American Veteran News 04.02.16

AGENT ORANGE BENEFIT SCREENING PROCESS SCRUTINIZED IN CONGRESS — THE OBSERVER — WASHINGTON — The House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs is looking into whether a contractor thoroughly reviewed the files of Vietnam veterans who might deserve benefits for illnesses linked to exposure to Agent Orange.

A contractor that pre-screens veteran files for evidence of those illnesses often spent just minutes reviewing each file, internal company documents show.

The contractor, QTC Medical Services, reviewed files for 160,000 veterans. They were paid approximately $300 for every file reviewed under 2 inches thick and $350 for files more than 2 inches thick.

An unsealed lawsuit and contract documents obtained by McClatchy shed light on the contractor’s pre-screening process.

The suit alleges that QTC — a Lockheed Martin company — did not give their employees the necessary training to spot evidence of illnesses linked to Agent Orange and pressured employees to work at a pace that made it impossible to thoroughly review the file.

“This lawsuit raises a number of serious questions,” said Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Florida, the chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, in a statement to McClatchy. “Every veteran’s VA claim deserves a thorough and objective review. Our investigation will continue until we are satisfied that’s the case in this situation.”

QTC Medical Services and Lockheed Martin, citing ongoing litigation, declined to comment.


CANCELED VA APPTS PUSHED VET TO SUICIDE ATTEMPT — SAN DIEGO UNION TRIBUNE — An investigation released Thursday by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs says the San Diego VA hospital triggered one veteran’s suicide attempt in 2014 by repeatedly canceling his mental health appointments.

The investigation also found that at least two San Diego VA employees instructed appointment clerks to “zero out” wait times in the scheduling database, presenting an unrealistically positive picture of how long patients were waiting for mental health care.

The tactics may have affected hundreds of San Diego veterans seeking mental health treatment.

The VA’s inspector general found that employees in the San Diego mental health clinic scheduled more than 700 appointments with a 98 to 100 percent rate of zero-day wait times — described as virtually impossible without data manipulation.

The findings are among more than 70 investigations the VA has released nationally over the past few weeks.


VA COACHED EMPLOYEES ON WAIT TIME MANIPULATION ANSWERS — DC — Management at Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical centers in California selected and coached employees on exactly what to tell investigators about wait time manipulation, according to new inspector general reports.

According to two whistleblowers, management handpicked medical support assistants and told them what to tell the Veterans Health Administration Inspection Team, which visited the San Diego medical center in May, 2014, following the wait time manipulation scandal which rocked the Phoenix VA.

One of the medical support assistants said he was afraid to tell inspectors anything because a supervisor was in the interview with him.

Investigators were initially tipped off to misdeeds at the medical center in San Diego by a whistleblower, who said employees were being improperly trained and pressured by management to “zero out” appointment wait times.

This whistleblower also said the supervisor is “requiring zero desire dates and those who will not comply with the fraudulent scheduling practices, then evaluations will reflect marginal performance preventing promotions and bonuses.”


NOT A SINGLE VA EMPLOYEE FIRED IN SAN DIEGO, LOS ANGELES WAIT TIME MANIPULATIONS — DC — Not a single employee was fired at either the San Diego or Los Angeles VA medical centers following investigative reports on rampant wait time manipulation as of March 24, The Daily Caller News Foundation has learned.

While no employees were fired, there were still two cases of disciplinary actions. At the San Diego VA, management suspended an employee and provided a temporary written warning to another over the issue of wait time manipulation.

No employees at the Los Angeles VA were disciplined.

The VA failed to replace any of its staff even with ample evidence that supervisors were coaching employees through investigator interviews. One supervisor, a medical administrative officer, received a suspension.


BRAIN CHANGES SEEN IN VETERANS WITH PTSD AFTER MINDFULNESS TRAINING — MEDICAL PRESS — Like an endlessly repeating video loop, horrible memories and thoughts can keep playing over and over in the minds of people with post-traumatic stress disorder. They intrude at the quietest moments, and don’t seem to have an off switch.

But a new study in veterans with PTSD shows the promise of mindfulness training for enhancing the ability to manage those thoughts if they come up, and not get “stuck”. Even more surprising, it actually shows the veterans’ brains changed—in ways that may help them find their own off switch for that endless loop.

The findings, published in Depression and Anxiety by a team from the University of Michigan Medical School and VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System, come from a study of 23 veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. All of them got some form of group therapy. After four months of weekly sessions, many reported that their PTSD symptoms eased up.


OFFICIALS DEDICATE TREATMENT CENTER FOR TBI, PTSD AT FORT BRAGG — FAY OBSERVER — Every time Arnold Fisher cuts a ribbon outside an Intrepid Spirit Center, he said it feels a little sweeter.

So the real estate magnate, philanthropist and long time supporter of the military was all smiles on Thursday, as he helped dedicate the center on Fort Bragg.

The Intrepid Spirit Center is a dedicated facility for treating traumatic brain injuries, chronic pain and psychological health conditions, like post-traumatic stress, in troops.

The nonprofit Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund has been building them on military installations for about five years.

The Fort Bragg center, which opened at the beginning of the year off Longstreet Road, is the fourth of its kind, but fifth to be officially dedicated.


VETERANS WALKING FROM NC TO CA TO HELP FELLOW SERVICE MEMBERS — MILCOM — Two veterans will walk from North Carolina to California to help their fellow brothers and sisters in arms.

“Our main focus is that we want to be on a grassroots approach to those who have served us,” said former Sgt. Larry Hinkle.

Hinkle, a self-proclaimed “Hollywood Marine,” served with the U.S. Marine Corps at Camp Pendleton in California from 2000 to 2004. His co-walker, Jocelyn Cupido, was a specialist with the U.S. Army.

The two have been training for the past three months for the cross-country trek that will highlight veteran needs and assist them along the way.

Hinkle said they plan to take breaks when needed and that could mean resting three times per 20 miles or resting 12, depending on the day. Sometimes, you just can’t ice your muscles enough and you burn a lot of nutrients and calories, Hinkle added.

So why walk 2,640 miles?


WHY MORE VETERANS ARE ABUSING OPIOIDS – AND THE PUSH FOR ALTERNATE TREATMENTS — AP — Veteran Marine Tim Fazio returned from service in Iraq and Afghanistan and embarked on civilian life without, he says, any serious physical pain. Instead, his suffering took the form of survivor’s guilt after many of his close friends died, he told the Center for Investigative Reporting. Nevertheless, he still received 4,000 oxycodone pills from Veterans Affairs doctors.

Those who have given the most to their country are being hit the hardest by a national epidemic, as America’s veterans are the most common casualties of opioid abuse.

The biggest challenge in confronting the crisis lies in its origins. Doctors are prescribing the opioids to treat veterans who suffer from chronic pain, as an estimated 50 percent of older veterans do, Sarah Childress reported for PBS Frontline. In the case of opioids, however, the treatment is often proving at least as dangerous as the injury.


VETERANS’ GUIDE TO RETIRING IN KENTUCKY — NEWSMAX — Kentucky offers a smorgasbord of veterans’ benefits across categories such as income tax breaks, financial assistance, preference points for government jobs, and healthcare. For veterans looking at retirement in Kentucky, here is more information.

1. Income Tax Breaks for Veterans

Kentucky income tax exclusion of up to $41,100 for pensions covers military pensions in addition to civil service, state and local government, and qualified private pensions and annuities, notes the Retirement Living Information Center.

In addition, Kentucky exempts Social Security, Roth individual retirement account distributions, and railroad retirement benefits from income taxes.

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