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Thursday, March 29, 2012

A Message to Governor Mitt Romney from a Gulf War/Somalia Veteran


Tonight, I was invited to participate in a telephone Town Hall meeting with Governor Mitt Romney, in advance of Wisconsin's primary election next Tuesday, April 3rd.  I was not provided the opportunity to ask my question regarding VA funding in general and Gulf War treatment research funding in particular, but was able to leave it as a voice message after the Town Hall meeting.  

The text of that message is below, which I also left with Gov. Romney's campaign.  I look forward to hearing his response.  


UPDATE:  They never responded...

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Governor Romney --  Thank you for the telephone Town Hall meeting here in Wisconsin tonight, which I enjoyed.  Here's the question I left  for you that did not get answered:  I'm a service-disabled veteran of Somalia and the Gulf War.  Veterans have to fight and compete against all sorts of Special Interests for health care and other veteran related funding.

In fact, right now, Gulf War veterans are fighting for treatment research funding and are being turned back by many Members of Congress asking these veterans to figure out how it will be paid for.

I don't think that's right. I don't think service-disabled veterans should have to figure out how treatment research to improve their service-connected health conditions gets funded, and I don't think service-disabled veterans should have to compete with all sorts of special interests for funding or even to have to carry that fight themselves.

Tonight, you mentioned that you would consider Paul Ryan as a Vice Presidential pick.  Today, the House passed Mr. Ryan's budget, which includes several *billion* dollars in cuts to the VA budget over the Administration's budget.

So my question is this:  As President, what would you do to reverse these proposed cuts to our nations veterans, and what would you do to help ensure that service-disabled veterans like me don't have to fight and compete against special interests to get our health care and treatment research funded?

-Anthony Hardie, Madison, Wis.


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Boston Acupuncture study looking for more vets with Gulf War Illness

The article below is from Stars and Stripes.
http://www.stripes.com/blogs/the-ruptured-duck/the-ruptured-duck-1.160117/acupuncture-study-looking-for-more-vets-with-gulf-war-syndrome-1.172728


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Acupuncture study looking for more vets with Gulf War Syndrome

WASHINGTON — Army officials recently gave a six-month extension to researchers investigating whether acupuncture can be effective in treating Gulf War Syndrome. Now, the study is looking for 30 more veterans to take part in the effort.
Lisa Conboy, co-director of research at the New England School of Acupuncture and a coordinator for the study, said the results of the three-year study still have to be finalized, but officials have seen positive feedback on the treatments.
About 120 veterans have taken part, undergoing acupuncture treatments to evaluate their effect on managing headaches, muscle soreness and other pain associated with the controversial disorder.
Conboy said she has noticed in recent years a larger willingness by military and veterans officials to consider alternative medicine such as acupuncture, a development she said is encouraging for patients seeking pain relief. Researchers are hopeful their final results will reinforce that progress.
The 30 new volunteers must live in the Northeast and suffer from Gulf War Syndrome. Veterans can apply by calling 617-558-1788 ext. 269 or emailing dodgwi@nesa.edu

Monday, March 26, 2012

VA PRESS RELEASE: Internal VA Gulf War Task Force's Final Second Report Released, VA Says Report Redefines How Care and Services Are Provided


The following is a VA Press Release issued today.
http://www.va.gov/opa/pressrel/pressrelease.cfm?id=2281


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VA Gulf War Task Force Report Released
Report Redefines How Care and Services Are Provided

(VA PRESS RELEASE, WASHINGTON, DC - March 26, 2012) – The Department of Veterans Affairs has released the second in a series of annual reports from its Gulf War Veterans Illnesses Task Force, outlining how the department will address the concerns of Veterans deployed during the Gulf War of 1990-1991.  The report is available on the Internet at http://www.va.gov/opa/publications/2011_GWVI-TF_Report.pdf.


“This report, which considered input from nearly 500 Veterans who responded to the draft report, provides a roadmap for our continued enhancements in the care and services we provide to Gulf War Veterans,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “We will also apply lessons learned from this Task Force to our engagement with Veterans of all eras.”


VA issued a draft version of this report for public comment on Oct. 21, 2011.  During the 30-day comment period, VA received over 450 comments through a special social media website created for this purpose, along with twenty-five other comments received through mail, e-mail and telephone calls.


 The chairman of the Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses Task Force is John R. Gingrich, chief of staff at VA, and a retired Army officer who also served in the Gulf War.


“Feedback is critical to understand and serve the specific needs of Gulf War Veterans,” said Gingrich. “This valuable input will guide how the task force communicates with Veterans in the future.”


The report focuses on efforts to improve the delivery of health care for Gulf War Veterans.  One of the most substantial additions is the launch of a prototype clinical care model specifically for Gulf War Veterans, which is the most critical point of service VA provides.  There are also efforts underway to create better links between specialty knowledge on Gulf War health issues and subject matter experts for health care providers serving these Veterans at the point of care.


Gulf War specific research and development is also contributing to clinical practice and clinical education throughout VA.  Two new positions were established in the Office of Research and Development for deployment health and Gulf War health-related issues.  Both positions have been filled, are enhancing research efforts for Gulf War Veterans now, and will continue to do so in the coming years.


VA continues to leverage partnerships to improve longitudinal medical surveillance and epidemiology so the department is better able to address the potential health impacts on Veterans from past environmental exposures as well as those on today's battlefield.


VA recognizes that a great number of Gulf War Veterans use the Internet every day to share their ideas and concerns.  In addition to public interaction via social media, the main VA Gulf War illnesses website was recently updated at www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/gulfwar/index.asp.  Veterans can subscribe there to receive future updates.


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Sunday, March 25, 2012

A Personal Thank You from Dennis Kucinich (Please Forward)


The following is from Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), who has led the annual fight in the U.S. House of Representatives for Defense appropriations for the acclaimed, peer reviewed, treatment-focused Gulf War Illness (GWI) Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program (CDMRP).

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Thu, March 22, 2012 10:46:35 AM

A Personal Thank You from Dennis Kucinich (Please Forward)
From:
Dennis Kucinich 
To:Anthony Hardie 


Dear Friend,

Thank you. Thank you for support throughout the primary election and the redistricting period which preceded it. Thanks to each and every one of you for your assistance in the campaign, your contributions, your endorsements, your volunteer work, your sacrifices, your advice, for strengthening not just our campaign, but for encouraging me personally. I would particularly like to thank those of you who contributed even though you are yourself experiencing hard times.

I went back to work in Congress the day after the primary, completed voting in Washington, DC and then Elizabeth and I took a week to rest, to reflect and to renew. I returned to Congress this week to continue my duties and to plan my work for the remainder of the term.

I could not let another day to go by without sharing with you my deep gratitude and my awareness of your role throughout my public service. I am especially grateful to the people of the greater Cleveland area who have been exceptionally supportive of me through the years. In this past primary election I achieved close to three out of every four votes from that part of my old district which was included in the new district. I am sure this was a resounding note of appreciation for the constituent service performed by my staff over the past sixteen years. I am also aware that I have I connected with the hearts of millions whose concerns transcend district lines.

It is important to put a political defeat into perspective, so may I share some thoughts? Since the March 6 Primary Election results, I have thought about others who have suffered real loss, people who have lost their homes, lost their jobs, lost their investments, lost their health care coverage, lost their educational opportunities, lost their retirement security, lost a loved one to the violence of war abroad or conflict domestically. Put alongside the struggle of so many people just to survive, the loss I experienced is much less consequential.

Redistricting? Political defeat? Indeed, but it is OK. I have not a shred of regret for the campaign we ran, a campaign of integrity standing up for progressive values and truth. I accept the outcome with equanimity but have concern for the direction of our Congress and our country. As for the methods used to win the election? Well, Spring has just begun. Life is bursting forth and cherry blossoms crown Washington, DC. Truth telling will have its season. Tomorrow's victories will be built from the embers of defeat. Of this I have no doubt.

How do I know this? I started my career in 1967 and since then, I have lost a total of eight times. Indeed, when I was elected to Congress in 1996, it was on my FIFTH try. When I was first sworn in January 3, 1997, it was the culmination of a campaign for Congress which started in December of 1971. Today I have had the honor of sixteen years of service in the United States House of Representatives. I tell you that our victory is inevitable. As it is for anyone who ceaselessly strives to make this a better world. This is not simply about elections. This is about how we stand up for humanity and our world by speaking and acting for the truth.

My education in losing and then winning has empowered me never to fear defeat, instead to cast votes and to take strong positions without regard as to how I may be affected politically. For me, truth is the highest consequence and I am committed to defend the cause of peace, economic and social justice. So, today I feel lighter, joyful, liberated by a familiar sense of onrushing possibilities as embodied in these lines from one of Elizabeth's and my favorite films, lines that Elizabeth spoke as vows to me when we married almost seven years ago:
"Knowing love, I will allow all things to come and go. To be as supple as the wind, and take everything that comes with great courage. My heart is as open as the sky. Life is right in any case."
With love and appreciation,

Dennis
Dennis


PO Box 110475 | Cleveland | OH | 44111 | 216-252-9000
Paid for by the Re-Elect Congressman Kucinich Committee

April Is IBS Awareness Month: Calling Attention to a Serious Issue for Returning Veterans


The following article is a press release from the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD).
http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/april-is-ibs-awareness-month-calling-attention-to-a-serious-issue-for-returning-veterans-143625656.html


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April Is IBS Awareness Month: Calling Attention to a Serious Issue for Returning Veterans

 
 
 
MILWAUKEEMarch 21, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- High numbers of veterans returning from the Gulf War regions of Iraq andAfghanistan are experiencing symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and other functional gastrointestinal (GI) disorders.
This prompted the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) last August to implement a new rule for the purposes of assessing disability benefits. Veterans deployed during the Gulf War who now suffer with a functional GI disorder are presumed to have developed the condition as a result of their military service. IFFGD (the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders) is advocating for more and better ways to support these veterans.           
"Otherwise healthy individuals are experiencing digestive issues that can be debilitating. These issues began during deployment and then continue long after they have returned home," said Nancy Norton, president and founder of IFFGD.
"These conditions disrupt veterans' regular daily activities and, sometimes, their efforts to return to a normal life."
No single cause of IBS and other functional GI disorders has been identified.     
"Long-term or repeated exposure to high levels of stress can cause physical changes in the brain and the intestines," explainedBrennan Spiegel, a medical advisor to IFFGD and Associate Professor of Medicine at the VA Greater Los Angeles Health Care System, Division of Digestive Diseases, UCLA School of Medicine and Division of Gastroenterology.
"Military personnel also often are exposed to gastrointestinal infections from food or water and other environmental factors," Dr. Spiegel said. "These combined factors could trigger the long-term debilitating GI symptoms we are seeing in returning veterans."
IFFGD is supporting veterans who have been affected by IBS and other functional GI disorders through an awareness and advocacy campaign. This effort aims to educate and promote improved care and increased research. Veterans are helping advocate for more support. Their stories illustrate the need for more information about IBS and functional GI disorders and improved care for those afflicted.
Goals include:
  • Increasing awareness and education among care providers to encourage prompt, accurate diagnoses and treatments.
  • Making more facilities available to treat soldiers with these disorders.
  • Increasing research that will help better understand these conditions and their relationship to military service.
IBS occurs in approximately 10 to 15 percent of the general population. It is characterized by a group of chronic symptoms that include abdominal pain along with constipation and/or diarrhea. Other intestinal symptoms may include bloating or nausea. While almost everyone suffers from intestinal symptoms from time to time, IBS symptoms return again and again, often without warning. There are no cures for IBS, but some treatments can ease its symptoms. A diagnosis by a healthcare professional and education about the disorder are important first steps.
If you want to help IFFGD and the Digestive Health Alliance (DHA) support veterans, email iffgd@iffgd.org or phone 414-964-1799.
More information about IBS is available at http://www.aboutIBS.org.
Contact:

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Gulf War Veterans Will Benefit from New VA Expansion of Medical Forms Program Supporting Faster Claims Processing

Written by Anthony Hardie, 91outcomes.com
March 22, 2012 (current as of this date, other changes may follow in the future)

(91outcomes.com) - The federal VA's announcement today regarding the release of many more Disability Benefits Questionnaires (DBQs) will help provide consistency and speed to processing of service-connection claims for veterans with Persian Gulf, Afghanistan and other military service.  

According to a VA press release about the DBQs:

“VA employees will be able to more quickly process disability claims, since disability benefits questionnaires capture important medical information needed to accurately evaluate Veterans’ claims,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “Disability benefits questionnaires are just one of many changes VA is implementing to address the backlog of claims.” 
The new forms bring to 71 the number of documents, called disability benefits questionnaires (DBQs), that guide physicians’ reports of medical findings, ensuring VA has exactly the medical information needed to make a prompt decision. 
When needed to decide a disability claim for compensation or pension benefits, VA provides Veterans with free medical examinations for the purpose of gathering the necessary medical evidence.
Veterans who choose to have their private physicians complete the medical examination can now give their physicians the same form a VA provider would use.  It is very important that physicians provide complete responses to all questions on the DBQs.  VA cannot pay for a private physician to complete DBQs or for any costs associated with examination or testing.   “By ensuring relevant medical information can be found on one form, we will cut processing time while improving quality,” added Under Secretary for Benefits Allison A. Hickey.


Several diagnosed multisymptom illnesses are "presumptive" for service-connection for veterans with service in the Persian Gulf between August 2, 1990 and an ending date that has yet to be determined.  

In general, "presumptive" means the otherwise qualified veteran does not have to prove that the condition began in, or was aggravated by military service as is required for other service-connected cases.  In the case of these presumptives, otherwise eligible veterans need only prove, in general, that they have the required service, the current condition, and that the condition is currently disabling. 

The new DBQs related to Persian Gulf presumptive conditions include:

The new DBQs also include presumptive conditions that apply to all veterans with qualifying service but may also be of special relevance to Gulf War veterans:
Many of the other DBQs may also be relevant to Gulf War veterans preparing claims for undiagnosed or poorly defined conditions with multiple symptom components, or as direct service connection for conditions that have their documented origin or worsening during military service:

These are only a few of the more than 70 DBQs available at http://benefits.va.gov/disabilityexams

Veterans may file service-connection claims online, including using a new web portal at: https://www.ebenefits.va.gov

However, going through the VA claims process without a trained veterans claims officer is much like going through a complex court case without a lawyer.  Accredited claims officers can be found with veterans service organizations and state veterans agencies.  


VCS: GOP Budget Ignores Veterans


This article is from Veterans for Common Sense (VCS)



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VCS: GOP Budget Ignores Veterans

VCS take on Ryan Budget Proposal
From VCS Executive Director Patrick Bellon and VCS Advocate Christopher Miller
The federal budget is a statement of  priorities. In the Rep. Ryan version of the 2013  budget subsequently embraced by Gov. Mitt Romney, the word veteran never appears. The budget proposal runs to 98 pages. Zero mention of veterans.  Two protracted conflicts, high veteran unemployment and a multitude of coming home issues and not one mention of veterans in this budget proposal. It clearly states that veterans are NOT a priority. This budget proposal is worse than an empty thanks for your service, an empty thanks would  require being mentioned. Veterans did not even make the list of prioirites. Veterans were ignored entirely. Veterans are essentially being told thanks for nothing, you are on your own. This is absolutely unacceptable. Especially coming from an aspiring commander-in-chief.
Now contrast that with the 2013 budget the President recently unveiled that clearly makes veterans a top priority. The contrast is very stark.
With a new generation of veterans coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan, one of the few significant increases in the executive’s 2013 budget is to the Department of Veteran’s Affairs,which would beincreased by 10%. This increase addresses issues facing veterans ranging from mental health to homelessness. It even addresses the needs of the growing female veterans population. Most importantly it budgets for needed increases in health care and disablity compensation.
But the budget mostly cuts. For every $1 in revenue raised from those making $250,000 annually and closing corporate tax loopholes, it cuts $2.50 from the budget. In ten years it will cut virtually the same amount of all discretionary spending for 2013. This was a target agreed upon by both Democrats and Republicans.
The media has reported that President Obama’s 2013 budget is controversial, though it reflects bipartisan agreement in Congress that discretionary spending should be reduced by $1 trillion over ten years. It allows the Bush tax cuts that have mostly benefitted the wealthiest Americans to expire. It institutes the ‘Buffet Rule’ that no household making over $1 million a year will pay less than 30% in taxes. It also includes the Financial Crisis Responsibility Fee on America’s biggest financial institutions who contributed to the financial crisis to ensure every cent of taxpayer funds from the TARP are paid back to the federal government.
So where is the controversy? The budget still projects a $901 billion shortfall. In the $3.6 trillion proposal, $2.5 trillion, about 70%, is ‘mandatory’ spending, which means that the money must be spent according to laws passed by Congress. The other $1.1 trillion is ‘discretionary’ spending, meaning this is money the President would like to spend. To ‘balance the budget’, as many in Congress are calling for, would mean cutting out all discretionary spending except for around $200 billion.
This sounds easier than it is, especially when the cost of defense maintenance and operations is $272 billion alone. Virtually all defense spending is discretionary and the President’s budget already includes billions of dollars in defense cuts in procurement, operations, bases, and personnel. Discretionary spending increases in the budget include Veterans healthcare, student aid, the State Department, and housing. To balance the budget in 2013 would mean mothballing the Pentagon and State Department, as well as veterans’ healthcare, student aid, and the federal prison system. And that would just be for one year. It wouldn’t even begin to pay down the national debt which we have accumulated over decades.
Americans have gotten used to demanding government provide services we all want and benefit from, but refuse to pay higher revenue, or taxes, to fund them. This seems to include paying for the true costs of war,if the Ryan-Romney 2013 budget is any indication. This is unacceptable.
The budget discourse takes place on intellectually dishonest terms. Who would provide the services everyone is accustomed to if this  budget was passed? Some of the most vital services the government provides no private sector firm can or would provide. What private firm could provide a military? Even private defense contractors employ former soldiers trained by the U.S. military. Private intelligence contractors do the same. Who would build and maintain roads and airports and secure them? Firms may build roads and airports where and when they need them, but they wouldn’t build them beyond their own need for capacity or use. Even if the government got out of the healthcare and Social Security game altogether, individual Americans would still have to pay for these services out of pocket.
President Obama’s 2013 budget should not controversial. Most of the President’s budget (like all budgets) is controlled by laws passed by Congress. If Sen. McCain were sitting in the White House today instead of President Obama, he would be facing the same problems. Americans support preserving and continuing Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. They want a strong national security apparatus, good infrastructure, and education. Americans also overwhelmingly support our military and veterans,one of the few issues most agree on regardless of party. As a nation we must take a hard look at our values and realize that all of these things cost money and must be paid for. It isn’t a choice of which or how much; it is a choice of either/or. Either we decide we don’t want these things and don’t have to pay for them or we decide we do and we pay the what is required. Great countries require investment and hardwork, not dishonest conversations that allow us to shirk our responsibilities. As americans we must set priorities that live up to our highest ideals and values.
President Obama’s budget proposal makes sense and displays a very different set of priorities than the Ryan budget. Veterans occupy a preeminent place within that set of priorities,especially compared to being completely ignored.  It is a balance of cuts and revenue increases. It provides for the programs Americans overwhelmingly support. It continues to fund programs we need to help our economy grow out of this economic downturn.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

31 seconds: I don't know what it's like

Georgia Demyelination Study Among Six New CDMRP Medical Treatment/Pre-Treatment Studies


The important new medical research study described in the article below is funded through the Gulf War Illness (GWI) Congressional Directed Medical Research Program (CDMRP), which must be specifically funded by Congress each year in order to continue. 

Dr. Terry's study, "Organophosphate-Related Alterations in Myelin and Axonal Transport in the Living Mammalian Brain," was funded with FY11 GWI CDMRP funds.  At the end of an arduous sifting and winnowing process, the well qualified proposals that made it to the final stage of evaluation totalled nearly $31 million.  With just a Congressional appropriation of just $8 million, only six were able to be funded, including Dr. Terry's  important study that, if successful, will help identify specific targets for treatment.
This year's appropriations process is already underway, and the Gulf War veteran community is seeking $25 million in GWI CDMRP funding for FY13, a substantial boost from FY12's hard won $10 million.  It will take substantial effort from the veterans community and allies in Congress to win this year's uphill struggle.  

-Anthony Hardie, 91outcomes.com

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Nerve gas, insecticide exposure possible cause of Gulf War illness, say GHSU researchers


Monday, March 19, 2012 4:50 PM
Last updated Tuesday, March 20, 2012 6:52 AM

The memory and attention problems plaguing thousands of veterans from the first Gulf War might be caused by low-level exposure to insecticides and nerve gas, said researchers at Georgia Health Sciences University.
Dr. Alvin Terry, a professor at GHSU, and his colleague, Dr. Nathan Yanasak, are conducting a three-year study on the neurological symptoms of Gulf War illness.  JACKIE RICCIARDI/STAFF
JACKIE RICCIARDI/STAFF
Dr. Alvin Terry, a professor at GHSU, and his colleague, Dr. Nathan Yanasak, are conducting a three-year study on the neurological symptoms of Gulf War illness.


Gulf War illness could be caused by a class of chemicals known as organophosphates, which can include popular pesticides and insecticides but also the nerve gases sarin and cyclosarin.
The Department of Defense and the Central Intelligence Agency estimate 100,000 people might have been exposed to low levels of those nerve gases when troops blew up a weapons depot in Khamisiyah, Iraq, on March 10, 1991. Troops were also routinely exposed to the chemical in insecticides, said Dr. Alvin Terry, the director of the Animal Behavior Center at GHSU and professor of pharmacology and toxicology.
Terry and a colleague, Dr. Nathan Yanasak, have an $860,000, three-year grant from the DOD to study whether the chemicals can cause nerve damage in the brains of animals – in this case, mice – that could lead to memory and attention problems. They will look to see whether the insecticide chlorpyrifos, which is commonly used on crops in the U.S. and around the world – when given in low doses – might hamper the ability of the nerve cells to transport food and waste up and down the nerve.
“For it to maintain its health, it has to be able to transport things” along the axon of the nerve, Terry said. The researchers are using newer technology, such as manganese-enhanced MRI, to study that because manganese is known to be taken up and transported by nerves in the brain, he said. Researchers will also check whether the protective sheath of the nerve cells, known as myelin, is depleted by the low-level exposure, which can affect nerve firing.
“It’s probably subtle if it is there,” Terry said.
In previous work, including a study published this year, Terry and colleagues showed that “subthreshold” doses of the chemical caused memory and attention problems in rats even months later.
“Long after they have been exposed, you can still pick up on these memory deficits,” he said.
What makes that intriguing is that it is similar to problems that plague veterans with Gulf War illness, Terry said. The study in animals is is being done to find out whether that is the cause of the symptoms, which could stem from a number of other causes, such as the oil well fires that raged during the conflict and had wide exposure, Terry said.
“There’s a whole multitude of things that you could say might be a possibility,” he said. The DOD has funded research over the years into what might cause Gulf War illness, “but no one has really solved it. There have been a lot of controversies.”
His work has drawn some fire from chemical companies, but Terry said he strives for balance in his view of the chemicals.
“They have without a doubt dramatically improved farming productivity, and they have helped to get rid of vector-bone illnesses,” he said. “It’s just knowing the long-term effects; we need to be more educated on that and try to be balanced.”