American Veteran News 05.07.16

VIETNAM VETS WITH AGENT ORANGE-LINKED CANCER ARE STILL WAITING FOR JUSTICE — T&P — Vietnam veterans describe the feeling of abandonment by the VA for not acknowledging their bladder cancer is linked to Agent Orange.

For decades, veterans of the Vietnam War have been pushing to get the Department of Veterans Affairs to acknowledge the link between exposure to the defoliant Agent Orange and certain long-term medical conditions, including cancer.

Alan Eller is one such Army veteran who has filed three VA claims, over more than a decade, to make the connection between Agent Orange and his diagnosis with bladder cancer.

Even though doctors outside the VA certified the link between his cancer and his service, the VA has rejected all of Eller’s claims.

“My doctors have been telling me Agent Orange probably caused the cancer dating back almost 20 years now,” Eller told ProPublica. “It’s been a fight at every turn with the VA.”

An ongoing research project by ProPublica and The Virginian-Pilot has been documenting the stories of Vietnam veterans and family members who are coping with the lifelong health effects of Agent Orange. Of the 5,000 veterans they spoke to, they found more than 125 cases of bladder cancer.


HOW TO ANSWER THAT AWFUL QUESTION, ‘DO YOU HAVE PTSD?’ — T&P — Vets are often asked this question inappropriately, but there’s a smart way to answer that can change the stereotype.

“Oh, you’re a veteran, huh? Do you have PTSD?”

This question, asked often but most recently slurred from the mouth of a 37-year-old man in a bar attending a mutual friend’s birthday, triggered an involuntary eye roll. I took another sip of rum and gave a tight-lipped smile.

“You’re single, huh?” I asked. “Do you have herpes?”

He stammered, “What the hell kind of question is that?”

“I’m sorry, I thought I was clear — it means that asking very personal medical questions of strangers is rude. You aren’t my friend; in fact, I don’t know you at all. I’m certainly not going to talk to you about things I don’t even like discussing with my mother.”

His question, while idiotic, wasn’t too hard to rationalize. In his mind, every veteran has PTSD. What he didn’t understand is most of us don’t want to be defined by the condition or any other, and we certainly don’t need to discuss that condition within three minutes of sitting next to someone making idle conversation.

Here’s the rundown, as I broke it down to him: Yes, I do have PTSD. It came along with my Purple Heart, free of charge. Yes, many military personnel return home from a deployment or even from service transition with adjustment or other anxiety and stress issues, and some with straight-up PTSD. It’s the nature of the business. But, we don’t all have it, and if you want to understand it, don’t just ask a stranger in a bar if they fit your stereotype. Learn instead about who a veteran is, about what resources we have available to us, so you can have an intelligent conversation about the concepts and issues and not just someone’s medical history. Empower the veterans you meet by treating them as humans instead of asking a question that is so loaded with assumption and judgment it makes my hands itch.


FEDS PUT CREDIT CARD FELON IN CHARGE OF MAJOR VA PURCHASING PROGRAM — DAILY CALLER — Almost immediately after Federal Bureau of Prisons Inmate #11109-017 completed a 14-month sentence for using sensitive credit card data on his previous employer’s computer system to steal $70,000, he was hired by the Department of Veterans Affairs in a position that ultimately led to his present job — running an office racked with credit card fraud and bribery problems.

Braxton Linton is prosthetics service chief at the Caribbean Veterans Affairs hospital in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Service chiefs are the top officials in each department in VA hospitals. VA prosthetics offices procure all assistive devices and use government credit cards so often that they are called “prosthetics purchase cards.”

Linton is at least the second convicted felon working in management at the federal hospital in San Juan. The civil service employees union local there recently got an employee reinstated despite her involvement in an armed robbery by arguing that she can’t be discriminated against since the hospital’s human resources manager remains on the job despite being a convicted sex offender.

Linton’s story began in 1998 when he was working as a night clerk in a dorm at the University of Florida and stole mail from freshman students, using their private information to apply for credit cards and racking up $70,000 in purchases.

Police said Linton used his position to prey on the students he victimized. “Not only would the person have to have access to personal information, they would have to have access to intercept the plastic,” an officer said in a front-page news article about the crime.


VETS GROUPS RALLY BEHIND BILL TO LET VA PROVIDE IN VITRO FERTILIZATION — MILCOM — A dozen veterans groups and support organizations are rallying behind legislation that would enable the Veterans Affairs Department to offer in vitro fertilization services to veterans with wounds and injuries prevent them from fathering children.

The measure, which has been championed for years by Sen. Patty Murray, a Democrat from Washington, was approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee last month and is now part of the omnibus veterans and military construction bill working its way through the full Senate.

Backers want to make sure the legislation sepasses.

“Much is said about honoring the sacrifice that veterans make for our families,” the groups wrote. “With your vote, you can demonstrate that commitment, making a real and fundamental difference in the lives of veterans and their families.”


COMPASSION FATIGUE: PTSD’S WICKED SIBLING — EMERGENCY MEDICINE NEWS — An epidemic plaguing the medical field is grossly underdiagnosed. Sadly, if you practice emergency medicine long enough, you might experience some of its symptoms.

Compassion fatigue, also known as secondary traumatic stress, is often characterized by a gradual decrease of empathy, concern, or kindness toward others. It’s a feeling of emotional exhaustion most commonly experienced by people working directly with the sick, injured, or destitute, such as physicians, nurses, paramedics, firefighters, and police officers.

Compassion fatigue is, in many ways, a sort of chronic post-traumatic stress disorder. Those succumbing to compassion fatigue can experience a wide variety of symptoms, from decreased pleasure and hopelessness to anxiety and stress. A lack of sleep and a negative attitude are also common. Sufferers are likely to perform their jobs poorly because they have less motivation. Clearly, this can be detrimental if you’re an emergency physician.


AMERICAN VETERAN FINDS PEACE AT FORMER BATTLEFIELD IN VIETNAM — THAN NIEN NEWS — Neil Hannan knew he was about to walk a very thin line between life and death when he arrived in central Vietnam in late February 1968, at the age of 19.

But the young soldier did not know that he would have to carry along haunting memories of the war even after half a century later.

Hannan, now 67, recalled that right after his arrival at Chu Lai Airport, he was immediately taken to a base of the US Army’s 196th infantry brigade in Quang Nam Province’s Thang Binh District.

“I was really shocked by what was happening around,” he said.

The number of people being killed and injured just kept rising for both sides.

On the third day, his unit began to move to a village where he could hear painful moans.

Hannan said he rushed into a small house that was burning and found a little girl. She had a severed foot and blood was everywhere.

Two adults in the house were horrified when seeing an American soldier with a gun. But Hannan said his worried look might have calmed them down.

He said he did not think twice and quickly carried the girl to his base for treatment.

Nearly half a century later, in 2010, Hannan decided to travel all the way to Vietnam to visit the former battlefield in Quang Nam, together with other vets from the same brigade.


VETERANS GROUPS OPPOSE CHOICE PROGRAM EXPANSION — ARMY TIMES — The nation’s largest veterans groups have lined up to oppose any expansion of the Veterans Affairs Choice program that would allow all veterans who are eligible for VA medical care to use it.

The stand, by the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars and others, places the groups squarely in the corner of VA Secretary Bob McDonald, who has called proposals favoring private care for veterans over VA facilities, a “dereliction” of department duties, and at odds with seven powerful U.S. senators, including Arizona Republican John McCain, who have proposed legislation to lift restrictions on Choice.

Seven veterans organizations wrote the VA Commission on Care on April 29 saying they would oppose any VA health system that allows veterans to see a non-VA provider at any time.

The heads of the organizations, which also included Disabled American Veterans, Vietnam Veterans of America, Military Officers Association of America and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, told panel chairwoman Nancy Schlichting that giving all veterans access to private health care paid for by VA “would have serious costs, trade-offs and consequences that could endanger or harm the provision of health care to veterans.”


NOTED PHOENIX VA WHISTLEBLOWER FINALLY REACHES SETTLEMENT OVER RETALIATION — DAILY CALLER — Noted Phoenix VA whistleblower Brandon Coleman has come to a resolution with the Department of Veterans Affairs regarding his claims of serious retaliation, which the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) took up and thoroughly investigated.

Coleman, who worked as an addiction therapist at Phoenix, filed a complaint with the OSC alleging the VA was violating its policy of assigning one employee to every suicidal veteran. Additionally, Coleman said the VA wasn’t properly monitoring suicidal veterans in the emergency department.

Due to his disclosures, Coleman says he was retaliated against by hospital management, which turned him into a heated critic of the department. He appeared on news networks and in Congress to raise awareness about accountability issues.

After countless months of struggle and hardship, Coleman is now rejoining the hospital as an addiction therapist at a Phoenix outpatient clinic. His new job started on May 1 and does not fall under the former chain of command that led to retaliation in the first place. During his time at Phoenix, before all the disclosures and blowback from management, Coleman came up with the department’s most successful suicide prevention program, known as Motivation for Change (M4C). Following his disclosures, the agency extinguished the M4C program.


LOS GATOS: FOUNDATION SUBMITS DRAWINGS FOR VETERANS’ MEMORIAL — DAILY DEMOCRAT — The Veterans Memorial & Support Foundation of Los Gatos is looking for the public’s feedback on two designs for a veterans memorial that will be built in the redwood grove area on the front lawn of the civic center. The public is invited to comment on the designs, with the comment period running through June 3. The town council is scheduled to review the designs on June 21. The memorial will serve as a tribute to Los Gatos servicemen and women who have served their country in the army, navy, marines, air force, coast guard and merchant marines. First responders will be recognized as well.


MONEY SAVING TIPS FOR VA HOME LOANS — MILCOM — The VA home loan is most famous for requiring no down payment from those who qualify for the program. Conventional loans underwritten to Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac guidelines require the loan amount to be at least 80 percent of the sales price of the home to avoid private mortgage insurance and higher interest rates. That means a $300,000 home loan using a conventional loan will ask for a 20 percent down payment of $60,000.

Yet even though the down payment requirements for VA loans is zero, there are additional funds required to close on the transaction including appraisal charges, homeowners insurance and a host of other closing costs.

How can you save money when buying a home using your VA home loan entitlement?


US ARMY VETERAN SPEAKS ABOUT LEAVENWORTH VA HOSPITAL ABUSE ALLEGATIONS — KSHB — LEAVENWORTH, Kan. – Since 41 Action News broke this story in July 2015, multiple lawsuits have been filed in both federal and county courts claiming sexual abuse against a former physician assistant at the Leavenworth VA Hospital.

On Tuesday, U.S. Army veteran Josh Hutchinson filed a federal lawsuit against VA Secretary Robert McDonald and former employee Mark Wisner. This is the third federal suit in two months.

“Me and my wife both, we’ve shed a lot of tears over this. It’s just embarrassing,” Hutchinson said over the allegations.

Hutchinson was receiving treatment for PTSD when court documents say he was touched inappropriately, fondled, and asked about sex by Wisner. These allegations happened during routine appointments.

“After many, many complaints, what seems, a lot of soldiers. Nothing was ever done,” Hutchinson said. “He was still employed there. He was still working and treating soldiers.”


VA SECRETARY CRITICIZES HOUSE LAWMAKERS OVER PLANNED BUDGET CUTS — MILCOM — Veterans Affairs Department Secretary Bob McDonald on Wednesday offered kind words for the White House and the Senate for backing new department programs and policy changes while arguing that House proposals will hurt vets.

Speaking at the Center for Security and International Studies, a think tank in Washington, D.C., Mcdonald said President Barack Obama and senators have shown a willingness to provide funding for VA to transition to a more modern agency, with only a minor differences in proposed spending plans.

The president’s budget proposal includes $75.1 billion in discretionary spending for VA in the next year, while the Senate appropriators pared that down to $74.9 billion, according to White House and Senate documents.

“The House markup, however, proposed a $1.5 billion reduction,” McDonald said. “So let’s be clear — that reduction will hurt veterans, and it will impede some critical initiatives necessary to transform VA into the high performing organization Veterans deserve.”


AFGE UNION BEATS BACK SENATE FIRING BILL — DISABLEDVETERANS.ORG — VA’s AFGE union successfully bullied for removed all parts of the Senate’s VA firing bill it found objectionable after refusing to support the bill.

The Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs has made headline hay by claiming the bill would take serious steps to hold all VA employees accountable. Veterans were thrilled with the headlines they were reading since they were given the impression the bill would fix VA.

But AFGE decided to flex muscles on Capitol Hill and was able to remove all 4 sections of the bill it found objectionable.

The AFGE union president J. David Cox sent out emails pressing its employees to write Senators about why they should oppose the bill, “I strongly urge you to oppose the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs omnibus bill in its current form.” Cox argued, “No less than the future of the VA health care system is at stake here.”

This scare tactic came from the same president who threatened to “whoop” Secretary McDonald’s “ass” if the VA chief dared to challenge AFGE union authority.


NEW VETERANS INITIATIVE AIMS TO SHED LIGHT ON LONG-TERM TRANSITION TRENDS — T&P — A new survey breaks down military transition data from outgoing service members and vets.

A group of veterans have joined together in an effort to collect data from more than 100,000 veterans about their military transition experience. Through an online survey available at Military-Transition.org, the group’s aim is to better understand the challenges veterans face when they leave the service. Since June 2015, the site has had a roughly 1,000 veterans participate across all the services and ranks.

As of April 2016, nearly 48% of those surveyed said their transition was “more difficult than expected.”

“This is an interesting metric, but not surprising having worked with service members for many years. It becomes interesting when you look at this data by sub groups; an example might be junior or mid-level enlisted,” Brian Niswander, founder of Military-Transition.org, told Task & Purpose.


SOLDIERS, VETERAN CLIMB EVEREST TO PUT SPOTLIGHT ON PTSD — WMUR — (CNN) —On his last duty assignment in 2013, Command Sgt. Maj. Todd Burnett served over the Corps of Cadets at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. It was there that the highly decorated Purple Heart recipient was destined to meet Harold Earls, a freshman and “plebe” who was on the academy’s baseball team.

What began as a few questions Earls posed to Burnett about preparing for Army life turned into daily phone calls, meetings and conversations. Burnett became a mentor to Earls, and the two discussed everything from how to successfully captain the baseball team to working through ideas that Earls wanted to turn into a reality.

One of those dreams involved creating a team of the first active-duty soldiers to climb Mount Everest.

Unwittingly, this turned out to be a way for Burnett to put the spotlight on his own goal: to highlight the suffering of veterans.


VETERAN SAYS ECSTASY HELPED HIM COMBAT PTSD — FOX NEWS — The triggers for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can appear in unexpected places. For James, 24, who asked that we withhold his last name for his family’s privacy, fireworks make him visualize grizzly images of mangled bodies.. James served as a combat medic in Afghanistan from March 2011-2012 with the 710th Combat Support Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division.

James said that during his deployment he had to sever the connection between his heart and head in order to be able to process images of soldiers’ and children’s bodies blown mangled by explosions.

“When I came back, I couldn’t reestablish that connection,” James told FoxNews.com. He described himself as “emotionally numb.” He knew that he loved his wife and his parents but he couldn’t feel it anymore. He became unpredictable and was unable to control his emotions.


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