Category Archives: Health

Concussions, Mild Brain Injury May Land You A Purple Heart

Since the Trojan Wars soldiers have been getting clocked in combat. I suspect that thousands of the men who fought in the trenches in World War l and ll were knocked silly with blast injuries from which they never recovered nor were ever known for the permanent damage done to the neurological system.

If Grampa sat in his rocking chair a bit long, sipping whiskey and staring into space, he was very likely the victim of a serious concussion.

Now, both the Army and Marine Corps have adopted criteria to give consideration for the awarding of a  Purple Heart if a soldier/Marine experience a concussion on the battlefield.

Mild traumatic brain injuries caused by a blast or blow to the head can now qualify for a Purple Heart if the Medical Officer in charge determines that the combatant is not fit for duty for more than 48 hours as a result of lingering symptoms. The decision must be made withing seven days of the battlefield occurrence.

The Marine Corps announced the criteria in Marine Administrative Message 245/11 on April 15th. The revised memorandum states that no longer is a loss of consciousness the sole criteria.

This change is retroactive to the beginning of the Global War on Terrorism that began on September 11.2001

Marines, including veterans, whose medical records show that a prior mild traumatic brain injury was caused by enemy action since September 11, 2001 may submit a claim via the administrative chain of command.

The award criteria can be found at “ “

Submit your request to “Commandant of the Marine Corps (MMMA) Headquarters Marine Corps, 3280 Russel Road, Quantico, Va. 22134-5103

Members of the U.S. Army  can call 888-276-9472

The advances that have been made by way of military medicine are stunning. This decision to award a Purple Heart for TBI is the right thing to do, as the complications from head injuries are for life and often much more intrusive than a scar from a bullet or shrapnel.

I know, I had two of them, and always felt sad and a bit isolated by the fact that my injuries never seemed to count, even though I have been compromised by them for 42 years.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Linked to Death,Atherosclerosis in Veterans/ Semper Fi Magazine

Post-traumatic stress disorder, (PTSD) more than doubles a veterans risk of death from any cause and is an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease, according to the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2010.

The study states that doctors should offer as much preventive treatment for heart disease for clients with PTSD. The researchers, are Naser Ahmadi, MD, and Ramin Ebrahimi, MD.

The research studied the electronic medicals records of 286, 194 veterans, with an average age of 63, who are being treated at hospitals in Southern California and Nevada. The cohort group includes veterans of the Korean War.

The conclusion of the study indicated that veterans diagnosed with PTSD had 2.41 times the rate of death from all causes compared to veterans who have not experienced PTSD. Or at least not diagnosed with the symptoms. They then surmise that PTSD alone is an independent predictor of death from all causes.

Now, let Veteran Veritas  enter the picture. I cannot use the the adjective that first comes to mind for this study. So let your veteran imaginations take you there.

What I will say is that I first distrust this study because it smells of the subterranean influence of the Insurance industry that does not want to provide life insurance for the young soldiers returning from war, as a result of their pre-existing conditions —which is War!   A soldier who is diagnosed with PTSD cannot currently get life insurance. Truth.

Man is this a hard pill to swallow.

So, the citizen soldier who just defended the United States of America and our system of capitalism, the insurance industry being the very DNA of that system, can in turn not be defended by the very system they just defended.  There will  be an outcry beyond belief when this becomes known nationwide. Johnny can come marching home with ribbons of valor galore, but he cannot get life insurance if he seeks a little help for his nightmares of horific events, because he  is normal. All of the literature on PTSD indicates that, “it is a normal reaction to aberrant events.”  So, where am I going here? I believe studies like this should be scrutinized way beyond their practical value, for the core intent. I suspect that some of that intent is to have on record, medical data, to support the decline for life insurance.  Not unlike the bogus studies of a Psychiatrist named Sally Satel, who was on the payroll of the American Enterprise institute to conduct their dirty work in attempting to alter the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Psychiatry, DSM, so as to not have to award do many disability claims for PTSD, this study is akin to that effort that was suspended as a result of the incredible feedback from veterans, like this writer, who are up at night combing the net.  I will have more to say about this in future postings.

I would like to see what our readers have to say about this study and why from its initial reading it is laced with errors of science.  I will be revisiting this subject frequently over the next several months.

Next week I will be visiting with some high command at Camp Pendleton, and this topic is on the agenda.

As a footnote, many seasoned journalists have a bit of disdain for medical journalism as so much of it has hidden agendas of promotion of self and product, or is bent toward the pharmaceutical industry, meaning stockholders.

Vitally Important Veterans Legislation

There is one simple reason, this legislation is vitally necessary. Veterans of War with a diagnosis of PTSD, cannot get Life Insurance.  What a rap eh? You defend your nation, including one of the largest bastions of capitalism; the Insurance industry, and you cannot get insured by the folks whose freedom to conduct business was warrantied by your bodily and spiritual sacrifice.

Doc Holiday said it best, “my hypocrisy has no bounds.”

By Rick Maze – Staff writer,  Posted : Wednesday Sep 29, 2010 17:46:43 EDT

With just days before Congress takes a six-week break for the November elections, the House and Senate veterans’ affairs committees have reached agreement on an omnibus bill making improvements in employment, job protection, housing, insurance and other benefits.

The Senate passed the bill, HR 3219, by voice vote late Tuesday. The House is expected to approve it in the next few days.

The compromise bill surfaces just as national polls are showing wide spread discontent among voters about the glacial pace of legislative act. Getting the bill done is proof that when their backs are to the wall, lawmakers can reach agreement on veterans issues, which are largely bipartisan.

Sen. Daniel K. Akaka, D-Hawaii, and Rep. Bob Filner, D-Calif., are largely responsible for the agreement but there are dozens of bills wrapped into a package. Final passage by the House is expected by weeks’ end, just before lawmakers leave town. Akaka is chairman of the Senate veterans’ committee while Filner heads the House veterans’ panel.

Akaka said there are some important provisions, such as an increase in Veterans’ Mortage Life Insurance that fills a need “obvious in today’s housing market.” Currently, maximum insurance in case of the death of a service-connected disabled veteran was $90,000, far short of paying the mortgage balance on most homes. The bill hikes the maximum to $200,000.

Additionally, it increases supplemental life insurance for totally disabled veterans to $30,000, a $10,000 jump.

“Many totally disabled veterans find it difficult to obtain commercial life insurance,” Akaka said. “This legislation would provide these veterans with a reasonable amount of life insurance coverage.”

Called the Veterans’ Benefits Act of 2010, the package also expands federal work-study programs to try to help veterans find jobs and it also tried to crack down small businesses trying to take advantage of veteran-owned business set asides by making the Veterans Affairs Department responsible for keeping a database of companies where the VA can show it is owned and controlled by a veteran. This addresses a hot-button issue for many veterans’ service organizations, who have complained to Congress that business are getting contracts without having veterans involved.

Here are some of the key provisions of the compromise:

• The Office of Special Counsel would be used on a test basis to enforce employment and re-employment rights for veterans when a federal agency is the employer.

• Homeless veterans grants from the Labor Department would be expanded specifically to help women veterans and homeless veterans with children by including child care services along with training, counseling and placement services.

• A pilot program would provide grants in three states to try to help veterans find jobs in energy-related fields. The states are not named.

• In an expansion of the ability of service members to cancel leases and contracts when deployed or reassigned to new duty stations, the bill would prohibit early termination fees for residential leases and also allows service members to terminate cellular telephone contracts, including family plans, at any time when they have military orders to relocate for 90 days or longer or move to an area not served by the cell phone company.

• Veterans’ burial benefits would increase to $700, effective Oct. 1, 2010, when a veteran dies in a VA facility or is eligible for burial in a national cemetery.

• Parents of deceased service members could be buried alongside their child in a national cemetery if the service member was not married and did not have a child and when the service member was killed by hostile fire or in a training accident.

God Bless
Jose M. Garcia
Past National Commander
Catholic War Veterans,USA
Better to understand a little than to misunderstand a lot.
In God We Trust

IRS Holds Nationwide Open House for Veterans

IRS holds open house for Veterans

IRS to Hold Special Open House Saturday, Sept. 25 for Veterans and Persons with Disabilities

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service will host a special nationwide open house on Saturday, Sept. 25 to help taxpayers –– especially veterans and people with disabilities –– solve tax problems and respond to IRS notices.

One hundred offices, at least one in every state, will be open from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. local time. IRS staff will be available on site or by telephone to help taxpayers work through issues and leave with solutions.

In many locations, the IRS will partner with organizations that serve veterans and the disabled to offer additional help and information to people in these communities. Partner organizations include the National Disability Institute (NDI), Vets First, Department of Veterans Affairs, National Council on Independent Living and the American Legion.

“Taxpayers have tremendous success solving their tax issues at our open houses,” IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman said. “I want to encourage veterans and people with disabilities to come in on Sept. 25. Just like we reached out earlier this year to small businesses and victims of the Gulf Oil Spill, we want to help other taxpayers put their toughest problems behind them.”

IRS locations will be equipped to handle issues involving notices and payments, return preparation, audits and a variety of other issues. At a previous IRS open house on June 5, over 6,700 taxpayers sought and received assistance and 96 percent had their issues resolved the same day.

At the Sept. 25 open house, anyone who has a tax question or has received a notice can speak with an IRS employee to get an answer to their question or a clear explanation of what is necessary to satisfy the request. A taxpayer who cannot pay a balance due can find out whether an installment agreement is appropriate and, if so, fill out the paperwork then and there. Assistance with offers-in-compromise — an agreement between a taxpayer and the IRS that settles the taxpayer’s debt for less than the full amount owed — will also be available. Likewise, a taxpayer struggling to complete a certain IRS form or schedule can work directly with IRS staff to get the job done.

Taxpayers requiring special services, such as interpretation for the deaf or hard of hearing, should check local listings and call the local IRS Office/Taxpayer Assistance Center ahead of time to schedule an appointment.

The open house on Sept. 25 is the third of three events scheduled after this year’s tax season. Plans are underway for similar events next year. Details will be available at a later date.

Reminder for Small Tax-Exempt Organizations

The IRS also encourages representatives of small tax-exempt charitable community organizations, many of which serve people with disabilities and veterans, to file Form 990-N before the Oct. 15 deadline. Community organizations that fail to file a Form 990-N by this date risk losing their tax exempt status. As of June 30, more than 320,000 organizations were at risk of losing their exempt status.

Federal Tax Law Change

I feel assured our readers will embellish this posting till Thanksgiving.

Federal Tax Law Changes Update 03: Probably the most distributed email for the past month

has been a scare message (Subject: Tax Hikes in 2011) that talks about what would be in three waves the largest tax hike in history starting in January 2011. While the intent of the email is to tie in the increases in taxes and changes in law directly to President Obama‘s redistribution of income‘ scheme and some of the items in the email are directly related to the President’s health care bill, there are several items that should be of concern to citizens. The partisan language at the conclusion of the email is not warranted, and the assertion that this is an attempt to force America to ‘Soviet style Socialism and then Communism‘ is simply a scare tactic. So let‘s drop the partisanship and examine the particular items.  MOAA sat down with their resident financial expert, Phil Dyer, CFP, and went over the list item by item. Their thoughts in brackets follow corresponding items:

First Wave: Expiration of 2001 and 2003 Tax Relief. In 2001 and 2003, the Congress enacted several tax cuts for investors, small business owners, and families which are all scheduled to expire on 1 JAN 2011. [These changes would become the regulations and terms only if Congress did not act to extend the cuts]:

Personal income tax rates will rise. The top income tax rate will rise from 35 to 39.6 percent (this is also the rate at which two-thirds of small business profits are taxed). The lowest rate will rise from 10 to 15 percent. All the rates in between will also rise. Itemized deductions and personal exemptions will again phase out, which has the same mathematical effect as higher marginal tax rates. The full list of marginal rate hikes is: The 10%, 28%, 33%, and 35% brackets rises to an expanded 15%, 28%, 31%, 36%, and 39.6% respectively. [It is extremely unlikely that the tax brackets will not be extended, especially for anyone making under less than $200k annually or $250k for families filing jointly.]

Higher taxes on marriage and family. The ―marriage penalty‖ (narrower tax brackets for married couples) will return from the first dollar of income. The child tax credit will be cut in half from $1000 to $500 per child. The standard deduction will no longer be doubled for married couples relative to the single level. The dependent care and adoption tax credits will be cut. [This would be something that would hit the most American families directly and, by MOAA’s estimations, has about as much chance of expiring as the Rams have of winning the Super Bowl this year.]

The return of the Death Tax. There is a 55% top death tax rate on estates over $1 million. A person leaving behind two homes and a retirement account could easily pass along a death tax bill to their loved ones. [This has a high probability of coming back in some incarnation, but it is extremely unlikely that the rate will be for estates worth over $1 million.]

Higher tax rates on savers and investors. The capital gains tax will rise from to 20% and the dividends tax will rise to 39.%. These rates will rise another 3.8% in 2013. [Will most likely increase in 2013 vice 2011.].

Second Wave: Obamacare. [Can hardly be considered a historic wave of new taxes and affects a much smaller portion of the populace than the email implies.]

Americans will no longer be able to use health savings account (HSA), flexible spending account (FSA), or health reimbursement (HRA) pre-tax dollars to purchase non-prescription, over-the-counter medicines

except insulin.

A cap on flexible spending accounts (FSAs) of $2500. [For most people, the $2500 cap won’t be noticed.]

Additional tax on non-medical early withdrawals from an HSA increases to  20%,

Third Wave: The Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) and Employer Tax Hikes. [Would only be an issue if Congress failed to enact an extension to the yearly fix that ensures that the number of families affected remains low.]

Without indexing families will have to calculate their tax burdens twice, and pay taxes at the higher level.

Small business expensing will be slashed to $25,000 maximum and 50% expensing for larger businesses

will disappear.

Taxes will be raised on all types of businesses. [The fate of any increases are, at worst, still up in the air, and at best, an almost sure-to-pass group of extensions. Especially in a hot mid term election year, MOAA expects Congress to ensure that these changes don’t come into effect.]

The deduction for tuition and fees will not be available. Tax credits for education will be limited. Teachers will no longer be able to deduct classroom expenses. Coverdell Education Savings Accounts will be cut. Employer-provided educational assistance is curtailed. The student loan interest deduction will be

disallowed for hundreds of thousands of families.

Charitable Contributions from IRAs no longer allowed. [Expired at the end of 2009.]

The W-2/1099R/1042S tax forms sent by a private concern or governmental body gross income figure will be increased to show the value of whatever health insurance you are given. [The amount is not taxable and does not factor into your tax brackets.]

[Source: MOAA News Exchange 8 Sep 2010 ++]

God Bless
Jose M. Garcia
Past National Commander
Catholic War Veterans,USA
Better to understand a little than to misunderstand a lot.
In God We Trust

Agent Orange; "The Gift That Keeps On Giving"

At the rate that Vietnam Veterans are dying from Agent Orange related illnesses, the cynicism in the ranks of us who have those illnesses, is such, that one might say, the contract disputes will assist in reducing the cost of delivery as many more will simply be dead before their claims are completed.
If a veteran dies with a disability rating and a service connected illness, the spouse will then be eligible for benefits.  Add those costs to the treatment costs of the returning combatants, and you have an actuarial nightmare.
There have already been grave concerns about the delays in Agent Orange claims for the past 30 years. One of those speculative concerns is that the bean counters realize, the longer the delay the less the outlay. They never quite planned for the overwhelming number of veterans with AO issues to still be in the system this long.
Now in our 60’s, we are a tenacious lot, evidenced by the 1980’s movie with the late John Ritter, titled, “Unnatural Causes.” A must see for anyone familiar with the subject. It is a docu-drama based on the true story of a Veterans Benefits Counselor named, Maude DeVictor, who refused to quit.
One thing is for sure, the true cost of war,  in prolonged real time,including the Un-Declared ones is now a matter of increasing transparency.
Must we really trouble ourselves with  wondering why there is no money left over for jobs?  How sophomoric to even worry about the answer.
While we build and prop up nations across the globe, without the substantial financial  support of our Allies, we cannot build or prop up our own.
Tax cuts, schmax cuts! Red State, Blue State.  Second Amendment

Mortality Clock

rights and Mosque mania, are all distractions from the cost of war. And they are working!

Humpty Dumpty  never did join a political party. He is awaiting his claim to be completed from his fall.
In my view, we are in an Alice and Wonderland, upside down world, America is the disabled veteran and we are the leaders, even with our Agent Orange, Senator Simpson.
The following is for your information and distribution to your members.
John A Miterko
Veterans Advocate

VA abruptly issues second contract for Agent Orange claims system

BY BOB BREWIN 09/08/2010

The Veterans Affairs Department awarded IBM a contract in July to develop within three months a system to process claims for veterans suffering from diseases related to the Vietnam-era chemical Agent Orange. But last week officials inexplicably issued another contract searching for a second contractor to do the job in one-third the time, while the IBM contract remains in place.

VA needs the new system to process up to 240,000 claims for 15 illnesses determined to be the result of military personnel being exposed to Agent Orange, a defoliant sprayed on the jungles during the Vietnam War. VA presumes all personnel who served in Vietnam were exposed to Agent Orange, and the 15 illnesses they might have are a result of coming into contact with the chemical.

According to VA, its policy of presuming the diseases are a result of exposure to the chemical will simplify the process for veterans receiving compensation because the department will forgo the normal process of requiring veterans to prove their illnesses began, or worsened, during their military service in Vietnam. Paying Agent Orange claims will cost the United States $13.4 billion.

Department officials decided this year to process the claims separate from the other systems the Veterans Benefits Administration uses. In March, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki said he wanted to tap private sector skills to fast-track the development of the system. “This will be a new way of doing business and a major step forward in how we process the presumptive claims we expect to receive over the next two years,” he said at the time.

VA initially planned to award the contract in April, but delays pushed that move up to July. IBM eventually won the $9.1 million pact. The procurement calls for delivery of a production-ready prototype by October and full production by December.

VA asked IBM to develop a fully automated system and a machine-readable claims form that veterans can electronically download and, at their option, electronically submit.

Officials want the forms to be shorter than the current document, well-suited to an automated processing method, and they expect IBM to use commercial systems to the fullest extent possible. They also want employees and veterans to be able to access the system via the Web, with a separate data repository linked to existing departmental systems.

But on Sept. 3, officials quietly posted on the Federal Business Opportunities website a second procurement for the same processing system. The document was not accompanied by any public announcement. The new procurement includes roughly the samerequirements as the original contract, but a shortened delivery deadline.

VA wants the selected contractor to demonstrate the capability to electronically process claims within 15 days of the award and to provide a production-ready system 15 days later, a daunting task, according to one contractor who declined to be identified.

The system must be operational next month, and bidders must submit their proposals by Friday, only a week after the solicitation was issued, which are due Friday.

Harold Gracey, a consultant with Topside Consulting who served as chief of staff at VA from 1994 to 1998, said he assumed the department put out the second procurement as a backup plan in case IBM cannot deliver its system on time.

Gracey added VA could find a second contractor to meet its requirements, but bidders also have to recognize the negative publicity that would result if they fail to deliver. A source familiar with VA said he viewed the second source procurement as a poke at IBM to fulfill its requirements on time.

Veterans groups said whatever the reasons behind the second procurement they were worried the department might not be able to meet its deadlines. “VA’s unusual announcement for a second contract, without any details released to the public, raises significant concerns among veterans about VA’s transparency and VA’s ability to process Agent Orange claims in a timely and accurate manner,” said Paul Sullivan, executive director of Veterans for Common Sense. “We hope VA issues an explanation about this and puts to rest veterans’ concerns.”

VA officials did not reply to numerous requests from Nextgov to comment on the status of the IBM contract and did not respond to a query on why they issued a second procurement. IBM executives also did not reply to calls and e-mails about the status of the company’s contract.

God Bless
Jose M. Garcia
Past National Commander
Catholic War Veterans,USA
Better to understand a little than to misunderstand a lot.
In God We Trust

VA Blue Button Intiative

Does everyone remember that the Director of  Veterans Administration is a Cabinet Post? When did that happen?

And, for what it is worth, I think this Administration with the guidance of former General Shinsecki, is doing a stellar job with VA Health Care. It is one of the shining lights in these days of travail.

Blue Button Initiative

On August 2, 2010, President Obama announced the “Blue Button” capability that allows Veterans to download their personal health information from their MyHealtheVet account. VA developed the Blue Button in collaboration with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), and the Department of Defense, along with the Markle Foundation’s Consumer Engagement Workgroup.

The MyHealtheVet Personal Health Record (PHR) is comprised of self-entered health metrics (blood pressure, weight, heart rate, etc.), emergency contact information, test results, family health history, military health history, and other health related information. The Blue Button extract that Veterans can download is a so-called “ASCII text file”, the easiest and simplest electronic text format (see a sample Blue Button file).

Blue Button PHRs can be printed, or saved on computers and portable storage devices. Having control of this information enables Veterans to share this data with health care providers, caregivers, or people they trust.

On August 29, 2010, VA will make the Blue Button available on our website. Throughout the month of September Veterans can login to their MyHealtheVet account and try out the Blue Button. In early October, VA and CMS will officially roll-out the Blue Button download feature at the Health 2.0 conference in San Francisco.

Additionally, the Markle Foundation has issued a Developer Challenge. VA looks forward to the innovative platforms, apps, and widgets that will result from this exciting competition. For more information, visit the Blue Button Challenge website or the CMS Blue Button website.

My HealtheVet is VA’s award–winning e–health Website, which offers Veterans, active duty service members, their dependents and caregivers anywhere, anytime Internet access to VA health care information and services. My HealtheVet is a free, online Personal Health Record that empowers Veterans to become informed partners in their health care. With My HealtheVet, America’s Veterans can access trusted, secure, and current health and benefits information as well as record, track and store important health and military history information at their convenience. Veterans who are enrolled in a VA facility can refill their VA prescriptions and more, so register today! Using My HealtheVet is easy and it’s for YOU!

God Bless
Jose M. Garcia
Deputy National Service Officer
Catholic War Veterans,USA
Better to understand a little than to misunderstand a lot.
In God We Trust

Good News For Victims Of Agent Orange


Department of Veterans Affairs Promotes New Rule Expediting Claims Process for Veterans Thought to Have Agent Orange Exposure

Monday August 30, 2010

Washington, D.C. – Veterans exposed to herbicides while serving in Vietnam and other areas will soon more easily qualify for disability pay under a regulation published tomorrow by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The new rule expands the list of health problems VA will “presume” to be related to Agent Orange and other herbicide exposures.

Under existing regulations, veterans who served in Vietnam during the war and who have a “presumed” illness don’t have to prove an association between their medical problems and their military service. Adding to the list of illnesses and conditions presumed to be connected to herbicide exposure simplifies and speeds up the application process for veterans suffering from those conditions.

The new rule expands the list of conditions for which service connection for Vietnam veterans is presumed. The VA is adding Parkinson’s disease and ischemic heart disease and expanding chronic lymphocytic leukemia to include all chronic B cell leukemias, such as hairy cell leukemia. Eric Shinseki, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, said the decision is based on the requirements of the Agent Orange Act of 1991 and the Institute of Medicine’s 2008 Update on Agent Orange.

“This is an important moment for veterans who waited years for the support they deserved all along,” said Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva of the decision. “Anyone who believes they were exposed to Agent Orange or other chemicals should immediately find out how this rule could help them. This decision is clearly overdue, and I applaud the VA for doing the right thing before any more veterans suffer needlessly.”

Veterans who served in Vietnam between January 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975, are presumed to have been exposed to herbicides. More than 150,000 Veterans are expected to submit Agent Orange claims in the next 12 to 18 months, many of whom are potentially eligible for retroactive disability payments based on past claims.

Individuals can visit to get an understanding of how to file a claim for presumptive conditions related to herbicide exposure, as well as what evidence is needed by the VA to make a decision about disability compensation or survivors benefits.

Additional information about Agent Orange and VA services for veterans exposed to the chemical is available at

Suicide Rates Still Climbing

Suicides in the Armed Forces and the National Guard  and Reserves are still alarmingly on the rise. With all the due diligence and immense outreach that is ongoing in all 50 States, we cannot seem to abate the savage spirit that invades and intrudes the soul of our young veterans of war.

Sixty-five members of the Guard and Reserve have taken their lives in the first six months of 2010. This figure does not include veterans or the Navy and Marines. Even more alarming.

We have an epidemic of mental health issues in the military that all best efforts are not touching. Or, they are, and the numbers could be larger were it not for the ubiquitous prevention programs both in and out of the Armed Forces.  Everyone in the veteran advocacy business is on the look out for the signs of depression and deep despair.

I am trained in crisis and suicide prevention work and remain constantly vigilant through my contacts and network of associates. We man 24  hour hot-lines and spend endless hours on the phone assuring our comrades, who have weathered the horrors of war, that there is light on the other side of those nightmares.  Yet so much is related to place and timing. So few ever seem to be around when that dreaded moment and savage god enters the picture.

Just this week a Wisconsin National Guard Soldier, Matthew Magdzas, a 23 year old married man took the life of his pregnant wife and his dogs and then ended his own mortal life.  Impulse or plan? Flashbacks or internal rage? Who in God’s name knows.  It is when the antecedent conditions are not apparent that we remain impotent in the realm of prevention.  And of course the victim and victims are generally unaware moments before the act. How is that to be prevented?

I have the experience of  7 suicides in my life. Four of them Vietnam Veterans. One of them was my roommate Joe Herman, who had the world on his side, talent, looks, money. And the demons of war intruded one night and put a bullet in his head.  Could I have prevented it? I say yes. But again, we are never there, right there, when needed. How can you be there before those one car accidents when the vet elects to just run off the road, as was the case in the years from 1975-90.

58,000 died in Vietnam. It has been reported by Pointman Ministries and other Veteran Outreach programs, that another 110,000 committed suicide during those years; twice the fatalities in the war.

32 soldiers including 11 in the Guard and Reserves took their own lives in the month of June. That is a rate of  one a day and at level only matched by the period after the Vietnam War.   How do we address this as a citizenry not a military? And mind you, those are figures for active duty, not veterans who have been discharged.

Are we, are we, our brothers keeper?  Are we able to even address in polite company such a taboo subject? Are the figures simply so daunting that we are just left in a numbness of mind that has no direction of home.  When it was reported back in 2008 that a full 50% of the suicides amongst veterans were in the ranks of the Reserve and the Guard, did they slow down the deployment of these young men and women until we got a grip on the nuances of the Guard traninng? No, we needed numbers, big numbers for the General’s, “Surges”, all of them.  And now they are surging home, and the ghosts of war are at our doorstep. In the last two articles I asked our readers if we are ready for a reception that may not be as rosy as we wish.

Is it possible to have every neighborhood trained and armed with a compassionate platoon of listeners and go-to people for times of distress? We cannot just live behind the bumper stickers of support. we have to have some feet…or cliche as it sounds, some boots on the ground. We need a “surge” of  families and friends who will be at the vets side in a heartbeat. The now running national TV advertisement with all the Medal of Honor recipients, beseeching the young soldiers to get help, as many of them acknowledge they wish they had done, is a laudable move in the right direction.

The trail into the woods of suicide is dark and booby trapped. No single hypothesis has ever touched the ambiguous and complex motives that lead to suicide. Literature is strewn with attempts to grapple with the under-belly of this human particular. From Judas Iscariot, to the writings of,  T.S. Elliot’s Wasteland, the Myth of Sisphus,  Sartre’s  “No Exit,” Soren  Kierkegaard’s concept of despair that surpasses all clinical definitions of depression, to the endless tomes of poetry from the Greek tragedies to the modern Sylvia Plath, no one has captured the monster in a cage for lengthy study. It is time to come out of the closet and dance with the demons of war. so as to escort them off the floor.

“The passion for destruction is also a creative passion.”  Michael Bakunin

The massive amount of material from sociologists and clinical psychiatrists only adds  to a pile of  documentation for professional journals and epidemiologists and not one iota of helpfulness for the layman. And most all of the research is ipso post facto. Prevention is vacant.

It may well be that no one wants to enter the shabby, chaotic, tortured and agonizing world of suicide.  With all of our revered Research Foundations and think tanks- the Heritages the Cato’s the Enterprise Institutes the Rand’s, et al, is there not a one of them that could  side-step long enough to research what is killing the souls of  our  young warriors?

Is this the arena for the Jeff Bazos and Bill Gates clan to direct their foundation monies?

Is the business of life and death to subconsciously abhorrent for study?

Life and death is the reason for war. One side must win. Suicide apparently elects to not take sides.

Only the dead know the end of war.

Agent Orange:The Gift That Keeps On Giving

As if the Veteran Affairs Department does not already have their plates filled with a backlog of claims, they are soon to get hit with a cresting wave of lingering Agent Orange claims.

VA officials estimate that approximate 186,000 claims will be filed before the end of the year that address the new rules of presumed service connected disabilities for illnesses that are related to exposure to Agent Orange. Is this not just beyond comprehension? 40 years have passed and we still have soldiers dying of Agent Orange illnesses!

Yet, I have to stand in praise of the Obama Administration’s attention to the needs of the VA. Not only did they pass the first ever year end funding budget, October 22nd, 2009, which had not been done in 22 years prior to the end of the calendar year, but they are prognosticating well the needs of the current war veterans and the standing population of vets that are still in need of intensive care from service connected disabilities. To prepare for this onslaught they are hiring about 1800 people to process these claims. The average age would be 60 and assigned a disability rating of 60% or higher. The probability of using third party contractors is quite high since the research for the symptoms and nature of the illnesses has been complete. Not like the days of yore when we had to get the 4th Infantry to fight for us!  Many of these claims can by cookie cuttered as a result of knowing the pattern of the illnesses.

It is the stated declaration of the VA Secretary Eric Shinseki that he will add a total of 4400 new employees to remedy the backlog of claims, inclusive the new Agent Orange claimants.  The secretary affectionately calls this a “brute force” solution to the problem. We are currently experiencing about 160 days to work a file. The goal is not allow that to rise.

The estimate is that about 160,000 vets will file claim, at a cost of about 13,500 per veteran, inclusive of mileage.

It is ischemic heart disease that is determined to be service connected to Agent Orange exposure. Issues with brands of leukemia are still being researched.

Last year the VA processed just under 1 million claims. The projection for 2011 is about 1.3 million.  The total cost of the Agent Orange claims will be about 13.4 billion in 2010. Should the Parkinsons and leukemia claims be approved, inclusive of widows benefits, they are estimating a cost of 42.2 billion over the next 10 years.

War is damn expensive ain’t it? Even when it is over. Lets hope that the indiscriminate use of chemicals does not occur again. But then the jury is still out on the effects of depleted uranium, and we still have vets making claims from exposure to atomic warfare materials.  God save us.