Sunday, June 30, 2013

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"The Motherland is Calling " Cold War Poster Art

Military Oath with Soviet Version of We Want You.

Motherland She is Calling

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Gulf War illness advocates skeptical of institute panel

Veterans advocates expect a showdown between Gulf War veterans and the Department of Veterans Affairs Wednesday when veterans plan to declare they have "no confidence" in new research commissioned by the VA through the Institute of Medicine, advocates say.

The Institute of Medicine will conduct its first meeting Wednesday to determine the definition of Gulf War illness, sparking concern that VA will label it as psychiatric, or, as it has done most recently, lump it into the category of "chronic multisymptom illness." That category includes veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, which is caused after exposure to trauma, or traumatic brain injuries.

"I am very concerned as an ill Gulf War veteran that IOM Gulf War committees and the board overseeing them are disproportionately made up of individuals predisposed toward views of Gulf War Illness that do not reflect current scientific knowledge, including the idea that it is fundamentally psychiatric or psychosomatic," wrote Anthony Hardie, a Gulf War vet and Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses, in a letter to the institute.

VA officials "reject the notion some have put forward that these physical health symptoms experienced by Gulf War Veterans arise as a result of mental health issues like post-traumatic stress and TBI," said Josh Taylor, a department spokesman.

The Institute of Medicine is an independent, nonprofit research arm of the National Academies, an umbrella research organization that includes academies for science and engineering.

In January, advocacy groups criticized an institute report that said there are too many symptoms or illnesses to determine a cause or cure for a single problem related to service in the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

The Research Advisory Committee was formed after Congress found VA had focused most, if not all, of its attention on psychiatric causes of the illness, which affects about 250,000 veterans of the 1991 Persian Gulf War that drove Iraqi forces from Kuwait.

Since then, researchers have found changes in the veterans' brains that signify physical degeneration, possibly caused by environmental exposure. Other studies have determined that a greater number of troops than initially thought may have been exposed to small doses of Sarin gas after the Air Force bombed an Iraqi chemical factory.

Symptoms include fatigue, muscle pain, cognitive issues, rashes and irritable bowel syndrome.

Last month, committee members accused VA of an attempted gutting of their group, claiming that half of their members were to be replaced and that their chairman, James Binns,was being pushed out.

Taylor said the changes in the committee's charter were decided last fall and were part of a plan to make all advisory committees follow the same procedures.

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Friday, June 28, 2013

Former POWs Recall Chaplain at Medal of Honor Events

06/28/2013 03:44 PM CDT

By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 28, 2013 - An Army chaplain who posthumously received the nation's highest military honor earlier this year was inspirational, courageous in battle, and someone who talked the talk and walked the walk, a group of former Korean War prisoners of war said in a recent interview with Army Television.

Army Chaplain (Capt.) Emil Kapaun, a Roman Catholic priest and a Korean War POW, was awarded the Medal of Honor in an April 12 White House ceremony and was inducted into the Hall of Heroes at the Pentagon the next day, 62 years after his death.
Several of the chaplain's fellow POWs attended the Medal of Honor events.

"In prison camp, he was an inspiration to everyone," recalled Robert Wood, a former Army infantry first lieutenant. "He never failed to inspire me with his courage and his own devotion -- bathing the sick and wounded and scavenging for us. He was a good thief. He would steal rations for us from the Chinese."

It was the winter of 1950-51 when Kapaun, Wood and hundreds of other U.S. troops were captured by the North Koreans and handed over to Chinese camps as POWs. Wood vividly remembers his first meeting with battalion chaplain Kapaun.

"When got to Korea the first time, we came in contact with the enemy [when] we were on one hill and another battalion was on another hill, running out of ammunition," Wood said. "I volunteered to carry some ammo over to them. I headed out and all of a sudden, there's Father Kapaun standing next to me, carrying ammo with a pipe clenched in his teeth. I said, 'Where are you going, Father?' and he said, 'I'm going with you, son.' We took off up the side of a hill with no cover -- just a ditch alongside the trail. We came under machine gun fire, and we both [dived] into the ditch.

"I looked over my shoulder at Father Kapaun, and all he had was the stem of the pipe still in his mouth. They'd shot the pipe right out of his mouth," he continued. "I said 'Father, do you really want to go?' and he said, 'Go on son, just go on." He only increased my admiration, because in combat he was extremely courageous."

Joe Ramirez, then an Army corporal, experienced a different introduction to Kapaun.

"We landed in South Korea July 18, 1950," he said. "There were skirmishes. Father Kapaun came around to ask if anyone wanted to be baptized. I was the only one to raise my hand. We went to the river and he baptized me there."

Ramirez said he has "everything ever written" about Kapaun in an album, which he refers to every week and shares with his children and grandchildren.

"[Father Kapaun] had a lot of influence, especially on the younger guys, of which I was one," he noted. "He would say, 'Don't believe what [the Chinese] tell you. You're all Christians,' because they were trying to convert us to communism. He was against it, and that's why the Chinese hated him."

Ramirez credits Kapaun with giving the prisoners a reason to live amid the harsh conditions of the prison camp. "He gave us a lot of encouragement, talked to us and said prayers. In the winter it was 50 below zero," he said. "A lot of us didn't have winter clothing; we had summer clothing. He said, 'Keep the faith -- we're going to get out of here one of these days.'"

"He was more than a religious leader," said Ray "Mike" Dowe Jr., an Army first lieutenant and platoon commander. "He taught people to have faith in their own beliefs, to maintain their integrity, to maintain faith in their country and their god, and by so doing, it gave people a will to live."

After nightly "ration runs," as he called them, Kapaun taught the other prisoners not to hoard food, but to share it, Dowe recalled.

"He would volunteer to carry the dead on stretchers every time," he said. "He'd take the clothes off the dead, wash them and distribute them to the wounded, and take care of the sick. He'd have to escape from the officers' compound to do it."

Kapaun had the gift of emboldening the prisoners. "He was an inspiration to hundreds and hundreds of people who survived, and wouldn't have survived that ordeal without him ... [Survival] only comes from instilling the will to live, which comes from your beliefs, your country and resisting the enemy," Dowe said.

Despite the conditions that go with captivity during a war, the chaplain tried to keep the prisoners' spirits up and help them think positively, Wood recalled.

"The first months were horrible. During the first winter there was bitter cold, starvation, and we were all sick, but he would go around and lead us in prayer. Jews, Protestants and Catholics were saying the rosary," he said.

Kapaun became stricken with a blood clot in spring 1951, but POW doctors were able to treat it. The chaplain then developed pneumonia, Dowe said. As he began to recover, the Chinese became restless over his survival.

"When he started to get well, they couldn't tolerate it," Dowe said. "They came down with bayonets and troops, and we tried to resist them. The doctors told [the Chinese] not to take [Kapaun], but they took him to what they called a hospital. We were in tears. He turned to me and said, 'Mike, don't cry. I'm going to where I always wanted to go and when I get there, I'll say a prayer for all of you.'"

Rather than putting him in the hospital, Dowe said, the Chinese put Kapaun in a building with other prisoners who were beyond medical help. "It was just filled with every kind of bug, and feces," he said. "[The Chinese] didn't feed them. They [placed him] in a 7-by-7-foot [room] after his death, they threw his remains into a pile."

Dowe said he later spoke with people on teams that were on a recovery mission in North Korea. They told Dowe they found that area and recovered some of Kapaun's remains.

"We lost something when we lost him -- [he was] a constant reminder, a ray of hope that we were going to get out of this thing eventually, and he was someone who retained his civility and devotion," Wood said.

Wood was one of the prisoners who had to carry the chaplain to "the death house," he said.

"We all knew taking him up there was a death sentence, yet he was calming everyone around him, saying he was going to a better place and that he'd pray for us, and not to be upset. What really stunned me was he was blessing the Chinese who were killing him," Wood said, becoming emotional. "I had tears in my eyes when he was doing it. I could never do that."

Related Articles:
President Awards Army Chaplain Posthumous Medal of Honor 

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VFW Washington Weekly 6-28-13

The VFW Testifies on Education/Employment Bills
On Wednesday, the VFW testified before the House VA Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity on an array of pending legislation. We presented our views on several bills focused on issues like educational opportunities for unemployed veterans, foreclosure protections for military families, and civilian professional licensing and credentialing for military-trained veterans. The VFW offered its support for each of the bills up for discussion during the hearing. The subcommittee has scheduled a tentative mark-up of the pending legislation for June 28. We will continue to work with the committee as the bills move through the process and look forward to their passage by the full committee. To view an archived webcast of the hearing and to read our testimony along with the prepared remarks of all witnesses, visit our blog

House VA Subcommittee Reviews Vet Bills
Today, the House VA Subcommittee on Disability and Memorial Affairs held a hearing on several bills aimed at updating the disability claims process. The VFW has consistently made the disability claims process a legislative priority for more than decade. Congress recently voiced their concern on how VA is handling the influx in claims with a variety of legislation intent on fixing the process. The VFW believes that several of the bills, although well-intended, may not produce a positive outcome in reducing the claims backlog. Other bills considered included H.R. 1494, the Blue Water Navy Ship Accountability Act, and H.R. 1288, the WWII Merchant Mariner Service Act. We will continue to monitor the bills discussed today as they move through the process. To view the recorded webcast or read witnesses' testimony, click here

VA Committee Discusses Medical Facility Leasing
The House VA Committee discussed VA's Capital Investment plans in a hearing entitled "Assessing VA's Capital Investment Options to Provide Veterans' Care." The hearing was prompted by a recent ruling by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) in which it was decided that VA's budgetary mechanism for major medical leases requires a change to properly account for their lease authorizations. According to CBO Deputy Director Robert A. Sunshine, VA would have to show, within its budget request, funding for the length of the lease in the budget year that the lease was negotiated or entered into. As background, VA has used leasing as an economical way of providing care for veterans at facilitiesmany of which are Community Based Outpatient Clinics in rural areas where larger medical centers are not found. Currently, VA has 27 leases planned, some which cover a 10-20 cycle. Under Secretary for Health Dr. Robert A. Petzel explained that the ruling puts VA in a tough spot with regards to balancing resources in a single budget cycle. Challenges with budgeting for major medical leases in a given budget cycle and providing funding for a 20-year lease agreement would be almost impossible. Committee members questioned the decision by CBO and promised to look more deeply into solutions. They mentioned looking at service contracts and possibly more fee-based services so that veterans continue to receive the care and services in a timely manner. As a partner in the Independent Budget, the VFW has vocalized its concerns on this issue over the last few months. For the recorded webcast and all testimony provided, visit the House VA website

The VFW Discuss Women Vets' Employment with Labor Department
Last week, the VFW was on hand at the Department of Labor for a listening session on women veterans' employment issues. The meeting, which was hosted by Labor's new Women Veteran Initiative, brought together women veterans, government leaders, private industry and veterans' advocates to discuss the unique employment hurdles faced by women veterans and potential solutions. The Bureau of Labor statistics also explained how federal employment initiatives had yielded results for unemployed male veterans, but female veterans still faced significant barriers to post-military employment. Learn more about the listening session and some of the issues the VFW seeks to address for unemployed women veterans. 

Army to Cut 10 Brigades
This week, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno identified 10 installations that will lose one brigade each by 2017. This reduction in force is in addition to the two brigades previously announced to stand down in Europe. The announcement follows earlier decisions to reduce the size of the Army by 80,000 soldiers and the Marines by 20,000. The 10 stateside Army installations are Forts Bliss, Bragg, Campbell, Carson, Drum, Hood, Knox, Lewis, Riley and Stewart. Depending on requirements, an Army brigade can number between 2,500 and 4,000 soldiers. The planned reduction in the number of brigades also allows the Army to cancel $400 million in military construction contracts out of $700 million in planned projects.

National PTSD Awareness Day
Thursday, June 27th was National Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Awareness Day. National organizations and the U.S. Senate highlighted the need to take steps to raise awareness and education about PTSD. The VA, in observance of PTSD awareness month (June), invites the public to participate in its "Take the Step" campaign. The VA's campaign will highlight different topics so visitors can "Take the Step" to: know more about PTSD; challenge their beliefs; explore the treatment options available; and reach out to make a difference. The VA continues to provide effective PTSD treatment for veterans and conducts extensive research on PTSD, including prevention of stress disorders. Veterans are encouraged to use VA's PTSD resources so they are able to recognize symptoms and seek help. We encourage all veterans to share what they learn with someone they know to build awareness and support systems. For more about the campaign or for VA services with regards to PTSD, click here

POW/MIA Day Posters Now Available
Order your 2013 POW/MIA Recognition Day posters from the Defense POW/MIA Office before they run out. Each full-color poster measures 11x16-inches, and shipping is free. Limit is 20 posters per order. Place your order.

Vietnam MIA Recovered
The Defense POW/MIA Office announced the identification of remains belonging to Army Spc. 5 John L. Burgess, 21, of Sutton Bay, Mich. On June 30, 1970, while on a command and control mission, a UH-1H Iroquois helicopter was struck by enemy fire and crashed in Binh Phuoc Province, South Vietnam. Of the five-man crew, only one survived the crash. Read more

Sean P Eagan

Veterans Advocate

ACWV Inc. 

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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Army to Cut 12 Brigade Combat Teams by 2017, Odierno Says

By Claudette Roulo
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 25, 2013 - As part of its force restructuring due to the Budget Control Act of 2011, by the end of fiscal year 2017 the Army will reduce its number of brigade combat teams from 45 to 33, the Army's chief of staff announced today.

In addition, Army Gen. Ray Odierno told reporters at a Pentagon news conference, the Army will shrink its active component end strength by 14 percent, or 80,000 soldiers, to 490,000, down from a wartime high of 570,000 troops.

The Army National Guard will cut 8,000 soldiers, he said, without making any force structure changes. And the Army Reserve will skip a planned force increase and maintain its current size of 205,000.

In all, 12 brigade combat teams will inactivate, the general said, including two brigade combat teams, stationed at Baumholder and Grafenwoehr, Germany, already scheduled to inactivate in fiscal 2013.

Two brigade combat teams will remain in Europe to fulfill strategic commitments, Odierno said.

One brigade combat team will inactivate at each of the following installations: Fort Bliss, Texas; Fort Bragg, N.C.; Fort Campbell, Ky; Fort Carson, Colo.; Fort Drum, N.Y.; Fort Hood, Texas; Fort Knox, Ky.; Fort Riley, Kan.; Fort Stewart, Ga., and Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.

"In the future, we will announce an additional BCT to be inactivated, which will bring the number of BCTs to 32, but that decision has yet to be made," the general said.

The Army is in the process of undergoing one of its largest organizational changes since World War II, Odierno said, noting that today's announced end strength and force structure reductions are the result of provisions of the Budget Control Act of 2011 that aren't related to sequestration spending cuts. "We are taking these actions as a result of the Budget Control Act of 2011," he added.

Full sequestration beyond the current fiscal year could require another reduction in the Army's active, Guard and Reserve force structure by as much as 100,000 soldiers combined, Odierno said.

"Our decisions are in line with the fiscal year '13 budget submission, which implements a $487 billion reduction in DOD funding based on the Budget Control Act of 2011," he said. The Army's share of these cuts amounts to $170 billion, Odierno noted.

"If sequestration continues into fiscal year 2014, Army reductions to end strength, force structure and basing announced today will be only the first step," said he added.

The Army led an exhaustive review before deciding where and how to cut, the general said, looking at the environmental and socioeconomic impacts of the reductions. The final decision was based on a number of criteria, Odierno said, including the ability to train, provide for soldiers and families and the ability to expand and regenerate forces.

Geographic distribution also was considered, not only to minimize cost and environmental and socioeconomic impacts, but also to ensure the Army was in line with the rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region directed by the 2012 strategic defense guidance, he said.  The 33 remaining brigade combat teams will be reorganized, Odierno said.

"We will add a third maneuver battalion and additional engineer and fires capability to each of our armor and infantry brigade combat teams in order to make them more lethal, more flexible and more agile," the general said.

The changes will reduce the overall number of headquarters while sustaining as much combat capability as possible, Odierno said. "As we inactivate brigade combat teams, we will reinvest some of the soldiers, equipment and support personnel into the remaining brigade combat teams," he added.



 Sean Eagan

 Life Member VFW NY Post 53
 American Cold War Veterans, Inc.
Blog: Cold War Veterans Blog
Phone:  716 720-4000 
Network: My Fast Pitch! Profile

Soldier Missing from Vietnam War Accounted For

            The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) announced today that a soldier, missing from the Vietnam War, has been accounted for and will be buried with full military honors along with two of his crew members.

            Army Spc. 5 John L. Burgess, of Sutton Bay, Mich., was the crew chief of a UH-1H Iroquois helicopter that crashed in Binh Phuoc Province, South Vietnam.  Also, killed in the crash were 1st Lt. Leslie F. Douglas Jr., of Verona, Miss.; lst Lt. Richard Dyer, of Central Falls, R.I.; and Sgt. 1st Class Juan Colon-Diaz, of Comerio, Puerto Rico. Another crew member, Pfc. John Goosman, survived the crash and was rescued.  Remains representing Dyer, Colon-Diaz, and Burgess, will be buried as a group in a single casket, on July 2, at Arlington National Cemetery.

            On June 30, 1970, while on a command and control mission, the helicopter was struck by enemy fire, causing it to crash. Shortly thereafter, friendly forces recovered remains of Douglas, Colon-Diaz, and Dyer.  The three men were individually identified and buried with full military honors.  At that time, no remains were attributed to Burgess.

            From 1992 to 2012, more than a dozen joint U.S./Socialist Republic of Vietnam (S.R.V.) teams investigated the case, in Binh Phuoc Province, recovering human remains, personal effects, military equipment, and aircraft wreckage associated with this loss.    

            Burgess was accounted for using forensic and circumstantial evidence. 

            For additional information on the Defense Department's mission to account for missing Americans, visit the DPMO website at or call 703-699-1420.


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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

HVAC to Examine Capital Investment Options For Veterans Care This Week

WASHINGTON, D.C.— On Thursday, June 27, 2013, at 10:00 a.m. in room 334 of the Cannon House Office Building, the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs will hold a hearing to examine VA's capital investment options for providing veterans care.

To extend the reach of its 152 Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Centers, VA has opened more than 800 local community-based outpatient clinics (CBOCs) over the past two decades. The clinics – two thirds of which are located in leased facilities – are a central part of VA's strategy for delivering primary care and mental health counseling to veterans across the country. Unfortunately, the Congressional Budget Office recently changed the way CBOC leases are scored, requiring that the full cost of the 20-year lease be accounted for up front. This new scoring method, which requires Congress to account for $1.2 billion in costs up front, has put a hold on the creation and/or expansion of a number of clinics.

Congress is committed to ensuring all veterans in need have timely access to health care, so the purpose of this hearing is to discuss VA's capital investment options for delivering care to veterans in light of CBO's new method of scoring lease authorizations for CBOCs. The following event is open to the press:

WHO:             House Committee on Veterans' Affairs

WHAT:          Hearing: "Assessing VA's Capital Investment Options to Provide Veterans' Care."

WHEN:          10:00 a.m., Thursday, June 27, 2013
WHERE:        Room 334, Cannon House Office Building and streaming at


Monday, June 24, 2013

HVAC Chairman Miller Proof We Need a New Performance Appraisal System at the VA

Despite Patient Deaths, VA Health Exec Receives Highest Possible Evaluation

I don't know what's more disturbing: that five veterans are dead from a Legionnaires' disease outbreak VA Pittsburgh Healthcare officials were too incompetent to stop, or the fact that some of those same executives feel their dreadful mismanagement of the outbreak doesn't bear mentioning in their performance reviews," said Rep. Jeff Miller, the Florida Republican who chairs the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs.

NOTE: Miller called Wolf's glowing evaluation "undeniable proof" that the VA needs to review its performance-appraisal system.

VA Pittsburgh director lauded as Legionnaires' disease outbreak raged

By Adam Smeltz

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

June 24, 2013


The director of the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System received top-level ratings on an evaluation from regional director Michael Moreland amid a Legionnaires' disease outbreak that killed at least five veterans and sickened at least 16 more under her watch, the Tribune-Review has learned.

CEO Terry Gerigk Wolf gave herself high praise for her performance over nearly two pages of the 11-page annual evaluation for the period Oct. 1, 2011, to Sept. 30, 2012, which the Trib obtained. Wolf said she exceeded expectations in all her duties, oversaw consolidation of three hospital campuses into two with the closing of the Highland Drive facility, strengthened ties with veterans and built workplace respect, among other accomplishments. Moreland gave her the top rating in five critical areas when signing off on the evaluation.

But neither Moreland nor Wolf mentioned in the evaluation the discovery of apparently deadly Legionella bacteria at critical levels in the water lines at the VA Pittsburgh.

"I don't know what's more disturbing: that five veterans are dead from a Legionnaires' disease outbreak VA Pittsburgh Healthcare officials were too incompetent to stop, or the fact that some of those same executives feel their dreadful mismanagement of the outbreak doesn't bear mentioning in their performance reviews," said Rep. Jeff Miller, the Florida Republican who chairs the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs.

Wolf and Moreland did not respond to Trib questions or a request for an interview. Pittsburgh VA spokesman David Cowgill would not say why Wolf's evaluation neglected to discuss Legionella.

"Mrs. Wolf has a long-standing history of successfully leading large, complex health care systems within the VA," Cowgill wrote in the email. "She is an innovative leader in solving problems and moving the organization forward to face the ever-challenging and changing needs of providing first-rate health care to our nation's veterans."

He said the assessment of Wolf, who took over as CEO in April 2007, followed a national VA plan for evaluating senior executives. It emphasizes five core categories: leading change, leading people, building coalitions, demonstrating business acumen and driving results.

Moreland gave Wolf the highest rating in each category. He said she "flawlessly executed" the $592 million budget for the Pittsburgh VA, helping to cut the workforce by about 5 percent — or 126 people — to free some money for "veteran-centered care initiatives."

Wolf took nearly two pages to outline her achievements, including the management of more than $39.9 million in construction projects and the opening of two new buildings in O'Hara and Oakland. Wolf noted that the O'Hara facility features a putting green at a rehabilitation pavilion.

Twice during her evaluation period, Legionella bacteria hit levels considered alarming under national standards set by the Department of Veterans Affairs, according to test results obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention later determined as many as 21 veterans contracted the waterborne bacteria — which can lead to a deadly pneumonia by breathing it in from showerheads or other water outlets — between February 2011 and November 2012 on the Oakland and O'Hara campuses.

A Trib investigation found Legionella levels reached threatening levels on five earlier occasions dating back to September 2007, leaving open the possibility that even more veterans were sickened with Legionnaires' disease. The CDC acknowledged it did not review water testing results back to 2007 and declined a Trib offer to receive the documents.

Judy Nicklas' father-in-law, World War II Navy veteran William E. Nicklas of Hampton, was among the five veterans who died in the outbreak period.

"This review appears to me to be a case of commanders pinning medals on their own chest while the soldiers are left dying in the fields," said Nicklas, of Adams in Butler County. "I would urge every veteran to take a stance and protect the services to which they are entitled. Each and every veteran group should speak out to their congressmen and demand a change."

Miller called Wolf's glowing evaluation "undeniable proof" that the VA needs to review its performance-appraisal system.

Wolf, whose base salary was listed at $179,700 for 2011, received no performance bonus for her work in fiscal year 2012, according to documents the VA released to the Trib. Under congressional pressure after a host of problems, VA officials in Washington said in April they would defer performance awards for some unspecified department executives.

Moreland and Wolf received performance bonuses of $15,619 and $12,924, respectively, for 2011. Reps. Tim Murphy, R-Upper St. Clair, and Keith Rothfus, R-Sewickley, called for accountability and transparency.

"While veterans are still waiting on average 300 days for their claims to be addressed, and knowing Legionella bacteria was a problem at the Oakland VA for five-plus years, it's hard to comprehend how performance bonuses are routinely approved for top hospital officials given the systemic failures they've presided over," Murphy said.



Curt Cashour

House Committee on Veterans' Affairs


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VA Starts Campaign to Raise PTSD Awareness


WASHINGTON (June 24, 2013)– In observance of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) awareness month, the Department of Veterans Affairs National Center for PTSD invites the public to participate in its "Take the Step" campaign.


"Every day of the year, we should focus on assisting those who have served our Nation," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki.  "In June, during PTSD awareness month, we take special care to help Veterans with PTSD.  VA is a leader in providing state-of-the-art, high-quality mental health care that improves and saves Veterans' lives.  PTSD treatment can help and there is hope for recovery for Veterans who need mental health services."


Throughout the month, online at, the campaign has highlighted different topics so visitors can "Take the Step" to:  know more about PTSD; challenge their beliefs; explore the treatment options available; and reach out to make a difference.


VA provides effective PTSD treatment for Veterans and conducts extensive research on PTSD, including prevention of stress disorders.  Veterans are encouraged to use VA's PTSD resources so they are able to recognize symptoms and seek help if the need arises. VA also encourages Veterans to share what they learn with someone they know to build awareness and support systems.


Following exposure to trauma, most people experience stress reactions but many do not develop PTSD.   Mental health experts are not sure why some people develop PTSD and others do not.  However, if stress reactions do not improve over time and they disrupt everyday life, VA encourages Veterans to seek help to determine if PTSD may be a factor.


"Many barriers keep people with PTSD from seeking the help they need," said Dr. Matthew Friedman, Executive Director of VA's National Center for PTSD. "Knowledge and awareness, however, are key to overcoming these barriers.  For those living with PTSD, knowing there are treatments that work, for example, can lead them to seek needed care. Greater public awareness of PTSD can help reduce the stigma of this mental health problem and overcome negative stereotypes that may keep many people from pursuing treatment."


PTSD Awareness Month Highlights:


•             The purpose of PTSD Awareness Month is to raise public awareness of PTSD and its effective treatments so that everyone can help people affected by PTSD.

•             Throughout June explore weekly features at

•             "Ten Steps to Raise PTSD Awareness" provides links to materials that foster greater understanding of trauma, PTSD and treatment. It offers practical suggestions for the public to raise PTSD awareness in their own community.

•             For continued involvement, please sign up for the PTSD Monthly Update. Stay up on new information about PTSD and trauma year round.


On June 3, VA announced it had hired a total of 1,607 mental health clinical providers to meet the goal of 1,600 new mental health professionals outlined in the President's Aug. 31, 2012, Executive Order. Additionally, VA had hired 2,005 mental health clinical providers to fill existing vacancies, as well as 318 new peer specialists towards the specific goal of 800 peer specialists by Dec. 31, 2013 as outlined in the Executive Order. 


Throughout the summer, VA will hold mental health summits at each of its 152 medical centers across the nation to establish and enhance positive working relationships with their community partners. The summits will help encourage community engagement in order to better address and understand the broad mental health care needs of veterans and their families.


For more information about PTSD, professionals and the public can go to The National Center for PTSD Web site at The site offers resources such as:

•             PTSD Coach mobile app, this award-winning app provides symptom-management strategies and it's always with you when you need it.

•             Continuing education opportunities for providers, including PTSD 101 courses, on the best practices in PTSD treatment (CEs/CMEs offered).

•             AboutFace: An online video gallery of Veterans talking about PTSD and how treatment can turn your life around.


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Sunday, June 23, 2013

Wall Street Journal Blames the VA Backlog on Veterans "Gaming The System"

True of False: Veterans reapplying for increases are scamming the system?

According to this , veterans applying for an increase are guilty scammers - mostly with minor injuries that should not count. This is the second similar article I've seen recently. Where the hell are they finding these guys?

I really do not know what to say about this except consider the source. The Wall Street Journal would like you to believe these are welfare type entitlements and that it is more of the big govt socialist programs they so loathe.

What they fail to realize it is a expense that has been incurred from 3 wars Desert Storm, OEF, OIF that have protected Wall Streets financial and geopolitical interests that American business has profited from over last 20 plus years. Less than one percent of Americans are veterans. They have paid the price of freedom with there bodies, minds and lives. They volunteered to protect our way of life for the 99 percent. We owe them the healthcare and compensation for their injuries. It is a sacred oath we as a nation need to uphold for those who stood in harms way to protect our nation. Blaming veterans who have are suffering disabilities for the rest of their lives as a consequence of serving our nation is lower than low.  It shows a very naive understanding of the price of armed conflict.  Mr. Reporter and Editor of the Wall Street Journal why don't you come down to a DAV or VFW meeting or better yet a VA Hospital and voice your opinion in person. Do you have the intestinal fortitude to call us scammers to our faces. My next appointment is July 10th at the Buffalo VA hope to see you there.


 Sean Eagan

 Life Member VFW NY Post 53 American Cold War Veterans, Inc.

Blog: Cold War Veterans Blog
Phone:  716 720-4000 
Network: My Fast Pitch! Profile

Saturday, June 22, 2013

State Programs For Veterans Employment Assistance Making Positive Impact

This is a nice list from Curt Coy at US Dept. of Veterans Affairs listing some programs that might be of assistance to veterans seeking better employment opportunities. It looks like from this list the Southeast part of the country has led the way in this effort. Community level is always where this kind outreach seems to make greatest impact bravo to FL, GA.,LA, TX, VA !

Sean Eagan

Colleagues and Fellow Veterans,

Oftentimes, strategies that increase Veteran employment the most are shaped at the local community level.  This is one of the reasons why the Department of Veterans Affairs partnered with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation's Hiring Our Heroes program.  The U.S. Chamber works with state and local Chambers and businesses to hire Veterans right in their own communities. 

There are a number of innovative State programs making a positive impact on Veteran employment.  Some examples include:

Virginia's V3 (Virginia Values Vets) Program is a partnership to certify and assist employers looking to pledge, hire and retain Veterans. 

The Texas Veterans Commission (TVC) has a program to match Veterans and employers.

Employ Florida Vets developed their own online connection for Veterans and employers.

LAVETBIZ is a business initiative in Louisiana that was established to provide additional opportunities for Louisiana based Veteran (VSE) and service-connected disabled veteran (DVSE) owned small business owners when they seek work with the State of Louisiana.

Operation Workforce in Georgia provides a marketplace for jobs, resources and services for Georgia veterans.

I also attached a short summary with some additional programs that are broken down by state.

If you are aware of any innovative programs in your state, please share that information with us. The following link on the Department of Veterans Affairs website will take you to a listing of State and Territory Veterans Affairs' websites where you can view the programs and services for Veterans.  These are great examples of public and private entities coming together to make a difference for our Veterans and their families.  



Curtis L. Coy 
Deputy Under Secretary for Economic Opportunity 
Veterans Benefits Administration 
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs 
Washington, DC 20420

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VFW Washington Weekly 6-21-13

Washington Weekly

Arrow June 21, 2013

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House VA Committee Discusses Claims on Appeal
On Tuesday, the VFW submitted testimony before the House VA Subcommittee on Disability and Memorial Affairs regarding timely decisions for veterans who have a disability claim at the appeal level. Current data shows about 250,845 appeals are pending in VA regional offices, pension centers and at the Appeals Management Center. Some have been at these levels for the last 18 months without any significant change. The VFW testified that the focus from members of Congress and others has been solely on the "original disability claims" backlog, so appeals have not being given the same attention and have simultaneously grown. In our written testimony, we commented that the inattention to appeals cases, pressure to move other work, and understaffing of appeals operations has created inefficiencies that are now out of control. Subcommittee Chairman, Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) spoke about ways to improve overall efficiency and whether Congress needs to make legislative/law changes. Ranking Member Dina Titus (D-NV) asked the witnesses from VA if they are ready for the onslaught of appeals with the current changes being made and the draw-down of the current conflicts. She also asked VA about staffing levels and priorities at the Board level. Read the VFW's complete testimony. Watch the recorded webcast of the hearing.

House Discusses Veterans' Higher Education Initiatives
On Thursday, the VFW attended a hearing by the House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity entitled, "The Value of Education for Veterans at Public, Private and For-Profit Colleges and Universities." Subcommittee Chairman Bill Flores (R-TX) opened by stressing the importance of administering veterans' education programs effectively to ensure that veterans are able to maximize their opportunities and that tax dollars are being well spent. VFW partner Student Veterans of America testified on behalf of the veterans' service community, highlighting many of the concerns expressed by the VFW over the last year. To learn more about the hearing and to view an archived webcast, click here

House Passes NDAA
Late last Friday, the House approved (315-108) their version of the FY 2014 National Defense Authorization Act. The bill, H.R. 1960, authorizes $544.4 billion for DOD, Department of Energy and $85.8 billion for overseas contingency operations. Among the key provisions were several changes to the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) with regard to sexual assaults in the military. One would strip commanders of their authority to dismiss or reduce guilty verdicts in sexual assault cases and another would lift the five-year statute of limitations on assaults thereby allowing prosecution of these cases at any time. The bill would also provide guidelines to commanders on the temporary reassignment or removal of someone who has been accused of committing a sexual assault and requires victim's counsels to be specially trained to provide legal assistance to victims.

VFW-supported provisions included:

  • No increase in enrollment fees for Tricare healthcare or copayments for prescriptions.
  • A 1.8-percent military pay raise.
  • An amendment preventing service chiefs from ending Military Tuition Assistance programs.
  • Allowing Space-A-Travel for 100% disabled veterans.
  • Requiring DOD and VA to create a comprehensive plan regarding the care and treatment of service members with urotrauma.
  • Requiring DOD and VA to implement an integrated health record by October 1, 2016, and to make all health records within AHLTA and Vista available to healthcare providers in both Departments.

The bill now moves to the Senate for debate. Check back here for updates as we will continue to monitor any action on the bill as it moves through Congress. For the House Roll Call Vote, click here. For more about the bill, visit the House Armed Serviceswebsite. For the Senate Armed Services bill, click here

The VFW Joins Volunteers of America for Panel Discussion
On Tuesday, the VFW was on hand at the National Press Club for a panel discussion on the invisible wounds of war hosted by Volunteers of America. The panel, moderated by Fox News host Chris Wallace, featured former Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN); Kelly Caffarelli, president of the Home Depot Foundation; Koby Langley, a senior advisor for the Corporation for National Service; and Dr. Jonathan Sherin, vice president for military communities with Volunteers of America. Much of the discussion centered on ways to help veterans suffering from invisible wounds achieve normalcy as they return to a civilian society that is largely inexperienced with military culture. Learn more about the panel. 

Department of Labor Introduces Website for Women Veterans
Labor Department officials launched a new website this week devoted to issues and challenges affecting women veterans. The site is a collaborative effort between the Labor Department, the Veterans Employment and Training Service (VETS) and the Women's Bureau. The website highlights potential challenges that may affect the economic security of women veterans and also contains links with information on employment opportunities, education and healthcare options, and data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and other government agencies. 

Pancakes for Patriots
Plans continue to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Korean War armistice in Washington, D.C., on Saturday, July 27. The event will be broadcast live and VFW Posts nationwide are encouraged to join in the commemoration by hosting "Pancakes for Patriots"-type events to honor and help educate local communities about the service and sacrifices made by so many of our VFW members and their families. The Korean War Commemoration Committee is especially interested in VFW Posts hosting such events in the metropolitan areas of Washington, D.C.; the Hampton Roads area of Virginia; La Crosse, Wis.; and in San Antonio, Austin, Nashville, Louisville, Birmingham, Tucson and Minneapolis. Read more about the "Pancakes for Patriots" opportunity on the VFW Facebook page

Two MIAs Identified
The Defense POW/MIA Office announced the identification of remains belonging to two American servicemen who had been missing-in-action since World War II and the Korean War. They are:

  • Army Air Force Staff Sgt. James M. McKain, of Philadelphia. On May 7, 1944, McKain was aboard a B-24D Liberator that departed New Guinea on a bombing mission. Due to mechanical troubles, the B-24D was delayed in departing the airbase and was unable to join the formation after takeoff. Neither McKain, nor the other nine crewmen were seen after taking off.
  • Army Cpl. Marvin E. Omans, 20, of Clinton, Mo. In late November 1950, Omans and elements of the 31st Regimental Combat Team were deployed along the east side of the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea when they were attacked by overwhelming enemy forces. Task Force Faith began a fighting withdrawal to a more defensible position south of the reservoir. Omans would be reported missing.

Read more about their individual recovery stories. 

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