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Wounded Times

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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Congress has no clue what they are funding in the VA

Wounded Times
Kathie Costos
July 29, 2014

Year after year, decade after decade within the veterans community (military-veterans-families) we have a much different discussion than what the rest of the country is talking about. This is not a promising deal to fix the VA. It is yet one more round of toss, slap and grab.

We've been reading about all of this for decades followed by promises of fixing the problems with tossing money around. Soon afterwards we're faced with reports of veterans left to wait and fight for benefits they earned, feeling as if they got slapped and then some yahoos elected to go to Washington to take care of VA can't even bother to show up for hearings for the committees they get to put on their list of things they've done to grab up some veterans votes.

They make speeches about how much they care but never seem to match that care with the what they do.

We need to cut a lot of the bull out of the reports starting with the simple fact that if a veteran had not been to the VA before, they do not get to go to the head of the line. Even in the civilian world, doctors have an obligation to the patients they already have. They will not cancel appointments to fit in someone new or stay late to fit someone in. I have been going to my doctor's office for 10 years and I know if I have an emergency, they will fit me in. Had I not been known to them, I could go to the emergency room at a local hospital or to one of the hundreds of emergency clinics. My obligation is to make sure I take care of my health by having a relationship with doctors I trust.

Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan have 5 years of free care at the VA. They do not enroll and get a primary care doctor or even get testing done until they have problems. When they do, they expect to just get in and be seen right away. What about the veterans already there? Are they just expected to give up the appointments they had for months? Do veterans think doctors, nurses and staff will simply pop up when they decide to be seen? They need to enroll in the VA as soon as they get out even if they don't think they need it. Otherwise, staff will not be hired to meet the increase in need.

There has never been enough staff to take care of all the veterans in this country and Congress has had the same debates year after year for decades. We've seen it all before and most of the rush to address crisis after crisis happens the same year there is an election. What about the rest of the time when Congress was supposed to be doing their jobs so we wouldn't have to face repeats of the same things reported about decades before when we also got promises.

President Obama added to the number of veterans going to the VA by making it easier for Vietnam veterans to file claims for PTSD and Agent Orange. Congress did not increase funding enough to cover the numbers of employees to care for these veterans finally being able to seek the care they needed and tried to get before. There was already a backlog of claims and wait times for OEF and OIF veterans but the majority of those waiting were and still are Vietnam veterans. Congress didn't care because they got to talk to reporters about the newer generation of veterans. No one was really interested in the fact Vietnam veterans waited longer, were the majority of the claims waiting to be approved or that they were also the majority of the suicides.

We faced all of this while reporters simply dismissed the most obvious fact of all. Vietnam veterans were home by 1975, not 1973 the way most reporters think.
The First and the Last on the Vietnam Memorial Wall

The first American soldier killed in the Vietnam War was Air Force T-Sgt. Richard B. Fitzgibbon Jr. He is listed by the U.S. Department of Defense as having a casualty date of June 8, 1956. His name was added to the Wall on Memorial Day 1999.

First battlefield fatality was Specialist 4 James T. Davis who was killed on December 22, 1961.

The last American soldier killed in the Vietnam War was Kelton Rena Turner, an 18-year old Marine. He was killed in action on May 15, 1975, two weeks after the evacuation of Saigon, in what became known as the Mayaguez incident.

Others list Gary L. Hall, Joseph N. Hargrove and Danny G. Marshall as the last to die in Vietnam. These three US Marines Corps veterans were mistakenly left behind on Koh Tang Island during the Mayaguez incident. They were last seen together but unfortunately to date, their fate is unknown. They are located on panel 1W, lines 130 - 131.

The last pilot casualty in the country of Vietnam occured during the Embassy evacuation in Saigon, William C. Nystal and Michael J. Shea both died on the helicopter on April 30, 1975 approaching the USS Hancock in the China Sea (both are located at 1W, 124). The last pilot killed in the Vietnam war was Air Force helicopter pilot Second Lieutenant Richard Vandegeer who was killed on Koh Tang Island, Cambodia. This occured during the Mayaguez incident when his helicopter crashed on May 15, 1975. It is concidered the last combat action of the Vietnam War.

Now you know the other fact. Afghanistan is not the longest war. Actually when you think about it the way the Veterans Community does, Vietnam is not the longest war either. The longest war is the fight veterans have with the congress to get the care they need when they need it and not when members of congress get around to noticing.

There is nothing in this new funding for the VA that has not been done before. That also includes the fact that while Congress funds PTSD programs, 57% of the suicides happened after they went to the VA for help. How about Congress start to learn about what they are paying for first before they turn around and make things worse?

Monday, July 28, 2014

Military Times Names Servicemembers of the Year

Army Times Soldier of the Year
3rd Battalion
75th Ranger Regiment
Fort Benning, GA

Marine of the Year
Headquarters and Support Battalion, Marine Corps Installations East
Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune
Camp Lejeune, North Carolina

Sailor of the Year
USS Abraham Lincoln Newport News, VA

Airman of the Year
725th Air Mobility Squadron Rota, Spain

Coast Guardsman of the Year
Coast Guard Sector North Carolina Wilmington, NC

Click links to read their stories

Fort Stewart soldier killed on Florida beach, daughter in critical condition

Man killed in beach plane crash was veteran, family man
Bay 9 News
July 28, 2014
Sgt. 1st Class Ommy Irizarry, 36, and his daughter, 9-year-old Oceana, were hit while walking on the beach. Ommy was killed, and Oceana was badly injured.

The man killed Sunday on a beach near Venice was a seasoned U.S. soldier who survived two tours of duty in Iraq.

Sgt. 1st Class Ommy Irizarry, 36, and his daughter, 9-year-old Oceana, were hit while walking on the beach. Ommy was killed, and Oceana was badly injured. She remains in critical condition at All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg.

Originally from Puerto Rico, Irizarry lived with his family on base at Fort Stewart in southeast Georgia. The family was vacationing in Florida.
read more here

Humor Helps Wounded Green Beret

Humor helps wounded Green Beret cope 
Lewiston Tribune, Idaho
By Elaine Williams
Published: July 27, 2014
Staff Sgt. Cody Ensley is awarded the Purple Heart, for wounds he received while performing his duties in Afghanistan, by Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. John F. Campbell at San Antonio Military Medical Center on Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio Jan. 3, 2014.

Laughter comes easily to U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Cody Ensley, less than a year after he nearly lost his life in Afghanistan when an improvised explosive device detonated.

Words are still a struggle, something that can be frustrating for the Green Beret who was fluent in Spanish and had mastered a smattering of an Arabic dialect used in the region where he was deployed.

Sitting close to his wife at the home of friends, Ensley, 26, a 2006 Lewiston High School graduate, answered questions, often with single words, during his first visit to Idaho since the attack.

"He knows what he wants to say, but that speech center is so damaged, he just can't get it out," said his wife, Ashley Ensley. "We play charades a lot."

The Ensleys planned to see his family, catch up with friends and attend a fundraiser at Canter's Inn in Lewiston. The trip is a celebration of how far Ensley has come.
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Push is on to treat first responders for PTSD in Canada

Growing movement to treat PTSD in responders
The Canadian Press
Steve Lambert
July 27, 2014

WINNIPEG - Alex Forrest clearly remembers what happened to a fellow firefighter who was traumatized by the deaths of two captains in a house fire.

It was two months after the Winnipeg blaze in 2007 that killed Tom Nichols and Harold Lessard, and Forrest knew his colleague was having a hard time coping.

"I checked up on him and he had killed himself in a garage, and he was holding the pamphlet from the memorial," Forrest, head of the Winnipeg firefighters union, recalled last week.

"Many of the firefighters are still suffering the effects of that fire."

Forrest is one of many emergency responders across the country, including police officers and ambulance crews, who are fighting for better treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.

He says the condition has been around a long time — he remembers early in his career 25 years ago when one firefighter committed suicide — but people are more willing to talk about the issue now.

There have been high-profile cases in recent weeks, including that of Ken Barker, a retired RCMP corporal and dog handler who took his own life. His family told the Winnipeg Free Press that Barker had struggled with PTSD after seeing many horrific crimes over the years, including the 2008 beheading of Tim McLean on a Greyhound bus.
read more here

Fort Campbell Soldier from Florida Killed in Training Accident at Fort Polk

Fort Campbell soldier dies in training accident
The Leaf-Chronicle
July 27, 2014

FORT POLK, La. – A 101st Airborne soldier died during training on Thursday during what was termed "a routine vehicle movement to a training area" at the Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC) at Fort Polk, Louisiana..

According to a spokesman for the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) at Fort Campbell, Sgt. Tyler A. Zody, 20, died as a result of an accident involving one vehicle that also injured three soldiers.

The incident is under investigation.

Zody was assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team "Rakkasans" at Fort Campbell as a senior sniper.

"Tyler was a dedicated and talented young NCO," said Lt. Col. Marc Cloutier, Commander of the 1st Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment. "The Leader Battalion family will miss him dearly."

A native of Flemming Island, Florida, Zody was born Aug. 21, 1993. After he enlisted in the U.S. Army in July 2011, Zody completed basic training at Fort Benning, Georgia, as an infantryman. After graduating from training, he was assigned as a grenadier in Company A, 1st Bn, 187th Inf. Rgt in December of the same year.
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Veterans get attention again during "election-year firestorm"

How many more years do they plan on putting veterans first right before an election cycle? How many times do we have to face crisis after crisis only to see it all repeated again and again?
National News APNewsBreak: Tentative deal reached on VA reform
Associated Press
July 28, 2014

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The chairmen of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs committees have reached a tentative agreement on a plan to fix a veterans' health program scandalized by long patient wait times and falsified records covering up delays. Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., scheduled a news conference Monday to talk about a compromise plan to improve veterans' care.

Miller chairs the House veterans panel, while Sanders chairs the Senate panel. A spokesman for Sanders said Sunday the men have reached a tentative agreement. The deal requires a vote by a conference committee of House and Senate negotiators, and votes in the full House and Senate.

Miller and Sanders said in a joint statement that they "made significant progress" over the weekend toward agreement on legislation to reform the Veterans Affairs Department, which has been rocked by reports of patients dying while awaiting VA treatment and mounting evidence that workers falsified or omitted appointment schedules to mask frequent, long delays.

The resulting election-year firestorm forced VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign in late May. The plan set to be announced Monday is intended to "make VA more accountable and to help the department recruit more doctors, nurses and other health care professionals," Miller and Sanders said. Few details of the agreement were released, but the bill is expected to authorize billions in emergency spending to lease 27 new clinics, hire more doctors and nurses and make it easier for veterans who can't get prompt appointments with VA doctors to get outside care.

Louis Celli, legislative director for the American Legion, the nation's largest veterans group, said the deal would provide crucial help to veterans who have been waiting months or even years for VA health care. "There is an emergency need to get veterans off the waiting lists. That's what this is all about," Celli said Sunday.
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Double Amputee Iraq Veteran Getting New Home

Injured Army veteran from Greenfield gets big gift
KY3 News
Drew Douglas
Jul 27, 2014

You might remember Sgt. Derrick Hurt, who lost both of his legs as a result of injuries he suffered in Iraq in 2003. We've followed Hurt's story since he came home from Iraq in 2003. We last checked in on him in 2012 as he was getting used to new prosthetic legs.

Hurt had another important day on Sunday.

He's come a long way since first learning to walk on prosthetic legs at Walter Reed Medical Center more than a decade ago.

"I can run, I can snow ski, scuba dive,," Hurt said.

He can't wear his legs all the time, however.

"You know you get sore spots on your legs and can't put them on, so you're in your chair," he said.
read more here

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Seattle firefighters charged with harassing disabled, homeless veteran

Firefighters charged with harassing homeless man paid $25K on leave
By Casey McNerthney, KIRO 7 STAFF
July 25, 2014

The two Seattle firefighters charged with harassing a homeless man in Pioneer Square have been paid more than $25,000 each while on paid administrative leave, and they're still getting paid.

Robert Howell and Scott Bullene were each charged with one count of malicious harassment.

Howell and Bullene, were walking through Occidental Park after a Seattle Sounders game when they kicked and screamed at a homeless the man, witnesses told police. Both were off duty.

Also charged is Mia Jarvinen, said to be Bullene’s girlfriend. Investigators said she was with Howell and Bullene.

Police said the attack occurred after the firefighters found the homeless man was sleeping at the Seattle Fallen Firefighters Memorial. All three were intoxicated, police said.
Witness Ashton Cruz said the first man they went after was 'Sarge,' a disabled veteran, who hobbled on one leg and a walking stick.

Seattle police have said the veteran stabbed Bullene in self-defense.

Based on the police reports and witness interviews, “we have reason to believe the harassment was because of the victim’s status of being homeless,” Criminal Division Chief Craig Sims previously told KIRO 7.
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Oldest Female Veteran at 108 Treated Like Royalty in Washington

Nation's oldest female veteran, 108-year-old Lucy Coffey, fulfills her dream
Visit to Washington, D.C. includes meeting with Obama and Biden
Stars and Stripes
By Meredith Tibbetts
Published: July 26, 2014

WASHINGTON — Lucy Coffey, at age 108 the nation's oldest living female military veteran, dreamed of going to the Women in Military Service for America Memorial in Arlington, Va. This weekend she got her wish ... and then some.

Coffey was greeted with thunderous applause on Friday at Reagan National Airport, and was then welcomed to the White House by President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.

Though Coffey — who was part of the Women's Army Corps during World War II — did not walk on this trip and cannot speak, she was actively engaging with the people around her.

Staff Sgt. Lucy Coffey enlisted in 1943, around the time of her 37th birthday. She had tried to enlist several times before that, but was rejected for being too short or too slim. Donning extra weights on her legs, she passed the weight minimum of 100 pounds.

While in the Women's Army Corps, she earned two Bronze Stars, a WAC Service Medal, a Good Conduct Medal and a World War II Victory Medal. Coffey was one of 150,000 women who served as WACs during the war.
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Vietnam veteran receives Distinguished Service Cross 46 years after herosim

Vietnam veteran receives valor Distinguished Service Cross
Fay Observer
By Drew Brooks Military editor
Posted: Sunday, July 27, 2014

A former soldier was honored with the military's second-highest award for valor earlier this year, 46 years after his act of heroism.

Retired Master Sgt. Patrick N. Watkins Jr. received the Distinguished Service Cross in a ceremony at Eglin Air Force Base in May.

The medal rewards Watkins for his actions on Aug. 23, 1963, according to the citation.

At the time, he was a staff sergeant assigned to the 5th Special Forces Group, then headquartered at Fort Bragg.

Watkins was at the headquarters of Command and Control North the morning of Aug. 23, when the compound became the focus of a well-coordinated attack by a North Vietnamese Army sapper force, according to the citation.

Watkins was wounded in the initial assault but was able to organize a small reaction force to repel the attack and rescue wounded Americans.

The soldier led other Americans to defense positions through a "gauntlet of machine gun fire and grenades," according to the citation. He "disregarded his own safety to direct the recovery of the many wounded men and repeatedly engaged and killed enemy sappers."
read more here

The video everyone needs to watch on military suicides

Wounded Times
Kathie Costos
July 27, 2014

If you want to know why your veteran committed suicide, this is the biggest part of the answer. It wasn't your fault. Everything you faced since this hearing back in 2010 was the responsibility of the DOD and the VA. Nothing that happened afterwards was excusable but no one was ever held accountable for what the DOD and Congress failed to do in the first place.

During a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, General Peter Chiarelli talked about how PTSD and TBI were being co-diagnosed and how there were many misdiagnosis. It was almost as if he was more angry about the reporting by NPR than the outcome.
Military Still Failing To Diagnose, Treat Brain Injuries In 2007, under enormous public pressure, military leaders pledged to fix problems in diagnosing and treating brain injuries. Yet despite the hundreds of millions of dollars pumped into the effort since then, critical parts of this promise remain unfulfilled.

Over four months, we examined government records, previously undisclosed studies and private correspondence between senior medical officials. We conducted interviews with scores of soldiers, experts and military leaders.

That was all coming out in 2010.

Speeches. Endless speeches year after year on what the military has been doing to reduce suicides have resulted in headlines like this.
Navy sees suicide uptick despite prevention efforts
The Virginian-Pilot
By Corinne Reilly
July 25, 2014

After a drop in 2013, suicides among Navy sailors have increased sharply so far this year.

The Pentagon this week released updated suicide numbers for all of the service branches for 2013. Overall, they show a decline in suicides among active-duty service members compared with 2012. Suicides decreased among Navy sailors, too, from 57 in 2012 to 43 last year.

But so far this year, the Navy has seen a marked increase - 38 confirmed or suspected suicides as of this week, according to the service. That's up roughly 50 percent compared with the same period last year.
read more here

Suicide's toll: Survey says half of vets know someone who has tried it, July 24, 2014 Stars and Stripes. The number of enlisted has decreased but the number of suicides went up. The DOD heads refuse to accept responsibility for this outcome. All of their "efforts" pushing "resiliency" have killed more Soldiers, Marines, Airmen and Sailors then two wars combined. Their efforts have destroyed families. They simply make speeches on what they learned.

This is a video everyone needs to watch. You need to hear their words. You need to hear what they claimed 4 years ago before the numbers went to a historical high in 2012. You need to see the empty chairs where members of the Armed Services Committee should have been sitting. You need to hear the questions asked by the Senators who bothered to show up. Then you need to ask yourself is any of this is acceptable to you.
Senate Armed Services Committee
JUNE 22, 2010
Military Suicides
Military branch vice chiefs and a Veterans Administration official spoke about efforts to prevent military suicides. They also talked about efforts to diagnose and treat brain injuries.

In 2010 the DOD knew they had a shortage of mental health doctors and nurses.

Suicides Alarming: The numbers read by Senator Levin

2007 115 Soldiers, 2008 140, 2009 162.

Army, General Peter Chiarelli, Navy Adm. Jonathan Greenhert, Marine Corps Gen. James F. Amos, and Air Force Gen. Carrol H. "Howie" Chandler talked about building "resiliency" and how there was a great need to get the members of the military to seek help. All of these leaders claimed to be doing "all we can" but that was when the numbers were far lower. Dr. Robert Jesse of the Department of Veterans Affairs also made claims of what the VA was doing.

They claimed the research was new avoiding the fact that other Generals had given similar speeches decades ago. They claimed to be doing so much but none of them have ever accepted responsibility for the failure to live up to what they claimed. None of them have admitted what they had been doing failed so many the number of suicides and attempted suicides went up. The number of veterans committing suicide went up.

The backstory on all of this is the simple fact that "bad paper discharges" also went up. Those discharged were no longer the responsibility of the military to account for. They were not part of the VA accounting since most were not eligible for benefits or treatment.

The GAO Report Mental Health and Traumatic Brain Injury Screening Efforts Implemented, but Consistent Pre-Deployment Medical Record Review Policies Needed" but the Generals admitted that while they were doing pre-deployment screenings, they were not doing post-deployment screenings. The excuse was they did not have enough time or mental health workers. They also stated they were getting too many "false-positive" results.
Automated Neuropsychological Assessment Metrics Pre Deployment, Deployment and Post Deployment Screenings. The Defense Department requires all service members to undergo a pre-deployment baseline neurocognitive assessment within 12 months of deployment. Establishing a neurocognitive baseline on all service members facilitates the ability to measure potential cognitive changes in individuals who are exposed to a concussive event. Automated Neuropsychological Assessment Metrics (ANAM) is one such measure that can be used to assess cognitive changes post-concussion and is the neurocognitive assessment tool the Defense Department is currently employing for use by all services.

General Amos said that only about 2% needed mental health help.

Halfway into the meeting, John McCain's seat was empty. Senator Akaka, Senator Levin and Senator Inhofe, Senator Susan Collins, Senator Clair McCaskill, Senator Mark Udall, Senator Mark Begich, Senator Joe Liberman and Senator Kay Hagan were the only ones left to ask questions and listen to the answers.

General Chiarelli said the cooperation between the DOD and the VA had never been better. When a soldier decided to leave service, they were already in the VA system. Remember, that was back in 2010.

General Amos had the same statement on the cooperation between the Marines and the VA.

Adm. Greenert said the same thing. The cooperation had never been better.

General Chandler also said they had a very comfortable relationship with the VA and transitioning the Airmen.

When you hear what was said, what was claimed, back in 2010, it makes the results all the more troubling. When you see how few members of the Senate Armed Services Committee showed up to take an interest in what was happening, it leaves few questions as to why things have been so bad after they continued to simply fund programs that clearly were not working.

In the end, after all the trainings, they talked about how non-deployed committed suicide after being screened. If they were unable to stop them for committing suicide with the same training they gave to the deployed multiple times, how did they expect a different outcome?

Airmen defend base in Afghanistan during 4 hour assault

St. Louis Post Dispatch
July 26, 2014
The attack ultimately ended when an Afghan-led quick reaction force, enabled by the cover fire from Corley and other Air Force defenders, arrived at the enemy position and swept the building to eliminate the remaining attackers.

KABUL, Afghanistan – A U.S. Air Force Airman from St. Charles successfully defended his forward operating base here during a more than four hour insurgent attack, July 17, 2014.

Airman 1st Class Chris Corley, son of Dennis and Cheri Jo Corley of St. Charles, is currently deployed and serving as a Security Forces member with the 438th Air Expeditionary Wing at Forward Operating Base OQAB, at Kabul International Airport. The wing’s mission is to set the conditions for a professional, independent, and sustainable Afghan Air Force to meet the present and future security requirements of Afghanistan. Corley is assigned to provide base and personnel security in support of that mission. This marks his first deployment.

In the pre-dawn hours of July 17, a group of anti-Afghanistan forces gained access to a multi-story building under construction approximately 350 meters from the base and airport fence line. Fighting from the rooftop and windows on several stories, the attackers began firing rocket propelled grenades and shooting automatic weapons at the Afghan Air Force base adjoining the airport, and the U.S. Air Force FOB within the compound. The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attack, according to multiple media sources.

Corley and a few dozen other Air Force security forces members took up fighting positions and were the first to return fire.
read more here

Fort Hood Soldier died after contracting illness in Afghanistan

Fort Hood Soldier Dies from Illness Contracted in Afghanistan
By: TWC News Staff

A Fort Hood soldier has died in San Antonio after he contracted an illness in Afghanistan.

Army officials say Pfc. Donnell Hamilton Jr. died Thursday at Brooke Army Medical Center from an illness sustained in Ghazni Province, Afghanistan.
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