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Monthly Archives: January 2009

DANIEL McLAUGHLIN

Thu, Jan 29, 2009

RUSSIAN MILITARY officials say they have shelved plans to deploy missiles close to the European Union, in what analysts called a gesture of Kremlin goodwill towards new US president Barack Obama.

Following a telephone conversation between Mr Obama and Kremlin counterpart Dmitry Medvedev, an official in the Russian military’s general staff said the decision was a response to the new US leader’s stance on proposals to build a US-run missile defence system in eastern Europe.

The implementation of these plans has been halted because the new US administration is not rushing through plans to deploy interceptor missiles in Poland linked to a long-range radar in the Czech Republic, Russia’s Interfax news agency quoted the unnamed official as saying.

The Pentagon says those facilities are intended to track and shoot down long-range missiles fired by the likes of Iran and North Korea – what former US president George W Bush called “rogue states”.

Russia believes the system is actually aimed at reducing its own military capability, however, and it has been heartened by Mr Obama’s insistence that he will only build the facilities if they are absolutely necessary, are not prohibitively expensive, and are able to neutralise the threat of long-range missile strikes.

The day after Mr Obama won the US presidential election last November, Mr Medvedev announced that he would station Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad, a Russian enclave on the Baltic Sea wedged between EU members Poland and Lithuania. “The earlier Russian announcement that they were going to deploy missiles . . . and point them at Nato allies was unwelcome. If that decision has now been rescinded, it is a good step,” said Nato spokesman James Appathurai.

The US ambassador to Nato, Kurt Volker, said that “if true, this would of course be a very positive step.” Yevgeny Volk, of the Heritage Foundation think tank in Moscow, called the announcement “a signal to Obama of Moscow’s goodwill. In response they want a decision not to deploy the missile defence shield in eastern Europe”.

Analysts said Russia hoped Washington would take note of the help that it needs from Moscow in dealing with major international issues.

The US would like to use Russia and its ex-Soviet central Asian allies as a safe supply route to military forces in Afghanistan, and wants Moscow to support tougher sanctions against Iran until it halts its nuclear enrichment programme.

Secretary Shinseki Announces Choice for Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs

WASHINGTON (Jan. 30, 2009) – Today, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki praised President Barack Obama’s intent to nominate W. Scott Gould as next Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs. Gould is currently vice president for public sector strategy at IBM Global Business Services and a former intelligence officer in the naval reserve. He has public service experience at both the departments of Commerce and Treasury.

Shinseki said, “Scott and I share a reverence for those who have served in uniform. He is fully committed to fulfilling President Obama’s vision and my goals for transforming the Department of Veterans Affairs into a 21st Century organization, and he understands the fundamentals that will drive that transformation: Veteran-centric, results-oriented and forward looking.”

Shinseki further said that Gould possesses a unique and wide-ranging set of skills in information technologies, acquisition, budget, human resources and leading the modernization of large, complex organizations. “Scott’s expertise in these areas, as well as his broad experience in the public sector, the private sector and the military, will prove invaluable for better serving our Veterans,” Shinseki added.

Gould worked in the public sector as the chief financial officer and assistant secretary for administration at the Commerce Department and deputy assistant secretary for finance and management at the Treasury Department from 1994 to 1999. As a White House Fellow, he worked at the Export-Import Bank of the United States and in the Office of the White House Chief of Staff.

Prior to his job at IBM, he was chief executive officer of The O’Gara Company, a strategic advisory and investment services firm, and chief operating officer of Exolve, a technology services company.

As a naval reservist, Gould served at sea aboard the guided missile destroyer Richard E. Byrd and as assistant professor of naval science at Rochester University. He was recalled to active duty for both Operation Noble Eagle and Enduring Freedom as a naval intelligence reservist.

During President Obama’s campaign and after his election, Gould was co-chair of the National Veterans Policy Team, Obama for America, and co-chair of the Veterans Agency Review Team for the Presidential Transition Team.

A fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration, Gould is a former member of the National Security Agency’s Technical Advisory Group and the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award Board of Overseers. He has been awarded the Department of Commerce Medal, the Treasury Medal and the Navy Meritorious Service Medal and is coauthor of The People Factor: Strengthening America by Investing in the Public Service. He holds a bachelor of arts degree from Cornell University and a masters in business administration and a doctorate in education from the University of Rochester. Gould is married to Michèle A. Flournoy, and they have three children: Alec, Victoria and Aidan.

Thursday 29 January 2009

by: Maya Schenwar, t r u t h o u t | Report

Symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) bring the horrors of the battlefield home. Twenty-six percent of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who seek care at the VA have PTSD. (Photo: Joe Raedle / Getty Images)

As the number of veterans seeking health care continues to rise, the VA is straining to meet demands.

Amid talk of a drawdown of troops in Iraq, new statistics from the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) show that US casualties are still climbing quickly. Iraq and Afghanistan battlefield injuries and deaths number 81,361, up from 72,043 last January, according to data obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request by Veterans for Common Sense (VCS). Veteran patients – including those who didn’t seek care until their return home – shot up to 400,304 (from 263,909 in December 2007).

For the thousands of soldiers flooding the VA, mental illness tops the list of ailments. Forty-five percent of VA patients have already been diagnosed with mental health conditions, including a startling 105,000 diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). These data do not include the incalculable number of mentally ill veterans who have not received a diagnosis or haven’t sought treatment at the VA.

Health care for veterans has improved substantially in the past year, mostly due to legislative changes and funding boosts, according to Raymond Kelley, legislative director of AMVETS. The recently passed Dignity for Wounded Warriors Act entitles veterans to up to five years of free health care for military-related medical conditions. Other legislative victories include improvements to VA facilities, increased mental health care research and a boost for the claims processing system, which has been vastly understaffed and overburdened throughout the “war on terror.”

However, many barriers to adequate care and compensation remain, particularly for veterans filing for disability benefits. Delays and denials of those claims are routine. Among vets with PTSD, 59 percent have not been approved for benefits, meaning that their claims are pending or rejected – or that, due to any number of deterrents, they have not filed a claim.

According to Paul Sullivan, executive director of VCS, the average wait-time for veterans to receive an answer after filing for disability compensation is more than six months. A recent VCS lawsuit against VA showed that PTSD patients face even longer delays.

“That’s wrong and it needs to get fixed now, especially during the recession when the veteran may also be out of work due to their disability,” Sullivan told Truthout. “While veterans wait, their homes are foreclosed. Renters are evicted. Cars are repossessed. Some families often lack food or utilities while VA dawdles endlessly. Many veterans become homeless waiting for disability benefits.”

More than 809,000 veterans (from all wars and peacetime) are currently waiting on pending claims.

Sullivan points to the case of Iraq veteran Scott Eiswert, who committed suicide after the VA rejected his PTSD disability compensation claim for the third time. After his death, the VA went further, denying Eiswert’s life insurance benefits.

Jennifer Pacanowski, an Iraq veteran now living in Pennsylvania, waited two and a half years to receive a PTSD diagnosis, and nine months for her PTSD claim to be processed. In the meantime, her mother paid for all her medical care. Most of Pacanowski’s efforts to utilize the VA yielded only frustration.

“Every time I reached out to the VA for help, they tried to have me admitted into the psych ward, which scared me, since all I needed was to talk to someone,” Pacanowski told Truthout. “My family doctor from childhood tried to help with meds and treatment but [dealing with] combat veterans was a completely new thing for him, so it was hit or miss, with months of med changes and severe depression and anxiety, so I could not function.”

Pacanowski still can’t get all she needs from the VA. Since receiving her diagnosis, she has been eligible for full mental health benefits. However, the VA is overbooked, crowded and understaffed, and can only offer Pacanowski an appointment once every three weeks. So her family still shoulders much of the burden, paying for a private psychologist who can fill in the gaps.

According to Kelley, some claims are adjudicated quickly – usually those of recently discharged vets with very clear medical documentation of their condition. However, if a veteran doesn’t visit the VA soon after returning home, or can’t supply what the VA deems clear documentation, the claim could linger for years.

Moreover, the VA’s intimidating bureaucracy deters some veterans from filing a claim at all. The process is arduous and sometimes convoluted, and, since a positive result is never guaranteed, vets sometimes abandon their attempts.

“We understand from speaking with veterans that some veterans are discouraged from filing claims because the claim form is 23 pages,” Sullivan said. “I have watched veterans turn away in disgust when handed the stack of redundant forms VA requires.”

The current, bulky method for filing claims also leaves a high margin for error, increasing the chances of denial. VCS suggests shortening the claim form to one page. According to Kelley, veterans should consult an officer from a veterans’ service organization before filing a claim, to make sure it is correct and complete.

Pacanowski points to other reasons why veterans – especially those with PTSD – avoid the VA.

“I know many veterans with PTSD from all wars,” she said. “Most are afraid to go to the VA because of fear of judgment and the constant run-around you get … The vets I know that don’t go to the VA receive most help from fellow veterans. Or try and forget.”

Self-medication, including drugs and alcohol, is also a popular alternative to the intimidating bureaucracy of VA treatment, according to Pacanowski.

With the advent of the Obama administration, veterans’ organizations are hopeful that many of their long-sought goals will be realized. The House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, too, is looking to make significant headway under the new president. According to Rep. Bob Filner, chairman of the committee, top priorities include providing the VA with “sufficient and timely funding,” expanding access to health care for veterans in rural areas, and rebuilding the compensation and benefits system.

“We have a remarkable opportunity to make progress this year when it comes to veterans’ issues,” Filner told Truthout. “President Obama has laid out an ambitious agenda and the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee is committed to bringing results to our veterans and their families.”

Kelley points to the stabilization of VA funding as a key priority for the coming years. Under the current system, the VA budget remains uncertain each year until the annual appropriations bills are passed. This makes it difficult to plan long-term projects or expand ongoing initiatives.

“There has been a long-running problem with VA receiving a sufficient, timely and predictable budget,” Kelley told Truthout. “AMVETS supports legislation that will allow Congress to provide advanced appropriations for VA healthcare, allowing VA to know well in advance of their budget so they can begin hiring personnel and planning infrastructure projects.”

VCS is pushing for another measure to increase efficiency at the VA: automatic approval of disability claims for Iraq, Afghanistan and Gulf War veterans who have been diagnosed with PTSD. The extra claim-approval step often means months or years of painful limbo for ill veterans, and according to Sullivan, eliminating it would be a legally and scientifically sound move.

Filner confirmed that when it comes to the claims process, the VA has a long way to go. Moving into the new governmental climate, he stresses the urgency of addressing the issues keeping patients from receiving proper treatment.

“We must make progress in rebuilding the VA’s broken benefits system,” Filner said. “We need to thank veterans for their service by granting their claims and providing appropriate care.”

Maya Schenwar is an editor and reporter for Truthout.

David Nelson will be forever grateful to the American Legion’s Department of Veterans Affairs and the Sherburne County Veterans Service Office for helping him get back his disability benefits.

Nelson, who served for one year in combat in Vietnam, developed a form of cancer traced to the military’s use of Agent Orange, used to defoliate the combat area.

He chose the American Legion as his advocate after he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer in his abdomen and lungs.

For three years he received 100 percent of federal veterans benefits; that was cut 70 percent and finally to 0 percent.

Using his chosen advocate, the American Legion, and with the help of Veterans Service Officer Launette (LaBrie) Figliuzzi, Nelson appealed the entire loss of his benefits. He and the Legion won, and today he is receiving 30 percent of monthly benefit checks.

Last October, after five years, Nelson learned he is cancer free.

Interceding for veterans is one of the benefits for Legion members needing aid at the state level, where legal help is provided for veterans who have claims with the Federal Veterans Administration.

Nelson’s membership entitles him to life insurance, financial and medical help and lobbying for veteran-related legislation at the state and national level.

He belongs to Elk River American Legion Post 112, which is facing financial difficulty for all kinds of reasons. He receives the post’s newsletter and has a chance to be active in the post’s activities. The local organization has over 500 members who pay annual dues of $35, of which $26.50 goes to state and national dues.

Like other members, Nelson is aging and can no longer participate as he once did. Young veterans aren’t joining the Legion or other service organizations, claiming they are too busy to be involved.

The Elk River American Legion Post was chartered in 1919. It attracted World War I and II veterans and later Korean and Vietnam veterans. To belong, a member must have served in the military during war time.

In the 1950s, they built a post home near Main Street and Highway 10, including a hall and a bar, which became the meeting and activity center in the village. Back then, the Legion club was a place for members and auxiliary members to meet, to socialize and in some cases, to share their demons resulting from combat.

They sponsored ball teams, school patrol training, Boys and Girls State (where youth learn how government works), Americanism essays, organized honor guards, officiated at military funerals and donated blood for veterans.

Members also were the bartenders, the custodians and the fixers. They marched in parades, built ball diamonds, sponsored Memorial Day services and participated in Veterans Day observances.

They also became involved in charitable gambling (pull tabs), which at first produced lots of money to give away to community groups, particularly youth groups and the public schools. Flush with gambling dollars, members lost some interest in having fund raisers and staying involved in the post.

At first the Legion donated $130,000 to $140,000 a year from charitable gambling until the state tripled its take from the proceeds. That increase plus 50 percent fewer sales has reduced the donation to community causes to $2,000.

As members grew older they didn’t hang around the club as much, and more stayed away when smoking was banned and the blood alcohol level for driving was lowered to .08.

Last year was a downer for spending because the roof had to be repaired and the parking lot resurfaced.

Property taxes are at $26,000; license fees are $8,000 and now the bartenders and waiters need to be paid. The club’s three operations lost $86,000 and needs a 15 percent increase in revenues to stay open.

Can the Legion club operations be saved?

Organizations continue even when buildings are shut down. What’s happening in Elk River is happening throughout the country. Only Elk River and Zimmerman run club houses in Sherburne County. They’ve been shut down in Princeton, Becker and Big Lake.

At the state level, the membership has dropped from 137,000 to 103,000 since 1991. Still, the state organization has 28 percent of eligible veterans, the highest penetration in the country.

Figliuzzi says the Elk River post is involved and is an integral part of getting benefits for veterans — like David Nelson. It was the American Legion who referred Nelson to Figliuzzi, just as it has counseled and referred many others for benefits in its history.

TBI and its links to PTSD Symtoms

Purple Hearts: A Cold-Blooded Decision

Conn Hallinan | January 28, 2009

Editor: John Feffer

Foreign Policy In Focus
http://www.fpif.org

Behind the recent Pentagon decision to deny Purple Heart medals to soldiers suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a cold-blooded calculation: It saves money.

The official rationale for refusing to honor what is widely considered the “signature wound” of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is that PTSD, according to Pentagon spokeswoman Eileen Lainez, is “an anxiety disorder caused by experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event,” not “a wound intentionally caused by the enemy.”

But a recent study by the Rand Corporation found that up to 320,000 vets returning from the two conflicts suffer from Mild Traumatic Brain Injury (MTBI), a condition whose symptoms are almost indistinguishable from PTSD. Virtually all MTBI injuries are the result of roadside bombs, also known as improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
What is MTBI?

MTBI is a slippery beast. Its symptoms range from depression and uncontrolled rages to digestive problems, emotional disengagement, blinding headaches, memory loss, and sexual dysfunction. MTBI is also associated with higher suicide rates.

“It is a complicated injury to the most complicated part of the body,” says Dr. Alisa Glean, a chief of neuroradiology at San Francisco General Hospital and author of the standard text for imaging MTBI, who has been working with wounded soldiers at the Army’s Regional Medical Center at Landstuhl, Germany.

MTBI doesn’t show up on CAT scans, and its symptoms may not manifest themselves for several months or even years. There isn’t even full agreement on exactly what causes it. Some researchers think it’s just a concussion on steroids. But others point to injured tissue deep in the brain, which can’t be explained by a simple concussion hypothesis.

Whatever its origins, the consequences for sufferers can be catastrophic.

One of the major effects of MTBI is what Dr. Judith Landau, a psychiatrist who works with veterans’ families, calls “identity ambiguity: people who were decisive become indecisive. People who were charming become withdrawn.” She sees soldiers who “left as a good son, a good father, and a good husband” suddenly “start hitting their children, can’t have sex, start drinking too much, talking too loud.”

Like a stone thrown into a pond, this behavior ripples out to family, friends, and coworkers. “There is a 70% chance that relationships will break down” after a person suffers from MTBI, says Landau.

It’s possible to recover from MTBI, but the process may be long — sometimes from five to 10 years, according to Landau — and expensive. Some estimates reach at least $14 billion over the next 20 years.
Cold-Hearted Denial

Purple Heart awardees are entitled to enhanced benefits, including exemptions from co-payments for hospital and outpatient care. They are also fast-tracked for getting appointments for medical care and psychological services.

Soldiers come home to few psychological services and virtually no individual therapy. It isn’t uncommon to wait several months to see a therapist, and then only once a month. MTBI sufferers may see as many as seven different therapists.

The military has made little effort to deal with MTBI and PTSD. Soldiers suffering from PTSD outnumber amputees at Walter Reed Hospital 43 to 1, but there is no PTSD center. After diagnosis, sufferers usually go to the hospital’s psych division, where they are housed with bipolar and schizophrenic patients and tanked up with drugs. A study by Veterans for America (VFA) found that some soldiers were taking up to 20 different medications at once, some of which canceled out others.

The military has lost 22% of its psychologists over the past several years, mostly to burn-out. Soldiers have difficulty finding private therapists because the Department of Veterans Affairs pays below market rates and even cut those reimbursements in 2007. About 30% of private psychologists won’t take on military patients because they can’t afford to. The situation is worse for the National Guard and Reserves, who make up almost 50% of the troops deployed in both wars and who, according to VFA, “are experiencing rates of mental health problems 44% higher than their active duty counterparts.” Health care for such troops is generally inferior — and more expensive — than that offered full-time regulars.

Many soldiers are also reluctant to report their symptoms because they are afraid it will keep them from getting a promotion or landing a job once they leave the military. Only 53% of those diagnosed with MTBI sought help and, according to the Rand Study, “roughly one-half got minimally adequate care.”

Worse, solders who report behavioral difficulties may find themselves discharged from the service, with the consequent loss of medical care. They may even be billed for their recruitment bonus.

PTSD and MTBI both result from deployment in combat zones. Large numbers of these soldiers were exposed to IEDs — the number-one cause of death and injury in Iraq and Afghanistan — but many didn’t suffer visible injuries. To make “shedding blood” the only criterion for being awarded a Purple Heart (and the benefits that go with it) is to deny the nature of the wars the United States is currently fighting.
Time for a Change

In contrast, the Canadian military awards a Sacrifice Medal to those who have suffered “mental disorders that are, based on a review by a qualified mental healthcare practitioner, directly attributable to a hostile or perceived hostile action.”

A recent editorial in the Globe and Mail charged that the Pentagon’s decision applies “19th century medical standards to what constitutes injury,” and that the ruling “will further stigmatize mental illness and fails a group of veterans whose sacrifices can be every bit as great as those with physical injuries.”

In his recent testimony before the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, the new director of the Department of Veteran Affairs, Gen. Eric Shinseki (Ret.), promised to care for wounded veterans “bearing scars of battle, some visible and many others invisible,” and to “treat our veterans with dignity and respect.”

These are fine words, but so far the military has stubbornly resisted treating these so-called “unseen damage” injuries that Iraq and Afghanistan is inflicting on U.S. soldiers. “Many soldiers and veterans are waiting months, often years, for mental healthcare and disability benefits,” says Veterans for Common Sense director Paul Sullivan.

Fewer than half of those Iraq and Afghanistan vets diagnosed with PTSD or MTBI have received disability benefits. One Veterans Affairs psychologist in Texas even urged VA staff to “refrain from giving a PTSD diagnosis” and consider instead “a diagnosis of adjustment disorder.” PTSD sufferers receive up to $2,527 a month, adjustment disorders significantly less.

Terri Tanielian, the co-leader of the Rand Corporation study, says, “There is a major health crisis facing those men and women who have served our nation in Iraq and Afghanistan. Unless they receive appropriate and effective care for these mental health conditions, there will be long-term consequences for them and for the nation. Unfortunately, we found there are many barriers preventing them from getting the high-quality treatment they need.”

The major barrier is pentagon-shaped. And the bottom line is that, given a choice between buying fancy weapons systems and taking care of soldiers damaged by war, the military will always choose the former over the latter.

NY Times

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Published: January 7, 2009

The Pentagon has decided that it will not award the Purple Heart, the hallowed medal given to those wounded or killed by enemy action, to war veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder because it is not a physical wound.


Chris Ramirez for The New York Times

The Purple Heart will be given for physical wounds only.

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The decision, made public on Tuesday, for now ends the hope of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who have the condition and believed that the Purple Hearts could honor their sacrifice and help remove some of the stigma associated with the condition.

The disorder, which may go unrecognized for months or years, can include recurring nightmares, uncontrolled rage and, sometimes, severe depression and suicide. Soldiers grappling with PTSD are often unable to hold down jobs.

In May, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said awarding Purple Hearts to such service members was “clearly something that needs to be looked at,” after he toured a mental health center at Fort Bliss, Tex.

But a Pentagon advisory group decided against the award because, it said, the condition had not been intentionally caused by enemy action, like a bomb or bullet, and because it remained difficult to diagnose and quantify.

“Historically, the Purple Heart has never been awarded for mental disorders or psychological conditions resulting from witnessing or experiencing traumatic combat events,” said Eileen Lainez, a Pentagon spokeswoman. “Current medical knowledge and technologies do not establish PTSD as objectively and routinely as would be required for this award at this time.”

One in five service members, or at least 300,000, suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder or major depression, according to a Rand Corporation study in 2008.

For some soldiers suffering from the disorder, the historical distinction between blood and no blood in an injury fails to recognize the depths of their mental scars. A modern war — one fought without safe havens and with the benefit of improved armor — calls for a new definition of injuries, some veterans say.

Kevin Owsley, 47, who served in the Ohio National Guard in 2004 as a gunner on a Humvee and who is being treated for PTSD and traumatic brain injury, said he disagreed with the Pentagon’s ruling.

Unable to hold a job, Mr. Owsley supports his family on disability payments. This week he told his Veterans Affairs doctor he was fighting back suicidal impulses, something he has struggled with since his return. “You relive it every night and every day,” he said. “You dream about it. You can see it, taste it, see people getting killed constantly over and over.”

“It is a soldier’s injury,” he said, angrily, in a telephone interview on Wednesday.

But many soldiers do not feel that way. In online debates and interviews they expressed concern that the Purple Heart would be awarded to soldiers who faked symptoms to avoid combat or receive a higher disability rating from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

“I’m glad they finally got something right,” said Jeremy Rausch, an Army staff sergeant who saw some of the Iraq War’s fiercest fighting in Adhamiya in 2006 and 2007. “PTSD can be serious, but there is absolutely no way to prove that someone truly is suffering from it or faking it.”

The Purple Heart in its modern form was established by Gen. Douglas MacArthur in 1932. Some 1.7 million service members have received the medal, and, as of last August, 2,743 service members who served in Afghanistan and 33,923 who fought in Iraq had received the award.

The medal entitles veterans to enhanced benefits, including exemptions from co-payments for veterans hospital and outpatient care and gives them higher priority in scheduling appointments.

The Pentagon left open the possibility that it could revisit the issue.

But a Pentagon-supported service group, the Military Order of the Purple Heart, has strongly opposed expanding the definition to include psychological symptoms, saying it would “debase” the honor.

“Would you award it to anyone who suffered the effects of chemicals or for other diseases and illnesses?” John E. Bircher III, director of public relations for the group, said Wednesday. “How far do you want to take it?”

Post-traumatic stress disorder was first identified during the Vietnam War and has gradually been accepted as a serious psychological problem for some who experience violence and fear.

Dr. Barbara V. Romberg, a psychologist in Bethesda, Md., and founder of Give an Hour, which offers mental health services to troops and their families, said that she and many other psychologists believed the discussion of Purple Hearts had brought more attention to post-traumatic stress disorder and the seriousness of psychological wounds suffered on the battlefield.

“We’re working to normalize post-traumatic stress as an understandable human consequence of war that can result in very serious damage to some people’s lives, and they deserve honoring for that,” she said.

“But I don’t want to be so quick to condemn the decision,” she added.

Many have post-traumatic stress, but only some develop a serious lasting disorder; in both cases, she said, “people deserve to be honored in some way for the injury they received in combat.”

After years of criticism for ignoring the problem, the Defense Department and the Veterans Administration have bolstered their capacity to diagnose and treat PTSD, and those with serious cases may receive substantial disability benefits. Some of those suffering from severe traumatic brain injuries qualify for a Purple Heart because they required medical treatment.

But in its decision not to extend Purple Hearts to PTSD sufferers, first reported Tuesday by Stars and Stripes, the Pentagon said part of the problem stemmed from the difficulty in objectively diagnosing the disorder.

That decision was made in November. It was not clear why the Pentagon did not announce the decision then.

There have been recent changes in awarding Purple Hearts. The criteria was expanded in 2008 to include all prisoners of war who died in captivity, including those who were tortured. “There were wounds there,” Mr. Bircher said.

“You have to had shed blood by an instrument of war at the hands of the enemy of the United States,” he said. “Shedding blood is the objective.”

(The Denver Post)

If there is anything that angers and saddens the aging veterans of Korea it is that theirs is the Forgotten War — “orphaned by history,” in David Halberstam’s phrase. Often it was not even called a war, but a “police action.”

Make no mistake, a war it definitely was, particularly in its first year (it lasted from 1950 to 1953). Within its overall savagery, nothing was worse than the harrowing effort by the 1st Marine Division (and some Army elements) to break out of Chinese encirclement near the Chosin Reservoir in the frozen desolation of northeastern North Korea in late November and early December 1950. Next to the Inchon Landing of September 1950, it is probably the war’s most famous episode.

The story has been told several times, most notably a decade ago by Korea veteran Martin Russ in “Breakout: The Chosin Reservoir Campaign, Korea 1950.”

In “The Last Stand of Fox Company,” Bob Drury and Tom Clavin, authors of “Halsey’s Typhoon,” focus on one sustained struggle of that breakout, the stand of Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, against overwhelming Communist Chinese forces at a place called Fox Hill in the Toktong Pass west of the reservoir from Nov. 27 to Dec. 3, 1950.

This was six months after North Korea invaded South Korea. By this point, after the two sides had chased each other up and down the peninsula, the North Koreans were definitely on the run from the U.N. forces headed by the United States.

But Gen. Douglas MacArthur, commander of U.N. forces, was determined to take the war up to and perhaps into China in the face of warnings from the Chinese and explicit orders to the contrary from the Truman administration. One critic called it MacArthur’s “deranged blood lust.”

Drury and Clavin confirm what Halberstam and other historians have shown: that MacArthur arrogantly and stubbornly refused to accept the reality that military intelligence was telling him (and that soldiers on the ground knew)

— that there already were huge numbers of Chinese troops in North Korea.

It was a terrible fight in a terrible place. Temperatures, worsened by screaming winds, reached 30 below zero. Men were laid low by frostbite and by digestive problems caused by eating frozen C rations. Weapons refused to function properly in the extreme cold.

The Chinese frequently fired at the legs of their enemy, knowing that this might incapacitate three men: the wounded Marine and the two others it took to carry him to safety. The Marines, however, functioned as they always had, with esprit, cohesiveness and camaraderie.

They fought against overwhelming odds — 7-, 8-, even 10-to-one. A company against a Chinese regiment, a battalion against a division.

The Chinese were profligate in expending lives. One Marine said it was possible to walk around Fox Company’s position without touching the ground, using Chinese bodies as a carpet.

They fought themselves out of an impossible situation. The famous (and often derided) statement attributed to Marine Maj. Gen. Oliver P. Smith, “Retreat, hell — we’re attacking in another direction!,” has more than a touch of truth to it. You can’t retreat when you’re surrounded; you can only attack.

And so, with Fox Company guarding the rear, they “attacked” down a miles-long, days-long, ice-encased gantlet of withering fire by the Chinese, bringing with them their vehicles, their wounded and their dead until they reached the relative safety of Hagaru-ri early in the morning of Dec. 4.

At roll call Dec. 5, out of the original 192 officers and enlisted men of Fox Company, 60 were still able to fight, which they did in later battles, where still more were wounded or killed. Of the 131 Medals of Honor earned in Korea, two went to members of Fox Company.

The authors tell a terrific story thrillingly, occasionally borrowing the rough colloquial language of the Marines. Maps are excellent. The book is, like many good military narratives, in large part a series of individual stories. This brings some humanity to the savagery and helps the reader comprehend the bewildering, swiftly changing combat.

Forgotten War? It’s worse than that. It is so forgotten that Americans don’t even know it’s called the Forgotten War.

Justly famous war correspondent Ernie Pyle wrote about the infantrymen of World War II, calling them “Brave Men.” None were braver than these, who had no Pyle to memorialize them.

Roger K. Miller is a freelance writer and editor, and author of “Invisible Hero,” a novel of the Korean War.


From Pravda

The USA is concerned about the Russian military threat. The US Congress asked President Obama to continue the purchase of F-22 Raptor fighter jets to guarantee the interests of the national security and the economy of the United States.

US congressmen believe that it will become a good response to the modernization of Russia’s powerful missile systems known as SA-20 – the export designation of S-300 and S-400 complexes. Military experts Alexander Khramchikhin, Vladislav Shurygin, Anatoly Tsyganok and Konstantin Sivkov gave their comments to Pravda.ru in this connection.

It goes without saying that US congressmen exaggerate the “Russian threat.” The legendary S-400 system is not meant for export and cannot be found anywhere outside Russia. Furthermore, the Russian army has only two divisions armed with S-400 missile complexes, but the systems raise concerns with the United States anyway.

Konstantin Sivkov, the vice president of the Academy for Geopolitical Sciences, believes that the F-22 fighter jets pose a great danger to any modern missile defense system. “This aircraft has a wide range of opportunities to defeat the system. Its stealth element makes it inconspicuous for anti-aircraft systems. One has to add the enormous speed, which the aircraft develops, its maneuverability and its airborne equipment. All of that makes it a very powerful and dangerous aircraft,” he said.

An expert with the Institute of the Military and Political Analysis, Alexander Khramchikhin, believes that the statement from the US congressmen was a typical lobbying method, which they practiced for decades. “Russia exported S-300 systems to a very limited number of countries. We can not sell the S-400 system to anyone for a number of reasons. The Americans are dodging, because air defense facilities are not categorized as offensive weapons, and consequently, they cannot pose a threat to them. They only want to enhance their defense complex,” the expert believes.

“The US fighter jet of the fifth generation, F-22 Raptor, is a very strong weapon. However, one should not overestimate its abilities. It is radar-detectable and it is destructible, no matter what they might say. I have to say that the Americans are dodging when they talk about the danger of S-300 and S-400 systems. These systems are categorized as defensive arms – they cannot be used for attacking anyone. Therefore, the United States simply wants to continue its rearmament program to become absolutely predominant over any potential enemy,” the expert told Pravda.ru.

natoly Tsygankov, an expert with the Institute of Military and Political Analysis, said that the initiative of US congressmen revealed a military gap between Russia and the USA . “The USA has fifth-generation aircraft, but we have not started even testing it. However, there is no sensation about the suggestion from US congressmen. They most likely want to purchase the weapons, which they may not even use in the near future,” he said.

F-22A Raptor (AP photo)

To put it in a nutshell, the myth about “the Russian threat” is just a feed box for the US defense industry.

The Pentagon previously planned to rearm the nation’s Air Force with F-22 aircraft. The jet was supposed to replace F-15 and F-16 fighters which make the basis of the US Air Force. However, the cost of Raptors skyrocketed due to the introduction of ultra modern expensive technologies. It costs $137.5 million to make one Raptor, whereas the full price makes up $361 million.

Nevertheless, US hawks demand the completion of at least the first batch of F-22 planes – 188 aircraft – claiming that potential adversaries already conduct active works to challenge the power of US Raptors. They mean Russia and China here first and foremost, saying that the two countries may have fifth-generation fighter jets during the upcoming five or ten years.

The deployment of F-22 jets in Japan, the Philippines and in Taiwan means that the planes will be meant to intimidate other countries too. The development of the F-22 fleet will most likely be aimed to restrain China’s ambitions which also has S-300 missile systems in its arsenal. It is worthy of note that not only did Beijing purchase the systems per se, but it also acquired a license to produce one of its modifications – S-300PMU-1, or Honggi-10 (HQ-10).

Raptors could be tested in Iran (this country also owns S-300 systems) and other countries that do not wish to dance to the US tunes. To crown it all, US defense officials would like to see how their Raptors would work in a real battle against S-300 complexes. This could be done in 13 countries, which have the S-300 system in their arsenal: Algeria, Armenia, Belarus, Bulgaria, Hungary, Vietnam, Greece, India, Kazakhstan, Cyprus, Syria, Slovakia and Ukraine .

Vietnam is history, but Iran, Belarus and Syria make the group of the most problematic countries for the US administration.

War Illness is Real, Deal with it, Veterans Tell National Panel

‘We’re Not Crazy’

VMW Logo

Real Change News, by Cyndey Gillis, Staff Reporter
In the final days of the first Gulf War in Iraq, Mark Nieves was a soldier in a unit assigned to destroying munitions dumps. When the war was over, he came home to Seattle and started college, joining reserve officers’ training to further his career in the military. His body, however, had other plans. As a junior in his 20s, Nieves began to notice that he couldn’t exercise without becoming unusually winded. He became drowsy and lethargic, saw blood in his stool and, after exercising, he started breaking out in head-to-foot hives the size of dollar bills – a condition for which he sought help early on from the Seattle veterans hospital, only to regret it.
Because no welts were visible during his first visit, “one resident doctor became irritated with me… yelling at me and kicking me out of the treatment area. I was humiliated in front of everyone,” Nieves told a national panel of doctors and veterans who visited the Seattle hospital last week. He went in a second time, he said, and was simply given a common anti-allergy medication.
“From that day,” Nieves said, “I gave up on the VA.” He never went back – a problem that, 17 years after the war’s end, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is finally trying to address.
Last May, at the urging of veterans’ advocates, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs appointed the 14-member Gulf War Veterans Advisory Committee to make recommendations on what the VA can do to help veterans such as Nieves, 38, who suffers from Gulf War illness, a collection of symptoms that includes skin rashes, mood changes, memory and respiratory problems, chronic headaches, fatigue, and all-over body pain.
After years of dispute over the existence and cause of the illness, a VA research committee that has been studying Gulf War symptoms since 2002 issued a report in November that not only officially recognized the illness and its prevalence for the first time – one in four of the 1991 war’s 697,000 veterans is affected, the report says – but linked it to two neurotoxins used during the conflict: pesticides and PB, or pyridostigmine bromide, which was administered experimentally to U.S. troops to counteract possible nerve agents.
PB has been used to treat muscular disease since the 1960s, but, in 2006, a report by the Rand Corp. revealed that the Department of Defense disregarded Food and Drug Administration recommendations for further testing and administered PB off-label in tabs of packaged pills given to roughly 250,000 Gulf War personnel.
“PB was presumably given to us because the DOD believed that the protection it would provide troops would be greater than the harm it might cause. But that’s not how it played out,” Julie Mock, president of Veterans of Modern Warfare, told the Gulf War Veterans Advisory Committee.
Mock and Nieves were among five veterans who testified Jan. 14 during a two-day fact finding visit that the committee made to Seattle. The panel, chaired by retired Navy Capt. Charles Cragin, has made previous VA site visits in Washington, D.C., Baltimore, and Indianapolis. At the end of the two days here, however, many of its members said the work that one local doctor is doing with Gulf War veterans is a model that should be rolled out nationally – one of the possible recommendations that the group is due to make by year’s end.
Dr. Stephen Hunt is the director of the VA Puget Sound Deployment Health Clinic, which gives veterans a comprehensive work-up and multidisciplinary care to address symptoms related to exposure in particular wars, including Vietnam, the Persian Gulf’s Desert Storm mission, and the occupation of Iraq.
“Dr. Hunt is the one that has gotten people to start listening that there are [specific] conditions with Desert Storm,” says Navy veteran Beckie Wilson. “He has got a really good network of people there that work with him for Desert Storm and the guys coming back now.”
It’s an integrated approach that didn’t exist at the end of the Gulf War, in which Wilson, 58, served aboard ships as a data processor. Today, she suffers from a mysterious shaking disorder, bone disease in her back, and post-traumatic stress disorder. But the last time she tried to get help at the VA six years ago, she said, they sat her down with yet another psychological test – a common response that has led VA doctors to put many Gulf War veterans on anti-psychotic medication, Mock said.
But “I’m not crazy,” Wilson told the panel. “I do have these problems.”
Wilson says the jerking started during her service in the Indian Ocean, first with what she thought was merely a restless foot. Now there are nights, she says, when she can’t keep her body still in bed.
Compared to the general population, Mock told the panel, Gulf War veterans experience higher rates of certain diseases, including brain cancer, Lou Gehrig’s disease, and multiple sclerosis. MS symptoms are a particular concern, Mock and retired Army Col. Liz Burris said, because the VA often treats them differently than civilian doctors would, diagnosing the symptoms as demyelination because they don’t meet the classic medical definition of MS.
Like MS, demyelination disrupts nerve function. The bureaucratic difference between the two, said Burris, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2001 and later discharged from the Seattle VA’s MS care clinic with a diagnosis of demyelination, is that MS is considered a service-connected disability if it appears within seven years of discharge. Demyelination is not.
Mock urged the VA to correlate its data on diagnoses of demyelination to determine whether a PB-induced form of multiple sclerosis should be recognized. In the meantime, she called on the VA to recognize Gulf War symptoms as service connected, and to extend the current deadline for related disability filings by five years, from Sept. 30, 2011, to 2016.
“The risk [of PB] was known, but there has been no accountability for the risk taken,” Mock said. “It seems that we were looked upon collectively like an experiment gone wrong without regard for [us] as human beings.”

Julie Mock at VA Puget SoundVMW Testifies
Julie Mock, president of Veterans of Modern Warfare, says that Gulf War veterans experience higher rates of certain diseases, including brain cancer and multiple sclerosis. Along with four other former service members, Mock testified last week before a two-day panel of the Gulf War Veterans Advisory Committee, created to make recommendations that will help veterans suffering from Gulf War Illness.
Photo by Sherry Loeser

Veterans in the town of Ellicott and villages of Celoron and Falconer are now able to lower property taxes through the Cold War Veterans Tax Exemption.

The Cold War Veterans exemption is an addition to two previously available tax exemptions. The Eligible Funds Exemption provides a partial exemption on property owned by a veteran or other designated persons, who purchased the property with pension, bonus or insurance money. The Alternative Veteran’s Exemption applies only to veterans residential property who served during wartime or received an expeditionary medal.

Now, a third local law unanimously passed by the Chautauqua County Legislature will allow municipalities to provide the option for tax exemptions to Cold War Veterans.

Marsha Painter, town of Ellicott assessor, suggests that each veteran bring their discharge papers and disability rating when contacting their assessor’s office to make sure they have all the benefits they are entitled to.

”They have earned this type of exemption by serving in the military. Our office would be happy to help them fill out the forms,” Painter said.

In order to be eligible for the Cold War Veteran’s Tax Exemption, the veteran must not already receive the eligible funds or alternative veteran’s exemption. Other eligibility requirements for the Cold War Veteran’s Tax Exemption include:

Available only to veterans who served active duty, excluding training, in the United States Armed Forces between Sept. 2, 1945 and Dec. 26, 1991.

The legal title of the property must be in the name of the veteran, the spouse of the veteran if the surviving spouse hasn’t remarried, or both the veteran and spouse.

Exemptions may be combined if the property is owned by more than one qualified owner.

The property must be exclusively used for residential purposes and must be the primary residence of a Cold War Veteran, the spouse of the veteran if the surviving spouse hasn’t remarried, unless that person is absent from the property due to medical reasons or be institutionalized.

If a portion of the property is used for non-residential purposes, the exemption will apply only to that portion of the property used exclusively for residential purposes. For example, a two-family home where the veteran owner resides downstairs and rents out the other apartment.

The percentage amount of the Cold War Veteran’s Tax Exemption passed by the county is 15 percent, with a maximum of $6,000.

For the Cold War Disabled Veteran, the percentage amount passed is 50 percent of disability with a maximum of $20,000.

All exemption forms must be filed by March 1. If the veteran files by this date and qualifies, the first exemption will be on the 2010 county taxes.

The Cold War Veteran’s Tax Exemption is good for a period of 10 years.

The Cold War Veteran’s Tax Exemption is not granted for special ad valorem levies and special assessments.

Forms can be found online at http://www.orps.state.ny.us or at the assessor’s office.

Welcome home all you new Vets

Hi all you regular Veteran readers!. I want to especially call out to you new Vets in V.A. Land. All you Kuwait Vets, Iraq, Afganistan, and all the rest of the the Non-Wars our warriors are used for. Here is a quick look into the window of the future for you as you get older.

1. You will be confused trying to understand why you deteriorate from the strange illnesses that are probably already beginning to manifest themselves in your daily life.
2. Your confusion and ability to reason out the issues will be almost impossible due to the fact that the truth is being withheld from you on purpose.
3. You will become angry that even after you find out the truth you will not be able to accomplish much because the Government will continue to deny any responsibility.
4. When you pass thru the stages of non-belief that your Government would treat you this way, and then deny it, then be forced to admit it, but continue to deny help or benefits you will begin to realise that you have been had.
5 If you are lucky it will not cost you your marriage, or you childrens lives having to be lived with deformities and early terminal illnesses.
6 If you are unlucky, well………………………..
7 You wake up at night in a cold sweat shaking and afraid from the nightmare that seems so real.
8. Your wife has collected the children while you were out at the gas station and they will be gone before you get home. Soon you will get a letter telling you they don’t want you or need you anymore.
9 Your husband has collected the children while you were out a the gas station and they will be gone before you get home. Soon you will get a letter telling you they no longer want you or need you.
10 you will not be able to hold down a job for long.
11 you seem to be angry most of the time.
12 Your pediatrician tells you offhandidly after the delivery of your new baby,”Say! while you were off at war were you around any lethal chemicals like DIOXIN? Your new baby may be suffering from something we are not sure of yet.
13 You may get headaches that bring you to your knees. The V.A. can’t fix you because, you are screwed, you are unfixable.
14 the list goes on and on and on and on………….
Hey all you new Vets, I am in touch with many veterans, both men and women and I know that there are certain truths that cannot be white washed or explained away. You will in time learn these truths also.
I am a strong person and I have strong beliefs, like eventually right wins over wrong. Goodness triumphs over badness. Love is stronger than hate.
Every once in a while I get an email from a friend that is being dumped on way more than me, if that is possible. I just received oneof those. It is from a special friend of mine I will call MR.Murphy. He jokes about his ailments as though he were under the spell of Murphy’s law. Remember that one? If it can go wrong it will at the worst possible moment.
Well, I wanted to do an article on Mr. Murphy but he is far more eloquent and honest than I could have been in the same situation.
A Little background………… I sent one of those really goofy but funny chain letters with pictures of small animals in funny situations. They are usually ok but if you have seen one you have seen them all. This particular one made me laugh. Soooooooooooooooooooooooooo, I sent it along to some special war buddies of mine(all Veterans are war buddies of mine), some are special to me. Darned if a bunch of us didn’t get a good laugh. It was a hoot. One of my special war buddies also sent me back a return email. I cried. You read it. See what you think.
Harm thanks for the smiles it brought to my face, it has been a rough few weeks and with my PTSD it is usually rough but getting ready for the BVA hearing in 2 weeks and seeing that Cardiologist Wed hit me like a 2 x 4 between the eyes, he was rude short and told me regardless of my PTSD I was going to have a heart attack when I did I was like WTF and I am paying you for this why? My lawyer felt I needed another IMO to refute the C&P doctors from the VA we did a background check on the C&P doctors the VA has used to refute my cardiac claims one is a podiatrist, one is a nurse practioner, and the latest one graduated from med school in 2005 and is a radiologist and the VA raters used their opinions to dismiss my treating VA cardiologists opinion a cardiologist with an impeccable resume from Colorado, DR Ketchums IMO who as a retired Army Colonel and a very long and impressive resume as a doctor and psychiatrist for more than 40 years, so the Chief of Cardiology is writing another IMO linking the PTSD to be an aggravating condition to my series of cardiovascular problems and strokes for the past 20 years.

My wife and my sons security rests on getting my cardiac problems SC secondary to my Sc PTSD, otherwise they will lose our home because of my health problems I can not buy life insurance or mortgage insurance so I have been more of a SOB the past few weeks than usual, and I have been nasty to my friends, family and everyone else. I am and have been reclusive for years, but due to the stress and worries I have been worse than normal.
This set of pics made me smile and realize what a jerk I have been I hope my family and friends can accept this as my apology, because this is about as good as it’s going to get.
Thanks Harm for being a friend even idiots like me need new good friends (Mr Murphy) to the rest of you. You are my friends and all I can say is I am sorry.
Well people. Do you think Mr Murphy needs to be sorry. I’ll tell you who needs to be sorry. These make believe doctors lie about his illness. They lie about the government involvement in his disaster level proportion illnesses. What ever happened to the oath doctors take to become doctors? Maybe they dont do that any more. Maybe it is just the money.
It may be too late to save any of these doctors from having blood on their hands, but it may not be too late for them to keep from having Mr Murphys blood on their hands. There is a final accounting in everyones lives, and you all know it. These are the same doctors that are treating me. Gives you confidence, doesn’t it? You know what, they are the doctors that are going to treat you.
Yes all you new Vets. This is what you have to look forward to 20-30-40 years from now, if you should live so long.
Welcome home all you new vets, welcome to the club.
Mr Murphy, you ar not a jerk in my book, you are a Special friend, and I love you.
Be Blessed;
Harm………………………….:)