American Veteran News 05.17.16

VIETNAM VET DIDN’T RECEIVE PROPER CARE FOR HEPATITIS — DAILY SENTINEL — Vietnam War veteran Rodger Holmes did not receive adequate follow-up care at the Grand Junction Veterans Affairs Medical Center for his advanced case of hepatitis C, according to a report by the Office of Inspector General released last week.

Holmes, while not named in the report, is the veteran who died in 2014, several months after undergoing a high-risk treatment program for hepatitis C.

The report addressed three allegations against the Grand Junction VAMC, but only substantiated one.

“We substantiated the allegation that follow-up care was inadequate and led to further hospitalization. The hepatitis C care provider (Dr. Stephen Meyer) often did not provide the care or assess the patient thoroughly when seen,” the report stated. “The circumstances of discontinuity of care and the lack of a thorough analysis of the patient’s condition may have contributed to his progressive decline and slower recovery.”

The other allegations — that Meyer was unqualified to treat hepatitis C and that Holmes should have been admitted to the hospital earlier because of lab results — were not supported by evidence, the report said.

VA LAWYER RUNS ‘WORST’ VETERANS CHARITY, SPEEDS OFF IN ROLLS ROYCE WHEN CONFRONTED — WASHINGTON TIMES — The nation’s lowest-rated veterans charity is run by a lawyer at the Department of Veterans Affairs with a six-figure income.

The National Vietnam Veterans Foundation gave just $122,000 in cash donations to veterans in 2014 despite pulling in $8.5 million, tax records obtained by CNN show.

J. Thomas Burch, the CEO and founder of the National Vietnam Veterans Foundation, sped off in a Rolls Royce when confronted by the network on Monday.

“Mr. Burch! Mr Burch! Mr Burch!” a reporter implored as the vehicle took off down a suburban street in Washington, D.C. The network wanted to know how just 2 percent of all donations to NVVF were funneled to actual Vietnam veterans.

Charity Navigator, one of the most influential charity watchdog organizations in the U.S., gave Mr. Burch’s organization a zero-star rating on a four-star scale.

“You can’t go lower than that,” says Michael Thatcher, Charity Navigator’s CEO. “They don’t have an independent board of directors, they actually don’t even have a comprehensive board of directors — only three members on the board at this point in time and some of them are family. So one can say, is this representative of an independent board? It’s not.”

THE U.S. NEEDS TO REVISIT OUR PTSD TREATMENT GUIDELINES — MILITARY TIMES — Post-traumatic stress disorder is arguably the most challenging problem combat veterans face. Estimates vary, but experts believe that between 10 and 20 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans suffer from the disorder. This puts the actual number of men and women affected in the hundreds of thousands.

Considering that PTSD wreaks havoc on the veteran and their loved ones, and costs billions of dollars each year, finding and using the most effective treatments are critical.

Historically, medications and talk therapy have been considered “first-line treatments.” This basically means they should be used first, and if they fail, then you try something else. In fact, the joint treatment guidelines published by the Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs Department puts medications and psychotherapy on equaling footing. The same is true for the American Psychiatric Association.

Not all agree.

Organizations from the United Kingdom and Australia and the World Health Organization take the position that trauma-focused psychotherapies such as prolonged exposure, cognitive processing therapy, and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing are most effective when it comes to PTSD treatment. Basically, their stance is that the evidence for meds is just not as strong. A recent study carried out by military and VA researchers, and published in the journal Depression and Anxiety, supports this position.

PTSD SYMPTOMS IMPROVE IN VETERANS AFTER DOG ADOPTION — HEALIO — ATLANTA — Veterans with PTSD who adopted a dog from a local Humane Society reported becoming more physically and socially active, with improvement in overall happiness, according to research presented at the American Psychiatric Association Annual Meeting.

Stephen L. Stern, MD, adjunct professor in the department of psychiatry at the University of Texas Health Science Center, San Antonio, and fellow researchers conducted a pilot study of veterans (42% women) who met DSM-5 criteria for current PTSD and were receiving active treatment for the disorder.

“PTSD … is frequently associated with depression and social isolation,” Stern said during a press conference at the meeting. “We got the idea for the study from the many veterans in our clinics who told us how much their dogs had helped them.”

Veterans studied “were free from current substance abuse/dependence, mania, psychosis, or significant suicidal or homicidal ideation and had not lived with a dog or other companion animal for the past 12 months,” the researchers wrote.

BOOZMAN BILL AIMS TO GET VETS REFUNDS — ARKANSAS ONLINE — WASHINGTON — For two decades, the U.S. Defense Department withheld funds that belonged to wounded warriors, taking money for the Internal Revenue Service even though the lump-sum severance packages were supposed to be tax-free.

U.S. Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., and U.S. Sen. John Warner, D-Va., say the veterans are entitled to get their money back, so they’re sponsoring legislation to address the problem.

The Combat Injured Veterans Tax Fairness Act of 2016 would require the defense secretary to determine how many injured servicemen were shortchanged and send notices instructing them on filing for refunds. It also would extend the deadline for requesting the money.

NORMAN VA CENTER ACCUSED OF LYING ABOUT NEGLECT ALLEGATIONS — TULSA WORLD — NORMAN — Administrators at the Norman Veterans Center failed to properly investigate a resident’s allegations of neglect and then provided false information to a state Health Department investigator, according to an investigative report recently obtained by The Oklahoman.

Mike Simmons, the 68-year-old Vietnam-era veteran who filed the grievances, is asking Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to conduct a grand jury investigation. Simmons also has filed complaints with Cleveland County District Attorney Greg Mashburn and state lawmakers who chair the House and Senate Veterans and Military Affairs Committees.

“Norman Veterans Center administration and nursing heads have falsified nursing entries and conducted a fake investigation into staff wrongdoing,” Simmons said. “I have irrefutable proof that this was done by them, thanks to my in-room surveillance system, which recorded what actually happened.”

TROUBLE WITH THE LAW LEADS TO VETERANS’ EXILE — WASHINGTON TIMES — AUSTIN, Texas (AP) – Just before dusk, Carlos Torres gets ready for work on the night shift.

The memories of his former life hang all around his concrete box of a home in the Aquiles Serdan section of Reynosa, one of the poorest neighborhoods in one of the hemisphere’s most dangerous cities. A black POW/MIA flag hangs over the bed in a cramped bedroom; yellowed photos of Fort Bragg, N.C., sit on a dresser; an Army jacket rests on a makeshift clothes rack.

These days, Torres, 61, puts on a different kind of uniform: He tucks a blue button-down shirt, emblazoned with “Seguridad,” into crisp black jeans, adjusts his black baseball cap and makes sure his ID card is clipped on tight. Every afternoon he gets in his used Ford sedan, the suspension shot to hell, and navigates the rutted streets of this border city, which has been locked in a cycle of drug cartel violence for half a dozen years.

DESPITE $10B ‘FIX,’ VETERANS ARE WAITING EVEN LONGER TO SEE DOCTORS — NPR — Many veterans are still waiting to see a doctor.

Two years ago, vets were waiting a long time for care at Veterans Affairs clinics across the country. At one facility in Phoenix, for example, veterans waited an average of 115 days for an appointment. Adding insult to injury, some VA schedulers were told to falsify data to make it look like the waits weren’t that bad.

The whole scandal ended up forcing the resignation of Eric Shinseki, secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs at the time.

Congress and the VA came up with a fix: Veterans Choice, a $10 billion program that was supposed to give veterans a card that would let them see a non-VA doctor if they were more than 40 miles away from a VA facility or they were going to have to wait longer than 30 days for a VA provider to see them.

There was a problem, though. Congress gave the VA only 90 days to set up the system. Facing that extremely tight time frame, the VA turned to two private companies to administer the program and help veterans get an appointment with a doctor and then work with the VA to pay that doctor.

Although the idea sounds simple enough, the fix hasn’t worked out as planned. Wait times have gotten worse — not better. Compared to this time last year, there are 70,000 more appointments where it took vets at least a month to be seen.

The VA claims there has been a massive increase in demand for care, but it’s apparent the problem has more to do with the way Veterans Choice was set up. The program is confusing and complicated. Vets don’t understand it, doctors don’t understand it, and even VA administrators admit they can’t always figure it out.

THIS NAVY VET IS TEACHING OTHERS TO LEAD IN THEIR LOCAL COMMUNITIES — T&P — Tyler Wright is at the forefront of seeking out fellow vets and empowering them to continue their service through community-oriented projects.

Military service members develop a sense of pride and honor during their time in uniform, largely inspired by the tremendous responsibility they assume the moment they take an oath to defend our nation. Whether after a few years or a few decades of service, inevitably, there comes a time for all of us to pack away our uniforms for the last time, and assume the title of “veteran.”

The transition from service member to veteran can leave many floundering for the sense of purpose they experienced in the military. Fortunately, opportunities to engage in meaningful continued service exist in communities across the country. The unique skills, critical thinking, and work ethic developed during military service make veterans highly sought after civic assets. Service in the community helps restore their sense of purpose by enabling veterans to impact the most pressing needs in their community, while adding new skills to their arsenal and expanding their personal and professional networks.

THE SENATE GREW A SPECIAL VISA PROGRAM WITH MONEY TAKEN OUT OF VETERANS’ POCKETS — DAILY CALLER — The Senate used money from benefit cuts to military veterans in the 2016 budget to pay for the resettlement of an additional 3,000 Afghan interpreters in the United States. A dispute over a similar pay-for plan is behind the Judiciary Committee’s refusal to expand the program again in the 2017 budget.

The Special Immigrant Visa program allows Afghan interpreters who aide the U.S. government to get out of harm’s way by resettling in the United States, and last year the Senate authorized a major expansion of the program. The $336 million price tag of the expansion fell on U.S. military veterans in the form of increased pharmacy co-pays, The Daily Caller News Foundation has learned.

“That’s bullshit,” former Army combat veteran Alex Plitsas told TheDCNF. “Military families shouldn’t be paying for the SIV program through a pseudo tax. The program should be funded outright because of the service our interpreters rendered. This is infuriating.”

JUDGE SENTENCES FORMER PHOENIX VA DIRECTOR SHARON HELMAN TO PROBATION — AZ CENTRAL — Ex-Phoenix VA Director Sharon Helman cries in court after sending the judge a letter saying she didn’t realize failing to disclose gifts was unethical. She drew two years of probation.

Sharon Helman, former director of the Phoenix VA Health Care System, wept in court Monday before a federal judge sentenced her to serve two years of probation for failing to disclose thousands of dollars worth of gifts she received from a lobbyist friend.

Helman, who avoided a prison sentence while pleading guilty to making false statements, apologized during her tearful statement but insisted she was a dedicated public servant who cares for veterans.

“Serving veterans was truly my life’s passion, and I am proud of my work,” Helman said. “I should have disclosed the gifts I received from a personal friend, but I did not. That was a betrayal. …”

However, U.S. District Judge Steven Logan rebuked Helman during the proceedings, noting that she had written him a letter indicating she did not realize her failure to report about $50,000 in gifts was an ethics violation. Logan said the letter “almost caused this plea agreement to go away” because it appeared Helman was not accepting responsibility for her crime.

THE MOVING WALL AT KNOX MUSEUM — PILOT — THOMASTON — Knox Museum in Thomaston will host the Vietnam Combat Veterans’ The Moving Wall for five days over Memorial Day weekend. The memorial wall, which is a half-scale replica of Maya Lin’s original design located on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., will be exhibited on the grounds of Montpelier from May 26 to May 31. Visiting hours will be 24 hours per day beginning on Thursday, May 26, at 1 p.m. and continuing through 8 a.m. on Tuesday, May 31, except during special ceremonies, noted below.

Admission is free, and all are encouraged to attend. Thirteen thousand people are expected to visit the memorial over the five-day period.

The Moving Wall – the first of its kind in 1984 – has been touring the country for over 30 years, offering thousands who would never have the chance to get to Washington, D.C., the opportunity to witness this important American monument. This is its first appearance in Midcoast Maine.

“When your organization is named after one of America’s first soldiers and veterans, Henry Knox, you know the military are some of your main people, and you want to do whatever you can to honor them,” says Knox Museum Executive Director Tobin Malone, in a news release, who has been lobbying for three years to bring the wall to Thomaston.

HONORING VETERANS WITH A WARM HANDMADE QUILT — FOSTERS — ROLLINSFORD — For the fourth year, members of the American Legion Riders Post #47 presented handmade quilts to honor local veterans on Sunday. Quilts of Valor is a nationwide program, and across the country 136,991 quilts have been distributed to veterans of all service branches, representing all conflicts in which American served. There were WWII, Vietnam, Korea, Cuban Missile Crisis, Iraq, and Afghanistan veterans receiving quilts on Sunday, coming from New Hampshire, Maine and Massachusetts. The veterans came with their families and enjoyed lunch provided by volunteers. There were raffles available, the money raised going to next year’s quilting project. Bill Robinson, director of the American Legion Riders Post 47, served as Master of Ceremonies for the event. With a voice recovering from laryngitis, he announced each veteran one by one, following a summary of their military time with “Thank you for your service.”

ARMY VET’S MISSION: PADDLEBOARDING 3,500 MILES FROM TEXAS TO NEW YORK — AJC — When Josh Collins is on dry land, he feels like he’s at sea. Walls move, as if they are rolling in the waves. Floors tilt, as if they are the deck of boat.

During seven deployments to Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq, Collins, a former U.S. Army Delta Force captain, sustained injuries to his brain, spine, inner ear and eyes that cause chronic balance and vision problems.

When Collins was undergoing therapy two years ago, his wife bought him a paddleboard. The first time he tried it, he got his equilibrium back. He discovered that when he is on the water, he feels like he’s on dry land.

“My world is always shifting, like I’m a sailor,” he said. “But when I’m on the board, everything holds still. The horizon is stable. I’m in rhythm with the motion of floating and paddling. It’s my sanctuary.”

VETS GROUP CRITICIZES SENATE PANEL VOTE TO CURB GI BILL HOUSING AID — MILCOM — A veterans group is criticizing a key Senate veterans committee for voting to curb the GI Bill housing allowance.

The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America on Thursday issued a statement blasting the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee after members approved omnibus legislation that would reduce by 5 percent the Post-9/11 GI Bill housing allowance to pay for other veterans programs.

“As Congress quietly passed another bill cutting veterans education benefits, veterans are stuck having to beg for the benefits we earned,” IAVA Chief of Staff Allison Jaslow said in a statement. “We fought hard eight years ago to get the Post-9/11 GI Bill passed and we will not quit fighting until Congress protects the benefits being earned on the battlefield as we speak.”

The Senate committee, headed by Sen. Johnny Isakson, a Republican from Georgia, during a hastily convened session on Thursday afternoon unanimously voted in favor of the legislation, known as the Veterans First Act.

The circumstances surrounding the vote also drew criticism from IAVA officials.

NAVY VET FOUND GUILTY IN FIGHT OVER NEIGHBOR’S AMERICAN FLAG — FOX NEWS — A judge on Monday found a retired Navy veteran guilty of charges including intentional damage to a monument after he admitted he stole a neighbor’s flag because he was upset with its appearance at night. John Parmele Jr. had complained that his Virginia Beach, Va. neighbor, Michael Anderson, was leaving the flag attached to a mailbox after sunset without installing a light. “Traditional guidelines call for displaying the flag in public only from sunrise to sunset. However, the flag may be displayed at all times if it’s illuminated during darkness,” Parmele said.

Anderson said Parmele wrongly took matters into his own hands, personally stealing flags off the mailbox. He showed photo and video evidence in court. Four other neighbors appeared in court to support Anderson, The Virginian-Pilot reported. “Even if what you say is correct, it does not give you the right to trespass,” District Court Judge Teresa Hammons told Parmele. The judge also found him guilty of petty larceny and trespassing. She fined Parmele $300 and ordered him to repay his neighbor nearly $100 for the stolen flags and stay off his property.


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