Veterans with PTSD Knew that VA Opioid Prescriptions Were Wrong

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After many lives of many brave Veterans with PTSD have been lost, the State of Ohio has finally taken action against pharmaceutical drug companies for hyping opioids.

Opioids

According to the New York Times reporter,  

The State of Ohio filed a lawsuit on Wednesday against the pharmaceutical industry over the opioid epidemic, accusing several drug companies of conducting marketing campaigns that misled doctors and patients about the danger of addiction and overdose.

Defendants in the case include Purdue Pharma, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, Johnson & Johnson, Endo Pharmaceuticals, Allergan and others.

Purdue, the maker of OxyContin, a time-release opioid, released a statement saying, “We share the attorney general’s concerns about the opioid crisis and we are committed to working collaboratively to find solutions,” and calling the company “an industry leader in the development of abuse-deterrent technology.”

As most Veterans treated by the Department of Veterans Affairs (“the VA”) are aware, opioids were the prescription of choice for Veterans suffering from PTSD.

Despite overwhelming evidence available to the VA and the Department of Defense (the DOD) that this was probably not a wise course of action, the VA persisted in treating the symptoms of PTSD with dangerous prescription drugs.

It is only now with opioid and drug addiction ravishing communities across the United States that some local and State governments are beginning to take action.  In the interim, thousands of Veterans with PTSD have suffered through over-medication with opioids by doctors at the VA.

More to the point, the VA continues to insist on dated and ineffective treatment programs for Veterans with PTSD and TBI.   Under the inept counsel of Dr. David Cifu, these same treatment therapies continue at the VA today.

It is difficult to predict when this tragic saga will end, but clearly there are no indications that the VA plans to make any substantial changes to current programs.  As such our brave Veterans will continue to receive the same flawed therapy and, most likely, a healthy supply of prescription drugs to mask the symptoms.

Where are our leaders in Congress and leaders within the VA to put an end to this tragedy?  Cynical though I am, I have a difficult time believing that Big Pharma political campaign donations would be the reason.

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Saluting our Veterans on Memorial Day

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Memorial Day

As we gather together to celebrate Memorial Day, I am struck by the outpouring of love and heartfelt admiration for the men and women in uniform – past and present – who have served our country so valiantly.

Often overlooked as we celebrate Memorial Day are the spouses, family and loved ones who continue to support Veterans and active duty personnel with debilitating injuries.

Stand for The Troops would like to acknowledge these courageous men and women who labor on so courageously in providing daily care to loved ones who are no longer quite the same person they were before combat.

On this Memorial Day, SFTT would like to list several organizations that continue to provide great service to our Veterans, particularly those suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (“PTSD”).

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (“HBOT”)

The Department of Veterans Affairs (“the VA”) continues to block the use of hyperbaric oxygen therapy or HBOT in treating Veterans with PTSD.  Nevertheless, Dr. Paul Harch and many others continue to provide FREE or greatly discounted treatment to Veterans suffering from PTSD.

More to the point, Dr. Harch and many other evangelists go out of their way to promote the benefits of using HBOT to treat PTSD.    On this Memorial Day weekend, SFTT remains hopeful that Dr. David Shulkin, Secretary of the VA, will begin providing Veterans with better treatment alternatives, such as HBOT.

It is time to rid the VA of institutional dogma based on self-serving agendas and seek real solutions that help Veterans with PTSD and their loved ones.

Archi’s Acres, Escondido California

Karen and Colin Archipley have dedicated their lives to helping Veterans recover their lives by providing training in “sustainable organic agriculture.”  At Archi’s Acres, students receive a six-week course in hydroponics, drip/micro irrigation, environmental control, soil biology, composting and much more.

We tip our hat to both Karen and Colin for having the imagination and perseverance to help provide Veterans with an opportunity to acquire new skills on their road to recovering their lives.

Wives of PTSD Vets and Military

I often come across some inspirational stories of families coping the ravages of PTSD on a Facebook Page entitled “Wives of PTSD Vets and Military.”  While depression and a sense of helplessness affects many Veterans (active duty personnel), their caregivers often bear the brunt of their frustration.

There are many similar Facebook Page support groups such as “PTSD:  The Wives Side,” but all provide some useful advice in helping loved ones cope under circumstances that are most difficult to comprehend.

This Memorial Day my thoughts and prayers go out to caregivers that do much of the heavy day-to-day lifting,

This is not an easy journey.  Frankly, we must move beyond coping and do everything possible within our power to help our brave Veterans recover his or her life.  Only by doing so, will we be able to recover our own.

On this Memorial Day, I wish all resilient warriors the strength and courage to continue to support our Veterans.

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SFTT News Highlights: Week Ending May 26, 2017

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Found below are a few military news items that caught my attention this past week. I am hopeful that the titles and short commentary will encourage SFTT readers to click on the embedded links to read more on subjects that may be of interest to them.

If you have subjects of topical interest, please do not hesitate to reach out. Contact SFTT.

Nato Logo

At NATO Speech President Trump Scolds Leaders
At a NATO summit in Brussels, President Trump marked the unveiling of memorials of the Berlin Wall and the Sept. 11 attacks with a speech that, among other things, told gathered NATO leaders their levels of defense funding are “not fair” to U.S. taxpayers. Trump also omitted any clear statement of support for Article 5, the NATO mutual-defense pledge — something other leaders had been hoping to hear. The Associated Press described Thursday’s speech as an “unprecedented one-two punch” that “further rattled” an already anxious Europe. And at home, one Democratic leader called the remarks “condescending” and an “embarrassment,” while Republican Sen. Rand Paul said he applauded Trump’s stance.  Read more . . .

U.S. and Russia Military Increase Communication Over Syria
The United States and Russia have increased communication to avoid warplane accidents in the skies over Syria as Islamic State militants lose territory and the air space becomes more crowded, a top U.S. Air Force official said on Wednesday. In 2015, the Russian and U.S. militaries agreed to create a communication link and outline steps their pilots could take to avoid an inadvertent clash over Syria. Senior U.S. military officials have stressed that there was a need to enhance communications as the fight against Islamic State intensified.  Read more . . .

Elderly Veterans Face Cuts In New VA Budget
Veterans Affairs officials on Wednesday defended plans to strip tens of thousands of dollars in unemployment benefits from elderly veterans as responsible reforms to the department’s growing budget, but opponents promised to fight the idea. Included in President Donald Trump’s $186.5 billion VA budget for fiscal 2018 — a nearly 6 percent boost in discretionary spending from this year — are plans to dramatically cut the department’s Individual Unemployability program.  Read more . . .

AK-12 Kalashnikov

New Kalashnikov Assault Rifle Proposed by Russians
Brace yourselves: It looks like Kalashnikov Concern, the weapons manufacturer behind the iconic AK-47, will end up arming the modern Russian warfighter for future conflicts with a brand new addition to its AK family of assault rifles by the end of 2017, Army Recognition reports.  Read more . . .

VA Accountability and Reform Bills Moves Forward in Senate
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Thursday that reforming veterans’ care would be a top priority for lawmakers when they return to Capitol Hill the first week of June. Lawmakers will take up legislation to increase accountability within the Department of Veterans Affairs and protect its whistleblowers.”We know many challenges remain in ensuring that veterans have access to the care they need and deserve at the VA, but this legislation will further improve our ability to meet our commitment to them,” McConnell said.  Read more . .

Six PTSD Resources You Should Know About
Veterans have a variety of resources to turn to when they have concerns about post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. Symptoms of the disorder don’t necessarily indicate PTSD and some reactions to stress and trauma are normal conditions. Mental and physical distress, difficulty sleeping, and disturbing thoughts, feelings, or dreams are among the signs. The best way to find out if you suffer from PTSD is through a medical professional, who can then advise treatment options. Doctors and online resources may identify the problem and help with the necessary treatment available.  Read more . . .

PTSD Medications May Increase Dementia Risk
Patients with post-traumatic stress disorder may be at increased risk of dementia, particularly if they are taking psychotropic medications, a new study finds.Researchers from the University of Iowa came to their conclusions by analyzing the data of more than 3 million veterans.They found that veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) were at much higher risk of developing dementia than those without the condition, but that the risk varied depending on the medications they were using.Study co-author Dr. Thad Abrams, of the Department of Epidemiology at Iowa, and colleagues recently reported their findings in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.  Read more . . .

Drop me an email at info@sftt.org if you believe that there are other subjects that are newsworthy.

Feel you should do more to help our brave men and women who wear the uniform or our Veterans? Consider donating to Stand For The Troops

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Military Procurement Process: Changes on the Way?

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There are few things more complicated than the Military Procurement Process.  No doubt, rigorous controls are required for certain mission critical functions, but it seems that bureaucratic roadblocks exists at almost every phase of the military procurement process.

military procurement process

On the eve of the release of a new framework to improve the military procurement process, Chairman of the Armed Services Committee, Republican Rep. Mac Thornberry, vented his frustration with the following explanation:

The Army decided in 2005 it needed a replacement for its M9 Beretta pistol and then spent 10 years writing and rewriting requirements.

The final request to gunmakers was 350 pages with 23 attachments and added $15 million to the cost. After a decade, the Army still had not decided what caliber the gun would be or what ammunition it would use.

Meanwhile, U.S. small arms companies make more handguns in a month than the Army will buy in 25 years, the Armed Services panel found.

“So a commercially available revolver or handgun would be just fine. Maybe it’s OK to get our handguns in a commercially available way in the future,” Thornberry said.

An advisory panel – Section 309 – has recommended the following framework needed for acquisition reform in the military procurement process:

1.  Adapt at the Speed of a Changing World
The United States is operating in a global environment that is more fluid, more interconnected, and faster evolving than at any point in history. To adapt to this reality, the acquisition process must be agile enough to respond to rapidly evolving threats, and fast enough to develop and deliver new capabilities within the arc of emerging threats.

2.  Leverage the Dynamic Defense Marketplace
The defense industrial base has changed, and to maintain technological advantage, DoD increasingly must leverage the commercial marketplace. To be successful in this broader marketplace requires a fundamental change in the DoD–commercial relationship. DoD must become an attractive customer with which commercial firms want to do business. This need requires DoD to be a more sophisticated buyer that is responsive to market dynamics, company interests, and the greater economic landscape.

3.  Allocate Resources Effectively
The U.S. military faces multiple threats posed by increasingly capable adversaries and uncertain domains of warfare. It also contends with constrained defense budgets. To more effectively and efficiently allocate resources, DoD must better align and coordinate how it budgets, sets requirements, and acquires what it needs, to include not only major weapon systems, but also the services and low‐dollar items that make up more than half of DoD contract spending.

4.  Simplify Regulations
Some of the regulations and statutes governing defense acquisition are outdated or no longer applicable and should be amended or repealed to make the system more effective and efficient, and expand the number of companies willing to do business with DoD.

5.  Enable the Workforce
The current acquisition laws and regulations are overly complex, difficult to understand and implement, and contain requirements that result in people making suboptimal decisions and being risk‐averse. DoD needs an acquisition system that is simple, understandable, and executable by people operating in an environment that empowers and incentivizes them to make decisions that lead to positive outcomes.

Frankly, the same “reform” recommendations could be issued for the Department of Veterans Affairs.  There is no need to enlist the services of an “independent” panel to make such self-evident recommendations.  In fact, all 5 recommendations could be summed up rather easily:  “Use common sense!”

Clearly, complex weapon systems require a rigorous system of controls and due diligence.  In most other cases, procurement through an “unregulated” market is probably a far more efficient way to source products at a reasonable cost.

For instance, the Beretta M9 which has been standard issue for the last 35 years has now been replaced by the P320 of German origin.  With only 20% of US Army personnel issued “combat arms,” presumably far less require sidearms.  Does it really take this long to “upgrade” our firearm capability when drones seem the weapon of choice.

Wouldn’t it be far more efficient for the US Army (and presumably other arms of the military) to provide a “recommended” handgun to those servicemembers who need them but provide others with the option to bring their own weapon as long as it is duly registered and approved by unit officials?

Clearly, lethal weapons require additional controls, but there are many budget items that receive the same level of controls and regulations that are probably not required.

Bureaucratic procurement controls tends to lead to fraud and abuse as we have seen in the recent scandal regarding parts for Humvees.

The only way to improve the procurement process is to identify those areas which require disciplined oversight, but endeavor to open the playing field to more reputable suppliers.

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SFTT Military News: Week Ending May 19, 2017

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Found below are a few military news items that caught my attention this past week. I am hopeful that the titles and short commentary will encourage SFTT readers to click on the embedded links to read more on subjects that may be of interest to them.

If you have subjects of topical interest, please do not hesitate to reach out. Contact SFTT.

Secretary of Defense Weighs In on War with North Korea
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Friday that any military solution to the North Korea crisis would be “tragic on an unbelievable scale” and Washington was working internationally to find a diplomatic solution. North Korea has defied all calls to rein in its nuclear and missile programs, even from China, its lone major ally, calling them legitimate self-defense.  Read more . . .

Military Handgun M-9 handguns

Could the US Military Purchase Handguns Online?
The Defense Department may start doing a whole lot more online shopping in 2018, if Republican Rep. Mac Thornberry has his way. The Texas chairman of the Armed Services Committee unveiled new legislation Thursday that aims to cut costly bureaucratic red tape at the Pentagon by allowing the military to buy everything from pens to treadmills from business-to-business sites such as Staples and Amazon. That would free the federal government’s biggest bureaucracy from using its current “expensive” and “onerous” contracting and scheduling process to buy its commercial goods, according to Thornberry.  Read more . . .

Large Number of Troops Separated for Misconduct had PTSD
Nearly two-thirds of the 91,764 U.S. troops who were separated from the military for misconduct in a recent four-year period had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress, a traumatic brain injury or another condition that can lead to misconduct, according to a report released Tuesday, raising questions about the Pentagon’s treatment of combat veterans. The Government Accountability Office found that the Defense Department needs to take action to make sure that commanders appropriately consider medical conditions when weighing what to do with service members facing misconduct allegations. Some 57,141 troops were separated from the service despite a potentially relevant diagnosis between 2011 and 2015, and 13,283 of them received other-than-honorable discharges that could prevent them from receiving care from the Department of Veterans Affairs, the report said.  Read more . . .

Improper Payments at VA Continue to Grow
The Department of Veterans Affairs cost taxpayers $5.5 billion dollars in improper payments last year, according to a new report by the Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General published Monday. An improper payment is any payment that “should not have been made or that was made in an incorrect amount under statutory, contractual, administrative, or other legally applicable requirements,” according to the report. The findings, published on May 15, reported an increase in improper payments from $5 billion in 2015 to $5.5 billion in 2016. It also found that two VA programs failed to keep their rate of mistaken payments below 10%, and six of its programs failed to meet reduction targets set last year.  Read more . . .

Drop me an email at info@sftt.org if you believe that there are other subjects that are newsworthy.

Feel you should do more to help our brave men and women who wear the uniform or our Veterans? Consider donating to Stand For The Troops

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Meet David Cox: Dr. “No” of VA Reform

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Meet J. David Cox, who many consider “Dr. No” of badly needed reforms within the Department of Veterans Affairs (“the VA’).

J. David Cox

J. David Cox

J. David Cox is President of the American Federation of Government Employees and is the person most likely to block any meaningful reform within the VA.  SFTT has had an eye on Mr. Cox who in the run-up to last year’s Presidential election, threatened the previous secretary of the VA with physical violence:

Cox was “prepared to whoop Bob McDonald’s a – -,” he said. “He’s going to start treating us as the labor partner … or we will whoop his a – -, I promise you,”

The new VA Secretary, Dr. David Shulkin, is rightly receiving favorable media coverage and support from both parties in Congress on his forceful new leadership.  In fact, the New York Times recently referred to Dr. Shulkin as a “Hands On, Risk-Taking ‘Standout.'”

The New York Times reports the following example of Dr. Shulkin’s responsiveness (and common sense):

After he first took the job, he grew concerned that the agency was not doing enough to prevent suicide after a news report showed high rates among young combat veterans. Suicide prevention leaders told him that they would put together a summit meeting to respond, adding that it would take 10 months.

Dr. Shulkin told them to get it done in one month. When his staff members pushed back, he pulled out a calculator and began quietly tapping, then showed them that during the delay, nearly 6,000 veterans would kill themselves. They got it done in a month.

“For me it was a very important day,” he said, remembering the meeting. “It taught our people you can act with urgency, and you can resist the temptation to say we work in a system that you can’t get to move faster. I think they learned that you can.”

Indeed, SFTT has greatly admired the decisiveness with which Dr. Shulkin has attacked two chronic problems with the VA:  A bloated infrastructure and the lack of authority to manage the VA’s large workforce.

While Congressional Republicans and Democrats have largely agreed on an “accountability” bill to support the firing of VA employees, J. David Cox argues that:

“Trampling on the rights of honest, hard-working public-sector employees is not the solution to holding bad employees accountable for their actions,” American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox said. He said the bill would set up different standards for VA employees and other federal workers.

In fact, just recently it was reported that “a federal appellate court overturned the firing of Sharon Helman, who presided over a Phoenix VA Health Care System that left veterans waiting for weeks or even months for care while phony records were kept to show the agency was meeting its wait-time goals.”

Dr. David Shulkin, VA Secretary

While I hope that Dr. Shulkin has the fortitude to implement the bold changes he has outlined, the entrenched bureaucracy represented by David Cox and others, such as David Cifu, will continue to undermine his efforts.

The VA has simply grown too large to manage effectively.  Dr. Shulkin is right in arguing that the lives and well-being of Veterans are far more important than defending the rights of a few “bad apples” within the VA.  David Cox should embrace the vision of Dr. Shulkin and act in a manner which reflects well on the work ethic of the vast majority of VA employees.

Veterans, Veteran organizations and our elected officials should provide Dr. Shulkin with a clear mandate to bring about the much needed reform within the VA. Our Veterans, their family and friends and an appreciate public deserve no less.

J. David Cox would do well to join forces with Dr. Shulkin in this effort rather than taunt him.

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SFTT Military News: Week Ending May 12, 2017

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Found below are a few military news items that caught my attention this past week. I am hopeful that the titles and short commentary will encourage SFTT readers to click on the embedded links to read more on subjects that may be of interest to them.

If you have subjects of topical interest, please do not hesitate to reach out. Contact SFTT.

Military Code-Breaking Project Inadvertently Compromised
In early December 2016, an NYU student came across a server inside New York University’s famed Institute for Mathematics and Advanced Supercomputing, headed by the brilliant Chudnovsky brothers, David and Gregory. The server appeared to be an internet-connected backup drive. But instead of being filled with family photos and spreadsheets, this drive held confidential information on an advanced code-breaking machine that had never before been described in public. Dozens of documents spanning hundreds of pages detailed the project, a joint supercomputing initiative administered by NYU, the Department of Defense, and IBM. And they were available for the entire world to download.  Read more . . .

cyber warfare

Large Russian Military Exercise on Western Border with Latvia
The Russian exercise, known as Zapad, or West, occurs every four years and will take place this year in western Russia, including Belarus and the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad. The U.S. military estimates that 70,000 to 100,000 Russian troops could take part in the exercise, the officials said, adding that the Russian military could also take the opportunity to upgrade certain equipment permanently stationed in the region. Specifically, the officials said that they expect the Russian missile defenses in Kaliningrad to be permanently upgraded with nuclear-capable Iskander ballistic missile systems.  Read more . . .

Vet Groups Back Bill to Support VA Firings 
Major veterans service organizations have rallied behind proposed legislation to speed up the firing process at the Department of Veterans Affairs, but a government union charges it would be a gross violation of workers’ rights. “Trampling on the rights of honest, hard-working public-sector employees is not the solution to holding bad employees accountable for their actions,” American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox said. He said the bill would set up different standards for VA employees and other federal workers.  Read more . . .

US Army Small-Arms Program Explained
U.S. Army small-arms experts recently laid out a blueprint of future small-arms goals that would equip infantry units with several new weapons, ranging from a new squad automatic rifle to a new shoulder-fired, anti-armor weapon. Four months after the Army selected a replacement for its M9 service pistol, the service has started to talk openly about plans to equip infantry squads with lighter, more effective small arms.  Read more . . .

Use of Antidepressants to Treat PTSD Linked to Dementia
Experiencing an exceptionally traumatic event can lead to mental health issues. It can result in flashbacks, nightmares, and severe anxiety that affects the quality of life of the individual and their overall well-being. The most serious of the trauma-inducing mental disorder is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which can last for months or even years after the inciting incident, interfering with day to day functioning. New research suggests that this disorder is a significant risk factor for developing dementia, a leading cause of serious illness, disability, and death.  Read more . . .

Psychedelic Drug and Therapy Show Promise in Treating PTSD
According to a story by Scientific American, researchers presented results from trial treatments that used psychotherapy and MDMA (3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine otherwise known as ecstasy) as a means of combatting major side-effects of PTSD, such as frequent nightmares and heightened anxiety levels. It was found that 67% of patients who received two or three sessions of MDMA-assisted therapy had completely overcome the illness roughly a year later. This number, as compared to the 23% of patients who got the same result after receiving psychotherapy and a placebo drug, could be the catalyst for an increased number of trials involving psychedelic drugs in the future.  Read more . . .

Bipartisan Support in Senate for VA Accountability Bill?
Congressional Republicans and Democrats have reached agreement on a long-stalled bill to make it easier for the Department of Veterans Affairs to fire its employees, part of an accountability effort touted by President Donald Trump. The deal announced Thursday could smooth the way for final passage on an issue that had been in limbo since the 2014 wait-time scandal at the Phoenix VA medical center. As many as 40 veterans died while waiting months for appointments as VA employees created secret waiting lists and other falsehoods to cover up delays.  Read more . . .

Drop me an email at info@sftt.org if you believe that there are other subjects that are newsworthy.

Feel you should do more to help our brave men and women who wear the uniform or our Veterans? Consider donating to Stand For The Troops

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Search for Secretary of the Army Continues

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Yet another Trump nominee for Secretary of the Army, Mark E. Green, has withdrawn his name from consideration citing “false and misleading attacks against him.”

According to the Washington Post, “the opposition to Green centers on his past comments about Islam, evolution and gender issues, including suggestions that being transgender is a disease.”

Earlier this year, Vincent Viola also withdrew his name for consideration for the same position claiming that he would have difficulty separating his private interests from the responsibilities of the office.

Never one to back the wrong horse, SFTT is delighted to learn that Mr. Viola is 50% owner of Always Dreaming, the winner of this year’s Kentucky Derby.

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First Steps to Overhaul the Department of Veterans Affairs

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Dr. David Shulkin continues to impress by tackling some rather entrenched “special interest” groups within the Department of Veterans Affairs (“the VA”):

– Personnel;

– Infrastructure

Earlier this week, VA Secretary Shulkin informed a Congress that he was considering closing some 1,100 underutilized VA facilities.  The Associated Press reports that:

Shulkin said the VA had identified more than 430 vacant buildings and 735 that he described as underutilized, costing the federal government $25 million a year. He said the VA would work with Congress in prioritizing buildings for closure and was considering whether to follow a process the Pentagon had used in recent decades to decide which of its underused military bases to shutter, known as Base Realignment and Closure, or BRAC.

“Whether BRAC is a model that we should take a look, we’re beginning that discussion with members of Congress,” Shulkin told a House appropriations subcommittee. “We want to stop supporting our use of maintenance of buildings we don’t need, and we want to reinvest that in buildings we know have capital needs.”

Last week, President Trump signed an Executive Order protecting VA whistleblowers from retaliation in a quest by the VA to shed incompetent employees.

Department of Veterans Affairs

While these measures may seem rather insignificant given the overall size and reach of the VA, they could mark an important change in the direction of the VA to help respond to the needs of Veterans.

The VA has evolved into a mammoth organization intent on serving the needs of all Veterans and their families.  Roughly 60% of the VA’s $180 billion budget (2017 budget) is allocated to mandatory benefits programs.

The VA’s discretionary budget of $78.7 billion is allocated to a variety of Veteran services,  but by far, is the the $65 billion allocated to medical care facilities.   Despite regular reports of shortcomings at VA facilities, the Rand Corporation recently (2016) reported that “the Veterans Affairs health care system generally performs better than or similar to other health care systems on providing safe and effective care to patients.”

While it appears that many Veterans – quite possibly the vast majority – receive quality health services from the VA, many Veterans complain about the timeliness and quality of service provided to them.

Like other healthcare providers in the private sector, the VA has determined what health events are covered, the type of coverage provided and where the health services are administered.

One program that has come under particular attack is the Choice Program, which gives Veterans access to medical services in the private sector if the VA can’t dispense services within 30 days or a VA facility is not located within 40 miles of the Veteran.

At his confirmation hearings, now VA Secretary David Shulkin, requested that Congress expand the coverage of the Choice program and eliminate many of its administrative constraints.  Needless to say, changes in the Choice program would certainly provide a greater number of Veterans with access to private sector care.

In cases of emergency, even minor improvements to the Choice program could be of major benefits to Veterans.

Nevertheless, these changes do not provide Veterans with access to alternative therapy programs not currently approved by the VA.  As SFTT has reported on numerous occasions, PTSD is currently treated with demonstrably ineffective “approved” treatment procedures while far better and less-intrusive programs like hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) are widely used with success throughout the world.

In effect, there are a number of activities within the VA that can best be performed by third-party services.  In fact, integrating these services with community resources may prove to be more of a long term benefit to the Veteran and his or her family.

Stand for the Troops remains hopeful that Secretary Shulkin and the dedicated employees of the VA will find the right balance in helping Veterans recover their lives.

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SFTT Military News: Week Ending May 5, 2017

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Found below are a few military news items that caught my attention this past week. I am hopeful that the titles and short commentary will encourage SFTT readers to click on the embedded links to read more on subjects that may be of interest to them.

If you have subjects of topical interest, please do not hesitate to reach out. Contact SFTT.

Is China Reconsidering Its Relationship with North Korea?
When North Korea’s founder Kim Il-Sung visited Beijing to sign a mutual defense pact with China in 1961, he was comforted by the military protection promised by his fellow communist neighbors. But half a century and a few North Korean nuclear tests later, the agreement is beginning to look like a musty Cold War relic that China would rather forget. Despite their alliance in the 1950 – 1953 Korean War, analysts questioned whether Beijing would now rush to Pyongyang’s defense in a military confrontation with the US and South Korea.  Read more . . .

Questions on Efficacy of “MOAB” bombing in Afghanistan
But a new investigation by independent analysts casts doubt on the efficiency of the bomb, suggesting it inflicted far less damage than initially reported – and raising questions again over why the bomb was dropped. Using satellite imagery, ground footage and 3D visualization, Alcis, an institute for geographical analysis, surveyed the targeted area in Nangarhar province. It found 38 buildings and 69 trees destroyed within a 150-metee radius, challenging statements from locals who told reporters the bomb had damaged houses up to two miles away. Alcis was also skeptical of the Afghan government’s assessment that the bomb killed 94 Isis militants. “I’m staggered by that,” said Richard Brittan, the institute’s managing director. “I simply don’t understand where they can get that number from.”  Read more . . .

Pituitary gland

Can Brain Concussion Injury be Properly Evaluated?
In an effort to fill that technology gap, Timothy Bentley, and his team at the Office of Naval Research’s Warfighter Performance Department in Arlington, Virginia, have engineered new sensor technology that could give medics on the battlefield a clearer idea of whether or not an injury actually occurred after a blast. The coin-sized sensors, placed in service members’ helmets and tactical gear, detect the impact of a blast wave—which moves faster than the speed of sound—and assign it a number, a measure of blast strength. The number is then run through an algorithm that computes how a service member was hit by a blast, which sensors were activated based on their placement, and then tells medics if the service member needs to get off the field immediately or not.   Read more . . .

Can Putin and Trump “Broker” Syrian Deal with No-Fly Zone?
Once again it appears Vladimir Putin has seized the strategic high ground and initiative in Syria, as he declared yesterday that he has broad agreement for humanitarian safe zones across Syria after discussions with Donald Trump, Turkey and Iran. He claims he can enable the ceasefire brokered in Astana some weeks ago, which currently is an abject failure, by creating no-fly zones with the Russian, Turkish, Iranian and US militaries protecting safe zones on the ground. He also, thankfully, acknowledges that UN troops might be required.  Read more . . .

Antibiotic Doxycycline May Reduce the Risk of Developing PTSD
Doxycycline, a common antibiotic, appears to disrupt the formation of negative memories in the brain. According to a study in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, this could help prevent post traumatic stress (PTSD). The study suggests blocking matrix enzymes—proteins located outside nerve cells—may interfere with the ability to form memories. Doxycycline blocks these enzymes.  Read more . . .

VA Secretary Ponders Closing Up to 1,000 VA Facilities
Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin says his department is seeking to close perhaps more than 1,100 VA facilities nationwide as it develops plans to allow more veterans to receive medical care in the private sector. At a House hearing Wednesday, Shulkin said the VA had identified more than 430 vacant buildings and 735 that he described as underutilized, costing the federal government $25 million a year. He said the VA would work with Congress in prioritizing buildings for closure and was considering whether to follow a process the Pentagon had used in recent decades to decide which of its underused military bases to shutter, known as Base Realignment and Closure, or BRAC.  Read more . . .

Drop me an email at info@sftt.org if you believe that there are other subjects that are newsworthy.

Feel you should do more to help our brave men and women who wear the uniform or our Veterans? Consider donating to Stand For The Troops

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