Friday, February 03, 2012

Veterans issues: Exams, PTSD, marriage, burn pits

As part of the processing out of the military, medical exams are required. Gregg Zoroya and Paul Overberg (USA Today) report, "Tens of thousands of combat troops who undergo routine health checks before returning home need treatment for ailments ranging from bad backs to mental illness, helping to drive a backlog of troops waiting for medical retirements, new Pentagon data show." This despite the fact that the VA has repeatedly been offered help by Congress, repeatedly been asked if they need any additional resources and repeatedly turned Congress down insisting they had no staffing issues. Which makes what Sophia Stamas (KCEN -- link is video and text) reports all the more disturbing, that the Disabled American Veterans Chapter 29 is reporting getting your disability claims adjusted can take up to 18 months.

While the backlog is a concern and one that the VA needs to explain, at some point, the issue of the injuries needs to be addressed in terms of determining the conditions under which people are serving that's causing an increase in non-combat injuries. Zoroya and Overberg note that the data also reveals, "After three-to-six months at home, the rate of active duty soldiers and Marines reporting PTSD symptoms increased significantly: going from 8% to 12% in the Army and from 7% to 14% among Marines." The editorial board of the Daily Star calls for greater veterans health care and notes:

According the Department of Veterans Affairs, 11 to 20 percent of the veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars suffer from PTSD.
[Drew] Snyder and so many other military veterans felt called upon by their government to serve noble causes and put their lives on the line for their country.
They are returning home to find they can't leave the recollections of war behind, which is compounded by the lack of resources and treatment the government can provide.
In a recent VA survey of mental health professionals treating veterans, 40 percent said they cannot schedule an appointment for a veteran in need of help within the 14 days mandated by the agency. Seventy percent said they don't have the adequate staff or space to meet the needs of those they serve.

In other veterans news, Carol J. Williams (Los Angeles Times) reports on Iraq War veteran Tracey Cooper-Harris who is suing the VA and the Justice Dept for "her full disability benefits" as a married veteran. She is receiving a "lesser rate paid to single veterans" because the VA is not recognizing her marriage. Joe Piasecki (Pasadena Times Community News) explains that Tracey married her spouse Maggie Cooper-Harris in 2008 and quotes Tracey explaining, "We got married for the same reason other people do -- to show our love and commitment for each other and make sure we have somebody with us through good times and bad. When I was diagnosed [in 2010], I freaked out a little bit. I wanted to get all my end-of-life stuff in order to make sure Maggie was taken care of before something happened to me." Eric Fiegel (CNN) adds:

Cooper-Harris said she was diagnosed in 2010 with multiple sclerosis, a disease that attacks the central nervous system.
The suit claims that her disease is "service-connected" and she does get disability compensation for it. But Cooper-Harris says she wants to make sure that after she dies, her spouse, Maggie, whom she married in 2008, is taken care of financially.
She also wants Maggie to be buried next to her in a veterans cemetery. These requests were denied by the Department of Veterans Affairs, the suit says, because "spouse" is defined as "a person of the opposite sex who is a wife or a husband."

In other news, Terry J. Allen (In These Times) observes:

"Open-air burn pits have operated widely at military sites in Iraq and Afghanistan," the Department of Veterans Affairs notes on its website. On hundreds of camps and bases across the two countries, the U.S. military and its contractors incinerated toxic waste, including unexploded ordnance, plastics and Styrofoam, asbestos, formaldehyde, arsenic, pesticides and neurotoxins, medical waste (even amputated limbs), heavy metals and what the military refers to as “radioactive commodities.” The burns have released mutagens and carcinogens, including uranium and other isotopes, volatile organic compounds, hexachlorobenzene, and, that old favorite, dioxin (aka Agent Orange).
The military pooh-poohs the problem, despite a 2009 Pentagon document noting “an estimated 11 million pounds [5,000 tonnes] of hazardous waste” produced by American troops, the Times of London reported. In any case, it says, the waste isn’t all that toxic, and there is no hard evidence troops were harmed. Of course, one reason for that lack of evidence, reports the Institute of Medicine (which found 53 toxins in the air above the Balad air base alone), is that the Pentagon won’t or can’t document what it burned and buried, or where it did so.

I want to note that Allen's article is about the damage done to Iraq. We've covered that here and I've got no quarrel with Allen but it is pathetic that In These Times runs an article calling out the refusal of the media to alert to the dangers, the toxic dangers, the US brought to Iraq -- pathetic because their strongest article on this topic was written years ago by David Lindorff. And when a Pentagon friendly company whined, In These Times walked away (ran) from the story (causing Lindorff to end his long association with the magazine). Back to burn pits, Patricia Kime (Army Times) last week reported:

Researchers at Stony Brook University Medical Center in New York have determined that a soldier who deployed to Iraq is now carrying particles of titanium, iron and copper in his lungs.
In a letter published this month in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Stony Brook Assistant Professor of Surgery and Medicine Dr. Anthony Szema wrote that samples of a service member’s open lung biopsy were found to contain the heavy metals.
Open lung tissue biopsies done on troops who deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan have been shown to sparkle with crystalline material, as noted by researchers Dr. Robert Miller of Vanderbilt University and Dr. Matthew King of Meharry Medical College, Nashville, Tenn.

The Stony Brook campus will be the site this month of the first ever burn pit symposium:

1st Annual Scientific Symposium on
Lung Health after Deplyoment to Iraq & Afghanistan
February 13, 2012

sponsored by
Office of Continuing Medical Education
School of Medicine
Stony Brook University

Health Sciences Center, Level 3, Lecture Hall 5
Anthony M. Szema, M.D., Program Chair
Stony Brook
Medical Center

This program is made possible by support from the
Sergeant Thomas Joseph Sullivan Center, Washington, D.C.


* Register with your credit card online at:

* Download the registration form from:
fax form to (631) 638-1211

For Information Email:

1st Annual Scientific Symposium on
Lung Health after Deployment to Iraq & Afghanistan
Monday, February 13, 2012
Health Sciences Center
Level 3, Lecture Hall 5

Program Objective: Upon completion, participants should be able to recognize new-onset of lung disease after deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan.

8:00 - 9:00 a.m. Registration & Continental Breakfast (Honored Guest, Congressman
Tim Bishop

9:00 - 9:30 Peter Sullivan, J.D., Father of Marine from The Sergeant Thomas Joseph
Sullivan Center, Washington, D.C.

9:40 - 10:10 Overview of Exposures in Iraq, Anthony Szema, M.D., (Assistant
Professor of Medicine and Surgery, Stony Brook University)

10:10 - 10:40 Constrictive Bronchiolitis among Soldiers after Deployment, Matt
King, M.D. (Assistant Professor of Medicine, Meharry Medical College,
Nashville, TN)

10:40 - 11:10 BREAK

11:10 - 11:40 Denver Working Group Recommendations and Spirometry Study in
Iraq/Afghanistan, Richard Meehan, M.D., (Chief of Rheumatology and
Professor of Medicine, National Jewish Health, Denver, CO)

11:40 a.m. - Microbiological Analyses of Dust from Iraq and Afghanistan, Captain Mark

12:10 p.m. Lyles, D.M.D., Ph. D., (Vice Admiral Joel T. Boone Endowed Chair of
Health and Security Studies, U.S. Naval War College, Newport, RI)

12:10 - 12:20 Health Care Resource Utilization among Deployed Veterans at the White
River Junction VA, James Geiling, M.D., (Professor and Chief of Medicine,
Dartmouth Medical School, VA White River Junction, VT)

Graduate students Millicent Schmidt and Andrea Harrington (Stony Brook
University) present Posters from Lung Studies Analyzed for Spatial
Resolution of Metals at Brookhaven National Laboratory's National
Synchrotron Light Source

1:20 - 1:40 Epidemiologic Survey Instrument on Exposures in Iraq and Afghanistan,
Joseph Abraham, Sc.D., Ph.D., (U.S. Army Public Health Command,
Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD)

1:40 - 2:10 Overview of the Issue Raised during Roundtable on Pulmonary Issues
and Deployment, Coleen Baird, M.D., M.P.H., (Program Manager
Environmental Medicine, U.S. Army Public Health Command)

2:10 - 2: 40 Reactive Oxygen Species from Iraqi Dust, Martin Schoonen, Ph.D.
(Director Sustainability Studies and Professor of Geochemistry, Stony
Brook University)

2:40 - 2:50 BREAK

2:50 - 3:15 Dust Wind Tunnel Studies, Terrence Sobecki, Ph.D. (Chief Environmental
Studies Branch, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Cold Regions Research
and Engineering Laboratory, Manchester, NH)

3:15 - 3:45 Toxicologically Relevant Characteristics of Desert Dust and Other
Atmospheric Particulate Matter, Geoffrey S. Plumlee, Ph.D. (Research
Geochemist, U.S. Geological Survey, Denver, CO)

3:44 - 4:15 In-situ Mineralogy of the Lung and Lymph Nodes, Gregory Meeker, M.S.
(Research Geochemist, U.S. Geological Survey, Denver, CO)

Continuing Medical Education Credits

The school of Medicine, State University of New York at Stony Brook, is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education to provide continuing medical education for physicians.
The School of Medicine, State University of New York at Stony Brooke designates this live activity for a maximum of 6 AMA PRA Category 1 Credit(s)TM. Physicians should only claim the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity.

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