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Newsletter for Veterans and active military


New review finds ‘Sufficient’ evidence linking hypertension to Agent Orange exposure:

Researchers with the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine found for the first time that enough evidence exists to link hypertension to Agent Orange exposure during the Vietnam War. The finding, announced Thursday, bolsters the case for veterans with hypertension to be granted easier access to Department of Veterans Affairs benefits, advocates argued. Before last week’s announcement, researchers had determined there was only “limited” or “suggestive” evidence hypertension could be caused by chemical herbicides used in Vietnam. In addition to hypertension, researchers determined there’s sufficient evidence linking Agent Orange to monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance, or MGUS, a condition in which an abnormal protein is in the blood that progress to other disorders, including some forms of blood cancer. A link between the condition and Vietnam War service hadn’t been considered previously. Based on the new report, Vietnam Veterans of America and the Veterans of Foreign Wars called on VA Secretary Robert Wilkie to add hypertension and MGUS to the list of diseases presumed to be caused by Agent Orange. There are 14 diseases on the list, and veterans suffering from them are allowed quicker access to VA benefits.

VA’s benefits delivery at discharge program improves service to Veterans:

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ Benefits Delivery at Discharge (BDD) program has made significant improvements in disability claim processing over the past year, with most service members who submitted claims through the program receiving decisions within 30 days of discharge. By participating in BDD, service members ensure that their disability medical exams become part of their service treatment record and that service connection for their conditions may be established as early as possible. Medical conditions can get worse over time and establishing eligibility at discharge may make it easier to increase disability ratings in the future.

VAMC Oklahoma City - surgeon shortage:

The Oklahoma City Veterans Affairs Health Care System is working to fill positions after the unexpected departure of two employees left the hospital without a general surgeon on call or available for overnight emergencies for a number of days this month. Paul Munden, the hospital’s chief of surgery, informed staff and administrators in an email on Oct. 31 that his team was down to a single full-time surgeon, The Oklahoman reported. One surgeon left because of unspecified personal reasons, while the other departed because of a completed visa process. Munden’s email indicated that the facility would be short-staffed during several periods, including Nov. 1-5, Nov. 12-13 and Nov. 21- 27. The hospital still performs general surgery, but lacks a provider to cover all evening hours, according to Director Wade Vlosich. Some veterans will be transferred elsewhere during the surgeon shortage. The Department of Veterans Affairs has programs that allow for veterans to receive care outside of VA hospitals, so patients who are transferred won’t be billed extra. “We actually met with (the University of Oklahoma) and they knew this workload would be coming and knew about our loss of staff. So, it was not a surprise to them,” Vlosich said. A new surgeon starts 13 NOV and another will start 25 NOV, Vlosich said. He said the surgeon shortage is “a fairly common thing” and is “a mini blip.” The VA is also seeking to fill another surgery position to avoid a similar shortage in the future, Vlosich said. [Source: The Associated Press | November 12, 2018 ]

Vet lawsuits | Richard Stayskal:

As most everyone knows, veterans can now sue the VA for malpractice. I thought the following may be of interest to some as “some” are saying that it is not true:

Sgt. 1st Class Richard Stayskal was deployed to Ramadi, Iraq, in 2004 when he was shot by a sniper. The round, which he kept as a souvenir, pierced his left lung and nearly killed him. The round is “a reminder of how fragile life is,” he said. “Something could change everything in an instant.” Despite beating the odds of such a grievous wound in combat, something else did change in an instant for the 37-year-old Green Beret when, following a June 2017 visit to a civilian doctor to address severe breathing issues the Army told him was a simple case of pneumonia, he received terrible news. “Did a biopsy and when I woke up my wife was crying,” Stayskal said. “And he [the doctor] was telling her that I had cancer.” After the terminal cancer diagnosis one month later, Stayskal made contact with attorney Natalie Khawam of the Whistleblower Law Firm, who agreed to represent the special operations soldier and pursue a “ lawsuit against the government alleging medical malpractice,” the report said. Leskosky, who was hired by the Whistleblower Law Firm to review the CT scans performed by the Army, was astonished that Army doctors missed blatant indicators, allowing the tumor to spread aggressively without treatment. “It was completely obvious,” Leskosky told Fox 46. “I can’t fathom how any experienced radiologist missed this case. … If I were testifying in court, I would call it a case of gross malpractice.” Asked how an earlier detection of the tumor could have changed present circumstances, Khawam replied, “We don’t have a man who’s dying.”

Gulf War syndrome:

Gulf War veterans with unexplained illnesses that cause fatigue, headaches, respiratory disorders and memory problems can improve their balance with a device developed by Rutgers University researchers. The study is the first to examine how Gulf War illnesses affect veterans’ vestibular systems, which are integral for balance, memory and brain blood flow. The findings are being presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience. This prominent condition affecting Gulf War veterans includes a cluster of medically unexplained chronic symptoms that can also include joint pain, indigestion, insomnia, and dizziness, according to the U.S Department of Veterans Affairs, which supported the study. The disorder affects about 25 percent of the 700,000 veterans who served in Operation Desert Storm/Desert Shield in 1990-1991. “Although it’s been more than 25 years since the conflict, we still do not understand the underlying cause of these symptoms and have yet to develop an effective treatment,” said lead author Jorge M. Serrador, associate professor in the departments of pharmacology, physiology and neuroscience at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School and a scientist at the New Jersey War Related Illness and Injury Study Center.

New research could lead to disability benefits for Vietnam veterans with high blood pressure:

from an article by Leo Shane III

New research linking veterans’ high blood pressure with wartime exposure to chemical defoliants could dramatically expand federal disability benefits for tens of thousands of Vietnam-era troops. The findings, from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, conclude that “sufficient evidence” exists linking hypertension and related illnesses in veterans to Agent Orange and other defoliants used in Vietnam, Thailand and South Korea in the 1960s and 1970s.

They recommend adding the condition to the list of 14 presumptive diseases associated with Agent Orange exposure, a group that includes Hodgkin’s Disease, prostate cancer and Parkinson’s Disease. That’s an upgrade from past research that showed a possible but not conclusive link between the toxic exposures and high blood pressure problems later in life.

If Veterans Affairs officials follow through with the recommendation, it could open up new or additional disability benefits to thousands of aging veterans who served in those areas and who are now struggling with heart problems.

Court allows class-action suit against Navy over ‘bad paper’ discharges:

Veterans forced from the Navy and Marine Corps for what they say were undiagnosed mental health problems will be able move ahead with a class-action lawsuit against the military asking for denied benefits, a federal court ruled Thursday. “This decision is a victory for the tens of thousands of military veterans suffering from service-connected PTSD and TBI who are denied the support of VA resources because of an unfair discharge status,” Tyson Manker, an Iraq War veteran and plaintiff in the case, said in a statement Friday.

Before some going running to a service officer to request a discharge upgrade or to an attorney make sure you have all the information required to request a discharge upgrade.

Know the law regarding service dogs:

This past week I went into a store in town with my service dog and I was immediately approached by an employee asking me for my dog’s identification which identifies her as a service dog. Even though I have the identification I asked the employee why she needed to know, my service dog had her vest on which identifies her as a service dog and she told me that there is a sign on the door restricting the types of dogs that are allowed in the store and where they can go. I told her that she is allowed to ask if the dog is a service dog and that she cannot restrict me from going to certain isles in the store. She told me she would call the police officer over and I said that was fine but the officer said he would not get in the middle of it. I asked the police officer if he was there to enforce the law and he told me that he is only there to prevent criminal activity.

I just thought it interesting that employees do not know the law and sometimes pretend they do.

Ron Pandos Pandos

By Ronald S. Pandos


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