SFTT News Highlights: Week of Nov 18, 2016

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Found below are a few 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.

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

Poll of U.S. Military Shows Mixed Reaction to Trump Presidency
Despite overwhelming support for President-elect Donald Trump among active-duty troops, one in four service members worries he may issue orders that violate military rules or traditions, according to a new Military Times/Institute for Military and Veterans Families Poll.  The poll surveyed 2,790 active-duty troops. Among those who voted, 51 percent said they supported Trump. Many expressed optimism at his election, predicting a stronger military and better quality of life for service members.  Read more . . .

Changes Needed in U.S. Military to Keep America Safe?
Throughout the year, news organizations have feasted on stories of terror attacks, saber-rattling provocations and outright wars. Is the world really as dangerous as all that? And is the military’s ability to protect us against these dangers really on the decline? Unfortunately, the answers to both questions are: “yes.”  The adequacy of U.S. military power must be assessed in terms of what our troops must be prepared to deal with: the “bad actors” that threaten our vital interests.  Read more . . .

Concerns Expressed about U.S. Military Awareness
There are “significant concerns” about the U.S. military’s strength and its ability to combat global threats, according to a report released Wednesday by a leading conservative think tank.“Clearly, the takeaway on this … is that the military is too small,” said Dakota L. Wood, editor of the Heritage Foundation’s 2017 Index of Military Strength. “It’s much too small to handle the tasks being assigned to it.”This is the foundation’s third annual report on U.S. military strength in the context of global threats and opportunities. And as with the first two, it blames the military’s perceived decline on reduced funding — the mandatory spending caps known as sequestration.  Read more . . .

Department of Veterans Affairs

Veterans Affairs Whistleblower Resigns Citing Retaliation
A Department of Veterans Affairs employee who told Congress the agency was using unauthorized wait lists for mental health care in Colorado has resigned, saying he was subjected to retaliation for speaking out. Brian Smothers told The Associated Press Wednesday the VA had opened two separate inquiries into his actions and tried to get him to sign a statement saying he had broken VA rules. He said he refused. Smothers also said the VA reassigned him to an office with no computer access, no significant duties and no social contact.  Read more . . .

PTSD Support Veterans

PTSD as an Excuse for Illegal Behavior
I’ve written about post-traumatic stress disorder dozens of times over the past seven years. I’ve discussed specific topics such as effective, ineffective and alternative treatments. I’ve opined about the benefits (or lack thereof) of changing the name by dropping “disorder” from the title. I’ve even railed against bureaucratic obstacles that get in the way of helping veterans gain quality care.  However, one aspect of PTSD that I’ve yet to spend much time on is one that’s rather controversial and rarely talked about — using PTSD as an excuse for illegal behavior. Read more . . .

Online Resources for Military Veterans
We’re lucky to live in a country that cares for its veterans. We can all level criticism at the VA, but it is getting better and there are plenty of good-hearted people willing to pick up the slack by offering their time, patience, and expertise. I’ve written previously about job training and mobile applications that are just for veterans, and today I want to cover online resources. These five websites offer a lot for veterans of the US armed forces: Whether you need job training, a home loan, emergency help, or info on how to use your well-earned benefits, it’s all right here.  Read more . . .

10 Good Reasons to Hire Military Veterans
Companies take note: hiring a veteran of the U.S. Military comes with a host of benefits.  A number of Quora users responded to the question “What are the advantages of hiring someone who has been in the U.S. Military?” Of the responders, retired Marine sergeant and current hiring manager Jon Davis outlined ten key reasons employers should hire military veterans.   Read more . . .

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

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Swimming with the Sharks and Veterans with PTSD

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Last month, the New York Times published an article entitled “Scuba, Parrots, Yoga:  “Veterans Embrace Alternative Therapies for PTSD.”  The article focuses on Veterans with PTSD who seek alternative treatment programs.

shark and veterans with ptsd

In this article, author Dave Phillips, suggests that Veterans with PTSD (Post-traumatic stress) are seeking alternative treatment since conventional treatments approved by the Department of Veterans Affairs (the “VA”) are not working:

Traditional medical approaches generally rely on drugs and controlled re-experiencing of trauma, called exposure therapy. But this combination has proved so unpopular that many veterans quit before finishing or avoid it altogether. This has given rise to hundreds of small nonprofits across the country that offer alternatives: therapeutic fishing, rafting and backpacking trips, horse riding, combat yoga, dogs, art collectives, dolphin swims, sweat lodge vision quests and parrot husbandry centers, among many, many others.

According to Mr. Phillips, one group of Veterans has even taken up swimming with sharks to help “overcome fears and build new experiences that put traumatic memories in perspective.”

Now, it is difficult to say whether swimming with sharks or parrot husbandry have any long term beneficial impact for Veterans, but it does speak volumes for the lack of treatment alternatives currently offered by the VA.

Prescription drugs and exposure therapy seem to be standard treatment procedures within the VA.  Sadly, the VA gatekeepers strongly discourage Veterans from seeking alternative programs provided by the private sector and charitable organizations (mostly small).

Hiding behind the cloak of “not FDA approved,” “lack of supporting clinical studies” or other bureaucratic protocols, the VA has effectively blocked many Veterans from seeking what many consider to be more effective treatment without the drug side-effects.

In fact, the VA has established itself as “Il Supremo” or the “Supreme Authority” in deciding what is “right” and proper for Veterans seeking help to cure themselves and re-integrate into society.

For many reasons, Veterans are finding that the VA’s recommended treatment for PTSD has its limitations and, in many cases, undesirable side-effects.  In fact, as we reported last week, the VA track record in treating PTSD is abysmal.

While VA administrators argue that they are open to “alternative therapies,” there is little in SFTT’s experience to suggest that the VA is openly encouraging Veterans to seek treatment outside the VA.  Quite the contrary, the gatekeepers at the VA consider alternative therapies as “black magic” with little or no scientific basis for support or VA funding.

As such, many Veterans are left to their own devices to find programs that may meet their particular needs rather than the VA pro forma cocktail of prescription drugs which masks symptoms and is often lethal.

While alternative PTSD treatment programs have grown exponentially,  it is difficult to gauge the efficacy of these programs given the vast differences in one program from another and the level of supervised care provided.  Who is to say whether swimming with sharks is better than parrot husbandry or which program may be best suited for a particular Veteran.

Despite these shortcomings, the VA would be wise to gather as much information as possible to evaluate the efficacy of these “alternative” treatment programs rather than simply dismiss them because there are no clinical trials or replicable results.

As the VA tries to redefine itself to provide more effective treatment programs for Veterans with PTSD, SFTT remains hopeful that the VA embraces other treatment alternatives and provides financial support to private foundations which try to make a difference in the lives of our brave Veterans.

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Mixed Signals for Veterans with PTSD

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It is reassuring to learn that Brig. Gen. Donald C. Bolduc encourages troops under his command to seek help when dealing with the symptoms of post-traumatic stress.

Many in the military believe that headaches, depression and mood swings are simply job fatigue symptoms and that it is “not macho” to seek out treatment.  As Gen. Bolduc knows, these common wartime symptoms may be a clear signal of post-traumatic stress (PTSD) or traumatic brain injury (TBI).

In a recent article featured in the New York Times, Gen. Bolduc made the following observation:

General Bolduc wants soldiers under his command — who are stationed in some of the continent’s most difficult parts — to know that seeking help will not hurt their careers. In his opinion, PTSD is the same as a broken arm.

“The powerful thing is that I can use myself as an example,” General Bolduc said. “And thank goodness not everybody can do that. But I’m able to do it, so that has some sort of different type of credibility to it.”

SFTT applauds Gen. Bolduc for taking the lead in encouraging troops under this command to seek out help without the repercussions of a punitive career backlash.  Nevertheless, effective treatment options for PTSD are severely limited by current DoD protocols.

Nowhere is this more evident than within the Department of Veterans Affairs (“the VA”). Currently, the VA provides two forms of cognitive behavioral therapy to Veterans with PTSD: Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) and Prolonged Exposure (PE) therapy.

Also, to address the symptoms of PTSD the VA may authorize “selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are a type of antidepressant medicine. These can help you feel less sad and worried. They appear to be helpful, and for some people they are very effective. SSRIs include citalopram (Celexa), fluoxetine (such as Prozac), paroxetine (Paxil), and sertraline (Zoloft).”

As SFTT has reported on numerous occasions, masking the symptoms of PTSD through cocktails of powerful prescribed drugs has not proved successful and may in fact have triggered suicidal incidents.

In fact, the track record of the VA in treating PTSD has been notoriously ineffective as Maj. Ben Richards pointed out recently in this comprehensive discussion of VA procedures to treat PTSD and TBI:

Contrast Maj. Richards experience, with VA spokesman Dr. David Xavier Cifu to a Congressional Committee:

Personally, I find Dr. David Cifu’s treatment recommendation: “get back to activity as soon as possible” to be particularly disturbing. Not only is Dr. Cifu’s judgement questioned by his peers, but even the NFL has instituted “concussion” protocols which REQUIRE a mandatory rest period after a concussion.

In effect, a battlefield commander could encourage troops under his command to “get treatment,” yet the medical gatekeepers could simply prescribe antidepressants and quickly put the troops back into harm’s way.

Gen. Bolduc is to be complimented on his leadership, but the medical support in the military and VA needed to effectively treat men and women in combat for brain-related issues doesn’t seem to be on the same page.   How sad!

Why?  Good question, but one can only speculate on the “right” answer.

NFL and the Concussion Settlement

While the VA continues to “whistle Dixie” as the lives of Veterans and their loved ones continue to deteriorate, the leadership of the NFL is finally beginning to acknowledge the terrible harm done to professional athletes caused by repeated concussions.

Joe Nocera of the New York Times reports that a “Crack Appears in N.F.L.’s Concussion Settlement.”   NFL leadership has fought tooth-and-nail to hide the corrosive effect of repeated concussions from its players and the public.   Nevertheless, thanks to the courageous effort forensic pathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu, popularized in the film “Concussion” starring Will Smith, the NFL acknowledged that Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy or C.T.E. was a serious health concern.

chronic_traumatic_encephalopathy

Now, a Doctor at Boston University’s Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy Center believes that “I really do foresee being able to diagnose C.T.E. pretty accurately while people are alive sometime in the next five to 10 years,” he said. “Hopefully, even earlier.”

While this is helpful, one must ask what preventive measures can be introduced into football now to prevent C.T.E. from occurring in the future.  More to the point, if C.T.E. is predictive, what about the large number of professional players who have settled with the NFL to keep this problem from gaining traction with the public.

The Leadership of the NFL and the VA Have a Problem

The leadership of the NFL and the VA can continue to stonewall investigative committees and deceive themselves, but lives are at risk.  Isn’t it about time that the leadership of both organizations step up and “own the problem” and do their best to help players and servicemembers recover their lives?

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SFTT News: Week Ending Oct 7, 2016

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Found below are a few 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.

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

Moscow Planning to Re-Establish Military Bases in Cuba and Vietnam?
Moscow is considering plans to return to Cuba and Vietnam where it had military bases in the past, Russia’s Deputy Defense Minister Nikolay Pankov said on Friday, according to RIA news agency.  Read more . . .

Dozens of Afghan Troops Missing from Military Training
Pentagon officials say 45 Afghan troops visiting the U.S. for military training have gone missing from their assignments in less than two years, presumably in an effort to live and work illegally in America.  In one case, an Afghan student was detained by Canadian police while trying to enter that country from the U.S. In some cases, officials said, those who went missing were in the U.S. for elite Army Ranger School and intelligence-gathering training. Defense officials did not identify the missing troops or their rank.  Read more . . .

Philippines President

Philippines’ Defense Minister Asserts Military Can Cope without US Aid
U.S.-Philippines ties are going through “bumps on the road” and the Philippine military could manage if treaty ally the United States were to withdraw aid, the defense minister said on Friday.  Lorenzana’s remarks suggested he was following other top officials in Duterte’s administration in rallying behind the maverick president’s tough anti-U.S. agenda after weeks of scrambling to manage the fallout from his outbursts and threats to downgrade the alliance.  Read more . . .

Post 9/11 Veteran Unemployment Down Again in September
Unemployment for the latest generation of veterans ticked down again in September, continuing to hover near record-low territory, according to new government data.  Just 4.4 percent of post-9/11 veterans looking for work were unable to find any in September, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That beats the previous month’s 4.7 percent rate, as well as the September 2015 rate of 5 percent.  Read more . . .

Antipsychotics Gaining Attention for Certain PTSD Symptoms
The only medications approved for PTSD by the Food and Drug Administration are paroxetine (Paxil) and sertraline (Zoloft). Unfortunately, these medications provide limited benefits for many. In fact, some studies show that they are minimally or no better than a placebo (often referred to as a “sugar pill”).  One group of medications that has garnered attention over the past several years is antipsychotics. Although the joint PTSD guidelines of the Veterans Affairs and Defense departments don’t recommend the use of antipsychotics as a main treatment, the reality is that they are often used.  Read more . . .

What Options are Left for Syria?
Nearly six years of civil war capped with one of the most devastating weeks in Syria after the dissolution of a short-lived ceasefire and the possible fall of Aleppo has left the U.S. and global leaders at a crossroads of how to address the seemingly never-ending conflict.  “The options are to pull the plug on this phony diplomatic process, continue to make the defeat of the Islamic State a priority, or consider putting new cards on the table, and that would be some sort of military action,” said Aaron David Miller, vice president of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.  Read more . . .

laser weapons

Laser Weapons Get Real
On the desert floor, on top of a big, sand-coloured truck, a cubic mechanism pivots and fires an invisible infrared beam to zap one target after another. This High Energy Laser Mobile Demonstrator (HEL MD) is a prototype laser weapon developed for the US Army by aerospace giant Boeing of Chicago, Illinois. Inside the truck, Boeing electrophysics engineer Stephanie Blount stares at the targets on her laptop’s screen and directs the laser using a handheld game controller. “It has a very game-like feel,” she says.  Read more . . .

Congressional Leaders Clash over Crisis Center Legislation
U.S. Rep. David Young and congressional Republicans are blaming Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid for holding up final passage of a bill that would make needed changes to a suicide hotline for veterans. Reid’s office is strongly pushing back, claiming it was Senate Republicans who stalled the “No Veterans Crisis Line Call Should Go Unanswered Act.”  Read more . . .

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

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Please Pick Up the Phone at the Suicide Crisis Center

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It is fashionable these days to pick on people or institutions that promote a “political” agenda.  Mind you, there are plenty of targets worthy of scorn and outrage, but righteous indignation and self-promotion discourages meaningful dialogue.

As a 501 (c)3 non-political educational foundation, Stand For The Troops (“SFTT”) often focuses on the shortcomings of military and political institutions that fail to meet their obligations to support military personnel and Veterans.

In particular, SFTT has been most critical of the level of care provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs (“the VA”) to Veterans.  We get no pleasure in citing the many shortcomings of the VA, but it seems like every day one scandal or another emerges which captures national attention.

A few days ago, we learned that the VA’s “Crisis Line” to prevent Veteran suicides appeared to be woefully unresponsive:

An insider memo newly uncovered by the Associated Press indicates that more than one-third of calls to the national suicide hotline for troubled veterans are not being answered by front-line staffers because of poor work habits and other problems at the VA.

This follows an Inspector General Report in February which cited numerous problems in the Crisis Line now managed by the VA.

It is interesting to note that a little over a year ago the DoD suspended funding for a Veteran Suicide Hotline run by Vets4Warriors, to centralize the function within the VA.

Priggee Cartoon from Denver Post

Reading the IG’s report and recent disclosures that Veterans in crisis are underserved by the VA, this decision to close down an effective and privately-run Veteran Suicide Hotline now doesn’t seem to be a great idea.

Frankly, I am tired of listening to President Obama (or any other President for that matter) state that “I don’t want to in any way pretend that we are where we need to be,”  after having increased the VA budget by 85% during his presidency.

Any sane citizen would simply conclude that we are simply wasting valuable resources within the VA that could be more efficiently deployed to provide Veterans with support and treatment that might make some difference in their lives.  Let’s face it:  If VA employees at Crisis Centers don’t pick up the phone or respond to text messages, then no amount of money is going to solve the problem.

The VA appears to be a broken institution that has simply lost its way. It is hard to conceive of a more responsive and efficient VA, with the likes of J. David Cox, the President of the American Federation of Government Employees, seemingly more interested in defending the status quo of his constituency rather than encourage radical reform in a bloated bureaucracy.

The battle lines have been drawn and it is difficult to see how Veterans – who don’t seem to have much of a voice in the final outcome – will receive better treatment and care from an institution that is reeling out of control.

The VA has strayed far from its mission to fulfill President Lincoln’s promise “’To care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan’ by serving and honoring the men and women who are America’s Veterans.”

va_payroll

More to the point, the Department of Veterans Affairs has effectively disavowed its five core values that “underscore” the VA’s mission: Integrity, Commitment, Advocacy, Respect, and Excellence.

Integrity: Act with high moral principle. Adhere to the highest professional standards. Maintain the trust and confidence of all with whom I engage.

Commitment: Work diligently to serve Veterans and other beneficiaries. Be driven by an earnest belief in VA’s mission. Fulfill my individual responsibilities and organizational responsibilities.

Advocacy: Be truly Veteran-centric by identifying, fully considering, and appropriately advancing the interests of Veterans and other beneficiaries.

Respect: Treat all those I serve and with whom I work with dignity and respect. Show respect to earn it.

Excellence: Strive for the highest quality and continuous improvement. Be thoughtful and decisive in leadership, accountable for my actions, willing to admit mistakes, and rigorous in correcting them.

The VA’s “core values” are simply words that appear to have little in common with the “dignity and respect” we should show our Veterans.   How sad!  More importantly, how tragic it is that little will be done to restore today’s VA to an institution that we can all admire and respect.

President Lincoln’s “promise” is little more than a soundbite at a political rally.

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SFTT News: Week Ending Sep 30, 2016

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Found below are a few 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.

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

President Obama Faces Tough Questions from Military and Veterans
Obama was at this Army base near Richmond to take part in a military-focused special that aired Wednesday night on CNN. The cable network selected questioners who were respectful but who reflected a military population that is more conservative than the population as a whole and generally skeptical of the president’s performance as commander in chief over the past eight years.  Read more . . .

U.S. Military Readiness Questioned
Four of America’s top military officers recently testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee on long-term budget challenges facing the military. While the hearing didn’t grab many headlines, some of the statements from these leaders should make all Americans concerned about the status of our military. Ultimately, these four officers (the chiefs of staff of the Army and Air Force, the chief of naval operations, and the commandant of the Marine Corps) stressed the dire and potentially deadly effects of inadequate funding on military readiness.  Read more . . .

VA Suicide Hot Line

A Third of Calls to Veteran Suicide Hotline Don’t Get Answered
More than a third of calls to the Department of Veterans Affairs’ suicide hotline aren’t being answered by front-line staffers because of poor work habits and other problems, according to the hotline’s former director.  Some hotline workers handle fewer than five calls per day and leave before their shifts end, even as crisis calls have increased sharply in recent years, said Greg Hughes, the former director of the VA’s Veterans Crisis Line.  Read more . . .

Privatization of Some VA Programs Becomes Election Issue
A key Democrat wants to bring the presidential campaign fight over veterans health care to the House floor, offering a resolution Wednesday that opposes the privatization of Veterans Affairs programs.  Republicans counter that department health systems are overburdened and unable to meet veterans’ needs, and proposals to expand health care choices for veterans in no way represent privatizing the department.  Read more . . .

Military Funding and Pay Raises Still on Congressional Agenda
After months of debate, Congress was unable to pass an annual budget on time and came within days this week of a government shutdown – and potential troop pay freeze – due to a dispute over emergency funds for the Flint, Michigan water crisis. A deal on money for Flint allowed lawmakers to pass the temporary budget, called a continuing resolution, and it set up another potential last-minute showdown over a final defense budget and other difficult military issues in November and December.  Read more . . .

Studies Suggest that Concussions May Lead to PTSD
Studies of troops who deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan have found that service members who have suffered a concussion or mild traumatic brain injury are far more likely to develop PTSD, a condition that can cause flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety for years after a traumatic event.  And research on both people and animals suggests the reason is that a brain injury can disrupt circuits that normally dampen the response to a frightening event. The result is like “driving a car and the brake’s not fully functioning,” says Mingxiong Huang, a biomedical physicist at the University of California, San Diego.  Read more . . .

U.S. on Verge of Ending Talks with Russia over War in Syria
Speaking at the Atlantic Council think-tank on Thursday, John Kerry (Secretary of State) said that the US is “on the verge of suspending the discussion because it’s irrational in the context of the kind of bombing taking place”. He said the US has no indication of Russia’s “seriousness of purpose” and discussions made no sense at a time when Russian and Syrian warplanes were bombing rebel-held areas of Syria’s second largest city.  Read more . . .

special forces

U.S. to Send 600 More Troops in Preparation to Retake Mosul
The United States will send around 600 new troops to Iraq to assist local forces in the battle to retake Mosul from Islamic State that is expected later this year, U.S. and Iraqi officials said on Wednesday.  The new deployment is the third such boost in U.S. troop levels in Iraq since April, underscoring the difficulties President Barack Obama has had in extracting the U.S. military from the country.  Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said in a statement that his government asked for more U.S. military trainers and advisers. Obama called it a “somber decision.”  Read more . . .

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

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Dysfunctional VA or a Paradise for Veterans?: Pause for Reflection

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Stand for The Troops (“SFTT”) has long been critical of the manner in which the Department of Veterans Affairs (the “VA”) treats Veterans with PTSD and TBI.  Other critics have singled out long wait times for Veterans seeking treatment and other issues that have prompted Congressional inquiries.

Sadly, one can no longer discuss this issue dispassionately considering that many stakeholders and political candidates seem to be positioning themselves on one side of the debate or the other.  With a $170 billion budget and over 200,000 employees, a decision to make the VA more responsive to the needs of Veterans is never a black or white decision.

J. David Cox

J. David Cox

Like many others, I was appalled by the outburst of J. David Cox, the President of the American Federation of Government Employees, who threatened VA Secretary 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,”

According to U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller, a Republican from Chumuckla, Florida, and the chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs as reported in Military.com

The exchange perfectly encapsulates the corrosive influence government union bosses are having on efforts to reform a broken VA. It’s a never-ending cycle in which pliant politicians and federal agency leaders bow to the boss’s demands to preserve the dysfunctional status quo of our federal personnel system, which almost guarantees employment for government bureaucrats no matter how egregious their behavior.

The problem with union bosses like Cox is that they are more interested in protecting misbehaving VA employees than the veterans the department was created to serve.

The problem with VA leaders like McDonald is that, in their perpetual quest to placate big labor’s powers that be, the taxpayers and veterans they are charged with serving are paying the price.

Frankly, it is tough to find fault with Representative Miller’s assessment of the situation.  If we want meaningful reform within the VA to provide Veterans with the support they deserve, then we need to confront entitled thugs like David Cox and others that block long overdue change.

It will not be easy, but we must admit that the VA is fragile – if not broken – and we need to fix it to provide Veterans with the level of care they deserve.

Veterans with PTSD and the VA

As regular readers of Stand For the Troops newsletter are aware, we are keenly focused on the level of care and treatment provided to Veterans suffering from Post Traumatic Stress.

Based on our research, we have found that the care and treatment provided by the VA leads to no lasting benefit to the thousands of Veterans affected by PTSD and TBI.  We reported on this earlier, but it is worthwhile watching a video of Maj. Ben Richard’s explain the failure of the VA to provide meaningful solutions:

This sobering assessment by Maj. Richards was featured a couple of months ago in our article entitled “The VA Can’t Handle the Truth, So Why Bother.” SFTT’s goal is not to throw rocks at the VA, but to insure that Veterans get the needed treatment they deserve.

It is hardly reassuring that some Veterans find it necessary to swim with sharks as an alternative therapy for PTSD, but it is evident that the lack of responsiveness and credibility of the VA has driven Veterans to embrace other solutions.

The Big Questions for Taxpayers and Government Leaders

Will the much needed reform within the VA be held hostage by self-serving labor leaders like J. David Cox and disingenuous medical practitioners like Dr. David Cifu?

Do we have the courage to change the VA system for the benefit of our brave heroes?

Can we agree to promote VA programs that work, improve those programs that are not effective and reform or radically change existing programs and protocols that simply do not work?

For all Americans, it is time to reflect on the kind of support we truly want to provide to Veterans.

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SFTT News: Week of Sept 23, 2016

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

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

US Military Seeks Additional Troops for Iraq
The U.S. military is requesting authority to send up to 500 new troops to Iraq ahead of a much-anticipated campaign to take back Mosul from Islamic State, according to U.S. officials, adding to an expanding American presence in the country. The new deployment, if approved by the White House, would assist Iraqi and coalition forces in preparing for the battle to capture the northern city, the extremist group’s last major stronghold in Iraq. That fight is expected to begin as early as mid-October, U.S. officials have said. Read more . . .

special forces

E.U. Revives Idea of Joint Military Command Following Brexit
In late April 2003, just after the rapid fall of Baghdad, four of the founding countries of what is now the European Union met to announce the formation of a European operational military command headquarters just down the road from NATO.  France and Germany, which had fiercely opposed the war against Saddam Hussein, led by the United States and Britain, joined with Belgium and Luxembourg in what the American State Department sniffily dismissed as “the chocolate summit.”  Read more . . .

Cybersecurity Threatens US Military Supremacy
Alarmingly, the use of cyber attacks in this dispute suggests we might already be in the midst of a new Cold War playing out in cyberspace — where America’s advantage is not as clear as it is with conventional armies and navies. The Spratly Islands are of economic and strategic importance. All of the countries in the region — including China, Vietnam and the Philippines — have made competing territorial claims to the region. In recent years, China has become increasingly aggressive in its claim, rapidly building artificial islands while also conducting military operations in the area.   Read more . . .

Race Driver’s former Girlfriend Accused of Stealing from Military Charity
The former girlfriend of NASCAR driver Kurt Busch was charged Tuesday with stealing from a military charity she led. Court documents don’t say how much prosecutors believe Patricia Driscoll took from the District of Columbia-based Armed Forces Foundation, whose mission is to support service members, veterans and their families. But a 2014 tax form for the nonprofit says that the “foundation has become aware of suspected misappropriations” by Driscoll totaling more than $599,000 for the years 2006 to 2014. It says she misused money for meals, travel, parking tickets, makeup and personal gifts.  Read more . . .

SFTT and Razoo Support Veterans

Union and VA Bosses Rally to Stymie VA Reform
In an expletive-laden rant delivered earlier this year, a belligerent American Federation of Government Employees President J. David Cox threatened Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Bob McDonald with physical violence. The exchange perfectly encapsulates the corrosive influence government union bosses are having on efforts to reform a broken VA. It’s a never-ending cycle in which pliant politicians and federal agency leaders bow to the boss’s’ demands to preserve the dysfunctional status quo of our federal personnel system, which almost guarantees employment for government bureaucrats no matter how egregious their behavior.  Read more . . .

Nation-building “on the rocks” for U.S. Military?
Most American military personnel are deeply skeptical of the United States’ nation-building missions overseas and would prefer to see leaders in Washington focus the country’s resources on less ambiguous missions like killing terrorists and protecting the homeland, according to a new first-of-its-kind survey.  Read more . . .

Neuroimaging to Evaluate PTSD?
The bioengineers leveraged a cutting-edge imaging technique called functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) to visualize the blood flow in the neuronal networks of subjects. These results were then fiddled with to obtain a measure of brain activity with respect to position.  Read more . . .

Billionaire Hedge Fund Owner Pledges $325 million to Support PTSD Research
Cohen said he plans to invest $325 million during a five year period in his two new initiatives to help veterans and prevent them from committing suicide, a recent phenomenon among vets that has alarmed policymakers. Last year, the billionaire investor founded the Cohen Veterans Network, a chain of free mental health care clinics for vets, as well as Cohen Veterans Bioscience, a research institute dedicated to PTSD and traumatic brain injury diagnosis and treatment.  Read more . . .

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

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NFL Reluctantly Opts to Research Concussions

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In yet another token concession to those concerned with repeated trauma of concussions on NFL players, Commissioner Roger Goodell announced a new initiative “intended to increase the safety of the game, specifically by preventing, diagnosing and treating head injuries.”

As reported by CNN, Goodell said:

. . . the league and its 32 club owners will provide $100 million in support of engineering advancements and medical research — in addition to the $100 million previously pledged by the league to medical and neuroscience research.

The Play Smart Play Safe initiative also requires hiring a physician to serve as the league’s chief medical officer.  The physician will work with each team’s medical staff and establish an independent scientific advisory board to consider head injury research proposals.

Concussions and, more importantly, chronic traumatic encephalopathy ( or”CTE’) continues to be a subject that is only whispered about behind closed doors at the NFL.  Nevertheless, it is a problem that will not soon disappear and SFTT remains hopeful that researchers will be able to improve the safety of the game and provide insights into how this horrific “sport” injury can be prevented and,  hopefully, treated more effectively.

chronic_traumatic_encephalopathy

While the NFL has been slow to address this problem, the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs (the “VA”) have been even slower.  Consider what SFTT stated in March, 2016 in its article entitled “NFL Preempts Veterans with Brain Injuries“:

With hundreds of thousand of Veterans suffering from brain trauma, isn’t it about time our political and military leadership quit burying their heads in the sands and deflect public scrutiny by investigating the NFL, which has Congressional immunity from antitrust regulation?  What a strange but convenient retreat for our feckless political leadership.

If the NFL owners had any sense, they would embrace the battle against brain trauma and work with the military to help both its gladiators and the brave men and women suffering from PTSD. Indeed, this public relations initiative could help deflect “public” outrage and provide the medical profession and others with the resources and impetus to deal with the silent wounds of war.

While the causes of brain trauma are different, shared research could go a long way in helping both Veterans and NFL players deal with the problems of repeated concussions.  No one expects easy answers, but the military has collected a wealth of data on concussions over the last six years from sensors implanted in helmets of soldiers serving in combat.

The first step in solving a problem is to admit you have a problem.  Sadly, both the NFL, the VA and the DoD have been slow to address this most serious problem and one wonders how committed either organization is to do so.

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SFTT News: Highlights for the Week Ending Sep 9, 2016

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

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

Trump and Clinton

Candidates Trump and Clint Veer from Addressing Veteran Issues
During the hour-long event hosted by NBC’s Matt Lauer, the candidates indeed touched on veterans issues, notably waits for appointments at Veterans Affairs Department hospitals and the high number of veterans who die by suicide. But during most of the hour-long event, they focused on other national-security and military matters.   Read more . . .

Unsuccessful Rescue Mission in Afghanistan
U.S. defense officials say that special operations forces launched a rescue mission to retrieve two men kidnapped by insurgents in Afghanistan last month. The hostages were not there when the rescue team arrived.  Read more . . .

North Korea Conducts 5th Nuclear Test
North Korea conducted its second nuclear test in eight months on Friday, raising concerns that Pyongyang has moved a step closer to its goal of a nuclear-armed missile that could one day strike the U.S. mainland.State TV said the atomic detonation — the fifth carried out by Kim Jong Un’s isolated regime — “put on a higher level [the North’s] technology of mounting nuclear warheads on ballistic rockets.”  Read more . . .

Laser Weaponry on the Horizon?
There’s a technological revolution brewing in warfare. Silent and invisible, it relies on high intensity pulses of light to kill or incapacitate, all at the speed of light. After decades of promises and false starts, lasers are at last finally entering military service. And warfare will never be the same.  Read more . . .

 U.S. to Send More Troops to Iraq to Prepare for Mosul Battle
The United States has increased its forces in Iraq by almost 500 troops in the last week to support the operation to take Mosul from the Islamic State group, a Pentagon spokesman said Thursday. The increase in personnel and equipment is needed to meet the Iraqi government goal of recapturing Mosul before the end of the year, Col. John Dorrian, the Baghdad-based spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve told reporters at the Pentagon.  Read more . . .

Teamwork Key to Preventing Suicides
Staff Sgt. Miguel Sierra vividly recalls himself and his staff handling logistical matters in the aftermath of a sailor committing suicide. As a behavioral specialist and the noncommissioned officer in charge of the Army Health Clinic at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, Sierra said this experience impressed upon him the importance of teamwork and the need for Soldiers to maintain awareness of signs of distress among their fellow Soldiers.  Read more . . .

Light Therapy in Treating PTSD
After years of studying the effects of near-infrared light on veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injuries, a team led by a University of Texas at Arlington bioengineer has published groundbreaking research in Nature’s Scientific Reports that could result in an effective, long-term treatment for brain disorders. Their research is funded in part by a UT System BRAIN or Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies seed grant titled, “Transcranial light therapy and imaging of prefrontal cognition in PTSD.”  Read more . . .

 Georgia Veterans Court Provides Common Sense Rehabilitation Alternative
Nine local veterans recently saved Cobb County taxpayers about $191,610. These four Army veterans, three former Marines, and two Navy vets did not work for free or volunteer their services to a Cobb community organization. Instead the nine veterans, composed of eight men and one woman, successfully completed the 18-month Cobb County Veterans Treatment Court program and avoided potential incarceration. Primarily charged with felonies, these nine veterans easily could have been assigned an inmate number and added to the already bloated census within our Georgia prisons. Or worse, the nine could have become additional statistics in the grim nationwide toll of an estimated 20 veterans who commit suicide daily.  Read more . . .

stealth destroyer

Stealth Destroyer Leaves Bath Iron Works
The largest and most expensive destroyer ever built for the U.S. Navy once headed to sea in a snowstorm during trials. Now, it’s heading into the remnants of a tropical storm as it leaves Maine for good. The skipper is watching the weather as the stealthy Zumwalt destroyer prepares to depart from Bath Iron Works on Wednesday en route to its commissioning in Baltimore, and then to its homeport in San Diego. Capt. James Kirk said what’s left of former Hurricane Hermine was creating some strong waves in the North Atlantic, but he said it wouldn’t prevent the ship from departing from the Navy shipbuilder.  Read more . . .

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

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