Thursday, September 30, 2010

Top VA Physician Appointed to PCORI Board of Governors

Part of 17-Member Inaugural Board Under Patient Protection and
Affordable Care Act

WASHINGTON (Sept. 30, 2010)- Dr. Robert Jesse, Principal Deputy Under
Secretary for Health at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA),
accepted an appointment to the first Patient-Centered Outcomes Research
Institute's Board of Governors.

"Instead of asking simply what works, we will be determining what works
best," Jesse said. "This is important work as it will help standardize
American health care toward the best practices in the medical field and
we should see better efficiency as result."

The board, created by the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care
Act, is charged with identifying comparative effectiveness research
(CER) priorities and establishing a research agenda. CER studies are
head-to-head trials that compare different clinical practices and
therapies to see how they stack up against each other for treating a
defined patient population. The studies are unlike most clinical trials
conducted in the United States, which examine only whether a drug or
other medical approach works better than an inert placebo alternative.

As the VA Principal Deputy Under Secretary for Health, Jesse leads
clinical policies and programs for the Nation's largest integrated
health care system. Jesse also serves as a Professor of Internal
Medicine and Cardiology at Virginia Commonwealth University School of
Medicine. He has extensive experience in comparative effectiveness,
cardiology, cancer and biochemical research.  Previously, he was the
Chief Consultant for Medical Surgical Services and VA's National Program
Director for Cardiology in VA's Office of Patient Care Services where he
was instrumental in implementing broad reforms in the delivery of
specialty, sub-specialty and emergency care that have significantly
improved the quality of care provided across the VA health care system.

"Robert Jesse is the right pick for this board as they navigate new
waters in American health care," said VA Under Secretary for Health Dr.
Robert A. Petzel. "For years, Veterans throughout the U.S. have had the
fortune of Dr. Jesse's intense passion for medical perfection and
professionalism. I am pleased that the entire Nation will now benefit
from his expertise."

Congress Quits on Veterans

Dear Sean,

Congress forfeited the game - and it's vets who will now lose out.

It's outrageous, but true. Congress shut down a week early for the election season, leaving urgent GI Bill upgrades on the field and unfinished. Because of their inaction, thousands of vets will now be left waiting for their rightly-earned benefits.

For the past few weeks, you helped us push Congress to pass a critical bill that would upgrade and expand the new GI Bill. Over 10,000 Americans joined the fight. Together, we moved the ball as far down the field as we could - all the way to the ten yard line. We did everything we could, and Congress gave up in the red zone.

It's clear where Washington's priorities lie. Instead of delivering results for vets as the clock ticked down, Congress focused on political point scoring and partisan bickering.

We needed a touchdown, and they walked off the field. That's unacceptable.

Washington may have quit, but IAVA hasn't. We'll keep fighting for vets.

This game is far from over. We'll be making some big plays soon, so stay tuned on Facebook and Twitter for play-by-play updates.

Thank you for having our backs.


Paul Rieckhoff
Executive Director and Founder
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA)

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

VA Publishes Final Regulation on "Presumptive" Illnesses For Gulf War .

Where is IBS ,Immune System Diseases, ALS, Fibmyalgia, to name a few ?

 I think it falls short but its a step in right direction. Here is press release from VA

VA Publishes Final Regulation on "Presumptive" Illnesses

for Gulf War and Iraq, Afghanistan Veterans

WASHINGTON (September 28, 2010) - Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K.
Shinseki today announced the publication of a final regulation in the
Federal Register that makes it easier for Veterans to obtain Department
of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care and disability compensation for
certain diseases associated with service in Southwest Asia (including
Iraq) or Afghanistan.

"This is part of historic changes in how VA considers Gulf War Veterans'
illnesses," said Secretary Shinseki. "By setting up scientifically based
presumptions of service connection, we give these deserving Veterans a
simple way to obtain the medical and compensation benefits they earned
in service to our country."

The final regulation establishes new presumptions of service connection
for nine specific infectious diseases associated with military service
in Southwest Asia beginning on or after the start of the first Gulf War
on Aug. 2, 1990, through the conflict in Iraq and on or after Sept. 19,
2001, in Afghanistan.

The final regulation reflects a determination of a positive association
between service in Southwest Asia or Afghanistan and nine diseases and
includes information about the long-term health effects potentially
associated with these diseases: Brucellosis, Campylobacter jejuni,
Coxiella Burnetii (Q fever), Malaria, Mycobacterium tuberculosis,
Nontyphoid Salmonella, Shigella, Visceral leishmaniasis and West Nile

With the final rule, a Veteran will only have to show service in
Southwest Asia or Afghanistan and that he or she had one of the nine
diseases within a certain time after service and has a current
disability as a result of that disease, subject to certain time limits
for seven of the diseases.  Most of these diseases would be diagnosed
within one year of return from service, through some conditions may
manifest at a later time.

 For non-presumptive conditions, a Veteran is required to provide
medical evidence to establish an actual connection between military
service in Southwest Asia or Afghanistan and a specific disease.

The decision to add these presumptives was made after reviewing the 2006
report of the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine
(NASIOM), titled, "Gulf War and Health Volume 5: Infectious Diseases."

The 2006 report differed from the four prior reports by looking at the
long-term health effects of certain diseases determined to be pertinent
to Gulf War Veterans.  Secretary Shinseki decided to include Afghanistan
Veterans in these presumptions because NAS found that the nine diseases
are also prevalent in that country.

The 1998 Persian Gulf War Veterans Act requires the Secretary to review
NAS reports that study scientific information and possible associations
between illnesses and exposure to toxic agents by Veterans who served in
the Persian Gulf War.

While the decision to add the nine new presumptives predates VA's Gulf
War Veterans' Illnesses Task Force (GWVI-TF), the overarching
responsibility of the GWVI-TF is to regain Gulf War Veterans' confidence
in VA's health care, benefits, and services and reconfirm VA is 100
percent committed to Veterans of all eras.  The GWVI-TF began in fall
2009 and is not a static, one-time initiative but will continue to build
on its work with annual reports issued every August.  The group's focus
centers on unanswered Gulf War Veterans' health issues, improving access
to benefits, ensuring cutting edge research into treatments, and to make
sure Veterans' concerns are heard and addressed.  This includes
continuing to solicit Veterans, experts, advocates and stakeholders to
share their views to better inform the important work of the GWVI-TF.
The GWVI-TF Report can be found at

Disability compensation is a non-taxable monetary benefit paid to
Veterans who are disabled as a result of an injury or illness that was
incurred or aggravated during active military service.

Last year, VA received more than one million claims for disability
compensation and pension.  VA provides compensation and pension benefits
to over 3.8 million Veterans and beneficiaries.

Currently, the basic monthly rate of compensation ranges from $123 to
$2,673 for Veterans without any dependents.

For information about health problems associated with military service
in Southwest Asia and Afghanistan, and related VA programs, go to and
Banner - 90th

Dear Sean,

See firsthand the amazing work DAV is accomplishing with support from HP!

Support DAV today!

Learn more about Harley's Heroes and its service to veterans.
The DAV's Mobile Service Offices (MSOs) are taking vital assistance on the road for disabled vets! In 2009, we traveled over 114,056 miles to reach out to over 18,647 vets all over the country.

Harley-Davidson and Hewlett Packard (HP) are showing the same inspiring drive you show each time you make a gift to the DAV.

Harley-Davidson Foundation's million-dollar gift continues its loyal support of the DAV MSO program, which carries critical education and claims assistance to disabled vets across the country.

HP's generosity outfits these mobile offices with wireless notebooks, making it possible for DAV National Service Officers to help those veterans who may not otherwise have the opportunity to seek assistance.

So we invite you to invest in the future of our nation's disabled veterans, along with Harley-Davidson and HP and keep our programs running year after year.

The DAV's Mobile Service Offices travel hundreds of thousands of miles each year to reach out to tens of thousands of vets all over the country.

Like Harley-Davidson and HP, will you continue to be a partner to these veterans and give $45 ... $60 ... $75 or more to DAV now?

With gratitude,
Arthur H. Wilson, National Adjutant
Disabled American Veterans

VA Extends Coverage for Gulf War Veterans

A Extends Coverage for Gulf War Veterans

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 29, 2010 – Veterans of the first Gulf War as well as current operations in Iraq and Afghanistan now have a smoother path toward receiving health-care benefits and disability compensation for nine diseases associated with their military service, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki announced today.

A final regulation published in today's Federal Register relieves veterans of the burden of proving these diseases are service-related: Brucellosis, Campylobacter jejuni, Coxiella Burnetii (Q fever), Malaria, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Nontyphoid Salmonella, Shigella, Visceral leishmaniasis and West Nile virus.

Shinseki added the new presumptions after reviewing a 2006 National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine report on the long-term health effects of certain diseases suffered among Gulf War veterans.

He also extended the presumptions to veterans of Afghanistan, based on NAS findings that the nine diseases are prevalent there as well.

The new presumptions apply to veterans who served in Southwest Asia beginning on or after the start of Operation Desert Shield on Aug. 2, 1990, through Operation Desert Storm to the present, including the current conflict in Iraq. Veterans who served in Afghanistan on or after Sept. 19, 2001, also qualify.

For Shinseki, who pledged to honor the 20th anniversary of the Gulf War by improving health-care access and benefits for its 697,000 veterans, the new presumptions represent a long-overdue step in addressing the medical challenges many face.
"This is part of historic changes in how VA considers Gulf War veterans' illnesses," he said. "By setting up scientifically based presumptions of service connection, we give these deserving veterans a simple way to obtain the benefits they earned in service to our country."

The new presumptions initially are expected to affect just under 2,000 veterans who have been diagnosed with the nine specified diseases, John Gingrich, VA's chief of staff, told American Forces Press Service. He acknowledged that the numbers are likely to climb as more cases are identified.

With the final rule, a veteran needs only to show service in Southwest Asia or Afghanistan during the specified time periods to receive disability compensation, subject to certain time limits based on incubation periods for seven of the diseases.

"It gives them easier access to quality health care and compensation benefits," Gingrich said. "The message behind that is that the VA is striving to make access to health care easier for our veterans who have served in our combat zones."

He expressed hope that by providing quick, easy access, VA will help veterans get the care they need early on, without having to fight the bureaucracy.

"When we find these presumptions and we reach out and get the veterans into our system, we can help them and give them the proper medical care they need, and maybe keep their disease from getting worse or getting it to go away altogether," he said.

It also will help eliminate the piles of paperwork and long claims adjudication process veterans had to go through to prove their cases to receive care and benefits. "This will help break the back of the backlog in the long run, while sending a reassuring message to veterans that the VA is there for them," Gingrich said.

He called the new presumptions part of Shinseki's effort to "create a culture of advocacy" within VA that builds trust as it reaches out to veterans.

For Gingrich, a Gulf War veteran himself, the effort is very personal. He remembers being deployed as a 1st Infantry Division field artillery battalion commander during Operation Desert Storm, when one of his officers became very sick with an illness nobody could diagnose.

"The medics couldn't diagnose it. We called in the doctors and they couldn't diagnose it. And eventually, he had to be medevaced back," he recalled. "And now here we are, 20 years later, and I saw him in Dallas in August, and he is still sick. You can't identify all the reasons and symptoms, but he is sick."

Veterans deserve better, Gingrich insisted. "I believe that our veterans that served in uniform for our country deserve the absolute best care and benefits that we can provide," he said.

VA provides compensation and pension benefits to more than 3.8 million veterans and beneficiaries, and received more than 1 million claims last year alone, VA officials reported. Veterans without dependents receive a basic monthly compensation ranging from $123 to $2,673.

Related Sites:
Department of Veterans Affairs

Rep. Filner Calls for a 21st Century Veterans trust fund!

I participated in this call in this morning and I have to say kudos to Rep. Bob Filner for being a realist on what it will take care of our Veterans in the coming decades.
The VAC committees set for tomorrow will lay out the truecosts of taking care of our veterans after war. I will blog more on this soon
*** Press Call 12:15pm ET Wednesday: 800-862-9098 code: Vets ***
Nobel Laureate Dr. Joseph Stiglitz and Dr. Linda Bilmes to Announce New Numbers on the Rising Cost of Veteran Spending Due to Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan

House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman and Leading Veterans Advocate to Call for a Veterans' Trust Fund to Meet Exploding Demand

New Data and Proposed Reforms Subject of House Veterans Affairs Committee Hearing Thursday

Washington, DC:  Nobel Laureate Dr. Joseph Stiglitz and Dr. Linda Bilmes of Harvard University will join House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Bob Filner (D-CA), and the Executive Director of Veterans of Modern Warfare (VMW) Don Overton in a press conference call Wednesday at 12:15pm ET. They will announce new figures and analysis on the impact that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are having on the cost of caring for veterans and will urge Congress to account for this full cost of war. Rep. Filner is calling for fundamental reform to the way Congress funds war spending. The press conference call will be a preview to testimony that Drs. Stiglitz and Bilmes will provide to the House Veterans Affairs Committee in a hearing on Thursday, September 30 at 10:00 am.

On the call, Nobel Laureate Dr. Joseph Stiglitz of Columbia University and Dr. Linda Bilmes of Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, authors of The Three Trillion Dollar War, will discuss their latest findings on the impact of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan on costs for caring for veterans. Their latest figures far exceed their previous projections.

House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Bob Filner will call for the creation of a Veterans' Trust Fund to meet this growing demand. The proposal will require Congress to account for the true costs of war, including the cost of serving injured and disabled veterans, as part of its appropriation for warfare. 

Date/Time:                12:15 pm ET, Wednesday, September 29
Call In Info:              800-862-9098 Code: Vets

· Joseph Stiglitz, professor at Columbia University, former chairman of President Bill Clinton's Council of Economic Advisers and winner of the Nobel Prize in economics in 2000. Co-author of The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Cost of the Iraq Conflict
· Linda Bilmes, Daniel Patrick Moynihan senior lecturer in public policy at Harvard University. Co-author of The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Cost of the Iraq Conflict
· Congressman Bob Filner (D-CA), Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs
· Donald Overton, Executive Director of Veterans of Modern Warfare (VMW)

# # #

Saturday, September 25, 2010

LETTER: Straightening out dates for the official Cold War

I am a proud veteran of the Army. Although I served during a time of peace, I did serve in the Berlin Brigade while the wall still divided East and West Berlin.

To me the POW/MIA flag is second in my heart, only one step behind the U.S. flag. Our government set aside one day a year to remember our POWs/MIAs, and this is wonderful.

Personally, I look at my own POW/MIA flag every day and pray for all missing.

In a Veterans Voice column, there were some numbers given for MIAs from different wars. The dates for the Cold War were listed as 1950s and 1960s.

The actual dates of the Cold War are Sept. 2, 1948 to Dec. 26, 1991. The reason I know this is because I received a letter of recognition several years ago from the secretary of defense for serving during this time period.

Just thought his was some useful information for veterans who served during this time frame.



Friday, September 24, 2010

IAVA Update

Dear Sean,

Together, we made it down to the ten-yard line.

Because of your support, over 10,000 Americans signed our letter to Senator Harry Reid, calling for a vote on critical upgrades to the New GI Bill. This change will expand educational benefits for thousands of new veterans who are currently shut out.

Yesterday, I visited Senator Reid's office on Capitol Hill to deliver your signatures. Click here to watch a quick video of what happened.

The clock is ticking, and now that you've done your part, it's time for Congress to make a play and punch it in.

Next week will be crucial. Stay tuned and we'll keep you updated on the score as we move closer to an historic touchdown.
Thank you for continuing to have our backs.

Tim Embree
Legislative Associate
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA)


U.S., South Korea Plan Anti-submarine Exercise


From a U.S. Forces Korea News Release

YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea, Sept. 24, 2010 - South Korean and U.S. forces will conduct an anti-submarine warfare exercise in the waters west of the Korean peninsula Sept. 27 to Oct. 1.

The exercise is part of a series of combined naval training events that are defensive in nature and enhance interoperability, officials said. The exercises also are designed to send a clear message of deterrence to North Korea, they added, while improving the overall anti-submarine warfare capabilities of the U.S.-South Korean alliance.

Participating units from the U.S. Navy include the guided missile destroyers USS John S. McCain and USS Fitzgerald and the ocean surveillance ship USNS Victorious. Assets also include a fast attack submarine and P-3C Orion aircraft from Patrol Squadron 9. The USS John S. McCain and USS Fitzgerald are forward-deployed to Yokosuka, Japan, and Patrol Squadron 9 is home-ported at Kaneohoe Marine Corps Base, Hawaii.

Participating units from the South Korean navy include two destroyers, a fast frigate, a patrol craft, P-3C aircraft from Carrier Air Wing 6 and a submarine.

The exercise will focus on anti-submarine warfare tactics, techniques, and procedures, officials said. The first exercise in this series, Combined Naval and Air Readiness Exercise Invincible Spirit, was conducted in the seas east of the Korean peninsula in July.
This exercise was originally scheduled to occur Sept. 5-9, officials said, but was delayed for safety reasons related to Typhoon Malou arriving in Korean waters.
Related Sites:
U.S. Forces Korea

Vermont Avenue Blocked by VA Emergency Response Vehicles

Vermont Avenue Blocked by VA Emergency Response Vehicles

VA Displays Preparedness Efforts

WASHINGTON (Sept. 24, 2010) - Today, the Department of Veterans Affairs
(VA) is showcasing state-of-the-art emergency mobile facilities as part
of National Preparedness Month (NPM). The mobile facilities-an
ambulance/bus, pharmacy, Vet Center, and Emergency Nutrition Unit-are on
display in front of VA headquarters on Vermont Avenue, which has been
blocked off for the event. Tours of the mobile facilities are available
for reporters.

Additionally, preparedness information will be shared with employees,
contractors and visitors. These activities offer and encourage specific
steps for individual, neighborhood, and community preparedness.

What:     Learn about VA's emergency mobile facilities and VA's role in
Emergency Management and Homeland Security

Who:      VA leadership and employees & the public

When:     Sept. 24, 9 a.m. - 2 p.m.

Where:    Department of Veterans Affairs

810 Vermont Ave. NW

Washington, D.C. 20420

Background: National Preparedness Month (NPM) is sponsored by the Ready
Campaign in partnership with Citizen Corps and the Advertising Council.
NPM is held each September to encourage Americans to take simple steps
to prepare for emergencies in their homes, businesses, and communities.
September 2010 is the seventh annual NPM.

Contacts: Katie Roberts, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs or 202-461-4982

Drew Brookie, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs or 202-461-5133

Dear Uncle Sam,

Military Wife Writes a Letter of Complaint

by Military with PTSD on Thursday, September 23, 2010 at 9:56am

Dear Uncle Sam,


Thank you for keeping my husband alive during war and for that I am grateful. I stood by him through 15 months with a heavy heart, spent sleepless nights worrying about him, and prayed that another day would bring some type of communication. I proudly showed our country's flag and my blue star banner, and literally bled, red, white and blue when was asked of me. You made sure he was fed, showered, clothed, had ammunition when he needed it, and Medical care when he was injured. He fought, and fought hard never questioning his duty, because like many of our brave men and women....your orders are all that mattered and they had a job to do. They did it. Not once did my husband ever complain, because again, it was his duty and he was proud to serve you.


While being grateful, I would like to file a complaint against the United States Military, United States Government and for all those parties that had anything to do with this Middle Eastern War. You sent me back the wrong man. A man, who as I casually watch outside sitting in a chair, no longer communicates with the world, expresses any emotions, and who's family he has left a long time ago all while remaining under the same roof. A man who can't go into public without freaking out, and who's anger and frustrations roll upon his family like a deadly Tsunami. Somewhere over Ramadi, Iraq and back through Afghanistan to come home, my husband must have been switched with someone else. I sent you my husband over there with good faith in you that he would return, and you have let me down.


Military Wife gives Uncle Sam a much needed ass kicking...You gave me all the promises and education I needed for insurance, reintegration, what to do "if this happens" scenarios....but you never told me about this. You said some of our guys might come home with sleep problems or some emotional issues those first few months home. You told us that this is simply a readjustment period and those too shall pass. Uncle Sam, it's been three years. PTSD/TBI never goes away, nor does it simply involve a sleepless night. You failed to mention all the horrors, the struggles, and let downs in between. You didn't tell me that I would be raising a family by myself and taking care of my husband, and you also failed to mention that I would be alone in my marriage with no one to talk to about it or having to deal with my own personal demons alone. You sent him home and left us here.


Your Veteran's Administration is ok. Not too impressed with appointments twice a year to see a psychiatrist. Not impressed at all with a psychiatrist who simply wants to know about any side effects from the meds and then dismisses your soldier with no advice or comments. It took us six months to get us in to begin with and we were treated with total disregard; almost like we were dog poop accidentally stepped in and bothersome to a new pair of expensive shoes. Twice a year is what my husband and our family is worth right? His primary physician I am highly disappointed in because her concerns with my husband's daily bowel movements is more priority than dealing with his PTSD. Fish oil tablets, Vitamin E, D, and all the ABCs do not make a difference in his PTSD I can assure you. He has no problems with his bowel movements, and would love to actually collect it one day and drop it in on your desk and say "HERE IT IS-Now what's next?". We now have a TBI diagnosis in which both of us are still not sure what to do or where to begin, but in six months...we should have an appointment for someone to treat us like crap again. Looking forward to it.


As far as my family is concerned, I would like to file a complaint not just for me but for all spouses. You didn't tell us you would send us home our soldiers so mentally messed up they could not function. You didn't tell us that all of this would fall on our shoulders alone without any help or resources. The ones you did provide us "no longer had volunteers so therefore we are unable to help you". You failed to disclose all the problems our families would face and how hard it would be to struggle each and every day. You failed to provide any type of help at the Veteran's Administration for us spouses dealing with your mistakes. You did provide a once a month meeting in which the "therapist" constantly regarded her watch more than the spouses. You provided us one hour, in which it took 30 minutes of that waiting for the counselor to get there. Thirty minutes a month was all we were worth to the VA. I could not unload a .0005 section of our family problems in that time allotted.


What happened to the resources you promised? If you are heavily depending on volunteers to "give an hour" and they are no longer doing that program, did you just give up? What, we could not take a little bit off each bill or new legislation to pay a professional their time to help us? You also failed in finding volunteers, because of the 20 I called and spoke to....the reason they quit was because no one had told them that they would be dealing with PTSD/TBI/Reintegration issues because guess what? They have no clue what those are nor did they have any experience with working with the military.


My husband along with many deserve more than that. As families, we stayed strong and held down the forts while they were gone. You basically used, abused and then shoved them aside with no second thoughts. Now the families are left trying to hold our family together, keeping our insanity together, and getting all the crap that rolls downhill. Spouses desperately are seeking help all over the United States, seeking some answers and just a knowledge that someone else knows what they are going through. They are seeking because so many of us don't know where to go and the government has failed us, our children, and our soldiers. I want you to stop what you are doing and take a look at the suicide rates among returning US soldiers. Five minutes is all I am asking. Unless they walk in and shoot themselves in the head as in recently, or on a military installation, nothing is ever done or accomplished.


You write pamphlets on all these subjects, but they are just that...paper. It reads like stereo instructions rehashing jargon no one can understand. What we do understand is that you sent us home monsters and left us alone to deal with it. As you looking through those suicide rates, cross reference that with spouse suicides. Then if you have a minute or two to spare, look at the children who went through hell and now have lost either if not both parents. Just because it doesn't make national news or headlines doesn't mean it just went away. As a supporter of our military, I will still always wave my flag and be proud of our country. Not because of the ones who hold government offices, but because we have so many good people in our country. I will always be the first to yell "Hoo-ah", and help any of our fellow military men and women...but don't expect me to say I am proud of you, Uncle Sam. On behalf of all of us spouses you gave the shaft to, and on behalf of all our military you shoved to the side when you no longer had use for them....I file this complaint.




The Military Wife

Thursday, September 23, 2010

News:Mark Glaser and Walk to Help Find a Cure for PKD

Many of you may already know Mark Glaser.  He's a columnist and freelance writer for Mediashift @ 

Mark has written several prominent stories about the military and the milblogging community including Your Guide to Soldier Videos from Iraq, `War Tapes` Film Lets Soldiers Tell Their Stories from Iraq, and Milbloggers Upset with Restrictions, But Won`t Stop Blogging.

Over the years, Mark has raised money to help cure polycystic kidney disease (PKD), a hereditary disease that is one of the most common life-threatening genetic diseases, affecting 600,000 Americans and 12.5 million people worldwide.

Mark also has PKD, and he's currently in search of a live kidney donor.

There's a way you can help.

This year, there will be a Walk for PKD in San Francisco, happening a t Crissy Fields on Oct. 23 at 9 am. Mark will be walking and he's hoping you can join or help.

To keep up with Mark's search for a kidney, please visit him on Facebook.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

VA Improving Veterans' Access to Health and Benefits Information

21st Century Technology Will Improve Service

WASHINGTON  (September 21, 2010)- The Department of Veterans Affairs is
launching a multi-year initiative called Veterans Relationship
Management (VRM) that will greatly improve Veterans' access to health
care and benefits information.

"VRM will transform Veterans' interactions with VA by using innovative
21st century technologies," said VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki.
"Veterans will have a better experience when they contact VA for
assistance, and our employees will be able to quickly convey accurate,
up-to-date information through call centers and the Internet."

Ultimately, Veterans will find enhanced self-service capabilities, and
VA employees will have the best tools to serve Veterans, their families
and survivors better.

By the end of 2010, VRM will deliver improved telephone services to
enable Veterans to reach a call center agent faster.  Recording and
review of calls will ensure the quality of services provided to
Veterans. To help guarantee success, VRM enhancements will be rolled out
in six-month increments.

An important component of VRM is the Internet site, which puts the
Veteran in the driver's seat for information.  VA collaborated with the
Department of Defense to provide a single sign-on capability for both
Servicemembers and Veterans.  Single sign-on will quickly establish an
individual's identity and allow that person to complete transactions
without having to re-enter information.

Self-service access through the Internet site ( is
already available in some benefit areas, including military personnel
records, VA home loan eligibility certificates, and status information
on compensation and pension claims.

VRM is just one of the many initiatives VA is launching to help Veterans
get timely access to health care and benefits.

VA provides tax-free compensation, pension, education, loan guaranty,
vocational rehabilitation, employment and insurance benefits to eligible
Veterans, their families and survivors through 57 VA regional offices.

Disability compensation is paid to a Veteran for disabilities that are a
result of -- or made worse by -- injuries or diseases that happened
while on active duty, active military, naval or air service.  Pension is
a benefit paid to wartime Veterans with limited income, and who are
permanently and totally disabled or age 65 or older.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Family will travel to the White House to accept a posthumous Medal of Honor

Story here

By Andy Fillmore

Published: Sunday, September 19, 2010 at 11:09 p.m.

"And the world will be better for this:

That one man, scorned and covered with scars,

Still strove, with his last ounce of courage,

To reach ... the unreachable star" ...

-"The Impossible Dream," a song from the musical "Man of La Mancha"

SUMMERFIELD — These lyrics seem appropriate when reflecting on the sacrifice that Chief Master Sgt. Richard "Dick" Etchberger made.

"Our mother used to call Dick 'the man of La Mancha,' (going) after his impossible dream," said Etchberger's brother Robert, 81, who lives in Summerfield.

Dick Etchberger served his country with honor and died during the Vietnam War. He lost his life while saving fellow servicemen during the evacuation of a secret radar outpost that the enemy had overrun.

Now Etchberger's family is on the cusp of fulfilling a dream of its own — one that at times seemed impossible.

Dick Etchberger will be posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor on Tuesday. Among those scheduled to attend the White House ceremony are Robert Etchberger and his wife Martha, who live in Spruce Creek South.

They will join 15 family members, at least one of the soldiers saved four decades ago by Richard Etchberger, and 100 invited guests.

Richard Etchberger's sons Cory, 51; Rich, 53; and Steve Wilson, 62, will accept the nation's highest military honor on their father's behalf.

The nearly 43-year odyssey for closure — Dick Etchberger died in 1968 — has connected family and fellow service members.

"Now we can get on with our lives," Robert Etchberger said.

Richard Etchberger will join an elite group. There have been just shy of 3,500 Medal of Honor recipients since the medal's adoption in 1863.

Etchberger is being recognized for his "immeasurable courage and uncommon valor." The actions are "what I would have expected of him," Robert said.

Richard also will be enshrined in the Pentagon Hall of Heroes in a ceremony Wednesday.


Richard Etchberger was born in 1933 and joined the Air Force in 1951, following the lead of his older brother Robert, who joined the Navy in 1947.

"I just learned that recently," Robert said about his younger brother following his footsteps out of admiration.

In 1967, during the Vietnam War, Chief Master Sgt. Richard Etchberger volunteered for a mission at a secret radar site in Laos.

He was asked to direct bombing under poor visibility conditions, thereby disrupting enemy movements and supply lines.

"(My father) believed in and was 100 percent behind" the "all-weather" bombing site, Cory Etchberger said.

Richard thought the enhanced radar site would help bring an early end to the war and save American lives, Robert Etchberger said.

The site was staffed by Air Force personnel who had been discharged from the military and given covers as non-military, paid corporate employees of a government contractor.

The name of the site where Etchberger was stationed and ultimately gave his life on March 11, 1968, was LS LIMA 85.

He banded with his fellow servicemen to protect each other during an evacuation following a battle lasting seven-and-a-half hours.

Some 16 American soldiers' lives were lost in the struggle.

At the time the United States disavowed any military presence in then-neutral Laos.

A fellow member of the LIMA 85 team, John Daniel, was saved in the evacuation by Richard and will travel from his home in Colorado to the Medal of Honor ceremony.

"I definitely wouldn't be here if it were not for Chief Master Sgt. Etchberger," Daniel said. "If (Richard) hadn't gotten us out of there we would have ended up dead or POWs."

Daniel, a technical sergeant, lost nearly two inches of femur bone in one leg and suffered wounds to the other. He was awarded a Purple Heart.

"It gives me cold chills even now to think he will get the Medal of Honor; it's the ultimate," Daniel said. "I think he should get a 55-gallon drum full of medals."

"We thought (the radar site) would work or we wouldn't have done it," Daniel said. But the mission eventually led to a ground attack from enemy forces, who overran the lofty installation.

Etchberger, Daniel and others were forced down a sheer cliff as the enemy lobbed grenades down on the group. The Americans tossed the grenades away and tried to help each other.

A 3-foot panel painting by John Witt depicts Etchberger holding an M-16 rifle that day while using a hand-held radio to direct an Air America helicopter in a last-ditch rescue attempt.

According to survivors' accounts, Etchberger was not yet injured as he helped load two soldiers into the hovering craft. After he boarded the chopper, a spray of enemy fire hit the bottom of the unarmored helicopter.

Etchberger was the only one hit; he died in the arms of one of the helicopter's crewmen.


In 1968 Etchberger was awarded the Air Force Cross. Medal of Honor nominations may have been put aside due to the sensitive nature of the assignment he was carrying out when he died.

In 1998, Robert Dilley, 55, an Air Force veteran who had never met Etchberger, came across a website detailing LIMA 85 and Etchberger's story.

"One of my high school history teachers, Mr. Don Boldt, told his students, 'If you think something's not right, challenge it,'" Dilley said.

He wrote a letter to his congressman and renewed the Medal of Honor quest for Etchberger. It turns out the men served in the same unit, though of course not at the same time.

Although the efforts to have the Medal of Honor awarded to Etchberger succeeded only after many years, Cory Etchberger doubts stories that President Lyndon Johnson denied the request. Johnson probably never saw the request.

Dilley said he thought the efforts had failed just because so much time elapsed.


Robert Etchberger said his younger brother was a popular kid in school, the class president and a jokester.

"Dick stole the maypole in school — it was to dance around at the May Day celebration — and after a meeting with the principal and June Kline, the student in charge of the celebration, Dick returned it."

Years later, Kline helped raise funds for a granite memorial in Richard's hometown of Hamburg, Pa., and had buttons made reading "Hamburg's Hometown Hero: Richard Etchberger."

What did the hero think of the Vietnam War?

"Dick said, 'America had to draw a line at some point against communism,' and he was part of that line," Robert said.

Cory Etchberger said he is leaving the politics aside and concentrating on continuing to get to know his dad. In fact, he's contributing to an upcoming biography of his father.

"My dad was a true hero an ordinary man reacting to extraordinary circumstances," Cory said.

"I'm proud and humbled to accept the award and feel I have gotten to know my dad better than many" with living fathers, Cory said.

"I have gotten to know my dad mainly through the men he served with," Cory said. "I'll let history judge the mission 100 years from now."

Friday, September 17, 2010

VA Honors Veterans on POW/MIA National Recognition Day

Special Benefits Available to Former POWs

WASHINGTON (September 20, 2010)- Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K.
Shinseki wants former American prisoners of war (POWs) to be aware of
the benefits and services available to them as Americans across the
nation show respect and appreciation for this special group of men and
women during POW/MIA National Recognition Day.

"These Veterans made great sacrifices for their country in time of war,
and it is our Nation's turn to honor them by reinforcing to them the
full range of compensation, health care and benefits they have earned,"
said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has expanded policies to cover
increasing numbers of former prisoners of war.

Special benefits for former POWs include enrollment in medical care for
treatment at VA hospitals and clinics without copayments, as well as
disability compensation for injuries and diseases that are associated
with internment.

Former POWs are also generally entitled to a presumption of
service-connection for certain diseases, based on the length of
captivity and the severity of their conditions.

Free dental treatment for any dental condition is also available to
former POWs. These benefits are in addition to regular Veterans'
benefits and services to which they are already entitled.

A major benefit for survivors of former POWs include Dependency and
Indemnity Compensation (DIC), which is a monthly benefit which may be
payable to the surviving spouse, children and, in some cases, parents.

Currently, more than 15,000 POWs are receiving VA benefits for
service-connected injuries, diseases, or illnesses. VA is asking former
POWs not currently utilizing VA benefits to contact the agency at
1-800-827-1000 to find out if they may be eligible for disability
compensation and other services.

Veterans can also apply online at or contact their
coordinator for former POWs located at each VA regional office.

More information about VA services for former POWs is available at

#   #   #

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Obama Reaches Out to Veterans: 'You Earned It'

By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 15, 2010 - President Barack Obama wants to make sure veterans and current servicemembers who were involuntarily retained in the military under the so-called "Stop Loss" program get the retroactive pay they deserve.

"You served with honor. You did your duty. And when your country called on you again, you did your duty again. Now, it's time to collect the special pay that you deserve," President Barack Obama said in a public service announcement released by the White House today.

Military members whose service was involuntarily extended or whose retirement was suspended between Sept. 11, 2001, and Sept. 30, 2009, are entitled to a retroactive payment of $500 for each month of extension. The application deadline is Oct. 21. Information on the special pay and links to the application are available at

About 58,000 of 145,000 eligible claims have been paid, and $219 million has been disbursed of the $534 million appropriated, Defense Department officials said.

While tens of thousands of veterans already have received retroactive pay averaging nearly $4,000 each, the president said many others may be reluctant to apply.

"I know there's been some confusion and skepticism out there," he said. "Some veterans think this is some sort of gimmick or scam, or that it's a way for the government to call you back to service. Nothing could be further from the truth.

"As your commander in chief," Obama continued, "I'm here to tell you that this is no gimmick or trick. You worked hard. You earned this money. It doesn't matter whether you were active or reserve, whether you're a veteran who experienced 'Stop Loss' or the survivor of a servicemember who did - if your service was extended, you're eligible."

The military services are promoting the retroactive pay through direct mail, veteran and service organizations, websites, phone lines, print and broadcast media. The president's message underscores the effort to spread the word.

"Share this video among your fellow veterans," the president urged. "Help us get our 'Stop Loss' veterans the pay to which they're entitled. Help us make sure that America is serving our veterans and your families as well as you've served us."

Related Sites:
President's Video Message
Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay

Related Articles:
Official Reminds Troops, Vets to Submit 'Stop Loss' Claims
Time Running Out for Troops, Veterans to Claim 'Stop Loss' Pay

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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

VA Takes a Hard Look at SGLI/VGLI Program


VA Continues to Ensure and Protect Servicemembers', Survivors'

Life Insurance Benefits

VA Takes a Hard Look at SGLI/VGLI Program

WASHINGTON (September 14, 2010)- The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)
has reviewed the account administered by Prudential that includes
Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance (SGLI) and Veterans' Group Life
Insurance (VGLI) programs to ensure beneficiaries are protected, being
treated fairly, and accorded the utmost care and respect.  VA is also
ensuring that benefits are delivered in a transparent way that clearly
outlines all available options.

Since 1965, VA has successfully delivered life insurance benefits to
survivors of our Nation's Servicemembers and Veterans.

 "The most important thing we can do is ensure that beneficiaries have
options that are clear, competitive, and come at no personal cost during
a time of emotional stress," said Veterans Affairs Chief of Staff John
R. Gingrich. "Providing clear and concise options for the beneficiary is
a top priority."

VA will continue to provide a full explanation of terms up-front,
increase clarity of options and more actively promote current financial
counseling to assist in decision making.  These efforts will further
enhance the transparency that will continue to ensure confidence in this
important program.

The department will provide better clarity of payment options by using
new documents that ask the beneficiary to choose one payment option,
including a lump sum check, or a lump sum Alliance Account (retained
asset account) that allows beneficiaries the option to immediately write
a check for the entire payment or any lesser amount.  VA will also
continue to offer the option for payment in 36 monthly installments.

VA worked with beneficiaries, regulators, and subject matter experts to
determine appropriate improvements to provide beneficiaries all benefits
due under current life insurance programs to include Alliance Accounts
in a secure and timely manner.

"Prudential has agreed to implement these adjustments, and the
department will continue to carefully monitor this program to ensure
that Servicemembers' and Veterans' beneficiaries are well-protected,"
said Gingrich.

VA is also taking the following actions:

*         All SGLI/VGLI related information, including frequently asked
questions, website information and handbooks will be modified to clearly
and completely explain all aspects of the Alliance Account and all
options available to the beneficiary.

*         VA will require Prudential to conduct a follow up contact with
beneficiaries whose accounts remains open after six months to confirm
the beneficiary understands the terms of the account.

*         VA will clearly designate the source of correspondence by
removing the SGLI seal from all checks, forms, and correspondence and
replacing it to show that it is from Prudential, with the subtitle of
"Office of Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance".

*         VA will identify additional opportunities to encourage
beneficiaries to use the free financial counseling service.

*         VA will, in coordination with the Department of Defense (DoD),
improve support to Casualty Assistant Officers and Transition Assistance
Program (TAP) Personnel by helping to prepare additional training
materials and instruction.

SGLI provides group life insurance for the Uniformed Services, such as
Servicemembers on active duty, ready reservists, and members of the
National Guard, among others.  More information on the SGLI/VGLI program
is also available at

#   #   #

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Top Medal Is Awarded To Honor Sergeant's Bravery

On a moonlit Afghan ridge in 2007, Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta ran alone through a barrage of gunfire to rescue a friend being dragged off by insurgent fighters.

On Friday, the White House said Sgt. Giunta will receive the Medal of Honor for his bravery, making him the first living serviceman from the Iraq or Afghan wars to receive the nation's highest military award.

"His courage and leadership while under extreme enemy fire were integral to his platoon's ability defeat an enemy ambush and recover a fellow American paratrooper from enemy hands," the White House said.

President Barack Obama called Sgt. Giunta, a 25-year-old born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, at his base in Italy on Thursday to tell him the news.

The selection of a living Medal of Honor recipient comes as welcome news to the military. The seven medals from Iraq or Afghanistan announced until now had been for men killed performing the acts of courage for which they were being recognized.

The medal is reserved for those who risk their lives beyond what duty requires.

Sgt. Giunta's action came on his second deployment to Afghanistan, when his unit—Co. B, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment (Airborne)—was operating in the Korengal Valley, at the time considered the most dangerous spot in the country for U.S. troops.

On the night of Oct. 25, Sgt. Joshua Brennan led Sgt. Giunta's squad single-file along the top of a rocky spur, according to Sebastian Junger's 2010 book "War." Sgt. Giunta, then holding the rank of specialist, was fourth in line when the patrol walked into an ambush, with 13 insurgents spraying them with rifle, machine-gun and rocket-propelled grenade fire from as close as 15 to 20 feet.

"Out of nothing—out of taking your next step—just rows of tracers, RPGs, everything happening out of nowhere with no real idea of how it just f— happened," Sgt. Giunta told Mr. Junger.

Sgt. Brennan was hit eight times. Sgt. Giunta, who had a Purple Heart from his first combat tour, was hit in the ceramic chest plate of his body armor. A rocket strapped to his back absorbed a second hit, according to the Army.

Under fire, Sgt. Giunta first helped a staff sergeant who had been hit in the helmet. He and two other soldiers threw hand grenades to clear a path to two other men isolated ahead of them.

After tossing his final grenade, Sgt. Giunta ran toward where he thought he would find Sgt. Brennan. Instead, he saw two insurgents dragging the sergeant away. Sgt. Giunta emptied his rifle at them, and then chased them down the hill.

His shots killed one insurgent. Wounded, the other fighter released Sgt. Brennan and fled. Sgt. Giunta called for a medic and pulled his friend to cover.

"I didn't run through fire to save a buddy—I ran through fire to see what was going on with him and maybe we could hide behind the same rock and shoot together," Sgt. Giunta said in the book. "I didn't run through fire to do anything heroic or brave; I did what I believe anyone would have done."

Airstrikes ended the firefight. Sgt. Brennan, 22, from McFarland, Wisc., died in surgery at a nearby base. A medic, Spc. Hugh Mendoza, 29, of Glendale, Ariz., died after being shot through the femur. Five other paratroopers survived their wounds.

SSG Salvatore Giunta to Recieve MOH

SSG Salvatore Giunta will receive the Medal of Honor for his valor in combat,
becoming the first living recipient for service in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Posthumous MOH

Soldier to Receive Posthumous Medal of Honor

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 9, 2010 - In an Oct. 6 ceremony at the White House, President Barack Obama will present the Medal of Honor to the parents of a soldier who died while saving members of his team and 15 Afghan soldiers.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Army Staff Sgt. Robert J. Miller will receive the Medal of Honor posthumously when President Barack Obama presents the award to his parents at the White House in an Oct. 6, 2010, ceremony at the White House. Miller saved members of his team and 15 Afghan soldiers during a Jan. 25, 2008, battle in Afghanistan. U.S. Army photo

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Army Staff Sgt. Robert J. Miller, who was 24 years old when he died, will receive the Medal of Honor posthumously for heroic actions in Barikowt, Afghanistan, on Jan. 25, 2008.

"He displayed immeasurable courage and uncommon valor --eventually sacrificing his own life to save the lives of his teammates and 15 Afghanistan National Army soldiers," White House officials said in a written statement issued today announcing the honor.

Miller's parents, Phil and Maureen Miller, will join the president at the ceremony, the statement said.

Miller was born on Oct. 14, 1983, in Harrisburg, Pa., and graduated from Wheaton North High School in Wheaton, Ill. Shortly after his family moved to Oviedo, Fla., he enlisted in the Army in August 2003 as a Special Forces candidate. He attended basic training and advanced individual training at Fort Benning, Ga., and received his Green Beret in 2005.

He served as a weapons sergeant in Alpha Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group, based at Fort Bragg, N.C.

His military decorations include the Meritorious Service Medal, the Army Commendation Medal with "V" device, the Army Good Conduct Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the NATO Medal, the Special Forces tab, the Ranger tab and the parachute badge.

In addition to his parents, he is survived by brothers Thomas, Martin and Edward and sisters Joanna, Mary, Therese and Patricia.

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Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Obama to Award Medal of Honor to Vietnam-era Airman

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 7, 2010 - A fallen Vietnam War-era airman will posthumously receive the Medal of Honor for heroism from President Barack Obama during a Sept. 21 White House ceremony.

Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Richard L. "Dick" Etchberger was killed March 11, 1968, in Laos during the battle of Mount Phou Pha Thi.

Viet Cong troops overran a U.S. radar site where Etchberger maintained equipment in support of the U.S. bombing campaign against North Vietnam. Etchberger, a Hamburg, Pa., native, risked his life repeatedly during the battle to ensure the safety of his troops.

Etchberger held off enemy fighters with an M-16 rifle while directing air strikes and air rescue from his radio. His actions saved the lives of some of his crew who were unable to hold their fighting positions, according to a White House statement.

He put himself in harm's way again when rescue helicopters arrived, exposing himself to heavy enemy fire as a decoy, allowing three wounded troops to safely board the hovering helicopter. Though his actions ensured his men's safety, Etchberger was fatally wounded by enemy ground fire as he was being raised into the rescue helicopter, the statement said.

Air Force Secretary Michael B. Donley nominated Etchberger for the award after a 2008 board reviewed Etchberger's actions.

The Medal of Honor is the nation's highest military recognition, and is awarded to members of the armed forces who distinguish themselves conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty.

Etchberger's sons -- Cory Etchberger, Richard Etchberger and Steve Wilson -- will join the president at the White House to commemorate their father's example of selfless service and sacrifice.

Etchberger served in the Air Force from 1951 until his death. He served in the electronics career field in Mississippi, Utah, Morocco, North Dakota, the Philippines, Illinois and South Vietnam. He was 35 years old at the time of his death.

Michael B. Donley

Veterans for Gibson Hosting Free Barbecue SUNDAY

Greetings (again) New York Vets for Freedom PAC members!
Apologies for the errors in the previous email; the barbecue for Chris Gibson is this SUNDAY, September 12th.
Please come and show your support for Chris, pictured at right, who is running for the U.S. House in New York's 20th Congressional District. 
Who:  Military Veterans
What: Barbecue for Chris Gibson
When: SUNDAY, September 12th, 4-7pm (rain or shine)
Where: Gurtler Brothers VFW Post 420
               190 Excelsior Avenue (Exit 15 off I-87)
               Saratoga Springs, New York
For more information, contact Justin Cappon at (518) 225-0333 or  Tell him Vets for Freedom PAC sent you. 
We need battle-proven leaders like Chris to clean-up Washington; please show your support for Chris this SUNDAY in Saratoga!

Guantanamo Bay Media Invitation Announced

                The Department of Defense and the Office of Military Commissions will provide seats for news media aboard military aircraft for travel to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, on Sept. 20, 2010, for a military commissions hearing in the case of United States vs. Noor Uthman.  Return travel is planned for Sept. 24, 2010. 

                Media reservation requests should be e-mailed to  All requests must be received by 5 p.m. EDT, Sept. 10, 2010.  Due to a limited number of seats aboard the flight and limited accommodations at Guantanamo Bay, media travel is not guaranteed.