VETERANS NEWS & VIEWS, NOVEMBER 2008
Gardens of Stone
By: Jason A. Bernard, October 10, 2008
So many buried, together…..alone!
They died for freedom, at least that’s what ―they‖ say,
But who will remember after today?
The people cry freedom, is it more than a word?
So many spoken, yet so few heard.
Their memories linger in my mind and my thoughts
While I’m living a life that their sacrifice bought.
They have gone to the hereafter, I’m left in the now,
Left to carry on, but do I know how?
We met as strangers but were united in harm,
I miss them so much, by brothers in arms.
Would they still know me? Would they be proud?
Would they come to my aid to tear these walls down?
I constructed this place, hard as stone, hard as steel
The only place left where I dare to feel.
I built this place, my only retreat
It’s the place inside where the dead and I meet.
So here I stand, full of pride, full of shame.
Clinging to the ghosts that I fear to name.
This is where I make my stand, by myself,
Standing in the middle of this Garden of Stone.
You were young and listen to the words they spoke.
You were naïve and believed the lies that made you choke.
You put on their uniforms knowing it was never yours.
You screamed their note and jumped out their doors.
You picked up the rifle not understanding the cost.
You took the lives, but it’s your soul that was lost
You let your nostrils burn as sweat ran down your face.
Still you remain locked in those thoughts you can’t replace.
You weep for their memories but not for your own.
Locked inside my mind, scared and alone.
I see you now just as you are,
Frightened and shaking, tucked away so far.
You are still in the darkness but there is light.
I bring it to you to set things right
The light is forgiveness and it still shines through
This light is forgiveness and I want to forgive me.
VETERANS NEWS & VIEWS, NOVEMBER 2008
Submitted by Robert Sittler - American Legion Post 281 Homer Dahringer
In 1918, as the eleventh hour of the eleventh day in the eleventh month, the world rejoiced
and celebrated. After four years of bitter war, an armistice was signed. November 11th,
1919 was set aside as ARMISTICE DAY in the United States. Congress voted Armistice
Day a federal holiday in 1938. Americans still give thanks for peace on Veterans Day.
There are ceremonies and speeches at 11:00 in the morning. Most Americans observe a
moment of silence, remembering those who fought and are currently fighting for peace.
Which is the correct spelling of Veterans Day.
A: ―Veterans Day‖
B. ―Veteran’s Day‖
C. ―Veterans’ Day‖
Answer is A. Veterans Day. ―Veterans Day‖ does not include an apostrophe but does
include an ―s‖ at the end of ―Veterans‖ because it is not a day that ―belongs‖ to veterans. It
is a day for honoring all veterans. What is the difference between Veterans Day and
Memorial Day? Many people confuse Memorial Day and Veterans Day. Memorial Day is
a day for remembering and honoring military personnel who died in the service of their
country, particularly those who died in battle or as a result of wounds sustained in battle.
While those who died are also remembered on Veterans Day, Veterans Day is the day set
aside to thank and honor all those who served honorably in the military – in wartime or
peacetime. In fact, Veterans Day is largely intended to thank living veterans for their
service, to acknowledge that their contributions to our national security are appreciated,
and to underscore the fact that all those who served – not only those who died – have
sacrificed and done their duty.
1941 – 1945, 1950 – 1953, World War II and the Korean War create millions of new war
veterans in addition to those of the Great War, already honored by Armistice Day. On
November 11th, 1953, cobbler Alvin King of Emporia, Kansas organized the towns annual
Armistice Day observance as ―All Veterans Day.‖ The Kansas governor attends and
suggests similar observances in every U.S. city, prompting U.S. representative Ed Rees of
Emporia to introduce legislation in Congress that would change Armistice Day to Veterans
Day. 1954. On June 1st, President Eisenhower signs legislation changing the name of the
legal holiday from Armistice Day to Veterans Day. On October 8th, he issues the first
Veterans Day Proclamation.
―On that day, let us solemnly remember the sacrifices of all those who fought so valiantly, on the seas, on in the air, and on foreign shores, to preserve our
heritage of freedom.‖
President Dwight D Eisenhower, Veterans Day Proclamation, October, 1954
VETERANS NEWS & VIEWS, NOVEMBER 2008
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Cover Page Poem by Jason A Bernard-----------------U.S. Army
Veterans Day, submitted by Robert Sittler--- –American Legion
Letter to the Editor, by Michael Peck----------------------V.A.C.
Military History Anniversaries ---------------------- (November)
Daylight Saving Time  ---------------------- (Why & When)
Votes Count ------------------------------- (Make Sure You Vote)
LTC Catch 22 ----------------------------- (Middle Class Plight)
Mobilized Reserve 28 OCT 08 ----------------- (882 Decrease)
VA Nursing  ------------------------------- (In Short Supply)
VA Blue Water Claims  --------------- (Writ of Certiorari)
SSA Disability Claims  -------- (760,000 Pending Review)
Uniform Wearing ---------------------------------- (Federal Law)
Prostate Cancer  ------------------- (Vitamin E & Selenium)
SSA Compassionate Allowances ---------- (Diseases Covered)
Veteran Travel Opportunities ----- (Barking Sands, Kauai HI)
Medicare Part D  ----------- (Hospital Medical Errors)
Medicare Part D  ---------------- (Advantage Commissions)
VA Means Test -------------------------------- (How Conducted)
Flu Shots  ----------------------- (Best Protection Available)
RC Disability Claims --------------- (Disproportional Denials)
VA Retro Pay Project  ------------- ($12 Million in Errors)
Pneumonia ---------------------------------------------- (Overview)
Pneumonia  ------------------------------------ (Smoker Risk)
Patient Privacy Rules --------------------- (HIPPA Regulations)
TFL Appointments -------------------------------- (How to make)
VA Home Loan  ----------- (Enhanced Options Available)
Diabetes  ------------------------- (Drug Spending Doubles)
VA Mobil Counseling Centers ----------- (50 Motor Coaches)
Multiple Sclerosis  --------------- (Leukemia Drug Impact)
ID Card Expiration Date -------------------------------- (Ignore)
Saluting the Flag  ------------------------ (National Anthem)
VA Fraud  --------------------------- (Arlington County VA)
PA Vet Cemetery  ------------ (Accepting Interment Apps)
Back Pay Interest --------------------------------- (Now Allowed)
Veterans Day --------------------------------------------- (History)
CRDP  ------------------------------------ (Back Pay for IU's)
Golden Corral Military Buffet ------ (Complementary Dinner)
McCormick & Schmick's Vet Tribute --------------------- ( " )
Nebraska Vet Cemetery  ----------------- (Ground Broken)
Gulf War Syndrome  --------------------- (Rumor's Impact)
VA Credibility ------------------- (Key lawmaker Losing Faith)
Tricare/Medicare Combined Benefit --------------- (Under 65)
Overseas Holiday Mail 2008 ----------------------- (Deadlines)
VA Claim Shredding -------------------- (Under Investigation)
Filipino Vet Inequities  ------------ (Sen. Burr Comments)
Kentucky State Park Discount ------------ (Veterans Eligible)
COLA 2009  -------------------------------- (Final Figures)
Social Security Announces 5.8 %nt Benefit Increase for 2009
PTSD Military Peacekeeping-----------------------------------(*)
VETERANS NEWS & VIEWS, NOVEMBER 2008
October 29, 2008
Letter To The Editor
On behalf of the Veterans Assistance Commission of Lake County I want to
publicly thank the individuals and organizations that helped to make our Stand
Down 2008 a success. Veteran’s who are newly discharged, displaced,
disabled, homeless or unemployed were the focus of our Stand Down.
As a result of the stand down we served 48 veterans and 15 new clients. The
Vernon Hills Police Department provided new winter coats, and 23 clients
were given hair cuts courtesy of American Legion Homer Dahringer Post 281,
The Stand Down featured staff members from the North Chicago VAMC,
Illinois Department of Employment Security, Consumer Credit Counseling and
Assisting with registration and clothing distribution were VAC delegates Nick
Konz, Richard Johnson, Lisabeth Risley, Robert Perosa, Robert Sittler and
During the past year through October 1st the VAC delegates have contributed
over 8,000 hours of volunteer service to North Chicago VAMC and their
The VAC of Lake County provides emergency assistance, VA claim assistance,
emergency shelter, transportation to and from North Chicago VAMC. In
addition, the VAC has dental, vision and audio care on a state grant through
IDVA from the Veterans Scratch Off Lottery Tickets.
Michael P. Peck
VETERANS NEWS & VIEWS, NOVEMBER 2008
MILITARY HISTORY ANNIVERSARIES:
Significant November Events in Military History are:
1775 - Continental Congress establishes two battalions of Marines. Samuel Nicholas was appointed "Captain of Marines" on
28 November 1775, and promoted to major on June 25, 1776. Because of his senior status among other Marine officers of the
Revolution, he is numbered as the first Commandant.
1775 - Americans under General Richard Montgomery capture the British fort of Saint Johns. (War of Independence)
1861 - The Confederate raider Nashville captured and burned the Union clipper ship Harvey Birch in the Atlantic Ocean. (Civil
1864 - Union General W.T. Sherman began his march to the sea from Atlanta, GA, in an effort to cut the Confederacy in two.
1865 - Dr. Mary E. Walker, the first female surgeon in the Union Army, is presented with the Medal of Honor, the first woman
to receive that award.
1910 - First airplane flight from the deck of a ship.
1917 - American troops were first engaged in fighting attacking German troops near the Rhine-Marne Canal in France. (World
1918 - World War I ends at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month with the signing of an Armistice.
(World War I)
1942 - Operation Torch begins with Allied landings in northwest Africa (World War II).
1943 - U.S. Marines landed on Tarawa in the Gilbert Islands, one of the bloodiest campaigns waged by American forces
against the Japanese in the Pacific (World War II).
1965 - Battle of Chu Pon-ia Drang River, Vietnam. U.S. 1st Calvary fought North Vietnamese regulars for four days (Vietnam
1967 - American troops broke a North Vietnamese assault at Loc Ninh, near the Cambodian border (Vietnam War).
1968 - Battle of Nui Chom Mountain. The 4th Bn, 31st Infantry, 196th Inf Bde fought and destroyed the 21st NVA Regiment
on Nui Chom Mountain southwest of Da Nang, Vietnam in a fierce six day battle. Cpl Michael Crescenz received the
Medal of Honor as they fought inch by inch up the steep mountain. (Vietnam War) 1979 - Iranian militants seized the US
Embassy in Tehran, held 65 Americans hostage.
1999 - VetJobs goes live on the Internet.
[Source: VetJobs Veteran Eagle Nov 08 ++]
DAYLIGHT SAVING TIME UPDATE 01:
The prominent English builder and outdoorsman William Willett conceived Daylight Savings Time in 1905 during a
pre-breakfast ride, when he observed with dismay how many Londoners slept through a large part of a summer day. An avid golfer, he also
disliked cutting short his round at dusk. His solution was to advance the clock during the summer months, a proposal he published two years
later. He lobbied unsuccessfully for the proposal until his death in 1915. Germany, its World War I allies, and their occupied zones were the
first European nations to use Willett's invention, starting 30 APR 16. Britain, most of its allies, and many European neutrals soon followed
suit. Russia and a few other countries waited until the next year. In 1918, the United States came to the same realization and enacted a law to
both preserve daylight and provide standard time for the nation.. It was an unpopular law, and in 1919 was repealed over President Wilson's
veto. However, some localities liked the DST concept and continued it. During WWII, the nation, for the years of 1942 - 1945 went under
DST year around, which was called "War Time". Since then, the world has seen many enactments, adjustments, and repeals. In 1966, 1972,
and 1986, Congress passed various laws concerning the issues of time and daylight savings.
Most of the United States begins Daylight Saving Time at 2:00 a.m. on the second Sunday in March and reverts to standard time on the
first Sunday in November. In the U.S., each time zone switches at a different time. This began in 2007. The 2007 U.S. change was part of the
Energy Policy Act of 2005; previously, from 1987 through 2006, the start and end dates were the first Sunday in April and the last Sunday in
October, and Congress retains the right to go back to the previous dates once an energy-consumption study is done. In the U.S., 2:00 a.m. was
originally chosen as the changeover time because it was
practical and minimized disruption. Most people were at home and this was the time when the fewest trains were running. It is late enough to
minimally affect bars and restaurants, and it prevents the day from switching to yesterday, which would be confusing. It is early enough that
the entire continental U.S. switches by daybreak, and the changeover occurs before most early shift workers and early churchgoers are
affected. For the U.S. and its territories, Daylight Saving Time is NOT observed in Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Virgin
Islands, the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands, and Arizona. The Navajo
Nation participates in the Daylight Saving Time policy, even in Arizona, due to
its large size and location in three states. To keep track just remember Spring
(i.e. MAR) forward & Fall (i.e NOV) back. [Source: [Source: EANGUS Minuteman
VETERANS NEWS & VIEWS, NOVEMBER 2008
Almost 125 million people voted in the 2004 presidential election. In case your wondering if your vote really counts here's
asmattering of close elections:
o In 1972, Dorothy Wilson was re-elected as a Nevada justice of peace by the flip of a coin.
o Campaigning for a seat on the Massachusetts Governor's Council on the day of the primary election in 1988, Herbert
Connolly lost track of time - and got to his polling place too late to vote. The polls had closed just minutes before. When the
ballots were counted later that night, he'd lost by one vote.
o In 2000, the Presidential election was decided by 537 votes, between George Bush and Al Gore.
o In 2002, in a Congressional race in the 7th District of Colorado, only 121 votes separated the top two candidates, Bob
Beauprez and Mike Feeney.
o In 2004, the Washington state governor's race came down to 133 important voters who favored Christine Gregoire over
o In 2006, Connecticut's 2nd Congressional District was decided by only 83 votes, giving Joe Courtney the seat over Rob
[Source: EANGUS Minuteman Update 30 Oct 08 ++]
LTC CATCH 22:
The phenomenon of middle-class, middle-aged Americans stretched to their emotional and financial limits caring for sick
spouses or parents is one that's already widespread and likely to get worse, experts say. Once private insurance benefits end,
the only option for most Americans is Medicaid, which requires that recipients have less than $5,000 in assets. This means that
couples are elders must exhaust most of their remaining assets to qualify. In the case of couples one option is divorce. Some
statistics that support a worsening situation are:
o U.S. Census figures project that the number of Americans 65 or over will double by 2030, and that two-thirds of today's
65-year-olds will require some period of long-term care later in their lives.
o According to one recent study, the number of geriatricians has actually declined in recent years, to about 7,750: that
translates to one for every 4,254 older Americans.
o It's projected that the country will face a shortage of more than 800,000 nurses by 2020.
o According to U.S. government surveys, in 2004, there were 2.5 million Americans living in either nursing homes or
assisted living facilities. The average cost of a private room in a nursing home, according to a recent MetLife study: $75,000
o The AARP notes that two-thirds of older Americans who needed long-term care now rely completely on unpaid help --
in most cases, family.
Carol Raphael, president of the Visiting Nurse Service of New York, who joined other experts at a recent media briefing in
New York City on eldercare said, "The trouble is, caregivers just feel utterly unprepared for their role. Many of the family
caregivers VNS staffers encounter feel left out of crucial decisions concerning their loved one's care. They are often on the
border -- they aren't even included in thinking about how care will be provided." Another big challenge -- caregivers are often
confronted with an array of doctors, procedures, paperwork and facilities, with no one to help pull it all together. In the current
system, there's no one accountable. Raphael said, "That's why it can cost you $125 an hour [for a geriatric care manager],
because you're trying to fill that hole." Too often, chronically ill patients and their families simply lurch from one crisis to the
next, with no continuity of care to make sure that once patients leave the hospital; they aren't getting readmitted a few weeks
later. AARP president Jennie Chin Hansen, who has 40 years of experience as a nurse said, "Care has to be coordinated and
supported. We have to be preventing things from happening because there are things that we know cause you to go to the
hospital again: taking the wrong medications while you're back home, for example." Chin and other experts focused especially
on the crucial 30 days after a hospital discharge. Close monitoring and follow-up during that month can greatly reduce
unnecessary suffering and cost, they said.
Across America, much of the in-home care that is provided is carried out by home health care aides, who are often woefully
under-trained, the experts said. "They are the glue that is holding the home health care system together," said Raphael. But, she
added, she is shocked that in most states we have very minimum training requirements for these para-professional workers
VETERANS NEWS & VIEWS, NOVEMBER 2008
who are handling very complex cases." In New York State, for example, home health care workers are required to undergo 120
hours of training before getting certification. That might sound OK, until you realize that finger-nail technicians in California
need to have 350 hours of training to be certified to work in a salon.. "The pay scale [for home health aides] is also relatively
low, and they don't have health care benefits, on top of that," Chinadded. Wage issues are keeping the number of geriatricians
at an all-time low, as well. Geriatricians are crucial, the experts said, because they look not at a particular disease or body site,
but at the older person as a whole. However, a recent U.S. Institute of Medicine report found that geriatricians remain the
lowest paid medical specialty of all. Boosting the number of geriatricians, nurses and well-trained home health care aides will
be a top priority in easing the eldercare "squeeze," the experts agreed.
The same can be said for recent moves by government and medical institutions to cut down on red tape and better
coordinate care, especially between the hospital and home. In the meantime, aging Americans should plan wisely, especially
since resources vary widely state by state. One good resource: The National Association of Area Agencies on Aging
(www.n4a.org), found in every state, can give details on what's available to you locally. It also pays to think about how you
will pay for long-term care, since Medicaid only kicks in after personal finances are exhausted -- something Raphael labeled
a policy of pauperization. In the end, it will be middle-income Americans who feel the squeeze most, according to journalist
Gail Sheehy, who is currently writing a book about her care-giving spouse experience. "For people who are very wealthy, if the
family cares about the loved one, they'll be able to provide this care. And the poor finally get a break, because they can get on
Medicaid," she said. "But it's the vast lower-middle to upper-middle class that is really getting the shaft." [Source: Helath Day
E.J. Mundell article 29 Oct 08 ++]
MOBILIZED RESERVE 28 OCT 08:
The Army, Air Force and Marine Corps announced the current number of reservists on active duty as of 28 OCT 08 in support
of the partial mobilization. The net collective result is 882 fewer reservists mobilized than last reported in the Bulletin for 15
OCT 08. At any given time, services may mobilize some units and individuals while demobilizing others, making it possible
for these figures to either increase or decrease. The total number currently on active duty in support of the partial mobilization
of the Army National Guard and Army Reserve is 95,327; Navy Reserve, 6,177; Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve,
10,606; Marine Corps Reserve, 7,197; and the Coast Guard Reserve, 758. This brings the total National Guard and Reserve
personnel who have been mobilized to 120,065including both units and individual augmentees. A cumulative roster of all
National Guard and Reserve personnel, who are currently mobilized, can be found at
http://www.defenselink.mil/News/Oct2008/d20081028ngr.pdf . [Source: DoD News
Release 857-08 28 Oct 08 ++]
VA NURSING UPDATE 01:
Nurses are the largest group of health care providers employed by the Veterans Affairs Department, but its medical centers face
significant hurdles in recruiting and retaining them, according to a new report. The Government Accountability Office (GAO)
recommended that VA implement a new staffing system and assess the barriers to alternative work schedules to improve
the situation. According to VA nursing officials, retention problems stem from nurses spending too much time performing non-
nursing duties such as housekeeping and clerical tasks, GAO said. Also, while the department's medical centers were
authorized in 2004 to offer RNs alternative work schedules, such as three 12-hour shifts within a week to be considered full-
time for pay and benefits purposes, few nurse executives reported offering such schedules. Nursing officials and RNs noted
that retention problems also result from relying on supplemental staffing strategies, such as overtime, and insufficient
professional development opportunities.
Maintaining the nurse workforce at VA is critical to the care of the veteran population since studies have shown that a
shortage of nurses, especially when combined with a greater workload, can adversely affect patients and the care they receive.
For example, hospitals with fewer nurses have demonstrated higher rates of problems such as urinary tract infections and
pneumonia, the report said. "Conversely, an increase in RN staffing has been associated with a reduction in adverse patient care
events and with better quality outcomes such as fewer infections," GAO noted. Additionally, the agency found that VA did not
have an adequate staffing plan for nurses, largely because a patient classification system the medical centers used to determine
staffing included outdated and inaccurate data. As a result, nurse managers do not rely on that data to help set nurse staffing
levels, but on information from a variety of sources, including historical data or workforce data from other hospitals. While VA
VETERANS NEWS & VIEWS, NOVEMBER 2008
said it intends to develop a new nurse staffing system, GAO noted that the department has not developed a detailed action plan
that includes a timetable for building, testing and implementing such a system.
Meanwhile, VA nurse executives also identified limitations on the department's ability to hire new nurses. For example,
VA-imposed hiring freezes and delays discourage potential candidates from seeking employment or following through on
applications at its medical centers. Although VA has taken steps to address some of the factors that contribute to hiring delays,
GAO found, "it is too early to determine the extent to which these steps have been effective in reducing hiring delays." GAO
recommended that VA develop a specific plan that includes a timetable for developing a process that provides nurse staffing
estimates that accurately account for the severity of patients' illnesses, the current nursing tasks performed in inpatient units
and the level of nursing support available. GAO also recommended that the department assess the obstacles to alternative and
flexible work schedules for nurses and explore ways to overcome those barriers. VA agreed with GAO's findings and
recommendations, noting that it plans to develop a new nurse staffing system. The Office of Nursing Service also plans to
create a special task force to identify options for expanding alternative and flexible work schedules. [Source: GovExec.com
newsletter Brittany R. Ballenstedt article 28 Oct 08 ++]
VA BLUE WATER CLAIMS UPDATE 04:
The American Legions Veteran Affairs and Rehabilitation (VA&R) Commission tracks and provides Bulletins on Blue Water
Claims They have had a longstanding position (resolution) supporting the premise that shipboard service in Vietnam's
territorial waters constitutes service in the Republic of Vietnam for the purpose of presumption of exposure to herbicides
(Agent Orange) during the Vietnam War. Following is a summary of legal actions to date in efforts by the American Legion
and the National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP) to get the VA to accept Agent Orange related claims from "Blue
Water" Navy veterans:
o August 16, 2006, the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC) held in Haas v. Nicholson (now Haas
v. Peake) that Vietnam veterans who served in the waters off Vietnam ("Blue Water" Navy veterans) are entitled to disability
benefits for diseases related to exposure to Agent Orange.
o May 12, 2008, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) appealed the CAVC's decision to United States Court of Appeals
for the Federal Circuit.
o May 8, 2008, the Federal Circuit issued a decision reversing the decision of the CAVC in Haas v. Peake.
o June 23, 2008, the attorneys for Mr. Haas, the National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP), filed a Combined
Petition for Panel Rehearing orRehearing En Banc.
o June 30, 2008, The American Legion, Military Order of the Purple Heart, and United Spinal Association filed an Amici
Curiae Brief in support of Mr.Haas' petition for rehearing.
o September 12, 2008 VA filed its opposition to the petition for rehearing.
o October 9, 2008, the Federal Circuit denied the petition for rehearing.
o October 17, 2008, Mr. Haas' attorneys filed a Petition for a Writ of Certiorari in the U.S. Supreme Court asking the Court
to overturn the Federal Circuit's decision in Haas that denied Agent Orange-related VA benefits to Blue Water Vietnam
o November 21, 2008 due date for VA's response to the petition. The Supreme Court only grants certiorari in about one
percent of cases and, even if they agree to hear the case, there is no guarantee that Mr. Haas would win on the merits.
[Source: VA&R Bulletin 34-08 dtd 28 Oct 08 ++]
SSA DISABILITY CLAIMS UPDATE 01:
Despite hiring new judges with an additional $150 million in funding, the Social Security Administration's massive backlog of
years-old disability claims has not been appreciably reduced over the last year, although the agency has processed most cases
that have been in the pipeline the longest. A person claiming disability benefits must prove to the Social Security
Administration (SSA) that she or he is unable to perform any degree of work in order to begin receiving Social Security
Disability Insurance. Initial applications are often denied, leading to an appeal to an administrative law judge (ALJ) for
reconsideration. More than 760,000 cases were pending review from an ALJ at the end of September. This is 14,000 more
cases than were pending in SEP 07, and shows that growth in the backlog had slowed significantly. Previously, SSA had added
about 70,000 cases to its backlog annually. According to agency data, the average wait for a decision in SEP 08 was 509 days.
VETERANS NEWS & VIEWS, NOVEMBER 2008
This is slightly longer than the average wait one year ago. During fiscal year 2008, SSA hired 190 new ALJs, opened a
National Hearing Center (NHC), and eliminated virtually the entire backlog of over 135,000 cases that had been waiting over
900 days for a hearing decision. SSA notes that the hiring of new ALJs was critical, but it will take a number of months before
they become fully productive. The NHC will give SSA the capability of conducting video hearings in cities with the worst
backlogs. The agency is also working with the Government Services Administration to establish new hearing offices. [Source:
Medicare Watch 28 Oct 08 ++]
Federal laws concerning the wear of the United States Military uniforms by people not on active duty are published in the
United States Code (USC). Specifically, 10 USC, Subtitle A, Part II, Chapter 45, Sections 771 and 772 state.:
- Section 771: Except as otherwise provided by law, no person except a member of the Army, Navy, Air Force, or Marine
Corps, as the case may be, may wear - (1) the uniform, or a distinctive part of the uniform, of the Army, Navy, Air Force, or
Marine Corps; or (2) a uniform any part of which is similar to a distinctive part of the uniform of the Army, Navy, Air Force,
or Marine Corps
- Section 772 lists some exceptions: (a) A member of the Army National Guard or the Air National Guard may wear the
uniform prescribed for the Army National Guard or the Air National Guard, as the case may be. (b) A member of the Naval
Militia may wear the uniform prescribed for the Naval Militia.
(c) A retired officer of the Army, Navy, Air Force, or Marine Corps may bear the title and wear the uniform of his retired
(d) A person who is discharged honorably or under honorable conditions from the Army, Navy, Air Force, or Marine Corps
may wear his uniform while going from the place of discharge to his home, within three months after his discharge.
(e) A person not on active duty who served honorably in time of war in the Army, Navy, Air Force, or Marine Corps may
bear the title, and, when authorizedby regulations prescribed by the President, wear the uniform, of the highest grade held by
him during that war.
(f) While portraying a member of the Army, Navy, Air Force, or Marine Corps, an actor in a theatrical or motion-picture
production may wear the uniform of that armed force if the portrayal does not tend to discredit that armed force. (g) An
officer or resident of a veterans' home administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs may wear such uniform as the
Secretary of the military department concerned may prescribe.
(h) While attending a course of military instruction conducted by the Army, Navy, Air Force, or Marine Corps, a civilian
may wear the uniform prescribed by that armed force if the wear of such uniform is specifically authorized under
regulations prescribed by the Secretary of the military department concerned. (i) Under such regulations as the Secretary of
the Air Force may prescribe, a citizen of a foreign country who graduates from an Air Force school may wear the
appropriate aviation badges of the Air Force. (j) A person in any of the following categories may wear the uniform
prescribed for that category: (1) Members of the Boy Scouts of America. (2) Members of any other organization designated by
the Secretary of a military
[Source: About.com: US military 28 Oct 08 ++]
PROSTATE CANCER UPDATE 07:
A large government study of whether Vitamin E and selenium protect men against prostate cancer has been suspended, federal
health officials announced 29 OCT 08, after an independent analysis determined that the nutrients did not reduce the risk for
the common malignancy. The $119 million study, involving more than 35,000 men, also found hints that the nutrients might
increase the risk for prostate cancer and diabetes, although officials stressed that those findings may be a coincidence.
Nevertheless, the study's organizers had begun notifying participants to stop taking the pills they were receiving, and offered to
tell them whether they were taking the nutrients or placebos. All the participants will continue to have their health monitored
for about three years. The announcement marks the latest in a series of disappointing findings about the potential health
benefits of vitamins and other nutritional supplements, which earlier studies had indicated could have a host of advantages.
One theory was that antioxidants could mop up damaging free radicals, which are a natural byproduct of cellular processes in
the body. But subsequent studies testing antioxidants and other nutritional supplements have not confirmed the benefits, and
several have even been alarming. For example, beta carotene increased, rather than decreased, the risk of lung cancer among
smokers, and Vitamin E -- also touted as helping to prevent heart disease -- appeared to boost the overall risk.
VETERANS NEWS & VIEWS, NOVEMBER 2008
The new study was funded by the National Institutes of Health after earlier studies indicated the nutrients may protect
against prostate cancer, the most common cancer in men after skin cancer. Men age 50 and older received one or both of the
nutrients or placebos at 400 sites in the United States, Puerto Rico and Canada. An independent panel of experts monitoring the
study discovered, after men had been taking the supplements for about five years, that there was no benefit but that there were
suggestions of possible harm, prompting officials to stop the project. "The important message for consumers is that
taking supplements, whether antioxidants or others, is not necessarily beneficial and could be harmful," said Eric Klein of the
Cleveland Clinic, a study coordinator. "You should not be taking them unless there is a rigorous scientific study that shows a
benefit. Andrew Shao of the Council for Responsible Nutrition, an industry group, said in a statement that the findings
did not "discount the value of taking vitamin E and selenium for other general benefits." [Source: Washington Post Rob Stein
article 28 Oct 08 ++]
SSA COMPASSIONATE ALLOWANCES:
Social Security has an obligation to provide benefits quickly to applicants whose medical conditions are so serious that
their conditions obviously meet disability standards. Compassionate allowances are a way of quickly identifying diseases and
other medical conditions that invariably qualify under the Listing of Impairments based on minimal objective medical
information. The Compassionate allowances initiative will allow Social Security to quickly target the most obviously disabled
individuals for allowances based on objective medical information that they can obtain quickly. Commissioner Astrue has held
two Compassionate Allowance public outreach hearings. The first was on rare diseases and the second was on cancers. A third
hearing on brain injuries is planned for 18 NOV 08. The initial list of Compassionate Allowance conditions was developed as a
result of information received at public outreach hearings, public comment on an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking,
comments received from the Social Security and Disability Determination Service communities, and the counsel of medical
and scientific experts. Also, SSA considered which conditions are most likely to meet their current definition of disability. For
additional info on how the allowances are processed refer to
https://secure.ssa.gov/apps10/poms.nsf/lnx/0423022000!opendocument. The list of 25 rare diseases and 25 cancers which
follows have been selected for the initiative's rollout and may expand over time:
1. Acute Leukemia
2. Adrenal Cancer - with distant metastases or inoperable, unresectable or recurrent
3. Alexander Disease (ALX) - Neonatal and Infantile
4. Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)
5. Anaplastic Adrenal Cancer - with distant metastases or inoperable, unresectable or recurrent
6. Astrocytoma - Grade III and IV
7. Bladder Cancer - with distant metastases or inoperable or unresectable
8. Bone Cancer - with distant metastases or inoperable or unresectable
9. Breast Cancer - with distant metastases or inoperable or unresectable
10. Canavan Disease (CD)
11. Cerebro Oculo Facio Skeletal (COFS) Syndrome
12. Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (CML) - Blast Phase
13. Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD) - Adult
14. Ependymoblastoma (Child Brain Tumor)
15. Esophageal Cancer
16. Farber's Disease (FD) - Infantile
17. Friedreichs Ataxia (FRDA)
18. Frontotemporal Dementia (FTD), Picks Disease -Type A - Adult
19. Gallbladder Cancer
20. Gaucher Disease (GD) - Type 2
21. Glioblastoma Multiforme (Brain Tumor)
22. Head and Neck Cancers - with distant metastasis or inoperable or uresectable
23. Infantile Neuroaxonal Dystrophy (INAD)
24. Inflammatory Breast Cancer (IBC)
25. Kidney Cancer - inoperable or unresectable
26. Krabbe Disease (KD) - Infantile
27. Large Intestine Cancer - with distant metastasis or inoperable, unresectable or recurrent
28. Lesch-Nyhan Syndrome (LNS)
VETERANS NEWS & VIEWS, NOVEMBER 2008
29. Liver Cancer
30. Mantle Cell Lymphoma (MCL)
31. Metachromatic Leukodystrophy (MLD) - Late Infantile
32. Niemann-Pick Disease (NPD) - Type A
33. Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer - with metastases to or beyond the hilar nodes or inoperable, unresectable or recurrent
34. Ornithine Transcarbamylase (OTC) Deficiency
35. Osteogenesis Imperfecta (OI) - Type II
36. Ovarian Cancer - with distant metastases or inoperable or unresectable
37. Pancreatic Cancer
38. Peritoneal Mesothelioma
39. Pleural Mesothelioma
40. Pompe Disease - Infantile
41. Rett (RTT) Syndrome
42. Salivary Tumors
43. Sandhoff Disease
44. Small Cell Cancer (of the Large Intestine, Ovary, Prostate, or Uterus)
45. Small Cell Lung Cancer
46. Small Intestine Cancer - with distant metastases or inoperable, unresectable or recurrent
47. Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) - Types 0 And 1
48. Stomach Cancer - with distant metastases or inoperable, unresectable or recurrent
49. Thyroid Cancer
50. Ureter Cancer - with distant metastases or inoperable, unresectable or recurrent
[Source: NORD Press Release 27 Oct 08 ++]
VETERAN TRAVEL OPPORTUNITIES:
The Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF) MWR offers beach cottage accommodations at Barking Sands, Kauai HI to active
duty, reservists, and retirees at bargain prices. Also eligible to use the facilities are:
a. Ex-POW; Medal of Honor recipients; Honorably discharged veterans with 100% service connected disability;
Involuntarily separated service members under the Transition Assistance Management Program (TAMP); Voluntary Separation
under the Voluntary Separation Incentive (VSI); and Special Separation Benefit (SSB) programs for two years after separation.
b. Family members to include spouse and children (21 years or older) of those category (a) eligible patrons who possess a
c. Department of Defense (DoD) Civilians and MWR/NEX/AFEES NAF employees.
d. Contractors working on board the installation who have been authorized use of MWR programs by the Commanding
Available are 18 two bedroom cottages and a VIP three bedroom cottage right on the water. They are well maintained and
come with all amenities including a washer & dryer. The site also has a well stocked exchange, gym, pool, gas station, an all
hands club, a dining hall (open to retirees) and a tour booking & equipment rental office. Rates vary by rank and are subject to
change. Presently they are $70 to $90/night for the 2-bedroom and $90 to $95 for the 3-bedroom cottages. The maximum stay
is two weeks, but may be extended based on availability upon check-in. Occupancy is limited to a maximum of six (6) people
per two-bedroom unit and 8 people per three-bedroom unit. Pets are prohibited inside and outside the beach cottages. You will
need to rent a car. The advance reservation categories for eligible patrons are:
Category 1: Includes active duty Navy and their family members residing in Hawaii. Reservations may be made up to six (6)
months in advance to the date.
Category 2: Includes active duty Navy (outside of Hawaii), Marine and Coast Guard personnel and their family members.
Reservations may be made up to five (5) months in advance to the date.
Category 3: Includes active duty members of other services, reservists, retirees, Ex-POW and Medal of Honor recipients, and
their family members; Reservations may be made up to four (4) months in advance to the date.
Category 4: Includes Navy DoD civilians, MWR/NEX NAF employees; Reservations may be made up to three (3) months in
advance to the date.
Category 5: Includes other service DoD civilians, AFEES employees. Reservations may be made up to two (2) months in
advance to the date.
VETERANS NEWS & VIEWS, NOVEMBER 2008
Category 6: Includes contract employees working on the installation. Reservations may be made up to one (1)
month in advance to the date.
Reservations are made by contacting Central Cottage Reservation Office at COM (808) 335-4752 or DSN 471-6752. To
confirm a reservation, a credit card deposit of 50% is required. If submitting a reservation by check or cash, it must be
received at the time the reservation is placed. The 50% deposit will be applied to the total amount due. Cancellation more than
45 days prior to the reservation will result in a full refund. NO REFUND will be issued if cancellation is within 45 days of the
reservation date. The MWR Director may review special circumstances for possible exceptions to this policy. For more info,
contact the Navy Region Hawaii Quality of Life website at www.greatlifehawaii.com or email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
[Source: http://www.greatlifehawaii.com/docs/PMRF_Beach_Cottage_policyMay2006.pdf Oct 08 ++]
MEDICARE PART D UPDATE 29:
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) will no longer reimburse hospitals for ten categories of preventable
medical errors that result in serious risk of injury to patients. CMS prohibits hospitals to charge people with Medicare for the
additional costs associated with treating these conditions. Hospitals will now assume the costs of procedures associated with
"never events," so called because they should never occur. While Medicare will save $21 million as a result of the new policy,
the primary purpose of the rule is to improve quality of care for people with Medicare by creating greater incentives for doctors
and hospitals to avoid preventable errors. The expectation is that if these errors affect hospitals' overall budgets, doctors and
hospitals will take more aggressive measures to prevent these errors. The ten categories of "never events" Medicare no longer
covers include remedial treatments related to foreign objects retained by patients after surgery; transfusion of incompatible
blood; falls and traumas during a hospital stay; manifestations of poor glycemic controls; catheter-associated urinary tract
infections; surgical site infection following a coronary artery bypass graft or orthopedic surgery; and deep vein
thrombosis/pulmonary embolism. [Source: Medicare Watch Newsletter of the Medicare Rights Center 14 Oct 08 ++]
MEDICARE PART D UPDATE 30:
Recent reports indicate that some of the majornational Medicare private health plans are going to pay independent agents
$500-plus per year over five years--$2,500 in total--for every new enrollee they sign up for their "Medicare Advantage" plans. The new
totals are at least double the top commissions typically paid over the last couple of years—a period when people with Medicare were
regularly victimized by predatory agents looking to make a quick buck. Older adults and people with disabilities were bullied or tricked into
Medicare private health plans that no longer allowed them to see their doctors or that stuck them with high out-of-pocket costs when they fell
ill. These new commissions are an attempt by some of the major plans
to undermine efforts by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to restrain commissions and in particular to eliminate
incentives for agents to "churn"--move customers from plan to plan just to earn commissions. Many agents believe that these higher
commissions actually increase incentives to churn.
CMS should not allow Medicare Advantage plans to pay these commissions. The agency has broad authority, under the Medicare
Improvements for Patients and Providers Act, to establish commission guidelines that create "incentives for agents and brokers to enroll
individuals in the Medicare Advantage plan that is intended to best meet their health care needs." Asclepios contends:
- There should be no incentive to move someone from one Medicare Advantage plan to another just to earn a higher commission.
- There should be no incentive to move someone from a Medigap supplemental plan to a Medicare Advantage plan just to earn a higher
With those twin goals in mind, CMS should establish a cap on commissions consistent with existing requirements to pay level commissions
over 5 years, starting with the 2009 plan year. The cap should be set at a level that approximates current renewal rates for Medicare
Advantage enrollments made in 2007 and 2008. And it should approximate Medigap renewal rates for a healthy 66-year-old, the low-cost
consumer that Medicare Advantage plans target for enrollment. With those parameters, commissions would be capped at well under half the
rates Medicare Advantage plans are now proposing to pay. Remember,
Medicare Advantage plans are paying these commissions out of subsidies they receive from taxpayers. It is outrageous that any of these
subsidies, which are supposed to pay for the health care of older adults and people with disabilities, are diverted to pay commissions to enroll
people with Medicare in plans that cost taxpayers more money--$150 billion over the next ten years—than it costs to provide care under
Original Medicare. Unfortunately, there is zero chance that the current administration will ban Medicare private health plans from paying
commissions, just as it has opposed any effort by Congress to reduce the excessive subsidies these plans receive. For that, more
comprehensive solution, we will have to wait until after the election. [Source: Asclepios Weekly Medicare Consumer Advocacy Update 23
Oct 08 ++]
VETERANS NEWS & VIEWS, NOVEMBER 2008
VA MEANS TEST:
By law VA is required to verify the self-reported gross household income (veteran, spouse and dependents, if any) of certain
nonservice-connected or noncompensable 0% service-connected veterans to confirm the accuracy of their Eligibility for VA
health care, Copay status, and Enrollment priority group assignment. VA verifies veterans' gross household income (spouse
and dependents, if any) provided by the veteran on the financial assessment (means test). This financial information is verified
by matching financial records maintained by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Social Security Administration (SSA).
If the result of the income match reveals that the veteran's gross household income is higher than the established VA national
means test threshold, the veteran will be contacted via mail to help resolve the income discrepancy. These contacts from VA
gives the veteran and spouse the opportunity to dispute income as reported by IRS and SSA and/or reduce the total gross
household income by providing proof of allowable deductible expenses
VA requires most veterans not receiving VA disability compensation or pension payments to provide information on their
annual gross household income and net worth to determine whether they are below the annually-adjusted VA national means
test threshold (income threshold), in order to qualify for exemption from outpatient, inpatient and medication copays. The
financial assessment includes all gross household income and net worth, including Social Security, retirement pay,
unemployment insurance, interest and dividends, workers' compensation, black lung benefits and any other gross household
income. Also considered are assets such as the market value of property that is NOT the primary residence, stocks, bonds,
notes, individual retirement accounts, bank deposits, savings accounts and cash. VA also compares veterans' financial
assessments with geographically based income thresholds. If the veteran's income is above the VA national means test
threshold and below the geographic means test (GMT) thresholds where the veteran lives, they are eligible for an 80%
reduction in inpatient co-pay rates. For more information about geographically based income thresholds, go to the GMT
The veteran (and spouse if applicable) will be provided an opportunity to review the discrepancy between their reported
income and the IRS and SSA data. If there is an error or other explanation for the discrepancy this information is provided by
the veteran to VA for review. If we have not received a response from the veteran with 45 days, we will attempt to
independently verify the total gross household income. This process entails us contacting all employers and financial
institutions that reported income to the Internal Revenue Service and Social Security Administration. If no response is received
from the veteran within 75 days, VA considers that due process requirements have been met and action is initiated to make
appropriate eligibility, copay and enrollment status changes. Veterans subject to this process are individually notified by mail
and provided with all related information. At the end of the income verification process, if it is determined that the veteran's
gross household income is higher than the VA national means test income threshold:
- The veteran's priority group assignment will be changed.
- The veteran will be required to pay health care and medication copayments.
- VA health care facilities that provided care to the veteran will be notified to bill the veteran for services provided for
their nonservice-connected conditions during the period covered by the income assessment.
- The veteran will be provided with due process/appeal rights
If the veteran is financially unable to pay the assessed copay charges, there are three options available:
1. Request a Waiver of Debt for the past debts you owe. A Waiver of Debt can be granted when there has been a significant
change in income and the veteran has experienced significant expenses for medical care for the veteran or other family
members, funeral arrangements or veteran educational expenses. A Waiver of Debt excuses all existing bills, but does not
prevent future charges. A waiver must be requested in writing and by completing VA Form 5655, Financial Status Report. The
request must specify each copayment for which a waiver is being requested. There is no limit on the amount that the veteran
can request to be waived. The veteran must request a waiver in writing within 180 days from the date on the bill. To request a
waiver, and for more information, contact the Revenue Coordinator at the VA health care facility where the veteran receives
2. Request a Hardship Determination to prevent future billing. A Hardship Determination is an exemption from copay for a
determined period of time. If a veteran's current year income is substantially reduced from the prior year, a veteran may request
a Hardship Determination. Hardship Determination must be requested in writing. To request a Hardship Determination,
contact the Enrollment Coordinator at the VA Medical Center where the veteran receives their care.
VETERANS NEWS & VIEWS, NOVEMBER 2008
3. Request an Offer in Compromise. An Offer in Compromise is an offer for past debts only and acceptance of a partial
payment in settlement and full satisfaction of the debt at the time the offer is made. VA will consider both the current and
anticipated future income in making these determinations. Most Offers in Compromise that are accepted must be for a lump
sum payment payable in full 30 days from the date of acceptance of the offer. Offers in Compromise must be requested in
writing and by completing VA Form 5655, Financial Status Report. There is no limit on the amount that the veteran
can request for the Offer in Compromise. To request an Offer in Compromise, contact the Revenue Office at the VA Medical
Center where the veteran receives their care.
[Source: http://www.va.gov/healtheligibility/iv/ Oct 08 ++]
FLU SHOTS UPDATE 02:
Experts are making their annual plea for people 50-plus and other at-risk groups to get their shots. Public health officials say a
new vaccine from five different manufacturers has been shipped to clinics and doctors' offices around the country. There
should be enough to go around. According to Julie Gerberding, M.D., director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention (CDC), between 143 million and 146 million doses are available, ruling out any shortage like the one that occurred
in 2004, when the vaccine supply was cut in half. Influenza--the fancy word for the flu--is an infectious respiratory disease,
caused by a virus which can be really dangerous to at-risk groups, including the older people, infants and people with chronic
diseases. Flu and bacterial pneumonia--a common complication of flu--each year send 200,000 people to hospitals in the
United States and cause on average 36,000 deaths. Immunizations usually help individuals avoid the flu, but public health
officials are concerned that this season, people may be reluctant to be inoculated. That's because last year's circulating virus
strains did not match up with the vaccine, so more people came down with the flu. Vaccine formulations are determined each
year by scientists who look at the dominant strains in the Southern Hemisphere. In February they recommend the three viruses
that are most likely to strike the United States in the next flu season.
Usually one or two strains are used from the previous year's vaccine. But this year's formulation is "unprecedented," says
Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), because the vaccine has
been manufactured with three new strains. In 16 of the last 19 years, the vaccine has been a good match with prevailing
viruses, says Joe Bresee, M.D., head of the CDC's flu prevention effort. Normally, a shot works for 70 to 90% of those
immunized, he says, but last year only 44% were protected. The vaccine has come under scrutiny from various sources. In fact,
some doctors don't think it prevents disease in the older population. They point to a study published in the British medical
journal the Lancet on 2 AUG, which found that the vaccine didn't lower the risk of pneumonia. Researchers at the Group
Health Center for Health Studies in Seattle found that older people who are the most likely to get a flu shot are generally
healthy and the least likely to get pneumonia, while those too weak or frail to get to the doctor's office for a vaccination are the
most vulnerable. Factoring in the variations in health status, the vaccine appeared to make little difference in pneumonia risk.
The findings were based on a review of thousands of medical charts of older members of a Seattle HMO.
A new CDC report shows that in 2006, 72% of those older than 65 were vaccinated, but only 42% of individuals ages 50 to
64 and 35% of 18- to 49-year-olds were immunized. Just 42% of health workers got the shots. And a new consumer survey
commissioned by the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID) shows that four in 10 patients say they've never even
talked with their doctors about being vaccinated. What's likely to get more people to roll up their sleeves is a longer-lasting
vaccine that confers immunity from year to year. "I think that's the ultimate endgame and endpoint, but we're not there yet,
obviously," says Fauci. Currently, NIAID is spending about $94 million on developing vaccines for different types of flu, up
from just $3.6 million in 2000, before the 9/11 attacks, the anthrax scare and worries about avian flu. "People may question
whether the vaccine is effective," adds the CDC's Bresee, "but they need to remember it's still the best protection we have year
in and year out." You do not need a doctor's prescription to obtain a flu shot. Three types of vaccines are available with
various means to access them:
o Traditional flu shot consisting of a "killed" virus for healthy people older than six months.
o Nose spray consisting of a weakened live virus for healthy people ages 2 to 49 years (but not pregnant women).
o A one-time vaccination against bacterial pneumonia, a common complication of flu, for those 65 and older and nursing
o Flu shots generally cost between $15 and $30, but check hospitals, senior centers, pharmacies (i.e. Rite Aid, CVC, etc.)
and public clinics in your community for free or low-cost shots.
o Some polling places are offering flu shots on Election Day through the Vote and Vax program.
o Medicare pays for the total cost of flu and pneumonia vaccinations, and so do many private health plans.
VETERANS NEWS & VIEWS, NOVEMBER 2008
Pneumococcal disease (such as meningitis) and other bacterial infections can follow flu and cause secondary infections that
worsen flu symptoms and increase the risk of flu-related death. For example, it's believed that bacterial infections caused
almost half of the deaths of young soldiers during the 1918 worldwide flu pandemic, according to background information in
an Emory University news release. Keith P. Klugman, professor of global health at Emory's Rollins School of Public Health,
created a predictive model to estimate the public health and economic effect current influenza vaccination practices would have
on children younger than two years old during a flu pandemic. The model showed that current PCV vaccination practices
lower costs in a typical flu season by $1.4 billion and would cut costs by $7 billion in a pandemic. It also predicted that PCV
vaccination would prevent 1.24 million cases of pneumonia and 357,000 pneumococcal-related deaths in a pandemic.
[Source: AARP Bulletin Today Jeff Levine article 10 Oct 08 ++]
RC DISABILITY CLAIMS:
The head of the Reserve Officers Association said he hopes a study ordered by Congress will explain the big discrepancies in
veterans' disability benefits awarded to active and reserve component (RC) forces. Retired Marine Lt. Gen. Dennis McCarthy,
ROA's executive director, said 22 OCT that there may be good reasons why National Guard and reserve members are more
likely to have their veterans' claims denied and to receive lower disability ratings -- but those reasons are not immediately
clear, and the Department of Veterans Affairs does not have a good explanation. "We really need to keep on them until this
study is done," McCarthy said, noting that veterans must have confidence that the disability system is fair. Retired Rear
Adm. Patrick Dunne, VA's undersecretary for benefits, met with McCarthy to discuss the discrepancies in disability
compensation, which were first reported earlier this month by Military Times. The report, based on information obtained
by Veterans for Common Sense, showed that 45%t of active-duty veterans of operations in Afghanistan and Iraq had filed
disability claims, compared with 23% of Guard and reserve members who deployed to the war zones. Just 4% of
claims by active-duty veterans were denied by VA, while 11% of claims from Guard and reserve members were denied.
Dunne did not dispute the report, McCarthy said, and said VA is trying to determine why there is such a big difference.
Dunne suggested that one possible explanation might be that active-duty veterans accumulate more service-connected
disabilities over a career than Guard and reserve members. McCarthy said Dunne tried to assure ROA that there is no outright
discrimination against Guard or reserve members. "That they are going to do a study is a good sign," McCarthy said. "This is a
difficult time for VA and they have a lot of big issues facing them." The demographic study of disability claims promised by
Dunne was ordered by Congress, and VA is looking for a private company to study the differences between active and reserve
veterans by age, locations where claims are filed and where veterans live to determine why there are differences and whether
some people are being treated unfairly. The study will take more than a year to complete. [Source: ArmyTimes Rick Maze
article 24 Oct 08 ++]
VA RETRO PAY PROJECT UPDATE 15:
A Pentagon financing office said 23 OCT it has begun a review of a veterans' claims program that a House lawmaker says
has made payment errors reaching millions of dollars. Tom LaRock, spokesman for the Defense Finance and Accounting
Service (DFAS), said the office's director, Teresa McKay, "has expressed her commitment to ensure that the veterans receive
the benefits they are due. If mistakes were made, we will take appropriate steps to correct them." On 22 OCT, Rep. Dennis
Kucinich (D-OH) wrote McKay, saying his office had calculated that nearly 2,000 severely disabled veterans were wrongly
denied payments under a program that extends retroactive benefits for retired veterans whose disabilities were linked to
combat or military service. He said there were also inaccuracies – both verpayments and underpayments -- for an additional
2,500 veterans who received benefits in excess of $2,500. Kucinich said the total cost of the errors in the VA Retro program
was about $20 million. On 23 OCT, he revised that figure to about $12 million but said the number of affected veterans was
unchanged. He urged McKay to recalculate all claims made under the program. Kucinich blamed the errors on a weakening of
quality control checks prompted by a rush to shrink a backlog of unprocessed claims. LaRock said his office started a review of
the program after the House Oversight subcommittee on domestic policy that Kucinich chairs held hearings on the issue last
July. He said they have reprocessed about 10% of the 133,000 claims originally considered eligible for the program and
hoped to complete the review by early spring next year. [Source: NavyTimes AP article 24 Oct 08 ++]
VETERANS NEWS & VIEWS, NOVEMBER 2008
Pneumonia is an infection of one or both lungs which is usually caused by bacteria, viruses, or fungi. Prior to the discovery of
antibiotics, one-third of all people who developed pneumonia subsequently died from the infection. Currently, over 3 million
people develop pneumonia each year in the United States. Over a half a million of these people are admitted to a hospital
for treatment. Although most of these people recover, approximately 5% will die from pneumonia. Pneumonia is the sixth
leading cause of death in the United States. Some cases of pneumonia are contracted by breathing in small droplets that contain
the organisms that can cause pneumonia. These droplets get into the air when a person infected with these germs coughs or
sneezes. In other cases, pneumonia is caused when bacteria or viruses that are normally present in the mouth, throat, or nose
inadvertently enter the lung. During sleep, it is quite common for people to aspirate secretions from the mouth, throat, or nose.
Normally, the body's reflex response (coughing back up the secretions) and immune system will prevent the aspirated
organisms from causing pneumonia. However, if a person is in a weakened condition from another illness, a severe pneumonia
can develop. People with recent viral infections, lung disease, heart disease, and swallowing problems, as well as alcoholics,
drug users, and those who have suffered a stroke or seizure are at higher risk for developing pneumonia than the general
population. Once organisms enter the lungs, they usually settle in the air sacs of the lung where they rapidly grow in number.
This area of the lung then becomes filled with fluid and pus as the body attempts to fight off the infection. What are pneumonia
symptoms and signs?
Most people who develop pneumonia initially have symptoms of a cold which are then followed by a high fever (sometimes
as high as 104 degrees Fahrenheit), shaking chills, and a cough with sputum production. The sputum is usually discolored and
sometimes bloody. People with pneumonia may become short of breath. The only pain fibers in the lung are on the surface of
the lung, in the area known as the pleura. Chest pain may develop if the outer pleural aspects of the lung are involved. This
pain is usually sharp and worsens when taking a deep breath, known as pleuritic pain. In other cases of pneumonia, there can
be a slow onset of symptoms. A worsening cough, headaches, and muscle aches may be the only symptoms. In some people
with pneumonia, coughing is not a major symptom because the infection is located in areas of the lung away from the
larger airways. At times, the individual's skin color may change and become dusky or purplish (a condition known as
"cyanosis") due to their blood being poorly oxygenated. Children and babies who develop pneumonia often do not
have any specific signs of a chest infection but develop a fever, appear quite ill, and can become lethargic. Elderly people may
also have few symptoms with pneumonia.
Two vaccines are available to prevent pneumococcal disease; the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV7; Prevnar) and the
pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPV23; Pneumovax). The pneumococcal conjugate vaccine is part of the routine
infant immunization schedule in the U.S. and is recommended for all children less than 2 years of age and children 2-4 years of
age who have certain medical conditions. The pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine is recommended for adults at increased
risk for developing pneumococcal pneumonia including the elderly, people who have diabetes, chronic heart, lung, or kidney
disease, those with alcoholism, cigarette smokers, and in those people who have had their spleen removed. VA will provide the
PPV23 shot to vets 65and older upon request if approved by their VA physician. Antibiotics often used in the treatment of this
type of pneumonia include penicillin, amoxicillin and clavulanic acid (Augmentin, Augmentin XR), and macrolide antibiotics
including erythromycin, azithromycin (Zithromax, Zmax), and clarithromycin (Biaxin). Penicillin was formerly the antibiotic
of choice in treating this infection. With the advent and widespread use of broader-spectrum antibiotics, significant drug
resistance has developed. Penicillin may still be effective in treatment of pneumococcal pneumonia, but it should only be used
after cultures of the bacteria confirm their sensitivity to this antibiotic.
[Source: http://www.medicinenet.com/pneumonia/article.htm Oct 08 ++]
PNEUMONIA UPDATE 01:
For the first time, an influential government panel is recommending a vaccination specifically for smokers. The panel decided
22 OCT 08 that adult smokers under 65 should get pneumococcal vaccine. The shot already recommended for anyone 65 or
older protects against bacteria that cause pneumonia, meningitis and other illnesses. Federal officials usually adopt
recommendations made by the panel, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. The vote means more than 31
million adult smokers probably will soon be called on to get the shot. Studies have shown that smokers are about four
times more likely than nonsmokers to suffer pneumococcal disease. Also, the more cigarettes someone smokes each day, the
higher the odds they'll develop the illnesses. Why smokers are more susceptible is not known for sure, but some scientists
believe it has to do with smoking-caused damage that allows the bacteria to more easily attach to the lungs and windpipe, said
Dr. Pekka Nuorti, a medical epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Pneumococcal infections are
considered the top killer among vaccine-preventable diseases. It's a common complication of influenza, especially in the
VETERANS NEWS & VIEWS, NOVEMBER 2008
elderly, and is considered responsible for many of the 36,000 annual deaths attributed to flu.
The committee voted 11 to 3 to pass the recommendation, with one member abstaining. The panel also added a call for
smoking cessation counseling. Some members said it might be more cost effective to recommend the vaccine for smokers who
were at least age 40, because pneumococcal disease is relatively uncommon in younger smokers. Others at the meeting made
the same argument. Dr. James Turner, who oversees student health programs at the University of Virginia, said about one in
five college students smoke but he has never seen a case of serious pneumococcal disease in a student body. The shot is less
than perfect. First licensed in 1983, it is designed to protect against 23 strains of pneumococcal bacteria. But it hasn't proved
very effective against pneumonia, and hasn't been very effective in warding off other pneumococcal llnesses in people with
weakened immune systems and people age 80 or older. It's to be given to smokers as a one-time dose with no booster, but its
protection drops off after five to 10 years. Made by Merck & Co., it's sold under the trade name Pneumovax and costs about
$30 a dose. A different vaccine Wyeth's Prevnar, which came on the market in 2000 is recommended for children under age 2,
and for kids 2 to 5 with certain chronic conditions or who are at higher risk for illness. That vaccine costs about $84 per dose.
Prevnar protects against seven strains of bacteria that were the most common causes of pneumococcal diseases at the time the
vaccine was developed. But lately, those strains have stopped being important causes of illness. Experts have become
concerned about dozens of other strains, including some that have flourished and become resistant to antibiotics. Wyeth has
been developing a new vaccine. It is expected to present study data on it at a scientific meeting later this month, and to apply
for government licensing approval early next year. [Source: AP Mike Stobbe article 22 Oct 08 ++]
PATIENT PRIVACY RULES:
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) enforces the Federal privacy regulations commonly known as the
HIPAA Privacy Rule (HIPAA). HIPAA requires most doctors, nurses, pharmacies, hospitals, nursing homes, and other health
care providers to protect the privacy of your health information. Here is a list of common questions about HIPAA and when
health care providers may discuss or share your health information with your family members, friends, or others involved in
your care or payment for care.
1. If I do not object, can my health care provider share or discuss my health information with my family, friends, or others
involved in my care or payment for my care?
Yes. As long as you do not object, your health care provider is allowed to share or discuss your health information with your
family, friends, or others involved in your care or payment for your care. Your provider may ask your permission, may tell you
he or she plans to discuss the information and give you an opportunity to object, or may decide, using his or her professional
judgment, that you do not object. In any of these cases, your health care provider may discuss only the information that the
person involved needs to know about your care or payment for your care. Here are some examples:
- An emergency room doctor may discuss your treatment in front of your friend when you ask that your friend come into
the treatment room.
- Your hospital may discuss your bill with your daughter who is with you at the hospital and has questions about the
- Your doctor may talk to your sister who is driving you home from the hospital about your keeping your foot raised during
the ride home.
- Your doctor may discuss the drugs you need to take with your health aide who has come with you to your appointment.
- Your nurse may tell you that she is going to tell your brother how you are doing, and then she may discuss your health
status with your brother if you did not say that she should not. BUT:
- Your nurse may not discuss your condition with your brother if you tell her not to.
2. If I am unconscious or not around, can my health care provider still share or discuss my health information with my family,
friends, or others involved in my care or payment for my care? Yes. If you are not around or cannot give permission, your
health care provider may share or discuss your health information with family, friends, or others involved in your care or
payment for your care if he or she believes, in his or her professional judgment that it is in your best interest. When someone
other than a friend or family member is asking about you, your health care provider must be reasonably sure that you asked the
person to be involved in your care or payment for your care. Your health care provider may share your information face
to face, over the phone, or in writing, but may only share the information that the family member, friend, or other person needs
to know about your care or payment for your care. Here are some examples:
o A surgeon who did emergency surgery on you may tell your spouse about your condition, either in person or by phone,
while you are unconscious.
VETERANS NEWS & VIEWS, NOVEMBER 2008
o A pharmacist may give your prescription to a friend you send to pick it up.
o A doctor may discuss your drugs with your caregiver who calls your doctor with a question about the right dosage. BUT:
o A nurse may not tell your friend about a past medical problem that is unrelated to your current condition.
3. Do I have to give my health care provider written permission to share or discuss my health information with my family
members, friends, or others involved in my care or payment for my care? HIPAA does not require that you give your health
care provider written permission. However, your provider may prefer or require that you give written permission. You may
want to ask about your provider's requirements.
4. If my family or friends call my health care provider to ask about my condition, will they have to give my provider proof of
who they are? HIPAA does not require proof of identity in these cases. However, your health care provider may have his or
her own rules for verifying who is on the phone. You may want to ask about your provider's rules.
5. Can I have another person pick up my prescription drugs, medical supplies, or X-rays?
Yes. HIPAA allows health care providers (such as pharmacists) to give prescription drugs, medical supplies, X-rays, and other
health care items to a family member, friend, or other person you send to pick them up.
6. Can my health care provider discuss my health information with an interpreter?
Yes. HIPAA allows your health care provider to share your health information with an interpreter who works for the provider
to help communicate with you or your family, friends, or others involved in your care. If the interpreter is someone who does
not work for your health care provider, HIPAA also allows your provider to discuss your health information with the
interpreter so long as you do not object.
7. How can I help make sure my health care providers share my health information with my family, friends, or others involved
in my care or payment for my care when I want them to?
Print a copy of this document and discuss it with your health care provider at your next appointment. You may also want to
share this information with your family members, friends, or others involved in your care or payment for your care.
8. Where can I get more information about HIPAA?
The HHS Office for Civil Rights Web site at http://www.hhs.gov/ocr/hipaa/ has a variety of resources to help you understand
HIPAA. [Source: http://www.hhs.gov/ocr/hipaa/consumer_ffg.pdf 24 Oct 08 ++]
With Tricare for Life (TFL) you can manage your own health care. There are no special rules for accessing certain types of
care such as urgent, routine, specialty or preventive care. While you'll never require referrals for any type of care, some
services may require prior authorization. A prior authorization is a review of the requested health care service to determine if it
is medically necessary at the requested level of care. You will not require prior authorization from Tricare unless the covered
services have been exhausted under Medicare. If needed contact your Tricare for Life contractor for more information.
Make your appointment with your Medicare provider. Depending on the type of care you need, there may be slight
differences in how Tricare for Life works.
- For Medicare and Tricare-covered services, Medicare pays first and TFL pays your remaining coinsurance for Tricare-
- For services covered by Tricare but not by Medicare, such as care received overseas, TFL pays first and Medicare pays
nothing. You must pay the Tricare fiscal year deductible and cost shares.
- For services covered by Medicare but not by Tricare, such as chiropractic services, Medicare pays first and TFL pays
nothing. You must pay the Medicare deductible and coinsurance.
- For services not covered by Medicare or Tricare, such as cosmetic surgery, Medicare and Tricare pay nothing and you
must pay the entire bill. [Source: http://tricare.mil/mybenefit/home/Medical/GettingCare/Appointment 24
Oct 08 ++]
VETERANS NEWS & VIEWS, NOVEMBER 2008
VA HOME LOAN UPDATE 14:
Veterans with conventional home loans now have new options for refinancing to a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)
guaranteed home loan. These new options are available as a result of the Veterans' Benefits Improvement Act of 2008, which
the President signed into law on 10 OCT 08. "These changes will allow VA to assist a substantial number of veterans
with subprime mortgages refinance into a safer, more affordable, VA guaranteed loan," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Dr.
James B. Peake. "Veterans in financial distress due to high rate subprime mortgages are potentially the greatest beneficiaries."
VA has never guaranteed subprime loans. However, as a result of the new law VA can now help many more veterans
who currently have subprime loans. The new law makes changes to VA's home loan refinancing program. Veterans who wish
to refinance their subprime or conventional mortgage may now do so for up to 100% of the value of the property. These types
of loans were previously limited to 90% of the value. Additionally, Congress raised VA's maximum loan amount for these
types of refinancing loans. Previously, these refinancing loans were capped at $144,000. With the new legislation, such loans
may be made up to $729,750 depending on where the property is located.
Increasing the loan-to-value ratio and raising the maximum loan amount will allow more qualified veterans to refinance
through VA, allowing for savings on interest costs or even potentially avoiding foreclosure. Originally set to expire at the end
of this month, VA's authority to guaranty Adjustable Rate Mortgages (ARMs) and Hybrid ARMs was also extended under this
new law through 30 SEP 12. Unlike conventional ARMs and hybrid ARMs, VA limits interest rate increases on these loans
from year to year, as well as over the life of the loans. Since 1944, when home loan guaranties were offered with the original
GI Bill, VA has guaranteed more than 18 million home loans worth over $911 billion. This year, about 180,000 veterans,
active duty servicemembers, and survivors received loans valued at about $36 billion. For more information, or to obtain
help from a VA Loan Specialist, veterans may call VA at 1-877-827-3702 or visit www.homeloans.va.gov. [Source: VA News
Release 24 Oct 08 ++]
DIABETES UPDATE 01:
Americans with diabetes nearly doubled their spending on drugs for the disease in just six years, with the bill last year climbing
to an eye-popping $12.5 billion. Newer, more costly drugs are driving the increase, said researchers, despite a lack of strong
evidence for the new drugs' greater benefits and safety. And there are more people being treated for diabetes. The new study
follows updated treatment advice for Type 2 diabetes, issued last week. In those recommendations, an expert panel told doctors
to use older, cheaper drugs first. And a second study, also out on 27 OCT 08, adds to evidence that metformin -- an
inexpensive generic used reliably for decades -- may prevent deaths from heart disease while the newer, more expensive
Avandia didn't show that benefit. "We need to pay attention to this," said Dr. David Nathan, diabetes chief at Boston's
Massachusetts General Hospital, who wrote an editorial but wasn't involved in the new studies. "If you can achieve the same
glucose control at lower cost and lower side effects, that's what you want to do."
The studies, appearing in the 27 OCT 08 Archives of Internal Medicine, were both funded by federal grants. In one,
researchers from University of Chicago and Stanford University looked at which pills and insulin doctors' prescribed and total
medication costs. Diabetes drug spending rose from $6.7 billion in 2001 to $12.5 billion in 2007, a period when costs dropped
for metformin. More patients got multiple prescriptions as new classes of drugs came on the market. And more patients with
diabetes were seeing doctors, increasing from 14 million patients in 2000 to 19 million in 2007. "There's been a
remarkable change in diabetes treatments and remarkable increases in the cost of treatments over the past several years," said
study co-author Dr. Caleb Alexander, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Chicago. "We were surprised by the
magnitude of the changes and the rapid increase in the cost of diabetes care." Nearly 24 million Americans, 8% of the
population, have Type 2 diabetes, which can lead to kidney failure, blindness and heart disease. Current guidelines say doctors
should prescribe metformin (about $30 a month) to lower blood sugar in newly diagnosed patients and urge them to eat healthy
food and get more exercise. Other drugs can be added later, on top of metformin, to help patients who don't meet blood sugar
goals. The updated guidelines don't include Avandia, which costs about $225 a month.
In the other study, Johns Hopkins University researchers analyzed findings from 40 published trials of diabetes pills that
measured heart risks. Compared to other diabetes drugs or placebo, metformin was linked to a lower risk of death from heart
problems. The findings hint that Avandia has a possible increased risk for heart disease death, but that increase wasn't
statistically significant, meaning it could have been the result of chance. Few of the studies lasted longer than six months. The
researchers cited a "critical need" for long-term studies of diabetes pills and heart risks. Last year, the Food and Drug
Administration issued a safety alert on Avandia, made by British-based GlaxoSmithKline PLC, after another pooled
VETERANS NEWS & VIEWS, NOVEMBER 2008
analysis of studies found a risk of heart attacks. And in July of this year, FDA advisers said the agency should require
drugmakers to show new diabetes drugs don't increase heart risks. GlaxoSmithKline spokeswoman Mary Anne Rhyne said
FDA-approved labeling for Avandia says available data on the risk of heart attack are inconclusive. The medication, approved
in 1999, has been used by well more than 7 million patients, she said. [Source: AP article 27 Oct 08 ++]
VA MOBIL COUNSELING CENTERS:
The first of a fleet of 50 new mobile counseling centers for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Vet Center program was
put into service 22 OCT with the remainder scheduled to be activated over the next three months. Each vehicle will be assigned
to one of VA's existing Vet Centers, enabling the center to improve access to counseling by bringing services closer to
veterans. The 38-foot motor coaches, which have spaces for confidential counseling, will carry Vet Center counselors and
outreach workers to events and activities to reach veterans in broad geographic areas, supplementing VA's 232 current Vet
Centers, which are scheduled to increase to 271 facilities by the end of 2009. Vet Centers, operated by VA's
Readjustment Counseling Service, provide non-medical readjustment counseling in easily accessible, consumer-oriented
facilities, addressing the social and economic dimensions of post-war needs. This includes psychological counseling
for traumatic military-related experiences and family counseling when needed for the veteran's readjustment. The team leader
at each Vet Center will develop an outreach plan for use of the vehicle within that region, not being limited to the traditional
catchment area of a particular Vet Center. These vehicles will be used to provide outreach and direct readjustment counseling
at active-duty, reserve and National Guard activities, including post-deployment health reassessments for returning combat
service members. The vehicles will also be used to visit events typically staffed by local Vet Center staff, including homeless
"stand downs," veteran community events, county fairs, and unit reunions at sites ranging from Native American reservations
to colleges. While most of their use will be in Vet Centers' delivery of readjustment counseling services, the local manager may
arrange with VA hospitals or clinics in the region to provide occasional support for health promotion activities such as health
screenings. The normal counseling layout can be converted to support emergency medical missions, such as hurricanes and
other natural disasters. The 50 vehicles are being manufactured for VA by Farber Specialty Vehicles of Columbus OH. Home
bases of planned vet center vehicles will be:
Alabama - Birmingham
Arizona - Chinle & Prescott
Arkansas - Fayetteville
California - Corona, Fresno, Santa Cruz, and Eureka
Colorado - Colorado Springs
Florida - Pensacola
Georgia - Savannah & Macon
Idaho - Boise
Kansas - Wichita
Kentucky - Lexington
Illinois - Springfield
Louisiana - New Orleans
Maine - Caribou & Lewiston
Massachusetts - Springfield
Michigan - Escanaba
Minnesota - St. Paul
Montana - Missoula & Billings
Nebraska - Lincoln
New Mexico - Sante Fe & Las Cruces
New York - Watertown
North Carolina - Greenville
North Dakota - Minot &Fargo
Ohio - Dayton
Oregon - Eugene
Pennsylvania - Erie & Scranton
South Carolina - Columbia
South Dakota - Rapid City
Tennessee - Johnson City & Memphis
VETERANS NEWS & VIEWS, NOVEMBER 2008
Texas - Amarillo, Midland, and San Antonio
Utah - Salt Lake City
Vermont - White River Junction
Virginia - Richmond
Washington - Spokane & Tacoma
West Virginia - Morgantown & Beckley
Wyoming - Casper
[Source: VA Media Relations 22 Oct 08 ++]
MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS UPDATE 01:
Researchers at the University of Cambridge in London said 23 OCT they have found that a drug originally developed to treat
leukemia can halt and even reverse the debilitating effects of multiple sclerosis (MS). In trials, alemtuzumab reduced the
number of attacks in sufferers and also helped them recover lost functions, apparently allowing damaged brain tissue to repair
so that individuals were less disabled than at the start of the study. "The ability of an MS drug to promote brain repair
is unprecedented," said Dr Alasdair Coles, a lecturer at Cambridge university's department of clinical neurosciences, who
coordinated many aspects of the study. "We are witnessing a drug which, if given early enough, might effectively stop the
advancement of the disease and also restore lost function by promoting repair of the damaged brain tissue." The MS Society,
Britain's largest support charity for those affected by the condition, said it was delighted at the trial's results, which must be
followed up with more research before the drug can be licensed. "This is the first drug that has shown the potential to halt and
even reverse the debilitating effects of MS and this news will rightly bring hope to people living with the condition day in, day
out," said head of research Lee Dunster.
MS is an auto-immune disease that affects millions of people worldwide, including almost 100,000 in Britain and 400,000
in the United States. It is caused by the body's immune system attacking nerve fibres in the central nervous system, and can
lead to loss of sight and mobility, depression, fatigue and cognitive problems. There is no cure, and few effective treatments. In
the trial, 334 patients diagnosed with early-stage relapsing-remitting MS who had not previously been treated were given
alemtuzumab or interferon beta-1a, one of the most effective licensed therapies for similar MS cases. After three years,
alemtuzumab was found to reduce the number of attacks the patients suffered by 74% over the other treatment, and reduce the
risk of sustained accumulation of disability by 71% over interferon beta-1a. Many individuals who took alemtuzumab also
recovered some of their lost functions, becoming less disabled by the end, while the disabilities of the other patients worsened,
the study in the New England Journal of Medicine said. Alastair Compston, professor of neurology and head of the clinical
neurosciences department at Cambridge, said alemtuzumab was the "most promising" experimental drug for the treatment of
MS. He expressed hope that further trials "will confirm that it can both stabilize and allow some recovery of what had
previously been assumed to be irreversible disabilities". Alemtuzumab was developed in Cambridge and has been licensed
for the treatment of chronic lymphocytic leukaemia. [Source: Yahoo Health Alice Ritchie article 23 Oct 08 ++]
ID CARD EXPIRATION DATE:
Before Tricare For Life (TFL) was enacted in 2001, the military ID card expiration date indicated when you dropped off the
Tricare Prime or Standard rolls upon turning age 65. Card holders age 65 and older with TFL will continue to see the
expiration date on the back of their card in the medical block, under "EXP DATE". The processes used for issuing
military ID cards do not allow for an "indefinite" or blank input in the expiration block. At present costs for changing the
systems are prohibitive. So a date will continue to be printed for the foreseeable future as DoD hashes out the options. DoD
Tricare Management Activity is aware of the issue and has passed the word to all contracted health providers and military
treatment facilities. These agencies have been told to not pay as much attention to the ID card as to their online information in
the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS). DEERS has your most current eligibility information.
Of course, as with most large organizations like the health service community, someone will not get the news and occasionally
deny a retiree health service based on the expired ID card date. If this should happen to you, ask the service provider to
perform an interactive DEERS query rather than rely on the ID card information. And have your Medicare Part A and B card
ready. [Source: MOAA News Exchange 22 Oct 08 ++]
VETERANS NEWS & VIEWS, NOVEMBER 2008
SALUTING the FLAG UPDATE 03: The 2009 NDAA clarified actions to be taken during the playing of the National
Anthem. It authorizes individuals in uniform to give the military salute at the first note of the anthem and maintain that
position until the last note. Members of the Armed Forces and veterans who are present but not in uniform may render the
military salute in the manner provided for individuals in uniform; and all other persons present should face the flag
and stand at attention with their right hand over the heart, and men not in uniform, if applicable, should remove their headdress
with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart.
On 29 JAN 08, President Bush signed a law amending federal code to allow a veteran to salute the U.S. flag while not in
uniform in certain, but not all, situations. The amended federal code addresses actions for a viewer of the U.S. flag during its
hoisting, lowering or passing. In these instances, the law allows a veteran in civilian attire to salute the flag. All other persons
present should face the flag, or if applicable, remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the
hand being over the heart. Citizens of other countries present should stand at attention. All such conduct toward the flag in a
moving column should be rendered at the moment the flag passes. However, another section of federal code that specifically
relates to actions of those reciting the Pledge of Allegiance was not amended. In this case, a veteran in civilian attire is not
specifically authorized to render a hand salute during the Pledge. In any case, a veteran in civilian clothes is authorized to place
their right hand over their heart as has been tradition.
[Source: NCOA Leg Actions 22 Oct 08 ++]
VA FRAUD UPDATE 13:
An Arlington County man has pleaded guilty to swindling the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Department for more than
$60,000 over a four-year period, federal court documents said. Willie Brian Williams pleaded guilty 17 OCT after a Veterans
Affairs investigator learned late last year that Williams had been employed between APR 00 and OCT 04 while still
llecting$61,190 in unemployment benefits from the department, court documents said. During those four years, Williams
earned about $185,000 as an employee of Sterling, Va.-based ABBTECH Staffing Services, court records said. While
employed by the temporary staffing firm, Williams worked as a "help desk manager" at Lockheed Martin Federal Systems in
Springfield. According to court records, Williams reportedly told investigators he intentionally did not report the income to
Veterans Affairs in order to keep his unemployment benefits. In a JUN 05 handwritten letter, Williams continued the ruse,
telling Veterans Affairs officials he had "not worked in a very long time." He faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000
fine. [Source: D.C. Examiner Freeman Klopott article 16 Oct 08 ++]
PENNSYLVANIA VET CEMETERY UPDATE 03:
The Department of Veterans Affairs had announced its decision to accept applications for interment of deceased military
veterans at the Washington Crossing National Cemetery. According to a statement released by the VA, families who are
temporarily keeping the remains of loved ones in cremation urns or in other cemeteries should call the National Cemetery
Scheduling Office in St. Louis at 800-535-1117 for more information. The first phase of construction for the 205-acre cemetery
is expected to start in the spring, with burials expected to begin late next year, VA officials said. VA spokesperson Jo Schuda
said that, like all veterans cemeteries, Washington Crossing will not accept plot reservations. "The process is different than
it is with cemeteries in the private sector," she said. "We only accept applications after the passing. Hopefully this will bring
some peace of mind to the families of veterans who have been holding onto cremated remains." Schuda also confirmed that
spouses and dependent children of veterans may also be laid to rest at the cemetery. [Source: Bucks County
Courier Times Christian Menno article 16 Oct 08 ++]
BACK PAY INTEREST:
Black World War II soldiers wrongly convicted of murder and inciting a riot at Fort Lawton, Wash., are entitled to receive
back pay with interest after having their paychecks cut as punishment in 1945. Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., announced that
President Bush had signed a bill 14 OCT that would award back pay plus interest to any service member who was owed back
pay due to a correction of military records. The bill came after Jack Hamann wrote a book called "On American Soil" detailing
the killing of an Italian prisoner of war by a white American soldier because the Italian had been flirting with American women
on post. Italian prisoners of war were allowed to roam freely at the time. The American soldier tried to cover up the murder --
VETERANS NEWS & VIEWS, NOVEMBER 2008
the Italian was hung from a tree -- by starting a fight between other Italian POWs and black American soldiers who were in a
barracks adjacent to where the prisoners were being held. In a quick trial, three black soldiers were convicted of murder and 40
were convicted of rioting. Many were sent to prison, and most were dishonorably discharged. Hamann's book showed the men
were innocent and that the evidence against them was flimsy at best. "Justice has prevailed, but more than that, the dignity,
courage and honor lived by Samuel Snow, Booker Townsell and other African-American soldiers throughout a half century of
racial injustice will write a new chapter in American history that children will learn about for generations to come," McDermott
"While no amount of money can ever repay the lost opportunities endured by these African-American soldiers, they would
be the first to say it was never about money; it was always about equal protection under the law for everyone in America." The
new bill allows the secretary of defense to pay interest on back pay, which had previously been illegal. Samuel Snow of
Leesburg FL was among the 28 black soldiers falsely convicted. Snow, a teenager at the time, served almost 12 months in a
military prison and then was dishonorably discharged from the Army. Snow died last July at age 83 only hours after receiving
an honorable discharge and an Army apology during a ceremony in Seattle. Snow always said that he had nothing to do with
the riot. Last year, the Army overturned Snow's conviction and he was sent a check for $725. But the amount was not adjusted
for inflation. That led Nelson to take up Snow's cause and pressure the Army to include the interest. He joined U.S. Rep. Jim
McDermott, D-Seattle, to place legislation in a military appropriations bill that awards back pay plus interest to veterans who
have had their convictions overturned. Now that the bill has been signed into law Snow's family has received another check for
$28,305 which is the $725 compounded over 60 years at 6% interest. [Source: ArmyTimes Kelly Kennedy article 19 Oct 08
World War I - known at the time as "The Great War" - officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on 28 JUN 19
, in the Palace of Versailles outside the town of Versailles , France. However, fighting ceased seven months earlier when an
armistice or temporary cessation of hostilities, between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect on the eleventh hour
of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. For that reason, 11 NOV 18, is generally regarded as the end of "the war to end all
wars." In November 1919, President Wilson proclaimed 11 NOV as the first commemoration of Armistice Day.
The original concept for the celebration was for a day observed with parades and public meetings and a brief suspension of
business beginning at 11 a.m. Congress officially recognized the end of World War I when it passed a concurrent resolution on
4 JUN 26, with these words: Whereas the 11th of November 1918, marked the cessation of the most destructive, sanguinary,
and far reaching war in human annals and the resumption by the people of the United States of peaceful relations with other
nations, which we hope may never again be severed, and Whereas it is fitting that the recurring anniversary of this date should
be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual
understanding between nations; and Whereas the legislatures of twenty-seven of our States have already declared November
11 to be a legal holiday: Therefore be it Resolved by the Senate (the House of Representatives concurring), that the President
of the United States is requested to issue a proclamation calling upon the officials to display the flag of the United States on all
Government buildings on November 11 and inviting the people of the United States to observe the day in schools and
churches, or other suitable places, with appropriate ceremonies of friendly relations with all other peoples.
An Act approved 13 MAY 38, made the 11NOV of each year a legal holiday - - a day to be dedicated to the cause of world
peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as "Armistice Day." This was primarily a day set aside to honor veterans of
World War I, but in 1954, the 83rd Congress, at the urging of the veterans service organizations, amended the Act of 1938 by
striking out the word "Armistice" and inserting in its place the word "Veterans." With the approval of this legislation (Public
Law 380) on 1 JUN 54, November 11th became a day to honor American veterans of all wars. Later that same year, on 8 OCT
President Eisenhower issued the first "Veterans Day Proclamation" which stated: "In order to insure proper and widespread
observance of this anniversary, all veterans, all veterans' organizations, and the entire citizenry will wish to join hands in
the common purpose. Toward this end, I am designating the Administrator of Veterans' Affairs as Chairman of a Veterans Day
National Committee, which shall include such other persons as the Chairman may select, and which will coordinate at the
national level necessary planning for the observance. I am also requesting the heads of all departments and agencies of the
Executive branch of the Government to assist the National Committee in every way possible."
In 1958, the White House advised VA's General Counsel that the 1954 designation of the VA Administrator as Chairman of
the Veterans Day National Committee applied to all subsequent VA Administrators. Since MAR 89 when VA was elevated to
VETERANS NEWS & VIEWS, NOVEMBER 2008
a cabinet level department, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs has served as the committee's chairman. The Uniforms Holiday
Bill (Public Law 90-363)) was signed on 28 JUN 68, and was intended to insure three-day weekends for Federal employees by
celebrating four national holidays on Mondays: Washington's Birthday, Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and Columbus Day. It
was thought that these extended weekends would encourage travel, recreational and cultural activities and stimulate greater
industrial and commercial production. Many states did not agree with this decision and continued to celebrate the holidays on
their original dates.
The first Veterans Day under the new law was observed with much confusion on 25 OCT 71. It was apparent that the
commemoration of this day was a matter of historic and patriotic significance to a great number of our citizens, and so on20 EP
75 President Ford signed Public Law 94-97 which returned the annual observance of Veterans Day to its original date of 11
NOV, beginning in 1978. This action supported the desires of the overwhelming majority of state legislatures, all major
veterans service organizations and the American people. Veterans Day continues to be observed on 11 NOV, regardless of
what day of the week on which it falls. The restoration of the observance to 11 NOV not only preserves the historical
significance of the date, but helps focus attention on the important purpose of Veterans Day: A celebration to honor America's
veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good. [Source:
http://www1.va.gov/opa/vetsday/ NOV 05]
CRDP UPDATE 43:
Section 642 of the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act expanded the eligibility requirements for the Concurrent
Retirement Disability Payment (CRDP), beginning on 1 OCT. Retirees who were rated by the VA as individually
unemployable (IU) and are receiving VA disability compensation as a result of IU status, are eligible to receive full concurrent
receipt of both their VA compensation and retired pay. This section of the 2008 NDAA is retroactive to 1 JAN 05. The
Defense Accounting and Finance Center (DFAS) will begin paying approximately 40,000 veterans their fully restored retired
pay beginning 3 NOV. The November payday reflects their October entitlement. Eligible retirees will see their fully restored
retired pay reflected on their Retired Account Statements which will be available on myPay. The law also provided for a
retroactive payment back to January 2005, if applicable. DFAS is beginning payment of these retroactive payments. Cases
that are less complicated, such as straight CRDP and certain blended cases, will be paid first as these are capable of being
automatically computed. Approximately 20,000 cases fall in this category. Retirees should begin seeing this one-time
payment in November. The more complicated cases, for example garnishments and former spouse payments, require more in-
depth adjudication. DFAS workers will compute these cases as quickly as possible while ensuring accurate payments, said
officials. The goal is to have all retroactive payments under this section of the law completed by MAR 09. Retirees can log on
to the DFAS Web site under "Retired Pay" at http://www.dfas.mil/retiredpay.html to find out more information on Section 642
such as viewing frequently asked questions, eligibility criteria, and the current adjudication status. [Source: NAUS weekly
update 17 Oct 08 ++]
GOLDEN CORRAL MILITARY BUFFET:
On Monday 17 NOV 08 from 5 to 9 pm, all 485 Golden Corral restaurants across America will offer any person who has
served in the United States Military (including National Guard and Reserves) a "thank
you" dinner buffet and beverage on the house - no identification required. This will be the eighth annual "thank you" dinner
for our nation's heroes from Golden Corral restaurants, who have provided over 1,835,000 complimentary meals to military
personnel over the history of the event and contributed over $2.53 million to the Disabled American Veterans organization.
For the second year, Golden Corral's guests and restaurant teams may send personal greetings to America's military personnel
on active duty overseas. From 1 SEP through 17 NOV 08, special postcards will be available at all Golden Corral restaurants
for sending messages of thanks and encouragement to the troops overseas. They will be delivered to our troops prior to the
Holidays. In 2007, over 55,000 Military Appreciation post cards were delivered to military troops stationed overseas. To
locate a restaurant near you refer to http://www.goldencorral.net/ and enter your zip code. [Source:
www.goldencorral.net 21 Oct 08 ++]
VETERANS NEWS & VIEWS, NOVEMBER 2008
MCCORMICK & SCHMICK'S VET TRIBUTE:
Sunday, 9 NOV is the date that McCormick and Schmick's Seafood Restaurants around the country will salute
veterans. They will be offering a complimentary entrée from a special menu. Veterans are encouraged to make reservations
and bring proper ID to present to your server. Proper ID includes retired military ID cards, membership card in a veterans
organization like NAUS or a copy of your DD-214 discharge papers. Most restaurants will not be able to seat parties over six
people in order to accommodate more veterans. To find the participating McCormick & Schmick's restaurant nearest to you
refer to http://www.mccormickandschmicks.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=content.display&pageID=263.
[Source: NAUS Weekly Update 24 Oct 08 ++]
NEBRASKA VET CEMETERY UPDATE 01:
Ground was broken 17 OCT southeast of Alliance for the first Nebraska Veterans Cemetery. The property, consisting of
20 acres, was donated by the City of Alliance and was once farmland until 1942 when it was converted to the Alliance Army
Air Field to train paratroopers for World War II. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs will provide $2.9 million for the
first phase of construction on a 12-acre area. It will include more than 2,500 burial sites, roadways, walking paths and an entry
monument. When complete, the cemetery is expected to accommodate 8,500 burial sites. The VA has committed
approximately $5 million for the project. The site will be open to veterans, their spouses and dependent children. The
legislation to create the Nebraska State Veterans Cemetery was passed during the 2006 legislative session, 10 years after the
High Plains Cemetery Task Force formed to spearhead the project. The project will involve two phases. Phase 1A will consist
of 2,549 burial sites, roadways, entry monument, memorial walk, fencing and landscaping. Phase 1B will include an
administrative and maintenance building, committal shelter with plaza, an avenue of flags and scattering garden. [Source:
Star-Herald Reporter Tonya Wieser article 17 Oct 08 ++]
GULF WAR SYNDROME UPDATE 04:
A new study concludes that informal communication among British veterans of the first Iraq war may have shaped the
vets' characterization of Gulf War Syndrome. After the bullets stopped flying, the rumors took off among British veterans of
the 1991 Gulf War. Early accounts of physical and emotional reactions to wartime experiences spread from one person to
another through networks of veterans. Within a few years, these former soldiers had decided among themselves that many of
them suffered from the controversial illness known as Gulf War Syndrome, Simon Wessely of King's College London and his
colleagues analyzed extensive written accounts provided in 1996, five years after the Gulf War, by 1,100 British Gulf War vets
participating in a larger survey of veterans' health. Vets described their wartime experiences and related what had happened in
the conflict to their later health and illness. The research team doesn't regard rumor as necessarily untrue or misleading. Rumor
proved to be critical among the British Gulf War vets because it counteracted a lack of communication from military and
government authorities regarding possible wartime health risks, Wessely says. Scared and confused vets turned to their own
social grapevine for answers, Wessely's group reports in an upcoming Social Science & Medicine. Out of their shared stories
and explanations grew a collective conviction that Gulf War Syndrome existed as a unitary illness with elusive causes.
"The nature of Gulf War Syndrome in the years after the conflict was keenly shaped by these early rumors, which entangled
specific ideas about the illness with feelings of betrayal, distrust and ambiguity," said Wessely. Symptoms attributed to Gulf
War Syndrome include joint and muscle pain, bouts of depression or violent behavior and cancers of various types. Some
researchers regard the condition as a psychological disorder related to the stress of combat. Others, as well as many vets,
contend that it's a physical disorder caused by exposure to toxic substances shortly before or during the war. By 2001, an
estimated 15% to 20% of those who served in the Gulf War believed that they suffered from Gulf War Syndrome. Current
medical consensus holds that Gulf War veterans indeed display unusually high rates of various health problems, but that these
conditions don't constitute a discrete illness or syndrome, Wessely says. Research on this issue remains contentious. In a
commentary slated to be published with the new study, Thomas Shriver of Oklahoma State University in Stillwater and Sherry
Cable of the University of Tennessee in Knoxville say that Wessely's team appears to regard veterans' symptoms as purely
psychological and perhaps partly invented out of rumor. "The authors come perilously close to blaming the victims," the two
sociologists contend. U.S. Gulf War vets used rumors early after their return to define collective grievances and develop a plan
to press authorities for medical treatment and compensation, Shriver and Cable say. But, Wessely responds, "Far from
VETERANS NEWS & VIEWS, NOVEMBER 2008
blaming vets, we are shifting the spotlight to the role of governments in allowing an information vacuum to develop regarding
potential health risks, which allowed rumors to spread and gain currency after the war."
Military authorities in the United States and England have learned a hard lesson from that experience, he says. Consider that
the anthrax vaccine was administered to U.S. and British soldiers entering the Gulf War, but that the vaccine was given under a
code name. Rumors about the vaccine spread quickly, including one that soldiers were being injected with an experimental
AIDS vaccine. Before the 2003 invasion of Iraq, U.S and British soldiers were told upfront that they were receiving the anthrax
vaccine. The new study confirms that rumors about health risks, especially from vaccinations and pills, spread rapidly among
troops just before, during and after the war. About 90% of the survey participants listed one or more personal problems,
including anger, depression, forgetfulness, lumps, rashes, seizures, post-traumatic stress disorder, brain lesions, incontinence
and self-enforced isolation. More than one-third of vets worried about unknown pollutants that had somehow entered
their bodies. Concern focused on exposure to depleted uranium used during the war by U.S. and British forces, tablets and
vaccinations provided to protect against Iraqi biological and chemical warfare and smoke from oil fires set by Iraqi forces as
they retreated from Kuwait. About two-thirds of vets said that they did not, at the time of the survey, suffer from any full-
blown illness but still felt susceptible to developing Gulf War Syndrome. Most participants also cited a lack of confidence in
their leaders, from commanders of military units to government officials. Frustration over military secrecy and over not
knowing whom to trust was common. After the war, rumors reaffirmed the social bond among returning vets and helped them
to shape a bewildering array of physical and psychological symptoms into the common burden of Gulf War Syndrome, the
scientists propose. [Source: Science News Bruce Bower article17 Oct 08 ++]
The chairman of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee says he completely understands why many veterans have lost
confidence in the Department of Veterans Affairs. "I am sure there are good people working there who are trying very hard and
have the best of intentions, but they are bunglers," said Rep. Bob Filner (D-CA). "You lose confidence in these people by
watching them." Filner, a frequent critic of VA, cited two examples: the department's abandoned plans to use a private
ontractor to help launch the new GI Bill benefits program next year, and VA's order 16 OCT to its 57 regional offices to stop
shredding documents after veterans' claims materials were found in piles of paper waiting to be destroyed.
"This is an insult to veterans," Filner said. Last week's announcement that VA would implement the Post-9/11 GI Bill by next
August using in-house resources came after department officials spent weeks telling lawmakers they could meet that deadline
only with outside help, Filner said. "After arguing for months and months that they could only do this with a contractor, you
have to be concerned about whether VA can do it," he said. "This is so important, and people are betting on it. VA better get
this done." The 16 OCT announcement that VA had ordered a system wide freeze on destroying documents came after auditors
discovered claims and potentially irreplaceable paperwork tagged for shredding at four regional offices. Shredding is
suspended until new paper management procedures are in place. Filner said veterans have long complained about claims
getting lost in VA bureaucracy. "You are supposed to have a sense they may be slow, but at least they will eventually do
the right thing," he said. Now, he said, the possibility that records vital to approving a claim might be destroyed fuels
complaints that VA is trying to prevent claims from being awarded at all.
[Source: AirForceTimes Rick Maze article 20 Oct 08 ++]
TRICARE/MEDICARE COMBINED BENEFIT:
Officials want to ensure that Tricare beneficiaries who receive a Social Security disability check receive the Tricare
coverage to which they are entitled. In general, most beneficiaries become eligible for Medicare at age 65. However, many
beneficiaries under age 65 also qualify for Medicare and there is one critical fact they need to know. "Most Tricare
beneficiaries who are eligible for premium-free Medicare Part A are required under federal law to enroll in Medicare Part B to
keep Tricare benefits. Medicare Part A covers inpatient care in hospitals and skilled nursing facilities. It also covers hospice
and some home health care. Medicare Part B is medical insurance. It helps cover outpatient and physician services as well as
some physical and occupational therapies and home health care. The Medicare Part B monthly premium is currently $96.40
and will remain the same for 2009. Individual premiums could be higher, based on income.
When Medicare coverage is effective, it becomes the primary insurance, while Tricare becomes the secondary.
Beneficiaries who take appropriate steps to maintain their Tricare eligibility will often have no out-of-pocket expenses for
health care services covered by Medicare and Tricare. Generally, beneficiaries who receive social security disability benefits
VETERANS NEWS & VIEWS, NOVEMBER 2008
begin receiving Medicare benefits after two years and they may choose between options such as Tricare Prime or Tricare for
Life. Most will need to have Medicare Part B, although there are some exceptions. Whatever they choose, it cannot be
emphasized enough that beneficiaries need to look carefully at their options before making decisions that could result in a loss
of Tricare coverage. Factors beneficiaries must take into consideration before making a decision when it comes to Medicare
and Tricare include:
- Whether their spouse is on active duty;
- If they are disabled due to injuries while serving on active duty;
- If they have other health insurance; or
- If they are enrolled in the uniformed services family health plan or Tricare Reserve Select.
Other factors may also apply, but help is available to understand the complexities of this benefit. Detailed information on how
Medicare and TRICARE work together for eligible beneficiaries under 65 is available through the TRICARE Web site at
http://www.tricare.mil/medicare , where users can also download a new "Using TRICARE and Medicare" flyer. Additional
resources for Medicare, TRICARE and Social Security information are: FAQs at http://www.tricare.mil/faqs/ (select the
TRICARE For Life category); http://www.medicare.gov or call 1-800-633-4227; http://www.ssa.gov or call
1-800-772-1213; or contact Wisconsin Physicians Service at 1-866-773-0404.
[Source: Tricare Press Release 08-105 dtd 21 Oct 08 ++]
OVERSEAS HOLIDAY MAIL 2008:
The 2008 Christmas holiday mailing deadlines have just been announced. If you want your cards, letters, and packages to
arrive to a military member overseas, or deployed on a Navy ship by Christmas, be sure to mail them by the following dates:
For military mail addressed to APO/FPO AE zips 090-098 (except 093); AA zips 340; and AP zips 962-966:
* Express Mail: Dec. 18
* First-Class Mail (letters/cards and priority mail): Dec. 11
* Parcel Airlift Mail: Dec. 4
* Parcel Post: Nov. 13
For military mail addressed to APO/FPO AE ZIP 093:
* Express mail Military Service: N/A
* First-Class Letters/Cards/Priority Mail: Dec. 4
* Parcel Airlift Mail: Dec. 1
* Space Available Mail: Nov. 21
* Parcel Post: Nov. 13
[Source: About.com Rod Powers article 19 Oct 08 ++]
VA CLAIM SHREDDING:
Veterans Affairs officials have ordered a halt to all document shredding after a routine check found unprocessed benefits
applications tossed into disposal piles at four regional offices. In a conference call with veterans groups 16 OCT, VA officials
said the department's inspector general found five unprocessed documents waiting to be shredded in the Detroit regional
office. Three more were found in the St. Louis office, two more in Waco, Texas. Officials said more were found in a Florida
regional office but could not specify how many. Leaders at the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. called the revelation a
"disgraceful management failure" and called for better enforcement of the department's own paperwork safeguards. VFW
national commander Glen Gardner said in a statement, "With almost 850,000 VA claims in the backlog, the question that begs
to be asked and answered is how many veterans had their disability and compensation claims disappear down a paper
shredder." The department has 56 regional offices handling benefits claims for disability pay, pensions, tuition assistance,
home loans and other financial issues. The VA would not specify what types of documents were found in the shred piles.
In a statement Secretary of Veterans Affairs James Peake acknowledged the misplaced paperwork could have affected some
veterans' eligibility for the financial aid. "It is unacceptable that documents important to a veteran's claim for benefits should be
misplaced or destroyed," he said. VA undersecretary for benefits Patrick Dunne ordered the regional offices to suspend all
document shredding as of 16 OCT until a broader investigation into the problem is completed. While the inspector general
VETERANS NEWS & VIEWS, NOVEMBER 2008
investigation continued, the VA's separate inquiry found nearly 500 documents improperly placed in shredder bins in about
two-thirds of the agency's 57 benefits offices. Peake promised any employees found improperly disposing of documents
would be held accountable and said regional directors will now have to certify that no original copies of key documents are
being destroyed in their offices. Under department rules, original copies of military discharge orders, marriage and death
certificates, and other essential paperwork are returned to veterans or families after benefits processors can verify them.
Duplicate copies of those papers are destroyed after the claims are processed to protect veterans' privacy.
A House committee overseeing the Department of Veterans Affairs will hold hearings next month to question VA leaders
about documents improperly marked for shredding at agency offices around the nation. Rep. Bob Filner, (D-CA) chairman
of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, said he was outraged by revelations that papers crucial to deciding veteran
disability and pension claims were being destroyed by VA workers. "These guys remind me of the Keystone Kops," Filner
said. "This completely shatters confidence in the whole VA system. These documents are matters of life and death for some of
these veterans." Rep. C.W. Bill Young, (R-FL) is not on the committee but supports having hearings and suggested the
problem might be widespread. Some VA employees could face legal problems, he said. Filner said he will hold the hearings
the week of Nov. 17, when a lame-duck session of Congress is expected to convene to consider an economic stimulus package.
Among those he will call to testify are VA Secretary James Peake and investigators for the agency's independent
watchdog, the inspector general. Rick Weidman, director of government relations for the Vietnam Veterans of America, said
his group has complained to the VA for years about mishandling of documents at the regional offices. "I wish we
could say we're surprised by this, but the only real surprise is that they admitted it," he said. "We told (Dunne's) predecessors
about this, but nothing has really happened. "We can keep holding hearings and filing lawsuits, but I don't know what it's going
to take to get them to obey
the law." [Source: Stars and Stripes Leo Shane article 10 Oct 08 ++]
FILIPINO VET INEQUITIES UPDATE 11:
U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI), Chairman of the Veterans' Affairs Committee, responded 20 OCT to comments
made by the Committee's Ranking Minority Member, Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) regarding provisions in S. 1315 that would
provide equity to Filipino veterans who served under U.S. command during WWII. The American Coalition for Filipino
Veterans (ACFV) posted a video of Senator Burr's comments on YouTube www.youtube.com/watch?v=DNNWTtvQi2Q in
which Burr expresses his willingness to negotiate a limited pension for Filipino World War II veterans. According to
ACFV, Burr's comments came in response to a question from 91-year-old WWII veteran Celestina Almeda, who travelled to
attend the public event at Davidson College in North Carolina on October 9. Akaka responded directly to Burr by
letter, stating: "I am eager to work with you and hear what level of pension and compensation you would be willing to support.
The veterans waiting for passage of the equity provisions in S. 1315 are not someone else's veterans - they are our veterans. I
am willing to negotiate the extent of those benefits with you if you are prepared to recognize them as U.S. veterans."
Akaka encouraged immediate discussions in hopes of reaching an agreement before the Senate reconvenes as expected
following the November elections. S. 1315 is the Veterans' Benefits Enhancement Act of 2007, an omnibus veterans'
benefits bill that includes provisions providing recognition and benefits for Filipino veterans of World War II who served under
U.S. military command. S. 1315 passed the Senate by a vote of 96-1, and an amended version later passed the House.
Chairman Akaka's motion for a conference between the House and Senate on a final version of the bill was then objected to by
[Source: Sen. Akaka Press Release 20 Oct 08 ++]
KENTUCKY STATE PARK DISCOUNT:
Active and retired members of the military and veterans can take advantage of discount rates at Kentucky's state parks with
the Kentucky State Parks "USA Military Pass" program from 2 NOV 08 to 31 MAR 09. The program is available to those on
active military duty, retired members of the military, veterans, members of the National Guard and reservists. Proof of military
service is required at check-in. With the USA Military Pass, lodge rooms are available for $44.95 a night plus tax. The
Kentucky State Parks have 17 resorts that offer golf, fishing, hiking on scenic trails, beautiful scenery and full service
restaurants. For more information refer to the Kentucky State Parks website www.parks.ky.gov/ or call 1-800-255-7275.
[Source: Military Report 20 Oct 08 ++]
VETERANS NEWS & VIEWS, NOVEMBER 2008
COLA 2009 UPDATE 05:
The 2009 cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for military retired pay will be the highest seen in over 15 years at 5.8%. The
increase, which goes into effect on 1 DEC 08, also applies to SBP annuities, Social Security checks, and VA disability and
survivor benefits. Retirees will see the increase in their JAN 09 checks. The annual Cost-of-Living-Adjustment is not in
any way related to the annual military pay raise for active duty and reserve servicemembers which this year was 3.9%. All
retirees who retired before 1 JAN 08 will receive the 5.8% Cost-of-Living-Adjustment. Retirees who first became
members of the uniformed services on or after 1 AUG 86 and elected to receive a Career Status Bonus at 15 years, and retired
on or before 1 JASN 08, will receive an increase of only 4.8%. Retirees who first became a member of the uniformed services
on or after Sept. 8, 1980, and retired in 2008 will receive a Partial COLA on a prorated basis as follows:
o Jan. 1, 2008, and March 31, 2008, will receive 5.0%
o April 1 - June 30, 2008 will receive 3.8%
o July 1 - Sept. 30, 2008 will receive 1.2%
o Those who retired after Oct. 1, 2008, will see no COLA this year.
This is the third year in the last four that the retiree COLA has been higher than the pay raise for currently serving troops. The
two are never the same because they are based on different things and have different purposes. Military pay raises are based on
private sector pay growth, as measured by the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Employment Cost Index (ECI). Their intent is to
ensure military pay is kept reasonably comparable to private sector pay, to allow the services to compete successfully for
manpower over time. Retired pay COLAs, on the other hand, are cost-of-living adjustments that track to inflation, as
measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI). Their purpose is to ensure that whatever purchasing power a member's retired
pay represented on the date he or she left service isn't eroded by inflation over time. Over time, the two tend to even out.
During the 1970s, COLAs were higher in 5 years and pay raises won out for the other five. In the '80s, pay raises beat COLAs
(6 - 4); in the '90s, it was 50-50 split (5 - 5). The first half of this decade, pay raises were higher, but with COLAs higher for
three of the last 4 years, the pendulum seems to be swinging the other way again. [Source: MOAA Leg Up 17 Oct
& Military Report 20 Oct 08 ++]
VETERANS NEWS & VIEWS, NOVEMBER 2008
PTSD MILITARY PEACEKEEPING
By Rick Nauert, PHD, Senior News Editor – Psych Central
The feeling of being unable to control a situation at the time of trauma can result in PTSD among
The disorder can have significant impairments in health-related quality of life.
Dr. J. Donald Richardson of The University of Western Ontario and his co-workers discovered anxiety
disorders such as PTSD are associated with impaired emotional well-being, and this applies just as
much to peacekeeping veterans as to combat veterans.
“This finding is important to clinicians working with the newer generation of veterans, as it stresses
the importance of including measures of quality of life when evaluating veterans to better address
their rehabilitation needs,” says Dr. Richardson.
“It is not enough to measure symptom changes with treatment; we need to objectively asses if
treatment is improving their quality of life and how they are functioning in their community.”
Richardson is a consultant psychiatrist with the Operational Stress Injury Clinic at Parkwood
Hospital, part of St. Joseph’s Health Care, London and a psychiatry professor with the Schulich
School of Medicine & Dentistry at Western.
His team studied 125 male, deployed Canadian Forces peacekeeping veterans who were referred for
a psychiatric assessment. The average age of these men was 41, and they averaged 16 years of
The most common military theatre in which they served were the Balkan states (Bosnia, Croatia,
former Yugoslavia, and Kosovo), with 83 per cent having exposure to combat or a war zone.
While the relationship among PTSD and physical and mental health impairment is well developed in
combat veterans, it is less studied among the deployed peacekeeping veteran population.
Peacekeepers are exposed to traumatic events which they are helpless to prevent under the United
National rules of engagement, which state soldiers must show restraint and neutrality.
The feeling of being unable to control a situation at the time of trauma is an important risk factor for
VETERANS NEWS & VIEWS, NOVEMBER 2008
Source: University of Western Ontario