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In This Issue: August 1, 2012 Latest News

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Stars and Stripes Article

Lawmakers Tell Panetta and Shinseki It's Time for Results

From July 25 Stars and Stripes: Lawmakers frustrated at years of limited collaboration between Defense and Veterans Affairs officials pressed the secretaries of those departments on Wednesday July 25 to ensure that service members' lives aren't lost to paperwork mistakes and red tape. "We've been talking for decades about this.  We have to break down the bureaucracy," said Rep. Bob Filner (D-CA). "People are dying because these systems aren't integrated."

VA Secretary Eric Shinseki and DoD Secretary Leon Panetta made a rare joint appearance on Capitol Hill to reiterate their promise to deliver lifelong care for troops, calling it a moral and national security imperative. But lawmakers said that, despite years of promise, the two agencies haven't found solutions to some of the most basic problems facing troops. In the first- ever combined hearing of the House Armed Services and House Veterans Affairs committees, representatives pressed the secretaries to explain why lifelong digital military medical records are still five years away; why suicide numbers continue to mount; why troops continue to be confused by their veterans benefits; and why the departments' work together hasn't produced better results. "Collaboration and cooperation between VA and DOD have never been more important, and I think for the next two decades ... this will be the work of the nation," Shinseki said. The agencies represent the two largest bureaucracies in the country, in terms of personnel and funding.

[ read entire article ]

Military Sexual Trauma Benefits Claims Process

House Subcommittee to VA: Update MST Adjudication Regulations

On July 19, the Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs held an oversight hearing entitled, "Invisible Wounds: Examining the Disability Compensation Benefits Process for Victims of Military Sexual Trauma." The hearing focused on urging the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to provide consistent review of military sexual assault claims and appropriate care for those who have endured military sexual assault. "Women are the fastest growing population among veterans, making up 8 percent of the Armed Forces. However, the Department of Defense estimates that one in four women who join the armed services will be raped or assaulted but that only about 10 percent of such incidents are ever reported," stated Rep. Jon Runyan (R-NJ), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs. "Even more alarming is that of those few who did report incidents of military sexual trauma, over 75 percent stated that they would not make the same decision about reporting the incident again, due to the consequences it had on their military career."

VA estimates that more than half a million men and women have been assaulted during their service in the military.  Most veterans seeking treatment and compensation for military sexual assault lack evidence, mainly due to victims' low reporting of incidents for fear of retaliation, to support their disability compensation claims resulting in 20 percent fewer claims for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) being approved by VA when compared to combat-related PTSD claims. "This process took me 23 years to resolve, and I am one of the fortunate ones. It should not be this way," stated Ruth Moore, a Navy veteran, who testified before the Subcommittee regarding the impact of repeated sexual assaults upon her in 1987 while stationed overseas. "If I had been treated promptly and received benefits in a timely manner, back at the time of my discharge, my life would have been much different."

At the moment, standards for those filing claims for PTSD as a result of military sexual assault are different than standards applied to PTSD claims for combat-related claims. Furthermore, VA demands collaboration of evidence for military sexual assault, putting the burden of proof on the victim, which in a majority of cases, does not exist. "There must be zero-tolerance for this behavior in the military, and VA must recognize the immediate trauma inflicted on these men and women," said Runyan. "This is a system that needs major reform, and I am calling on VA to treat these victims with the compassion they deserve and ensure they receive the benefits they are due from their government."

Transition GPS

President Announces Redesign of Transition Assistance Program

On July 23, President Obama announced the launch of the redesigned Transition Assistance Program developed by an interagency team from the Departments of Defense, Veterans Affairs, Labor, Education, and Homeland Security, as well as the Office of Personnel and Management and the Small Business Administration. The revamped program, called Transition GPS, is the first major overhaul of the Transition Assistance Program for military members in nearly 20 years. The effort began in response to a call from President Obama in August 2011 to ensure all service members are "career ready" when they leave the military. "I applaud the leadership of President Obama to bring together government agencies around the goal of enhancing career opportunities for service members," said Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta. "Our personnel have developed extraordinary technical expertise and world-class leadership skills that are in high demand. Transition GPS will help military members apply their experience to additional training, formal education, and develop successful civilian careers." Said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki, "One of our fundamental responsibilities as a government is to properly prepare and support those serving in our military so they are career-ready as they transition back into civilian life. With this new initiative, we can better ensure veterans receive the care, benefits, and employment services they have earned." Shinseki noted, "This collaborative effort will have an impact well beyond this current generation of individuals returning from combat."

Leadership Conference News

Cowboys VIP Stadium Tour for VVA

Come experience everything Cowboys Stadium has to offer!
VIP Guided Tour $20.00
(Regular $27.50)
Thursday, August 9th - 2:00 p.m.

[ download the flyer here ]

Planning to attend the Bylaws Seminar?

Message From Leslie, Delong, VVA Constitution Chair

Are you planning to attend the Bylaws Seminar at the VVA Leadership Conference in Irving, Texas? If so, consider bringing along a copy of your Chapter/State Council bylaws. While not a prerequisite to attending the Bylaws Seminar, it may prove useful to have these in hand to work with.

Steve Kroft of “60 Minutes” to Deliver Keynote Speech

(Washington, D.C.)- Steve Kroft, the award-winning journalist now in his 23rd season as a correspondent for CBS-TV's "Sixty Minutes," will deliver the Keynote Speech on Wednesday morning, August 8, at the Opening Ceremonies of Vietnam Veterans of America's National Leadership Conference at the Omni Hotel in Irving, Texas. Hundreds of Vietnam veteran leaders will come together at the Conference to take part in seminars, meetings, and other activities, including the Saturday Awards Banquet.

The Opening Ceremonies, which will begin at 8:45 a. m., are open to the public.

"Few people know that Steve Kroft got his start in journalism after being drafted into the Army in 1967, and serving with the information office of the 25th Infantry Division in Vietnam, and then reporting for Stars and Stripes," said VVA President John Rowan. "We're very pleased that Steve will be joining his fellow Vietnam veterans in Texas to help us to kick off the Leadership Conference."

[ read entire press release ]

Army Times Prime Article

Congress Questions Extra DoD Health Care Funds

From July 25 Army Times Prime by Patricia Kime: House lawmakers want to know why the Defense Department has a $708 million surplus in health funds when the Pentagon consistently has argued it needs to raise beneficiary costs to sustain health-care benefits for troops and retirees. Rep. Joe Wilson (R-NC), Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee’s personnel panel, and 25 other lawmakers sent a letter July 24 to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta asking him to explain a DoD request to move money from the defense health fund to other programs of “higher priorities.” As part of a larger request to shift nearly $4 billion in spending between accounts, the Pentagon said $708 million is available in the health account because of lower-than-expected cost growth. “These funds are excess to Defense Health Program requirements and can be used for higher priority items with no impact to the program,” the DoD request states.

In their letter to Panetta, the lawmakers expressed concern about the request given DoD’s call this year to raise Tricare fees for military retirees, as well as the vast need for research on medical conditions like Post-traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury related to combat service. “We have concerns about this reprogramming request, because we believe there are serious health issues that our military service members and military retirees are currently facing that are of the highest priority,” Wilson wrote. According to the DoD request, the funds would be used for other purposes, such as offsetting rising fuel costs, funding counterterrorism programs, compensating for higher costs incurred by Pakistan’s months-long closure of its ground supply routes into Afghanistan, and supporting research on advanced medical products.

In May, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he would block any Pentagon requests to shift money between accounts other than in emergencies. McCain said he would not support any money moves unless he received a detailed report on such transfers in the past two years. The chairmen and ranking minority members of the House and Senate armed services committees and defense appropriations subcommittees all must approve such requests. Permission is needed because the practice essentially is an effort to alter spending allocations approved by Congress. Last year, Congress approved between $12 billion and $15 billion in transfers, including more than $500 million out of the Tricare account.

The National Association of the Uniformed Services is a fierce opponent of efforts by military leaders to raise Tricare fees for military retirees and their families. Said retired Marine Lt. Gen. Jack Klimp, NAUS president, “The transfer request shows Tricare is a bill payer, spending hundreds of millions less than allocated. The fact is officials at DoD have been saying health care is breaking the bank and damaging our ability to carry on an effective national defense, and this is the second year in a row when they have transferred unused Tricare money to other priorities.” Noted Klimp, “The question becomes, if health care for military folks and retirees are breaking the bank, why do they keep coming up with all this extra money?”

A Pentagon spokeswoman declined to comment on the correspondence sent to Panetta, adding that the secretary will “respond back as appropriate” to Congress.

Korean War: 1950 - 1953

Remembering the Korean War

The Korean War began June 25, 1950, with the North Korean army's invasion of South Korea, and officially ended July 27, 1953, a day now officially recognized as Armistice Day. The signing marked the end of the longest negotiated armistice in history: 158 meetings spread over two years and 17 days. At 10 a.m. that day, in Panmunjom, 18 official copies of the tri-language Korean Armistice Agreement were signed. 

An American Forces Press Service special report looks back at the Korean War.

American Heart Association Study

In-Hospital Mortality Rate for Cardiac Arrest Drops 12 %

Patients hospitalized for cardiac arrest have an increased survival rate compared to a decade ago, a shift researchers say may have to do with changes in hospital treatment, according to a study published in Circulation.  Researchers analysed in-hospital mortality rates for 1,190,860 cardiac arrest patients from 2001 through 2009.They found the in-hospital mortality rate decreased each year in that time span, falling from 69.6 % in 2001 to 57.8 % in 2009. Mortality rates declined across all subgroups for gender, age, race, and stratification by comorbidity.  

Read the study in full here.

Nextgov: Broken Warriors

Multi-million Dollar TBI Diagnostic Tool Fails

As Reported By Bob Brewin in Nextgov's Broken Warriors series, for at least two years, the Military Health System has touted a software tool under development at a cost of more than $18 million as a way to help gather information about troops impaired by the signature wound of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq--Traumatic Brain Injury, which results from exposure to roadside bombs. But a six-week investigation shows this tool has nothing to do with the management or assessment of TBI cases.

For complete story click here

Anti-Suicide Nasal Spray

Weird Science

According to an AP story dated July 25, an Indiana University School of Medicine scientist has been awarded $3 million to develop a nasal spray intended to combat suicidal thoughts among soldiers. The U.S. Army awarded the research grant to associate professor of anatomy, cell biology and neurobiology, Michael Kubek. He works with thyrotropin-releasing hormone, or TRH, a neurochemical he helped discover in the human brain. IU says TRH is known to have antidepressant and anti-suicidal effects but isn't suitable for injection or oral use. So Kubek and other scientists at Purdue and at Hebrew University in Jerusalem are developing a nasal spray designed to deliver appropriate doses of the drug to the brain over time.

Vietnam Veterans Win Again

VA Must Disclose Documents on CIA, Army and Nazi Scientists Tests Using Veterans as Guinea Pigs

As reported in AllGov as part of an ongoing lawsuit against the U.S. government, a federal judge has ordered the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to release more documents relating to Cold War-era experimentation on American soldiers.

Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley in Oakland, California, ruled the VA must hand over documents pertaining to the use of at least 7,800 service personnel as "human guinea pigs" by the U.S. Army and the Central Intelligence Agency.

[ read the complete story ]

Women's Health Study

High Job Strain Equals Increased Cardiovascular Risk for Women

New research from Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) finds that women with high job strain are more likely to experience a cardiovascular-related event compared to women with low job strain. "Previous long-term studies of job strain, defined by the combination of psychological demand (demand) and job control (control), and heart disease risk have mainly focused on men and a more restricted set of cardiovascular conditions," said Michelle A. Albert, MD, MPH, a cardiologist and researcher at BWH and associate professor at Harvard Medical School. "Our study indicates that high job strain can negatively affect your health. There are immediate and definite long-term, clinically documented cardiovascular health effects of job strain in women, and it is important for women and their health care providers to pay attention to the stresses of their job."

Researchers found that after adjusting for age, race/ethnicity, education, and income, women with high job strain were 38 percent more likely to experience a cardiovascular-related event, including non-fatal heart attack, non-fatal ischemic stroke, coronary artery bypass grafting and/or coronary angioplasty, and cardiovascular death. Moreover, the risk of heart of attacks was increased by almost 70% among women with high job strain. High job strain is defined as having a demanding job that provides limited opportunity for decision making or using one's creative or individual skills. The study also found that job insecurity or fear of losing one's job and job strain were both associated with risk factors for cardiovascular disease such as high blood pressure, increased cholesterol, and excess body weight. However, unlike job strain, job insecurity was not directly related to the development of actual heart attacks, stroke, invasive heart procedures, or cardiovascular death.

*From Dr. Michelle Albert Brigham and Women's Hospital. The Women's Health Study is supported by grants HL-080467, HL099355, HL-43851 and CA-47988 from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and the National Cancer Institute.
U.S House of Representatives Press Release

House Passes Honoring America's Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012

The House of Representatives unanimously passed the Honoring America's Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012 (H.R. 1627). The bill, now headed to the President for signature into law, will bring immediate VA health care to Camp Lejeune veterans and their families who have been diagnosed with a disease related to the water contamination that occurred at the base between 1957 and 1987. In addition, H.R. 1627 increases VA accountability to veterans by streamlining the disability claims process, ensuring transparency in VA funding, protecting veterans from sexual assault, and transforming how VA does business in the 21st century.

[ read the complete press release ]

Prison Time For Texas Training Instructor

Lackland Air Force Instructor Gets 20 Years for MST

On July 21, Staff Sergeant Luis Walker was sentenced to 20 years in prison Saturday for crimes that included rape and sexual assault. He is among 12 instructors investigated for sexual misconduct toward at least 31 female trainees at one of the nation's busiest military training centers. Six others have been charged with crimes, and the counts against Walker were the most severe. He could have faced life in prison.

To read complete AP story, click here

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