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Saturday, May 31, 2014

Sgt. Sullivan Center May Newsletter


SOURCE:  Sergeant Sullivan Center

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SSC Header Logo                        Confronting and Eradicating Post-Deployment Illnesses

Newsletter
May 31, 2014
Opening Message 
Dear Friends and Supporters: 
 
 
There has been much exciting news this month, with coverage about our mission on the front page of The Washington Post and an invitation along with other advocacy groups to provide testimony to the Defense Health Board on deployment related lung disease in June. We also are pleased to announce our second $10,000 challenge grant, covered in the Washington Post story over Memorial Day Weekend, to Georgetown University Medical Center to work towards developing a blood biomarker test for Gulf War illnesses - unexplained multi-symptom illnesses that are debilitating and have been found to effect veterans of the post-9/11 wars as well as the '91 war.
 
Our Marine Corps Marathon Team recruitment is still underway and we continue to accept applications for our Veteran Fellowship for Mission Leadership -- a position which will remain open until filled. Please spread the word about our work and consider signing up to be a Sergeant Sullivan Center Ambassador for the Do More 24 campaign to help us get the most number of individual donors on June 19 and win a $15,000 grant from the United Way.

Thank you for your support,

                    

### The NEWS ##
The Washington Post Covers Sergeant Sullivan Center on Front Page                                                                              
On Monday, September 26, Memorial Day, a front page story about The Sergeant Sullivan Center appeared in The Washington Post. The story, by Michael Ruane, focused on the establishment of the Center's initiative to fund research for unexplained veterans' illnesses. The story will reach the Post's circulation of over 500,000 readers.
Unexplained post-deployment illnesses are one of the most significant physical health problems plaguing veterans. Last year, the Institute of Medicine reported unexplained chronic respiratory, gastrointestinal, and musculoskeletal (multi-symptom)  illnesses affect post-9/11 veterans as well as one in three 1991 Gulf War Veterans.
Over half a million post-9/11 veterans in the VA system have unexplained symptoms (seehealthcare utilization records); this number continues to grow. Independent, dynamic research is essential to unravelling the mysteries of these illnesses. The Sergeant Sullivan Center began funding private research to improve diagnosis of deployment related illnesses last year with a grant for biomarker research to the Center of Excellence on Deployment Related Lung Disease at National Jewish Health, followed by a grant challenge to Georgetown University Medical Center for Gulf War illness biomarker research earlier this year.
Defense Health Board to Hold Meeting for Public Comment on Deployment Related Lung Disease
After receiving a letter from The Sergeant Sullivan Center, the Defense Health Board considered "the possibility of having a meeting in which interested members of the public" may "address concerns or provide information" and now has scheduled a public comment meeting for June 11. The meeting was announced recently in theFederal Register.

According to the announcement, "The purpose of the meeting is for the Public Health Subcommittee members to receive public comments concerning deployment pulmonary health during an open forum. The Subcommittee is reviewing evidence relevant to deployment-related pulmonary disease in Service members and veterans. Comments from the public range from insight on deployment-related pulmonary health issues to personal accounts and objective input." 

   

The Sergeant Sullivan Center will make a statement at the meeting and has also provided travel support to enable the executive director of BurnPits360, Rosie Torres, to provide testimony regarding her personal experience and work. Torres along with her husband, veteran Le Roy Torres, operate a private online registry for veterans with deployment related lung disease and other health issues who, at present, have nowhere else to turn to report their conditions in association with exposure to burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan. An official registry to record lung and other health problems after exposure to deployment airborne hazards has not yet been implemented despite legal requirements for the VA to establish this registry several months ago. Torres reports she has now received over 3,000 entries on the Burnpit360 registry.
Get Involved in Do More 24
The Sergeant Sullivan Center is recruiting Ambassadors to help with the Do More 24 Challenge - Raise the most individual donations on June 19and win a $15,000 grant from the United Way. This is an exciting challenge and there will be more information sent about it next week.

But it's more than just fundraising. Ambassadors will play a key role in spreading information about post-deployment illnesses and healthcare options to veterans across the country and will receive a chance to win prizes, as well as an Ambassador's information toolkit and tote bag. Register to Be a Sergeant Sullivan Center Ambassador Today!
 
SAVE THE DATE - SEPTEMBER 23! 

The Annual Sergeant Sullivan Center Awards Ceremony for Excellence in Deployment Health Science will be held on September 23 at 6:30 PM at the Pew Charitable Trusts Conference Center in Washington, DC. This year our honoree is Dr. Steven S. Coughlin. Dr. Coughlin, a former VA epidemiologist, provided testimony to Congress last year about VA's treatment of data related to Gulf War and post-9/11 illnesses that will help generations of veterans get the help they need and lead to improved systems for data sharing and research related to the toxic wounds of war.

Read About Our Honoree:

 

The SSC needs your help. Do you know a veteran who is suffering? Do you know a surgeon, medical doctor, or researcher? Send them our way-we need to connect every provider, every victim. And more than that, we need your support, in time and money. Every dollar you donate is more than tax deductible, it leads to tangible results and saving lives by supporting grants to the nation's preeminent research institutions, advocacy to create better healthcare, and outreach to sick veterans. More @ http://sgtsullivancenter.org/get-involved/.

Gray 

Friday, May 30, 2014

VCS News Roundup: Best Coverage of the Current VA Crisis

The following is published with permission from Veterans for Common Sense (VCS).

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VCS News Roundup: Best Coverage of the Current VA Crisis

The following is a VCS roundup of some of the best current news coverage of the VA crisis:
1.  USA NOW VIDEO:  Heated hearing on VA scandal: ‘Get us the answers!’ | USA NOW
House members grilled top VA top brass on the ever-growing scandal surrounding the VA hospital system. A scathing new report says 1,700 veterans at the Phoenix hospital alone are still waiting for care.
2.  CBS News shows how VA staff were ordered to and then manipulated data on veteran appointment wait times.
3. Wall Street Journal explains where VA spends money.
4.  USA NOW VIDEO:  VA Secretary Eric Shinseki resigns amid scandal
President Obama said he ‘reluctantly’ accepted the resignation of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki after meeting with him Friday. A growing number of veterans and lawmakers have demanded Shinseki resign since the scandal began.
5.  National Journal: Behind Eric Shinseki’s Downfall
The VA secretary who was looking for a second chance after Iraq was undone by an overwhelmed health system and Washington’s hyper-partisan health care politics.
Posted in Veterans Articles & News | Tagged  | Leave a comment | Edit

Sgt. Sullivan Center Seeking Gulf War or Post-9/11 Veteran for DC Fellowship

The Sergeant Sullivan Center is doing very important work on issues related to  veterans health and Toxic Wounds.  
The following announcement is regarding an exciting one-year fellowship work opportunity in Washington, DC with the Sergeant Sullivan Center.  Recruitment objectives include Post-9/11 and 1991 Gulf War Veterans.  The position will remain open until filled.  
***
THE SERGEANT THOMAS JOSEPH SULLIVAN CENTER (SSC) VETERAN FELLOWSHIP FOR MISSION LEADERSHIP
The Sergeant Sullivan Center (SSC) is a growing 501(c)(3) nonprofit veterans healthcare advocacy and medical research grant-making organization headquartered in Washington, D.C. The Center is named in memory of a Marine Sergeant who died from physical health problems after his deployment to Iraq – what we call post-deployment illnesses: occupational and environmental diseases associated with military service in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Founded by the Marine’s family in 2010, The SSC is the only 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in the nation exclusively dedicated to confronting and eradicating post-deployment illnesses through public awareness, medical research, and connection among stakeholders (doctors, patients, scientists, etc.). The SSC focuses on addressing the needs of veterans, researchers, and government officials who work on identifying and treating post-deployment illnesses associated with theater environmental and toxic exposures (also known as, toxic wounds).
About the Sergeant Sullivan Center Veteran Fellowship. The SSC Fellow will work full-time at the Center’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., to advance SSC mission priorities through activities designed to build the capacity of the organization to realize its objectives.
The Fellowship will be supervised by the President/CEO, and the Fellow will work closely with the Board of Directors, Advisory Panel, and mission stakeholders around the country, while learning technical and project management skills essential for SSC mission leadership through training and coursework.
Training may include participation in Georgetown University’s graduate certificate program for nonprofit management, an intensive four-day video journalism workshop, medical education classes, and other academic and professional workshops and programs offered in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area and elsewhere.
The Fellow will work on all essential elements of assigned projects, including planning, execution, and administration.This will include: website management, blogging and social media;online crowd fundinggrant applications; recruiting and coaching marathon runnerscompleting applications for national marathon eventsmanaging donor communications; fulfilling product orders; organizing databasesevent planning; presentations; speaking to members of the press; research and writing. The Fellow will learn multiple aspects of SSC operations. SSC will also provide specialized training in the knowledge and skills needed to implement these operations and to pursue a successful career in nonprofit organization and SSC mission leadership.
Compensation. The Fellowship Stipend for the 12-month term is a total of $41,250 plus tuitions and fees for training. Healthcare premiums are reimbursed up to a cap. Fellowship hours are 9:30 am – 5:30 pm Monday through Friday with an hour for lunch. The Fellowship includes four weeks paid leave, and all federal holidays. Education and training programs may occur on the weekends or weeknights. Some travel will be required.
Applicants should have and demonstrate in the personal essay:
  • A commitment to the mission of The Sergeant Sullivan Center.
  • Operational experience in the post-9/11 theater of operations (Gulf War service included).
  • Strong written and oral communication skills, as well as comfort with Microsoft Office software, Facebook, Twitter, and web-based platforms.
  • Willingness to learn new skills and work with people of various backgrounds.
  • Ability to work independently with minimal supervision. Strong work ethic.
Veterans of all ages, races, sexes, genders, sexual orientations, national origins, and veterans with disabilities are strongly encouraged to apply.
Veterans who served at enlisted rank are strongly encouraged to apply.
SSC is firmly committed to workplace diversity and equal opportunity, as well as accommodating the employment needs of persons with physical and mental disabilities.
Application Requirements. Submit resume/CV; one letter of recommendation; and a 1-2 page essay (single spaced) describing interest in SSC, our mission, and SSC mission leadership. Submit to Daniel Sullivan, President/CEO, at daniel@sgtsullivancenter.orgOpen until filled.

CONTACT US:
The Sergeant Thomas Joseph Sullivan Center
1250 Connecticut Avenue NW Suite 200
Washington, DC 20036
(202) 261-6562 or 1-855-SGT-SULLY

Download the Announcement: VeteranFellowshipSSC

Rep. Coffman's Floor Speech on H.R. 4261



 Video courtesy of Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.), Chair, U.S. House Veterans' Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight & Investigations.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

House Passes Desert Storm War Memorial Bill





(91outcomes.com - May 28, 2014) - The U.S. House of Representatives tonight unanimously the National Desert Shield Storm and Desert Shield War Memorial Act, H.R. 503, on a vote of 370-0 (Roll call vote No. 242).

The bill was introduced by Rep. Phil Roe, M.D. (R-Tenn.-1) at there request of the National Desert Storm War Memorial Association.  Roe said in a statement at the time of the bill's introduction earlier this year:


“Every day we should commemorate and give thanks to the men and women who have devoted their lives to defending freedom. Every soldier who honorably served our nation should be recognized, and that is why I reintroduced the National Desert Storm and Desert Shield War Memorial Act. The sacrifice of those who served in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm will be remembered through the building of this memorial.  Our service members who have fought on the front lines to protect this nation deserve our gratitude and utmost respect, and I look forward to working to ensure this memorial is built.” 
In testimony in support of the bill earlier this year, Scott Stump, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran of the 1991 Gulf War and President of the National Desert Storm War Memorial Association, provided three reasons for the memorial.
1) "....To honor the 600,000 Americans who served and make sure that the almost 300 Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice are never ever forgotten...." 
2) Because, "....we liberated Kuwait, a peaceful country that was invaded and whose citizens were held captive for close to 7 months and endured much suffering and unmentionable atrocities at the hands of the Iraqi aggressors. Liberating Kuwait and shielding Saudi Arabia from invasion sent a powerful message not just to Saddam, but to the world"; and because,  
3) "....we also liberated the United States... [from] ....a lot of collective guilt and shame for the way many of our Vietnam Veterans were treated upon returning home.  ....  Desert Storm touched Americans in many different ways. .... if it was not for Desert Storm and the change of attitude toward our military it brought about, our men and women in uniform who are currently serving and who have served in Afghanistan, and Iraq, would not be treated with the dignity and respect that they absolutely deserve."


According to an ABC News article earlier today, the memorial would be funded by private donations, like many other war memorials, and "The bill would authorize Congress to set aside federal land in DC for the memorial. According to the National Desert Storm Memorial Association website, proposed locations include the National Mall (site of the WWII, Vietnam, and Korean War Memorials) and a field near Arlington National Cemetery."  

-Anthony Hardie, 91outcomes.com  




House Unanimously Passes Gulf War Research Reform Act, H.R. 4261


(91outcomes.com - May 28, 2014) - In a unanimous vote this evening, the U.S. House of Representatives has passed the Gulf War Health Research Reform Act of 2014, H.R. 4261, along with a myriad of other veteran-related bills, including others related to improving VA accountability.  

The legislation was introduced in March of this year with solid bipartisan support.  Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.-6), Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Ariz.-1), and Rep. Mike Michaud (D-Maine-2) were the original co-authors following months of behind the scenes work with Gulf War veterans' advocates. 

The bill would restore independent evaluation of the effectiveness of federal Gulf War illness research efforts and would require the VA to use the term "Gulf War Illness", as called for by an Institute of Medicine panel earlier this year, to describe the condition that, according an earlier Institute of Medicine panel, affects more than one-third of the veterans of the 1991 Gulf War.

According to a USA Today summary, the bill also, "seeks to make the Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses an independent committee within the VA, requires that a majority of the board's members be appointed by the [Veterans' Affairs] committee's [leadership], and returns oversight responsibilities for Gulf War illness research. It also asks that the VA consider animal studies when looking at toxic exposures, 'as Congress has previously ordered.'"

"As a Gulf War veteran, I've been extremely disappointed at the actions of VA staff to misdirect Gulf War illnesses research by reviving the scientifically discredited concept that 'the same thing happens after every war,' and to eliminate oversight, just as science is finally making some progress," said bill author Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo. in a USA Today article about the bill.  Coffman served with the U.S. Marine Corps, including in the 1991 Gulf War.

In comments on the House floor tonight, Rep. Coffman addressed the concerns of some that the RAC should include only "ill" Gulf War veteranssaying the RAC has also been "well served" by members who have been representatives of veterans service organizations.  

AMVETS, one of the nation's largest veterans service organizations, provided the following explanation of the need for the bill during testimony by AMVETS National Legislative Director Diane Zumatto during a March 25, 2014 Congressional hearing on the bill:


"If we ever expect to understand GWI, if we ever expect to develop medically appropriate treatments for it, and if we ever hope to truly improve the quality of life of our Gulf War veterans, then continued research, as well as adequate, on-going funding, is absolutely vital.  Our veterans didn’t give up while they served overseas; they risked their lives and their health for the good of all American citizens.  It’s time for this country to hold up its end of the bargain by doing everything possible to take care of the healthcare needs of our Gulf War veterans,"said Zumatto on behalf of AMVETS in prepared testimony.  


Need for the bill

RAC Chairman Jim Binns provided the following background during his testimony in support of the bill:


"The Research Advisory Committee has been charged since its inception with the responsibility to assess the effectiveness of government research, and we complemented early progress under Secretary [Eric] Shinseki.  But when the tide turned and staff launched its campaign to revive 1990’s fictions, the Committee reported it in detail to the Secretary in June 2012 and in testimony to this subcommittee in March 2013.  We asked the Secretary to investigate these actions and to remove those responsible from positions of authority over Gulf War research. 
Instead, VA removed us.   In May 2013, I was notified that the committee’s charter had been changed to eliminate its charge to assess the effectiveness of government research and that the membership of the committee would be entirely replaced over the next year.  
New blood is certainly desirable, but two of the three scientists subsequently proposed for membership by VA were stress advocates.  One has edited a textbook on stress and is a member of the American Psychosomatic Society.  The other published an editorial last year which stated that “presupposing a primary, supplementary, or synergistic role for stress in the Gulf War syndrome . . . provides a framework for valid scientific analysis.”  It is apparent that VA intends to use the Research Advisory Committee itself in its campaign to resurrect these discredited themes."

Coffman said in a statement at the time of his introduction of the bill that the House Veteran's Affairs Subcommittee for Oversight and Investigation had found that the "RAC had been marginalized by VA's efforts to embargo their reports and pack the RAC with members who had a bias toward seeing Gulf War as having a psychosomatic rather than biological basis."


About the bill

AMVETS provided a summary of some of the bill's most important provisions as part of the organization's March 25, 2014 testimony:


"AMVETS supports HR 4261, the Gulf War Health Research Reform Act of 2014, which would: 
  • establish the RAC as an independent committee within the VA with its own budget;
  • require the that the majority of the RACs members be appointed by the chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committees;
  • strengthen the RACs ability to review research and studies as well as publish reports related to Gulf War Illness (GWI);
  • expresses the sense of Congress that VA should contract with the Institute of Medicine to conduct several Gulf War studies and reports previously ordered by Congress, which were not conducted or weren’t conducted in accordance with Congress’ direction;
  • require the VA to ensure that research conducted on this disease be referred to as “Gulf War Illness”;
  • with regard to future research, require that Institute of Medicine (IOM) reports on the health effects of veteran toxic exposures, consider animal as well as human studies, as Congress has previously ordered, to better understand the causes and how best to treat our afflicted veterans."

About the RAC

USA Today noted the genesis of the RAC, "The advisory committee was formed in 1997 after a congressional report found that the VA's work on "Gulf War issues" was "irreparably flawed." Congress found that the VA had focused most, if not all, of its attention on psychiatric causes of the illness.

AMVETS further attested to the contributions of the RAC since it was launched in 2002:
"AMVETS fully supports the concept, purpose and work of the RAC.  We believe that their work over the years has been instrumental in helping to:
  • shed light on the underlying causes of GWI;
  • examine treatment options for those currently afflicted;
  • ensure that adequate research funding is requested;
  • act as a catalyst, bringing together VA and non-Va researchers;
  • consider countermeasures for long-term, low-dose exposures to protect current and future servicemebers; and
  • identify additional focus areas for future research. 
I would suggest that it is common knowledge that bureaucracies, and VA is among the largest, are not well known for their transparency, creativity or ability to ‘think outside the box’; therefore, it makes good sense to have an independent, non-partisan and transparent body, with its own support staff, nothing to lose and no hidden agendas, composed of medical professionals, research experts, veterans and other stakeholders, so prominently involved in this important work.
Additionally, by openly allowing academic subject matter experts and medical professionals to participate in RAC activities, the best and brightest are able to contribute and act as force multipliers towards resolving the problem of GWI," concluded Zumatto on behalf of AMVETS in the prepared testimony before the House Veterans' Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. 

-Anthony Hardie, 91outcomes.com   



NOLA TIMES-PICAYUNE: House ready to take up two bills sponsors say will enhance VA health care accountability


SOURCE:  New Orleans Times-Picayune, Bruce Alpert reporting (5/27/2014)

http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2014/05/house_ready_to_take_up_two_bil.html#comments


ARCHIVED ARTICLE:

House ready to take up two bills sponsors say will enhance VA health care accountability



CassidyLandrieu copy.jpg
Sen. Mary Landrieu and Rep. Bill Cassidy are both speaking out on recent problems identified with veterans' health care.
Bruce Alpert, NOLA.com | Times-PicayuneBy Bruce Alpert, NOLA.com | Times-Picayune 
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on May 27, 2014 at 4:41 PM, updated May 27, 2014 at 5:11 PM
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WASHINGTON -- With veterans health care issues continuing to raise concerns, the House of Representatives Wednesday will consider two bills designed to enhance accountability.
The Demanding Accountability for Veterans Act requires notifying the Veterans Affairs secretary and congressional veterans committees when the agency fails to respond to recommendations from the agency's inspector general.

It also requires the secretary to provide the appropriate counseling and mitigation plan to employees who aren't performing their jobs adequately and bars a performance bonus to any manager with unresolved performance issues.
A second bill on Wednesday's calendar is designed to strengthen and give more independence to the Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Illnesses.

A Veterans Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations contends the research panel had money diverted to other purposes and had been "marginalized by VA's efforts to embargo their reports and pack the RAC with members who had a bias toward seeing Gulf War illnesses as having a psychosomatic rather than biological basis."

Subcommittee Chair Mike Coffman, R-Colo., a Marine combat veteran, said the research committee must act independently.

"As a Gulf War veteran, I've been extremely disappointed at the actions of VA staff to misdirect Gulf War illnesses research by reviving the scientifically discredited concept that 'the same thing happens after every war,' and to eliminate oversight, just as science is finally making some progress," said Coffman, the lead sponsor of the new legislation.

The bill directs the committee to look at the health effects of toxic chemicals Gulf veterans were exposed to, and rely on both human and animal studies.

"We owe it to those who have served our country to provide them with the best medical care and resources available," said Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, D-Ariz., the lead Democratic sponsor. "This includes ensuring the VA conducts objective research on chronic illnesses experienced by Gulf War veterans, in an effort to find treatments that can make a difference in their quality of life."

Allegations that officials at a VA medical facility in Arizona, and perhaps other facilities, too, created bogus schedules to make it appear waits for service were shorter than reality has created a stir in Washington, with some members of Congress demanding that Veterans Secretary Erik Shinseki resign or be fired.

Shinseki is expected to deliver a preliminary report to President Barack Obama on the scheduling fiasco later this week.

At a Memorial Day Event Monday, Obama said the nation must do better for its veterans.
"We must do more to keep faith with our veterans and their families, and ensure they get the care and benefits and opportunities that they've earned and that they deserve.  These Americans have done their duty.  They ask nothing more than that our country does ours -- now and for decades to come," the president said.

Louisiana members have also spoken out.

''To honor our obligation to care for veterans, we must address the problems in the VA hospital system," said Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, a candidate for the Senate facing a field that includes Democratic incumbent Mary Landrieu. "This includes reviewing the average wait time for a new visit and for procedures, the 'no show' rate for appointments, the number of hospital beds for particular conditions such as inpatient psychiatric services, and indicators of the adequacy of service. These results should be posted online so the veteran accessing service could compare his or her wait times and hold the system accountable."

A 2008 inspector general's report projected that about 4.9 million, or 18 percent of the annual outpatient appointments that year, went unused, meaning bigger delays for those needing care.

Landrieu has also spoken out.

"What happened at the VA is completely inexcusable and no stone should remain unturned in the search for answers on how it happened and what should be done to prevent it from happening again," Landrieu said. "Our veterans put their lives on the line to fight for freedom at home and around the world.  In return for the sacrifices they and their families make in service to their country, they deserve the best care America has to offer.  Ensuring they receive this care is going to take strong leadership at the VA to hold the agency accountable for producing results."

On Monday, some veterans groups, including the Veterans of Foreign Wars, criticized Congress for not allocating enough resources for a Veterans Affairs health care system facing more demands from returning Iraqi and Afghanistan veterans. The groups specifically targeted Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., for criticism after he blasted the veterans organizations for failing to join him and other lawmakers demanding leadership changes at the VA.