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News Letter August 2007
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Web Page Accounting as of NOW
“The Monthly Diamondhead”
August 2007
Editor-Reporter-Chief Cook-Web Slave-
Ron Leonard
(cell) 907-354-7062
E- mail: webmaster@25thaviation.org

 A veteran - whether active duty, retired, national guard or reserve - is someone who, at one point in his life, wrote a blank check made payable to  "The United States of America", for an amount of "up to and including my life."
 That is Honor, and there are way too many people in this country who no longer understand it.
 -- Author Unknown

Company Stuff:

During the summer we have turned up a few new people. For Diamondhead Joe Shipes, a pilot 67-68, and George Wakefield, and working on more.
.more
Notifications:

Hi Guys:

I am sorry communication has been so sparse this summer, but I have been plagued with computer problems, and building a cabin here in Alaska. It is winding down a bit now, and the cabin should be situated for the year this week and things can revert to a resemblance of normalness the rest of the year.

We still have afew of our reunion coins available. There was only 100 made so they will be collectors items. If you want one let me know. They are $10 and the proceeds go into the reunion fund. If you have paypal, my account is webmaster@25thaviation.org,
or mail a check to

Ron Leonard
P.O. Box 1451
Krebs, Ok 74554

Our old helicopter 961 has been sold from the Sheriffs Dept in South Carolina and purchased by one of our own, Tim Horrell a Little Bear pilot who has restored her to a flyable state. She is decorated in 25th Infantry colors and resides in Bend Oregon. I am going to make a stop on the way home and go for a ride. Anyone else in the neighborhood who wants to go for a little ride, let me know and I will pass the info on to Tim.

961 Today
One Time Movie Downloads

                             WWII
Band of Brothers E1-1
Band of Brothers E1-2
Band of Brothers E2-1
Band of Brothers E2-2
Band of Brothers E3-1
Band of Brothers E3-2
Band of Brothers E4-1
Band of Brothers E4-2
Band of Brothers E5-1
Band of Brothers E5-2

Vietnam/Cambodia
The Killing Fields
Tour Of Duty Ep. 1.1
Tour Of Duty Ep. 1.2
Tour Of Duty Ep. 1.3
Tour Of Duty Ep. 1.4
Tour Of Duty Ep. 1.5
Tour Of Duty Ep. 1.6

Parts 6 to 10 will be added soon

History:

We have approached a very special point in time. There is a window open to us to tell our stories, to get our side of the story told. Every day this window gets smaller, as can be attested to by the number of our members that have left us since coming home. If you can all just take the time to sit down, and write that one good story, send it to me so I can record it. This way the historical events are not forgotten. Don't worry about it being perfect, I can fix it up for you.

Reunions:

Association Reunion Nov 2008 ,San Antonio Texas
(In Planning Stages)

Sept 2007 1st week Annual Alaska Fishing Trip

The first week of Sept there is an open invite to come to Alaska Fishing. If you want to attend you will only be out a plane ticket fishing license, and chipping in to the grub and beer funds. (Unless you motor home it or motel it) We have camping gear up here for a bunch, do bring your own sleeping bag and a camera.

We are planning on a base camp on the Kenai River in Sterling Alaska The guides will give us one day on the river pro bono, and I am setting up a two-day float trip down the Swanson River (free). It's a pretty easy float with few portages. But is loaded with trout and Silver Salmon that time of year. It is also Moose season, so hopefully one will have my name on it along the way<G>. There will also be lots of other wildlife, like bears, both black and brown, and a wolf or two, maybe a grizzly or two, grouse, ducks, Trumpeter Swans....it should be a fun trip. I am working on one-day (reduced rate) offshore fishing trip from Seward with Saltwater Safaris as I write this, so it will make a full week of fun and adventure. I hope to see you here; I assure you it will be a trip of a lifetime.

Medical and VA Issues:

Family and friends:
 Please enter the following and make note of the statements and accompanied references. Great reading!
www.mofo.com/docs/pdf/ptsd070723.pdf Class action lawsuit against VA. Pay particular attention to section V
Spread the word folks! I haven't seen any of this in the papers.
STATEMENT OF
JOSEPH A. VIOLANTE
NATIONAL LEGISLATIVE DIRECTOR
OF THE DISABLED AMERICAN VETERANS ON BEHALF OF THE PARTNERSHIP FOR VETERANS HEALTH CARE BUDGET REFORM BEFORE THE COMMITTEE ON VETERANS' AFFAIRS
UNITED STATES SENATE
JULY 25, 2007

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee:
We appreciate the opportunity to testify today about the funding process for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care system.  I am testifying not only on behalf of Disabled American Veterans (DAV), but also the eight other national veterans service organizations along with DAV that make up the Partnership for Veterans Health Care Budget Reform (hereinafter, the Partnership):  The American Legion; AMVETS; Blinded Veterans Association; Jewish War Veterans of the USA; Military Order of Purple Heart of the U.S.A.; Paralyzed Veterans of America; Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States; and, Vietnam Veterans of America.  

I would like to begin by thanking Chairman Akaka and Ranking Member Craig for holding this critical, and even historic, hearing.  For more than a decade the Partnership has urged Congress to address and reform the basic discretionary appropriations system of funding VA health care.  The VA health care system must be protected for millions of veterans who depend on it now as their only health care resource and will do so for many decades.  This hearing is a key moment for Congress.  There is an opportunity to create an enduring legacy of commitment to the long-term viability of the health care system dedicated to meeting the unique needs of our nation's veterans.  

While we have waited a long time for today's hearing, the Partnership acknowledges and applauds the support of this Committee and your Appropriations Committee colleagues who have elevated VA discretionary health care funding over the past several budget cycles and in particular this year's prospective increase of $6 billion in additional health care funding.  Nevertheless, I hope to make clear to the Committee why funding problems persist and how Congress can solve this issue by enacting a reform that results in sufficiency, predictability and timeliness of VA health care funding.  

Each year the President proposes a prospective budget and accompanying policies for the federal government.  Based on the Views and Estimates reports from authorizing committees, including this Committee in the case of Budget Function 700, Veterans Benefits and Services, the Budget Committees create a Concurrent Resolution as a blueprint to execute that budget.  The Appropriations Committees allocate funds to carry out the purposes of that budget, guided by the Concurrent Resolution.  The whole Congress and the President underwrite this system.  Executive Branch agencies carry out policies approved by Congress by spending the funds Congress appropriates for those purposes, approved through that process.  It is intended to be a balanced system, but for a variety of reasons that we will discuss in our testimony today, it does not work in the case of veterans health care.

No matter how accurate and precise the formulation methodology for the budget may be, the budget process itself impacts the appropriateness of the final resource outcome.  For example, although the budget process is designed to accommodate multiple reviews and approvals it is often too cumbersome and long requiring seven review levels (the Veterans Health Administration; VA; the Office of Management and Budget; Congressional Authorizing Committees (House and Senate) and Congressional Appropriations Committees (House and Senate); and 21 months (at a minimum) from initial formulation to the beginning of the budgeted fiscal year.  The resultant budget, after multiple tactical adjustments, often lacks a clear strategic direction.  Updates in estimates (during the 21 month span) are not encouraged after review officials lock-in to their approved levels.  Review adjustments often lack precise calculations.  Finally, the resultant budget is subject to delays in appropriations enactment often unrelated to veteran policy issues.
All veterans' programs, including its health care system, are dependent upon sufficient funding for the benefits and services provided by Congressional authorization.  If Congress awards a benefit to veterans, that benefit or service should be appropriately funded by Congress.  Finally, a level of funding should be provided to guarantee that benefits or services are actually available to a veteran in need.  Unfortunately, the VA discretionary appropriations process often fails against that standard.
VA has been unable to manage or plan the delivery of care as effectively as it could have, as a result of perennially inadequate budget submissions from Presidents of both political parties; annual Continuing Resolutions in lieu of approved appropriations; late arriving final appropriations; offsets and across-the-board reductions; plus the injection of supplemental and even “emergency supplemental” appropriations to fill gaps.  We challenge this Committee to identify an American business that could operate successfully and remain viable if, in 12 of 13 consecutive years, it had no advance confidence about the level of its projected revenues or the resources it needed to bring a product or service to market, no ability to plan beyond the immediate needs of the institution day-to-day, and no freedom to operate on the basis of known or expected need in the future.  In fact this has been the situation in VA, with 12 out of 13 fiscal years beginning with Continuing Resolutions, creating a number of challenging conditions that are preventable and avoidable with basic reforms in funding.  We believe that no commercial business in America could have withstood the degree of financial insecurity and instability VA has endured over a decade.  The Partnership believes this situation needn't exist, and that Congress can make vast improvements with funding reform legislation.
The Partnership is especially concerned about maintaining a stable and viable health care system to meet the unique medical needs of our nation's veterans now and in the future.  The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are producing a new generation of wounded, sick and disabled veterans, and some severe types at a poly-trauma level never seen before in warfare.  A young American wounded in Central Asia today with brain injury, limb loss, or blindness will need the VA health care system for the remainder of their lives.  The goal of the Partnership is to see a long-term solution formed for funding VA health care to guarantee these veterans will have a dependable system for the foreseeable future, not simply next year.  Reformation of the whole funding system is essential so federal funds can be secured on a timely basis, allowing VA to manage the delivery of care, and to plan effectively to meet known and predictable needs.  In our judgment a change is warranted and long overdue.  To establish a stable and viable health care system, any reform must include sufficiency, predictability, and timeliness of VA health care funding.

In past Congresses we have worked with both Veterans Affairs Committees to craft legislation that we believe would solve this problem if enacted.  The current version of that bill is a House measure, the Assured Funding for Veterans Health Care Act, H.R. 2514, introduced on May 24, 2007, by Representative Phil Hare of Illinois with 77 original cosponsors and the Partnership's full endorsement.  We note for the record that no Senate companion measure has been introduced in this Congress due to the illness of the expected chief sponsor, Senator Tim Johnson of South Dakota, a Member of this Committee.  A number of public criticisms have been made of this bill and its predecessors, and I will address those concerns later in this statement.  Suffice it to say that the Partnership believes even if each of those assertions about the bill were literally true, veterans still would have an improved funding system were that bill enacted than the one they have today under the current discretionary appropriations system.

We ask the Committee to consider all the actions Congress has had to take over only the past three years to find and appropriate “extra” funding to fill gaps left from the normal appropriations system.  Please also consider the Administration's efforts to explain to Congress why VA was shortchanged by billions of dollars each year.  These admissions were often very reluctantly made.  In one case, the President was reduced to formally requesting two budget amendments from Congress within only a few days of each other.

Some members have opposed mandatory funding because it would cost too much; however, the recent Congressional Research Service report to Congress detailing the running expenditures for the global war on terror since September 11, 2001, revealed that veterans affairs-related spending constitutes one percent of the government's total expenditure.  Without question, there is a high cost for war and caring for our nation's sick and disabled veterans is part of that continued cost.  A report by a researcher at Harvard's Kennedy School predicted that federal outlays for veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq will arc between $350 billion and $700 billion over their life expectancies following military service-an amount in addition to what the nation already spends for previous generations of veterans.  Thus, it is clear the government will be spending vast sums in the future to care for veterans, to compensate them for their service and sacrifice, but these funds will still only constitute a minute fraction of total homeland security and war spending.  We believe funding VA health care is a cost of defense and war no less important than the weapons systems Congress authorizes in direct prosecution of the nation's defense.

From this hearing, after considering the testimony of witnesses and based thereon, we ask the Committee, in your fiscal year 2009 Views and Estimates to the Budget Committee that you inform them of your intention to report legislation creating a mandatory and guaranteed funding system for VA health care in 2009, and that you recommend that they reserve sufficient funds to make that seminal change.  If the Committee chooses a different method than offered in H.R. 2514 or a future Senate companion bill that is similar, we will examine that proposal to determine whether it meets our three essential standards for reform: sufficiency, predictability, and timeliness of funding for VA health care.  If that alternative fully meets those standards, our organizations will enthusiastically support it.

HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE AND FURTHER JUSTIFICATION FOR REFORM
In 1996, Congress passed the Veterans' Health Care Eligibility Reform Act of 1996, Public Law 104-262, which changed eligibility requirements and the way health care was provided to veterans.  Greater numbers of veterans became eligible for health care benefits as a result of this act.  As P.L. 104-262 was moving through Congress, Dr. Kenneth W. Kizer, the then-Under Secretary of Health of the Veterans Heath Administration (VHA), submitted a major administrative reorganization plan to Congress under Title 38 United States Code, Chapter 5, Section 510(b).  Since Congress expressed no disapproval of this proposal, this plan created 22 Veterans Integrated Service Networks (VISNs) to replace the VA's four regional management divisions.
The decentralization of operations was seen as essential to prepare VA to function more effectively in manageable and integrated delivery networks-networks that would be more patient-centric and would rely on primary and preventive care rather than more intensive modes.  Accentuated by authorities provided by P.L. 104-262, the VA health care system thereabout underwent significant reforms from an episodic and bed-reliant system of care to one in which veterans were enrolled and could expect continuity of care and health maintenance, including preventive services.  The shift in focus from medical intervention in diseases afflicting veterans, to primary care to maintain their health, reflected a broader trend co-occurring in America's private health care sector.  The shift allowed VA to close thousands of unnecessary hospital beds while establishing new facilities called Community-Based Outpatient Clinics (CBOCs) to provide more veterans more convenient access to care.
With encouragement from many Members of Congress as well as your Committee and national veterans service organizations, the VISNs outreached to veterans to enroll in a reformed VA health care system.  As a result millions of veterans enrolled in VA health care for the first time in their lives.  A decade later, VA health care is a remarkable success story of how to transform a troubled and overburdened system into a state-of-the-art provider.  Harvard University's School of Public Health and the National Quality Research Center at the University of Michigan have both scored VA at the very top of American health care systems in terms of patient safety and medical outcomes.  Mainstream publications, including Time, Newsweek, US News and World Report, Business Week, The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post, Fortune, and the Washington Monthly, have all written major stories detailing VA's transformation over the past decade.  Their investigations have confirmed that VA today is the highest quality, lowest cost health care system in the Nation.
While Congress intended veterans to be able to secure an improved continuum of care, P.L. 104-262 underscored that VA health care operations would still be dependent upon appropriated resources.  As early as 1993, the Partnership urged Congress to “guarantee” funding for VA health care if Congress decided to reform eligibility for that care.  Unlike other health care benefits available to non-VA beneficiaries, this VA benefit is not “guaranteed.”  This has probably been the single most significant problem for VA during the past decade and the reason we appear here today.  In sum, as a result of eligibility reform veterans have been rewarded with a more integrated VA health care system, a more comprehensive health care benefit and high quality, safe health care services.  However, gaining and keeping access to that system is a continuing dilemma due to the uncertainty of duration of an individual's enrollment, VA's hobbled planning from lack of secured and predictable funding; budgetary gimmicks employed by VA and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) officials.  Additionally, because of the Administration's policies, VA is constrained from publicly stating their true funding requirements.
Most importantly, eligibility reform eliminated fragmented care provisions in the statute and enabled VA to appropriately streamline care for its veteran patients.  It eliminated a tangled web of rules and internal VA policies that made individual health care eligibility decisions bureaucratic, complicated, confusing, and harmful to the health of veterans who depended on VA to meet their needs.  Reforming eligibility corrected the artificial inefficiencies of the system, allowed it to treat more veterans, and enabled it to preserve the system, primarily for service-connected veterans, low income veterans and veterans with special needs.  We believe that goal was, and still is, a sound one.  Without question VA's success has led to unprecedented growth in the system but we disagree with some who allege that eligibility reform created “the current funding problem” by enticing too many veterans to enroll.  In our judgment the problem is not eligibility reform, but inadequate funding through the discretionary appropriations process.
PRESSURE BUILDS ON THE SYSTEM
In 2002 VA placed a moratorium on its facilities' marketing and outreach activities to veterans and determined there was a need to give the most severely service-connected disabled veterans a priority for care.  This was necessitated by VA's realization that demand was seriously out-pacing available funding and other resources, and service-connected veterans were being pushed aside as VA's highest priority.  On January 17, 2003, the Secretary announced a “temporary” exclusion from enrollment of veterans whose income exceeds geographically determined thresholds and who were not enrolled before that date.  This directive denied health care access to 164,000 so-called “Priority Group 8” (PG8) veterans in the first year alone following that decision.  To date over one million veterans have been denied access to VA health care under that policy.  The then-Ranking Member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee was correct when, in response to the Secretary's decision to restrict enrollments of these veterans he stated, “The problem isn't that veterans are seeking health care from their health care system-it's that the federal government is not making the resources available to address their needs.”  We agree.

Mr. Chairman, the decision to exclude PG8 veterans from VA health care enrollment at the beginning of 2003 also must be taken into historical context.  While VA was in the midst of unprecedented systemic-even revolutionary, change, Congress passed the Balanced Budget Act (BBA) of 1997, Public Law 105-33.  That Act was intended to flat-line domestic discretionary federal spending, across the board, including funding for VA health care.  As the effects of the BBA took hold during the three-year life of that law, VA's financial situation shifted from challenging to that of crisis.  In 2000, at the urgings of both this Committee and your House counterpart, Congress relented and provided VA health care a supplemental appropriation of $1.7 billion.  Nevertheless, a three-year funding drought built up conditions that could not easily be surmounted by one infusion of new funding.  VA began queuing new veteran enrollees, the waiting list lengthened and rationing of care was commonly reported.  Eventually, by 2002, the list of veterans waiting more than six months for their first primary care appointment inched toward 300,000 nationwide.  Given an Administration that would not permit additional funding to stem the waiting list buildup, then-VA Secretary Principi, using the policy available to him, closed new enrollments of PG8 veterans and set about a plan to get the waiting list under control.
Another consideration important to this discussion is that the BBA also authorized a ten-site “Medicare subvention” demonstration project within the Department of Defense (DoD) health care system as a precursor to the advent of Medicare subvention in VA.  This program eventually failed in DoD and, later known as “VA+Choice Medicare” and later still, “VAAdvantage,” never got off the ground due to opposition from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Department of Health and Human Services.  This failure meant that no Medicare funds would ever be received by VA for the care it had been providing (and is still providing) to fully Medicare-eligible veterans receiving care as enrolled VA patients, at a huge cost avoidance savings to the Medicare trust fund.  At least 55 percent of VA's enrolled population is concurrently eligible for Medicare coverage.  Many PG8 veterans, in and out of VA, would be Medicare eligible as well.
PRESIDENT'S TASK FORCE
An additional perspective to consider with respect to addressing funding reform is that of the President's Task Force to Improve Health Care Delivery for Our Nation's Veterans (PTF).  Dr. Gail Wilensky, Co-Chair of that task force, testified before the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs on March 26, 2003, two months following the exclusion of PG8 veterans from VA enrollment.  She stated:

                           “As I noted earlier, as the Task Force addressed issues set out directly in our charge, we invariably kept coming up against  concerns relating to the current situation in VA in which there is such a mismatch between the demand for VA services and the funding available to meet that demand.  It was clear to us that, although there has been a historical gap between demand for VA care and the funding available in any given year to meet that demand, the current mismatch is far greater, for a variety of reasons, and its impact potentially far more detrimental, both to VA's ability to furnish high quality care and to the support that the system needs from those it serves and their elected representatives.

The PTF members were very concerned about this situation, both because of its direct impact on VA care as well on how it impacted overall collaboration [with DoD].  Our discussion on the mismatch issue stretched over many months and, as anyone following the work of the Task Forces already knows, it was the area of the greatest difference of opinion among the members.

Although we did not reach agreement on one issue in the mismatch area - that is, the status of veterans in Category 8, those veterans with no service-connected conditions with incomes above the geographically adjusted means test threshold - we were unanimous as to what should be the situation for veterans in Categories 1 through 7, those veterans with service-connected conditions or with incomes below the income threshold.”

While the Partnership supports opening the system to new PG8 veterans who need care, we must surmise based on the above historical recounting and our analysis that the readmission of PG8 veterans to VA, absent a major reformation of VA's funding system, could stimulate and trigger a new funding crisis in VA health care.  While Congress is poised to add a significant new discretionary funding increase to VA medical accounts for fiscal year 2008-one that we deeply appreciate-we are uncertain that even that generous increase will be sufficient to offset all of VA's financial shortfalls.  Also, it should be pointed out that the needs of re-admitted veterans would be challenging for VA's human resources and capital programs.  We are concerned whether sufficient health professional manpower could be recruited to enable VA to put them into place in an orderly fashion to meet this new demand.  Also, VA's physical space may be insufficient to accommodate the new outpatient visits that PG8 patients would likely generate.  These practical problems are but additional proof that funding reform should accompany readmission of PG8 veterans into the system.

The question about PG8 veterans reenrolling in VA health care is not a question only about them and their needs for health care.  It is also a larger question about the sufficiency, reliability and dependability of the current system of funding VA health care through the domestic discretionary appropriations process.  Until those reforms are enacted to guarantee that on October 1 of each year, VA will have a known budget in hand, will have the means and methods to spend those funds in accordance with need, and that VA's budget will be based on a stable, predictable and sufficient methodology, we are concerned about immediate readmission of PG8 veterans.
FACTS ON ASSURED FUNDING FOR VA HEALTH CARE
Mr. Chairman, in recent years we have heard a number of reasons put forward as to why converting VA health care to mandatory funding would fail, whether from the bill we recommend or through other models to achieve that purpose.  We summarize those concerns here and ask the Committee to consider them and our responses.  
MYTHS and REALITY
MYTH:  Congress would lose oversight over the VA health care system if VA shifted from discretionary to mandatory funding.  
REALITY:  While funding would be removed from the direct politics, uncertainties, and capriciousness of the annual budget-appropriations process, Congress would retain oversight of VA programs and health care services-as it does with other federal mandatory programs.  
Guaranteed funding for VA health care would free members of Congress from their annual budgetary battles to provide more time for them to concentrate on oversight of VA programs and services.
MYTH: Mandatory funding creates an individual entitlement to health care.

REALITY:  The Assured Funding for Veterans Health Care Act would shift the current funding for VA health care from discretionary appropriations to mandatory budget status.  The Act makes no other changes.  It does not expand eligibility for an individual veteran, make changes to the benefits package, or alter VA's mission.

MYTH:  Guaranteed funding would open the VA health care system to all veterans.

REALITY:  The Health Care Eligibility Reform Act of 1996 theoretically opened the VA health care system to all 27 million veterans; however, it was never anticipated that all veterans would seek or need VA health care.  Most veterans have private health insurance and will likely never elect to use the system.  The Secretary is required by law to make an annual enrollment decision based on available resources.  This bill would not affect the Secretary's authority to manage enrollment, but would only ensure the Secretary has sufficient funds to treat those veterans enrolled for VA health care.

MYTH: Guaranteed funding for VA health care would cost too much.

REALITY:  Guaranteed funding under the Act would utilize a formula based on the number of enrolled veterans multiplied by the cost per patient, with an annual adjustment for medical inflation to keep pace with costs for medical equipment, supplies, pharmaceuticals and uncontrollable costs such as energy.  The Act would ensure that VA receives sufficient resources to treat veterans actually using the system.
MYTH:  Veterans in Priority Group 7 and 8 are using up all of VA's health care resources; and it therefore costs too much to continue to treat these veterans.

REALITY:  Among the 7.9 million enrollees in the VA health care system, 2.4 million veterans from Priority Groups 7 and 8 account for only 30 percent of the total enrolled population but use only 11 percent of VA's expenditure for all priority groups.  

MYTH:  The viability of the VA health care system can be maintained even if VA only treats service-connected veterans or the so- called “core group,” Priority Groups 1-6.
REALITY:  VA health care should be maintained and priority given to treat these veterans, since many of the specialized services they need are not available in the private sector.  However, to maintain VA, a proper patient case mix and a sufficient number of veterans are needed to ensure the viability of the system for its so-called core users and to preserve specialized programs, while remaining cost effective.
MYTH:  Providing guaranteed funding for VA health care will not solve VA's problems.

REALITY:  With guaranteed funding, VA can strategically plan for the short- , medium- and long-term, optimize its assets, achieve greater efficiency and realize savings.  VA continues to struggle to provide timely health care services to all veterans seeking care due to insufficient funding, and always uncertain funding beyond the operational year.  The guaranteed funding formula in the bill provides a standardized approach in solving the access issue and permitting more rational planning.
MYTH:  Veterans health care should be privatized because the system is too big, inefficient, and unresponsive to veterans.
REALITY:  VA patients are often elderly, have multiple disabilities, and are chronically ill. They are generally unattractive to the private sector.  Also, such patients pose too great an underwriting risk for private insurers and health maintenance or preferred provider organizations. While private sector hospitals have lower administrative costs and operate with profit motives, a number of studies have shown that VA provides high quality care and is more cost-effective care than comparable private sector health care.  VA provides a wide range of specialized services, including spinal cord injury and dysfunction care, blind rehabilitation, prosthetics, advanced rehabilitation, post-traumatic stress disorder, mental health, and long-term care.  These are at the very heart of VA's mission.  Additionally, VA supplies one-third of all care provided for the chronically mentally ill, and is the largest single source of care for patients with AIDS.  Without VA, millions of veterans would be forced to rely on Medicare and Medicaid at substantially greater federal and state expense.
MYTH:  Under a mandatory funding program, VA would no longer have an incentive to find efficiencies and to supplement its appropriation with third-party collections.

REALITY:     Mandatory funding will provide sufficient resources to ensure high quality health care services when veterans need it.   It is not intended to provide excess funding for veterans health care.  VA Central Office (VACO) would still be responsible for ensuring local managers are using funds appropriately and efficiently.  Network and medical center directors and others would still be required to meet performance standards and third-party collections goals.  These checks and balances will help ensure accountability.  

DECISION POINT:  A CALL FOR ACTION
In closing, Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee, we ask for your leadership, support and commitment to resolve this keystone issue in veterans' affairs.  Only strong leadership from the Committee can address the current workload and resource imbalance reported to the Administration and Congress in 2003 by the President's Task Force, a mismatch confirmed nearly every day since in media accounts, learned reviews and research studies that are readily available to the Committee.  We urge you to guide the Department out of this unnecessary but real and continuing dilemma.  We hope, as leaders on veterans' issues, the Members of this Committee will remember the needs of America's veterans and take action to remedy this serious problem.
This Committee knows best the enormous fiscal distress that VA has faced and still faces.  We hope that Congress in a bipartisan manner will be willing to break the vicious cycle that has undermined the veterans' health care system.  Your action on this issue will determine what level of health care is available to meet the needs of current and future generations of American veterans.  We believe guaranteed funding through a mandatory formula would provide the most comprehensive solution to VA's chronic health-care funding problem.  It would ensure the viability of the system.  The hopes of the entire veterans' community for a more stable future were rekindled when you, Mr. Chairman, scheduled this important Committee hearing.  We trust it represents the beginning of the end of these annual budget battles we all have to fight.  
Mr. Chairman, attached to this statement are legislative statements or resolutions adopted by member organizations of the Partnership urging funding reform in VA health care.  We hope as you debate this crucial matter the Committee will recognize that our organizations are unified in our interests in calling for budget reform.

This concludes my testimony.  Again, I appreciate the opportunity to present testimony on behalf of the Partnership, and I thank the Committee for its continuing support for veterans, especially those who are sick and disabled as a result of serving the nation.  

Vets panel to hold hearings in isles
                             Star-Bulletin staff / cityeditors@starbulletin.com
The U.S. Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee will hold hearings in Hawaii this month on health care and benefits for veterans, and its chairman, Sen. Daniel Akaka, will also hold informal town hall meetings on four neighbor islands.
The town hall meetings are open to public comment, and staff members from the VA will be available to answer questions. Under Senate rules, testimony at the formal congressional hearings is limited to invited speakers, but Akaka will remain after the Oahu hearing to hear from the public.

The schedule for the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee hearings is:

» Oahu: “VA Care and Benefits in Hawaii”; Aug. 21, 10 a.m.; Oahu Veterans Center, 1298 Kukila St., Honolulu.
» Maui: “VA Health Care on Maui”; Aug. 23, 10:30 a.m.; Kalana O Maui Building, Maui County Council Chambers, 8th floor, Wailuku.
» Big Island: “Access to VA Health Care and Benefits and Outreach to the Guard and Reserve”; Aug. 27, 1 p.m., Keauhou Bay Sheraton, Keauhou II Room, 78-128 Ehukai St., Kailua-Kona.
The schedule for the town hall meetings hosted by Akaka is:
» Lanai: Aug. 22, 10 a.m., ILWU Hall.
» Molokai: Aug. 24, 2 p.m., DHHL Kulana `Oiwi complex, 660 Maunaloa Highway, Kalamaula.
>> Big Island: Aug. 28, 10 a.m., Aupuni Center Conference Room, 101 Pauahi St.
» Kauai: Aug. 30, 4 p.m., Kauai Veterans Center.

DOD, VA to test streamlined disability plan
By Tom Philpott, Special to Stars and Stripes

After months of top-level negotiations, the departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs are only weeks away from testing a plan to streamline and partially merge their disability rating processes.

But as first steps are taken toward what a senior defense official said will be “remarkable changes” to the method of setting disability separations and retirements, a blue-ribbon panel has said: Go further. Much further.

The President's Commission on Care for America's Returning Wounded Warriors, in releasing its final report Wednesday, recommended getting “DOD completely out of the disability business” by giving VA sole responsibility for setting disability ratings and awarding compensation. Disabled servicemembers would see the current “confusing, parallel systems of ratings and compensation” replaced by a single, simple, more generous system.

Other commission recommendations call for:

* A patient-centered recovery plan for each severely injured member.
* Aggressive prevention/treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury.
* Improved support services for families of wounded members.
* Faster transfer of patient information between DOD and VA.
* Shoring up staff at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center until its closing in 2011.

Former Kansas Republican Sen. Robert Dole, a disabled veteran of World War II, and Donna Shalala, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services during the Clinton administration, chaired the nine-member panel. Its recommendation to “completely restructure the disability determination and compensation system” would shrink the military's role to determining whether members remain fit for duty.

Those found to be unfit during a “single, comprehensive, standardized medical examination” administered by DOD would be separated with a lifetime annuity tied to rank and years of service. VA then would determine disability ratings and level of disability payment, which would be paid in addition to military annuity. This approach would secure full “concurrent receipt” of military retirement and VA disability compensation.

The Dole-Shalala report says VA disability payments should have three components: transition money to help with the return to civilian life, earning-loss pay to make up for reduced future earnings and quality-of-life pay “to compensate for permanent losses of various kinds.”

Disabled vets would continue to qualify for VA health care. But any servicemember found unfit for duty from combat-related injuries also would be eligible for lifetime Tricare coverage. Put simply, the commission said, DOD should focus on keeping a fit force and “acknowledge” years of service while the VA should rate and compensate service-connected disabilities.

The day the commission released its report, the Senate passed the Dignified Treatment of Wounded Warriors Act, which has more modest provisions to streamline the VA and DOD disability process, with special focus on ending rating disparities between services and between DOD and VA. It would require the services to use VA standards for rating disabilities and to rate every disability affecting fitness for duty, not just a single disqualifying condition as is routine for some service branches. Any disability rating awarded since Sept. 11, 2001, that resulted in payment of lump sum severance rather than a disability retirement would be reviewed.

The Senate bill also would require that services use the same statutory presumptions VA uses in determining if a disability is service-connected. A service no longer could presume that some conditions are not service-connected if the member hasn't been in at least eight years. This threshold would be lowered to six months' active duty, barring compelling evidence that the disabling condition existed before the member entered service.

The Senate also would raise minimum severance payments to a year's worth of basic pay for disabilities incurred in a combat zone or from combat operations, and to six months' basic pay for other disabilities. Currently, a young recruit wounded in war can get as little as three months' basic pay.

Finally, the bill would mandate pilot programs to test the viability of having the VA assess disability levels before members leave service. Anticipating these changes, senior defense and service leaders have been preparing with VA counterparts to a test a partial merger of their processes.

William Carr, deputy undersecretary of defense for military personnel policy, said that under the pilot program, planned for D.C. area military hospitals, VA alone will conduct a single, comprehensive physical of injured or ailing servicemembers while they are still on active duty. VA then will rate all physical and mental conditions found.

The services will determine what conditions, if any, make the member unfit for duty and award disability severance pay or disability retirement based on all “unfitting” conditions. A combined rating of 30 percent for such conditions will continue to be the service threshold for awarding disability retirement, which comes with lifetime eligibility for Tricare and other retiree privileges. VA still will set its level of disability and compensation based on all service-connected conditions found.

Carr said these changes to the disability process will make the systems more simple and transparent. The test will begin as a paper exercise in August to find problems and set “protocols,” he said. Before November, the new ratings process could be operating on a test basis in the D.C. area.

This plan won't get DOD out of the “disability business” entirely, as recommended by Dole-Shalala, Carr said. But DOD soon could be out of the “disability rating” business and using VA to end any unfair disparities.

Hypertension linked to Agent Orange

Dear Readers,

The IOM (Institute of medicine) http://www.iom. edu/ has issued a report stating that those exposed to Agent Orange have
higher instances of Hypertension.

The VA has not yet listed Hypertension as a presumptive condition related to Agent Orange, but could fairly soon if they choose too.

In order to get the earliest possible date for payments, I suggest you file for compensation if you have a medical diagnosis of
Hypertension and served in Vietnam during that war.

You should have your doctor review the report (if possible) and state that your hypertension is mostly caused by exposure to agent orange
if this is the case; your doctor may believe hypertension is caused by your smoking, obesity, etc. But if there is no other reason for
your hypertension your doctor can state that agent orange exposure is the most likely cause. Also cite the new IOM report in your VA claim.
See and read report online at:
http://www.iom. edu/CMS/3793/ 4689/44596. aspx

Agent Orange linked to blood pressure
Washington
July 29, 2007

War veterans exposed to the defoliant Agent Orange during the Vietnam War may face increased risk of high blood pressure, an expert panel has warned.

Citing what it called limited but important evidence, a report was issued by a panel of the US Institute of Medicine.

It was the latest in a series issued every two years assessing the health effects of exposure to Agent Orange and other chemicals used
in Vietnam.

The panel said recent studies of Vietnam veterans offered evidence that Agent Orange caused elevated rates of high blood pressure.

The panel, which reviewed about 350 epidemiological and animal studies, also pointed to evidence linking the chemicals to AL
amyloidosis, a rare disease in which protein builds up around organs.

Agent Orange has already been linked to health problems including several rare cancers, type II diabetes and birth defects in the
children of the veterans exposed.

The new findings may bring veterans one-step closer to getting government-paid medical services for these conditions.

The panel said recent studies of Vietnam veterans who handled Agent Orange and the other defoliants offered evidence that they had
elevated rates of high blood pressure.

The University of Kentucky's Hollie Swanson and other members of the panel said the evidence for both of the links was limited or
suggestive, but still persuasive.

”It's important to know what things might be associated with Agent Orange exposure, given the number of people exposed. Many of them are
in their 60s now, late 50s,” panel member Richard Fenske of the University of Washington said.

”They're getting to a stage in their lives where certain kinds of diseases may become evident that may not have been evident in youth.”

Researchers are still trying to understand exactly how toxic contaminants in these herbicides, particularly the chemical TCDD,
cause damage, Swanson said.

The Department of Veterans Affairs must now decide if it will formally recognize the link between Agent Orange exposure and these
conditions, according to Jerry Manar, an official with the group Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States.

If it does, the report will help hundreds of thousands of veterans get treatment in VA medical centers for hypertension and associated
heart disease and strokes, Manar said.

”This relieves a huge burden from veterans,” he added.


Veteran's healthcare resources stretched thin
By: Kendra Mendez

Robert Kinney and his friend John Farnell share a lot in common. Both served in the Army, are Vietnam veterans and struggle with their health.

“We're having a very difficult time getting things that typically would be easy for anyone in civilian life to get accomplished,” Kinney said.

It's just another thing they have in common: a frustration with Austin's Veteran's Affairs Healthcare system.
“My teeth, it took about a year to get them,” Farnell said. “It's just impossible for them to be able to handle the massive amounts of veterans that are coming back from Iraq.”

Since March of 2003, the Veterans Affairs Administration's Central Texas healthcare sytem gained more than 7,300 patients who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Last year the V.A. served 70,000 veterans in Central Texas alone.

“There are days about two or three days a week that you can't even find a parking spot,” Farnell said.
But the V.A. says they have funds coming in from Congress to meet the need.

“I think that we're pressed right now, but I think that we're doing a good job. I think our people in the V.A. are working as hard as they can and are doing our best to serve everyone who has needs,” Dr. Abraham Delgado of Veterans Affairs said.

As it is, veterans can get care two years after leaving the military whether or not they were injured at war. Congress is trying to increase that to five years.

But these vets worry services aren't expanding at the rate that will protect them and future heroes.
“Care needs to be given to all the troops the ones who have served, the ones who are serving and the ones that will be serving,” Kinney said

VA Must Pay Agent Orange Victims
Associated Press |  July 20, 2007
SAN FRANCISCO - An appeals court chastised the Department of Veterans Affairs on Thursday and ordered the agency to pay retroactive benefits to Vietnam War veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange and contracted a form of leukemia.
“The performance of the United States Department of Veterans Affairs has contributed substantially to our sense of national shame,” the opinion from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals read.

Poll: Grade the VA Director
It was not immediately known how much the department would have to pay under the order or how many veterans would be affected.
VA spokesman Phil Budahn said late Thursday that officials were reviewing the ruling, and declined further comment.
The VA agreed in 2003 to extend benefits to Vietnam vets diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia, known as CLL. U.S. troops had sprayed 20 million gallons of Agent Orange and other herbicides over parts of South Vietnam and Cambodia in the 1960s and `70s to clear dense jungle, and researchers later linked CLL to Agent Orange.

Related Agent Orange News and Information Links
But the VA did not re-examine previous claims from veterans suffering from the ailment, nor did it pay them retroactive benefits, which was at the heart of the latest dispute.

Thursday's opinion was on a technical matter involving whether a lower court had properly interpreted a landmark agreement in 1991 on benefits, stemming from a class-action lawsuit originally filed in 1986.

The appeals court sided with veterans groups who said the veterans were entitled to retroactive benefits.

“We would hope that this litigation will now end, that our government will now respect the legal obligations it undertook in the consent decree some 16 years ago, that obstructionist bureaucratic opposition will now cease, and that our veterans will finally receive the benefits to which they are morally and legally entitled,” Judge Stephen Reinhardt wrote in the court's opinion.

Richard Spataro, a lawyer with the National Veterans Legal Services Program, said Thursday's ruling could finally halt years of legal battles - if the VA does not appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Spataro said if researchers link other disabilities to Agent Orange the decision will prevent the VA from denying retroactive benefits for those veterans, too.

The House Committee on Veterans' Affairs held a roundtable discussion on PTSD on Wednesday, May16, 2007.
The full witness list is here... http://veterans. house.gov/hearings/schedule11 0/may07/05- 16-07/witness. shtml
Rep. Steve Buyer (R-IN), Ranking Minority Member, invited Dr. Sally Satel to testify. Satel is the paid mouthpiece of the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank. Satel's disrespect for veterans with PTSD is a matter of legend. Buyer's “suck it up soldier” attitude is also well-known.
Satel's “blame the veteran” approach is not well-received in the medical community. Quote: “Blaming the veteran for psychological reactions to war fosters stigma, a major reason why veterans do not seek mental health assistance.” John A. Fairbank, Ph.D.
For more an Satel, use the VA Watchdog search engine. You'll be amazed at some of the things she has said. Search engine here... http://www.yourvabe nefits.org/

What we heard from Satel and Buyer was the “M&M” agenda...minimize and marginalize. ..that is, minimize the disorder and that marginalizes the veteran. It's a tired old tactic.
Here are Rep. Buyer's opening remarks where he says that PTSD is often used as an “umbrella” and a “catch-all” for any mental disorder...click here to listen or download MP3, 3:36 in length.

Satel's remarks were equally repugnant. She talked about “recovery” and confusing PTSD with other disorders such as phobias, depression and anxiety. She says the VA should be careful of granting 100% benefits for PTSD.  Satel added that there must be a “high threshold” for granting PTSD benefits, work is the best therapy and PTSD is a “time-limited” affliction. Here are Satel's opening remarks...click here to listen or download MP3, 9:01 in length.

Later in the hearing there was discussion of “return to work” programs for veterans with PTSD who receive unemployability benefits.
The hearing lasted over 2 hours and 40 minutes. Complete audio is here... http://veterans. house.gov/hearings/schedule11 0/may07/05- 16-07/05- 16-07.wma
Veterans exposed to Agent Orange have higher rates of prostate cancer recurrence


Drs. Martha Terris and Sagar R. Shah.

Veterans exposed to Agent Orange have a 48 percent increased risk of prostate cancer recurrence following surgery than their unexposed peers, and when the disease comes back, it seems more aggressive, researchers say.
“We need to be screening these patients earlier, treating their cancer aggressively and following them closely afterward because they are at higher risk for recurrence,” says Dr. Martha Terris, chief of the Urology Department at the Augusta Veterans Affairs Medical Center and professor of urology at the Medical College of Georgia.
“We looked at all patients, whether they were exposed or not, to see which were more likely to develop a recurrence and patients with a history of Agent Orange exposure were more likely,” says Dr. Sagar R. Shah, MCG urology resident who is presenting the data May 20 during the American Urological Association Annual Meeting in Anaheim, Calif.

The study looked at 1,653 veterans who had prostate cancer surgery at Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Centers in five cities between 1990 and 2006; 199 had been exposed to Agent Orange, a herbicide and defoliant sprayed on the dense forests of Vietnam during the war.

Agent Orange contains the carcinogen, dioxin, which can be stored in body fat and is believed to make its way into the cell nucleus and work as a tumor promoter. In the past, relatively higher mortality rates have been found in chemical plant workers and farmers with prostate cancer who were exposed to dioxin, the researchers write in their abstract.

Dioxin's impact is dose-related, and while the researchers did not measure levels of dioxin or Agent Orange, they suspect that blacks, who were more likely to be ground troops, also were more likely to have had more Agent Orange exposure.

Researchers found veterans with Agent Orange exposure more likely to be black and younger at the time of surgery to remove their prostate gland. The disease appeared to be caught earlier in exposed veterans. Most had their disease staged as T1 by pathologists, which means it appeared confined to the prostate gland, and had lower pre-operative prostate specific antigen scores, an indicator of disease aggressiveness.

However, when the disease recurred, exposed veterans experienced a more rapid biochemical progression of their disease, which PSA measures. In blacks, the PSA doubled in almost half the time of their unexposed peers.

A blood PSA level screens for prostate cancer for most men beginning at age 50 and at age 40 for blacks and men with a family history. Black men have been shown by Dr. Terris and others to have more aggressive disease earlier in life.

To account for known racial differences, researchers also compared recurrence rates in exposed and non-exposed blacks and whites and the results held up.

“As a population in general, if you were exposed to Agent Orange, you're more likely to have a recurrence,” says Dr. Shah. “If you were black and exposed, you were more likely to recur than if you were black and unexposed.”

If it sounds odd that men who had their prostate removed could have disease recurrence, Dr. Terris points out that microscopic cancer cells can migrate out of the area before surgery, becoming detectable later when they start pushing PSA levels back up.
In fact, following any type of prostate cancer treatment, men routinely get PSA levels checked for the rest of their lives. Without cancer recurrence, they should stay at zero.

The study was funded by the Georgia Cancer Coalition and the Department of Veterans Affairs

Everyone with a PTSD claim should read this

Info about C&P Exam
Best Practice Manual for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Compensation and Pension Examinations
Go to web site http://www.ptsdmanu al.com/ptsd. pdf

Letters:

Letter From The Troops!

Ron,
Good to hear from you.  We are in month 13 right now as you know and looking forward to homecoming soon.  Thanks for helping to organize the
Care packages.  We will be looking forward to them.  The fight is going well over here from our foxhole.  We have flown over 40,000 combat hours and had some amazing missions.  The soldiers are amazing.  They are ready for a very well earned break.  When we get back we will have a very liberal leave policy that gives everyone a chance to rest and recover while reuniting with family, friends and loved ones.
Just like our return from Afghanistan, we welcome any of the Diamond Head veterans that would like to come out for the Welcome Home
Celebrations this year.  Our timelines have gotten very tight due to the extension. We have had to cut some of the events down.  We plan on a golf tournament and Luau on the 19th of November.  There will not be a formal dress event like the one we had at the Ilekai Hotel last deployment.  There simply is not time to put it together with the holidays and soldier leave schedules to work around.  We probably will have another fishing trip and BBQ at the Waikiki Yacht Club if anyone is interested.

Let me know what you and the guys are thinking.  I hope you all are doing well.

Col Frank Tate


Don Armstrong wrote:

I have been reading an interesting story about Sgt York. It turns out that the day before his battle his platoon commander held a gun to his head and said he would be shot if he did not shoot back. York had tried to get a job as a company clerk but was to stupid to do it. When they went into the Argonne Forest the platoon was shoot up and decided to flank the Germans. They found a clearing with a large group of German troops looking at maps. The platoon opened fire and killed about half the Germans. The platoon leader and one man went to check on the rest of the Germans that had surrendered. Just as they got close to the Germans the Germans signaled and dropped to the ground and their troops opened fire on the Americans. The platoon leader was hit 5 times and when the rest of the Germans advanced the rest of the platoon advanced and shoot the Germans. Sgt York only shot 3 out of the group when the Germans hit them with Grenades. All of the platoon members were hit except for York but they managed to get the Germans to surrender. The platoon leader with the 5 bullets in him rounded up all the Germans and headed back to the American lines. They stopped at the edge of the German line and told their prisoners to tell the rest of the Germans to surrender. They did and when they got back to the American lines all the members of the platoon were so wounded they were relieved and replaced with other Americans. The only unwounded man was Sgt York who helped escort back the 134 prisoners. At the next check point there were several reporters who asked who captured the 134 prisoners and the troops from the line said Sgt York did.

When the surviving members of the platoon were let out of the hospital they found out Sgt York was now credited with the single handed capture of all the Germans. He got the CMH and was pulled off the line for PR appearances while the rest of the platoon went back to the trenches. Ten years later a reunion was held and all the other platoon members refused to talk to Sgt York. A movie offer was made to York but he said he would accept it only if York wrote the entire story. York died a penniless pauper while the surviving platoon members were very successful. He did and no input was allowed from the others in the platoon. The end result is the fiction of Sgt York.  The Platoon leader did not get an ward until LBJ presented him with a Silver Star in 1967 after the survivors stories of what really happened were finally believed.>

Ron:
     First I want to thank all the pilots and crew members who flew to our rescue at fire base diamond 1 as i was with the wolfhounds on the ground, this story is very real and i remember the fight between the 2 cobras and the VC 51 cal, when they finally got him we cheered, it was an attack, that I remember was one Cobra was lit up and drawing fire from the 51 cal. when out of the blackness with no lights on the cobra dove straight down guns and rockets firing as he flew, that was the last we saw of white 51 cal tracers.
They got him. I don't think the battle would have the same without air support with cobras and jets dropping napalm, shooting mini guns and rockets, it was a wonderful sight and I will never forget you guys in
the air thanks again.

Spec 4 Joseph Mitchell  
oneleggedjoe4576@aol.com
Company D 2 Btn 27th Inf
 Wolfhounds Feb. 1969

Hello to all  
Have not talk to anyone for a time So I have new URL for my web site s God Bless to all
NEW Vietnam site:http://combatveteranonline.net/index.html
NEW Civil War site: http://civilwarmykinnc.net/index.html
NEW Ancestry site:http://ancestryheritagemyfamily.net/index.html

Ed Lyons

Greetings in the Lord!

Hello Beloved Ron, It's been a long while so I wanted to say hello and send you this video clip that someone sent to me. I think you will like it and knowing you - you may have already seen it.
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-5986028464330355964&q=hancock+portraits&total=25&start=0&num=10&so=0&type=search&plindex=0

When I left for home in Dec 1968, I said in my heart “I will never go back to Vietnam again,” but God had His plan for my life which is always better. I have been back four times and will going again in at the end of August. I have met a N. Vietnam foe, a former general and war hero of the Communists. We have become a good friend. He is now a strong Christian and has lots to share with me, and others! Vietnam is becoming a resort country with lots of Europeans, Australians, Koreans, Chinese and others taking vacations there. The occupancy factor in Saigon is over 90%. We may have felt that we lost the war as former vets, but the free market economy is winning. A house in Saigon which cost $1000 seven years ago now goes for $50,000. Lots of outside money is being invested in the place. In another 20 years, I doubt if it will be a Communist nation? We will have to wait and see (if we are still around).

God bless you,
Ed Beneda

                             Ron:

I can't believe I ran across this web page !!!!!!!!!!!!, What a magnificent stroll from the past. I was with “A” Company Little
Bears from September 69 - September 70. (Still have my fatigues with the Little Bear patch)  I must say I was extremely saddened to hear the fate of “Spooky”, here was an animal that gave us so much pleasure and was thought enough of after the war to send her to Hawaii to live out her
life in a better surrounding and she was OD'd. I did get all misty eyed about that one. I have fond memories and many pictures of her in her
blue cage with her own bunker and pool drinking beers and cokes, wrestling with the guys.

I have many pictures I'd like to share with your web site of the company area, and Cu Chi, Christmas parties with the kids, Cobra's, Flame
bath's, our hootches with Mama Sans, Bob hope show's, lot's of flying pictures, inside pictures of Headquarters were they would receive
contact reports from the bush and would scramble out a light fire team or Arty. Door Gunners, aerial views flying into fire support bases,
Australian & Pilipino bands that use to play by us etc....

I'm hardly finished going through the web site but saw enough to drop you a line, I could go on and on but must get back to work.
By the way, I worked at the Main Headquarters and on many occasions had the opportunity to fly as a door gunner. Our CO during my time with “A” Company I believe, was Major John McCurdy, he awarded me the Bronze Star (not for Valor) and promoted me to E-5 just before my DEROS.
Your right!!!! It was one hell of a party while it lasted.

Thank you for taking the time to put this web site together. I hope I can contribute so all can enjoy in the memories.
Kurt Metz
A Company 25th Aviation Battalion,
25th Infantry Division September 69 -September 70.
Fox Lake, Il

Hi Ron,

You're so great, I told Oprah about you today under the following  
category. The letter follows.
Cheers,

Melanie Lundheim

P.S. How's your book coming along? Your book is off to a promising  start, and your poems are spectacular!

Do You Know Someone Who Does a Great Job?

Ron Leonard does a great job documenting his and other veterans' experiences during the Vietnam War in stories, poems and other  
information at his website: http://www.25thaviation.org. Many veterans' stories and poems are listed at the following link:
25thaviation.org/id22.htm. Please be sure to read my favorite Leonard poem, “The Other Things We Carry,” at http://25thaviation.org/id37.htm#the_other_things_we_carry

It would be a service to our country to tell the world about Mr. Leonard, what a great job he does, and to someday see his collections  
in print. Thank you for considering featuring him on your show.

Best Regards, his chance online friend,

Melanie Lundheim.


Ron
Well it has been an interesting past few years. First off I would like to thank all those who sent care packages my way in Iraq. To be honest the last three years have been a drunken cloud resulting in the end of a 12 year marriage and the end of a 3 year relationship that followed. I made mistakes and own up to them. Aside from wanting to thank all those who support us in this ridiculous war, I would like to know more about my stepfather, Frank Bashor, a grunt and then a door gunner. I know he earned many awards to include the Silver Star but he was not one to brag or engage in the details of his time in Viet Nam. If anyone out there could shed some light on these things I would greatly appreciate it as he died before I came back from my 1st tour in Iraq. Thank you for your time and consideration!  
SSG Jonathan Dunbarr (Son of Frank Bashor DH gunner 67-68)
4bde 1st cav HUMINT Collector.
Jndnbrr@aol.com  
News:


Peers Inquiry

Report of the Department of the Army Review of the Preliminary Investigations into the My Lai Incident
In November 1969, Stanley R. Resor, Secretary of the Army, and General William C. Westmoreland, U.S. Army Chief of Staff, directed Lieutenant General William R. Peers, U.S. Army, to “explore the nature and scope of the original Army investigations of what occurred on 16 March 1968 in Son My Village, Quang Ngai Province, Republic of Vietnam.” This collection of materials, commonly known as the “Peers Inquiry,” which provides the results of General Peers' investigation of the “My Lai incident”- later also known as the “My Lai massacre”- is divided into four volumes: the report, witness testimonies, exhibit materials, and CID [U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command] statements. (Library of Congress Call Number DS557.8.M9 U54 1974 and OCLC Number 1646516 [Volume I only, declassified and released]; OCLC Number 23720589 (Complete collection, comprised of volumes I through IV))
Volume II - Testimony Updated!
Volume III - Exhibits
Volume IV - CID Statements

"THERE IS JUSTICE: “I STOLE FROM VETERANS” T-SHIRT SAYS IT ALL”
Judge orders Michigan man to scrub veterans memorial with toothbrush after raising funds for vets then spending the money.
Philip Kolinski stands in a downpour after cleaning a war memorial monument in Saginaw, Mich. (photo: AP / Saginaw New
Click Link to go to story

The House Committee on Veterans' Affairs held a roundtable discussion on PTSD on Wednesday, May16, 2007.

The full witness list is here... http://veterans. house.gov/
hearings/schedule11 0/may07/05- 16-07/witness. shtml
Rep. Steve Buyer (R-IN), Ranking Minority Member, invited Dr. Sally Satel to testify. Satel is the paid mouthpiece of the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank. Satel's disrespect for veterans with PTSD is a matter of legend. Buyer's “suck it up soldier” attitude is also well-known.

Satel's “blame the veteran” approach is not well-received in the medical community. Quote: “Blaming the veteran for psychological reactions to war fosters stigma, a major reason why veterans do not seek mental health assistance.” John A. Fairbank, Ph.D.
For more an Satel, use the VA Watchdog search engine. You'll be amazed at some of the things she has said. Search engine here...
http://www.yourvabe nefits.org/

What we heard from Satel and Buyer was the “M&M” agenda...minimize and marginalize. ..that is, minimize the disorder and that marginalizes the veteran. It's a tired old tactic.

Here are Rep. Buyer's opening remarks where he says that PTSD is often used as an “umbrella” and a “catch-all” for any mental disorder...click here to listen or download MP3, 3:36 in length.

Satel's remarks were equally repugnant. She talked about “recovery” and confusing PTSD with other disorders such as phobias, depression and anxiety. She says the VA should be careful of granting 100% benefits for PTSD. Satel added that there must be a “high threshold” for granting PTSD benefits, work is the best therapy and PTSD is a “time-limited” affliction. Here are Satel's opening remarks...click here to listen or download MP3, 9:01 in length.

Later in the hearing there was discussion of “return to work” programs for veterans with PTSD who receive unemployability benefits.
The hearing lasted over 2 hours and 40 minutes. Complete audio is here... http://veterans. house.gov/hearings/schedule11 0/may07/05- 16-07/05- 16-07.wma


Senate VA committee to examine care of rural vets
By ERIC NEWHOUSE
Tribune Projects Editor

For a military vet in Scobey, medical help may be just too far away. Distance is one problem that the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee field hearing on health care for rural veterans will consider when it meets Saturday in Great Falls “A lot of guys and gals don't go after help because you're taking one to three days off work,” Vera Lynn Trangsrud of Scobey said Wednesday.

She said that when her son, Michael Sheets, came home from serving in Iraq, he came back with post-traumatic stress disorder - terrible nightmares, an inability to relax, a dependence on alcohol and constant thoughts of suicide.

Medical care by Veterans Affairs psychiatrists and psychologists was available - in Miles City, Sidney and Billings.

“We can do Miles City in a day, early morning to late at night, but often you're looking at staying overnight at least one night,” Trangsrud said.

“Between the gas, the hotel and the meals, it could cost $175 to $200,” she added.

She said her son was eligible for about $30 in travel expenses.

“I've heard people say that the paperwork alone takes more time than it's worth,” Trangsrud said.

The trip to Billings was 5 ½ hours each way, and often required two nights in a motel. It could cost $300 a trip, she said.
Those are the kind of concerns that U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., hopes the Senate committee staffers will hear in Great Falls and take back to Washington, D.C..

“We'll be bringing the folks who are the decision makers once the legislation gets past us,” he said Wednesday.

“We want the staff people and the agency people to listen to Montanans' concerns so they'll understand the problems of working with rural hospitals or Indian health clinics,” he said.

Tester noted that distance takes on a new meaning in Montana.

“We're used to driving long distances, but those distances become almost intolerable when you're sick or hurting,” he said.

Tester said Congress added $3.6 billion for the VA to President George Bush's budget, hoping the money will go directly into health care for veterans.

“Ultimately in the end, it's about distance and getting vets to the health care system in a way that meets their needs,” he said.
Trangsrud said she knows what would help the families of 18 veterans in Daniels County.
“We'd love to have a VA clinic in Scobey, but in reality, Wolf Point would be the best location for this whole corner of the state,” she said.

HOOVER & EISENHOWER DEPORTED MILLIONS OF ILLEGALS !
Here is something that should be of great interest for you to pass around. I didn't know of this until it was pointed out to me. But, back during the Great Depression, President Herbert Hoover ordered the deportation of all illegal aliens in order to make jobs available to American citizens that desperately needed work.
And then again in 1954, President Dwight Eisenhower deported 13 million Mexican nationals! The program was called “Operation “Wetback” so that American WWII and Korean veterans had a better chance at jobs. It took 2 years, but they deported them!
Now, if they could deport the illegals back then, they can sure do it today!! If you have doubts about the veracity of this information, enter Operation Wetback into your favorite search engine and confirm it for yourself.
Reminder. Don't forget to pay your taxes... 12 million illegal aliens are depending on you!
http://www.pbs.org/kpbs/theborder/history/timeline/20.html

Largest increase ever forecast for Medicare Part B Premiums in 2008
22 Million would get no boost in Social Security checks as result
A married couple could be faced with close to $400 in new premiums, in addition to the increasing cost of their prescription drug program, covered under Medicare Part D.
In addition, a little noticed section of the 2007 Budget and Economic Update released late last month by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that seniors will receive just a 1.5 percent Social Security Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) in 2008, the third smallest increase in the past 20 years.
For the person with an average monthly Social Security benefit of $1,044, that would result in a $15.70 monthly increase.
As a result, as many as half of America's 44 million retired and disabled Social Security recipients could receive no increase in their Social Security checks at all next year, since almost all beneficiaries have their Medicare Part B premiums automatically deducted from their checks.
Although premium rates are supposed to match program costs, Congress has enacted legislation that substantially increases program costs after setting premium rates since 2004.
Stories
This young soldier tells it like it is! As he so eloquently points out, pasting yellow ribbons on your car while publicly protesting “The War is lost” isn't supporting our troops!?  Moreover, he accurately proclaims that the country is NOT at war...only the military and their families!! The public opposition to the war is demoralizing to the troops and borders on treason!
I wanted to share an article my son Eddie sent me from Iraq. I was not going to send it out through the usual means; I'm looking to have this published somehow. I just felt after reading it again this morning that I wanted people to begin reading it and begin/continue to pray for our brave men and women in uniform.
I'm not sure how many letters or articles you've ever read from the genre of “News from the Front,” but this is one of the best I've ever read, including all of America's wars.  As I was reading this, I forgot that it was my son who had written it. My emotions range from great pride to great sorrow, knowing that my little boy (22 years old) has become this man.
He is my hero. Thank all of you for your prayers for him; he needs them now more than ever. God bless.
Hope Rides Alone By Eddie Jeffers
 I stare out into the darkness from my post, and I watch the city burn to the ground. I smell the familiar smells, I walk through the familiar rubble, and I look at the frightened faces that watch me pass down the streets of their neighborhoods.  My nerves hardly rest; my hands are steady on a device that has been given to me from my government for the purpose of taking the lives of others.
I sweat, and I am tired. My back aches from the loads I carry. Young American boys look to me to direct them in a manner that will someday allow them to see their families again...and yet, I too, am just a boy....my age not but a few years more than that of the ones I lead. I am stressed, I am scared, and I am paranoid...because death is everywhere.  It waits for me, it calls to me from around street corners and windows, and it is always there.
There are the demons that follow me, and tempt me into thoughts and actions that are not my own...but that are necessary for survival. I've made compromises with my humanity. And I am not alone in this. Miles from me are my brethren in this world, who walk in the same streets...who feel the same things, whether they admit to it or not.
And to think, I volunteered for this...
And I am ignorant to the rest of the world...or so I thought.
But even thousands of miles away, in Ramadi, Iraq, the cries and screams and complaints of the ungrateful reach me. In a year, I will be thrust back into society from a life and mentality that doesn't fit your average man.  And then, I will be alone. And then, I will walk down the streets of America, and see the yellow ribbon stickers on the cars of the same people who compare our President to Hitler.
I will watch the television and watch the Cindy Sheehans, and the Al Frankens, and the rest of the ignorant sheep of America spout off their mouths about a subject they know nothing about.  It is their right, however, and it is a right that is defended by hundreds of thousands of boys and girls scattered across the world, far from home. I use the word boys and girls, because that's what they are.  In the Army, the average age of the infantryman is nineteen years old. The average rank of soldiers killed in action is Private First Class.
People like Cindy Sheehan are ignorant. Not just to this war, but to the results of their idiotic ramblings, or at least I hope they are. They don't realize its effects on this war.  In this war, there are no Geneva Conventions, no cease fires. Medics and Chaplains are not spared from the enemy's brutality because it's against the rules. I can only imagine the horrors a military Chaplain would experience at the hands of the enemy. The enemy slinks in the shadows and fights a coward's war against us. It is effective though, as many men and women have died since the start of this war.  And the memory of their service to America is tainted by the inconsiderate remarks on our nation's news outlets. And every day, the enemy changes...only now, the enemy is becoming something new.  The enemy is transitioning from the Muslim extremists to Americans. The enemy is becoming the very people whom we defend with our lives. And they do not alize it.
But in denouncing our actions, denouncing our leaders, denouncing the war we live and fight, they are isolating the military from society...and they are becoming our enemy.
Democrats and peace activists like to toss the word “quagmire” around and compare this war to Vietnam. In a way they are right, this war is becoming like Vietnam. Not the actual war, but in the isolation of country and military.  America is not a nation at war; they are a nation with its military at war. Like it or not, we are here, some of us for our second, or third times; some even for their fourth and so on.  Americans are so concerned now with politics, that it is interfering with our war.
Terrorists cut the heads off of American citizens on the internet...and there is no outrage, but an American soldier kills an Iraqi in the midst of battle, and there are investigations, and sometimes soldiers are even jailed...for doing their job.
It is absolutely sickening to me to think our country has come to this. Why are we so obsessed with the bad news? Why will people stop at nothing to be against this war, no matter how much evidence of the good we've done is thrown in their face? When is the last time CNN or MSNBC or CBS reported the opening of schools and hospitals in Iraq? Or the leaders of terror cells being detained or killed? It's all happening, but people will not let up their hatred of Bush. They will ignore the good news, because it just might show people that Bush was right.
America has lost its will to fight. It has lost its will to defend what is right and just in the world.  The crazy thing of it all is that the American people have not even been asked to sacrifice a single thing. It's not like World War Two, where people rationed food, and turned in cars to be made into metal for tanks.  The American people have not been asked to sacrifice anything. Unless you are in the military or the family member of a servicemember, its life as
Humor

 (Only a guy would do this!)

A guy who purchased his lovely wife a pocket Taser for their anniversary submitted this:

 Last weekend at Larry's Pistol & Pawn Shop I was looking for a little something extra for my wife Toni. What I came across was a 100,000-volt  pocket/purse-sized taser. The effects of the taser were supposed to be short lived, with no long-term adverse affect on an assailant. The idea is to allow my wife-who would never consider a gun-adequate time to retreat to safety. WAY TOO COOL!!

Long story short, I bought the device and brought it home. I loaded in two triple-a batteries and pushed the button. Nothing! I was disappointed. But then I read (yes, `read') that if I pushed the button AND pressed it against a metal surface at the same time; I'd get the blue arch of electricity darting back and forth between the prongs and I'd know it was working.

Awesome!!!  (Actually, I have yet to explain to Toni what that burn spot is on the face of her microwave). Okay, so I was home alone with this new toy, thinking to myself that it couldn't be all that bad with only two triple-a batteries, right?!!  There I sat in my recliner, my cat Gracie looking on intently (trusting little soul) while I was reading the directions and thinking that I really needed to try this thing out on a flesh and blood moving target. I must admit I thought about zapping Gracie (for a fraction of a second) and thought better of it. She is such a sweet cat. But, if I was going to give this thing to my wife to protect herself against a mugger, I did want some assurance that it would work as advertised. Am I wrong?

So, there I sat in a pair of shorts and a tank top with my reading glasses perched delicately on the bridge of my nose, directions in one hand, and taser in another. The directions said that a one-second burst would shock and disorient your assailant; a two-second burst was supposed to cause muscle spasms and a major loss of bodily control; a three-second burst would purportedly make your assailant flop on the ground like a fish out of water. Any burst longer than three seconds would be wasting the batteries.

So, I'm sitting there alone, Gracie looking on with her head cocked to one side as to say, “don't do it,” reasoning that a one-second burst from such a tiny little ole thing couldn't hurt all that bad.  I decided to give myself a one-second burst just for the heck of it. I touched the prongs to my naked thigh, pushed the button, and HOLY MOTHER OF GOD, WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION @!@$$!%!@*!!!

I'm pretty sure Jessie Ventura ran in through the side door, picked me up in the recliner, and body slammed us both on the carpet, over and over and over again. I vaguely recall waking up on my side in the fetal position, with tears in my eyes, body soaking wet, both nipples on fire, testicles nowhere to be found, with my left arm tucked under my body in the oddest position, and tingling in my legs.

You should know, if you ever feel compelled to “mug” yourself with a taser, that there is no such thing as a one-second burst when you zap
yourself. You will not let go of that thing until it is dislodged from your hand by a violent thrashing about on the floor.

SON-OF-A-... that hurt like hell!!! A minute or so later (I can't be sure, as time was a relative thing at that point), I collected what little
wits I had left, sat up and surveyed the landscape. My bent reading glasses were on the mantel of the fireplace. How did they get up there???

My triceps, right thigh and both nipples were still twitching.  My face felt like it had been shot up with Novocain, and my bottom lip weighed 88 lbs. I'm still looking for my testicles!! I'm offering a significant reward for their safe return.

Still in shock, Earl


"We few, we happy few, we band of brothers,
For he today that sheds his blood with me, Shall be my brother."
-Wm Shakespeare-
Well guys Until next month..keep a smile on your face and  your skids out of the Trees?--Ron