Using robotic technology to treat tetraplegic veterans (DoDLive.mil)
Randy Simmons spent more than 10 years as a robotic engineer in the motion picture industry, working on films such as blockbusters Jurassic Park and Mimic. He now focuses mainly on devices and robotics for the rehabilitation in the medical industry as the chief scientist and designer of the Hand Glove. The Functional Electrical Stimulation Hand Glove 200 is a prototypic device that incorporates both active functional electrical stimulation and passive robotic bio-mechanic movement. This combination is the first of its kind in hand and upper extremity rehabilitation. The Hand Glove actually allows the user to complete a full length therapy session in spite of early muscle exhaustion. This may provide more rapid gain in strength and functional muscle mass. Physicians, occupational therapists and nurses at the James A. Haley VA Medical Center are conducting trials on the FES Hand Glove 200 with Veterans with spinal cord injury C4-6 and documented impairments of the upper extremity. Upon successful screening, Veterans between the ages of 18 and 85 underwent an initial assessment with a fitting of the glove. The treatment protocol included a one-hour therapy session consisting of 30 minutes of passive range of motion followed by 30 minutes of functional electrical stimulation for a total of 24 sessions over six weeks. Trial data suggests the device improved hand function, particularly fine motor skills, dexterity and speed, decreased swelling, improved range of motion and hand strength. This resulted in improved quality of life for patients with tetraplegia. VA is now conducting a second trial on the use of the FES Hand Glove 200 in order to address the benefit of the robotic unit on spinal cord injury and polytrauma patients. This second trial will focus on the benefits on the device. So far, 17 Veterans have completed that trial.
Want to fly? Tips for using the GI Bill to train (Military Times)
She’s a psychological operations specialist who wants to fly helicopters. He’s an F-16 weapons specialist who wants to fly F-16s. Together, Army Reserve Sgt. Erin Helgren and Colorado Air National Guard Senior Airman Jordan Richey demonstrate one of their school’s light twin-engine simulators on a mock flight from Centennial Airport in a southeastern Denver suburb to Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport in the northwest. The professional flight officer students in Metropolitan State University of Denver’s Department of Aviation and Aerospace Science get to know their city’s virtual airspace. They work in teams to replicate a professional environment, says retired Air Force Reserve Lt. Col. Kevin Kuhlmann, a longtime professor in the department and former F-111 pilot. The simulator is just one in a large lab housed in a sometimes-shared building on Denver’s downtown Auraria higher education campus. The commuter school has close ties to industry in a worldwide hub for space and flight. Elevated to university status and renamed in 2012, it’s putting its stamp on downtown with a new 142,000-square-foot Aerospace and Engineering Sciences building, more than half of which will be dedicated to specialized labs. Many of the department’s graduates go on to work in commercial aviation, but both enlisted reservists say they want to move up in the military. Veterans of overseas deployments, they’re sensitive to age restrictions for new military flight officers and hope the bachelor’s in aviation and aerospace science, with a professional flight officer concentration, will help them get selected.
McDonald looks to new committee for fresh ideas on fixing VA care (Stars & Stripes)
From Congress to veterans service organizations, the VA is getting no shortage of advice on how to improve on its dreary record. On Tuesday, a new government advisory committee of businessmen, academics, health care experts and retired military leaders met for the first time to craft suggestions on how to revamp the scandal-plagued agency. In a public meeting with committee members, VA Secretary Bob McDonald said he hopes getting fresh perspectives will help the department better care for veterans. “As a typical government bureaucracy, sometimes we lose sight of our customer,” he said. McDonald announced the creation of the committee in March when he and President Barack Obama visited the Phoenix VA hospital at the center of a nationwide scandal involving secret wait lists. Former VA Secretary Eric Shinseki resigned due to the scandal. The committee is supposed to help McDonald craft MyVA, the largest reorganization in the history of the department, which is the second largest in the federal government.
Blind Army vet is full-time adventurer thanks to the VA (Fox News)
Charles Miller is a 58-year-old legally blind Army veteran who refuses to let his lack of eyesight stop him from anything. “If anyone said, ‘you can’t do that’…I would tell them to give me a chance to try it and I’ll do it,” Miller said. The vet, who lives in Gainesville, Fla., has hiked for weeks along the Appalachian Trail, ran a marathon in California, rode a tandem bicycle across the State of Iowa twice, and is currently training for a four-day, 500-mile bike ride from Charlotte, N.C. to Washington D.C. in May. “For me it’s all about pushing myself to do things now that I didn’t think I could do a few years ago,” Miller said. He was an Army Infantry Captain when his eyesight began to deteriorate from a rare genetic disease called Retinitis Pigmentosa. Miller hid his vision loss from his friends and family as he realized he was loosing his independence. “When I was still in the military it was difficult for them to adjust to it. At the time, they didn’t really look at my disability as a factor.They looked at me as a solider,” Miller remembered. “I don’t fault them at all for that because we had a mission to do and I wanted to do my job.” He served on Army bases in four different states over his 27-year career. As his vision continued to fade, he began to realize he was not capable of performing the duty he had signed up for. Miller was honorably discharged from the Army in 2009. After that, his Veterans Affairs coordinator in Gainesville encouraged him to attend a blind rehab facility at Birmingham VA Medical Center. He said that’s where he realized he had two choices: sit around and wait for his life to be over—or learn how to really live and move forward. “I learned that even though you have a challenge in your life, doesn’t mean you have to stop being human,” he said.
First 555-HP COPO Camaro to be sold to benefit veterans (Yahoo)
In a nod to heritage as much as business, Detroit still churns out a handful of readymade drag-strip race cars every year. This year, the first such 2015 Chevy Camaro will serve not just to cover a quarter mile in eight seconds and change, but help wounded veterans as well. Chevy said today it would auction the first 2015 COPO Camaro at this weekend’s Barrett-Jackson sale to benefit Achilles Freedom Team of Wounded Veterans, which helps ailing and disabled vets with physical recovery, with a goal of eventually competing in a marathon. The 555-hp COPO Camaro, one of only 69 General Motors will build before the arrival of the 2016 Camaro, combines a 5.7-liter supercharged V-8 with NHRA-quality hardware, from a three-speed racing transmission to a roll cage and solid rear axle, all designed to win in the NHRA’s Stock Eliminator class. The COPO will cross the Barrett-Jackson block April 18 at 5 p.m. ET.
Shelter dogs give support to vets through collaborative program (American Kennel Club)
Buster’s owners did not want him because he kept running away. Rather than provide secure fencing or a kennel, they dumped him at the shelter. Today, the 3-year-old Labrador mix still specializes in escaping without jumping over a single gait or slipping through any open doors. Buster helps a war veteran escape from his bad memories through a program called Paws of Freedom. The effort to help veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a pilot project of the Veterans Administration of Daytona Beach, Fla. While there are similar programs around the country, Paws of Freedom is unique for its collaboration with another community program that also helps people through interaction with dogs. The Paws of Freedom candidates are first trained by inmates in the Prison N Pups program, which is coordinated by the West Volusia Kennel Club and Halifax Humane Society. The inmates train shelter dogs to make them more adoptable. Paws of Freedom creator Jennifer Muni-Sathoff looked at other dog training programs, but decided Prison Pups N Pals was the perfect match. “The dogs trained by Prison Pups N Pals are given a second chance, which is something a lot of people can relate to, including veterans,” she said. “These dogs sometimes have a traumatic history. For the veterans receiving the dogs, there may be common ground.”
Veterans try acupuncture as alternative to narcotics (WUWM-Public Radio)
During emotional hearings about the alleged overprescription of narcotics at the Tomah VA hospital, many who testified noted there are safer ways to treat pain. One treatment mentioned was acupuncture. Larry Burt sought out the needle therapy at a clinic in Waukesha that’s helping veterans reduce their use of narcotics. Burt, 68, is one of many vets struggling with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He’s also been hooked on alcohol, cigarettes and chewing tobacco. To fight his addictions, the Vietnam-era veteran took pills and underwent hypnosis, but they didn’t work. “So I’m hoping this acupuncture will eliminate my cravings,” Burt says. While some are skeptical that acupuncture works, a study the Journal of the American Medical Association published in 2012 found the practice effective at easing chronic pain. The military uses it to treat wounded soldiers on the battlefield, and the VA now covers acupuncture for veterans back home. Christine Jablonski, the nurse and certified acupuncturist who started the Waukesha clinic, says she’s seen the practice relieve patients’ pain, addiction or anxiety to the point where some no longer need prescription drugs. “If somebody has arthritis in their knees, it’s not going to cure them, but can it make the difference in how much medication they need? I’ve had patients, real elderly patients tell me, I’m only 30 percent better maybe, but it’s a difference between a cane and not a cane. That’s good. So sometimes it helps kind of around the edges,” Jablonski says.