American Veteran News 06.04.16

NEW DATA: THE NUMBER OF VETERANS WAITING MORE THAN A MONTH FOR CARE JUST PASSED 500,000 — DAILY CALLER — The number of veterans waiting more than a month for care just passed the 500,000 mark, according to new data on patient wait times released by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Patient data, current up through May 15, shows that the number of veterans waiting more than 30 days jumped by 10,000 in just two weeks, to exactly 505,880.

And over the course of a month, the number of veterans waiting more than 30 days surged by 23,000.

The VA also provided data on vets who have had to wait for 1-2 months, and the numbers aren’t stellar. There are 297,013 vets who have waited that time period, a figure which increased by 5,000. For vets in the 3-4 month category, the number jumped by 2,000 to 46,672.

Although the new wait time data is not encouraging, VA Secretary Robert McDonald recently downplayed the importance of that metric, instead preferring to cite other apparently superior figures like overall veteran satisfaction with the experience. To justify his prioritization of the “satisfaction” metric, McDonald said that Disneyland does the exact same thing and doesn’t place a whole lot of importance on wait times for rides as such, but rather how much its patrons enjoy their experience at the amusement park as a whole. Citing Disneyland plays to McDonald’s philosophy of bringing corporate management techniques to the VA from his private sector experience as CEO of Procter & Gamble.

WE WERE GUINEA PIGS: DOCUMENTARY PUTS ATOMIC VETERANS IN LIMELIGHT — MILITARY TIMES — n 1958, Frank Farmer was a young sailor on the USS Hooper Island, one of many deckhands who took part in an operation so secret, they couldn’t talk about it for almost 40 years.

Afloat in the Pacific, the ship participated in Operation Hardtack I, a series of 35 nuclear tests conducted in the throes of the Cold War arms race with the Soviet Union. Farmer personally witnessed 18 of the explosions.

“You feel the heat blast from it, and it’s so bright, you actually can see your bones in your hands,” Farmer said in a new documentary highlighting the service of thousands U.S. troops who participated in nuclear weapons testing from 1946 to 1968.

The “Atomic Vets” installment of Retro Report, released on Memorial Day weekend, is a collaboration of Reveal News, from the Center for Investigative Reporting and The New York Times.

Reveal reporter Jennifer LaFleur said the journalists decided to tackle the year-long project to spotlight a forgotten group of veterans and call attention to their ongoing fight for recognition as well as disability compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

‘BURN PITS’ POSE POSSIBLE HEALTH RISK FOR TROOPS — WVNC — So-called “burn pits” were common at U.S. military outposts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Legislation in the Senate would create a center to study the effects of breathing their smoke.

U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan burned all kinds of waste — tons of it every day at some bases. Plastic and foam dinnerware from chow halls. Batteries. Paint. Tires. You name it.

For service members working and living nearby, it was hard to avoid burning the smoke.

“The smell was constant. You could smell it everywhere you went,” said Cindy Aman, who was a military police officer on several bases in the Middle East.

Aman, 38, now lives in Delaware. After leaving the service, she joined a civilian police force and ran five or six miles a day to stay fit. But she started having trouble breathing.

ELDER CARE: A LOOK AT VA LONG TERM CARE — THE SENTINEL — In reflecting upon this past week’s Memorial Day holiday, I would like to thank all veterans for their service. In honor of the occasion, this article will focus on addressing myths related to long-term care options for veterans.

Myth No. 1 – I do not qualify for long-term care from a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs facility because I was a Reservist or a member of the National Guard.

Fact: Members of the National Guard and Reserves may be eligible for long-term care from the VA if they were called to active duty on a Federal Executive Order and the veteran completed the full call-up period. If you or a loved one served in the National Guard or Reserves, you may qualify for important veterans’ benefits to assist with your long term care needs.

TV NEWS INVESTIGATION PROMPTS ACTION ON CAMP LEJEUNE POISON WATER VA CLAIM — WNCT — TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Bob Miranda-Boulay says he suffers from 16 medical conditions brought about by toxic water he drank at Camp Lejeune while training as a recruit in the Marine reserves 21 years ago.

Now, after three years of waiting and medical claim denials by the VA Boulay has a glimmer of hope, thanks to an 8 on Your Side investigation that caught the attention of VA claims managers in Louisville, Kentucky. They arranged for a Skype hearing at the VA Service Center at Bay Pines Friday. “If it wasn’t for you doing the story I wouldn’t be here today,” said Boulay after the hearing.

Boulay’s attorneys say out of the blue they received a call from a VA hearing officer about a week after we reported on Boulay’s inability to get assistance from the VA. The story had been re-broadcast by other Media General TV stations and was linked on a number of websites catering to veterans.

The VA officer told one of Boulay’s attorneys he’d watched the interview. “He mentioned it to me and I kind of jokingly said ‘the other 300 clients of mine if I put them on TV I guess I’ll get a hearing for them, too,” said Richard Hurley Jr, one of two attorneys handling Boulay’s VA claims case.

HOW PTSD COST MANY VETS THEIR MILITARY BENEFITS — T&P — This week on Task & Purpose Radio, the crew is joined by Kristofer Goldsmith, Army vet and assistant director of policy and government relations for Vietnam Veterans of America, to discuss how service members are getting pushed out of the military with less than honorable discharges due to PTSD or traumatic brain injury. Goldsmith was kicked out of the Army in August 2007 with a general discharge, which he is still fighting.

The show also discusses new policy signed on June 1 by Navy Secretary Ray Mabus addressing administrative discharges for service members with mental health issues. Under this policy, the Navy becomes the first of the services to put precedence on diagnosed mental health conditions over misconduct issues when determining the characterization of a Marine or sailor’s discharge.

For more information on less than honorable discharges, check out these Task & Purpose articles:

CEREMONIAL BUGLES: THE LATEST INSULT TO VETERANS — COUNTER PUNCH — Another Memorial Day has come and gone in Ithaca’s ramshackle nineteenth-century civic graveyard that sprawls over some twenty hillside acres between the flats of downtown and the campus of Cornell University on the bluffs above. Once a grand landscape park that housed the dead beneath neo-classical crypts and mighty obelisks, the cemetery is now a neglected oasis for mischief-makers and dog-walkers: many monuments have toppled over; the facades of the city fathers’ imposing vaults are ruined.

Until the Memorial Day weekend the American flag that flew from a cheap aluminum pole above the Civil War memorial had been upside down for months, inverted by some pranksters, probably those who smoke the devil weed amongst the dead. The venerable and much larger wooden mast crowned by a cooper ball with magnificent green patina was wrecked by a windstorm a couple of years ago and, fittingly, still lays where it fell along the flank of the monument. The newer aluminum pole also had a darkness-activated LED light at the top so that, out of respect for its colors, the stars-and-strips would be duly illuminated at night. But the same pranksters made off with that saucer of illumination when they hung Old Glory by her heels.

HOW VA RATES DISABILITIES — LEAF-CHRONICLE — When a veteran files a claim for service-connected disabilities or requests increases in already rated disabilities, the VA regional office will in most cases request Compensation and Pension examinations (C&Ps).

It is important to remember these exams are not intended to provide medical treatment and are normally not diagnostic in nature. A C&P exam is ordered to verify your claimed condition, while the results of the exam will determine the percentage of disability awarded if service-connection granted.

Many veterans get C&P exams mixed up with their routine VA medical care and sometimes complain that the C&P examiner didn’t do any tests or wouldn’t discuss medical concerns. That’s because the C&P examiner is not a medical provider. He or she is given an order by the VA regional office to perform a standard exam for the specific claimed condition in order to rate it. They are not allowed to discuss other health concerns or questions, because that’s the role of the veteran’s private or VA primary care physician or specialist.

VOUCHERS TO AID 19 INDIANA HOMELESS VETS — JOURNAL GAZETTE — Nearly $92,000 in federal funds has been awarded to provide housing for 19 homeless military veterans in northern Indiana, officials announced Thursday.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Veterans Affairs said they will spend $38 million nationwide on rental assistance for 5,200 homeless veterans in the latest round of a program begun in 2008.

The agencies said the Indiana Housing & Community Development Authority will receive nearly $63,000 to help 13 homeless veterans through VA’s Fort Wayne campus and about $29,000 to aid six veterans through VA’s outpatient clinic in South Bend.

Eligibility information is available by calling 800-360-8387, ext. 72434, or by attending a Homeless Walk-in Clinic.

The hours for the clinics are from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at VA Annex, 2500 E. State Blvd., Fort Wayne; VA Medical Center, 1700 E. 38th St., Marion; and VA Annex, 340 Columbia St., South Bend.

Eligible veterans will receive HUD housing vouchers for subsidized rent.

The amount of assistance is based on income and other factors.

Teresa Calhoun, spokeswoman for VA Northern Indiana Health Care System, said in an email that the latest round of funding will bring to 423 the number of housing vouchers awarded for homeless veterans in northern Indiana.

The assistance comes from the HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing Program, which offers rental assistance by HUD and case management and clinical services by VA.

VFW FIRES BACK AT OBAMA: POLITICS NOT ‘CONFUSED’ — FOX NEWS — The nation’s largest veterans group hit back at President Obama on Thursday and urged him not to “denigrate” their intelligence after the president suggested their members were easily swayed by cable news and “right-wing radio.”

The Veterans of Foreign Wars called out the president after Obama referenced the political opinions at “VFW halls” in an Indiana speech Wednesday that toggled between campaign politics and the economy.

“I don’t know how many VFW Posts the president has ever visited, but our near 1.7 million members are a direct reflection of America,” VFW National Commander John A. Biedrzycki Jr. said in a statement. “We don’t have confused politics, we don’t need left or rightwing media filters telling us how to think or vote, and we don’t need any President of the United States lecturing us about how we are individually [affected] by the economy.”

PBS LOOKS AT THE TRANSITION TO CIVILIAN LIFE IN ‘VETERANS COMING HOME’ — MILCOM — As part of the network’s Stories of Service initiative, PBS has just launched Veterans Coming Home, a 10-part digital-first series that aims to help veterans and communities understand the opportunities and challenges faced during the transition to civilian life. PBS also wants to bridge the military-civilian divide and help Americans understand the sacrifices made by the men and women who serve.

Episode 1, “For the Benefit of the Team,” is now live. The video profiles Elizabeth Hash, a Kansas City Army National Guard recruiter. She says being in the military fulfills her in a way she hasn’t found anywhere else. That realization came after a peacekeeping deployment in Kosovo. “When I came home I was missing that and trying to find where I belonged.” Hash feels she found it in roller derby.

The series explores themes common to veterans reintegrating to civilian life, including how veterans continue to seek the close bonds of a military unit after their transition. Veterans Coming Home also examines the how veterans share and express their stories through art and comedy, and looks at the notion of public and community service in civilian life.

COULD ATTORNEY GENERAL DECISION HELP FIRED VA SENIOR EXECUTIVE GET HER JOB BACK? — GOVERNMENT EXECUTIVE — The Justice Department this week declined to defend a key part of a 2014 law that aimed to make it easier to fire senior executives at the Veterans Affairs Department, opening the door to future challenges from affected employees and delivering another blow to a statute some consider unconstitutional.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch said the department would not challenge a main legal argument put forth by lawyers for Sharon Helman, the former senior executive who ran VA’s Phoenix health care system when the scandal over falsifying wait lists erupted in 2014, and whose case is now before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

OREGON VETERAN’S PERSISTENCE PAYS OFF FOR ALL VETS — MAIL TRIBUNE — Dan Davis’ goal for the last couple of years has been relatively straight-forward: Make it simpler for veterans contemplating suicide to talk to someone and get help right then. Now, after many twists and turns on a path that proved to be anything but straight, he has succeeded.

Under the current Veterans Affairs system, veterans in crisis can call 1-800-273-8255, then press 1 to talk to someone. The complication comes if they call their local VA, at which point they’ll be referred to that same 1-800 number. Davis said that felt like too much to remember, too many steps for someone in severe emotional distress.

“A veteran in crisis is not going to hang up and remember that,” Davis said.

THE WRITER’S GUILD AND ASPIRING VETERAN WRITERS — MILCOM — A veteran recounts his experience with the WGF’s Veterans Writing Project.

The Writers Guild Foundation (WGF), which is celebrating its 50th Anniversary, has sponsored the Veterans Writing Project for the past seven years. The free program for veterans starts with a weekend of learning and networking, and is followed by an optional 12 months of meetings and more. The benefits will potentially last for a lifetime.

THE INCREDIBLE BOND BETWEEN A GROUP OF COMBAT VETS AND WILD WOLVES — T&P — An upcoming documentary reveals how rescued wolves are helping veterans overcome PTSD.

The bond between a group of combat veterans and wild wolves, both suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, is the focus of an upcoming documentary called “The War In Between.”

The film is set at the Lockwood Animal Rescue Center, or LARC, where wolves rescued from roadside attractions, breeders, and other exploitative situations, are paired with veterans suffering from mental trauma sustained in combat. The back-to-nature therapy retreat is located on 20 acres in the Los Padres National forest in Ventura County, California, and is home to about 40 rescued wolves.


Melinda Roberts is what some might call a do-it-yourself historian.

For the past four years, she’s made it her mission to travel Wisconsin to locate and photograph every known historical landmark, including veterans memorials, USA Today Network-Wisconsin ( ) reported.

Along the way, she’s visited thousands of state historical markers, museums, lighthouses and memorials, snapping more than 50,000 photographs and documenting much of it on her own website, Wisconsin Historical Markers. The site claims to be the “most comprehensive survey of its kind anywhere online.”

Since starting the project, Roberts estimates that she’s traveled about 75,000 miles. She’s canvassed 71 of the state’s 72 counties, visiting more than half of them at least twice.

It’s a full-time job, and she’s still not finished. This Memorial Day, she’s hopeful that her efforts will continue to bring awareness to the state’s veterans — and to get the word out so others can help join her quest.

Read more here:

BLINDED VETERANS TAKE ON RANGER TRAINING — FFN — (NAPSI)—For two years, some of the toughest training in the military has been enjoyed by 72051some pretty tough American veterans, in this case members of the Blinded Veterans Association (BVA).

With unusually high levels of strength, stamina and endurance, they spend a long weekend of rigorous U.S. Army Ranger training at Camp Frank D. Merrill Military Base in Georgia.

With travel sponsored by BVA’s Operation Peer Support Committee and the idea brought to fruition by the Association’s National Sergeant at Arms Danny Wallace, the trip to Camp Merrill and the subsequent training to be an Army Ranger is for the blinded veterans much like it is for actual Ranger recruits.

VA CREATES PARTNERSHIP WITH LEANIN.ORG TO HELP WOMEN VETERANS — MILCOM — The VA is creating a public/private partnership with to empower woman veterans to achieve their ambitions.

With 10% of the veteran population being women, and 20% of today’s military comprised of women, the women veteran’s community is the fastest growing subset of American veterans. This new partnership aims to assist women in navigating the military to civilian transition through an initiative comprised of two pilot groups. The initiative, known as the LeanIn.Org Women Veterans Chapter is comprised of two pilot programs:

PENNSYLVANIA VA CAUGHT MANIPULATING DATA ON PATIENT CARE — DAILY CALLER — The Veteran Affairs Office of Inspector General (VAOIG) is currently investigating the Altoona Pennsylvania VA Medical Center (VAMC) for manipulating data in treating patients with traumatic brain injuries (TBI).

“We have opened a case based on a review of the information you sent to our office,” according to a May 10 email sent to James DeNofrio, an Altoona VAMC employee and whistleblower who originally filed the complaint.

Because veterans who suffer TBIs can develop all sorts of physical and psychological issues ranging from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) to chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) they require specialized care which is provided in polytrauma at the Altoona VAMC.

The problems started in 2013 when Dr. David MacPherson, then the Chief Medical Officer for Veteran Integrated Services Network (VISN) 4, a region which includes the Altoona VAMC, expressed concerns that the number of TBI patients purported to be treated at the Altoona VAMC appeared to be unusually high.

“Altoona reports a very large number of case managed polytrauma Veterans and I don’t think the report is accurate,” Dr. MacPherson said in a 2013 email to Dr. Santha Kurian, the chief of staff of the Altoona VAMC.

CONFUSING GUIDELINES DENIED THOUSANDS OF VETS COMPENSATION FOR TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURIES — TOWNHALL — If you thought the stream of headlines from the Veterans Affairs scandal had run dry, you haven’t seen this new report from the Military Times revealing that thousands of vets may have been denied compensation for their traumatic brain injuries thanks to confusing paperwork.

VA officials said the department had issued a “number of guidance documents that may have created confusion regarding the policy” requiring the exams be done by certain doctors, resulting in a large number of former service members either being denied compensation or receiving a lower disability rating.

That means that, between 2007 and 2015, an upwards of 24,000 of our servicemen and women were denied needed aid to recover from brain trauma.

In a better-late-than-never effort to correct its mistake, the VA is now allowing vets to retake military exams to see if they did indeed suffer a TBI. If so, they will be properly compensated.

‘AMERICAN SNIPER’, CHRIS KYLE DIDN’T EXAGGERATE MEDAL COUNT — WASHINGTON EXAMINER — American Sniper co-author Scott McEwen is pushing back against accusations that Navy SEAL Chris Kyle exaggerated his medal count, and said people on the left want to tear down his friend’s character because they don’t “like to see heroes coming from the military.”

McEwen disputed the accuracy of a report by The Intercept that featured interviews with unnamed sources who said discrepancies in Kyle’s military records indicate he deliberately misled the public. McEwan speculated in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter published on Friday that the allegations gained traction because they were “clickbait” ready, but he said “something else is going on.”

“I think there’s a group of people in this society that really doesn’t like to see heroes coming from the military. I think that’s in a large degree from the Left — I think the Left doesn’t like heroes from the military like Chris [Kyle] who are larger than life. There just seems to be a desire to tear that type of character down,” said McEwen.


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