VA SUICIDE HOTLINE DROPPED 1.4 MILLION CALLS LAST YEAR — Some shocking and disgraceful news out of the VA today: the suicide hotline, which has come under fire for sending calls to voicemail, apparently dropped over a million calls last year. Scott Davis, a whistleblower and program specialist at the VA’s Health Eligibility Center in Atlanta, noted that the VA’s Health Resource Center is slated to take over the VA’s suicide hotline. But according to data provided by Davis, the Health Resource Center is dropping hundreds of thousands of calls from veterans each year. According to internal data provided by Davis, the center was on pace to abandon about 900,000 veterans’ calls in 2015. His data spanned the last 11 months of fiscal year 2015, and showed that 824,000 calls were unanswered or dropped. This is a disgrace. Suicide hotlines, whether they’re run through the VA or through any other organization should never be dropping or ignoring calls–or if it were to happen, it should be an incredibly rare instance. Suicide hotlines are often a last-ditch, breaking-point option for people, and I cannot fathom what would happen if a call to a hotline was either ignored or dropped. This has to change, immediately.
LAWMAKERS FIGHT FOR ASPIRING ‘ATOMIC VETERANS’ — More members of Congress are pledging their support for a group of U.S. veterans who are on the quest to be classified as “Atomic Veterans.” The federal government acknowledges service members exposed to radiation during nuclear testing in the 1940’s and 1950’s have high incidents of cancer and other medical problems related to their service. As a result, they are provided extended benefits and compensation. A group of service members came along in the late 1970’s, decades after nuclear testing in the tropical Enewetak Atoll, whose jobs were to clean up radioactive debris left behind. Many of these veterans said they are suffering unusually high rates of cancer and other health problems as a result of their exposure to radioactive waste.
REVIEW LINKS AGENT ORANGE TO BLADDER CANCER, HYPOTHYROIDISM — A new review of Agent Orange research found evidence that bladder cancer and hypothyroidism are more strongly linked to exposure to the herbicide than previously thought, but the science does not support a previously held belief that spina bifida occurs in the offspring of exposed veterans at higher rates. A report released Thursday by the Institute of Medicine on the health effects of Agent Orange also recommended the Department of Veterans Affairs grant service-connected presumption to veterans with “Parkinson’s-like symptoms,” not just those diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease related to Agent Orange exposure. “There is no rational basis for exclusion of individuals with Parkinson’s-like symptoms from the service-related category denoted as Parkinson’s disease,” members of the Institute of Medicine panel wrote in the report. The 1,115-page review is the final in a series conducted by the Institute of Medicine on health problems related to Agent Orange and other herbicide use during the Vietnam War.
RESEARCHERS CALL FOR MORE STUDY OF AGENT ORANGE’S EFFECTS ON VIETNAM VETERANS AND THEIR KIDS — More than two decades of studying Agent Orange exposure hasn’t produced a solid understanding of how the toxic herbicide has harmed Vietnam War veterans and possibly their children, according to a report released Thursday. Additional research is long overdue, the report said, but the federal government hasn’t done it. Those are among the conclusions of a committee of researchers that, since 1991, has been charged by Congress with reviewing all available research into the effects of Agent Orange, which the U.S. military sprayed by the millions of gallons in Vietnam to kill forests and destroy enemy cover. Over the years, the biennial reports produced by the committee have identified numerous illnesses linked to the herbicide, in some cases leading the Department of Veterans Affairs to extend disability compensation to thousands more veterans.
FOUNDER OF WOUNDED WARRIOR PROJECT TELLS AP HE WOULD BE OPEN TO LEADING GROUP AGAIN — John A. Melia, a former U.S. Marine who is a member of the founding family behind the Wounded Warrior Project, told the Associated Press he would be open to returning to lead the group once again and restore its reputation. The Melia family released the following statement to Action News Jax on Friday in the wake of the firings of CEO Steven Nardizzi and COO Al Giordano:
AILING VET ASSISTED BY NEW AWARENESS OF BENEFITS — Until recently, longtime Chelsea resident Malcolm LaPrade lived what many would consider the good life. He made millions in the stock market, and spent it in the pursuit of pleasure — which, in his case, meant worldwide travel. LaPrade’s small one bedroom apartment on W. 16th St. is stuffed with the novelty relics of innumerable far-flung adventures. His shelves are lined with delicate flowers of Italian porcelain. Scattered across the floor, gemstone seas gleam off a dozen bejeweled globes. Stuffed behind his television, there’s a bookshelf brimming with meticulously curated photo albums, which feature thousands of snapshots and postcards from exotic locales across Europe, along with many tropical islands and the luxurious cruises that bore him there.