Friday, April 23, 2010

The US military announces another death

Today the US military announced: "BAGHDAD – A U.S. Soldier died of non-combat related injuries in Baghdad Thursday. The name of the deceased is being withheld pending notification of next of kin and release by the Department of Defense. The names of service members are announced through the U.S. Department of Defense official website at The announcements are made on the Web site no earlier than 24 hours after notification of the service member’s primary next of kin. The incident is under investigation." This brings the number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the Iraq War to 4393.

In veterans news, the US House Veterans Affairs Committee issued "House Passes Landmark Bill to Care for Women Veterans and Provide Support for Veteran Caregivers" Wednesday evening:

Washington, D.C. -- House Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Bob Filner (D-CA) announced that the U.S. House of Representatives voted to approve S. 1963, the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act, with a vote of 419-0. The bill creates a caregiver support program, improves health care services for America's women veterans, and expands the mental health services provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), among other things. S. 1963, as amended -- The Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act Provides Caregiver Support S. 1963 provides immediate support for veteran caregivers by creating a program to offer caregiver training, access to mental health counseling, and 24-hour respite care in the veteran's home.
This allows caregivers temporary relief without having to leave the veteran at a medical facility. Veterans who served in Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF) are eligible to select a caregiver to receive a financial stipend along with travel and lodging expenses associated with the veteran’s care.
Welcomes Home Women Veterans S. 1963 expands and improves VA services for the 1.8 million women veterans currently receiving VA health care -- AND goes one step further by anticipating the expected increase of women warriors over the next five years. This bill seeks to build a VA health care system respectful of the unique medical needs of women veterans. For the first time, VA will be authorized to provide health care for newborn infants of women veterans. Prevents Veteran Homelessness S. 1963 essentially expands the number of places where homeless veterans may receive supportive services.
For veterans struggling without a roof over their heads, this small change in the law will make a big difference in their lives.
Rural Health Care S. 1963 includes key provisions to improve the health care provided to our rural veterans by authorizing stronger partnerships with community providers and the Department of Health and Human Services. These collaborations will allow VA to offer health care options to service members living far from the nearest VA medical facility. S. 1963 also requires the VA to establish a grant program for veteran service organizations to provide transportation options to veterans living in highly rural areas. Increases Mental Health Care Access S. 1963 addresses the troubling reality of post-traumatic stress and troubling incidents of suicide among the veteran population.
This bill requires a much-needed and long-awaited study on veterans' suicide and requires the VA to provide counseling referrals for members of the Armed Forces who are not otherwise eligible for readjustment counseling.
Other Veteran Health Care Provisions
•Creates a National Quality Management Officer to act as the principal officer responsible for the Veterans Health Administration's quality assurance program
•Provides for a pilot program studying the use of community organizations and local and State government entities in providing care and benefits to veterans. •Requires the VA to contract with the Institute of Medicine to study the health impact of Project Shipboard Hazard and Defense.
•Creates a pilot program, which would provide specified dental services to veterans, survivors, and dependents of veterans through a dental insurer. •Prohibits the VA from collecting copayments from veterans who are catastrophically disabled.
•Provides higher priority status for certain veterans who are Medal of Honor recipients.
•Requires the VA to provide hospital care, medical services, and nursing home care for certain Vietnam-era veterans exposed to herbicide and Gulf-War era veterans who have insufficient medical evidence to establish a service-connected disability.
•Establishes a position for the Director of Physician Assistant Services in the central VA office reporting to the Chief of the Office of Patient Services.
•Creates a Committee on Care of veterans with traumatic brain injury.
"It is simply our duty as a Nation, when we put our men and women in harm’s way, to care for them when they return," said Chairman Filner. "S. 1963 demonstrates America's commitment to the dedicated service members who have served in uniform and puts front and center the health care needs of veterans and their families. It is our pledge to them, that we have not forgotten the sacrifices they have made in defense of this country. We owe our veterans a debt of gratitude -- and this bill represents an understanding that the sacrifices of our veterans are shared among us all as Americans."
The bill will next be considered in the U.S. Senate.

On the topic of veterans suicides (the bill above would, in case you missed it, fund a study of the issue), Rick Maze (Navy Times) reports, "Troubling new data show there are an average of 950 suicide attempts each month by veterans who are receiving some type of treatment from the Veterans Affairs Department. Seven percent of the attempts are successful, and 11 percent of those who don’t succeed on the first attempt try again within nine months." The St. Louis Globe-Democrat adds that the increase in suicides has "the Missouri National Guard [. . .] reemphasizing its suicide prevention program" and they note:

While many may jump to a conclusion that suicide among military personnel is directly related to the stresses of combat, Michelle Hartmann, director of psychological health for the Missouri National Guard, said that is frequently not the case.
"There are many cases where combat-related stress or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder has not been in the picture at all," Hartmann said. "Guardsmen have civilian lives and civilian jobs. They have difficulties in civilian life like anyone else. Maybe they're losing their job or maybe they’ve got family issues, and then on top of that they're a soldier. So maybe you're trying to work on your marriage or some issue with your children and then you're facing a deployment and that just adds to the stress."
Further complicating the issue, said Hartmann, is the "warrior ethos" of the military and the fear of being stigmatized by seeking counseling.

On the issue of employment, Leo Shane III (Stars and Stripes) reports on returning veterans attempting to find employment in a bad economy and also facing "a lingering stigma among some employers who worry what else combat troops carry with them: post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injuries, or similar mental health problems." Tuesday, Senator Patty Murray's office noted that she teamed up with Senators Amy Kobluchar, Mark Begich and Lisa Murkowski to introduce the " Veterans Employment Act of 2010" and they quoted each of the senators on the bill.

Senator Patty Murray: Too often our veterans return home and have their resumes lost in the stack. These are disciplined, dedicated individuals who'll be great employees but who need help translating their skills into civilian careers. We can’t continue to pat veterans on the back for their service and then push them out into the job market alone. This is the first comprehensive bill to help veterans go from the battlefield to the working world.

Senator Amy Klobuchar: When our soldiers sign up for service, there isn't a waiting line and there shouldn't be a waiting line when they come home and need a job. Our troops have valuable skills and we need to help them transition their skills and experience into the workforce.

Senator Mark Begich: After the initial excitement of coming home is gone, the reality of the challenges they face sets in. They need to know their government is there for them. They've asked for help with employment, help with opening a small business, and help with using their training in the private sector. This comprehensive legislation will address the unique needs of our veterans who have been struggling to find work and to keep their jobs.

Senator Lisa Murkowski: The legislation fills a critical need. Our veterans leave military service with exceptional leadership skills and valuable life lessons. Yet it is not evident that employers fully appreciate all that our veterans can bring to their workplace. This bill will help our veterans gain the additional skills they need to participate in Alaska's oil and gas industry. It will provide them the opportunity to start their own businesses, if they choose to. And it encourages employers at all levels to recognize that those who've given much in the service of their country have much to offer to a prospective employer.

I thought there was one other related press release to note and I'd said I'd work it in this morning. There are actually two because someone e-mailed one. The one I promised in person to note will be in the next entry. But I've got to include one that was mailed in this entry? Why?

I'm calling out Daniel Akaka who chairs the Veterans Affairs Committee in the Senate. I do not think he is up to the job of chairing the committee and I base that on the hearings I have attended over the last few years, on the fact that there are so few hearings, on the fact that the committee has bottle necked so much legislation (including the federal registry that was introduced the committee last October) and on the fact that pressing needs addressed by the House Veterans Affairs Committee in real time are either noted months after the fact or not at all. I stand by those opinions. Those are, however, my opinions. I do like Daniel Akaka, I know him, he's a nice person. In terms of being upset with his work in the past, in all the years, I've only been furious once and that was what I saw as his highly weak response when Ehren Watada needed support. Both of Hawaii's longterm senators are automatically re-elected and have been for how many decades now? It wouldn't have killed either to have stepped up to the plate. Not only did both want to privately support Ehren, both benefitted from many, many years of Bob Watada's work (Bob Watada is Ehren's father) so I found their weak response insufficient to put it mildly. Other than that, I've never had a problem with Daniel Akaka and my only problem with him today is that I do not believe he's up to chairing the Committee.

That is my opinion and I will express it strongly. But it is just my opinion. The above means that when we're asked to note something from his committee or his office, in fairness, I really do need to include it right then. So we're including this:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Kawika Riley (Veterans’ Affairs)

April 22, 2010 (202) 224-9126


Legislation would bring unprecedented support for caregivers of seriously injured veterans, veterans in rural areas, and women veterans

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii), Chairman of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, cheered today’s Congressional passage of S. 1963, the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act by unanimous voice vote. This landmark bill, authored by Akaka, would establish an unprecedented permanent program to support the caregivers of wounded warriors, improve health care for veterans in rural areas, help VA adapt to the needs of women veterans, and expand supportive services for homeless veterans. S. 1963 passed the Senate unanimously this evening, after clearing the House of Representatives yesterday.

“For too long, the families of wounded warriors across America have paid the cost of war without sufficient support from the government their loved ones risked all to serve. I look forward to President Obama signing this important bill for the families of disabled veterans, and for women veterans, veterans in rural areas, and those veterans sleeping on the streets tonight,” said Akaka.

Akaka held a series of hearings as Chairman, bringing in the families of seriously injured servicemembers to discuss how VA might better help those caring for severely disabled veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Akaka then developed legislation to establish a program to certify, train, and financially support veterans’ caregivers. A longtime supporter of veterans’ caregivers, Akaka introduced legislation in 2006, later enacted as part of an omnibus bill (Public Law 109-461), establishing a pilot program to assist caregivers.

The bill’s caregiver support provisions would:

  • Fulfill VA’s obligation to care for the nation’s wounded veterans by providing their caregivers with training, counseling, supportive services, and a living stipend
  • Provide health care to the family caregivers of injured veterans under CHAMPVA
  • Require independent oversight of the caregiver program

The bill would also provide numerous other improvements for veterans, by:

  • Expanding health care services for women veterans
  • Reaching out to veterans living in rural areas
  • Improving mental health care
  • Removing barriers to care for catastrophically disabled veterans
  • Enhancing VA medical services
  • Strengthening VA’s workforce
  • Improving and increasing services to homeless veterans

S. 1963 now goes to President Obama for his consideration. For an in-depth summary of the bill, click here: LINK.


Again, I promised to note another press release on related issues and I will but we'll fit into the next entry. The following community sites updated last night and this morning:

The e-mail address for this site is

thomas friedman is a great man

oh boy it never ends