Showing posts with label Senator Daniel Akaka. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Senator Daniel Akaka. Show all posts

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Homeless veterans hearing ends due to GOP grandstanding

What has happened to these people? Do they care about anything other than just trying to stop what they can? Now they hurt homeless veterans waiting for someone to step up and take care of them? Is this going to end up like healthcare insurance reform and they leave behind hatred against other people waiting for some kind of help? For heaven's sake! I just got back from a funeral for a homeless Vietnam veteran! (read post later today)

Are level headed Republicans going to take back their party and restore common sense and common decency? Will they set aside their differences to get something done? Their opposition is hurting homeless veterans!
Senate veterans hearing shut down due to partisan obstruction


U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI), chairman of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, held a hearing Wednesday, March 24 on VA’s plan to end veteran homelessness in the next five years. It is estimated more than 100,000 veterans – including at least 800 in Hawaii – are homeless in the United States on any given night.

The hearing ended abruptly at 11 a.m. after opponents of health insurance reform objected to allowing most committee hearings, including the Veterans’ Affairs hearing, to continue. Senate rules require unanimous consent on the Senate floor for committees to meet two hours after the Senate convenes. Objections to the routine procedure are extremely rare.

“The Senate should be a place for debate, but I cannot imagine how shutting down a hearing on helping homeless veterans has any part of the debate on the health insurance reform. I am deeply disappointed that my colleagues chose to hinder our common work to help end veteran homelessness,” Akaka said.

The hearing included witnesses from the Departments of Veterans Affairs, Labor, and Housing and Urban Development, as well as community providers who help homeless veterans, and a veteran in transitional housing.

Chairman Akaka was forced to gavel the hearing to an end in the middle of testimony from witness Dr. Sam Tsemberis from Pathways to Housing, a service provider with hands-on experience helping homeless veterans, particularly those with psychiatric disabilities and addiction disorders.

“With a growing commitment from Congress, the federal government, and community providers, we are on track to end veteran homelessness in five years. We must stay focused and work together to accomplish this important and ambitious goal,” Akaka said.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Gulf War illness research threatened by VA, UT Southwestern disputes

When anyone uses money from the government, (the tax payers) they need to live up to the rules in place when they accepted the check. Looks like that didn't happen here.

Gulf War illness research threatened by VA, UT Southwestern disputes

12:20 AM CDT on Sunday, July 26, 2009
By SCOTT K. PARKS / The Dallas Morning News

The UT Southwestern Medical Center conference room was brimming with dignitaries on April 21, 2006. U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and Dallas billionaire Ross Perot looked on as university administrators and the federal government agreed to spend $75 million to research the causes of Gulf War illness.

More than three years later, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has spent only a fraction of the earmarked money, and contract disputes between the VA and UT Southwestern are threatening the entire project run by noted epidemiologist Robert Haley.

The report also criticizes UT Southwestern for ignoring contract provisions requiring protection of veteran medical data and privacy.

"Given UTSWMC's continued refusal to comply with the terms and conditions of the contract, UTSWMC has given VA no option other than to terminate the contract for default," the inspector general report said.

Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, wrote to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki the day after the inspector general's report became public.

"I ask that you look into this matter immediately and implement the recommendation to terminate the contract for default so that VA's funds can be directed to research projects that will help those veterans affected by Gulf War Illness," Akaka wrote.

read more here

Gulf War illness research threatened by VA

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

VA advance funding one step closer to reality

VA advance funding one step closer to reality

By Rick Maze - Staff writer
Posted : Tuesday Apr 28, 2009 17:41:35 EDT

There is good news for military and veterans’ organizations in the 2010 budget agreement reached Monday night by House and Senate negotiators.

The budget, which includes $606 billion for the Defense Department and $106.5 billion for the Veterans Affairs Department next year, also creates a window of opportunity for passage of some high-priority issues this year.

For example, the agreement opens the door for the top priority of veterans’ organizations, providing money for veterans’ health care one year in advance. The key language, in this case, is a provision preventing a point of order being raised against legislation to provide a 2011 VA health funding bill this year.

Sen. Daniel K. Akaka, D-Hawaii, the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee chairman and a sponsor of advanced appropriations legislation, said the provision “brings us closer to our goal of providing on-time funding for veterans’ health care, allowing VA to plan ahead and make better use of taxpayer money.”

Raymond Dempsey, national commander of Disabled American Veterans, called the budget “good news for our nation’s veterans.”
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VA advance funding one step closer to reality

Friday, March 27, 2009

Bill would improve vets insurance benefits

Bill would improve vets insurance benefits

By Rick Maze - Staff writer
Posted : Friday Mar 27, 2009 16:44:39 EDT

The Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee chairman introduced legislation Thursday to improve veterans insurance benefits.

Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, proposes to expand retroactive payments of traumatic injury insurance, to increase supplemental life insure for totally disabled veterans, and to create a new life insurance program for veterans with service-connected disabilities.

This is the second major veterans bill introduced this year by Akaka, who in early March unveiled a rehabilitation and employment package.

In a statement, Akaka said the new bill, S 728, “improves benefits for veterans with severe burn injuries, expands insurance programs, and secures cost-of-living increases for certain benefits, some of which have not been updated for decades.”
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Saturday, January 31, 2009

IG report:No harm done on infamous PTSD email.

Why am I having a hard time believing this report? How do they know for sure this email did not change the outcome for veterans? Personality Disorder discharges were supposed to be appropriate too. Remember them? Diagnosing troops with PTSD as having the pre-existing condition of personality disorder made sure the government had no responsibility in the fact they were having flashbacks and nightmares along with the rest of the symptoms of PTSD. I really wonder how many of them had TBI on top of it but were cut loose by the DOD. As of now, no on knows what happened to the over 22,000 this happened to or if they ever received any justice, or ever will. Now the Inspector General report says the email sent had no bearing on the diagnosis of our veterans. This is really hard to swallow.

Inspector General Releases Investigation on VA Staffer's Email ...
Hawaii Reporter - Kailua,HI,USA
Chairman Akaka remains concerned that VA is overburdened and underfunded
By Jesse Broder Van Dyke, 1/29/2009 9:06:10 AM
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI), Chairman of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, commented today on a new VA Inspector General (IG) report into an email sent by a VA psychologist last year that appeared to discourage health care staff from diagnosing veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The IG investigation, requested by Akaka and released today, found that while the email was poorly written and inappropriate, it did not result in a change in diagnoses at that VA facility.
“I appreciate the IG’s investigation into this matter. It is fortunate that the actions of a single health professional did not result in an artificial decline in the number of veterans diagnosed with PTSD. I remain concerned that VA’s health care system is overburdened and underfunded as the needs of veterans grow greater and more complicated. I will continue to work towards making VA funding more timely, predictable, and robust,” Akaka said.
Chairman Akaka requested the IG’s investigation when the email was brought to light last year. He held a hearing on systemic indifference to invisible wounds on June 4, 2008.
The VA IG report is available here. VAO report
Jesse Broder Van Dyke is a spokesperson for U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka

Friday, October 24, 2008

Omnibus Veterans’ Bills Cleared by Senate

Sept. 27, 2008 – 6:38 p.m.

Omnibus Veterans’ Bills Cleared by Senate

By Matthew M. Johnson, CQ Staff

The Senate cleared legislation Saturday bundling up numerous measures aimed at improving veterans’ health care, housing, education and other benefits.

Provisions covering a range of programs for veterans were packaged into two big bills (S 2162, S 3023) that were sent to the White House for the president’s signature.

As introduced by Sen. Daniel K. Akaka, D-Hawaii, chairman of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, the first bill (S 2162) would have authorized programs intended to improve treatment for veterans who suffer from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other mental illnesses. The Senate passed that version in June.

However, the House amended it with multiple other veterans’ provisions before passing it by voice vote Sept. 24. The final measure incorporated a compromise negotiated by House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Bob Filner, D-Calif., and Akaka.

As cleared, the bill would authorize:

• $1.9 billion for Veterans Administration (VA) medical facility projects and major medical facility leases around the country.

• $60 million through fiscal 2011 for the VA to provide financial assistance to nonprofit organizations that support very low-income veteran families residing in permanent housing.

• $30 million for the VA to designate between four and six health care facilities as locations for epilepsy centers and to designate an individual in the Veterans Health Administration as a national coordinator for VHA epilepsy programs.

• $8 million through fiscal 2012 for the VA to carry out research into PTSD through the National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

• $3 million for a two-year VA pilot program to test the feasibility and advisability of providing assessment, education and treatment of substance abuse via the Internet.

Second Package

The Senate also cleared another broad veterans’ measure that among other things would require the VA to implement regulations for notifying veterans who claim medical benefits about the status of their requests in simple terms.

Like the first package, this measure (S 3023) was sponsored by Akaka. It was passed by the Senate Sept. 16 and subsequently amended on the House floor by Filner and passed Sept. 24. Akaka negotiated with Filner on the amendments.

The base bill would require notifications to include information about whether a claim is new or old, the evidence generally required to substantiate that type of claim, and the timing of the notice.

The department could provide additional or alternative notice information if it would be relevant to benefits or services sought by veterans.

As amended, the bill included numerous other provisions to expand compensation and pension, housing, labor, education and insurance benefits for veterans, including ones that would:

• Increase, for a limited time, the amount of money a veteran can borrow for certain guaranteed housing loans. The new maximum guaranty would be one of three options: 25 percent of $417,000, where the median area single-family housing price is less than $417,000; 25 percent of the median price for a single-family home in localities where houses generally cost between $417,000 and $729,750; or 25 percent of $729,750 where the median area single-family housing price is greater than $729,750.

• Eliminate a requirement that a veteran’s severance pay for a combat-related disability be deducted from the disability compensation provided by the department.

• Give the VA authority to assign qualified veterans temporary disability ratings within 365 days of receiving an application.

• Allow a qualified dependent survivor to receive and update evidence for benefits that were requested by a veteran before their death.

• Create a new office to assist qualified dependent survivors to receive benefits and investigate issues.

• Require the department to redevelop its certification exam to test appropriate Veterans’ Benefits Administration employees and managers.

• Require an information technology plan for all aspects of the VBA disability claims processing system to reduce processing times.

• Extend the period of eligibility for dependent survivors to receive educational assistance to allow spouses of veterans with a service-connected disability to redeem the benefits within a 20-year window.

• Allow the department to award grants to establish a sports program for disabled veterans to participate in U.S. Paralympics competitions and establish an Office of National Veterans Sports Programs and Special Events.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Bill would let troops get help at Vet Centers

Bill would let troops get help at Vet Centers

By Rick Maze - Staff writer
Posted : Wednesday Aug 13, 2008 18:07:59 EDT

Opening the nation’s 232 Vet Centers to active-duty and reserve component members who served in Iraq or Afghanistan so they could receive readjustment counseling might duplicate existing military programs, but it would still help combat veterans, according to a new analysis by a nonpartisan arm of Congress.

The Congressional Budget Office, tasked with putting a price tag on pending legislation, looked at counseling services as it estimated the cost of S 2969, the Veterans Health Care Authorization Act of 2008, passed by the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee.
go here for more

This is one of the smartest things they could do, so why aren't they all lining up to support this? Have you ever tried to get a combat veteran into the VA? Most of the time they say they don't want anything to do with the government and they view Vets Centers as going to see one of their own. Instead of turning to the government they view as "the one who sent them into combat in the first place" they view the centers as going to see their brothers. Big difference.

The Veteran's Center in Boston was the reason my husband was finally willing to go to the VA. He had been diagnosed three years earlier with PTSD from Vietnam despite the fact I already knew it. He just wouldn't listen. I had to build a relationship with a vet at the center before I could get my husband to go. Up until then, any mention of the VA was a guaranteed anger riser. Had it not been for the Vet's Center, I don't know if I would have ever managed to get him to go for help at the VA.

The centers are not just friendly territory, they are a bridge to help them face dealing with the bureaucracy of the VA itself. They provide support for the veteran and their families. It's money well spent. The other plus side is that we don't have VA hospitals where they are needed. Take a veteran in a rural part of the country who needs some face to face compassion and understanding of another veteran but not being able to get to it and you have a life on the line. It happens all the time.

It's hard enough to get these veterans to seek help in the first place. Why not make it as easy as possible? The suicide prevention call numbers are great but they are not the long term answer. Veteran's Centers are a bridge to getting there.

Senior Chaplain Kathie Costos

"The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive veterans of early wars were treated and appreciated by our nation." - George Washington

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Paul Sullivan clears up rumors on VA law suit

Being very involved with what is going on in this country with our veterans for as long as I have, I've managed to come into contact with a lot of dedicated people who won me over with their love for our veterans. One of them is Paul Sullivan of Veterans for Common Sense. I am proud to consider him a friend and he is always quick to respond to emails from me. It never seems to matter how busy this man is. He still takes time out for me. You have to keep in mind that when it comes to the people with power in this country, I am virtually no one. I fly so far under the radar I'm shocked when I'm quoted or something I wrote has drawn any attention at all. I can't really make a difference but I know people who not only can, but are doing it. Paul is at the top of my list of mountain movers.

The NAMI convention distressed me at certain points. Most of those times have been included in postings on this blog since the convention. This bothered me so much, I asked Paul to answer some questions to clear up some rumors I heard during the 4 days of the convention. I'm not picking on the people of NAMI and I'm really very proud to be a member considering how many of them across the nation are doing the jobs of saints. Fantastic things are happening because of these truly dedicated people. But that said, as with anything else, every organization has some people with a mind set on something. There is no way possible for everyone to know everything in their realm. I want to believe these rumors were not made knowing they were not true statements. I also wanted to clear up what I heard and what I know to make sure I have the facts on these issues. It's all too important to me. Plus, knowing how much information goes into this tiny brain of mine, it's far too easy to get things jumbled up. I am thankful I had Paul to turn to for the answers.

What caused Veterans for Common Sense to file the law suit against the VA?

Jonathan Schulze and Jeffrey Lucey, two Gulf War combat veterans with PTSD, were refused VA medical care even though they physically came to VA medical facilities with their families and told VA staff they were suicidal. Congress may legislate and perform oversight, yet the Court can force immediate action: one of our top priorities was to force VA from turning away suicidal veterans.

VCS initially filed Freedom of Information Act requests earlier in 2007 about suicides, and VA responded that they had no information. VCS also filed suit because the number of disability claims waiting for review has doubled in the past few years, and the length of time has increased from five months to more than six months.

However, VA executives paid themselves nearly $4 million in bonuses for their dismal performance. Furthermore, VA’s IG reported three times that 25 percent of veterans waited more than one month to see a doctor. VA testified under oath twice that the figure was less than 5 percent. Clearly, VA has a capacity crisis – too many veterans and not enough doctors or claims processors. Furthermore, the 23-page claim form and several healthcare enrollment forms are overly complex, especially for our veterans with PTSD or TBI. For more detailed information, please go to

What caused Veterans for Common Sense to join forces with Veterans United for Truth?

VUFT is another non-profit veteran advocacy group, and they are based in California.

How were the emails from Dr. Katz discovered?

After more than 8 months of delays, the Federal Court ORDERED VA to turn over the e-mails to our attorneys in our lawsuit as part of the discovery process.

What did Dr. Katz say to explain these emails?

He admitted they were true and that he wrote them. You can read his testimony at the SVAC web site where he offers evasive explanations.

What were the facts discovered as a result of these emails being found?

1. VA says they are monitoring completed and attempted suicides to see if there is a difference in suicide rates between veterans, war veterans, and non-veterans.

2. VA essentially confirmed the CBS study that found veterans are more likely to complete a suicide, and for younger veterans aged 18 – 24, they were three to four times more likely to complete a suicide..

3. VA completes “suicide incident reports” and “root cause analysis” reports for each completed suicide, yet then declares them confidential “quality assurance” and places them off limits to Congress, veterans’ families, and attorneys. It is very important for Congress and the Courts and the public to see these reports (with privacy protections of course) so that we can better understand why the veterans killed themselves, and how VA can be improved to prevent and reduce suicides.

How many suicides does the VA know about since the beginning of the occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq?

There is no national “veteran completed suicide” reporting system now, yet VA is under considerable pressure to begin working to identify all of them. VCS provided a methodology to Congress to identify as many as possible by starting with the list of 1.7 million deployed and then checking all federal, state, and local death certificates.

Currently, VA looks at death certificates where the document reports the person as a veteran. This is incomplete because many families do not know if a person was a veteran or the funeral home / coroner don’t ask. DoD only reports active duty suicides and excludes Reserve and National Guard suicides because they are not on Active Duty.. Our VCS methodology would identify all completed suicides among all 1.7 million, not just the incomplete pieces of the puzzle the DoD and VA currently look at.

How many attempted suicides does the VA know about during the same period?

See above. VA knows about attempted suicides only among those veterans receiving VA care, and that is about 1,000 per month, or 12,000 per year, based on Katz’ e-mail.

How did the emails end up with Senator Akaka and his committee?

The Katz e-mails were produced at trial in April 2008, and then journalists reported them to the public. I not exactly sure, yet I believe Sen. Akaka’s staff saw them in the widely reported press accounts of our trial.

Do you know about the Freedom of Information request to the VA by CREW and VoteVets?

Yes. It is too bad that VA still plays games with FOIA. VA should be forced to turn over the information. Embarrassing information is never a reason to deny a FOIA, as VA frequently does.

How did the email from Norma Perez end up in the hands of congress?

The Perez e-mail discouraging diagnoses for PTSD among veterans was sent by Perez to several VA staff, who in turn sent it to other VA staff, who in tern sent it to a veteran advocate in Texas. That person turned it over to VoteVets and CREW. VCS did not play a role in uncovering the e-mail, yet VCS did play a role in publicizing the e-mail.

What did the entire email suggest?

I would suggest reading the e-mail, as it speaks for itself.

How did that email end up with the congress and then incorporated into the law suit filed by Veterans For Common Sense?

The Perez e-mail and news articles were forwarded from me to our attorneys with a request that they investigate it. They did investigate it by sending a letter to the Dept. of Justice, who then authenticated it and confirmed that VA Secretary James Peake’s office knew about the Perez e-mail on April 7, 2008 – a full two weeks before our trial began, yet VA failed to provide it to our attorneys under discovery. Our attorneys then asked the judge to add the Perez e-mail to the body of evidence we introduced at trial. At a hearing earlier this month, the judge agreed with our attorneys, and the judge also admitted the entire Senate hearing transcript about the Perez e-mail into evidence – a victory for veterans. Sen. Akaka would know for sure, yet I believe he and his staff learned of the Perez e-mail from the press.

What is your view of these findings regarding the treatment of our veterans by the VA after these emails were discovered?

Nearly all VA employees are well-intended and want to assist veterans. I know this because I worked at VA and still know many VA employees. However, the system is overly complex, the system is overloaded, and the system is mired in a deep financial, leadership, and capacity crisis.

Compounding the problem is the disappointing fact that the current political appointees in Washington are incompetent at best, and malicious toward veterans at worst. This combination causes very serious adverse problems for VA, veterans, and families. The solution remains the obvious. VA needs an massive overhaul immediately.

VA needs new leaders, full mandatory funding, and significantly streamlined procedures so veterans can get fast and high-quality medical care and benefits. The situation is bad now, with 325,000 new and unplanned casualties from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars flooding into VA hospitals and clinics, plus 288,000 unanticipated disability claims from recent war veterans. If the crisis is not addressed immediately with aggressive action, the current administration will be held responsible for crashing VA on the rocks.

Although VA had systemic problems in the 1990s and early 2000s, the situation spiraled out of control when Jim Nicholson became Secretary in early 2005. Nicholson, who had no experience with VA, healthcare, or disability claims, served as Karl Rove’s and Grover Norquist’s personal partisan wrecking ball to tear apart VA, bust up the unions, and privatize it. In the end, our only recourse was to file suit because veterans were literally completing suicide, yet VA leaders appeared oblivious to this life-or-death crisis.

In my view, we can learn the lessons from the Vietnam and Gulf wars, where many veterans with psychological trauma were neglected, and improve the situation. Or, we can take the current approach by VA: pinch pennies, bury your head in the sand, and leave the disaster to the next administration. The decision to fix VA was straightforward, yet the battle to fix VA is very hard.

Paul Sullivan
Executive Director
Veterans for Common Sense
Post Office Box 15514
Washington, DC 20003
(202) 558-4553

I want to thank Paul for his time and for all he has done for the veterans in this country. Think about the numbers of veterans his actions will make a difference for. He doesn't want more families to have to bury another son or daughter because the VA just didn't have room for them when they needed their wounds to be treated. We've all read too many stories like Jonathan's and Jeffrey's, or Tim Bowman, or Joshua Omvig, along with the hundreds of others we found in the media. Far too much suffering that did not need to happen.

Senior Chaplain Kathie Costos
"The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive veterans of early wars were treated and appreciated by our nation." - George Washington

Friday, June 6, 2008

VA's Systemic Indifference to Invisible Wounds

Senator Akaka Holds Hearing on VA's Systemic Indifference to Invisible Wounds

U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D - HI)

US Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs

Jun 05, 2008

June 4, 2008, Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, held a hearing today on the state of mental health care within the Department of Veterans Affairs. Today’s hearing follows recent findings that VA’s top mental health official attempted to suppress suicide data, while a psychologist at the Temple Veterans Affairs Medical Center suggested that her coworkers avoid diagnosing veterans with PTSD, in order to save time and resources. Akaka called both individuals, along with other high-ranking VA officials, to testify before Congress.

“Recent incidents indicate a possible trend of system-wide or systemic indifference to the invisible wounds of war. It is shameful, because veterans deserve better, and because it tarnishes the good work of the many VA mental health professionals who help veterans battle PTSD, depression, and other psychological wounds,” said Akaka. “Whatever the reasoning behind the mistakes that were made, VA must work to regain the confidence of veterans who now question whether VA is a friend or enemy.”

In their testimony, witnesses denied any systemic or deliberate efforts within VA to deny veterans care or compensation for psychological wounds. While Dr. Norma Perez, the psychologist from Texas, argued that there is little difference between adjustment disorder and PTSD, VA’s chief mental health official Dr. Ira Katz respectfully disagreed.

Chairman Akaka held today’s hearing as a part of the Committee’s broader effort to investigate the veterans’ mental health system, especially care for PTSD and suicide prevention. Last month, Akaka requested additional data on veteran suicide and quality control at VA health care facilities. Following the disclosure of the Temple VA email, Akaka and other Committee members requested an Inspector General investigation of the incident and facility.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Senator Akaka demands answers on suicides

Senator demands exact numbers on vet suicides

By Kelly Kennedy - Staff writer
Posted : Thursday May 15, 2008 12:46:32 EDT

After several hearings spent trying to learn the exact numbers of suicides among veterans, the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee has formally requested exact data.

In a letter, Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, chairman of the committee, asked the Veterans Affairs Department for the total number of vets who have committed suicide or attempted it, the number of vets who were under VA care when they committed or attempted suicide, what VA is doing to improve outreach and care for veterans ages 30 to 64, and all VA’s health care quality assurance reviews relating to suicide over the past three years.

“We will not know the true cost of war until we know the true rate of suicide among veterans,” Akaka said in a prepared statement. “Until the VA mental health care system meets the needs of those who have served, we will continue to see the tragic consequence of veteran suicides.”
go here for more

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Bush funded less for PTSD in 2005 than in past years

WRJ vets hospital gets funding boost

May 3, 2008

By Susan Smallheer Rutland Herald

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — The budget for the National Center for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder got a 20 percent boost Friday.

Sen. Bernard Sanders, I-Vt., and Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., both pushed hard for the additional $2 million funding for the $10 million budget for the center, which is headed by Matthew Friedman.

The national center, whose headquarters is at the Veterans' Administration Hospital in White River Junction, had seen its funding reduced since 2005, resulting in cuts in staffing and research, according to Sanders' spokesman Will Wiquist.

Sanders and Leahy had lobbied fellow Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, chairman of the Senate Committee on Veteran Affairs.

Sanders and Akaka then pushed Veterans Affairs Secretary James Peake to restore funding and increase it. Sanders and Akaka met with Peake last month to push the additional funding. Sanders is a member of the committee as well.

According to a letter Sanders and Akaka sent to Peake earlier this year, the funding for the center had increased only 9 percent in the past five years, growing from $9.1 million to $10 million. In 2005, the funding was $10.1 million, but it was cut back to $10 million.

With the cut in funding, the number of full-time equivalent employees at the center dropped from a high of 97 in 1999, to 87 employees, the senators said.

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This has been in the news before but the media, well, they let the report drop out of time slots. Guess they had better things to report on. The price of this action by Bush came at a very, very high price with two occupations causing more PTSD cases and more needless suffering when they could have been healing.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Rural, Minority, and Underserved Veterans need help

Senator Akaka Introduces Bill Requiring VA-Community Partnerships to Reach Rural, Minority, and Underserved Veterans
Apr 07, 2008

April 4, 2008, Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI), Chairman of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, introduced S. 2796 earlier this week, to establish partnerships between the Department of Veterans Affairs and community organizations to connect with underserved veterans. In selecting the community organizations that would partner with VA, priority would be given to those reaching out to rural veterans, minority veterans, and other underserved populations.

“While VA helps countless veterans every day, too many remain out of reach, particularly rural and minority veterans. My bill would help VA do more for these veterans who may feel the system is out of touch,” said Akaka.

Chairman Akaka noted that mental health advocacy organizations, such as Mental Health America, have called attention to the greater need for the type of outreach services authorized by this bill, such as phone hotlines, help with applications for VA benefits, and assistance to transitioning service members and veterans in need of health care. Akaka also noted that in his home state of Hawaii, community organizations such as Helping Hands Hawaii are well positioned to apply for the types of outreach partnerships outlined in S. 2796.
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Wednesday, April 2, 2008

PTSD out of control, under-staffed VA and Akaka wants to know why

Akaka and Sanders Meet with Veterans Affairs Secretary Peake
Urge action on health care eligibility for middle-income vets, National PTSD Center
By Kawika Riley, 4/1/2008 7:45:46 PM
WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Tuesday, U.S. Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI) and committee member Senator Bernard Sanders (I-VT) met with Veterans Affairs Secretary James Peake. They discussed funding for the National Center for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and a proposal to modify VA’s income threshold to make more middle-income veterans eligible for VA healthcare. Akaka, Sanders and other committee members have pressed Secretary Peake on both issues since his recent confirmation as VA Secretary.

“As we move through the final year of this Administration and this Congress, we must work together to find common ground for the sake of our veterans. I appreciate the Secretary’s willingness to work with us on these issues,” said Akaka. Secretary Peake agreed during the meeting to look more closely into the income threshold for veterans, as well as strengthening support for the National Center for PTSD.

Senators Akaka and Sanders wrote Secretary Peake on January 24, 2008, urging him to dedicate more funds to the National Center for PTSD. The Center has taken on a larger mission and workload in recent years, due in part to the increased number of veterans suffering from PSTD. Already, more than 100,000 servicemembers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have reported mental health disorders, according to the Congressional Research Service.

Meanwhile, the PTSD Center’s budget, adjusted for inflation, has been flat for the past half-decade, and overall staff levels have been reduced since 1999.

click post title for the rest

Now maybe the media will understand why advocates get so angry over all of this! Paul Sullivan of Veterans For Common Sense wouldn't have taken on the enormous task of suing the VA if this was not going on. There would be no need for any legal action if they had taken care of the wounded.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Bush wanted cuts in VA, Akaka wants more money

Sen. committee asks for changes in VA budget

By Rick Maze - Staff writer
Posted : Monday Feb 25, 2008 19:44:01 EST

A key Senate committee is asking for a $2.6 billion increase in veterans’ spending over the Bush administration’s budget out of concern the needs of combat veterans are not being met.

The Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, chaired by Sen. Daniel K. Akaka, D-Hawaii, is asking for a fiscal 2009 budget for the Department of Veterans Affairs that is $6.6 billion over the fiscal 2008 budget, with $4.6 billion of the additional money going for medical care operations.

Akaka said Congress “has an obligation to our troops returning from combat now” that cannot be met without more money. “Taking care of veterans is a cost of war and our recommendation would fill significant gaps in the president’s request,” Akaka said.

The House Veterans’ Affairs Committee is working on a similar budget proposal that it is expected to unveil Thursday.

Akaka’s committee said in a Feb. 22 letter to the Senate Budget Committee that it rejects cuts proposed by the Bush administration in construction, medical research and auditing. The letter also said the committee opposes an initiative to raise prescription drug fees and to impose enrollment fees for some moderate-income veterans enrolled in the VA health plan who do not have service-connected disabilities.

“These proposals are unacceptable,” Akaka said.
go here for the rest

If Bush thinks cutting back on VA funding is supporting the troops, he is crazy! What kind of a man would do such a terrible thing with so many wounded and many, many more to come?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

PTSD Victims No Longer Need to Prove Trauma 30 years too late

This is great but not cheering yet.

PTSD Victims No Longer Need to Prove Trauma

Kelly Kennedy

Air Force News

Feb 18, 2008

February 18, 2008 - The Veterans Affairs Department has dumped a policy requiring combat vets to verify in writing that they have witnessed or experienced a traumatic event before filing a claim for post-traumatic stress disorder, said the chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

“This change provides a fairer process for veterans with service-connected PTSD,” Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, said in a written statement. It “leaves claim adjudicators more time to devote to reducing the staggering backlog of veterans’ claims.”

In the past, a veteran has had to provide written verification — a statement from a commander or doctor, or testimony from co-workers — that he or she was involved in a traumatic situation in order to receive disability compensation for PTSD from VA. The Defense Department uses the same rules in evaluating PTSD for disability retirement pay.

In Iraq, troops joke about keeping a pen and paper on hand in case they witness a shooting or explosion or are injured themselves. That way, they can run around and have all their buddies sign a quick statement saying it really happened. The joke loses steam when a Marine has to prove he was involved in a traumatizing event when he had a hand blown off in that event, or when a soldier has to prove he watched his friends die to qualify for benefits.

The rule also slows the process as veterans wait for yet more documentation before their claims may be processed.

Akaka said he asked VA Secretary James Peake if the rule was necessary, and asked that it be removed. Peake agreed.

“I am pleased that the secretary took quick action to reverse this requirement after it was brought to his attention,” Akaka said.

In the future, veterans will be diagnosed with PTSD through a medical examination with no further proof necessary, Akaka said, adding that he’s been told that Peake has already informed VA regional offices of the decision.

If you go here you'll see thousands and thousands of postings from veterans looking for others. Most of them are looking for someone to support a claim with the VA.

Vietnam Combat Area Listings (VN, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand)
U.S. Army (updated: 27 January 2008)
U.S. Marine Corps (updated: 27 January 2008)
U.S. Navy (updated: 27 January 2008)
U.S. Air Force (updated: 27 January 2008)

It is on Grunt space.
While I am truly delighted this finally happened, it's 30 years too late for far too many. How many suicides could have been prevented if they had their claim for PTSD approved, provided with the compensation they need to replace the income they lost because of PTSD and had the treatment they needed? How many would have not been homeless or put into prison because of PTSD? Does this new rule include veterans of Vietnam or the Gulf War? This will go very far in reducing the number of claims backlogs and claims on appeal, but what does this do to the veterans who have been dishonorably discharged under "personality disorders" and what does it do to the veterans who have been misdiagnosed with the other illnesses PTSD resembles?

Sorry if I can't jump on the bandwagon and cheer but there are still too many questions not addressed in this release of information.

Will they review the cases of dishonorably discharged veterans who do in fact have PTSD?

Will they automatically approve claims for veterans who have been diagnosed by psychologists from the DOD, the VA as well as private doctors since a lot of veterans turn to private psychologist and psychiatrists because of the system?

If the diagnoses means an automatic approval, then will they actually do the right thing and pay back to when PTSD began to ravage their lives instead of when a claim was filed?

Will they review claims that have been turned down and veterans did not file appeals?

Will they review claims of veterans they denied the claims of only to have the veterans kill themselves and then provide the compensation they should have received to the families they left behind?

There have been too many veterans paying the price for their service and it took this new generation of combat veterans to push the system to the breaking point where they have to do something. It took Senator Akaka to take over the chairmanship to make these changes. It is a wonderful victory for the veterans of today, but there are still far too many issues the other veterans face and they all need to be included in these changes. After all, they did all serve the same nation, suffered the same wounds, only some of them suffered a lot longer.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Time to put shame of PTSD where it belongs

When the soldiers went home following the Revolutionary War, there was shame. When they went home after the Civil War, there was shame. When they went home after every war, there was shame. The difference is we are a lot more educated than the population back then. Or at least you'd think we were. Back then they shot soldiers experiencing mental health problems because they were seen as cowards. We know better now. Don't we?

Historians have been documenting the price the human mind pays when humans are sent into combat. This has been documented over and over again under different titles but with the same reports of the same problems humans face today. While science has advanced to the point where we can actually see the changes in the brain by someone with PTSD, humans however are still only human. Trauma can, will and does strike humans until we stop being human.

It takes other humans to become involved enough to learn what PTSD is, what it isn't and what can be done about it, as well as what cannot be done yet.

The shame should have never been placed on humans who develop PTSD after traumatic events. The shame belongs to the rest of the humans who refuse to learn. You would think that by now the stigma of PTSD would be so eroded it would resemble the attitude we now have toward leaches and bleeding a patient to death, but when it comes to PTSD, too many are still living in the dark ages.

These dark-dwellers are in the military, back home and in the neighborhoods. I for one would be more embarrassed hanging onto the attitude it's their fault when this has never been the case. Today there are still members of the military upper echelon remaining ignorant and coming off as uneducated cave dwellers thinking fire was magic. Will they ever learn? How many humans serving this nation need to pay for their ignorance? The shame does not belong to the veterans or the active military any more than it belongs to other humans who also experience PTSD from other causes. It belongs to those who would prefer to stand in the way of help than offer a hand toward it.

Sens.: Shame may spur better care for wounded

By Rick Maze - Staff writer
Posted : Friday Feb 15, 2008 16:55:25 EST

Shame and embarrassment can do as much as, if not more than, legislation to prod the services to improve treatment for wounded combat veterans, key lawmakers said Friday.

Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Congress can pass laws like the Wounded Warrior Act that took effect Jan. 28, but getting the services to follow through on new policies is harder.

While Congress has the power to cut budgets if the services don’t follow orders, Levin said calling public attention to shortfalls seems more effective.

“We can require it by law. We’ve already done that. So I think kind of embarrassing and shaming them into meeting those deadlines, through that kind of public disclosure of their shortfalls, is probably the most practical way to accomplish the goal,” Levin said in a conference call with reporters.

Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind. — who has been involved in investigating the death of an unattended soldier at Fort Knox, Ky., who was being treated for mental health issues — agreed.

Bayh said while it should not take publicity to “spur action,” experience has shown publicity works. “We need to follow up on this and keep the pressure on,” he said.

Bayh worries that as time passes since last year’s Walter Reed Army Medical Center outpatient scandal, some of the urgency to make improvements is diminishing, and the glacial pace of changing a bureaucracy has returned.

“For a while, there was a sense of focus and urgency, and then that kind of dissipated,” he said. “We cannot allow that to dissipate again. Whether it’s shame or coercion, whatever it takes, we’re going to do better.”

Levin, Akaka and Bayh said the Pentagon and Department of Veterans Affairs deserve credit for progress made in the last year, but they stressed no one should believe the job is done.

“They’ve been way too slow on this, but they’re trying to do the right thing here,” Bayh said.