Monday, June 30, 2014

Starving veterans in the news?

Received an alert about a veteran suffering on a site called Rightwing News. The story of Joe Geoghagan is heartbreaking but it isn't the first time a story like this has been told. Joe has PTSD and some type of stomach problem requiring him to use a feeding tube but the article does not seem to explain why a feeding tube would be put in without them knowing what the cause was. It makes little sense.

It is true that veterans can now get up to five years of free care without a claim from the VA after their service. It is also true that one state is not the same as others on how veterans are treated or how fast their claims are processed any more than there is equality in how fast they see their doctors.

What keeps getting missed in all of this is how long it has all been going on. No matter how bad the stories are, there have been worse. No matter how heartbreaking it is to read their stories, it is even harder to live with these stories and know none of this needed to happen.

There is something wrong with this story itself. Too many questions not answered.

Enhanced Eligibility For Health Care Benefits
Veterans who served in a theater of combat operations after November 11, 1998 are eligible for an extended period of eligibility for health care for 5 years post discharge.

Under the "Combat Veteran" authority, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides health care services and community living care for any condition possibly related to the Veteran’s service in the theater of operations and enrollment in Priority Group 6, unless eligible for enrollment in a higher priority group to:
Combat Veterans who were discharged or released from active service on or after January 28, 2003, are eligible to enroll in the VA health care system for 5 years from the date of discharge or release.

Boost in feeding tube is also a problem. According to Nestle Health, Boost is "oral use" and does not go into feeding tubes.
The BOOST® family of products offers an extensive line of complete oral nutrition formulas. BOOST® is a great tasting, nutritionally complete meal replacement that can be used as a snack or as a meal. For oral use.

This veteran worked as a contractor after military service but the article gave no indication of when the unknown illness was tracked back to. Was this a matter of Workers' Compensation" instead of a VA obligation? Does he have a claim approved or filed or tied up in the backlog? Has he asked the hospital that treated him to give him another doctor? Has he contacted a lawyer since he can sue the VA and it has been done many times?

But this is not the first time a story came out about the same type of thing happening. It happened in Kentucky.
Malnourished Veteran Pleads For Help From VA reported by WBKO News June 27, 2014

Frank Coursey has not eaten solid food in nearly three years. As if this is not enough strain on his body, he goes to bed each night worried about the future of his family, if something were to happen to him.

"This picture is on 07-07-2007. I was 286 pounds. This picture was Father's Day of this year," said Frank Coursey, veteran.

Frank Coursey is currently 133 pounds, losing on average five pounds per week. His weight loss is the result of a gastric bypass surgery performed by a doctor in West Virginia, whom he was referred to by a his local VA physician.

Texas veterans fight for medical marijuana

Seems as if everyone is making money off veterans suffering with PTSD. Drug companies make money off medications. Private doctors make money off the overflow of patients the VA doesn't have time to see. Charities make a lot of money off raising funds to raise awareness and some of them even do the work to raise their spirits and help them heal instead of putting money first. With medical marijuana, it is more of the same. Does it work for some? Yes, it does.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta comes out in support of medical marijuana for PTSD after many years of being against it. He studied the research done and stopped listening to people talking without a clue.

Medical Marijuana helps veterans calm down and relax. Much like meditation and yoga help along with talk therapies, it gets the pressure off for a while.

Experiments in animals show that tetrahydrocannabinol, the chemical that gives marijuana its feel-good qualities, acts on a system in the brain that is "critical for fear and anxiety modulation," says Andrew Holmes, a researcher at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. But he and other brain scientists caution that marijuana has serious drawbacks as a potential treatment for PTSD.

The drawback is that this cannot be the only thing used to treat PTSD, especially PTSD caused by Combat which is totally different than any other category of causes. As there are different levels, there are also different causes but one thing remains constant in all PTSD cases. It has to be a triple approach treating the mind, body and spirit. Leave one out and you don't have healing. Leave out the spirit and you have numbing.
Some military veterans say marijuana Is saving lives
My FOX Houston
By Alexander Supgul
Digital Content Manager
Updated: Jun 30, 2014 3:58 PM EDT

Veterans say marijuana is saving lives, but here in Texas, smoking a joint to treat post traumatic stress disorder makes them criminals. Some hope our war heroes will play a role in changing minds at the state capitol.

Leaving combat experiences behind is tough.

"I don't believe you can go through something like that and not be affected in some way," said a veteran named Josh.

Josh did three tours as an Army sniper. He's been shot at seen buddies killed and had to dodge grenades. His new battle is back in Houston, fighting sleeplessness, anxiety and anger.

"If people are doing something stupid on the roads, which is often, I lose it. Sometimes I would do that in front of my kids. I could tell they were like, 'That's not like daddy,'" he said.

Desperate, Josh has found relief in pot twice a day. The one thing he says helps treat his PTSD makes him a criminal in Texas.

"That's my medicine. It gets me through the day. I don't want to say I wouldn't be able to survive without it, but I'm a lot better of a person."

If it weren't for marijuana, Josh says he'd look like the vet in this picture, drowning in a sea of prescribed pills.

"Over and over, Sally, the people I talk to say they felt like a pilled up zombie. 'I wanted to get my life back, and marijuana helped me get my life back,'" said William Martin, director of drug policy at Rice University's Baker Institute.

Martin interviewed several veterans for an article in June's Texas Monthly.
read more here

My advice on this is simple. Talk to your doctor if your medication is not working for you. Your system is not the same as your buddies. If you are self medicating with drugs or drinking, stop. It is not helping even though for a time you think it makes you feel better. If medical pot is legal in your state, get a prescription from your doctor, don't just buy one.

If you are thinking it will solve all your problems, it won't. You need to take care of the whole you. Take care of your body by doing physical things, walking, swimming, running, yoga and meditation. Take care of your spirit as well because the weight on your spirit is doing the most damage. Find forgiveness for yourself and anyone else you believe harmed you. Find peace and work to hold onto it.

Learn all you can about what PTSD is and why you have it because it comes from the strength of your emotional foundation. That same ability within you allowing you to risk your life for someone else is what has allowed you to feel as much pain as you do. It was not out of weakness, but out of strength.

If what you are doing is not working, don't give up. Keep trying to find what works for you.

Boehner Sgt. Schultz Excuse VA Problems

It seems John Boehner forgot what part he and the rest of the members of the House played in the VA mess.

"Bob McDonald, a West Point graduate who served as chief executive of Procter and Gamble, to take over as head of the troubled Department of Veterans Affairs, according to White House officials."
In a statement, House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), usually an administration critic, hailed McDonald’s experience as a veteran and as a leader in the private sector, calling him the “kind of person who is capable of implementing the kind of dramatic systemic change that is badly needed and long overdue at the VA. But the next VA secretary can only succeed in implementing that type of change if his boss, the president, first commits to doing whatever it takes to give our veterans the world class health care system they deserve.”

How the hell does Boehner have the nerve to talk about what is "overdue" at the VA?
From John Boehner's website
Elected to Congress in 1990
"His boss?" Why is he pretending that nothing happened to harm veterans before Obama? Boehner has been in long enough to know how many hearings members of congress have had every time the press got a hold of what was going on and outraged Americans flooded the offices of congress with complaints. Boehner also knows that CSPAN has hearings online for the entire country to see.

Boehner is pulling a Sgt. Schultz and veterans deserved so much better of him and every other member of the Congress.


Veterans shafted by "substandard" colleges in California

GI Bill funds failing for-profit California colleges
Center for Investigative Reporting
Aaron Glantz
June 30, 2014

Over the last five years, more than $600 million in college assistance for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans has been spent on California schools so substandard that they have failed to qualify for state financial aid.

As a result, the GI Bill — designed to help veterans live the American dream — is supporting for-profit companies that spend lavishly on marketing but can leave veterans with worthless degrees and few job prospects, The Center for Investigative Reporting found.

"It's not education; I think it's just greed," said David Pace, a 20-year Navy veteran who used the GI Bill to obtain a business degree from the University of Phoenix's San Diego campus.

Although taxpayers spent an estimated $50,000 on Pace's education, he has the same blue-collar job he landed right after he left the service: running electrical cable for a defense contractor.

Financial records analyzed by CIR show that California is the national epicenter of this problem, with nearly 2 out of every 3 GI Bill dollars going to for-profit colleges.

The University of Phoenix in San Diego outdistances its peers. Since 2009, the campus has received $95 million in GI Bill funds. That's more than any brick-and-mortar campus in America, more than the entire 10-campus University of California system and all UC extension programs combined.
read more here

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Congress shell game with veterans lives

Part Two of Congress Played Shell Game With Veterans
There is no need for me to add to any of this. I'll just let the reports show you what was happening while Congress was playing their games.
Nationwide, the number of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans diagnosed with PTSD at VA medical facilities jumped by nearly 70 percent in the 12 months ending June 30, 2007.

In Tucson, 31 percent of the combat veterans who have come to the VA for medical care since last October have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Four Erie County soldiers committed suicide
Matthew A. Proulx. Andrew L. Norlund. Justin C. Reyes. Gary M. Underhill. They didn’t die in combat. They didn’t die from friendly fire. They died by their own hands.
Veteran Suicides Twice Rate of Civilians
CBS News has now completed a five-month study of death records for 2004-05 which shows that the actual figures are "much higher" than those reported by the VA. Across the total US veteran population of 25 million, CBS found that suicide rates were more than twice as high as for non-veterans (according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide accounted for 32,439 deaths in 2004).

CBS spoke to the families of several veterans who killed themselves after returning from Iraq. "The war didn't end for him when he came home," said the mother of one soldier. "I think he was being tormented and tortured by his experiences."
In a November 9, 2007, VA court filing related to our VCS class action lawsuit against VA, attorneys for VA revealed that nearly 264,000 Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans were already treated in VA hospitals and clinics through the end of October 2007.

Minnesota Marine's case is part of lawsuit against VA
The suicide of Jonathan Schulze is cited in the class-action suit filed by two national veterans groups.
By KEVIN GILES, Star Tribune
Last update: February 22, 2008

A class-action lawsuit filed by two national veterans organizations accusing the U.S. Veterans Administration of neglecting psychological fallout from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars cites the suicide of Minnesota Marine veteran Jonathan Schulze.

Schulze is one of several deceased veterans named in the suit, which a judge last month allowed to proceed and is headed for a hearing in U.S. District Court in San Francisco in March. Schulze, 25, committed suicide in January 2007 in New Prague, Minn., five days after he allegedly was turned away from the VA hospital in St. Cloud when seeking psychiatric help.

He had fought in Iraq. Medical records showed that he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.

PALISADES - After two tours in Iraq with the Marine Corps Reserve, Steven Vickerman tried to resume a normal life at home with his wife, but he could not shake a feeling of despair.

The VA, they believed, had failed their son. The services available, they said, were insufficient, and the government should do more to address the issue for returning war vets.

"There should be something that can be done, not only for the proud soldiers but also for their families," Carole Vickerman said. "When you hear the word 'stress,' it sounds so innocuous. It's not stress; it's a killer."

Steven Vickerman, a Tappan Zee High School graduate, enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve in 1998. A whiz at technical jobs and an electrician by trade, the staff sergeant served as a small arms technician with Marine Aircraft Group 49, Detachment B, at Stewart Air National Guard Base in Newburgh.

His first tour in Iraq was interrupted when he returned home to be with his older brother, who was dying of a brain tumor. Robert died at age 35. Vickerman served a second tour and was honorably discharged in 2005.

About two weeks ago, Vickerman's wife went on a business trip in New York City and could not reach her husband by phone. The Vickermans also could not reach him.

They called his therapist, who was scheduled to see him on a Wednesday, but Vickerman missed his appointment. The therapist called police, who found Vickerman dead at his home, where he had hanged himself.

But while all this was happening and Congress was cutting back there were lawsuits going on and Doctors telling the truth.
A deposition by a VA medical center psychiatrist caring for veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan backed up the veterans groups' assertion that the department had not done enough to provide adequate mental health care for all veterans.

Dr. Marcus Nemuth, medical director of Psychiatry Emergency Service for VA's Puget Sound Health Care System in Seattle, which operates three hospitals, said in his deposition on March 25 that he expected a high volume of post-traumatic stress disorder cases among veterans returning from Afghanistan and Iraq. He said he was concerned with both with the quantity and quality of care provided to those veterans.

Nemuth said during the past year he had seen such a growth in the caseload of Afghanistan and Iraq veterans seeking psychiatric emergency help at the Seattle VA hospital that he concluded the department faced a "tsunami of medical need."

Then there was Walter Reed Hospital. Dana Priest and Anne Hull proved what reporters could do when they cared enough to investigate and tell the truth.
Post reporter Dana Priest said the Walter Reed story was among the work in which she took the most pride. She and Hull worked on the story for about six months, developing sources among soldiers and their families.

``It's a reminder of what basic journalism can get you involved in,'' she said. ``At a time when journalism is under this cloud of financial uncertainty, reporters have to stay focused, and if we don't, we sort of doom people like the Army specialist who lived with the cockroaches in Building 18.

``We can do better than that.''

We could do better than all that happened to our veterans but we didn't. That is something no one should ever be expected to be forgiven for.

AWOL Marine faces charges after 10 years

Marine who disappeared in Iraq in 2004 back in US
Jun 29th 2014

WASHINGTON (AP) - A Marine who was declared a deserter nearly 10 years ago after disappearing in Iraq and then returning to the U.S. claiming he had been kidnapped, only to disappear again, is back in U.S. custody, officials said Sunday.

Cpl. Wassef Ali Hassoun, 34, turned himself in and was being flown Sunday from an undisclosed location in the Middle East to Norfolk, Va. He is to be moved Monday to Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, according to a spokesman, Capt. Eric Flanagan.

Maj. Gen. Raymond Fox, commander of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force at Lejeune, will determine whether to court martial Hassoun.

In a written statement from its headquarters at the Pentagon, the Marine Corps said the Naval Criminal Investigative Service "worked with" Hassoun to turn himself in and return to the U.S. to face charges.

Hassoun disappeared from his unit in Iraq's western desert in June 2004. The following month he turned up unharmed in Beirut, Lebanon and blamed his disappearance on Islamic extremist kidnappers. He was returned to Lejeune and was about to face the military equivalent of a grand jury hearing when he disappeared again.

Wonder if he was getting paid too?
Audit: Army paid $16M to deserters, AWOL soldiers
The Associated Press
Published: September 27, 2013

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Even as the Army faces shrinking budgets, an audit shows it paid out $16 million in paychecks over a 2 1/2-year period to soldiers designated as AWOL or as deserters, the second time since 2006 the military has been dinged for the error.

A memo issued by Human Resources Command at Fort Knox, Ky., found that the Army lacked sufficient controls to enforce policies and procedures for reporting deserters and absentee soldiers to cut off their pay and benefits immediately. The oversight was blamed primarily on a failure by commanders to fill out paperwork in a timely manner.
the link is still live so go here to read the rest

What makes a hero?

What makes a hero? I have been lucky enough to spend time with two who wear the Medal of Honor. Sammy Davis and Melvin Morris, both heroes of the Vietnam War. Sammy is in this video and yes, he is that humble in real life. I've met hundreds of other heroes who do not see themselves as anything special and spent my life with others. My Dad and uncles were all in the service and so was my husband. They do not seem themselves as heroes but see it in others.
"For the men and women taking part in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, each day brings the possibility for tragedy or victory, death or heroism. They are not mutually exclusive, and often a single instant produces them all. These themes run through the pages of the ninth edition of Stars and Stripes' annual Heroes special section. These tales of valor, courage and compassion tell the story of a nation at war."

Clinton Romesha

Congress played shell game with veterans

Members of Congress can play the shell game all they want and hope that we don't notice which cup is in what hand, but they can't change history. They can pretend this is all new to them but they can't change reality. They cannot pretend they had nothing to do with any of this and get away with it. Sooner or later someone notices the ball has been removed and all the cups are empty.
Annual Report to Congress on Combating Terrorism 2001
While it seemed as if the government was focused on defending this nation against terrorists, they were not really focused on taking care of the men and women putting their lives on the line to do it.

Table 1. Historical Budget Authority for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in Current and Constant (FY2011) Dollars, FY1940-FY2012 (dollars in millions)

Just an example, when adjusted for inflation to 2011 values, in 1976 the VA budget was $76,940.2 million. The Vietnam War was over. By 1977 funding started to drop from $69,992.9 million to a low of $51,849.3 million in 1990. In 2004, with two wars producing more disabled veterans, the VA budget was still less than it was in 1977 at $75,827.4 million.

But that wasn't the worst of all. The American Federation of Government Employees issued this statement in a report to the Washington Post.
According to John Gage, president of the American Federation of Government Employees, the VA is calling for a reduction of 540 full-time jobs in the Veterans Benefits Administration, which handles disability, pension and other claims by veterans.
In the same post, there are other comments and claims made.
Dr. Jonathan B. Perlin, acting under secretary of veterans affairs, said the medical staff of the department would be reduced by 3,700 employees under the president's budget. About 194,000 employees now provide medical care.

Representative Steve Buyer, Republican of Indiana, chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, indicated he was open to the ideas. Laura J. Zuckerman, a spokeswoman for Mr. Buyer, said he saw the proposals as a way to "bring balance, fairness and equity into the system."

The president's budget would save $293 million by reducing federal payments for state-run homes that provide veterans with long-term care. It would also save more than $100 million with a one-year hiatus in federal spending for construction and renovation of such homes.

As for "privatizing care" politicians like John Boehner and John McCain have been pushing for, they have been at it for a very long time.

Their answer at a time when the needs of our veterans was growing, was to cut.
The crisis in veterans' healthcare
Honolulu Advisor
By Tom Philpott
March 14, 2005

Rep. Steve Buyer, R-Ind., new chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, says the medical and rehabilitation needs of a new generation of war veterans leave him more certain than ever that Congress erred in 1996 when it opened VA healthcare to any veteran willing to pay modest fees.

"While some veterans organizations like to create a theme, that 'a veteran is a veteran (and) there is no difference,' I disagree," Buyer said.

A decade ago, in the wake of a Persian Gulf War that saw relatively few U.S. casualties, the Department of Veterans Affairs went back to worrying about an aging patient population and underused VA clinics and hospitals, Buyer said.

Those concerns, along with wishful thinking about the VA billing employer-provided insurance plans for the cost of care, led Congress to open VA facilities to veterans neither poor nor disabled.

Time has shown that to be a mistake, Buyer said. Today, the VA has $3 billion in uncollected healthcare debts for services that insurance companies have not paid.

"And we find ourselves now in protracted wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the war on terror all over the world. So the sense from 1996 that we could open up the VA to protect the bricks and mortar because of a declining population of veterans," Buyer said, is replaced by "the reality that we have more veterans now that have to come into the system."

His comments came in an interview for this column days after his committee voted to impose an enrollment fee of $230 to $500 a year on 2.4 million veterans in priority categories 7 and 8, those who are not poor and have no service-connected disability.
• Develop a "seamless transition" process for veterans moving from active duty to VA care. So far, more than 10,000 have been wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan, and as many as 100,000 could have post-traumatic stress disorder, Buyer said.

They cut more and outsourced more.
AFGE strongly opposes the 15% privatization quota at the VA. It is divorced from the needs of veterans, ties the hands of VA medical directors, and will adversely impact on the quality of veterans’ health care. The quotas prevent the VA from using other tools to make their operations more efficient. The VA has no system in place to the track costs or quality of performance from service contractors. Federal employees, unlike VA contractors, have no rights to appeal bad service contracting decisions to the Court of Federal Claims or the General Accounting Office. The administration’s privatization quotas only subject current government work to contracting out review. No VA contractor’s work will be reviewed for consideration to be performed by VA staff.
And now the ultimate shell game was and still is, ignoring what caused most of the damage to our veterans. Each year the list increased and so did calls from veterans to their members of congress complaining about the lack of care. Each year members of congress were pretending they had nothing to do with any of it as actors on a stage showing their shocked faces as yet one more report surfaced.

Article in Today’s Congressional Quarterly:
Nov. 14, 2005 - 10:48 p.m.
American Legion to Chairman: We Will Not Be Talked Down to or Lectured
By Tim Starks, CQ Staff

The tense relationship between House Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Steve Buyer and veterans’ groups is deteriorating rapidly - to the point of nastiness - in the wake of a revamped hearing schedule the Indiana Republican unveiled recently.

The latest row: The American Legion’s national commander, Thomas Bock, fired off an angry response Monday to a Buyer letter about a Nov. 7 summit at which the chairman announced the new schedule.

“You begin your letter by stating in an almost condescending manner that, ‘it is unfortunate that the American Legion chose not to send a representative,’” wrote Bock. “I might say to you that it is unfortunate that your staff chose not to send an invitation to the National Commander of The American Legion.” By the time Buyer’s staff “deigned” to contact the group, Bock said, it was too late.

“I must tell you, sir, to a person, we find your letter and your implications to be insulting and patronizing,” Bock fumed, adding that the group would not be treated as if it were “superfluous.”

Buyer said that while he strongly disagrees with “much of the letter’s accusations and rhetoric,” he still wants to work with it and other groups “for the good of our nation’s veterans.”

There is a very long list of issues covering three years beginning with this,
Timeline on Veterans’ Health Care – 3 Years of Facts

January 2003 Bush Administration cuts off veterans’ health care for 164,000. In January, the Administration cut off VA health care for 164,000 veterans without service-connected disabilities, who make as little as $25,000 a year. Through 2005 this has denied health care to more than 522,000 veterans. [68 Fed. Reg. 2670, 2671, January 17, 2003]

March 2003 Republicans vote to slash veterans’ health care. House Republicans voted in their budget to cut $14 billion from veterans’ health care. The GOP budget also included the President’s proposal to impose a $250 fee for enrollment in VA health care for low and moderate income veterans, along with a doubling of the drug co-payment for those veterans. [H Con. Res 95, Vote #82, 3/21/03]

July 2003 Republicans break promise on veterans’ health care. After agreeing to reduce some of their budget cuts, the House GOP reneged on their promise to increase funding for VA health care and passed an appropriations bill providing $1.8 billion less than their FY 2004 Budget. [H. Res. 338, Vote #450, 7/25/03]

October 2003 Democrats seek an additional $1.3 billion for veterans health care, but Republicans reject it. The Bush Administration opposed and House Republicans rejected a Democratic motion to include $1.3 billion for veterans’ health care in the Iraqi Supplemental. [H.R. 3289, Vote #600,10/31/03]

Disabled Iraq Veteran Heads Beverly Veterans Service Office by HImself

Beverly veterans services a 'one-man show'
Beverly Wicked Local
By Martha Shanahan
Posted Jun. 28, 2014

Beverly Veterans Services director David Perinchief spends his days meeting with Beverly’s veterans in his Memorial Building office. His dog, Gunner, sits by his side and greets everyone who walks in the door with a friendly wag of the tail.

When he’s not in meetings, he’s on the phone. Veterans and widows call him to get help navigating the twists, turns and bureaucratic mazes of the Veterans Affairs system.

When he’s not in his office, he’s finding the veterans who can’t find him — sometimes driving to their houses to pick up forms — or meeting with Veterans Affairs officials in Boston.

"It’s a one-man show," he said. "I have one of the largest clientele bases in the area by myself, and I have no other help. It gets a little overwhelming."

He has a computer full of spreadsheets logging every veteran who comes through his office — part of a new approach he has brought to the job that combines tough love with a serious commitment to efficiency.
The city receives 75 percent of its spending on veterans back from the state. The proposed budget for fiscal year 2015, under review by the city council, increases the amount of funding allocated for benefits by a proposed $62,757 more than is expected to be spent this year.
read more here

Marine Lieutenant Colonel Andrew P. Reed collapsed during run and died

Camp Lejeune identifies Marine fatality
By U.S. Marine Corps
Published: Saturday, June 28, 2014

U.S. Marine Lieutenant Colonel Andrew P. Reed, who was due to assume command of Logistics Operations School at Camp Johnson Monday, passed away suddenly there early yesterday morning after collapsing during the run portion of a semi-annual physical fitness test. The cause of death is still under investigation.

Lt. Col. Reed, 39, received his commission in 1996 after graduating with a Bachelor of Special Studies degree in Secondary Education and Physical Education from Cornell College, Mt. Vernon, IA. A career logistics officer, Lt. Col. Reed served in combat operations during Operation Enduring Freedom in 2004 and Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2005 and 2006 as an assistant logistics officer with the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit.

Prior to his recent arrival at Camp Lejeune, he was the Senior Forum Coordinator at Headquarters Marine Corps for the Deputy Commandant for Programs and Resources between 2012 and May 2014.

Lt. Col. Reed’s military decorations include the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Navy/Marine Corps Commendation Medal with four gold stars in lieu of subsequent awards, and the Combat Action Ribbon. Our thoughts and prayers are with Lt. Col. Reed’s family during this difficult time.

For the near term, the current commanding officer of Logistics Operations School, Lt. Col. Michael J. Monroe will remain in command.
read more here

VA 'significant and chronic system failures'

This was the headline
Scathing VA review finds 'significant and chronic system failures'
By Richard Simon
Los Angeles Times
Published: June 28, 2014

WASHINGTON—The VA suffers from “significant and chronic systemic failures” that must be addressed by department leadership, according to a White House report delivered to President Barack Obama on Friday, giving urgency to congressional legislation aimed at reducing veterans’ wait times for health care and holding officials more accountable.

Among the problems cited are a “corrosive culture” that has led to personnel problems within the Department of Veterans Affairs, exacerbated by poor management and a history of retaliation toward employees raising issues.

The report is the latest stinging assessment of the VA, which operates 1,700 hospitals and clinics.
read more here

But to us, we know none of this happened overnight. It began with the failure of politicians to prepare for the wounded two wars would create and manage to care for the veterans from past wars still unable to get the care they needed.

Medically unfit forced to fight
43,000 unfit troops sent to war
More than 43,000 U.S. troops listed as medically unfit for combat in the weeks before their scheduled deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan since 2003 were sent anyway, Pentagon records show.
Most of the nondeployable service members are in the Army, which is doing most of the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. Between 5 percent and 7 percent of all active-duty, National Guard and Reserve soldiers slated for combat were found medically unfit due to health problems each year since 2003, according to statistics provided to USA Today.

That was from USA Today in May of 2008. The following month the UK reported they had 10,000 medically unfit forced to fight.
Nearly 40% of Army suicide victims in 2006 and 2007 took psychotropic drugs like Prozac and Zoloft.
That was what was going on in the DOD but in the VA, it was worse as more needed care.
Why might troops be medicating themselves? Well, consider that repeated deployments to the war zones also contribute to the onset of mental-health problems. Nearly 30% of troops on their third deployment suffer from serious mental-health problems, a top Army psychiatrist told Congress in March. The doctor, said that recent research has shown the current 12 months between combat tours “is insufficient time” for soldiers “to reset” and recover from the stress of a combat tour before heading back to war.

The DOD failed the troops first and then the VA failed them as veterans because members of Congress did not pay attention and failed to do their own jobs.
Snapshot of How VA Budget Shortfall is Hurting Veterans’
Prepared by the Democratic staff of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee
Access to Safe and Timely Care across the Nation

The VA claims that by shifting funds dedicated to replace old equipment and conduct maintenance the department can address its budget shortfall and meet veterans’ demand for timely, high–quality health care. The following snapshots from across the nation reflect the stark reality of the budget shortfall on veterans’ access to safe, high quality care.

The 3 surgical operating rooms at the White River Junction VAMC in Vermont had to be closed on June 27 because the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system was broken and had not been repaired due to the siphoning of maintenance funds to cover the budget shortfall.

The VAMC in San Antonio could not provide a paraplegic veteran with a special machine to help clean a chronic wound because the facility did not have the equipment dollars.

The VAMC in Lebanon, Pennsylvania, closed its Geriatric Evaluation and Management Unit which does extensive case management to help elderly veterans increase their functioning and remain at home.

The Community Based Outpatient Clinics (CBOCs) needed to meet veterans’ increased demand for care in the North Florida/South Georgia VA Healthcare System have been delayed due to fiscal constraints. The Gainesville facility has made progress in reducing its wait lists, but as of April there were nearly 700 service-connected veterans waiting for more than 30 days for an appointment.

VA Medical Centers in VISN 16, which includes Arkansas, Oklahoma, Mississippi and Louisiana and part of Texas, have stopped scheduling appointments for many veterans who are eligible for care, pending available resources.

Even though the VA Palo Alto, California, Health Care System has used $3 million in capital funds for operating needs, as of March 1 more than 1,000 new patients had to wait more than 30 days for a primary care appointment. A third of these new patients had to wait more than 3 months. More than 5,000 patients had to wait more than 30 days for a specialty care appointment. Roughly 1,400 had to wait more than 3 months.

The replacement of the fire alarm system at the Loma Linda VAMC in California won’t be done this year because the facility is using most of its capital funds to cover operating expenses.

The White River Junction VAMC in Vermont struggling with a $525,000 shortfall in its prosthetics budget.

Because the FY 2005 budget is inadequate, the facility has not been allowed to hire 3 additional mental health care staff and 3 additional Registered Nurses for the ICU. Nurses in the ICU have been forced to work double shifts, which this Committee has found to be an unsafe patient practice.

Even though the San Diego VAMC expects to exceed its goal in medical care cost collections, it will divert $3.5 million of non-recurring maintenance funds to partially cover operating expenses, and has delayed filling 131 vacant positions for 3 months. The facility has a waiting list for patients of 750 veterans.

Because the Iowa City VAMC had to shift maintenance funds and equipment funds to cover a FY 2004 million shortfall of $3.2 million in medical care expenses in FY 2004, the facility is facing severe infrastructure problems and a larger shortfall of $6.8 million in FY 2005 that puts patient care and safety at risk. The facility wanted to spend $950,000 in non-recurring maintenance funds last year to prevent a mechanical failure of the electrical switcher, which would close the facility, but was required to use those funds to cover a budget shortfall in medical care last year. As a result in FY 2005, the VA must divert $1.5 million of medical care funds to maintain the key electrical switchgear for the hospital.

Recently, a motor failed on a hospital bed, which the VA planned to replace but couldn’t because of the shortfall, causing a fire with the patient on the bed. Fortunately the patient was able to get out of the bed safely, but the facility was forced to expend $700,000 of medical care dollars to replace all the beds, which thanks to the diligence of VA staff lasted 7 years beyond their life expectancy. The facility could not use capital funds to replace the very old beds because the money had already been siphoned off to cover medical care.

To bring the shortfall down to $6.2 million the facility has delayed hiring staff for 4 months. The deliberate short staffing of nurses on the psychiatric ward – as a means to correct the budget shortfall -- has forced the VA to cut the beds available for treatment in half.

As a result of cost cutting measures to make up for the shortfall in FY 2005, the Portland, Oregon, VAMC is delaying all non-emergent surgery by at least six months. For example, veterans in need of knee replacement surgery won’t be treated because of the budget shortfall.

Since FY 2002, the Portland VAMC has had to use its equipment and non-recurring maintenance funds to cover medical care expenses. For FY 2005 the facility needed $13 million for medical and clinical equipment but only received $2 million.

The facility is reducing staff as a cost-cutting measure and is now short at least 150 hospital staff, including nurses, physicians, and social workers. As a result of budget cuts for staffing, the VA has cut the number of medical beds available to care for veterans.

Veterans in need of outpatient psychiatric treatment at the Portland facility are on a waiting list because of the budget shortfall.

The Biloxi, Mississippi, VAMC has diverted maintenance dollars to meet operating expenses for the past two years but the facility will not be able to balance its budget without reducing staffing levels at a time when the Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care System has approximately 100 new veterans seeking enrollment each week.

Fifty percent of all the veterans receiving home health care through the San Antonio VAMC will now have to fend for themselves. This cost-cutting measure means that some 250 veterans, including those with spinal cord injuries, will no longer be provided this care.

The VA Connecticut Healthcare System is facing a major budgetary challenge of sending veterans to non-VA facilities for hospitalizations because the VA has a shortage of beds to care for veterans and staff.

Due to the budget shortfall, the VA facility in Bay Pines, Florida, has been forced to put veterans who have a service-connected illness or disability rating of less than 50% on a waiting list for primary care appointments. As of late April, some 7,000 veterans will be waiting longer than 30 days for a primary care appointment.

Can we stop pretending this is new? Unless we do, nothing will ever be fixed for real. They talk about being able to send veterans to outside doctors. That practice was going on in the 90's. When the VA didn't have enough doctors available, they outsourced.

Can All Veterans Enroll in VA Health Care?
Not every veteran is automatically eligible to enroll in VA health care, contrary to numerous claims made concerning “promises” to military personnel and veterans with regard to “free health care for life.”

Eligibility for enrollment in VA health care has evolved over time. Prior to eligibility reform in 1996, all veterans were technically eligible for some care; however, the actual provision of care was based on available resources.

The Veterans’ Health Care Eligibility Reform Act of 1996 (P.L. 104-262) established two eligibility categories and required VHA to manage the provision of hospital care and medical services through an enrollment system based on a system of priorities.6 (See the Appendix for the criteria for the Priority Groups.) P.L. 104-262 authorized the VA to provide all needed hospital care and medical services to veterans with service-connected disabilities; former prisoners of war; veterans exposed to toxic substances and environmental hazards such as Agent Orange; veterans whose attributable income and net worth are not greater than an established “means test”; and veterans of World War I. These veterans are generally known as “higher priority” or “core” veterans. The other category of veterans are those with no service-connected disabilities and with attributable incomes above an established “means test.”

You can read more about this from the link above. I knew about it because in the 90's my husband's claim was tied up for 6 years. He had to have a private doctor evaluate his condition as part of the claims process. They didn't have enough psychiatrists back then either.

Not much has changed and that is the most revolting thing of all.

"They treated me like a crazed criminal" says defiant Major

Major Gant can't understand that bringing his girlfriend to Afghanistan and living with her among the "natives" plus drinking and popping pills, were the wrong things to do.
Green Beret brings girlfriend to Afghanistan, ‘goes native’
New York Post
By Gary Buiso
June 29, 2014

In a remote village in the dangerous northeastern Kunar province of Afghanistan, Army Green Beret Maj. Jim Gant was doing something few others had — he was making progress against the enemy.

To do so, he and his men went native — trading their body armor for traditional Afghan garb, growing long beards, speaking the local Pashto tongue, and forging close alliances with tribesmen, who would come to revere Gant as “Commander Jim.”

But when he went to bed at night, Gant had one thing his men did not — company.

Ann Scott Tyson, a Washington Post war correspondent, quit her job to live secretly with him on the front lines — where he taught her how to shoot an assault rifle for protection. They drank alcohol and made their own rules.

When his commanders got wind of the domestic bliss he carved out for himself in the heart of a war zone, Gant was quietly relieved of his command and pushed to retire in disgrace.

Once nicknamed “Lawrence of Afghanistan” by Gen. David Petraeus, Gant was now more like Col. Walter Kurtz, the Green Beret who goes native — then loony — in the 1979 film “Apocalypse Now.” Gant indulged in a “self-created fantasy world,” his commanders charged.

To this day, Gant remains as defiant as Kurtz.

“They treated me like a crazed criminal instead of who I was,” Gant, 46, tells The Post. “My expectation was only ever that I would be treated honorably, and that just did not happen.”
read more here

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Vietnam Veteran Fired From Florida Cracker Barrel For Compassion

Cracker Barrel allegedly fires Vietnam veteran for giving homeless man a muffin
Joe Koblenzer claims he was let go for giving a man a few condiment packets and a corn muffin.
By Evan Bleier
June 27, 2014

VENICE, Fla., June 27 (UPI) --A Vietnam veteran claims he was fired from a Florida Cracker Barrel for giving a homeless man some condiment packets and corn muffin.

Joe Koblenzer says he was let go from his host position at the Cracker Barrel restaurant in Venice after he gave the food items to a man who looked like he needed help.

"He looked a little needy. He asked if I had any mayonnaise and some tarter sauce. He said he was going to cook a fish," Koblenzer told WWSB. "I got it for him. As I walked out I put a corn muffin in."
read more here

Outsourced veteran shoddy care left him malnourished

This veteran was outsourced. He suffered because of non-VA doctor. He should sue the doctor.
Malnourished Veteran Pleads For Help From VA
By: Kayla Vanover
Jun 27, 2014

BOWLING GREEN, Ky (WBKO) -- An Army veteran, living right here in Bowling Green, is being denied full benefits while suffering from a surgery that he says was performed in error.

Frank Coursey has not eaten solid food in nearly three years. As if this is not enough strain on his body, he goes to bed each night worried about the future of his family, if something were to happen to him.

"This picture is on 07-07-2007. I was 286 pounds. This picture was Father's Day of this year," said Frank Coursey, veteran.

Frank Coursey is currently 133 pounds, losing on average five pounds per week. His weight loss is the result of a gastric bypass surgery performed by a doctor in West Virginia, whom he was referred to by a his local VA physician.

Coursey says immediately following his surgery, he knew something did not feel right.

"Dr. Canterbury was there with about eight or nine students discussing the operations of the job and all that. I remember him looking at me and saying this is the worst case scenario of this surgery that we've had," said Frank Coursey, veteran.
read more here

Police unions seek recognition of PTSD as workplace illness

Post traumatic stress support group born from death of Hamilton police officer
Police unions seek recognition of PTSD as workplace illness
Hamilton Spectator
By Bill Dunphy
June 27, 2014

For the past five weeks a very small, self-selected group of Hamilton police officers has been gathering in secret to share experiences of debilitating pain, fear, isolation and withdrawal.

The officers are suffering from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and for once, and finally, they're talking about it — getting help and helping each other.

It is perhaps fitting, that the Hamilton Employees Lifeline Peer Network (HELP-Net) should rise from a community shocked and torn by the very public death by suicide of Staff Sergeant Ian Matthews last December in the locker-room at police headquarters.

"It was never meant to memorialize or condone what Ian did, but to use it as a catalyst," Sergeant Helena Pereira explained, pointing out she doesn't even know if the popular detective had been suffering from PTSD.

The peer group — which is being supervised by mental health professionals from the Homewood Health Centre — is being funded by the Blarney Run, an annual fundraising effort by Matthews' friends and family that is meant to memorialize Matthews.

Pereira said Matthews's death and the public reactions seem to have helped crack open the traditionally closed police subculture, giving officers permission to come forward and admit their struggles.

"Police are so tight-lipped," Pereira said. "You have to be so calm. It all has to stay inside. You don't want to show any emotion. There's a stigma around asking for help."

But in the aftermath of that December death, many officers did just that — showed their emotion, admitted seeking and needing help.
read more here

'Corrosive culture' fueled by Congress hurt the VA

Two northwest Wisconsin VA clinics close over funding problems. VA is looking into several primary care options for more than 900 veterans who've been using the Hayward and Rice Lake clinics.

Heussner says Corporate Health and Wellness, the company under contract to run the clinics, was having difficulty meeting its financial obligations. But he says the company had never threaten to close down the clinics.

That was reported by Minnesota Public Radio in 2007.
'Corrosive culture,' weak leadership cripple VA, report says
By Ralph Ellis and John Crawley
Fri June 27, 2014

Report on VA medical system stems from allegations of shortcomings
It cites "significant and chronic systemic failures"

Report on builds on alarming revelations over past several months

Report was conducted by Obama administration aide who assessed VA shortcomings

(CNN) -- The Veterans Affairs health care system needs to be overhauled because of unresponsive leadership and a "corrosive culture" that affects the delivery of medical care, said a report delivered Friday to President Barack Obama.

"It is clear that there are significant and chronic systemic failures that must be addressed by the leadership at VA," said the report prepared by Rob Nabors, who is Obama's deputy chief of staff and who the President dispatched to assess the situation at the troubled agency.

The VA, a massive bureaucracy with more than 300,000 full-time employees, is under fire over allegations of alarming shortcomings at its medical facilities. The controversy, as CNN first reported, involves delayed care with potentially fatal consequences in possibly dozens of cases.

Nabors and acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson met with Obama to discuss the findings.
read more here

Congress and veterans committing suicide not a topic from last year or a few years ago. This report was from 2007.
The hearing was prompted in part by a CBS news story in November on suicides in the veteran population that put last year’s number of veteran suicides at over 6,000. VA officials refuted that number, questioning its validity. But a VA Inspector General report released in May of 2007 found that as many as 5,000 veterans commit suicide a year—nearly 1,000 of whom are receiving VA care at the time.

Yet here we are with worse conditions for veterans and Congress will accept no responsibility of any of it. More veterans sought VA care after these old reports but the truth is, congress never intended to increase staffing to meet the rise in need.

PTSD Veteran "My shame was being alive"

Veteran Who Lost a Friend in Combat on Overcoming PTSD: "My Shame Was Being Alive"
Huffington Post
George Decker
Public Affairs Officer, VA National Center for PTSD’s Executive Division
Vicky Bippart
Producer/Director, VA National Center for PTSD
Posted: 06/27/2014

"When I get remembered, it will not have been for busting up a bar fight or even kicking in doors in Fallujah. It'll be for choosing the right path when it could have been so much easier to go down the wrong path, to let myself get bogged down by feelings of insecurity or anxiety and, ultimately, let it kill me," Laurent Taillefer said recently.

But when Laurent returned home from Iraq, where he served with the Army's 118th Infantry, he was lost in a deep funk. "When I got out, I was so sure that I was going to have a short life that I even found jobs that would create that. The guy I replaced, back when I was a bouncer at a strip club, had been shot. And if I wanted to be honest with myself, I'd say I kind of expected myself to get shot."

Laurent had been injured in Iraq and had seen some horrifying things there, but what had shaken him the most was the death of his close friend, Soto. "My friend had died in Iraq, and I was torn up ... we spent every waking hour together..." he said. "Soto was larger than life. After he died, everything was temporary; everything was so close to the end."

Laurent sought the company of fellow veterans, but hanging out with them didn't help him.
read more here

Friday, June 27, 2014

Combat PTSD and the Soul

Today is PTSD Awareness Day. Really? This is the 4th year yet there doesn't seem to be enough awareness of it. After over 22,000 posts, there doesn't seem to be anything new I can say today. PTSD hasn't changed over generations. So why is it that we are so far from saving more lives after combat?

We watched the numbers go up followed by reports that more than half of the suicides came after they sought out help. Over and over again the "stigma" of PTSD has been given as a reason too many deny they need help, yet the program the military has been pushing contributed to this harmful notion. After all, when the military tells soldiers they can train their brains to be mentally tough, what other thoughts could they have?

The truth is, Combat PTSD hits the soul more than anything else.

Beyond PTSD: Soldiers Have Injured Souls
September 01, 2011
What sometimes happens in war may more accurately be called a moral injury — a deep soul wound that pierces a person’s identity, sense of morality and relationship to society. In short, a threat in a solder’s life.

Now that modern militaries accept that war creates psychological trauma, therapists wonder about its toll on the spirit.

The psychological toll taken by war is obvious. For the second year in a row, more active-duty troops committed suicide in 2010 (468) than were killed in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan (462). A 2008 RAND Corporation study reported that nearly 1 in 5 troops who had returned from Iraq and Afghanistan reported symptoms of post-traumatic stress or major depression.

Since the American Psychiatric Association added post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, to its diagnostic manual in 1980, the diagnosis has most often focused on trauma associated with threats to a soldier’s life. Today, however, therapists such as Jonathan Shay, a retired VA psychiatrist and recipient of a MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant; Edward Tick, director of the private group Soldier’s Heart; and Brett Litz, a VA psychologist, argue that this concept is too limited. What sometimes happens in war may more accurately be called a moral injury — a deep soul wound that pierces a person’s identity, sense of morality and relationship to society. In short, a threat in a solder’s life.

“My colleagues and I suspect that the greatest lasting harm is from moral injury,” says Litz, director of the Mental Health Core of the Massachusetts Veterans Epidemiological Research and Information Center. He and six colleagues published an article on the topic in the December 2009 Clinical Psychological Review, in which they define moral injury as a wound that can occur when troops participate in, witness or fall victim to actions that transgress their most deeply held moral beliefs.

While the severity of this kind of wound differs from person to person, moral injury can lead to deep despair.

“They have lost their sense that virtue is even possible,” Shay says. “It corrodes the soul.”

It goes even deeper than that. It is the strength of their soul that causes the deepest wound.

Combat PTSD is different from all other causes. The type of PTSD police officers and firefighters get is close to it because they also risk their lives willingly for the sake of others.

For servicemen and women, it is in their core. That ability to care so much they are willing to die for someone else.
to rise above or go beyond; overpass; exceed: to transcend the limits of thought; kindness transcends courtesy.

Once we understand this, once we finally explain to them why they were afflicted by PTSD, we can being to truly help them heal.

This is what the military and the Congress has failed to understand. They proved they were already resilient when they signed up, survived training, separation from families and friends, sacrificed and we willing to endure deployments they knew could cost them their lives.

It is the ultimate explanation of courage because they care so deeply about the others they serve with, there are no limits to what they are willing to do for their sake.

That strength of their souls comes with a price. The ability to care that much also allows them to grieve so deeply.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Congress unaccountable for VA failures

The press has a habit of letting people think nothing had ever been reported on before they managed to write a story. This has allowed members of congress to get plenty of coverage complaining about how bad things are for veterans, as if they really care.
Bill to spotlight issues for female veterans
Army Times
By Kelly Kennedy - Staff writer

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., is expected to announce legislation next week aimed at increasing the focus on female veterans at Department of Veterans Affairs facilities.

Since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan began, Murray has spent many hearings questioning VA officials about female veterans with histories of sexual trauma, whether research has been done to determine their health needs and whether VA hospitals are so focused on men’s health issues that women get left behind.

Though VA officials say they are conducting a survey on women’s experiences at their facilities, as well as offering programs specifically for women, proponents of the proposed bill say it would target areas VA has not addressed. It follows a similar House bill proposed by Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, D-S.D., and Ginny Brown-Waite, R-Fla.

Murray’s bill will ask for:

• Assessment and treatment of women who have suffered sexual trauma in the military.

• More use of evidence-based treatment for women — particularly in areas such as post-traumatic stress disorder, where responses may be different or involve different issues than it does for men.

• A long-term study on gender-specific health issues of female veterans.

“One of the things we started to see early on is that there’s a lot we don’t know,” said Joy Ilem, assistant national legislative director for Disabled American Veterans.

That isn't a headline from today. It is from Saturday Mar 1, 2008 8:11:43 EST
What is the headline today?

Veterans Affairs falls short on female medical issues
Associated Press
June 25, 2014

SAN FRANCISCO — Already pilloried for long wait times for medical appointments, the beleaguered Department of Veterans Affairs has fallen short of another commitment: to attend to the needs of the rising ranks of female veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, many of them of child-bearing age.

Even the head of the VA’s office of women’s health acknowledges that persistent shortcomings remain in caring for the 390,000 female vets seen last year at its hospitals and clinics — despite an investment of more than $1.3 billion since 2008, including the training of hundreds of medical professionals in the fundamentals of treating the female body.

According to an Associated Press review of VA internal documents, inspector general reports and interviews:

Nationwide, nearly one in four VA hospitals does not have a fulltime gynecologist on staff. And about 140 of the 920 community-based clinics serving veterans in rural areas do not have a designated women’s health provider, despite the goal that every clinic would have one.
read more here

Daytona Beach Budget Inn Express Denies Veteran Room Over PTSD Service Dog

Veteran denied motel room in Daytona Beach because he had service dog
June 25, 2014

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — A Daytona Beach motel owner who refused to welcome a vacationing veteran and his service dog is now facing a possible misdemeanor charge.

Former Army Sgt. Robert Price has a service dog named Walker. Price suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and a brain injury after facing bomb attacks for years in the Middle East.

When he went to check in at the Budget Inn Express on Tuesday, he told the desk clerk as a courtesy that he had a service dog and the woman immediately told him that dogs weren’t welcome.

Price said it took time to accept the idea of having a service dog, but now he and Walker are inseparable. He said when they were denied a room at the Budget Inn Express, he started recording the confrontation with his cellphone.

"Because I have a service dog, I can't have a room?" he asked.

"Service dog or whatever. Dog is dog," said motel owner Bina Patel.

Price wasn’t alone on Tuesday as police officers escorted him to the La Quinta, where they not only welcomed him but gave him a very generous discount on his room.
read more here

Veterans with PTSD not getting what they need to heal

Invisible Scars : National PTSD Awareness Month Shines Spotlight on Devastating Psychological Disorder PTSD and Veterans
Carrington Education
“The first thing people ask when you get back is ‘Did you kill somebody? How many people did you kill?’” one Vietnam veteran told me. “They just don’t understand how inappropriate that question is. We did what we had to do. You want to know what PTSD is like? You can’t know what it means to sit, 40 years later, in front of a television set reliving the same 40 seconds, over and over and over. You can’t know. You don’t want to know. We don’t look any different on the outside. But on the inside…”

Every Monday evening in Nampa, Idaho, a group of twenty veterans gather to share stories and support. The men range in age from grizzled Vietnam warriors to young soldiers who have just returned from Afghanistan. On the night they invited me to visit, their leader and Warrior Pointe founder, Reed Pacheco, entered the room with a cell phone to his ear, brainstorming intervention strategies for a veteran who had threatened suicide.

Pacheco, a U.S. Army veteran of Desert Storm and Somalia pre 9/11, envisioned Warrior Pointe as a “safe zone” where former soldiers could come together to talk about the issues that continue to haunt them, including Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). “The VA (Veterans Administration) just isn’t there for us,” he said, as heads around the table nodded emphatically.

Tom Bosch, a Carrington College Massage Therapist Program graduate who served two tours with the U.S. Army in Iraq and suffered a traumatic brain injury in an IED attack, noted that “we have a small pharmacy around this table. The VA can give you lots of things for physical pain. But they can’t cure the mental pain.”
“The seventy-seven day siege of Khe Sanh hammered, pierced and drilled fear into the innards of our brains, the spot where fear resides beside the animal will to survive. We are forever alert, on guard, ready to laager, then attack. This is my PTSD,” said my friend Ken Rodgers, Marine, author, and documentary filmmaker when we were discussing the harrowing Vietnam War experiences that led him to write and produce Bravo: Common Men, Uncommon Valor. While Rodgers has been able to manage his condition, it’s something that he lives with every day.
read more here

Michigan changes PTSD to PTSI, but why?

Do they really think this will help? It won't. History proved that with all the labels placed on PTSD. History has also proven that titles do not replace wisdom and common sense. How did they think it would help when they have not done the one thing that really does help remove the stigma?
NAME CHANGE: It's Now Post-Traumatic Stress Injury
WILX 10 News
June 25, 2014

You've probably heard of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, but it's now called Post-Traumatic Stress Injury in Michigan.

Michigan is the first state to adopt a resolution changing the name of the condition affecting thousands, including members of the military.
read more here

The one thing that gets the stigma out of the way is true education.

The people with no understanding of why some get hit by PTSD and others don't, get attention. The same people putting their trust in a program to treat servicemen and women developed as a research project for children. The same people refusing to examine medications used to replace therapy. The same folks ignoring the Army study from 2006 stating redeployments would increase the risk of PTSD. The same folks with the loudest voices are heard over the voices of reason.

Changing the title does not change anything when what works is ignored and what has failed is still being pushed.

Double Amputee Afghanistan Veteran Earns Pat Tillman Award

Josh Sweeney earns Tillman Award
Associated Press
June 25, 2014

Joshua Sweeney
Dennis Grombkowski/Getty Images
Sgt. Josh Sweeney (center) will receive the inaugural Pat Tillman Award for Service at the ESPY Awards on July 16.

PORTLAND, Ore. -- When retired Marine Sgt. Josh Sweeney recounts his inspirational journey following an explosion that took both his legs in Afghanistan, he leaves out an important detail: His gold-medal winning goal.

Sweeney played on the U.S. Paralympic sled hockey team that beat the Russians 1-0 earlier this year in Sochi. He shot the game's lone goal in the second period at Shayba Arena, giving the Unites States its second straight gold medal in the event.

Chided about omitting the detail, Sweeney laughed.

"I still feel pretty lucky to be able to have done that," he said. "I try not to take too much credit for it."

He also doesn't mention that he's been honored with a Purple Heart for his service in the Marines.

Sweeney will receive the inaugural Pat Tillman Award for Service at the 2014 ESPY Awards on July 16. The award is being presented in conjunction with the Pat Tillman Foundation, which invests in military veterans and their spouses through educational scholarships.

Pat Tillman died in action in Afghanistan in 2004 after leaving the NFL's Arizona Cardinals to enlist in the U.S. Army with his brother Kevin.
read more here

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Press giving Congress CYA

Republicans think the press is "liberal" and Democrats think FOX runs the flow of news. The younger generation gets most of their news from Facebook and Jon Stewart. Veterans think it is all a bunch of hogwash! It really baffles them when people get paid for being either lazy or stupid. As of today, they don't have a clue which one it is but for them, it isn't about politics. It is about politicians.

The New York Times has this headline: Senior Veterans Affairs Officials to Step Down They didn't seem bothered by the fact they also reported on another VA official forced to step down.

In 2007 The New York Times headline was V.A. Chief to Step Down, Citing Return to Private Life yet no where in the report did they manage to cover what his time in office meant to veterans.

This is from Associated Press
His resignation comes amid intense political and public scrutiny of the Pentagon and VA after reports of shoddy outpatient care of injured troops and veterans at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and elsewhere.

It also ends a beleaguered two-year tenure in which Nicholson repeatedly fought off calls for his resignation over the VA's unexpected $1.3 billion shortfall in 2005 that put healthcare at risk; last summer's theft of 26.5 million veterans' personal data in what was the government's largest security breach; and, more recently, the award of $3.8 million in bonuses to senior officials who were responsible for the agency's budget problems.

Walter Reed is a Pentagon-run facility, but charges of poor treatment relating to poor coordination quickly extended to the VA's vast network of 1,400 hospitals and clinics. The VA also has a backlog of disability payments to injured veterans, with overwhelming delays of 177 days that Nicholson has called unacceptable.

"Secretary Nicholson's resignation should be welcome news for all veterans," said Paul Rieckhoff, executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. "The VA under Secretary Nicholson has been woefully unprepared for the influx of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, consistently underestimating the number of new veterans who would seek care, and failing to spend the money Congress allotted to treat mental health issues."

His departure comes at a critical time. Nicholson most recently headed a presidential task force charged with making immediate improvements to healthcare in which he pledged to take "personal responsibility."

Both Congress and a presidential commission chaired by Bob Dole, former Republican senator from Kansas, and Donna Shalala, former Health and Human Services secretary, are planning to push sweeping changes in how care is administered.

It ended with this
"The fact is, veterans have been right to be disappointed in Jim Nicholson's leadership at VA," said Senator Barack Obama, an Illinois Democrat, a member of the Veterans Affairs Committee, and a 2008 presidential candidate. "It is clear that Secretary Nicholson is leaving the VA worse off than he found it.

Given all that reporters "cover" the last thing we should allow is for them to be doing a massive CYA for members of congress. We've been down his road far too many times already.

Frankly veterans deserved a lot more. Now it seems as if every politician is pulling the "I had nothing to do with it" Sgt. Schultz excuse and the press just gives them more publicity.

Vet with cancer headline #2, sex offender arrested, again

Vet With Prostate Cancer Arrested
PANAMA CITY-- A local homeless veteran is behind bars tonight after police dig a little deeper into his past. Panama City Police arrested David Smith this weekend for failure to register as a sex offender. Officials say Smith failed to report an address change, and also failed to have an updated Florida ID. If his name sounds familiar, it's because last week, several local media outlets ran stories about Smith being denied cancer treatment at the local V.A.

Suicide at Arlington National Cemetery was 92 year old Air Force veteran

UPDATE from Army Times

Arlington tragedy: Deceased colonel remembered as loving, generous and proud of service
Army Times
Stephen Losey
Jun. 25, 2014

Col. Robert Stanton Terrill stands next to a portrait of himself and his wife, Helen.
(Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania)
Retired Air Force Col. Robert Stanton Terrill was married to his wife, Helen, for 65 years before she passed away after a long illness in 2009. Helen was laid to rest in Section 64 of Arlington National Cemetery.

The morning of June 20, the 92-year-old Terrill left his home in Falls Church, Virginia, went to the section where his wife was buried, and apparently shot himself.

Terrill’s apparent public suicide — believed to be the first such incident in the cemetery’s history — shocked those who knew him. Neighbors and acquaintances remember Terrill as a loving and generous man who was proud of his military service. The Army’s Criminal Investigation Command is still investigating Terrill’s death and has not officially confirmed that he committed suicide, but officials say they do not suspect foul play.

“I don’t think any of us had any idea,” said Janice Gaynor, who lived on the same street as the Terrills for more than four decades. “He didn’t complain or anything.”
read more here

Arlington Suicide Victim Was 92-Year-old AF Vet
by Brendan McGarry
Jun 24, 2014
Terrill shot himself around 10 a.m. June 20 near the Columbarium Courts in Section 64 of the cemetery. His wife, Helen Terrill, was buried in the same section in 2009, according to news reports and the cemetery's online gravesite database.
The man who killed himself last week at Arlington National Cemetery was a 92-year-old Air Force veteran whose wife was reportedly buried there.

The victim was identified as Robert Terrill, 92, of Falls Church, Virginia, who retired from the service as a colonel, according to a press release from the cemetery. Only cursory information about his service history was immediately available.

He received his military commission in 1946 and eventually became a command pilot, with more than 8,000 total flight hours, though retirement records don’t indicate whether he flew in combat or the type of aircraft he piloted, according to Michael Dickerson, a spokesman for the Air Force Personnel Center at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas, located outside San Antonio. He was promoted to colonel in 1959 and retired from a job at the Pentagon in 1968, Dickerson said.
read more here

Army reports suicide at Arlington National Cemetery

Wounded Times-Wounded Minds, Veterans and PTSD Awareness

This morning I came across a group out of California calling themselves "Operation Wounded Minds" and I thought I read it wrong. I didn't. If you were among the thousands watching my video "Wounded Minds" I wanted to clear this up.

Operation Wounded Minds, have no connection to me, my work or to my video going back to 2006.

At the time, there was not much being done to help the troops learn what Vietnam veterans knew.

Wounded Minds was on YouTube for years along with others.

I received many emails on this video but the one that explains how hard the troops were searching for information, was the one I received from someone in the Navy.
I saw your PTSD presentation online and want to share it with our Sailors returning from Iraq/Afghanistan.

Thanks for providing this much needed information,

Again, I have no idea who these people are and have nothing to do with them

Fresno VA is stop on PTSD awareness tour (video)
The Fresno Bee
June 24, 2014

"There's nothing really forcing accountability," said Operation Wounded Minds co-founder Dwayne Jones.

"This needs to be mandatory reporting."

Operation Wounded Minds is working with the research firm EMC to develop technology for collecting data on veteran suicides, Jones said. It has sent letters to California senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein and will send a letter to Gov. Jerry Brown to ask that reporting be mandatory, he said. read more here

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Family needs help finding missing Iraq veteran

Renewed search for missing young veteran
Jun 24, 2014 5:35 PM EDT

KENNESAW, Ga. - It has been nearly three months since an Iraq Veteran from Kennesaw disappeared without a trace. 26 year old Chase Massner was last seen in March at the QT on Bells Ferry Road. His family says he was never the same after serving in Iraq, but it is unlike him to disappear for so long.

Massner's mother-in-law has organized a search for Saturday at Shiloh Hills Baptist Church hoping it brings them a sense of closure.
go here and help find Chase Massner

Senator Coburn wants to pretend he just got to Washington

Senator Coburn is just too funny for words. He has up a video of a phone and a message from the VA saying their office hours are over. OK. The point was what? He showed a woman leaving the office as if that was supposed to mean anything?
I left this comment.
Really odd since Senator Coburn didn't seem to mention how long he has been in the Senate and the job of the Senate along with the House is to insure that the VA had been taking care of veterans. CSPAN still has all the hearings up on their site. He also didn't mention how none of these problems are new since they have been documented for decades and topics of many hearings our elected politicians have held. The House Veterans Affairs Committee was first seated in 1946. Almost 70 years later,,,,,well, here we are. The veterans community has very different discussions than the rest of the population and this dear friends is what we talk about. Nothing new to see and that is the worst part of all.
Senator Tom Coburn forgets he was part of the problem. He should have put up the Hogan's Heroes video on Sgt. Schultz saying "I know nothing. I was not here. I did not even get up this morning."
Isn't that what our elected officials were supposed to be taking care of all these years? My God! Where do these people get the nerve to look veterans in the eye and pretend they are shocked by all of this? Veterans call their offices all the time and complain. It is something they have known all along.

This is the headline over on the Washington Examiner.
New Tom Coburn report describes Veterans Affairs Department wracked by incompetence, corruption, coverups

I'll admit I didn't finishing reading this since it started out with this;
Underworked doctors, crooked contracting officers, criminals, perverts and cheats are all part of the broken culture that rewards failure and punishes honest employees at the Department of Veterans Affairs, according to a report released Tuesday by Sen. Tom Coburn.

"This investigation found the problems at the VA are far deeper than just scheduling. Over the past decade, more than 1,000 veterans may have died as a result of VA’s misconduct and the VA has paid out nearly $1 billion to veterans and their families for its medical malpractice," Coburn said in a statement about the report.

The Oklahoma Republican, himself a physician, did not spare his fellow senators, who he said are often more concerned with the good publicity that comes from a ribbon-cutting ceremony than they are about holding VA accountable.

Not even close!

With over 22,000 post on this site, there are far too many over the last 7 years proving Congress had no intentions of fixing anything. I did a top ten countdown just from 2008 of VA scandals and those were just the ones I could think of were at the top of the list.

Senator Tom Coburn has been in all of this up to his eyeballs.

Here's a blast from the past and took place in 2009.
Senator Tom Coburn blocks bill for veterans On the 11th Hour of the 11th Day of the 11th month, we honor all of America’s veterans. Today, because of you, we’re calling on one Senator to use today to truly honor veterans by ending his hold on a veterans spending bill.

Earlier in the week, I urged you to sign our petition calling on my Senator Tom Coburn to end his hold of S. 1963, "The Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2009." Within hours, over 10,000 of you signed.

Today, we’re turning over 13,000 signatures to the Senator.

The petition was covered by the Military Times newspapers, which you can read here (Coburn blocking bill).

By blocking this bill Sen. Coburn is denying veterans a myriad of benefits and services: Caregiver assistance to our most wounded veterans, who often need assistance to do some of the smallest tasks; Funding for such issues as mental health care for women who suffered military sexual trauma, women’s health care needs and medical services for newborn children; Aid for rural veteran health care issues; Mental health care; and, Programs to help ease the burden of veteran homelessness.

On this veterans day, I’d urge Senator Coburn to think about the thousands and thousands of veterans he’s hurting by playing politics with veterans care. The best thing he can do to honor veterans today is to release his hold on this bill. Because of you, the pressure is on him to do so. Today, we honor all of America’s veterans. Now it’s time for Senator Coburn to join us.
Sincerely,Miranda Norman
Iraq War Veteran
Oklahoma State Captain,
And Jon, Peter, Brian, Richard, and the entire team

This is from his own site. Prepare to have a sick feeling in your stomach.

Dr. Coburn Challenges Senators to Make Sacrifices for Veterans Health Care
November 9, 2009
“Our nation’s veterans have made tremendous sacrifices in defense of our freedoms. The least Senators should do is make the easy sacrifice of eliminating a small amount of wasteful spending to improve veterans’ health care. Leadership, after all, is making sacrifices and hard choices. Veterans and every family in America make hard choices every day between competing financial priorities. It’s time for politicians in Washington to do the same,” Dr. Coburn said.......

“The American people and our veterans understand that our spending problem has become a national security problem. We are borrowing massive sums from potential adversaries and are watching the value of the dollar decline because other nation’s doubt our ability and willingness to pay off our $12 trillion debt. If we don’t start making hard choices we may not have a country left to defend,” Dr. Coburn said.

As for veterans dying waiting for care we have this reminder
Oklahoma veterans and active-duty military personnel are killing themselves at twice the rate of civilians, despite increased efforts to address the problem.

The 2011 suicide rate for soldiers was about 44 per 100,000 population, according to an Oklahoma Watch analysis of Oklahoma State Department of Health data. This rate includes active-duty military as well as veterans from the post-9/11 wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Gulf War, Vietnam, Korea and World War II. The civilian rate for people over the age of 18 was about 22 per 100,000.

In 2011, 141 of the state’s 684 suicides were veterans, according to state health department records.

The veteran suicide rate in Oklahoma is down from a peak of about 46 in 2008, but researchers said that year had increased suicides due to the Great Recession. The rate dropped to about 39 in 2009 and has since climbed back up.

There is also this from 2012
Senators holding up a vote on a veterans jobs bill came under blistering criticism Thursday afternoon during a phone-in press conference with Senate Veterans Affairs Chairwoman Sen. Patty Murray and Sen. Ben Nelson, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

The legislation, which is largely made up of provisions originated by or co-sponsored by GOP Senators, is currently being held up by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who says he will filibuster the bill until a doctor jailed in Pakistan for helping the U.S. locate Osama bin Laden is freed.

But other Republicans have offered different reasons for not letting the bill go to a vote, said Murray. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., justified not voting on the bill because the House of Representatives would block it, according to Murray.

This could go on and on and on since Coburn has been in the seat long enough to know better. Too bad he is just like the rest of them using the Sgt. Schultz excuse.