August 24 Veterans News

August 24 Veterans News

Veterans news updateStudy: Women soldiers at no greater risk for PTSD (
A new study has found that women in the military are at no greater risk than men for developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) given similar experiences, including combat. Conducted by Defense and Veterans Affairs researchers, the study involved active-duty troops and veterans who are part of the Millennium Cohort Study, which has more than 200,000 participants. The new PTSD study included more than 2,300 pairs of men and women who were matched based on an array of variables — including exposure to combat — and followed for about seven years. “This is the first study to prospectively investigate the development of PTSD in male and female service members who were matched on multiple important characteristics that could explain some of the differences in PTSD, including military sexual trauma,” said Dr. Shira Maguen, a staff psychologist at the San Francisco VA Medical Center and an associate professor at the UCSF Medical School. “We found no gender differences in the development of PTSD. Consequently, our focus should be on the types of traumatic experiences that people have been exposed to, rather than any inherent gender differences in the development of PTSD.” All of the soldiers in the study were free of PTSD at the outset of the research, according to the researchers. All were deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan at least once. They completed a baseline survey in 2001-2003, and follow-up surveys in 2004-2006 and 2007-2008.

Computer glitch, changes blamed for delay of VA appointment notices (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)
A computer glitch and a change in mail vendors delayed notices about medical appointments to 14,000 veterans at the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System, officials said. The delays, which occurred in June, sparked an ongoing internal investigation of mailroom practices, according to VA spokeswoman Bethany Miga. Appointment notices were sent to veterans a week in advance, instead of two weeks or more, but no veterans’ appointments had to be canceled or rescheduled, she said. A computer crash caused delays of as long as three weeks. Shorter delays stemmed from switching contractors for mailing services, Miga said. Because of the contract switch, about 10,000 notices had to be mailed from VA facilities in Butler, she said. “This issue was not due to a lack of funding, but was an alternate way to send mail and continue to communicate with veterans about their VA care while we brought our new system online,” Miga wrote in an email. Michael Stelacio, department commander of the Pennsylvania American Legion, called the glitch inexcusable. “It’s a terrible shame,” he said. “No other organization or business could flourish with the ineptness that the VA displays time and time again. It’s beyond words.” Michael Aaron Glass, executive director of Veterans Leadership Program of Western Pennsylvania in Pittsburgh, said Friday that he had not heard about the delays but considers them “highly unacceptable.” “In many cases, we have veterans who have some serious mental or physical issues, and any delay in care could be highly detrimental to them,” Glass said. “There really is little room for error for them to receive their due medical services.”

Vet patients sent to doctor that prosecutors were trying to send to prison (Tampa Bay Times)
A Department of Veterans Affairs contractor sent dozens of veterans to consult with a Tampa doctor about disability claims this year, even as the Justice Department was trying to take away the doctor’s license and send him to prison. After inquiries by the Tampa Bay Times, the VA plans to take a fresh look at the claims of 57 veterans seen by Dr. Chuma Osuji “to ensure the veterans were accurately evaluated,” said Karen Collins, public affairs officer at James A. Haley Hospital and Clinics. The contractor, Veterans Evaluation Services, said a federal data bank that is the gold standard for doctor background checks makes no mention of criminal charges against Osuji. It doesn’t include pending cases. The 52-year-old doctor, indicted last year, admits in court papers that he prescribed controlled pain medications while he was barred from doing so by the Drug Enforcement Administration. He was found guilty in July and is scheduled to be sentenced in October. The crime is punishable by up to 20 years in prison. On June 26, he signed a plea agreement that calls for forfeiture of his medical license. If the stakes that day were high for Osuji, they were also high for Mike Evans, 62, a retired Army sergeant and prostate cancer survivor who visited Osuji’s Gandy Boulevard clinic on June 26. The doctor’s subsequent report led the VA to propose cutting the veteran’s monthly compensation from $3,172 to $579, covering diabetes and tinnitus but not cancer. Evans, of Plant City, had been referred by Veterans Evaluation Services, a Houston-based company hired by the VA to help break up a backlog of disability compensation claims. He was presumed by the VA to have been exposed to the carcinogenic herbicide Agent Orange, like anyone else who served in Vietnam. It has been linked to aggressive prostate cancer and diabetes. Two years after private treatment, he was due for a VA re-check. He said Osuji took his blood pressure, asked his weight and quizzed him briefly about family medical history before sending him on his way. “He didn’t even take blood work,” Evans said.

Foundation hands home over to injured veteran (San Diego Union-Tribune)
U.S. Marine Corps. Sgt. Jason Ross was all smiles Friday at a ceremony where the Gary Sinise Foundation handed him the keys to a new home in Fallbrook, Calif., that a wheelchair-bound double amputee could want. “I’m so happy,” said the 32-year-old veteran. “I don’t count my blessings, I just chalk it up as stubbornness,” said Ross, who was given a less than 2 percent chance of survival after he stepped on an improvised explosive device March 7, 2011, in Afghanistan. Ross lost both legs — including most of his lower torso and thigh bones — in the blast, which occurred when his team was clearing a path for the U.S. troops in Sangin, a town of 30,000 inhabitants in the Helmand Province. Ross spent three years recuperating from his injuries at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., and later at the Naval Medical Center in San Diego. This past year, Ross and his daughters Stacy, 6, and Jackie, 5, have been living with his parents, George and Linda, in military housing in Point Loma. They will all share the new Fallbrook home. “We are staying here,” he said of the 4,000-square foot, four-bedroom, three-bathroom home. “There is no more moving around. There is no way to describe it. Wow!” The “smart home” was donated by the Sinise foundation and other philanthropic groups who raised $800,000 to buy the land and materials to build the adapted “smart home.”

Networks are the secret to post-military job search (Task & Purpose)
Commentary: “Spend more time connecting with people, and talking to them about your interests, skills, and experience. I was always confused about the hiring process. How do people end up working for one great company over lesser options? Is it hard work? Interview skills? An awesome resume? It turns out that none of these things are as important as who you know. Like me, you probably have no idea how most people are hired. That may not matter at this moment, but this ignorance is going to hurt you the next time you’re looking for a job. Especially if that happens to be when you leave the military. Don’t wait until it’s too late to get smart about finding the right approach to the job search. I have been interviewing a lot of recruiters over the last six months, 15-30 minute-long conversations over the phone, and sometimes in person. It is almost a hobby now, although it started with my desire to want to understand why veterans seem to be so awkward about finding jobs, despite the good news that we’re almost at the same level of employment as our civilian peers, even among the Iraq and Afghanistan generation. Interviewing recruiters is the only way to hear how to get hired directly from the folks who actually do the hiring. The people I interviewed (and continue to interview) work in large companies and small companies, product companies and service companies, old school companies and high-tech companies, and in cities all across the United States. The main takeaway? Your resume is not that big of a deal. You should spend more time connecting with people, and talking to them about your interests, skills, and experience”

Ex-military men gear up for wildfires (Idaho State Journal)
Launched in 2010 when a 7.0 magnitude earthquake rocked Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Team Rubicon has since responded to 100 disaster scenes ranging from earthquakes to flooding. On Saturday, members of the elite veterans’ team were deployed to wildfire centers in eastern and southeastern Idaho. Jesse Bender with the Idaho Falls District Bureau of Land Management said the crew will replace wildland firefighters who are headed back to college. The replacement firefighters are Andrew Book, of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Alex Becher, of Philadelphia, and Louis Yu, of Long Island, New York. Book, a U.S. Marine, said for the first time the team partnered with the BLM to provide relief on wildfires burning in the West. All the team members received 34 hours of intensive training, and to qualify for the mission were required to run three miles in 45 minutes or less while carrying their packs. Team Rubicon was started by Marines Jake Wood and William McNulty, who wanted to help out following the earthquake in Haiti. Together with six other veterans and first responders, they gathered funds and medical supplies from friends and family, and flew into the Dominican Republic. They rented a truck, loaded their gear, and headed west to Haiti. Book, who just earned a degree in accounting, said the team is no longer composed exclusively of veterans, but today there are more than 20,000 members. And this year 200 of them were trained to fight wildfires. “Team Rubicon is a way for veterans to give back, to continue to serve the country,” Book said.

University repays VA nearly $150,000 for benefits overpayment (Elizabeth City Daily Advance)
Elizabeth City State University in North Carolina has repaid the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs nearly $150,000 for overpayment of veterans’ benefits and made a number of procedural changes after a VA audit found more than 100 instances where ECSU had miscalculated or incorrectly reported those benefits. The audit caused a suspension of ECSU’s ability to certify students for veterans education benefits that help pay for college costs. University spokeswoman Linita Shannon says the school is working with the VA to determine how much more money may be owed. She says the goal is hold all the veterans harmless.