Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Federal Medical Research Programs Now Accepting Researcher Applications

The following programs of the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program (CDMRP), a Congressionally directed activity of the U.S. Department of Defense, are currently accepting applications for medical research funding.    

Many of the CDMRP programs are of critical importance to the health of current and former military service members and their families.  



All pre-applications must be submitted electronically to the CDMRP eReceipt System Full applications must be submitted electronically to the website

Fiscal Year 2012 (FY12) Autism Research Program
•  Fiscal Year 2012 (FY12) Autism Research Program (ARP) is currently accepting applications for two award mechanisms.
  Full details for submission:ARP Funding Opportunities | Synopsis of ARP Award Mechanisms

Fiscal Year 2012 (FY12) Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy Research Program
•  Fiscal Year 2012 (FY12) Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy Research Program (DMDRP) is currently accepting applications for two award mechanisms.  

Fiscal Year 2012 (FY12) Lung Cancer Research Program
•  Fiscal Year 2012 (FY12) Lung Cancer Research Program (LCRP) is currently accepting applications for three award mechanisms.  

Full details for submission:

Fiscal Year 2012 (FY12) Peer Reviewed Cancer Research Program
•  Fiscal Year 2012 (FY12) Peer Reviewed Cancer Research Program (PRCRP) is currently accepting applications for two award mechanisms.

Fiscal Year 2012 (FY12) Peer Reviewed Orthopaedic Research Program
•  Fiscal Year 2012 (FY12) Peer Reviewed Orthopaedic Research Program (PRORP) is currently accepting applications for three award mechanisms.

Fiscal Year 2012 (FY12) Prostate Cancer Research Program
•  Fiscal Year 2012 (FY12) Prostate Cancer Research Program (PCRP) is currently accepting applications for four award mechanisms.

Fiscal Year 2012 (FY12) Psychological Health/Traumatic Brain Injury (PH/TBI) Research Program
•  Fiscal Year 2012 (FY12) Psychological Health/Traumatic Brain Injury (PH/TBI) Research Program is currently accepting applications for the Traumatic Brain Injury Research Award mechanism.

Fiscal Year 2012 (FY12) Spinal Cord Injury Research Program
•  Fiscal Year 2012 (FY12) Spinal Cord Injury Research Program (SCIRP) is currently accepting applications for three award mechanisms.


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

VCS: Ryan Budget Makes Zero Mention of Veterans. Eleven billion in cuts.

The following is from Veterans for Common Sense (VCS)


Ryan Budget Makes Zero Mention of Veterans.  Eleven billion in cuts.

    Recent gains in veteran's health care and benefits are under attack. In the Rep. Paul Ryan  2013  budget, described by Mitt Romney as "marvelous", the word veteran never appears in ninety-eight pages. Zero mention of veterans but eleven billion in cuts from veteran's programs . This says clearly that veterans are NOT a priority. Veterans are essentially being told, thanks for your service,now get lost. This is absolutely unacceptable.
           Romney has also chosen James Nicholson, disgraced Bush SEC VA as his  veteran's advisor. Read more in this article we are quoted in 
          That is not the worst of it, Romney and Ryan also want to turn veteran's health care into a voucher system, along with Social Security. Costing veterans more money out of pocket. At VCS  we pledge to stand up to these proposals and continue working with veteran's champions on Captiol Hill, to  protect and improve upon our hard won veteran's rights and benefits. Only 1% have borne the burden of a decade of conflicts and we only ask for a square deal after wards. Please  donate today. Thank you for your support. 

          You can learn what sort of things your donation  supports by reading about some of our recent accomplishments We need your help to continue  our important work, please make your tax deducitable donation today by visiting this link.
Thank you. Scouts Out!


Patrick Bellon, MPA
Iraq Veteran
Executive Directo

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Newsmax + Commentary: VA Accused of Spinning Gulf War Veterans' Health

Today's Newsmax The Wire features a story appropriately criticizing VA for delivering "spin" rather than fixing serious issues related to Gulf War Illness.  The story features a series of quotes from (and one paragraph mistakenly attributed to) me, as well as from fellow Gulf War veteran and RAC member Marguerite Knox.  

The gist of the story is the inappropriateness of VA's "spin" response rather than addressing the many serious issues raised by the RAC in the RAC's serious, thoughtful, carefully documented June 19, 2012 report.  Credit for the report goes to RAC Chair Jim Binns and all involved for the myriad efforts involved in creating this important work that highlights real issues affecting real Gulf War veterans with a real illness and that require real solutions -- not spin.

Just to be clear, those who know me know I've worked hard over many years to try to be credible, factual, non-inflammatory, reasonable, yet unrelenting in a push for GWI treatments and fixing other serious issues affecting us Gulf War (and other) veterans. 

And those who know me or have been following things would know along with others I've also worked hard with all these recent issues for us Gulf War veterans to highlight that these problems are mainly problems with entrenched bureaucrats unchecked by VA's and DoD's leaders -- the main problem we've had all along (though to me it was much larger years ago and through the work of a lot of people who have added their voices and efforts has steadily been whittled down). To me, these most recent issues, starting with the IOM "treatments" committee issues, are these old bureaucratic forces again rearing their ugly heads and trying to turn back the clock to a time when GWI was not recognized as real, and to a time when trying to develop treatments was somehow a problem rather than the solution we should all be seeking. 

The paragraph in the article with quotes attributed to me, blasting President Obama, may seem surprising to those of you who know me. Quite candidly, it was also surprising to me, as it is unrecognizable from anything I said or would say (and contrary to my own politics) in trying to keep the focus tightly on the problematic entrenched bureaucrats who survive Administration after Administration to do wrong by Gulf War veterans (as well as veterans affected by Agent Orange, burn pits, and a host of other chemical, toxic, and hazardous military exposures). 

Just to be clear, that first paragraph attributed to me is nothing I said or implied and I have asked for this mistake to be fixed.  (The paragraph is the first one in the original article, with quotes attributed to me making sharply partisan jabs at the President I support.) This is about Obama himself only to the same extent it is also about the leadership of Bush 1, Clinton, and Bush 2 -- the real issue is entrenched, unaccountable bureaucrats and the continue failure to develop effective treatment to help improve the health and lives of the quarter million Gulf War veterans suffering from Gulf War Illness, along with other U.S. forces – and failures to get and keep these bureaucratic forces in check.  Call this mistake one of the hazards of dealing with news media when it's become so partisanized for one side or the other... Knowing I'm open about being an Obama supporter (obviously for reasons other than GWI issues, which this Administration has not yet fixed any more than did Bush 1, Clinton, or Bush 2), someone at Newsmax must have had fun making that paragraph of sharply anti-Obama comments falsely attributed to me. Call it taking one for the team.

We Gulf War veterans are all in this together for the long haul (an endurance race, as a fellow ill Gulf War veteran so aptly called it in a private group discussion), as Gulf War veterans fighting for justice (along with a lot of other veterans exposed to chemicals and other military health hazards), and in the fight against the real problem -- unaccountable, unchecked, entrenched bureaucrats who survive well-intentioned Administration after Administration to deny treatments and justice to Gulf War and other veterans suffering the lifelong health consequences of hazardous military exposures that are commonplace but far beyond the comfort, safety, and relative anonymity of civil service and contractor cubicles and offices.

And government leaders at every level should know that when confronted with real and serious issues, as highlighted in the consensus January draft Gulf War Illness Research Strategic Plan and June 19th RAC report, the sole proper response is to work at fixing them. Spin is never an acceptable response and betrays the trust of the American public and the veterans who fought to uphold our Constitution and way of life -- one rooted in shared sacrifice and honest efforts in shared responsibility to improve our shared land we love.



Below is a lightly edited version of the Newsmax article, minus the mistaken quotes and other "added" pieces:

NEWSMAX The Wire, Aug. 15, 2012 -- Members of a federal committee created by Congress say the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) ...  isn’t telling the truth about its treatment of America’s veterans, and the department’s latest public statements are more spin than substance.   
The VA recently issued a lengthy press release touting its alleged accomplishments regarding Gulf War Illness. 
But several members of the Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans (RAC) — created by Congress in 1998 to advise the VA on Gulf War health issues — say the press release is filled with misleading and inaccurate statements. Some members of RAC, which is comprised of physicians, scientists, and veterans, tell Newsmax they are outraged by the press release — and .... neglect of men and women who served in the 1990-1991 war against Iraq.  
Anthony Hardie, a Gulf War Army Special Ops veteran and RAC member since 2005, tells Newsmax... the VA "totally ignored" a RAC report released in late June that gave the department a unanimous vote of "no confidence" for its “failure to develop treatments for the estimated 250,000 veterans suffering from Gulf War Illness.”  
In a landmark 2010 report, Gulf War Illness was ruled a legitimate disease — not a psychological ailment— by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), a nonprofit organization that provides nonpartisan advice to decision-makers and the public.  
But the VA now seems determined to reverse that historic decision and downplay the problem, committee members say.   
Marguerite Knox, a Gulf War veteran, former member of President Clinton's Presidential Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses, and member of RAC, was “disgusted” by the VA’s latest statements. “Despite the expertise of the RAC and the scientific validation of the existence of Gulf War Illness, VA bureaucrats are once again working to sabotage the truth," she said.  
Among VA claims disputed by RAC members is the assertion that its research initiatives include funding of an independent IOM review of medical research related to treatment of chronic multi-symptom illness among Gulf War Veterans that is expected to conclude in 2013. But according to Hardie: “The IOM treatments panel has thus far focused on psychological and psychosomatic issues that have long since been debunked. The panel has failed to meet the terms of its statutory mandate requiring consultation with medical practitioners experienced in treating ill Gulf War veterans.”  
According to Hardie: “The IOM treatments panel has thus far focused on psychological and psychosomatic issues that have long since been debunked. The panel has failed to meet the terms of its statutory mandate requiring consultation with medical practitioners experienced in treating ill Gulf War veterans.”   
VA also said that it is improving care and services for Gulf War veterans through initiatives outlined in its 2011 Gulf War Veterans Illness (GWVI) Task Force Report.  
But Hardie said, “We can only guess at how this clinical care model might be going, because the task force operates in total secrecy. “Meetings are not open to veterans or the public, the minutes of its monthly meetings are not made public, it has no website, and it has publicized only two reports in its multi-year existence,” he said. “This secrecy is a far cry from the openness and transparency promised by Obama and expected by affected veterans.”   
The VA also said it has led efforts to better understand and characterize Gulf War Veterans’ illnesses and to improve treatment.  But according to Hardie: “VA still has no proven effective treatments for Gulf War Illness."  
 “VA still has no proven effective treatments for Gulf War Illness."   
But rather than address this — and all the other serious issues raised last month by the RAC’s expert panel — VA instead has put out a press release that spins unaddressed failures into major achievements. “They don’t even mention that its Gulf War Veterans Illness research budget was actually slashed this year by two-thirds from $15 million to under $5 million,” Hardie said.  
When asked to comment on the criticisms, VA spokesman Mark Ballesteros told Newsmax: "VA remains committed to the health and well-being of the veterans of the Gulf War. Actions that VA has taken, and will continue to take in the future, demonstrate that we have not forgotten their service and dedication. “We will continue to provide healthcare and benefits and to invest in research to understand and treat Gulf War Veterans illnesses,” he said. 

Friday, August 17, 2012

Illinois Neuroscience Project Takes Aim at GWI Treatment

The following news story is about a treatment development project funded by the Gulf War Illness (GWI) Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program (CDMRP).  The project was approved using Fiscal Year 2008 funds.

The full public abstract, courtesy of the CDMRP website, is posted below the news article.



Posted Aug 16, 2012 @ 09:49 PM
Last update Aug 17, 2012 @ 12:23 AM

PEORIA, Ill. -- A local researcher is beginning studies that could possibly lead to new treatments for veterans suffering from Gulf War syndrome.

While any new medication is years off, Dr. Stephen Lasley, professor of pharmacology at the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria, hopes his work could lead to the reversal of the disorder or at least provide some relief to the thousands of veterans of the 1991 Gulf War who have experienced symptoms.
He also hopes to find a way to prevent the same thing from happening to a new group of veterans.
"We want to make sure that we don't do this again," he said.
Lasley is working with a researcher in West Virginia to try to re-create what it was like for veterans 20 years ago as part of a Pentagon effort to better understand Gulf War Illness, which wasn't officially recognized as a disease or syndrome until years after soldiers came home.
Lasley plans to inject mice with the anti-nerve gas drug pyridostigmine bromide as well as pesticides used in the Gulf, and then expose the rodents to a compound that is similar to but less lethal than the nerve gas sarin.
The basic theory is that several factors, such as battlefield stress, pesticides and anti-nerve gas drugs combined to cause neurological reaction in veterans who were there. The exact combination isn't known and likely wouldn't be, given the length of time and the large number of people exposed as well as the different situations the troops were in.
Lasley believes the stress component is critical to the equation.
"It's an important component, and I don't think most people give much thought to the kind of stress that they are undergoing while they are there," he said. "Most of the other people working in this area have not hit upon the importance of the stress factor at this junction."
One thing is clear: Veterans who were in the Gulf suffer from chronic fatigue, loss of muscle control, diarrhea, migraines, dizziness, memory problems and loss of balance far more than those who weren't in the Middle East.
Lasley calls it a "sickness behavior" in that there isn't a single microbe or pathogen causing the illness, yet people still feel bad.
"It's like when you have a head cold and you take over-the-counter medicine. Your symptoms might get better, but you still feel bad," he said.
This is the second Defense Department grant Lasley has received. Earlier, he studied the effects of depleted uranium, a heavy metal used in ammunition and tank armor, on brain functions.
While he found that it is "nasty stuff" and does have some effect on cognitive functioning, he was unable to create a definitive link between Gulf War illness and depleted uranium. Instead, it appears that it, along with the other environmental factors, played some role.
Andy Kravetz can be reached at 686-3283 or Read more at his military blog, inFormation, on and follow him on Twitter @andykravetz.



Neuroinflammatory Pathobiology in Gulf War Illness: Characterization with an Animal Model 

Principal Investigator: LASLEY, STEPHEN M 
Institution Receiving Award: ILLINOIS, UNIVERSITY OF, CHICAGO 
Program: GWIRP 
Proposal Number: GW080150 
Funding Mechanism: Investigator-Initiated Research Award 
Partnering Awards: 
Award Amount: $718,326.00
Many veterans still suffer from Gulf War Illness (GWI) even though it has been many years since they were in the war theater. Our goal is to find out what happened to the troops in the 1991 Gulf War that caused GWI; once we understand the causes, it will help us to find treatments that will work in treating veterans suffering from GWI. We all know how miserable we are when we have a cold or the flu -- we don't want to eat or socialize, we have trouble thinking, our muscles ache, our stomachs might be upset, and we have no energy. Unpleasant as these feeling are, these "sickness" behaviors have a real purpose; they help our body to recover from infection. Our body knows when it is attacked by bacteria and other foreign invaders and responds in a very programmed way; our body detects the invader and releases substances that communicate with the brain and result in behaviors that conserve energy. These inflammatory substances also are released when we get a cut or other type of injury and are an important part of the healing process. 

As helpful as these chemicals are, they become a problem if the level of them is too high or they stay around too long. You might ask why we are talking about "sickness" behavior when our project concerns GWI. We noticed when veterans with GWI list their symptoms many of them sound like "sickness" behavior. We have an idea (hypothesis) that some of the chemicals that our troops used in the first Gulf War to control insects and keep these pests away from their bodies and the places they lived, as well as the pills they took to guard against possible nerve gas exposure, may be responsible. There is another characteristic of war that may play a role in GWI. Being in a war zone also can be very stressful and the body responds by releasing hormones like cortisol. Short duration exposures to cortisol are not harmful but can be bad if the levels stay high for a long time as they might in a war zone, especially one where troops needed to be extra vigilant about nerve gas attacks. It is possible these chemicals, either alone or along with the stress of the war theater, resulted in "sickness" behavior. Furthermore, we think the brain may have been changed so much by these exposures that a low level of "sickness" behavior continues to this day, and/or the brain "overreacts" to bacterial or other insults so the magnitude or duration of the symptoms of "sickness" behavior are much greater.

Because it is unethical to test our idea by exposing another group of people to chemicals like DEET or the pyridostigmine-containing anti-nerve gas pills, we will test it by exposing mice to these same chemicals. Mice are very useful for this because they show the biochemical aspects of "sickness" behavior much in the say way as humans, so we are confident our research will provide important information about GWI and its treatment. 

First, we want to know if chemicals the troops were exposed to cause the same brain changes seen with infections. Using mice exposed to a nerve gas-like agent, we already have some data showing that this is the case. By treating mice with a "stress" hormone, we also know that this can make the effects of a nerve agent on the brain worse.

 Because we can collect brain tissue from the treated mice, we can also say with certainty where in the brain these inflammatory substances do their work. Also, mice have a much shorter lifespan than humans so we can test them for what would be equal to many years in a human's life. In this way we will be able to tell if the brain is changed or supersensitive for a long period after exposure to the Gulf War chemicals. Finally, in previous experiments on other drugs and chemicals toxic to the brain, we have tested the antinflammatory effects of a drug already approved for use in humans. We found that this drug, minocycline, markedly suppresses brain inflammation. 

We will therefore use this same drug to attempt to suppress brain inflammation caused by exposure to chemicals and the stressful environment of the 1991 Gulf War. Because this drug already is approved for use by the Food and Drug Administration, we hope it can be used very soon for treating GWI if our results in mice show that it works.

UK Loses Leading Advocate for Gulf War Veterans Lord Morris of Manchester

This week, the United Kingdom lost one of its most longstanding, leading advocates for veterans of the 1991 Gulf War afflicted by Gulf War Illness, Lord Alf Morris of Manchester.

Along with RAC Chair Jim Binns, then-Scientific Director of the RAC Dr. Lea Steele, and a small handful of others, I had the pleasure of getting to know Lord Morris and his lovely wife Irene over an intimate dinner in Washington, DC a few years ago.

I was taken by his account of his father's exposure to mustard gas during World War I, (an issue with which I have some personal familiarity), and his subsequent lifelong illness until his death at a relatively young age.  

And I was captivated by his efforts in helping to try to get the UK's Ministry of Defense (MoD) to recognize GWI as real, and to help the countless thousands of Britons, like their American and other Coalition counterparts, suffering from GWI.    

I was also deeply impressed by the immensity of his humanity, compassion, and tenacity in continuing to hammer away at these issues about which he deeply cared, despite being at least 80 already at the time.  

Someone who knew him better than I called Lord Morris, "a truly great man" -- to which I readily concur -- and continued, "He really can be credited for keeping the Gulf War Syndrome issue alive for UK veterans over the past 15-20 years.  He was very passionate about it, and told us of how his father had been gassed as a soldier in World War I, an injury that eventually killed him but was never recognized as war-related by the MOD.  He sponsored many hearings and meetings on the subject, and dogged MOD with official inquiries, forcing them to at least put a public spin on taking this problem seriously (even if they never really did)."

The UK, and the worldwide community of Gulf War veterans and others suffering from Gulf War Illness has lost a true and caring advocate this week.  May he rest in peace, and may his family and all those who loved him find comfort and peace. 


A more complete obituary is at:


Alf Morris, a lifelong campaigner for the rights of the disabled, has died, aged 84.  
His main legacy was to get legislation onto the statute book in 1970 that enshrined disabled rights in law for the first time.  
Elected Labour MP for Manchester Wythenshawe in 1964, he was appointed Minister for the Disabled when Labour returned to power in 1974, and continued acting as the party’s spokesman on the disable through the 1980s. He was made a life peer after retiring from the Commons in 1997.  
He was also the driving force behind the independent inquiry into ‘Gulf War Syndrome’, an illness afflicting veterans of the 1990 Gulf War. The committee’s report, published in 2004 but not accepted by the government, concluded that 6,000 veterans suffered from illnesses originating from the war, and recommended a special fund to support them. The report also praised Lord Morris for having “done more than anyone to promote the welfare of the Gulf War veterans.”  
As President of the Haemophilia Society, he also battled to better conditions for haemophiliacs.  
Alice Maynard, chairwoman of disability charity Scope, said: “It was with great sadness that I learned of the death of the architect of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970 that changed the lives and opportunities of so many disabled people. Alf's fireside tales of his political manoeuvring to get the Act through are legendary amongst disabled activists.”  
The Labour MP Anne Begg tweeted yesterday: ”When I first got mobility allowance which transformed my life I didn't know that the man I had to thank was Alf Morris.” 
Morris was proud in 2005 to introduce to the Lords the former Labour education secretary, his niece Estelle Morris, as Lady Morris of Yardley.  
He is survived by his wife, Irene, whom he married in 1950, and their two sons and two daughters. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

VA Secretary Looks to 'Correct' GWI and Other Past Failures

A Daytona Beach News-Journal article, below, suggests VA leadership may again have begun listening to Gulf War veterans' concerns.  VA Secretary Eric Shinseki told AMVETS "it was time" to correct the wrongs of Agent Orange and Gulf War Illness.

However, Shinseki's use of the past tense is troubling -- suggesting all he and his agency needed to do for Gulf War veterans is already done, a fait accompli.

However, VA leaders need to understand that the "nine" new disability benefits presumptives VA granted to Gulf War veterans were largely irrelevant to almost every Gulf War veteran.  Very, very few Gulf War veterans suffered from any of the nine exceedingly rare endemic diseases covered under these new presumptives, making them merely a fluffy sound bite without any real impact on the overwhelming body of ill, suffering Gulf War veterans.

The real issue remains a much tougher one -- treatments for Gulf War Illness.  Meanwhile, some VA research bureaucrats seem all to happy to continue to steer VA research towards their latest pet projects, which again have little to no impact on the estimated 250,000 veterans of the 1991 Gulf War suffering from Gulf War Illness.

VA leaders need to understand that the proof for Gulf War veterans is one of outcomes:  VA has no proven effective treatments to offer ill Gulf War veterans who walk through VA's doors in medical centers and clinics across the U.S.  

Spin in press releases only shows Gulf War veterans VA leaders aren't listening, are out of touch, or simply don't care -- all things with which Gulf War veterans are well acquainted in our 21-year history with VA.

It's time for VA leaders to get serious about development of treatments.  Cutting VA's research budget from $15 million to $4.862 million does not help solve that crisis, any more than Paul Ryan's controversial budget plan slashing billions from VA's budget helps veterans overall.  

VA leaders must get serious about solving Gulf War Illness.  It's not hard -- across town, the treatment focused DoD Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program on Gulf War Illness continues to march toward the goal of finding treatments and improving ill Gulf War veterans' health and lives.  And, it does that on a shoestring budget compared to VA's vast resources.

VA leaders need to understand that righting the wrongs for ill Gulf War veterans wasn't fixed by the largely irrelevant "nine presumptives," nor do they show any potential for being fixed by the secretive, groupthink VA Gulf War Task Force.  

Gulf War veterans still have a long ways to go with the present Administration, at least until recommendations by sincere, genuinely expert scientists on the Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses are taken seriously rather than being outright ignored or even ridiculed by the groupthink Gulf War Task Force.  The RAC's recent and unanimous determination of "no confidence" in VA on Gulf War Illness issues was not taken lightly, and is no small thing.  VA's recent glib press release spin is outrageous and has further alienated Gulf War veterans from a VA that until recent months was showing genuine headway in healing old wounds and correcting serious, systemic issues among entrenched bureaucrats.

Shinseki has taken a first step in righting the wrongs at VA that continue to the present -- admitting they exist.  However, he and his top leaders must realize those wrongs continue under their watch, and must be righted as well.  

And the mark of success is very simple (though not easy):  effective treatments for GWI can, and must, be found.  And neither VA's and Ryan's budget cuts nor VA spin bring us any closer to that necessary outcome.  



Retired Army Sergeant Major Horace Johnson ceremonially carries in an American flag Wednesday during the AMVETS National Convention at the Hilton in Daytona Beach. (N-J | Nigel Cook)
If you go
WHAT: 68th annual AMVETS convention
WHERE: Hilton Daytona Beach Oceanfront Resort, 100 N. Atlantic Ave., Daytona Beach
DAYTONA BEACH -- The federal government is spending more money than ever for veterans' medical and educational benefits, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki told an opening-ceremony AMVETS national convention crowd of about 800 Wednesday.
"Lots of folks talk about American exceptionalism. The faces of American exceptionalism to me are of the men and women who serve, and have served, this nation in uniform, in peace and in war," said Shinseki, the keynote speaker who served two combat tours in Vietnam and spent 38 years in the Army.
He said the VA budget has grown from $99.8 billion in 2009 to $140 billion being requested in 2013 to "correct" programs and policies of the past.
"We didn't take care of business as we should have," he said of the department's history, pointing to Vietnam and Gulf War veterans whose presumed combat illnesses from materials such as Agent Orange only recently were deemed legitimate. "It's been 45 and 20 years. It was time. It was the right thing to do."
Shinseki spoke before the AMVETS 68th annual convention, which runs through Saturday at the Hilton Daytona Beach Oceanfront Resort. As many as 2,000 of the group's 180,000 national members are expected to attend the veteran service organization's major annual event.
Other major speakers Wednesday were U.S. Labor Department Secretary Hilda Solis and Florida VA Executive Director Mike Prendergast.
Shinseki told the mostly older group of veterans that numerous changes have occurred with the VA with outreach and accessibility of benefits for old and young veterans alike. He said a major emphasis has been placed on education and training for the troops returning from the Middle East in an attempt to eliminate veteran homelessness by 2015.
"Three years ago an estimated 107,000 veterans were homeless in this rich and powerful country," he said, maintaining it is about 60,000 this year. "The president was very clear. We won't be satisfied until every veteran who has fought for America has a home in America."
He said prevention is the key, and that the Department of Defense now is working directly with his department so the transition can be smoother between active duty and civilian life.
"The VA focus is keeping at-risk veterans from slipping. About 900,000 are in college and trade training," he said. "But they must graduate. Anyone who flunks out in this economy is at a high risk of homelessness." But Shinseki said men and women returning from war in Iraq and Afghanistan are suffering even more profound injuries than in the past, including brain trauma and multiple amputations.
"Repeated deployments of this force have created issues that don't show up until those later deployments," he said. "More of them are also surviving catastrophic injuries because of improved body armor, better battlefield life-saving skills and strategic medical airlifts to be able to evacuate the seriously wounded from the front lines. Those higher survival rates mean more complex injuries."
He said that within the last three years, 57 new community-based, out-patient clinics have opened, a fifth medical center specializing in multiple trauma and amputations opened in San Antonio, and four new VA hospitals are being built, including one in Orlando. Another recently opened in Las Vegas, the first in 17 years.
"With the planned draw-down of up to 1 million troops in the next five years, the number of new claims is going to grow," Shinseki said.
Houston Delaney, 64, a Marine veteran from Gary, Ind., who served in Vietnam, receives a 60 percent medical disability from the VA. An AMVETS member three years, he said the convention offers him information on a vast array of veterans benefits and legislation, as well as the camaraderie of being around like-minded men and women.
"For me, it's all about supporting the vets and learning about different things I didn't know about," he said.
For veterans, that can be on a federal, state or local level. Florida's top administrator for veterans, Prendergast, an Army combat veteran, said his department is the "vital link" to those former military men and women in the state.
"AMVETS strongly shares these same sentiments and plays a key role in Florida by providing outstanding counsel, services and legislative advocacy," Prendergast said. "This last legislative session was the most veteran friendly legislative session in the history of the state of Florida."
Orlando's $856 million VA Medical Center has encountered many construction delays, as the VA and the primary contractor have fought over the pace of the work. It was scheduled to open last October.
"From what I've heard, everything is back on track for next summer," Prendergast said, adding the state isn't overseeing the project. "I'm going tomorrow to check out the status of construction. It's a critical facility to a large population. Right now, those veterans have to travel to other areas of the state, as far as Miami."
Labor Secretary Solis said her department is involved in getting veterans placed in jobs. There now are federal tax credits for employers of $5,600 or more for hiring a returning veteran.
"The unemployment rate for post 9/11 veterans is too high," she said. "My job is to try to help work with you (AMVETS), Chambers of Commerce, employers, nonprofits, work with people who can hire up folks. And say, 'You know what? They did their job for us, these veterans. Now let's do (the right thing).' It's patriotism. It's about giving back, and making sure that happens."
Solis said the military does a good job training civilians for eight- to 10-weeks of military life. But she said the same effort needs to be made for the transition back to "civilian employment." "When they come back, it's difficult," she said. "You need to do more than talk for three days. You need to have follow-up and monitoring, evaluation and assistance. Engage them face to face, not just on the telephone." Also, she said 9/11 era veterans are receiving intensive services "right up front" for six months, moving to the front of the priority list. "Your buddy is going to help you go through whatever you need," Solis said. "That's something that's new. I think that's going to help us out especially with these young men and women who are coming back."

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Gulf War Veterans Sought for N.C. Gulf War Illness Treatment study

The article below is from The Daily Reflector, Greenville, N. Carolina (  

This treatment medical research project is funded through the acclaimed Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program (, which focuses on improving the health and lives of the estimated 250,000 Gulf War veterans -- and other U.S. forces -- suffering from Gulf War Illness.  

The news is apparently already helping to generate good interest among Gulf War veterans who want to participate.



Vets sought for Gulf War study
By Michael Abramowitz
The Daily Reflector
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Hundreds of thousands of veterans arrived home after the 1991 Gulf War in Iraq and Kuwait with the victory they expected — and a debilitating neurological illness they didn’t.

More than 20 years later, with no known effective treatments, an East Carolina University medical toxicologist is leading a team of biomedical scientists in a study of new medicines to treat Gulf War Illness. That is the name given to the chronic fatigue and pain as well as difficulty with mental tasks suffered by some who served in the war and its aftermath, said Dr. William Meggs, the study leader.

Meggs is a board-certified toxicologist, professor of emergency medicine at ECU and chief of toxicology at Vidant Medical Center in Greenville.