers and raise families while seemingly unfazed by the horrors of combat many witnessed.

As World War II veterans have aged, and reflected on the dreadful experiences of war and carnage, more and more exhibited the symptoms of a malady unheard of when they went off to battle 65 years ago: post traumatic stress disorder.

And now, as they finally seek counseling and medical treatment, the department of Veterans Affairs is receiving -- and granting -- more first-time disability claims to veterans in their 80s than ever before.

Since 2000, the number of World War II veterans collecting disability from stress-related causes has risen 50 percent -- from 16,914 to 24,268 -- despite the deaths of 2 million veterans in that time.

In recent years, Veterans Affairs has established outreach programs to locate and assist aging veterans, set up vet-to-vet self-help groups and doled out disability payments, said Peggy Willoughby, spokeswoman for the VA's National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Willoughby, speaking by telephone from the center's headquarters in White River Junction, Vt., said Veterans Affairs doctors can't identify one overriding reason why World War II servicemen are coming forward now. She said she believes it's a combination of better information, outreach and counseling.

Guys like Gene Davis, of San Jacinto, say it's about time.

"We were done wrong," said Davis, 85, who spent almost a year in a German prison camp in 1944-45. "We didn't get what we deserved. There was no understanding of what was going on."
read more here
As you can see, there has never really been a time when all of our veterans were taken care of enough.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Moment of truth for Congress and VA, flying monkeys

Lately is seems as if Congress is more like the forest in the Wizard of OZ and members more like flying monkeys than watchdogs. After all, they are supposed to be in control of the branches of government they sit in chairs of as members of a committee and subcommittee. You know, the stuff they get paid to do. When they don't, they get to blame everyone else and just hold hearings on who should get blamed instead of themselves.

We've been down this road for so long now it is pathetic how many people are hot under the collar as if it is all some huge shocker that never happened before. Too bad it has never really stopped happening.

For my almost 55 years on this earth, I have been involved in one way or another with disabled veterans. My Dad was 100% and my husband is. I have never, ever seen a time when there were not news reports about one problem or another. Just in the last 7 years since this blog started out of the almost 22,000 posts, most of them are about how we have failed our veterans.

I can assure you that none of this is new and has hardly improved over decades.

During the last two years of the Bush Administration, the Democrats controlled the House and the Senate. In other words, they had control over the committees and subcommittees. Before that, it was Republicans and now we're right back that way again with a divided government.

The one subject that should have never been a political one is our military, past and present yet every veteran I talk to feels like a political football and they pissed off. They hear this politician or that one talk about how bad things are and they lived through the reality of how bad things have been all along. All of a sudden, as election time rolls around again they are suddenly important and that ticks them off.

These are the same men and women willing to die for the sake of someone else and politics never mattered to them when lives were on the line. Imagine how they feel hearing politicians say they wanted to privatize the VA "decades ago" like the just heard John Boehner say. They know in order to do that, get what he wanted out of this, he'd have to destroy the VA first or veterans would never ever allow it to happen. After all, it is bad enough contractors make money off what troops do. This country owes them the best care and not the best private income for businesses.

They are frustrated. No, I take that back. They were frustrated years ago. Now it is more like heartbroken because they are not fools. They know what has been happening and most of them blame congress since no matter who is in charge, they suffered because too many politicians view the VA as welfare. Yes, a welfare program. You know, the kind of thing that no one deserves and no one needs.

So lets toss in a bit more truth about what has really been going on.
v Add these into the backlog since the door was opened to let these men and women in but congress never took that into consideration for staff and claims processors.
September 27, 2009
The federal VA provides medical care and benefits to all enrolled veterans, with a range of preventive outpatient and inpatient services offered within its health care system. OEF/OIF veterans receive an additional benefit — five years of free health care in the VA system for any issue related to their deployment. As with other veterans, once enrolled in the system, they’re always in, but for issues not related to deployment or after those five free years, they may face co-payments.

"We typically have wide latitude in what we can determine is deployment related," Roberts added.

"Even if it’s not deployment related, we can take care of your needs."

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, of the 1.7 million who have served in the two theaters of operation, 1.02 million veterans were eligible for VA health care as of April 2009. A total of 454,121 have come to the VA for care, said the VA’s Terry Jemison. Of that number, nearly half are reserves and guard members.

In Pennsylvania, more than 11,380 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans sought treatment statewide in 2008, with 2,154 going to the Lebanon VA, according to the state Department of Veteran’s Affairs Web site.

"We have a large number of guard and reserves, and in many cases, they had to leave their workplace when their unit was called up," Jemison said, explaining some differences with veterans of past wars. "After being separated from active duty, they’ve returned to work and have health insurance from their job and other options.

"They get to the demobilization site, are anxious to get home and aren’t thinking a lot about their federal benefits," he added. "They’re feeling beefy, strong and healthy and don’t have a health issue. It’s one reason we do follow-ups. We try to track them down and remind them."

Aside from ensuring they receive benefits they’re due, the VA wants veterans to enroll to make sure they can quickly access health care for any problems that crop up.

Two years before that effort was going on, there were 148,000 Vietnam veterans seeking help and filling claims for Agent Orange and PTSD. By 2010 the VA said PTSD claims went up 125% and Disabled Veterans Decry Wrongheaded, Heartless Budget Cuts by January 2011. Ad all this up and you have exactly what Boehner said he wanted. A way to sell off veterans care and privatize it. Guess he didn't figure on so many dying instead of living the best lives possible.

Cops push disabled Vietnam veteran and get rewarded for it!

They pushed his 300 pound scooter over two miles!
Officers go beyond call of duty for Vietnam veteran
They pushed him in his scooter all the way home
10 News
Preston Phillips
May 28, 2014

SAN DIEGO - Two San Diego police officers are being commended for going above the call of duty.

Over the Memorial Day weekend, they pushed a Vietnam veteran nearly two miles to his home after his power scooter broke down on a busy road.

Both officers work out of the San Diego Police Department's Eastern division office off of Aero Drive in Serra Mesa, and neither one gave what they did Sunday a second thought.

"The least I could do was push him, you know. That's the least I could do. He's sacrificed and given so much to this country," said SDPD Officer Milo Shields.

It was not what Vietnam veteran Gil Larocque was expecting to happen when his power scooter stopped working along busy Clairemont Mesa Boulevard on the day before Memorial Day.

"You wouldn't expect them to do something like that … put you all the way home," said Larocque.
read more here

DAV Blames Congress Too Because They Paid Attention All Along

In VA Scandal Fallout, Disabled American Veterans ‘Outraged’ at Burr,
Blames Congress for Lack of Funding
By Steven Dennis
May 25, 2014

Sen. Richard Burr’s statement ripping the leaders of veterans’ groups Friday has sparked a second letter of outrage, this time from Disabled American Veterans, in the latest fallout from the VA scandal.

After the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) torched Burr, R-N.C., Saturday for a “monumental cheap-shot,” DAV National Commander Joseph W. Johnston issued a statement of his own.

Johnston defended his and other groups’ decision not to join the American Legion’s calls for Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign, and blamed a lack of funding from Congress for much of the VA’s troubles.

“If Senator Burr believes that calling for the resignation of Secretary Shinseki is the only measure of whether a leader cares about veterans, perhaps he should check with Speaker Boehner, Chairman Miller and numerous Republican Senate colleagues who have not yet done so,” Johnston wrote.

Burr dismissed the criticism in a statement later Sunday, suggesting that groups were more outraged by his letter than they were by the VA scandal.

Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, is one of Burr’s best friends. He said last week he was getting “closer” to calling for Shinseki’s resignation.

The blistering VFW letter and Burr’s original letter are posted here.

As for me and my husband, proud to be life members of the DAV and the Auxiliary

The full DAV statement:

DAV is outraged that North Carolina’s Senator Richard Burr chose the eve of Memorial Day weekend – a sacred time to remember and honor those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our nation — to attack the patriotism of leaders of most of the nation’s leading veterans service organizations.

Last week at a hearing of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, DAV and other veteran service organizations offered comprehensive testimony on the underlying causes of the waiting list problems afflicting VA health care facilities that are currently under investigation. In addition to demanding full accountability for anyone found to have violated VA rules, regulations or laws, we provided detailed analysis and forward-looking recommendations to address the root cause of waiting lists: lack of access and capacity to treat all veterans seeking care.

Although Senator Burr attended much of that hearing, apparently all he wanted to hear were calls for the VA Secretary to resign. Senator Burr may be enamored with the idea that all of VA’s problems and challenges can be overcome by replacing one Secretary, but the plain facts and simple logic indicate otherwise. If Senator Burr believes that calling for the resignation of Secretary Shinseki is the only measure of whether a leader cares about veterans, perhaps he should check with Speaker Boehner, Chairman Miller and numerous Republican Senate colleagues who have not yet done so.

Regrettably, Senator Burr shows no interest in pursuing serious policy solutions, preferring instead to launch cheap political attacks on the integrity of leaders of veterans organizations that do not agree with him, all of whom served honorably to defend this nation and then devoted all or most of their lives to serving their fellow veterans.

In spite of Senator Burr’s attacks, we will continue to call for an open and comprehensive investigation in Phoenix and at any other VA facility where wrongdoings are alleged. While Senator Burr challenges our integrity, we will continue to demand full accountability for all who violated the public trust, regardless of who or where they are, including criminal prosecution if warranted. While Senator Burr ignores VA’s real challenges, we will continue to call for an independent review not just of VA’s wait list and scheduling problems, but the access and capacity deficits that created them.

History clearly shows that unless VA receives sufficient resources to hire enough doctors and nurses, and has enough physical space to treat veterans, waiting list problems will continue. Over the past decade, DAV – along with many of our veteran service organization partners – have pointed out that the VA has received more than $17 billion less than was needed, a figure that is primarily derived from VA’s own internal analysis. Although these facts have been clear to successive Administrations and Congresses – including Senator Burr – none took the actions necessary to provide VA the resources it requires.

Rather than be distracted by Senator Burr’s hollow insults, we will continue to reach out to thoughtful Republicans and Democrats in the Senate and House, as well as the President and leaders in VA, to join with us in taking an honest look at all the facts, to discuss with us all possible remedies and reforms and to work with us to implement solutions that truly honor the heroism of the men and women we remember this Memorial Day weekend.

Fort Hood Soldier in Intensive Care after beating in Washington

Soldier in intensive care after attack outside restaurant
By Monique Ming Laven
May 29, 2014

TACOMA, Wash. — "He doesn't look like my son right now," said Lisa Senecal while in tears from her son's bedside. Specialist Korry McClanahan, 25, is motionless in bed, his head wrapped in gauze. Until late Friday night, he spent almost every day working out. Now his family doesn't know if he'll ever move again.

McClanahan got to Joint Base Lewis-McChord from Fort Hood, Texas, a few weeks ago. On Friday he and another soldier went to Steel Creek American Whiskey Co. in downtown Tacoma to play pool. At about midnight they went outside to smoke.

The other soldier says a group of six men, speaking in Russian, approached them and started picking a fight. The soldier says he and McClanahan wanted no part of it and tried to walk away.

The group followed and "bum rushed" them. He says McClanahan was punched in the face. He was knocked out. When he fell, his head slammed into the ground.

The soldier says the men piled into a black Infiniti G35, model year 2005 or 2006. They sped off. He called 911. And McClanahan has not spoken since.

"They don't know what the long term affect is going to be," said his mother. She says her son has not responded to any commands. He has opened his eyes but does not seem to comprehend or react to anything.
read more here

When will Congress hold themselves accountable for veterans?

When will they take responsibility? Here's an update. Looks like never.
Calls for Eric Shinseki’s resignation grow among Republicans, Democrats In rapid succession, House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard "Buck" McKeon (R-Calif.), Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) -- a leading GOP voice on military and foreign affairs -- and Sens. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) and John Walsh (D-Mont.) called on Shinseki to step down just hours after the Department of Veterans Affairs Inspector General released a report confirming some allegations that have rocked the beleaguered department in recent weeks.

When I read the following article, I had to leave this comment. I don't know if they will approve it or not, but after 30 years of tracking all of this, no one seems to have the answer for it.
The problem is members of Congress have never taken responsibility for their lack of attention on the VA and the DOD. With so many committees and subcommittees, you'd think they would have fixed all the issues veterans have faced for decades but they didn't. They hold hearings on the results listening to veterans and families falling apart but didn't hold hearings on who caused the problems in the first place. They don't hold hearings on what has worked and what other solutions have been created by the public.

Boehner said he's been pushing to privatize the VA for "decades" but the only way that can be done is to destroy the VA instead of fix it. We've read the results of decades of neglect. When will Congress hold themselves accountable?
When It Comes to America's Veterans' Crisis, "Thank You For Your Service" Is Not Enough
Huffington Post
by Congressman Jim McDermott, Sebastian Junger and Karl Marlantes
Posted: 05/28/2014

Historian David W. Blight has written that the first Memorial Day took place in Charleston, South Carolina. On May 1, 1865, a crowd of African-Americans -- recently freed from slavery -- honored the Union soldiers entombed in the rocky ground of the Charleston Race Course.

Twenty-nine days later, William Tecumseh Sherman concluded his farewell order from the United States Army with the words, "Your general now bids you farewell, with the full belief that, as in war you have been good soldiers, so in peace you will make good citizens."

On this Memorial Day 2014, we must acknowledge, not as a member of Congress, a veteran of the Vietnam War and a journalist-filmmaker, but as one nation indivisible, that Sherman's hope for American soldiers is not being realized today.

According to current Veterans Administration estimates, 22 American veterans take their lives every single day.

High rates of unemployment, homelessness, alcoholism, substance abuse and post-traumatic stress are decimating our community of veterans. With the wars of the past 13 years in Iraq and Afghanistan coming to a close, we are seeing too many casualties among American soldiers in this transition to peace.

In light of this crisis, we need a new kind of Memorial Day.
read more here

Three tour Iraq veteran wanted to "prevent American Spring"

Troubled Iraq vet found on city bus loaded with guns
New York Post
By Kirstan Conley and Joe Tacopino
May 29, 2014

A troubled Iraq war veteran who believed he was trying to protect Americans from a bloody civil war was busted after riding a Brooklyn bus while carrying a 12-gauge shotgun, machete and an array of ammo, law-enforcement sources said.

Christopher Palumbo, 27, who served three tours in Iraq, was charged with larceny and weapons possession after terrified bus passengers saw the high-powered weaponry slipping from his bag on a bus in Bay Ridge on Tuesday, sources said.

The former Marine said that he was protecting people and trying to prevent the “bloodshed” from an “American Spring,” sources said. Palumbo’s mother said he was deeply affected by serving overseas.
read more here

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

What the hell did talking heads do about the VA all these years?

Give me a break and veterans too! No one is telling the truth or blaming who needs to be blamed for what has been happening to veterans for decades! This is all political bullshit. Take a look over the last few days on Wounded Times to read what reporters have been uncovering for years. When you hear people talk about how bad it is now, there is a reason for it. Obama has had since 2009 to fix this and Bush had 8 years and Clinton had 8 years and Bush had 4 years and Reagan had 8 years but the kicker is, the Congress is the one responsible for all of it! Holding hearings, oversight and paying for all of it so don't let them even start to pretend it isn't their fault.

Crisis in VA? Think it is new?

If you do then you've trusted the wrong people to tell you the wrong information so you won't blame Congress.
Executive director Hal Dulle of the state veterans commission says too many veterans have to wait too long to be accepted in the Veterans Administration system and then have to wait too long to get the medical help they need.

He says, his office works to get veterans to file for their benefits but the VA lacks the personnel to handle the paperwork efficiently. Dulle says the system isn't broken. He says it just doesn't have enough people to handle the increased number of veterans applying for services. The heavy burden is caused by an influx of Gulf war veterans seeking benefits at the same time many Vietnam veterans have decided after 40 years of not being sign up.

But once the paperwork is processed and the veteran is in the system----there's a lack of doctors. Dulle says part of that problem is that the VA has limited funds...and in a competitive world, the VA has trouble paying enough to keep the specialists the veterans want to see from going into private practice.

VA in crisis again, Tuesday, December 25, 2007 in when that report came out.
A Redmond veteran says he was refused medical treatment at the Bend VA Clinic, red-flagged and now can't get the treatment he needs for advanced cancer.

Now he's pleading with officials to fix the system, while they say he was a disturbance.

Pill bottles in the dozens line the bedside 52-year-old Jeffery Severns sleeps in in his Redmond living room.

The veteran was a combat nurse all over the world and served in Operation Desert Storm.

But cancer has spread into his shoulder, tailbone, spine, ribs and gall bladder.

Last spring, it was his throat that hurt him the most, so he went to the VA Clinic in Bend without an appointment and begged to be seen, but it didn't happen.

"Since [my vocal cords] were paralyzed, there was too much air going in and out," Severns explained Thursday. "I couldn't speak, so I would have to take in huge amounts of air to take in a few words. So they thought I was weird. They thought because I was anxious, because I thought I was going to die, they thought I was a threat."

Severns says he was red-flagged, a process the Department of Veterans Affairs uses when someone is disruptive, threatening or violent.

He says the Bend clinic refused him service, so he got a ride to Portland's VA Medical Center. He says doctors there were ready to help - until they looked at his file and saw the red flag.

He says he was escorted right out of the building and continues to be banned from the Bend office.
These are some from 2008
29 Patients at Marion VA died because of substandard and questionable care. Dallas VA closes psych unit after 4th suicide of year. 500,000 Rocky Mountain Veterans get shafted Hospital cutbacks spark outrage among veterans.
The planned Aurora medical center would treat 500,000 in the Rocky Mountain region.

But they also blamed VA staff too A mixture of fear and distrust has replaced the pride and pleasure of serving veterans that employees of the Jonathan M. Wainwright Memorial Veterans Affairs Medical Center once had, according to at least one former VA employee. "It's toxic. That's how I would say it. People who have been there for 20 years are getting notices of 30 days," said James Bernasconi.

This is from 2009
A 2004 GAO report stated that though VA had implemented policies and procedures that required medical centers to purchase medical products and services through VA’s contract programs, a VA IG report found that the medical centers continued to make many less cost efficient purchases from local suppliers. The VA IG estimated that, with improved procurement practices at medical centers, VA could have saved, in 2004, about $1.4 billion over 5 years.

Check the facts the next time someone opens their mouth now and ask them where their outrage has been all these years and what they did about it.

Here's one more

Less than three months after Obama took office, this piece of news came out.
A new report about Veterans Affairs Department employees squirreling away tens of thousands of unopened letters related to benefits claims is sparking fresh concerns that veterans and their survivors are being cheated out of money.

VA officials acknowledge further credibility problems based on a new report of a previously undisclosed 2007 incident in which workers at a Detroit regional office turned in 16,000 pieces of unprocessed mail and 717 documents turned up in New York in December during amnesty periods in which workers were promised no one would be penalized.

“Veterans have lost trust in VA,” Michael Walcoff, VA’s under secretary for benefits, said at a hearing Tuesday. “That loss of trust is understandable, and winning back that trust will not be easy.”

Unprocessed and unopened mail was just one problem in VA claims processing mentioned by Belinda Finn, VA’s assistant inspector general for auditing, in testimony before the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

Fort Riley Soldier's Body Found in Apartment

Fort Riley soldier found dead in apartment 
Great Bend Post
May 27, 2014

JUNCTION CITY, Kan. (AP) — Police in Junction City are investigating the death of a Fort Riley soldier in an off-post apartment.

The serviceman was identified Tuesday as 26-year-old Shawn Michael Thomas. Police responding to a report of a shooting Monday found Thomas dead of a single gunshot wound.

Investigators said in a news release that Thomas was assigned to E Company of 3rd Battalion, 1st Aviation Regiment.
check here for updates

Mental Repercussions Of Leaving Life In Combat

Mental Repercussions Of Leaving Life In Combat
Huffington Post

As part of a four-part series on the lives of U.S. veterans, HuffPost Live explores how combat can affect veterans' mental health. Veterans explain how post-traumatic stress and depression hit them when they returned home, and how they overcame it. Originally aired on May 28, 2014

If you doubt this,,,,,it is exactly what Comprehensive Soldier Fitness taught them

'Jarhead' Author: PTSD Is Like 'Essentially Admitting To A Mental Weakness' Huffington Post

Anthony Swofford joins HuffPost Live to explain why being diagnosed with PTSD is like "admitting to a mental weakness" in the eyes of some veterans.

Two tour Iraq Veteran with PTSD killed by SWAT after VA sent him away


VA will pay for cremation of veteran shot in standoff
KSHB 41 News
Andres Gutierrez
May 29, 2014

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The family of Issac Sims, an Iraq War veteran shot and killed over Memorial Day Weekend, says the Kansas City Veteran Affairs Hospital will cover the cost to pay cremate and honor veteran.

Issac’s father Adrian Sims witnessed carnage during the Vietnam War, but wasn't ready to see his own son lifeless.
read more of this here
Local veteran with PTSD killed in police standoff
Andres Gutierrez
May 27, 2014

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - A local veteran suffering from PTSD is killed in a police standoff and his parents said he sought help from the VA just two days before his death.

Issac Sims’ family said he spent every day last week coming to the VA hospital, but was told on Friday that he had to wait a month to be admitted for his PTSD. Sims, 26, was an Iraq war veteran.

On Sunday, Sims got into a fight with his father outside their home on 23rd and Lawndale. A neighbor called police when Sims fired gunshots.

When officers arrived, they decided to call in the SWAT team. The standoff ended when officers shot and killed Sims.

“I said ‘Don’t shoot him, I can get there without a problem,” Issac’s father Adrian said. In the aftermath, his mother Patricia attempted to save anything that belonged to her son from the gruesome scene, including his bloody shirt.

Army records show Sims served in Iraq for two tours. His family said he enlisted when he was 18 years old following his father who served in the Vietnam War and his grandfather who served in the Korean War.
read more here

Before everyone gets all about blaming Retired U.S. Army General Eric K. Shinseki, know this. In 1993 my husband was told to "come back" because there were no beds for him. None of this is new. After all these years, all the lives lost after all the money the Congress has funded, when the hell will the Veterans Affairs Committees actually take their jobs seriously enough to actually fix this?
Veteran sought VA hospital treatment days before death
KSHB 41 News
Andres Gutierrez
6:59 PM, May 28, 2014
26 mins ago

KANSAS CITY, Mo - Patricia Sims struggles with the loss of her son Issac, shot when he pointed an assault rifle at police on Sunday.

“I can't believe I don't have my son, I miss him more than anything, I miss his noise,” she said.

The 26-year-old served in the U.S. Army for six years and what he witnessed during the two combat tours in Iraq left him with invisible wounds.

“An IED had exploded, he had body parts in front of him, he picked up all the body parts that stays with you,” Patricia said.

Army psychiatrists diagnosed Sims with post-traumatic stress disorder.

"He's been messed up since he left Iraq," his mother said.

Sims' behavior changed when he returned home last April. His mother said Sims would drive in the family's Humvee pretending Kansas City streets were Iraq's rugged terrain. According to his mother, at times, the veteran resorted to inhaling aerosols to escape reality.

In April, a judge put him on probation for two counts of domestic violence and ordered him to seek treatment for his PTSD.
read more here

Chairman of Joint Chiefs General Martin Dempsey Thanks Service Members, Families

Dempsey Thanks Service Members, Families During Memorial Day Concert
American Forces Press Service
By Jim Garamone
March 26, 2014
Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and his wife Deanie talk with John Peck, a former Marine Corps sergeant and wounded warrior, prior to the 25th National Memorial Day Concert on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., May 25, 2014. Peck’s story of resiliency was shared during the concert, along with other dramatic readings to pay tribute to their sacrifices as well as those of their families and loved ones.
DOD photo by Air Force Tech. Sgt. Nathan Gallahan

WASHINGTON, May 26, 2014 – The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff thanked service members and their families for their sacrifices during the National Memorial Day Concert here last night.

Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey told a nationwide audience that Americans trust their service members. These young men and women “are willing to fight in every clime and every place. Willing to risk and even give their lives for its ideals,” the chairman said.

On Memorial Day, Americans remember the courage of their sons and daughters in uniform, Dempsey said. “We renew our strength, the strength of our nation for their deep devotion,” he said. “We rededicate ourselves to secure our national purpose: to secure the blessings of liberty.”

On Memorial Day, the country “honors those who honored us -- men and women from every corner of our country and every branch of service -- who gave their lives so we can live free,” the chairman continued.

The nation must look back at the heroes who have brought it this far, Dempsey told the audience.
read more here

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Military working on brain implant for PTSD?

$70 million more to do something about something they still don't understand!
U.S. Military Will Develop Brain Implants to Treat PTSD
Discovery Magazine
By Carl Engelking
May 27, 2014

Roughly 2.8 million men and women have served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and it’s estimated that up to 20 percent of those individuals will suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder upon returning home.

In light of this sobering statistic, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has embarked on a 5-year, $70 million project to develop electronic devices that can be implanted in brains to treat PTSD and other psychological problems faced by military personnel. The new devices would both monitor and stimulate specific neural circuits in order to train the brain to function correctly.

Scientists at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and Massachusetts General Hospital are leading the effort, which is part of President Barack Obama’s larger BRAIN Initiative.
read more here

Family Scrambles as Veteran Dies Unexpectedly

Family Scrambles as Batavia Veteran Dies Unexpectedly, Asking Community for Help
Sloane Martin
May 27, 2014

A Batavia family is grieving while struggling with the expense of burying their son.

Jamie Carney, a veteran of two tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, died in New Jersey on Saturday. He was 27.

The cause of the young man’s death remains a mystery.

“His goal this past weekend was to go to New York City for the first time in his life, see New York City, come home for Memorial Day to the Rubin family in Massachusetts where it was their son’s birthday. He was going to celebrate Memorial Day and the birthday with this little boy. He never made it back because he died in a hotel room,” Paula Zirbel, a close friend of the family’s, said.

Zirbel said Jamie was being treated for post-traumatic stress disorder. However, he was starting to build a life in Boston and he had dedicated his last 16 months caring for a special needs child -- who's birthday was approaching -- and recently began his undergrad work in Early Childhood Development. That’s what makes his unexpected death that much more heartbreaking.

“When your son goes to war, as Dave and Elizabeth had told me last night,” she said, “you fear that this phone call is going to come. Once he goes through two tours and he comes home and he’s not okay for a while, you still fear that this phone call will come. When this phone call came, the family was finally happy and content for Jamie. He came home for Easter and claimed how much he had found some peace and some love for this little boy and a direction of what he wanted to do and he was starting to heal. So, this was a time when this phone call came that the family was finally relaxed, they were finally at ease. When the call came it was at a time when they were naively thinking everything was going to be okay.”
read more here

Fort Lewis Soldier Missing After Facebook Post saying "Goodbye World"

Washington soldier missing after posting cryptic Facebook message
 Josh Warner, a mechanic at Fort Lewis Army base and married father of two boys, has been missing since posting a message on his Facebook page reading, 'Good bye world,' on Wednesday.
Monday, May 26, 2014

A Washington soldier is missing after posting a chilling message on Facebook reading, "Good bye world."

Josh Warner, a mechanic at Washington's Fort Lewis Army base, has been missing since early Wednesday morning shortly after he kissed his wife and mother of his two kids goodbye, she told KOMO News.

"He woke me up to give me a hug and kiss goodbye and then there was cops at my door, pounding on my door," said Brandi Warner amid tears.

The mechanic for the 2nd Stryker Brigade and father of two young boys appeared to be going to work when he left their Spanaway home.
read more here

Soldier shares PTSD struggle to save others "Frozen in War"

Soldier shares PTSD struggle to save others
KHOU Texas
Photojournalist Dennis Thomas
Posted on May 26, 2014

AUSTIN -- A soldier living in Lockhart is using his struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder to give other service members hope through a documentary called "Frozen in War."

Andrew O'Brien tried to kill himself when he returned home from Iraq by overdosing in 2010.

"The reason I attempted suicide was I felt alone, I felt weak for feeling the way I did," said O'Brien.

O'Brien says his best therapy is sharing his story, and he's doing it at military installations across the country.

"I’ll speak to a crowd of 100 soldiers and out of that 100, ten will come up and tell me their suicide attempt story,' said O'Brien.

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs 22 veterans commit suicide every day.

Director Estephania LeBaron has followed O'Brien around the country for the past year, filming his journey of helping others. She has completed 20 minutes of the "Frozen in War" documentary and hopes to finish it this year. The goal is to screen it in theaters across the country and start a conversation.

"It is so rewarding for me," said LeBaron. "This helps the conversation begin."
read more here

Lakeland triple-murder suspect captured in Tennessee


Polk County triple-murder suspect dies after standoff in Tennessee
David Eugene Smith in standoff with SWAT
By Andrea Dennis
UPDATED 5:50 PM EDT May 27, 2014

We need to start thinking about something very carefully. It is a question that needs to finally be answered. How does a soldier go from risking his life for others then turn around and murder someone? How does this happen? When you consider this part of a terrible story, "The sheriff said Eugene Smith served in the Army's 82nd Airborne Division in Iraq and Afghanistan, suffers from post traumatic stress disorder and had been Baker Acted in the past." we need to know how mental health professionals let it get this bad.

Lakeland triple-murder suspect captured in Tennessee after wounding himself
May 27, 2014

The man wanted in the murders of three people in south Lakeland over the weekend was captured in Knoxville, Tenn., Tuesday after he wounded himself during a SWAT standoff, authorities said.

Eugene Smith, 27, was apprehended at a Days Inn motel, according to authorities. His condition was not immediately known.

Knox County Sheriff's Office Maj. Mike MacLean said Smith called the agency around 11 a.m. and said he wanted to commit "suicide by cop." A SWAT team and other law enforcement members then responded to the motel.
read more here

Mom lost son to suicide after Iraq

All the training and funding the DOD and the VA pushed since 2007 and still this happened.
Brian took his life on May 27, 2011 - five months after returning home from Iraq.

Mother says late son didn't get help he needed from VA
Blayne Alexander
May 26, 2014

ROSWELL, Ga. -- A mother whose son committed suicide after serving two tours of duty in Iraq says he didn't get the help that he needed from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Peggy Portwine is going to Capitol Hill in a few weeks to speak before the Veteran's Affairs Committee.

She says her son, Brian Portwine, visited the VA in Florida, but was never properly treated for post traumatic stress disorder.

Brian Portwine enlisted at age 17, right out of high school. After a year of basic training at Fort Hood, he was deployed to Iraq.
read more here

How many times do they have to hold hearings before they actually listen?

DOD discharging victims of sexual assaults under personality disorders

Wounded Times
Kathie Costos
May 27, 2014

Members of Congress pretended military sexual assaults were taken seriously for too many years for it to still be this bad.
Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, said in a Monday letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates that harassment and assault of military women, especially in combat zones, is a “scourge” that needs to be eliminated.

Casey is particularly interested in how the military handles complaints from women in the National Guard and reserve, whose cases may be harder to investigate than those of women on full-time active duty and in the federal civilian workforce.

In the letter, Casey said he knows the military is trying to do more, but added: “I am still very troubled by a process that may dissuade many victims from ever coming forward with claims.”
(Senator: DoD must eliminate sexual assaults, By Rick Maze - Staff writer, Jul 14, 2008)

That was 2008, followed by this in 2009 when a female soldier went to a Chaplain after being raped and was told it must have been God's will for it to happen to her.
In February 2009, she reported for active duty training and, upon seeing her rapist, went into shock.

"She immediately sought the assistance of the military chaplain," the lawsuit reads. "When SGT Havrilla met with the military chaplain, he told her that 'it must have been God's will for her to be raped' and recommended that she attend church more frequently."

The complains adds that "SGT Havrilla suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic depression."

Followed by this in 2011
The House Armed Services Committee adopted a series of new protections when it passed the 2012 defense authorization bill last week, and similar legislation was introduced Wednesday in the Senate by Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Susan Collins, R-Maine.

Rep. Niki Tsongas, D-Mass., one of the cosponsors of the House sexual assault provisions, said introduction of a Senate bill “will help move this legislation closer to becoming law.”

The House and Senate initiatives are similar, drawn from recommendations of the 2009 final report of the Defense Task Force on Sexual Assault in the Military Services to fix flaws in the rights and legal protections for assault victims.

Just a refresher for you to consider when you read the latest news out of Congress and the DOD,

Lawmaker claims Pentagon using new diagnosis to drive out sex assault accusers
Published May 27, 2014

Supporters said one in three women leaving the military report experiencing sexual trauma while in the service, but less than 14 percent of sexual assaults in the military are reported to authorities, and only about 8 percent of reported sexual assaults in the military are prosecuted.

Lawmakers have expressed fears that the Defense Department is using a new disorder diagnosis to remove accusers in sexual assault cases from the military.

Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., has accused the Pentagon of diagnosing troops who report that they were sexually assaulted with adjustment disorder and having them discharged. Speier told the Times that the practice is a new tactic for the military, which previously diagnosed service members tied to sexual assault cases with personality disorder.

"It’s like a 'Whac-A-Mole,'" Speier told the paper. "Every time we shut them down on something, they'll find a way around it."

The Times report cites a study from Yale University Law School that reports that the number of discharges due to personality disorder dropped from more than 1,200 in fiscal year 2007 to just over 100 in fiscal year 2009. Over the same period, the paper says, adjustment disorder discharges increased sevenfold.
read more here