Saturday, December 10, 2016


Well, folks, I’ve arrived at a very large “crossroad” in my life.
I’m sneaking up on 70 years old (doesn’t really feel that old right yet). But..............
I’ve kind of had it!
I’m kind of throwing in the towel!
I’m too damn old to keep up the good fight; the one against the Department of Veterans Affairs and all the other turkeys; that is.
         To quote the infamous Jimmy McMillian from Brooklyn; “The rent is          too damn high!”
I’m tired of being lied to, abused, kicked to the curb, etc. by people who simply don’t give a crap!
I’ve been sailing this ship that is my life through some interesting waters. My final destination is not all that far off, so I really want to try to enjoy what journey I have left. To that end, I am jettisoning the Department of Veterans Affairs; lock, stock, and barrel. I am ridding myself of the Federal Government, the Department of Defense, et al.
And, it’s time to pass the torch of “advocacy” to anyone who feels up to carrying the load. Like I said, I’m just getting to old, slow, tired, and disillusioned to keep banging up against the same old brick wall. You know, after a while, the head starts to friggin’ hurt.  
So, it is with a few fond memories that I bid farewell to the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Northport, NY. This includes the wonderful Alumni Association, the PTSD Veterans Association, my beloved Building #65, the dreaded Building #200, all the Specialty Clinics, the crack Emergency Room, the “on-time-all-the-time” Pharmacy, the Hospital management who have Veterans’ best interests at heart, all the wonderful maintenance and infrastructure departments who take such good care of the Facility...I could go on.
I think, maybe, I’ve come to realize that things change over time, and what was right for me then might not be right for me now. I am doing the aforementioned while in some semblance of decent health, and some semblance of sound mind (there are those who would cast aspersions on both those claims). It is time to clear the slate and start writing my own story in the time I have left on this Planet. I truly want to enjoy waking up in the morning and not having anything to worry me, or attempt to drag me down. I want to be among happy, uplifting people who have also chosen to leave “Gloom & Doom” in the dust. 
So, it's time to bid you all a fond adieu for now.




Friday, December 9, 2016

Sound Off: Should the U.S. Privatize the VA?


Everyone knows that Department of Veterans Affairs medical care needs a lot of improvement. Thousands of veterans can’t get care as quickly as they need it and then there are the really disheartening administrative disasters at VA hospitals like the recent one at the Tomah VA Hospital in Wisconsin or the 2014 scandal at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Phoenix.
There are claims that the Concerned Veterans of America (CVA), a group funded by the Koch Brothers, wants to disband the VA, requiring all veterans to get private healthcare. The CVA disagrees with those claims, but its proposals would allow for a panel appointed by the president to review and possibly close some VA medical centers while using the money saved to open up more veteran health care to the private market.
During the election, Democrats suggested that President-elect Trump supports that position. That’s not really the case, but Trump did call the VA “almost a corrupt enterprise” and suggested that veterans should have more private care options than they currently do.
Still, questions about privatization of the VA led dozens of veterans groups to unite and tell the incoming president’s transition team during a meeting at American Legion headquarters that they strongly oppose any such move.
Veterans groups support a strong VA with private care to fill in the gaps and help vets who live in remote locations receive care when a VA hospital isn’t close by.
Obviously, many veterans have service-related injuries and psychological issues that fall outside of the business models used by private insurance companies. A poorly-run VA is no help to anyone, but a reformed Veterans Administration that’s focused on veteran needs might be the best way to go.
What do you think? Should the VA be privatized? Or do veterans deserve a dedicated medical system that’s devoted to their unique needs? Sound off!

Extend no-co-pay preventive care to veterans

By Tammy Duckworth and Lee Zeldin
| Special to Stars and Stripes |
Published: December 6, 2016

As veterans, we’ve both made supporting fellow veterans one of our top priorities since arriving in Congress because we understand just how important it is for our nation to protect those we’ve sent into harm’s way to defend this country. We all have a solemn duty to uphold the promises we’ve made to them, not only while they are deployed overseas or on the front line, but when they return home as well — and there is so much more we can do to improve veterans’ quality of life.
Though we are on opposite sides of the aisle and certainly don’t agree on everything, we’re willing to put veterans first when we find problems that require fixing. And we think we’ve found one.
Today, there are only two groups of Americans forced to pay out-of-pocket for essential preventive health services and medications: those without insurance and veterans. Veterans are the only insured Americans asked to pay for these services, as all other insured Americans’ providers offer preventive services without requiring co-pays, including Tricare for active-duty servicemembers.
It’s certainly unfair to ask veterans to pay more than other Americans, but we should fix this disparity not only to help veterans lead longer, healthier lives; we should also do it to help save taxpayer dollars by lowering the cost of caring for veterans. The medical community and insurance industry recognized long ago that subsidizing preventive care could drastically cut medical bills later on, because they can delay or even prevent more costly medical conditions from developing in the first place.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 70 percent of deaths among Americans can be attributed to chronic diseases. Nearly 50 percent of adults have at least one chronic illness, and many of those may be preventable if caught early.
But current policies make it harder — and more expensive — to get the basic level of preventive care all insured Americans can receive without copays. Our nation is asking too many veterans to pay for their own folic acid that can prevent cancer, aspirin that can help stave off heart attacks and breast cancer prevention medication, even though providing those relatively cheap medications could stave off deadly, not to mention costly, illnesses which could help save or extend their lives.
Given the cost, in both dollars and lives, associated with chronic disease, investing in preventive health care strategies is both sensible and cost-effective. That’s why every public and private health insurance plan — except for the Veterans Health Administration, which provides insurance benefits to veterans — offers preventive care without requiring copays.
The time has come to provide our nation’s veterans with the same quality of coverage we provide every other insured American, which is why we introduced the bipartisan Veterans Preventive Health Coverage Fairness Act, which addresses this clear problem by bringing veterans’ preventive health benefits in line with those provided to active-duty service members and all other insured Americans.
We’re proud that five major veteran service organizations have already endorsed it. The Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Veterans, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Disabled American Veterans and the Military Order of the Purple Heart agree that we should remedy this disparity, and they are working with us to help pass our legislation.
All Americans deserve access to the best health care possible — especially the veterans who risked life and limb to defend our nation and made significant sacrifices on our behalf. Congress should pass our Veterans Preventive Health Coverage Fairness Act to align the Department of Veterans Affairs’ prescription fee structure with industry standards and provide the best care for our veterans.
Sen.-elect Tammy Duckworth, a Democrat, represents Illinois’ 8th District in the House of Representatives. She is an Iraq War veteran and former assistant secretary of Veterans Affairs. Rep. Lee Zeldin, a Republican, represents New York’s 1st District in the House of Representatives. He is an Army veteran and a major in the Army Reserve.

Army Announces Deployments to Kuwait, Afghanistan

We have to stop making Veterans. We need to take care of the Veterans we have. What's wrong with you people?????

Tankers with Company D, 6th Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, conduct maintenance on their M1A2 Abrams tanks at the battalion's motor pool on Feb. 16, 2016. Staff Sgt. Leah Kilpatrick/Army | Dec 08, 2016 | by Matthew Cox

The U.S. Army announced Thursday it will deploy an armored brigade combat team and a combat aviation brigade to the Middle East this winter.
About 3,800 soldiers from the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, stationed at Fort Hood, Texas, will deploy to Kuwait in support of combatant command mission requirements, according to an Army press release.
"Our nation's Army continues to call on the 1st Cavalry Division to serve across the globe. The latest to be called is our 3rd ABCT," said Maj. Gen. John C. Thomson, 1st Cavalry Division commander.
"Greywolf troopers have demonstrated a high level of proficiency with rigorous home-station training and a successful National Training Center rotation in October. They are prepared to execute their assigned mission for Central Command."
The Defense Department announced Wednesday the death of Army Sgt. First Class Allan E. Brown, who died of wounds received last month in a suicide bombing in Afghanistan that killed two other 1st Cavalry Division soldiers.
Brown, 46, of Takoma Park, Maryland, died Tuesday at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, of wounds suffered at the Bagram air base north of Kabul, the Afghan capital, on Nov. 12, according to a release from Fort Hood.
Two other division soldiers, Sgt. John W. Perry, 30, of Stockton, California, and Pfc. Tyler R. Iubelt, 20, of Tamaroa, Illinois, were killed in the same incident, believed to be an insider attack by an Afghan worker on the base wearing a suicide vest.
Brown, who was on his sixth deployment to a combat zone, was assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Special Troops Battalion, 1st Sustainment Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, at Fort Hood since July 2012.
More Troops to Afghanistan: The Army also announced that about 800 soldiers from the 16th Combat Aviation Brigade, 7th Infantry Division, stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, will deploy to Afghanistan as part of a regular rotation of forces in support of Operation Freedom's Sentinel.
"The soldiers of the Raptor Brigade have worked very hard to build readiness over the last year, and I am extremely confident in their ability to accomplish our upcoming mission," said Col. William A. Ryan, 16th Combat Aviation Brigade commander.
"We employ some of the Army's most advanced aviation technology, but it is our tremendous team of Army professionals that will ensure mission success."

-- Matthew Cox can be reached at

Free mental health clinics open to veterans tired of long wait times

December 7, 2016 at 1:00 PM EST

Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald (reflected in doors, facing reporters) speaks outside VA headquarters in Washington, D.C. in 2015. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Elenilson Franco, who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety, first sought mental health care from the Department of Veterans Affairs nearly four years ago.
He is still waiting. The VA lost his original paperwork and hasn’t yet approved a new application, he said.
“It’s frustrating,” lamented Franco, 46, who served in Iraq as a U.S. Marine. “I am a veteran. The VA is supposed to be there for me.”
“It’s frustrating. I am a veteran. The VA is supposed to be there for me.”
Over the past three years, the sprawling VA system has come under fire from Congress and the media because veterans were waiting too long to see a doctor. Mental health appointments have been particularly difficult, and that can be dangerous for veterans. Studies show up to 20 percent of soldiers returning from battle in Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Now, a new chain of free mental health clinics for vets has opened in five cities across the United States to fill the gap.
The much-needed new treatment is underwritten by an unlikely benefactor: Steven A. Cohen, the former head of a hedge fund that pleaded guilty to insider trading charges in 2013. His $13 billion fortune puts him among the 100 wealthiest individuals in the world, according to Forbes magazine.
Cohen said the catalyst for the clinics was his son, Robert, who served with the U.S. Marine Corps in Afghanistan. He said his son didn’t need counseling when he returned, but many of his friends did.
“I got lucky,” Cohen said. “My son came back in great shape, but not everyone is that fortunate.”
Cohen got involved with veterans’ mental health issues in 2011 through the Robin Hood Foundation, an anti-poverty organization. Then he began supporting the NYU Military Family Clinic. Now, he is investing $275 million nationally in the clinics and plans to open roughly 20 more over the next five years. The goal of the clinics is to provide confidential mental health services, free of charge, for veterans like Franco.
“Veterans are suffering,” Cohen said in a written response to questions. “They went overseas and paid an extraordinary debt that we need to repay. The goal of my network is to help pay back that debt and get veterans back into society in a functioning way.”
“Veterans are suffering. They went overseas and paid an extraordinary debt that we need to repay. The goal of my network is to help pay back that debt and get veterans back into society in a functioning way.”
The clinics, part of the nonprofit Cohen Veterans Network, are intended primarily for those who have served in the military during the post-September 11 era, though they are open to all veterans. Cohen said he is putting them in areas of high need.
“There’s a large population of veterans who need mental health services,” said Terri Tanielian, a senior behavioral scientist at Santa Monica-based RAND Corporation. “This provides them with another option. … The clinics certainly add to our nation’s capacity.”
Franco, who lives in Huntington Park, Calif., said that he was able initially to find help through a local nonprofit, but he plans to visit the Cohen clinic in L.A. “very soon.”
In addition to Los Angeles, Cohen’s network also operates clinics in New York City, San Antonio, Philadelphia and Addison, Texas – a suburb of Dallas. They care for veterans regardless of how long they served or how they were discharged. The clinics also serve veterans’ family members. The outpatient centers treat a wide range of mental health disorders and help veterans make the transition back to civilian life. Cohen is also funding a nonprofit research organization, Cohens Veterans Bioscience, that will seek to develop tests and medications for PTSD and traumatic brain injuries.
“It’s not just lack of access. In some cases, it’s exclusion.”
Cohen is the CEO of Point72 Asset Management in Stamford, Connecticut, and formerly headed SAC Capital Advisors, which pleaded guilty in 2013 to insider trading charges. Cohen himself is temporarily barred from supervising funds that manage outside money – part of an agreement with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
The new network of clinics combats “the persistent delays and the persistent lack of access that our service members and our families have experienced,” said Marilyn L. Flynn, the dean of the University of Southern California School of Social Work. The Cohen clinic in Los Angeles operates in partnership with the School of Social Work and USC’s Keck School of Medicine.
“It’s not just lack of access,” Flynn said during the grand opening of the Los Angeles clinic last month. “In some cases, it’s exclusion.”
The VA estimated in 2014 that there were 2.6 million post-9/11 veterans. They have high rates of depression, PTSD and other mental health problems.
One study by the VA found that about 30 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans treated at Veterans Affairs hospitals and clinics had PTSD. Yet only about half of veterans with PTSD are receiving care for their condition, RAND’s Tanielian said. Barriers to care include a shortage of mental health providers and perceptions that seeking care is a sign of weakness or could hurt their career.
Some younger veterans prefer not to use VA facilities for health care, either because of location, concerns about confidentiality or a desire not to take services away from older veterans, Tanielian said.
And many veterans seek care outside the VA because they don’t qualify for the government-funded services, said Milo Peinemann, chief strategy officer at New Directions for Veterans, a Los Angeles nonprofit.
The fact the Cohen clinics don’t have strict eligibility rules will enable them to reach an entire population of veterans who are currently being underserved, Peinemann said.
Over the past decade, community organizations have expanded physical and mental health care access for veterans. The Warrior Care Network, for example, is trying to fill gaps in government care through a partnership with four academic medical centers across the U.S.
Angel Ewers, 41, her husband, and their teenage children are being treated at the Cohen clinic in San Antonio. Ewers said her husband, who served in the Army, Air Force and the National Guard, tried to commit suicide nearly three years ago. Since then, he has been in and out of psychiatric hospitals and seen numerous providers.
He didn’t have a good experience at the VA, Ewers said. “He felt like it was more, ‘Get him in, get him out,’” she said. “He was a number.”
Not having to pay for care at the Cohen clinic is a “financial relief”, she said.
When possible, the clinics will bill insurance, said Anthony Hassan, president and CEO of the Cohen Veterans Network. But he noted that not all veterans and family members want their insurance companies to know they are seeking mental health treatment.
Providers across the network will strive to provide care that is based on proven best practices, said Ian Chuang, chief medical officer for Netsmart, a technology company that is tracking outcomes and supporting research at the Cohen clinics.
“The Cohen veteran clinics are trying to push the boundaries and say, ‘We need to do better,’” Chuang said. “We want to be part of figuring out what better means.”
The clinics are staffed by social workers, psychologists and students, including veterans. At the Los Angeles clinic, providers offer individual counseling, substance abuse treatment, and psychiatric services. Staff members also connect families with other services, including transportation, housing and child care.
The clinic plans to open satellite centers around Los Angeles County and to collaborate with existing providers.
Partnering with a university and having the flexibility of private funds makes the L.A. clinic uniquely qualified to provide the best scientific treatment as it evolves, said Marvin Southard, the clinic’s CEO and former mental health director for L.A. County. “And it’s constantly evolving,” he said.

Anna Gorman is a senior correspondent based in Los Angeles. She joined from the Los Angeles Times, where she worked for nearly 15 years covering health care, immigration and the Mexican border. She was a 2011 Nieman Fellow at Harvard University, and taught journalism at Harvard University and at USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Anna earned her bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley and her master's from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. While at the L.A. Times, she was part of a team that won a 2004 Pulitzer Prize.


There was a time when all our Military hardware and software was mandated to be manufactured in the United States by American Military Contractors.......What happened?? 

Army to Produce Wireless, Crew-Served Thermal Weapon Sights
The U.S. Army will soon begin to produce wireless, crew-served thermal weapons sights that connect to a soldier’s helmet display. Photo: U.S. Army.

The U.S. Army will soon begin to produce wireless, crew-served thermal weapons sights that connect to a soldier’s helmet display, service officials recently told Scout Warrior.
Using a wireless link, gun-mounted thermal sights send a targeting reticle from the gun to a soldier head-worn display, allowing soldiers to hit targets without needing to physically “look” through the gun-sights themselves.
Designed for the M2 .50-cal, M240 machine gun and Mk 19 grenade launcher, the system brings higher-resolution thermal imaging technology and increases field of view, developers explained.
“This is the first time the soldier will have a system which combines a true day and night capability with a laser range finder to adjust for the ballistics of the various ammunition types for the crew served weapons,” an Army official told Scout Warrior.
BAE Systems was recently awarded an Army contract to develop the technology, called Family of Weapons Sights – Crew Served (FWS-CS), in a deal worth up to $384 million.
A wireless helmet mounted display is designed to provide a more natural firing position as well as allow soldiers to remain more protected, a BAE systems statement said. Crew-served weapons, such as the .50-cal machine gun, are often used to suppress enemy areas so that troops can maneuver while under attack.
BAE Systems’ FWS-CS system is also engineered to improve targeting speed and precision. It uses a 12-micron sensor technology to provide soldiers with greater clarity and range, developers said.
“FWS-CS also, for the first time, incorporates a high-resolution day camera and laser range finder into the weapon sight, allowing the user to engage targets with a range correct reticle,” John Koltookian, technical director at BAE Systems, told Scout Warrior.
With an initial development order of $10.5 million, work will be performed at the company’s facilities in Hudson, New Hampshire and Austin, Texas.
This crew-served weapons technology is engineered to function alongside a similar Army program called Family of Weapons Sights – Individual (FWS-I); in similar fashion to the FWS-CS, this system uses a wireless link to connect thermal sights on an M4 carbine with an individual soldier’s Enhanced Night Vision Goggle display.
A key advantage of this technology is, by design, to allow soldiers to target and attack enemies without having to “shoulder” the weapon and bring it up to their face.

FWS-I is already in Low-Rate-Initial Production and slated to be operational by 2018, service officials said.