American Veteran News 05.10.16

WE CAN’T LET BURN PITS BECOME THE NEW AGENT ORANGE — FOX NEWS — A prosthetic leg. A scarred face. A burned hand. When we think of the wounds our soldiers endure, we think of injuries we can see. But sometimes these wounds go unseen and, too often uncared for.

During the Vietnam War, the U.S. sprayed 80 million liters of Agent Orange, contaminating water and exposing more than two million members of the military.

After being exposed to this toxin, Vietnam vets came home with nerve, skin, digestive and respiratory disorders. By the thousands, veterans turned to hospitals for help. But it took the government years to recognize that there was a link between Agent Orange and the devastating health effects on our soldiers. So, veterans had to wait to get the care they desperately needed and clearly earned.

Today we have a new Agent Orange: Burn pits.

FALLEN WORLD WAR II SOLDIER HONORED AT HOME, OVERSEAS — MILCOM — VALDOSTA, Ga. (AP) — Seventy-one years after his death fighting the Nazis in Europe, a marker was dedicated on April 29 in a South Georgia cemetery to the memory of Army Staff Sgt. Sidney Beck.

Beck grew up in Valdosta. He survived landing at Normandy on June 10, 1944, a few days after D-Day. He survived a wound at Cherbourg. He helped in the liberation of the Netherlands. He crossed the bridge at Remagen. There, in Germany, shortly before the war ended, Sidney Beck was killed April 5, 1945, likely by a single bullet from a German sniper, according to his military records.

He is buried in Margraten, the Dutch cemetery dedicated to thousands of American soldiers who died in Europe during World War II.

Beck had one child, a small son who was dead by his second birthday, just weeks before the Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

PERIPHERAL ARTERY DISEASE PATIENTS CAN BENEFIT FROM LONG TERM STATIN USE: REPORT — MAINE NEWS ONLINE — Peripheral artery disease (PAD) patients who take cholesterol-lowering drugs called statins have reduced risk of amputation and death than PAD patients who do not take them, finds a new research. It has also been found that the higher the dose of statins, the lower the risk.

PAD is a condition of narrowing of the peripheral arteries to the legs, stomach, arms and head. It is considered as the next cardiovascular epidemic. In comparison with heart disease, it is not recognized properly and adequately treated.

Study’s lead researcher Shipra Arya from Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia, said that there is lack of research on the use of statins for PAD patients. In the study, the researchers have studied health information and health status from the Veterans Affairs’ database for over 208,000 veterans with PAD.

After following them for an average 5.2 years, researchers came to know about those who were on statin medication around the time of PAD diagnosis. They followed veterans to assess their risk of amputation or death.

The study researchers have identified patients into three groups- those taking high doses of statins, low to moderate statins doses and no strains. The researchers have found there was a 33% lower risk of amputation and 29% lower risk of death among PAD patients taking higher risk of statins than those who were not taking statins.

Those who were taking low to moderate doses of statins were having 22% lower risk of amputation and death than those not taking statins. Arya said, “Ours is one of the largest population-based studies on PAD and suggests patients who have been diagnosed with PAD should be considered for placement on high dose statins upon diagnosis if they can tolerate it, along with other medical management”.

SENATORS WANT CAREGIVER BENEFITS PHASED IN FOR OLDER VETS — MILITARY ADVANTAGE BLOG — A showpiece of the Veterans First package that the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee unveiled last week is a multi-billion-dollar initiative to phase in for older generations of severely injured veterans robust caregiver benefits first enacted in 2010 only for the Post-9/11 generation.

Though it’s only part of a huge omnibus bill containing many veteran reform measures that senators previously introduced as separate bills, the plan to expand caregiver benefit coverage carries the biggest price tag. The early estimate is $3.1 billion over its first five years.

For in-home caregivers of thousands of vets with severe physical or mental injuries, it would mean cash stipends for their time and effort, health insurance if caregivers have none, guaranteed periods of paid respite to avoid caregiver burnout and training to enhance patient safety.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), prime architect of the caregiver expansion plan, negotiated with Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), the committee chairman, to secure a modified plan that could be funded with budget offsets and gain bipartisan support on the committee. That should improve its chances of becoming law despite still formidable obstacles ahead.

Perhaps the biggest is lingering disappointment over how the current caregiver program operates. Though it is delivering benefits to spouses and parents caring for 31,000 severely disabled veterans of the Post-9/11 era, the program remains underfunded, understaffed and lacking modern software to screen applications, track care needs or verify levels of caregiver support and program managers’ responsiveness.

HISTORICALLY BLACK AMERICAN LEGION TO BE RESTORED — DAYTONA TIMES — A local organization for veterans received a helping hand this week.

State Rep. Dwayne Taylor and Florida Senator Dorothy Hukill presented a $100,155 legislative check to the American Legion Orange Baker Post #187 in DeLand during a ceremony on May 2.

“We can now revitalize the structure and get it up to standards. This also gives us a specific place to meet and hold events,” said Commander Charles Williams. The post is located at 415 West Voorhis Ave.

Williams, the post’s leader, is a retired U.S. Marine with a bachelor’s degree in science from Bethune-Cookman.

The Orange Baker post is a primarily African-American veterans’ organization with rich historical roots. Its members have served in World War II and conflicts in Korea, Vietnam, Gulf War, Afghanistan and Iraq.

The post also has had members who were part of the Tuskegee Airmen, the first Black fighter pilots in the military.

RETIREMENT GALA FOR JAN C. SCRUGGS, FOUNDER OF VVMF, TO BE HELD ON MAY 30, 2016 — SYS-CON MEDIA — The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund (VVMF) will host a retirement gala honoring Jan C. Scruggs on May 30, 2016 at the Ritz-Carlton, Washington, D.C. The Jan C. Scruggs Retirement Gala – Celebrating a Legacy of Service – will honor the man who conceived the idea of building the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and has spent nearly 40 years working on behalf of Vietnam veterans. The master of ceremonies for the gala will be Gary Sinise, Actor and Humanitarian. The keynote speaker will be former Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel.

In 1979, Scruggs conceived the idea of building a Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., as a tribute to all who served during one of the longest wars in American history. Scruggs was a wounded and decorated veteran of the Vietnam War, having served in the 199th Light Infantry Brigade of the U.S. Army. He felt a memorial would serve as a healing device for a different kind of wound – one which was inflicted on our national psyche by the long and controversial Asian war. Scruggs launched the effort with $2,800 of his own money and gradually gained the support of other Vietnam veterans in persuading Congress to provide a prominent location on federal government property somewhere in Washington, D.C. Today, The Wall is among the most visited memorials in the nation’s capital.

IRAQ VETERAN JAKE SCALLAN FINDS A WAY OUT OF PTSD THROUGH CANNABIS — MILCOM — SANTA CRUZ — Some of the triggers are obvious — loud noises, open spaces, the darkness of night. Others, not so much. Like roadkill.

It’s not that animal corpses reminded Jake Scallan of all the death that surrounded him during his deployment in Iraq. It’s something more immediate, more horrifying than that.

“They use to hide IEDs in dead animals,” says Jake. “So (after I returned from Iraq), I would see roadkill and just gas it, drive in the middle of the road, cut everybody off. Y’know, I feel like I’m a fairly self-aware person and I try to be aware of what’s going on with me. But sometimes something snaps. And you’re watching yourself, thinking ‘Why am I doing this?'”

That’s what post-traumatic stress disorder feels like, and in the case of the 28-year-old Santa Cruzan, it almost destroyed his life. A couple of years after returning from Iraq, Jake found himself on suicide watch at a psych ward at the VA, where the nurses carried pepper spray and the chairs were weighted down so they couldn’t be thrown across the room.

WILL NEW VA OIG HEAD TAKE VA WATCHDOG OFF VA LEASH? — DISABLEDVETERANS.ORG — The newly elected inspector general of Veterans Affairs’ beleaguered watchdog promises to be more transparent and to take VA OIG off the lease of VA executives.

Michael Missal began his work at VA OIG last Monday and promised to turn around the watchdog that has lately become more of a whitewash machine than one that holds VA accountable. “I feel very strongly that the public has a right to know the work of the VA IG’s office.”

This view of his organization, if adhered to, could result in more transparency and maybe even take it off the short leash of VA executives like Sloan Gibson, but will he follow through?

ONE JUDGE’S ACT SHOWS POWER OF ‘VETERANS’ COURTS’ — CNN — By now, you’ve probably seen or heard the viral story about the judge in North Carolina who spent a night in jail with his fellow veteran.
Last month, that same court — which handles criminal cases involving veterans — held its first graduation. This “veterans’ court” offers people returning from military service who have found themselves in trouble a more humane court experience focused on rehabilitation, and it has captured the imagination of the country.

It’s a welcome reprieve from the onslaught of examples we see every day of our broken criminal justice system, a bright spot in the midst of great darkness showing us that there is another way to treat people who make mistakes.

NEW VA WATCHDOG PLEDGES MORE TRANSPARENCY — USA TODAY — WASHINGTON — The new inspector general at the Department of Veterans Affairs is hoping to quickly repair the office’s image after nearly two years of criticism for cursory investigations and secrecy.

Michael Missal, who began work last Monday, said he plans to reach out to veterans’ groups, Congress and others to let them know his door is open and he plans to be more transparent.

“I feel very strongly that the public has a right to know the work of the VA IG’s office,” Missal told USA TODAY in an exclusive interview, his first since taking the job.

The inspector general is an independent authority responsible under federal law for rooting out fraud and mismanagement at the VA and keeping Congress — and therefore, the public — “fully and currently” informed. But USA TODAY investigations found that his predecessors failed to release the findings of 140 probes of VA health care and sat on the results of 77 wait-time investigations for months.

In one case, an investigation found doctors at a VA Medical Center in Tomah, Wis., prescribing dangerous amounts of opiates. The IG briefed VA officials on the findings but didn’t release a public report, trusting they would fix the issue.

Five months later, a 35-year old Marine Corps veteran, Jason Simcakoski, died from mixed drug toxicity as a patient there after doctors added another opiate to the 14 drugs he already was prescribed.

Missal said he plans to look into that case and why the report wasn’t released.

“That’s one of the matters I’m going to get more deeply involved in,” he said.


Born on the shores of Tripoli, Libya, in 1957 at Wheelus Air Base, Gate-Skipper’s life has always been influenced by the U.S. military.

Now retired from the Marine Corps, Gates-Skipper, 58, has made it her mission to help veterans.

Her call to action was 18 years ago when she was helping her husband, Charles Skipper, a Vietnam War veteran with two Purple Hearts, collect benefits for his post-traumatic stress disorder.

“I went to apply for his VA benefits, and what a nightmare that was,” Gates-Skipper said. “We were on this backlog for eight years. That’s when I became an veterans’ advocate, to go out there and help others who are not as knowledgeable, not as fortunate to have the contacts that I do.

GETTING A DOCTOR’S APPOINTMENT IS A PROCESS — DURANGO HERALD — The main objective of the Veterans Service Office is to provide prevention, protection, advocacy and support services to veterans and their families so they can maximize their quality of life, well-being and potential.

The La Plata County Veterans Service Office (CVSO) provides information and assistance to veterans and their families. There is a wide range of benefits available for our nation’s veterans. Every veteran is encouraged to contact the CVSO to find out more about their VA benefits. Your CVSO can assist you in any matter pertaining to the Department of Veterans Affairs. These services are free of charge. Please visit the La Plata County website at for more information about what the La Plata County Veterans Service Office can do for you.

The La Plata County Veterans Service Office is located with the Durango VA Clinic at 1970 E. 3rd Ave., Suite 102, in Durango.

VETERANS MAKING A DIFFERENCE BY READING — MILCOM — When considering how veterans are doing their part in our communities, remember that it doesn’t always take a disaster relief effort to make a difference and influence someone’s life.

Former F-14 flyer, flight instructor, TOPGUN graduate, and Navy veteran Alan Pietruszewski recently spoke with me regarding his experience volunteering. Alan feels volunteering is very important to our communities, but it’s bigger than that. He uses this as an opportunity to remind the world that veterans are people too, and that many of us are not the version many books and movies tend to portray us as. To share the value of his exact words, the following is Alan’s response to my question about the importance of volunteering and why this is especially important during military appreciation month:

DECIDING ON A GOOD VA LENDER — MILCOM — VA home loans have some rather enviable features that other loan programs are jealous of. First, there is no down payment required for a VA loan. Certain conventional and FHA mortgages have low down payment options but they also have a monthly mortgage insurance premium in addition to the mortgage payment, making the home less affordable. There are reduced closing costs associated with a VA home loan, at least in terms of the closing costs veterans are allowed to pay. No other loan program protects its borrowers in this way.

VA loans are similar to other loan programs in terms of how the loan is approved but there a few quirks in the program unique to VA loans. Some of these quirks can make the VA loan approval process a painful one, so it’s important to find the best VA lender you can. What are the marks of a solid VA lender?

25 MILITARY AND VETERANS GROUPS WANT CUSTOMERS TO ADVISE ON COMMISSARY REFORM — ARMY TIMES — A coalition of military and veterans advocates wants the Defense Department to establish an advisory council, made up of customers, to help protect the savings in military stores.

“This council would work with the DoD to ensure that the commitment put forth by DoD and the Congress not to diminish patron savings would be adhered to going forward,” wrote the Coalition to Save our Military Shopping Benefits in a May 6 letter to the Senate Armed Services Committee.

The letter was signed by 25 military and veterans service organizations ranging from the Air Force Sergeants Association to Vietnam Veterans of America


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