Thursday, July 31, 2014

Veterans need to show up to be counted

Wounded Times
Kathie Costos
July 31, 2014

It is difficult to figure out what is going on after a survey of OEF and OIF veterans were asked questions on what goes through their mind. The stats were predictable although disgraceful. A third of 2,000 veterans said they thought about committing suicide. This is after almost a decade of Congress funding billions a year on "prevention" to the DOD and "programs" to the VA. Half of the veterans knew someone who did in fact attempt to commit suicide while 40% knew someone who succeeded.

This year, the four services have seen 162 confirmed or suspected suicides — 151 among active-duty troops and 11 among reserve component members — through July 20, according to Pentagon documents obtained by Military Times.

The Navy and Air Force both had an uptick in suicides, while the Army and Marine Corps are down from their 2013 year-to-date numbers.

In the same period last year, there were 160 total deaths by suicide across the four services. In 2012, there were 209.

Senator Joe Donnelly pushed suicide prevention even though his own numbers show that help from the DOD and the VA were not working. He stated that 43% of the suicides happened but the veterans had not sought help. That meant that 57% did seek help.
Senator Joe Donnelly says 43 percent of servicemembers who committed suicide never sought help. He says trying to combat the problem of military and veteran suicide needs to involve erasing the stigma of seeking help.

“They feel like, ‘Well, I don’t want to burden somebody’ or ‘I don’t want anybody to have to worry about me’ or ‘I don’t want anybody to have to spend an extra thought on me,’” he says.

The years pass by and more is being done but the years have not been kind at all as more graves are filled by servicemen and women after they were supposed to be safe out of combat. The fight for their lives was a losing battle that will never be won until every veteran in this country demands changes made.

These stories are very troubling because they all happened this summer. It is only the end of July.

Justin Davis went to the VA for help. He became one of the at least 22 to commit suicide that day.
A Kentucky National Guardsman served two tours in Iraq. Justin Neil Davis was only 24. His last tour ended when he was 22 in 2012. Davis knew he was having problems. He had been in the VA rehab for 30 days but as it turned out, it didn't make that much of a difference.

Davis, a veteran of the Kentucky National Guard, had served two tours in Iraq, the most recent ending in 2012, according to guard records.

Before his fatal encounter with police, Davis struggled with alcohol abuse and was released from a 30-day rehabilitation program in September, according to divorce papers filed by his wife in October. His father, a Navy veteran, died in February. By March, Davis was without a job.

Vallandinghan said Davis had an appointment at the Memphis VA Medical Center at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday to have an MRI on his back, and that while he was there, told VA staff he was having suicidal thoughts.

After leaving, Vallandinghan said, he texted friends and family to say goodbye.

Iraq veteran Icarus Randolph was killed by police.
"We were failed, they failed," Ida Allen, sister of the man killed said. "The city failed us."

Police say Icarus Randolph charged at an officer with a knife after they were called to the scene by family for a report of a suicidal person.

His family says Randolph's mother made a call for law enforcement to check on his mental wellness, saying he suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after serving in the Iraq war as a Marine.


Issac Sims was trying to get help for PTSD but ended up killed by SWAT 2 days after the VA after being told he had to wait a month to be seen.

Issac Sims’ family said he spent every day last week coming to the VA hospital, but was told on Friday that he had to wait a month to be admitted for his PTSD. Sims, 26, was an Iraq war veteran.

On Sunday, Sims got into a fight with his father outside their home on 23rd and Lawndale. A neighbor called police when Sims fired gunshots.

When officers arrived, they decided to call in the SWAT team. The standoff ended when officers shot and killed Sims.

Retired Col. Armand Martin also killed by police had been to the VA for help.
Albuquerque police said Martin fired shots from inside this house in Ventana Ranch on Saturday, but that officers did not return fire. Instead, they said crisis negotiators tried talking to him for several hours.

APD Deputy Chief Erica Garcia said Martin had been treated at the VA hospital for significant mental health related issues.

Mark Christian Rock, 42, of Las Vegas killed himself with a gunshot wound to the head at the VA in Las Vegas. In Milwaukee another veteran shot himself at the VA and a DAV van driver witnessed it.

Not all the stories have such bad endings.
Geoffrey Jenista, 26, while facing serious criminal charges, is also now getting the mental help he needs from the Kansas City Police Department's crisis intervention team.

After Jenista returned to the United States, the troubled man ran afoul of the law. He was discharged from the Army in April and his life has been increasingly difficult since then. The officers promised to help do what they can for him just like they did Tuesday morning.

"He's a veteran who had served multiple tours overseas. He'd seen lots of combat. He was suffering from PTSD," Sgt. Michael Ward said. "Somebody that serves our country, you know, bravely like that, we're not going to turn our backs on him. We're going to try to help him."

Six Tour PTSD Iraq Veteran Getting Help After Standoff
An Iraq War combat veteran who held Northampton police on an armed standoff inside his girlfriend's borough home will serve four years of probation under a plea agreement that takes into account his post-traumatic stress disorder.

Scott P. Wines Jr., 29, served six tours in Iraq as a Marine and is now attending outpatient counseling twice a week to cope with what he experienced overseas, said defense attorney Rory Driscole.

"While it's not an excuse and Scott knows that, it helps explain what happened," Driscole told Northampton County Judge Jennifer Sletvold on Thursday.

These are the numbers that show how widespread untreated and wrongly treated combat PTSD is.
Largely unseen are those who came home with PTSD, the war's signature injury. The Department of Veterans Affairs says between 11 percent and 20 percent of the 2.6 million who served in both wars have PTSD. A Stanford University study said it could be as high as 35 percent — or as many as 910,000 men and women. And since 2000, more than 287,000 service members have been diagnosed with TBI, according to the Pentagon.

The latest VA budget has veterans pulling out their bullshit meters for a reason. It has all been done before. One "crisis" after another followed by more and more claims of Congress fixing the problems we see repeated. So exactly when do we see successes repeated?

We won't until every veteran in this country takes a stand. Until the healthy veterans show up and support the wounded and the ill. Until every family member of a veteran writes letters to their elected officials and demands they change what they are doing and apologize to veterans for what they have failed to do. Until all of us stop accepting the blame game when members of Congress are responsible for all of this.

Spending money on the DOD and the VA is not their only job. Each committee is responsible for what the VA does with the money. Failed program after failed program, but that doesn't stop them from spending more without seeing results. We keep waiting but we stopped hoping a long time ago.

Ask any Vietnam veteran what it has been like all these years and they will tell you horror stories as well as stories of great care they have had. The part that breaks their hearts the most is nothing has really changed over decades and seeing these stories still being reported as more veterans face such sad lives, it is like daggers to their hearts.

They spent years fighting to have PTSD recognized by the VA and treated. To see things this bad after all these years is inexcusable.

So what do younger veterans do? The same thing they did and still do. They stand up for all veterans.

Start with the simple fact that new veterans receive free care from the VA for 5 years. Too many don't enroll. They expect to be able to be seen as soon as they want help but never think of the other veterans already in line. They need to enroll as soon as they are discharged and not wait until they have a crisis.

VA Gov Veteran Data

VA Enrolled Veterans 9,111,955 with estimated Veteran patients using the VA in 2014 5,908,042

What if the rest of the almost 22 million veterans stood up and made sure that all veterans received the care they earned? What if all veterans eligible for care signed up for it even if they didn't think they needed anything yet? What would happen is that congress would be forced to do what they should have done before sending troops into Afghanistan and Iraq while there was already a backlog of claims and veterans waiting to be seen.

An under reported fact is that President Clinton's administration left 400,000 claims backlogged when President Bush sent troops into two wars, VA budget was budget short over a billion dollars when Jim Nicholson took over as Secretary of the VA by 2005. It got worse. By the time President Obama took over the chair there were over 800,000 claims in the backlog. It got worse again because as more and more veterans were in need of medical and mental healthcare, President Obama decided to do the right thing for other veterans shut out of claims for Agent Orange and PTSD to make it easier to have their claims approved causing a flood of veterans to file claims again. They had hope restored only to discover congress had not been so kind. They did not increase the VA budget enough to care for the influx.
U.S. Marines carry a comrade wounded by an improvised explosive device to a waiting medevac helicopter, near the town of Marjah in Helmand Province in this August 21, 2010 file photo. NBC News

The Veterans Community can complain all we want but until all of us realize the kind of power our numbers have, nothing will ever happen. Current military, veterans and families are well over 30 million. Think about that. Think about how the healthy being silent have left the wounded to fight for themselves.

It is beyond time for all of us to act and show up to be counted. Don't wait for congress to notice. Don't wait for another report of more and more suicides as Congress spends more and more money. The strong always need to carry the wounded and weak out of danger. Help them all stand up and be proud they served with the best they called brothers. We are family! Let's prove this family strong!

Austin MIX 94.7 DJ walking to help PTSD veterans

Not sure why he picked this charity since there are so many others actually training and providing PTSD Service dogs, but it is a nice idea to raise awareness on the number of suicides that happen each day.
Local radio host walks to raise money, awareness for veteran PTSD
My FOX Austin
Posted: Jul 30, 2014
A local radio host is hoping to raise money and awareness for a growing issue affecting veterans post-traumatic stress disorder.

Mix 94.7's Jay Styles is doing what he calls a "Courage Walk" this week, walking 20 miles every day through Friday.

His goal is to raise at least $20,000 for the Wounded Warrior Project.

FOX 7 caught up with him Wednesday, while he was walking from the State Capitol to the Dell Diamond in Round Rock.

"That's why I'm out here walking, for PTSD. It's something that's been thrown under the rug, and we need to bring it to the forefront and help our military vets battling PTSD.

Twenty-two vets kill themselves every day. This is an epidemic we need to combat," Styles said.

Styles says he wants to raise $20,000 because that's the cost to train one service dog.
read more here

Iraq Veteran with PTSD heals on wheels

Jeff Jardine: Iraq War vet offering four-wheeling for wounded
Modesto Bee
BY JEFF JARDINE
July 30, 2014

Adam Britton, wounded three times in four months in Iraq in 2004, is considered 100 percent disabled by the Veterans Affairs system. He discovered that by getting out four-wheeling, is has helped him cope with the physical and mental scars he brought back from Iraq and that prevent him from working today. So last year, he began offering to take other wounded veterans four-wheeling. He pays the way. and hopes others will go along to experience JEFF JARDINE
“After returning home, I dealt with a lot of issues, including depression and survivor’s guilt, as well as PTSD and TBI (traumatic brain injury). I understand how hard it is to recover from these injuries and how it can make you feel all alone.”
Like too many others, Adam Britton went to war a confident young man and returned damaged, both physically and mentally.

Doctors and time try their best, but cannot cure what ails him. What does help? What form of therapy works best for him?

Four-wheeling. Off-road adventures that take him to remote places and provide challenges. He’s found it to be so beneficial that he wants to take others with disabilities along for the ride.

First, his back story:

The 43-year-old Denair resident and Army veteran joined the Army National Guard as an emancipated minor in 1987. He later re-upped with the regular Army and became an air assault infantryman. Sent to Arizona in 2001, he spent 17 months doing anti-drug and anti-terrorism duty.

He volunteered for duty in Iraq in 2004, and went to a base south of Baghdad. He suffered wounds and injuries in three incidents in a little more than four months. He tore the meniscus in his right knee when boxes of ammo and grenades slammed into his leg during a vehicle accident one night.

Then, as he rode atop a Humvee as the driver’s side gunner, an insurgent’s vehicle rammed his head-on. He went flying, landing on his shoulder and separating it and causing nerve damage in his right arm.

And finally, while recuperating, he went into a post exchange, bought a couple of items and then headed for the door. Just as he stepped outside, an enemy mortar struck the building. The concussion of the explosion left him with a brain injury, a smashed nose, a sliced hand, chipped teeth and more nerve damage. Hence, a flight to Germany and the first of many surgeries.

Two years later, he received a medical discharge. And in the decade since he was wounded, he’s had numerous surgeries and seemingly endless rehabilitation. He uses a cane to walk, and while he has good range of motion in his right hand, he has no feeling in it. Veterans Affairs rates his disability at 100 percent, he said. He has post-traumatic stress disorder, which also factors in.
read more here

Homeless Iraq War vet finds a place in St. Louis

With some help, homeless Iraq War vet finds a place in St. Louis
St. Louis Today
By Jesse Bogan
4 hours ago

ST. LOUIS • Disappointed so many times by bureaucratic red tape, a ragtag group of 50 homeless veterans were suspicious from the start of an effort Wednesday to place them all into furnished apartments.

Some were used to waiting years for assistance that never came, not mere hours for actual delivery. Still, they gathered downtown at 9 a.m. at the foot of Soldiers Memorial for the chance.

In a news conference, Mayor Francis Slay told the crowd that it was a “shame” that military service is often taken for granted.

“Today, it’s about helping those men and women who helped us,” Slay said, garnering cheers.

If they qualified for the pilot program, the veterans could get free rent, utility assistance and wrap-around services for other needs. The veterans soon snapped in line for hours of processing.

Nearly all were men and between the ages of 50 and 65. Esa Murray, 25, sporting thick glasses, light blue shorts and a buzz cut, represented the next generation of homeless veterans.

The former Army private did base security near Tikrit, Iraq, in 2009. He was sent home early from the deployment because of mental disorders. Not long after, he was discharged and living in a tent in southern Indiana with his new wife.

“I joked with her that we went camping on our honeymoon,” said Murray, inching his way through the line. “She never thought that was funny.”

He said he and his wife have children but are now separated.

In mid-June, after an outburst, he said, he was taken by ambulance from Indiana to Jefferson Barracks because it was the closest Veterans Affairs inpatient psychiatric ward that had an open bed. Medications stabilized him. After treatment, he said, the VA released him with contact information for several area nonprofits.

“They pretty much said, ‘Good luck,’ ” Murray said. “And you know what, I’ve had good luck. This city has been wonderful to me.”
Antoinette Triplett, who is leaving her post as head of the city’s Homeless Services Division in August for a job in Tampa, Fla., said she came up with the concept of Wednesday’s program a few years ago. She said it was designed for about 50 people. If somebody missed the event Wednesday, and thinks they qualify, they can contact her office to be considered.

Triplett, an Air Force veteran, described the housing effort as a pilot program.

“We will share the challenges and successes with other cities around the country,” she said.
read more here

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Congress passes emergency funding, again right before mid-term elections

Bronx Cheer over this one,,,,they should have asked the horse if Congress will ever get fixing the VA right.
House passes $17 billion emergency funding bill for VA
Stars and Stripes
By Travis J. Tritten
Published: July 30, 2014

WASHINGTON – The House overwhelmingly passed a $17 billion emergency bill Wednesday that brings comprehensive reform of the troubled Department of Veterans Affairs health care system one step closer to reality.

The 420-5 vote shifted all attention toward the Senate, where a floor vote had yet to be scheduled with only days left before Congress leaves for its August recess.

Lawmakers struck a last-minute deal Monday that would inject $10 billion into expanding veteran access to outside health care providers and $5 billion into hiring new medical staff to ease long wait times at VA hospitals and clinics across the United States.

Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., who negotiated the legislative deal for the House, said veterans are suffering – some dying – in a VA health care system rife with widespread corruption and delays in care. He said the bill is progress toward relieving their pain and straightening out institutional dysfunction.

“The passage of this [bill] will improve access to care and accountability in a desperately broken bureaucracy,” said Miller, who chairs the House Veterans Affairs Committee.

The legislation would create a $10-billion Veterans Choice Fund in the U.S. Treasury that could be tapped to fund private treatment when beneficiaries cannot get a VA health care appointment within two weeks or live more than 40 miles from a VA facility.
read more here


Gloves came off a long time ago because it just got too sickening to listen to a bunch of politicians talk about what they were "fixing" while listening to veterans on how long they've been waiting for the "fix" to happen.

Think any of this is new? Ya right. If you do then you deserve a bronx cheer too. None of this is new! Members of congress knew it the beginning of this year, last year, the year before that and hell, decades before that but for all the talk and all the money spent, they still don't have a clue.

This did not just happen but it sound like it did given recent reports.
Executive director Hal Dulle of the state veterans commission says too many veterans have to wait too long to be accepted in the Veterans Administration system and then have to wait too long to get the medical help they need.

He says, his office works to get veterans to file for their benefits but the VA lacks the personnel to handle the paperwork efficiently. Dulle says the system isn't broken. He says it just doesn't have enough people to handle the increased number of veterans applying for services. The heavy burden is caused by an influx of Gulf war veterans seeking benefits at the same time many Vietnam veterans have decided after 40 years of not being involved...to sign up.

But once the paperwork is processed and the veteran is in the system----there's a lack of doctors. Dulle says part of that problem is that the VA has limited funds...and in a competitive world, the VA has trouble paying enough to keep the specialists the veterans want to see from going into private practice.

VA in crisis again as it was back in 2007 when that report came out.

Patients dying,,,not new either. It was happening after they turned to the VA for help with PTSD and ended up committing suicide. Much like what is still going on today with 57% of veterans committing suicide after they sought help.
Joseph Dalpiaz, director of the VA North Texas Health Care System, ordered the shutdown after a man hanged himself April 4. The hospital stopped admitting patients to its 51-bed psychiatric unit the next day; 10 previously admitted veterans are still being treated there.

Dalpiaz "decided he wanted to ... give us some time to assess the environment of care and make sure things were as safe as possible in our patient unit," said Dr. Catherine Orsak, head of mental health for the VA's North Texas health system.

She said the hospital has increased staffing and checks to ensure the safety of the patients still being treated.

In January, two men who met in the hospital's psychiatric ward committed suicide days after being released. In February, a veteran in the ward hanged himself on a frame attached to his wheelchair.

Orsak said the hospital has spent more than $250,000 the past six months to eliminate suicide risks. Door knobs were replaced, shower curtains and plumbing were retrofitted, and light fixtures were modified to remove rigid outcroppings veterans might use in hanging themselves.

That came out in 2008.

A VA doctor was the subject of lawsuits and hearings in 2008 when this came out about how many veterans were committing suicide.
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said Dr. Ira Katz, the VA's mental health director, deliberately withheld crucial information on the true suicide risk among veterans.

"Doctor Katz's irresponsible actions have been a disservice to our veterans, and it is time for him to go," said Murray, a member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. "The number one priority of the VA should be caring for our veterans, not covering up the truth."

Murray and other Democratic senators said they were appalled at e-mails showing Katz and other VA officials apparently trying to conceal the number of suicides by veterans. An e-mail message from Katz disclosed this week as part of a lawsuit that went to trial in San Francisco this week starts with "Shh!" and refers to the 12,000 veterans per year who attempt suicide while under department treatment.

This was out in 2011 when the VA was understaffed and not prepared to treat all the veterans for PTSD.
"Last year, more than 1.2 million veterans were treated by the VA for a mental health problem, including 408,000 with a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder. By comparison, 934,000 were treated for mental health problems four years earlier."

A survey of social workers, nurses and doctors working for the Department of Veterans Affairs finds that more than 70 percent of respondents think the department lacks the staff and space to meet the needs of growing numbers of veterans seeking mental health care.

More than 37 percent of the 272 respondents say they cannot schedule an appointment in their clinics for a new patient within the 14-day standard mandated by the department, according to the survey, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Post.

The survey was requested by the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs after a hearing this summer at which veterans diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health issues described long waits for treatment that could raise the risk of suicide. On average, 18 veterans commit suicide every day, according to the VA.

Now maybe you know why were are not clapping with all fingers right now. Maybe now you know why the veterans community isn't doing much more than a Bronx cheer.

Lake Baldwin VA Clinic to stay open!

This is the monument right across the street from Lake Baldwin VA.

This is what we've been waiting for since the groundbreaking October 2008 when I was handed a shovel to remember the day........No need to say more.

In 'victory,' Lake Baldwin VA clinic will stay open
Orlando Sentinel
By Marni Jameson
July 29, 2014

After being threatened with a closure that would have inconvenienced thousands of area veterans, the Lake Baldwin VA Outpatient Clinic will remain open, U.S. Rep. John Mica announced Friday.

"The Baldwin Park Clinic will remain open and the medical facilities there will continue to be used to serve our veterans," Mica said at a news conference. "This is a great victory for our veterans."

Mica, R-Winter Park, said he received the news in a letter from acting U.S. Secretary for Veterans Affairs Sloan Gibson.

Jerry Pierce, veteran and former chairman of the Central Florida Veterans Memorial Park Foundation, said he was "ecstatic" to learn the news.

"We have 2,600 veterans visiting that clinic every day. And that number is rising," Pierce said. "We needed it to stay open. Our congressional leaders worked really hard for this."

The long-awaited Orlando VA Medical Center in Lake Nona is expected to start seeing patients in summer 2015. VA officials considered closing the Baldwin Park clinic and transitioning its outpatient medical services to Lake Nona. That would have meant a long drive for many veterans seeking care.

However, a VA analysis found that the medical needs of the veteran population were growing and that the "current workload already exceeds the projected workload" that was projected for 2023, according to Gibson's letter.

The VA "substantiated that we have the veteran population through 2023 and beyond to support both the new Lake Nona VA Hospital and the Baldwin Park Clinic," said Mica, who is among those who have strongly advocated for keeping the Lake Baldwin VA facility open.
read more here

Upcoming Veterans Events in Central Florida

July/August #2 list – veterans, military and patriotic events in Central FL
And other information…
 
Please share this information and events with your friends and interested others and attend.  Post where appropriate.
If you did not receive the July/August #1 list of events, please contact me and I will re-send.
If you wish to be removed from the email list, just let me know.
 
SHORT NOTICE - Meet and Greet Red Tail pilots – Tonight - Wed. July 30 – 6pm-9pm. Vision of Flight, in collaboration with Westgate Lakes Resort & Spa and the Westgate Resorts Foundation, proudly welcome the Red Tail Pilots of the Tuskegee Airmen for an evening of history, stories, lessons and a panel discussion.  Followed by a showing of the movie “Red Tails” with Cuba Gooding. Westgate Lakes Resort, 10000 Turkey Lake Rd, Orlando, 32819.  (Turkey Lake parallels with I-4, west of the I-Drive area.)  2nd Floor of the Pavillion (main lobby). Meet & Greet, along with panel discussion, will begin at 630pm sharp. Movie will start promptly at 730pm. Bring your whole family and meet the heroes that have made history on all levels!  Free.  Concessions for nominal charge. 
 
Tuskegee Airmen Convention – Wed. Jul 30 thru Sat. Aug 2 - Two dozen of America’s original first African-American pilots and air crew who gained acclaim during World War II will attend the convention.  "Tuskegee Airmen" refers to the men and women, African-Americans and Caucasians, who were involved in the so-called "Tuskegee Experience", the Army Air Corps program to train African Americans to fly and maintain combat aircraft. The Tuskegee Airmen included pilots, navigators, bombardiers, maintenance and support staff, instructors, and all the personnel who kept the planes in the air.  The convention includes educational opportunities for youth and events at the Orlando Science Center. There will also be a simulation showcase and hands-on flight training.  Rosen Centre on International Drive.  Info: Sandra Campbell, Public Relations Officer, 816-260-0749  or  campbell@tuskegeeairmen.org 
 
Injured warrior family receives home – Fri Aug 1 – Join the celebration - Army Sgt. Justin Burdette, wife Beth and 4 year old son Corey, will be escorted by a motorcade, are expected to arrive at their home, 250 Crosspoint Street SE, Palm Bay, 32909 (Brevard County) at approximately 10 a.m. The public is encouraged to show support by lining the route between Babcock Street and Eldron Blvd between 9:45 and 10 a.m.  The Burdette family is the inaugural recipient of the Homes for Warriors program which uses federal grant funds to purchase foreclosed homes and refurbish them. The program works in partnership with the Space Coast Paratroopers Association to identify wounded veterans in need of housing and donates the home to the qualifying veteran.  The Army Sgt graduated from Palm Bay High School in 2005 and enlisted in the Army when he was 19 years old.   He served a tour in Iraq and in 2013, during his second tour in Afghanistan, an RPG-missile landed near him while patrolling on a mountain.  He subsequently had to have both of his legs amputated below the knee.  Contact Kim Cone at 321-373-7046   kim@avetproject.org
 
Step Back in Time – Wed. Aug 13 - Keep the Spirit of 1945 Alive!  Preserving and promoting the legacy of the WWII generation who fought in the war that saved the world.  1pm – 2:30pm at Winter Park Civic Center, 1050 W. Morse Blvd., Winter Park, 32789.  Live entertainment and refreshments as we recognize the Greatest Generation on America's Newest National Holiday.  RSVP by Fri.  Aug 8 to Stephanie Demos, 407.691.4536  stephanie.demos@VITAS.com
 
Governor’s Veterans Service Award – Thurs. Aug 14 - The Executive Office of the Governor, in collaboration with the Florida Department of Veterans' Affairs, is hosting several Governor's Veterans Service Award ceremonies throughout the state this summer.  The Governor's Veterans Service Award was created in Executive Order 14-88 to honor all of Florida's over 1.5 million veterans as well as active Florida service members.  A medal will be presented -  The front of the medal depicts the Great Seal of the State of Florida. The back of the medal displays the five seals representing the five branches of U.S. Military with an inscription that reads “Honoring Those Who Served.”  Upcoming ceremonies are scheduled from August 11 to August 15 and are located in seven major cities throughout the state. The nearest ceremonies to the Greater Orlando area will be on Thurs. Aug. 14 and are:
·         9am at Lakeland National Guard Armory - 4140 Drane Field Road, Lakeland, 33811.
·         2:15pm at Melbourne National Guard Armory - 1889 Stewart Road, Melbourne, 32935.
It is unknown if or when there will be ceremonies that will be closer to the Orlando area again. 
Note:  Veterans must provide some form of identification that validates their Veteran status; DD 214, VA ID Card, Military Retirement or Active Duty ID Card.  Attire:  Business attire is recommended.
Veterans and active service members are strongly encouraged to RSVP at http://rsvp.myflorida.com and designate which location.  For more information:  www.FloridaVets.org/gvsa  850-717-9207 or gvsa@fdva.state.fl.us  
 
Lake Baldwin site of the Orlando VA Medical Center decision – great news!:
“We learned this afternoon (Tues July 29) that Acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson approved our request to keep the Lake Baldwin site open. This request was made for a number of reasons, most importantly because of our patient growth. While the exact construct of the services have not been confirmed, we will keep you apprised of our planning initiative. Thank you for the on-going support and dedication to our Nation’s heroes and for ensuring the voice of our Veterans continues to be heard.”
From:  Orlando VA Medical Center Director’s Office via Heather Frebe, Public Affairs Officer.
 
County Veteran Service Offices – All counties in Florida have County Veteran Service Offices (VSO’s).  They provide information on current federal, state and local veterans’ programs, entitlements and referral services and assist with filing for VA benefits.  Orange County has recently hired a new Senior Veterans Service Counselor, Jose Pizarro, as Edward “Alex” Alexander, who followed Mike Dixon, has retired.  Jose is a retired MSGT Chaplain Asst. from the Army (20 yrs) and Air Force National Guard (2 yrs.)  County counselors are trained and accredited annually by the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs.  All services are provided free of charge. 
 
Honor Flights - “House Approves Bill to help Honor Flight Vets” – Thumbs up to the TSA at Orlando Int’l Airport – they have been ahead of the curve the whole time!!  “According to a press release from the office of Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.), the House of Representatives recently passed H.R. 4812, the Honor Flight Act. The bill would codify the process by which the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) provides expedited and dignified passenger screening services for veterans traveling to visit war memorials built and dedicated to honor their service in Washington D.C. Expedited screening services will save veterans’ time and show them their proper respect and appreciation.”
The Honor Flight Act of 2014 is supported by the Honor Flight Network, a non-profit organization that works with airlines and other non-profits to transport American veterans to Washington, D.C., to visit memorials built and dedicated in honor of their service.”
The next local Honor Flight will be on Sat. Aug 23.  Information will be upcoming.  The WW2 and Korean War veterans truly appreciate the “Welcome Home” receptions at the airports with the flags and patriotic signs – It makes a difference!  Mark your calendars also for Thurs. Sept 4; Two local hubs on Sat. Sep 27 at two airports; Sat. Oct 18; and Sun. Nov 2.  (Dates subject to change)
 
Vietnam Veterans with OTH and PTSD – Yale Law School is part of project for a class action lawsuit.  Vietnam veterans – ANY branch of military - who received Other Than Honorable (OTH) discharge and had/have Post Traumatic Stress may be interested in this: 
      “The Veterans Legal Services Clinic at Yale, together with our co-counsel Jenner & Block, is litigating a proposed nation-wide class action to challenge the denial by the record correction boards of nearly all discharge upgrade applications submitted by Vietnam veterans with an OTH and a later diagnosis of PTSD.  See Monk v. Mabus, No. 3:14-cv-00260-WWE (D.Conn.).  The government has moved to dismiss claims against the Secretary of the Air Force on the ground that none of our individual named plaintiffs are Air Force veterans. We will make various responses when we file our opposition, but we are interested in identifying specific USAF veterans who served in the Vietnam Theatre, received an OTH, and were later diagnosed with PTSD.  We are especially interested in identifying such USAF veterans who have applied one or more times to the AFBCMR to updgrade discharge status and have been denied.
     If you are aware of any USAF veteran who fits this profile, especially among your current or past clients, please let me know.  The proposed class definition is “all veterans of the Vietnam War Era who served in the Vietnam Theater and: (a) were discharged under other than honorable conditions (also referred to as an undesirable discharge); (b) have not received discharge upgrades to honorable or to general (affirmed under uniform standards); and (c) have been diagnosed with PTSD attributable to their military service.”   Michael J. Wishnie, William O. Douglas Clinical Professor of Law and Deputy Dean for Experiential Education, Yale Law School
The office stated that any branch of the military to whom this could apply should call for a screening  interview for this class action. Yale Law School – 203-432-4800
 
Mesothelioma & Asbestos Awareness - Asbestos exposure, a known cause of mesothelioma, was unavoidable for millions of veterans, whether they were deployed overseas or working in the U.S. Over 40% of all diagnosed mesothelioma cases are military veterans. Our mission is to provide veterans suffering from mesothelioma with up-to-date and accurate information on VA benefits, available treatment options, and how to qualify for clinical trials. Our organization also helps veterans connect with top mesothelioma doctors, cancer centers, hospitals, and local treatment facilities.  Billions of dollars have been set aside in the form of trusts from companies that knowingly exposed their employees to products that contained asbestos.  Contact Joe Lederman, National Awareness Coordinator at  joe@asbestostrustfunds.org        asbestostrustfunds.org
 
Orlando Business Journal has a new award this year, “Veterans of Influence”, for which they are holding a luncheon to honor those nominated.  Go to the website before August 15 to nominate veterans that they know who deserve to be honored. www.bizjournals.com/orlando/nomination  Contact Denise Hicks (herself a Marine Corps vet!) of Orlando Business Journal at 407.241.2893  dhicks@bizjournals.com 
 
Travel tips for wounded and disabled veterans:
 
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) wants to facilitate the screening of injured, wounded service members and veterans.  It has a program that assists the wounded warriors and persons with disabilities or medical conditions at the airport. "Team CARE" will greet and assist these persons at curb side.  They will take them to the security checkpoint, provide screening assistance and escort them and their families to their gate.   Assistance is available for the return trip.  Nationwide, travelers can call TSA Cares for a Passenger Support Specialist, 72 hours prior to traveling, toll-free at 1-855-787-2227 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. (EST/EDT) and weekends and holidays 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. (EST/EDT).  Travelers who are deaf or hard of hearing can use a relay service to contact TSA Cares or can e-mail:  TSA-ContactCenter@tsa.dhs.gov.
Frequent travelers may also want to consider the TSA Pre-Check.  The $85 ID card will allow access to the “fast lane” for up to 5 years.
 
Service Animal Relief Areas are available on Level 2 of both the "A" and "B" Terminals at Orlando International Airport. The "A" Terminal Service Animal Relief Area is located at the North East corner of the building (to the right as you exit the building) near the Southwest Airlines Bag Claim. The "B" Terminal Service Animal Relief Area is located at the South West corner of the building (to the right as you exit the building) near the US Airways Bag Claim.
 
The journey after military service can be a difficult one.
If you are a Veteran or warrior in crisis or know of one who is,
Please call the VA’s 24/7 Suicide Prevention Line at
1-800-273-TALK (8255)
To speak with a trained counselor - It’s Confidential.
Or find a Crisis Center near you at www.veteranscrisisline.net
 
A strong person will realize that help is needed,
That reaching out can and will make a difference,
And is NOT ashamed to ask for it…
 
Caring and sharing,
 
Cathy Haynes
Member/supporter of numerous veteran and military organizations in Central Florida
407-239-8468

VA employees told to falsify wait times

This all sounds so bad, but that is only if you have not been paying attention all along since we've been down this road so many times you can still see the tire marks when the Congressional bus rolled over veterans.

GAO finding: No accountability for claims processors 2008

Lawsuit message to VA "you can't treat them like crap" after this again 2008 on veterans committing suicide

VA: $94 billion for 2009 and still $3.3 billion short 2008 VA Budget increase

This list could go on all day long but would do little good since reporters lack the ability to remember what they reported on years before. Everything happening today were issues Congress was "taking care" of years ago.
More VA employees told to falsify data
New information also provided to Congress this week
CNN
Author: By Curt Devine, Meredith Turk and Scott Bronstein
CNN Investigations
Published On: Jul 29 2014
CNN)
Roughly half the schedulers at multiple Veterans Affairs hospitals said they received instructions from supervisors to falsify data and hide the true time it took patients to be seen by a doctor after making an appointment, new details from an internal VA audit show.

Schedulers said supervisors directed them to manipulate information so their centers could meet performance goals, which would help top officials get bonuses, according to documents obtained by CNN.

The new information also provided to Congress this week includes updates from specific VA hospitals that were not included in an internal audit released last month by the embattled agency.

The ongoing saga involves multiple investigations into delayed care, potentially with deadly results, alarming management shortcomings and a culture that was said to have compromised the mission of providing prompt and effective medical care to millions of veterans, some of them returning soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan.
read more here

VA Changed Appointment Wait Times in House VA Committee Chairman's Home State

While members Congress wants to blame the head of the VA, no matter who it is or when, they never seem to be able to apologize to veterans for what they failed to do. Veterans contact their elected officials all the time and they do complain. They have been complaining for decades about all of this. No member of congress can claim they didn't know about any of this but what is worse is, they think they can get away with the Sgt. Schultz Excuse of "I know nothing" when it was their jobs to not only know, but fix it! Now there is a report out of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman's home state of Florida.
Some Florida VA health facilities changed appointment requests to improve wait times
Pensacola News Journal
Ledyard King
July 28, 2014
VA executives are so driven in their quest for performance bonuses, promotions and power that they are willing to lie, cheat and put the health of the veterans they were hired to serve at risk,” (Jeff Miller)

Details of an internal VA audit of improper scheduling practices were released Monday were referred last month to the agency’s inspector general for further review.

WASHINGTON – Schedulers at the Department of Veterans Affairs clinic at Eglin Air Force Base were told to improve wait times by changing the date veterans requested a medical appointment so it appeared they got treated within 14 days of their request.

Staff at the VA’s medical center at Bay Pines health center in St. Petersburg were encouraged to align appointment dates requested by veterans with the actual dates they received medical care.

Workers at the Joint Ambulatory Care Center in Pensacola kept a paper list of patients to call back about appointments because they were confused about what to log in the VA’s computerized calendar.

Details of an internal VA audit conducted in May of improper scheduling practices were released Monday, shedding light as to why 112 VA medical facilities — including six in Florida — were referred last month to the agency’s inspector general for further review.
read more here

Homeless veteran with PTSD ticked for "camping" in van?

Watch Cop Ticket Homeless Fellow Veteran, Salute Him With 'Always Faithful' Motto
The Huffington Post
By Eleanor Goldberg
Posted: 07/29/2014

A homeless veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder who was ticketed for sleeping in his van hopes that, at the very least, his ordeal will set a new "precedent."

Aaron Coyler subsists on $849 per month in Social Security disability insurance, not nearly enough to support his living in an apartment in the Bay Area where he hopes to remain in order to be close to his 2-year-old son. So, for nearly a month, Coyler had been sleeping in his vehicle in a park, but was cited on Thursday by Alameda police for illegally camping, according to a video he posted to YouTube.

The homeless vet videotaped his interaction with the two officers, during which time Coyler explained that he has disabilities, little money and that there were no signs in sight indicating that he was doing anything wrong.

One of the officers responded by telling him to get a hotel room and when he learned that Coyler had served in the Marines, he revealed that he's also a veteran, before saying, "Semper Fi," referring to the Corps’ motto, "Semper Fidelis," which means "always faithful."

"Apparently not," Coyler says in the video. "I’m homeless. I have PTSD. I don’t have anywhere else to stay."

Coyler has been raising funds through a GoFundMe campaign, and hopes to eventually turn his van into a mobile outreach organization for the homeless.
read more here
Toward the end he asked the officers, "What am I supposed to do? Die?"

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Robert McDonald VA Secretary in 97-0 Senate Vote

Senate confirms Robert McDonald as Secretary of Veterans Affairs
Stars and Stripes
By Travis J. Tritten
Published: July 29, 2014

WASHINGTON – Robert McDonald was unanimously confirmed by the Senate Tuesday as the new Department of Veterans Affairs secretary.

The former Army Ranger and CEO of Procter and Gamble was confirmed in a 97-0 vote by lawmakers who said his boardroom experience could be used to overhaul the nation’s troubled veteran health care system.

His predecessor Gen. Eric Shinseki stepped down in May amid a growing scandal over long patient wait times and manipulation of appointment data by VA staff. Numerous VA inspector general investigations and testimony on Capitol Hill over the past two months have revealed a deeply dysfunctional agency that often ignored or covered up dangerous shortcomings in care.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said Tuesday that McDonald headed up one of the country’s leading corporations and has the experience need to deal with a “huge bureaucracy that needs significant improvement in accountability and management.”
read more here

New VA Secretary McDonald faced with firing VA management
Stars and Stripes
By Travis J. Tritten
Published: July 29, 2014

WASHINGTON — Robert McDonald floated through his confirmation as the new Department of Veterans Affairs secretary, but he now faces the hard work of transforming a floundering bureaucracy — and the expectation he will begin by firing managers.

The former Army Ranger and CEO of Procter and Gamble was confirmed Tuesday in a 97-0 vote by lawmakers who believed his boardroom experience could be used to overhaul the nation’s troubled veteran health care system.

Lawmakers, veterans and observers have all said McDonald must begin by holding staff “accountable,” which has become a euphemism for termination.

Numerous VA inspector general investigations and testimony on Capitol Hill over the past two months has revealed a deeply dysfunctional agency that often ignored or covered up dangerous shortcomings in veteran health care. The bureaucracy bedeviled McDonald’s predecessor, former Army Gen. Eric Shinseki, who claimed the problems that led the White House to press for his resignation were systematically hidden from him.
read more here

Do you know how many veterans you have in your state?

These numbers are from the VA Veterans Population numbers from September 2013.

California has the largest population of veterans with 1,795,455.
1,356,978 are "war time" veterans with 589,139 Vietnam veterans.
There are 184,774 female veterans.

Number 2 is Texas with 1,667,740 veterans.
1,291,040 are "war time" veterans with 551,137 Vietnam veterans.
There are 191,757 female veterans.

Number 3 is Florida with 1,520,563 veterans.
1,14,894 are "war time" with 490,589 Vietnam veterans.
There are 166,222 female veterans.

Use the above link and check your state to know how many veteran are your neighbors. It is really odd considering there are more female veterans in Texas than there are in California.

Roommate found guilty of murdering female Iraq veteran

OC Man Found Guilty Of Murdering His Roommate, An Iraq War Veteran
CBS Los Angeles
July 29, 2014

SANTA ANA (CBSLA.com) — An Orange County man was found guilty Tuesday of killing his roommate in 2013. Kwang Joy, 54, was convicted of second-degree murder for the death of Iraqi war veteran and Cal State Fullerton student Maribel Ramos.

Officials believe Ramos, 36, and Joy got into an argument on May 2, 2013 after the victim told him he needed to move out of her home in Orange.
read more here

From previous report on Maribel Ramos

Ramos, who has served two tours of duty in Iraq, was last seen in her apartment on May 2. She was scheduled to graduate at the end of May with a criminal justice degree from Cal State Fullerton.

Grateful shopper picks up tab for VIetnam veteran's computer

Stranger’s generosity stuns Ohio veteran
Grateful shopper picks up tab for vet's computer
CNHI News Service
July 28, 2014

KINGSVILLE TOWNSHIP, Ohio — Vietnam War veteran David A. Tobias was overwhelmed recently when a fellow customer at an OfficeMax store near Ashtabula, Ohio paid for a computer he was purchasing.

The man, who would identify himself only as “Daniel,” insisted on paying for the machine.

“This has never happened to me before,” said Tobias, who fought his emotions as he recalled the incident. “People have come up and said thanks. But this? I was totally shocked.”

Tobias, of Kingsville Township, was at the store’s service counter when a salesman approached and asked him if he was the owner of a vehicle in the lot with Vietnam service stickers. When Tobias said yes, the salesman said he was told by another man to deliver a message: “Buy anything you want in the store.”
read more here

Minnesota jury awards Ventura $1.8M in Chris Kyle defamation case

Minnesota jury awards Ventura $1.8M in Chris Kyle defamation case
KETK News
Michael Wesp
July 29, 2014

MINNEAPOLIS (KETK) — A Minneapolis, Minnesota, jury has ruled in favor of former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura in a defamation suit against the widow of Chris Kyle. The jury awarded the former governor $1.8 million in damages.
read more here

Fort Bragg Captain beaten in home invasion, after fire

FORT BRAGG SOLDIER ATTACKED IN HOME INVASION
ABC 11 News
By Nicole Carr
Monday, July 28, 2014

FAYETTEVILLE (WTVD) -- A Fort Bragg soldier is in good condition following a brutal home invasion attack.

Captain Patrick Knight was beaten by three men on Friday evening. Investigators said Knight and his girlfriend arrived to their home on the 500 block of Vista Drive just after 6:00 p.m. The couple was there to collect personal belongings. The home was in renovation due to a recent fire.

Police said Knight and his girlfriend startled three men who had broken into the house. Those men attacked Knight, beating him in the head.

Witnesses report having seen Alexander James Smith, 26, running from Knight's home in a bloody shirt. A neighbor followed Smith in a car and called a friend. That man ended up tackling Smith about a half a mile away, at the corner of Broadfoot and Branson Streets. Witnesses said Smith was covered in blood.
read more here

Heartless thugs steal from homeless veterans shelter

Copper thieves leave homeless veterans inside a hot building
Video
MyNews3
Copper thieves destroy AC units to veterans building
Reported by: Venise Toussaint

LAS VEGAS (KSNV and MyNews3) -- A thief broke into the air conditioning units at a homeless veteran shelter and left the veterans inside struggling to stay cool in the summer heat. The veterans have been without air conditioning since Saturday.

U.S. Vets is a place where homeless and transitioning veterans come to get help and get back on their feet. They eat here, socialize here, and for the past couple of days they’ve been doing so without air conditioning. A man climbed on top of the roof and destroyed their AC units.
read more here

Homeless veterans facing eviction from group home

Homeless veterans facing eviction from group home
Florida business challenging others to help
Ministry needs $180,000 to buy the home
WPTV News
Jeff Skrzypek
Jul 28, 2014

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- - The clock is ticking on several homeless veterans in Vero Beach, who will be kicked to the curb and out of the group home they have been staying in unless enough money is raised to buy the house.

Breath of Heaven Ministries, which runs the group home to help veterans, has until Thursday to raise $180,000 or they have to move out of the home.

After hearing about the situation, West Palm Beach tow truck company owner Kenneth Duvall, is pledging money and hopes other small businesses follow his lead.

"Veterans deserve it. They are why my small business is successful," said Kenneth Duvall, owner of Duvall Towing.

Pledging $1,000 to help, Duvall hopes others follow his lead and help pitch in to save the home before the owners sell it.

"There's a couple million people between Palm Beach County to Vero (Beach) and I figured if 1-in-10,000 of those people would give a thousand dollars, it would be $200,000 and it would be done," said Duvall.

Time is running out on the veterans who are counting on the home to get them back on their feet.
read more here

Congress has no clue what they are funding in the VA

Wounded Times
Kathie Costos
July 29, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, July 28, 2014

Military Times Names Servicemembers of the Year

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

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

Sailor of the Year
USS Abraham Lincoln Newport News, VA

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

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


Click links to read their stories

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

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

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

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

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

Sad update

Humor Helps Wounded Green Beret

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

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

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

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

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

The Ensleys planned to see his family, catch up with friends and attend a fundraiser at Canter's Inn in Lewiston. The trip is a celebration of how far Ensley has come.
read more here

Push is on to treat first responders for PTSD in Canada

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The incident is under investigation.

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

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

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

Veterans get attention again during "election-year firestorm"

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

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

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

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

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

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

Double Amputee Iraq Veteran Getting New Home

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

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

Hurt had another important day on Sunday.

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

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

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

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

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Seattle firefighters charged with harassing disabled, homeless veteran

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Based on the police reports and witness interviews, “we have reason to believe the harassment was because of the victim’s status of being homeless,” Criminal Division Chief Craig Sims previously told KIRO 7.
read more here