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In This Issue: May 24, 2012 Latest News

Special Notice: If you are a veteran in emotional crisis and need help RIGHT NOW, call this toll-free number 1-800-273-8255, available 24/7, and tell them you are a veteran. All calls are confidential.

VA Caregiver Hotline

Rolling Thunder

VVA Congratulates Rolling Thunder for its
25 years of advocacy

May is National Mental Health Awareness Month

Study on Rural Veterans Identifies Perceived Barriers to Seeking Mental Health Treatment

National Guard and Reserve (RC) troops (N=617), primarily from the Appalachian Region in Southwestern Pennsylvania who recently returned from deployment in support of current military conflicts, responded to a survey that assessed their demographics, mental health symptoms, help-seeking behaviors, barriers for not seeking treatment, deployment history, and stressors. Veterans were classified as rural (N = 334) or non-rural (N = 283). Rural participants reported a significantly greater number of issues with transportation/access in seeking mental health treatment; were more likely to perceive others as worse off as a reason not to seek treatment; had a more negative attitude toward seeking treatment for mental health problems; and reported fewer concerns about a mental health problem affecting their career. Recommendations for mental health care providers and policymakers are offered based on the results, including the importance of recognizing the distinctive barriers to care that RC Appalachian veterans face when they come back into civilian communities, many of them rural. Read the article in Journal of Rural Social Sciences, 26(3), 2011, pp. 113–136.

DoD Faces Epidemic of Mental Illness

Mental Illness is Leading Cause of Hospitalization Among Active-Duty Troops

According to a May 17 article in Nextgov Newsletter by columnist Bob Brewin, the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments have spent almost $2 billion since 2001 to buy drugs to treat mental illness and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, despite growing evidence some of those drugs exacerbate PTSD symptoms, a Nextgov investigation shows. In addition, military research released this week highlighted that DoD faces what one Army clinician called an epidemic of mental illness.

[Read the complete article]

VA Seeks Public Comment

VA Seeks Public Comment on Women Veterans Task Force Draft Plan

The Department of Veterans Affairs is releasing for public comment a draft of its strategic report to address key issues facing women veterans. The plan outlines steps for improvements to care and services for women veterans that are sustainable, accountable, and a part of the department’s culture and operations. The report comes at an important juncture in VA’s history that demands a review of the quality, quantity, and types of services and programs it provides to women veterans. The number of women veterans using VA has increased 83 percent in the past decade, from about 160,000 to over 292,000 between fiscal years 2000 and 2009, compared with a 50 percent increase in men.  Women are now the fastest growing cohort within the veteran community. In 2011, about 1.8 million or 8 percent of the 22.2 million veterans were women. The male veteran population is projected to decrease from 20.2 million men in 2010 to 16.7 million by 2020. In contrast, the number of women veterans will increase from 1.8 million in 2011 to 2 million in 2020, at which time women will make up 10.7 percent of the total veteran population.   

The public notice and instructions for how to submit comments is posted at www.regulations.gov The draft written report will be open for comment for 30 days, and responders will have a number of options to provide both electronic and written feedback.  Readers will also be able to participate in a public discussion board on the Internet at: http://vawomenvetstratplan.uservoice.com/forums/159415-general.

To view the report without making recommendations, please visit VA’s website at:  http://www.va.gov/opa/publications/Draft_2012_Women-Veterans_StrategicPlan.pdf.

TBI Screen

Room for Improvement Needed in VA's TBI Screen

In 2007, VA created a clinical reminder to screen OEF/OIF veterans for TBI. Investigators at the Tampa VAMC recently reported new data on a national sample of almost 50,000 vet­erans that raise questions about the screen’s psychometric properties but also suggest a way to improve the screen’s per­formance. The screen consists of questions about 4 domains:  (1) exposure to an event that could cause a head injury; (2) immediate neurocognitive reactions to the exposure; (3) prob­lems beginning or worsening after the exposure; and (4) symp­toms occurring in the past week.  All 4 items are required for a veteran to screen positive for TBI. The investigators compared screening results with the results of the VA’s Comprehensive TBI Evaluation that is performed by a clinician with expertise in TBI.  Eighty-seven percent of the veterans screened positive for TBI, whereas clinicians made a diagnosis in only 53%. The screen had excellent sensitivity (.87), which is desirable for a screen. However, specificity was .15, indicating that it tends to identify a large number of false positives. Positive and negative predictive values—the meaning of positive and negative tests—were more balanced, but only .58 and .47, respectively. In analy­ses that corrected apparent errors in clinicians’ scoring of the TBI evaluation, positive predictive value increased to .77 and negative predictive value decreased to .31. Using only the first 2 screening questions enhanced the screen’s performance slightly, which the authors suggest may be a useful improvement. They also sug­gest computerized aids for clinicians could enhance the scoring of the Comprehensive Evaluation.  

Prostate Screening

Men’s Health Network and Veterans Health Council Oppose Final USPSTF Recommendation Against Prostate Cancer Screening

Men’s Health Network (MHN) and the Veterans Health Council are strongly opposing the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) final recommendation against the use of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) testing in the early detection of prostate cancer. The PSA test, used with a DRE (digital rectal exam), is the only method currently available for the early detection of prostate cancer. The final recommendation, relying on an inadequate and deeply flawed decision-making process, downgrades PSA testing to “D,” recommending against the use of PSA testing in healthy men that “do not have symptoms that are highly suspicious for prostate cancer.” This is in the face of strong evidence that use of the PSA test saves lives.

Early detection saves lives,” said MHN VP Scott Williams, “and this recommendation essentially eliminates access for patients and their healthcare providers to the only test available for early detection of prostate cancer.”  “If allowed to stand, USPSTF clearly abrogates its responsibility for the health and well-being of America’s Vietnam veterans,” stated Thomas Berger, PhD, Executive Director, Veterans Health Council. 

[Read the complete Veteran’s Health Council statement]

Memorial Day at The Wall

DOD to Host Vietnam War Commemoration Ceremony at Vietnam Veterans Memorial

May 28, 2012
01:00 PM - 03:30 PM

Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta will host a ceremony on Monday, May 28, 2012, at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., to thank and honor America's Vietnam Veterans on behalf of a grateful nation.  This ceremony will serve as a public kickoff of efforts to partner with communities across the United States.  Invited guests include thousands of Vietnam Veterans, their loved ones, Gold Star families and leadership from the military services, Cabinet and Congress.  There will be a limited viewing area open to the general public.

The Memorial Day ceremony marks the beginning of the national commemoration of the Vietnam War's 50th anniversary program and is a joint effort between the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, the National Park Service and the Department of Defense.  The event will include remarks, a moment of silence, music and ceremonial elementsthat will begin at 1 p.m. EDT.  The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, Secretary of Defense and Senator Chuck Hagel, a Vietnam Veteran, and other dignitaries are scheduled to speak.

Due to space limitations, the event is open to a limited number of registered correspondents with pooled TV and still photographers.  Correspondents wanting to cover this event must RSVP by email to PA_vnwar50th@wso.whs.mil by noon Wednesday, May 23 to receive set instructions.  Registration will be confirmed by e-mail and badges will be issued at the media check-in desk on Monday, May 28, 2012 at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

The DoD Vietnam 50th Anniversary Commemoration Program will partner with other federal agencies, veterans groups, state, local government and non-government organizations to:
·       Thank and honor veterans of the Vietnam War, including personnel who were held as prisoners of war or listed as missing in action, for their service and sacrifice on behalf of the United States and to thank and honor the families of these veterans.
·       Highlight the service of the armed forces during the Vietnam War and the contributions of federal agencies and governmental and non-governmental organizations that served with, or in support of, the armed forces.
·       Pay tribute to the contributions made on the home front by the people of the United States during the Vietnam War.
·       Highlight the advances in technology, science, and medicine related to the military research conducted during the Vietnam War.
·       Recognize the contributions and sacrifices made by the allies of the United States during the Vietnam War.           

For more information on the Vietnam War Commemoration, please call 877-387-9951 or visit the official website at http://www.vietnamwar50th.com

The Veterans Writing Project

The Veterans Writing Project to Hold Memorial Day Reading in D.C.

On Saturday, May 26, at 1 p.m., The Veterans Writing Project will hold a public reading by veterans to honor and remember the fallen. The location of the reading is the Navy Memorial in downtown Washington, D.C., at 701 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W. Readers  include Fred Foote, a Navy doctor and Iraq veteran; Paul Kozak, a former Marine who served in Vietnam; Alex Horton and Brandon Friedman, two Iraq infantry veterans; and Jeff Stein, an Army Vietnam veteran. For more information, contact Ron Capps, Director, The Veterans Writing Project at ron@veteranswriting.org

Get the flyer here.


Women's Memorial Annual Memorial Day Ceremony

The annual Memorial Day Ceremony at the Women’s Memorial is scheduled for 4 p.m., May 28. The ceremony, one of the major Memorial Day programs in the nation’s capital, is free and open to the public. The program includes formal military honors, remarks from servicewomen representing each of the services, wreath-layings and our traditional Rose Petal Ceremony with personal tributes to departed comrades. This year’s keynote address will be given by Navy Rear Admiral Michelle Howard, Chief of Staff to the Director, Strategic Plans and Policy, the Joint staff. For more information, e-mail pr@womensmemorial.org or call 800-222-2294/703-533-1155.
National Memorial Day Concert


General Colin Powell, Daughtry, Natalie Cole, Trace Adkins, Selma Blair, Ellen Burstyn, Dennis Franz and Russell Watson Join Co-Hosts Joe Mantegna and Gary Sinise -

WASHINGTON, April 19, 2012 -- On the eve of Memorial Day, a star-studded line-up will grace the stage for one of PBS' highest-rated programs, the NATIONAL MEMORIAL DAY CONCERT.  The multi award-winning television event has truly become an American tradition, honoring the service and sacrifice of all our men and women in uniform, their families at home and those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.  The concert will feature riveting performances from some of the world's biggest stars.  In addition, acclaimed actors will present personal stories of love and sacrifice submitted by viewers through the concert's "Virtual Wall of Remembrance" (see page 3.)  The NATIONAL MEMORIAL DAY CONCERT will air live in HD on PBS from the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol on Sunday, May 27, 2012, from 8:00 to 9:30 p.m. ET before a concert audience of hundreds of thousands, millions more at home, as well as to our troops serving around the world on the American Forces Network.

[Click for more information]

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