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In This Issue January 10, 2014

Congress Vows to Fix Military Pension Cuts, But Faces Dilemma

Biologist Leads a New Way of Thinking About Long-term Health Consequences of Exposure to Environmental Chemicals

VA Links Five More Medical Conditions to TBI

DoD I.G. to Review Military's Handling of MST Complaints

MST Battle Redux

VA Ignores Congress' Questions on Eye Center

VA Hospital Deaths Investigated

Garth Brooks - Allentown / Goodnight Saigon - Kennedy Center Honors Billy Joel

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As Reported in The Hill
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Congress Vows to Fix Military Pension Cuts, But Faces Dilemma

Holiday Stress

From an article by Jeremy Herb in The Hill, posted January 2:  House and Senate leaders face a dilemma, when they return in January amid a bipartisan backlash over cuts to military pensions. Lawmakers from both parties are demanding the quick repeal of military retirement cuts, included in last month’s two-year budget deal. A flurry of bills have been introduced in both chambers to remove the s$6 billion cut to the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for working-age military retirees, and service member and veterans organizations plan a major lobbying push when Congress returns. 

Read complete article here

As Reported in Smithsonian Magazine

Biologist Leads a New Way of Thinking About Long-term Health Consequences of Exposure to Environmental Chemicals

Holiday Stress

In the December 2013 edition of Smithsonian Magazine appears a feature article by Jeneen Interland, titled “The Toxins That Affected Your Great-Grandparents Could Be In Your Genes: Biologist Michael Skinner has enraged the chemical community and shocked his peers with his breakthrough research.”

To read about Skinner’s research, which sheds light on the generational legacy of toxic substances, go to: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/innovation/the-toxins-that-affected-your-great-grandparents-could-be-in-your-genes-180947644/#ixzz2px3z4hbi

Service-Connected TBI Update 

VA Links Five More Medical Conditions to TBI

From the Keene Sentinel on Jan 6: The Department of Veterans Affairs has added five illnesses to service-connected traumatic brain injuries (TBI). What this means is veterans who have those illnesses as well as TBI will have an easier time getting additional disability benefits. The VA based its decision on a report by the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine that found "sufficient evidence" to link moderate to severe TBI with five secondary conditions:  Parkinson's disease; certain types of dementia; depression; unprovoked seizures; and certain diseases of the hypothalamus and pituitary glands. These secondary illnesses will be considered service-connected and won't require medical opinions to establish whether there is correlation to TBI.

There's a time period for three of the five illnesses, however. Parkinson's disease or unprovoked seizures don't have a time frame: 

  • Dementia, if it manifests within 15 years with moderate or severe TBI.
  • Depression, if it manifests within three years with moderate or severe TBI, or within 12 months with mild TBI. 
  • Diseases of hormone deficiency from hypothalamo-pituitary changes, if they manifest within 12 months of moderate or severe TBI.

Even if you don't meet the guidelines for severity of TBI or length of time between TBI and the onset of the secondary illness, file your claim anyway. To see the whole final determination (the comment section is informative) go online to www.regulations.gov and type this in the search box: VA-2012-VBA-0029-0212

From Stars and Stripes

DoD I.G. to Review Military's Handling of MST Complaints

From a January 3 announcement in Stars and Stripes: the Defense Department’s Office of the Inspector General is set to examine whether military investigations into sexual assault complaints comply with department guidelines. In a Dec. 20 memorandum issued to the services, the IG stated that it would again seek to evaluate how well military criminal investigation organizations respond to sexual-assault claims. The investigative scope will center on investigations concluded in 2013. The review will determine if military “policies and procedures” comply with DOD and service guidelines and are carried out to conclusion.

The IG memo did not state what prompted this latest review, but with the military under enormous pressure to eliminate sexual assault within the ranks, such evaluations have become fairly routine. In July, the IG issued a report after conducting a similar evaluation of how military sexual assault investigators handled cases in 2010. That report found that 89 percent of sexual assault investigations met or exceeded standards. The remaining 11 percent of cases were deemed to have “significant deficiencies” and were returned to the services for “corrective action,” according to the IG.

As Reported in the National Journal

MST Battle Redux

From an article by Stacy Kaper in the National Journal on January 6:  The battle over sexual assault in the military is back.  When the Senate reconvenes this month, members will immediately dive into a legislative struggle over how the armed services deals with accusations of sexual assault within their own ranks. And as it does, two high-profile Democrats—one a rising star in the party and the other a battle-tested moderate holding a red-state seat—will resume their internal scrap over the issue. Both New York's Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Missouri's Claire McCaskill (D-MO) agree the military needs to change the way it handles assault cases, but they have competing proposals on how to do it.

See complete story here

As Reported on Military.com News

VA Ignores Congress's Questions on Eye Center

In a January 3 article by Bryan Jordan posted on the Military.com News website, Representative Dan Banischek (R-MI) is still waiting for an answer six months after asking a senior VA official why, after four years, the agency had not provided staff for the congressionally mandated Vision Center of Excellence. 

Read complete article here

As Reported on CNN

VA Hospital Deaths Investigated

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According to a CNN report by D. Griffin, N. Black, and Scott Bronstein on January 7, members of Congress traveled to two Veterans Administration hospitals to visit the facilities and demand answers about why U.S. veterans needlessly died there. 

Read the CNN article here

YouTube Video 

Garth Brooks - Allentown / Goodnight Saigon - Kennedy Center Honors Billy Joel

Recorded on December 8, 2013 at the Kennedy Center Opera House in Washington, DC

View on YouTube

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