Veteran and Military News


From the Friends of the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs:

The new lost generation.  The cost that can be tallied of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is more than $1 trillion dollars and at least 5,600 dead and 43,000 wounded.  Less visible , but no less important, is the cost and effect that the wars will have on the soldiers returning home, a burden that the nation and the Pentagon will have to bear.

California DVA Plans Women Veterans Conference. The California Department of Veterans Affairs said it will hold its third annual CalVet Women Veterans Conference on Oct. 7-8 in Clovis, making it one of dozens of states following the federal VA’s encouragement to do such outreach. The state agency said its conference committee is planning the program and is seeking donations for the conference.  What sets it apart is its goals:  not only to increase awareness of veteran benefits and to facilitate access to health services, but also to discuss gender-specific medical conditions that affect female veterans, provide updates on female veteran research projects, and provide employment and educational opportunities. 

Discharges for adjustment disorder soar.  More and more soldiers are being discharged for adjustment disorder, a condition that mimics the symptoms of PTSD, but does not carry with it the same disability benefit.  As a result, soldiers with PTSD and TBI are not being treated.

Young vets in new fight: finding a job.  During these dark economic times, young veterans are having a tougher experience than the general population. The unemployment rate among veterans who served in the post-Sept 11 era was 11.8 percent in July, compared with the U.S. rate of 9.5 percent.  In Wisconsin, don’t expect help from WDVA – Ken Black prefers to hire non veterans for top positions, passing over well qualified veterans for less experienced candidates without veteran status.

Quick Fix.  Military servicemembers serving overseas once again will be able to receive care packages with cigarettes and other tobacco products starting late this month

THE GOOD. DOD has a New (and Improved) TRICARE Web SiteThere is a new TRICARE page for TRICARE beneficiaries up and running. AND IT IS USER FRIENDLY! Go to and you can easily get to over 180,000 pages of information. It is a huge improvement over the cumbersome and overly crowded predecessor.

THE BAD:  Defense Budget Will Likely Include Some Increased TRICARE Premiums. , Defense Secretary Robert Gates has signaled that the department’s fiscal 2012 budget request to Congress early next year will include recommendations to raise health care premiums for some TRICARE beneficiaries. If past proposals are a reliable guide, the target of higher fees is likely to be military retirees rather than active duty families. The Bush administration had tried for three straight years to raise fees for working age retirees. Congress blocked those efforts.  In the Pentagon press conference where he debuted proposals to reduce military budget overhead, Gates said that health cost controls would be proposed in the months ahead, stressing that “Health-care reform is on my agenda.”

VA Pilot Program Aims To Curb Veteran Suicides. The  Grand Junction VA Hospital is launching a pilot program aimed at helping veterans who may be thinking about suicide. Starting in August, the VA is putting up signs at Grand Valley Transit bus stops and in GVT buses advertising the suicide prevention hotline number. With 20 signs placed around the city, the Grand Junction VAMC got the idea from an identical program in Washington, D.C., which ended up reaching thousands, and is the only other VA location thus far to adopt the pilot program.  Such a program would be easy to implement in Wisconsin cities, but Wisconsin Board of Veterans Affairs (BOVA) members are too busy just listening to what others are doing to actually take any meaningful actions.  “Briefings” and “Discussion” items outnumber “action” items by a ratio of four to one at the BOVA’s next bi-monthly meetings on August 19-20.

Researchers Look For Better Ways To Diagnose TBI. As scientists and physicians are looking for better ways to diagnose traumatic brain injury, “new research could lead to definitive tests that could be used downrange in the next three years, said Ibolja Cernak, a scientist who has studied the effect of blasts on the body for more than a decade.” Cernak and other researchers say that blasts produce a different, more complex type of brain injury, in which brain cells “stay inflamed longer after a blast-related concussion than a normal one,” which brain imaging may be able to detect. Researchers are also looking for biomarkers in blood or spinal fluid that would indicate mild TBI.  The Wis. BOVA will hear a briefing on TBI at its meetings later this week, but not surprisingly, no action is planned.

Researcher Collects Candid Interviews With Female Gulf Veterans. The Huffington Post(8/13, Kors) interviews University of Richmond professor Laura Browder, the author of “Her Best Shot,” a historical look at American women and guns, who’s now at work on “When Janey Comes Marching Home,” which tells the stories of female veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Browder says she began the project as a corrective to the public impression of women in combat during the Gulf War. Browder noted that two best-known female veterans from the Gulf Wars were Jessica Lynch, whose time as a prisoner in Iraq was “pure fiction” as described by the Pentagon, according to Browder, and Lynndie England, the reservist later convicted of mistreating prisoner at Abu Ghraib prison. “For me,” Browder said, “what those two stories meant is that there were 235,000 female soldiers whose stories weren’t being told.” While women in the military are officially barred from combat, but in a war without clearly-defined front lines, “the ban on combat is meaningless.” Browder’s candid interviews deal with issues ranging from motherhood, PTSD, sexual harassment, reconnecting with family, and dealing with sexism among their fellow soldiers and commanders, and will be on display at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery till September 5.

VA Data Breach Reports Are Being Posted Online in Further Show of Commitment to Transparency. Once again showing that it’s serious about transparency, the VA has begun posting reports about data breaches on its website. The monthly reports, which the agency compiles for Congress, list different ways the VA has lost data, such as through lost hardware or misdirected emails.  It notes that a report covering the period from July 5 to August 1 shows the agency lost two PCs, 13 BlackBerry devices and six laptops. It also reported 103 of so-called ‘mismailed’  incidents, and 90 ‘mishandling’ incidents.” The agency “is taking its data breaches seriously enough that VA CIO Roger Baker has begun monthly calls with members of the press to discuss them.  Meanwhile, in Wisconsin, the BOVA blocks access to public meetings, prevents public input at Board meetings involving critical decision items, and refuses to release public records required under state Sunshine laws.  The BOVA, led by Board Chair Marcia Anderson, even refuses to publish a copy of its own governing rules on the agency’s website, continuing a tradition of closed government begun by her immediate predecessor, Marv Freedman.


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