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Two chances to hear "The President's Own" perform at the Cathedral this week! Come to the Cathedral this Friday, November 7, at 7 pm for a Veterans Day tribute concert, (www.nationalcathedral.org/tribute) and on Sunday, November 9, at 4 pm, for the annual Marine Corps anniversary service, with 3:30 pm prelude… Read More
"Letters from War" Veterans Day Tribute - November 7, 7 pm Marine Chamber Orchestra musicians appear at the White House an average of 200 times each year, performing for State Dinners, ceremonies, receptions, and other events of national significance. Still waiting for that overdue White House invitation? Don't miss your chance… Read More
Kathy Marschman - Our New President Read More
VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011 – GI Bill for Unemployed Veterans Age 35-60 If you are an unemployed military veteran, you may be eligible for a new GI Bill / career training program: the VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011 was created to help veterans gain marketable skills to… Read More
VA Accidentally Releases Vets' Personal Info January 21, 2012 Stars and Stripes|by Leo Shane III WASHINGTON -- More than 2,200 veterans had their personal information accidentally posted on the genealogy website Ancestry.com last year, a move that could potentially expose them to identify theft crimes. Officials from the Department of Veterans… Read More
Veteran’s Disability Benefits Under Attack Again! by Jere Beery Courtesy of Veterans Today New garnishment policy enacted by the US Department of Treasury. Below is the explanation of the new policy enacted by the US Department of the Treasury. This legislation misses the mark on current federal garnishment protection under… Read More
Please download and hand out our newsletters! February 2011 July 2011 November 2011 Don't have a Facebook account? Join now by clicking http://www.facebook.com Already have a Facebook account? Join VMW's Facebook page now by clicking HERE Share Read More
Veterans Day Honors Service, Sacrifice By Jim Garamone American Forces Press Service WASHINGTON, Nov. 9, 2011 – Until the 1960s, veterans groups used the red poppy as the symbol of Veterans Day. In Great Britain, it still is. The symbol comes from a poem, “In Flanders Fields,” written by Canadian doctor… Read More
August 31, 2011 Courtesy of VA.gov Over $2.2 Billion in Retroactive Agent Orange Benefits Paid to 89,000 Vietnam Veterans and Survivors for Presumptive Conditions WASHINGTON – Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki announced today that more than $2.2 billion in retroactive benefits has already been paid to approximately 89,000 Vietnam… Read More
Disability Payments to Former Spouse? Sgt. Shaft | August 09, 2011 Courtesy of Military.com Dear Sgt Shaft: I am in the middle of a divorce after 18 years of marriage. I receive service-connected disability from the VA from when I was in the Army. My wife and I were not married… Read More
By Kelly Kennedy - Staff writer
As the 20-year anniversary of Desert Storm looms, one out of four veterans who served there are sick, even as veterans advocates and the Veterans Affairs Department still bicker.
It comes down to this: Veterans believe they have evidence showing that chemical exposure caused their ailments and that VA refuses to acknowledge those studies.
Veterans say VA instead continues to focus on studies that address Gulf War veterans’ mental health issues, pursuing the idea that the illnesses are all in their heads.
“To date, VA has historically opted not to recognize our condition,” said Donald Overton Jr., executive director of Veterans of Modern Warfare. “They are emphasizing stress versus science.”
But VA officials say they are striving to be transparent, that their newest research is based on more than 400 studies, and that the “mindfulness” and “mood and memory” research they have proposed is not about mental health, but about trying to relieve the pain issues so many Gulf War veterans face.
The disagreements came to a head at a House Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing July 27.
Everyone at the hearing acknowledged that VA, as well as military officials, handled Gulf War veterans badly in the beginning by inferring that they were making up their illnesses or that their rashes and neurological issues were caused by post-traumatic stress disorder.
“Consider for a moment that all of the fine men and women were considered in excellent health and ‘deployable’ when they went to war,” said Charles Cragin, chairman of VA’s Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans. “In many instances, shortly after their return home, these veterans began complaining of feeling ill and seeking help. Many of them were turned away as ‘malingerers’ or having a ‘psychosomatic illness.’ ”
In August 2009, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki asked his chief of staff John Gingrich to review how VA handles Gulf War vets. That led to a report, released in May, that recommended seven areas in need of attention. VA also recently released new training documents for doctors and claims adjudicators that explain environmental factors troops may have been exposed to, as well as how to document and get benefits for those veterans.
Some of the problems stem from misunderstandings, but those are rooted in 20 years of mistrust that is not easily dispelled. Now, any cancellation of a project, any support for stress studies, any bureaucratic delays in funding or research are seen as efforts to avoid providing benefits and care for Gulf War vets.
“VA staff is not listening to our concerns,” said Paul Sullivan, executive director of Veterans for Common Sense and a former VA employee. “The two things we don’t want are more false promises and more stress research. We’ve waited 20 years for answers about why we’re ill.”
New studies on the horizon
VA just announced three new Gulf War illness studies:
• A five-year study on the impact of resistance-exercise training to treat chronic musculoskeletal pain
• A four-year study on therapies to enhance mood and memory, aiming to improve cognitive function and reverse depressive and anxiety-like behaviors with anti-depressants, antioxidants and exercise.
• A two-year pilot on “mindfulness-based stress reduction.”
Gingrich said those studies are aimed at reducing pain. He said his wife has fibromyalgia, and noted that learning how to reduce physiological stress could help her pain.
“We don’t know the cause, so now we’re looking at the symptoms,” he said. “This isn’t the only thing we’re doing.”
He also acknowledged why the advocates might not trust VA’s take on the issue, using an analogy from his own time as a soldier during the Gulf War.
“When trust is broken, the unit is dysfunctional,” he said. “The trust has been broken. We can’t change 20 years of history. But I think Secretary Shinseki has made it very clear it is our job to be advocates for veterans 24-7.”
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