4 June, 2018 07:48

Good morning Legionnaires and veterans advocates, today is Monday, June 4, 2018 which is Thank God It’s Monday Day, National Cheese Day, National Cognac Day and Hug Your Cat Day.

This Day in American Legion History:

· June 4, 1924: Ground is broken for The American Legion’s permanent national headquarters building at 777 N. Meridian Street in Indianapolis. It is the first structure in a $10 million Indiana War Memorial development and represents the fulfillment of a promise made in 1919 when Indianapolis won the bid to become the organization’s permanent home base.

This Day in History:

· On this day in 1942, the Battle of Midway–one of the most decisive U.S. victories against Japan during World War II–begins. During the four-day sea-and-air battle, the outnumbered U.S. Pacific Fleet succeeded in destroying four Japanese aircraft carriers while losing only one of its own, the Yorktown, to the previously invincible Japanese navy.

· 1919: The 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, guaranteeing women the right to vote, is passed by Congress and sent to the states for ratification.

· As the German army advances through northern France during the early days of World War II, it cuts off British troops from their French allies, forcing an enormous evacuation of soldiers across the North Sea from the town of Dunkirk to England. By June 4, when the Germans closed in and the operation came to an end, more than 338,000 soldiers were saved. In the days following the successful evacuation, the campaign became known as the “Miracle of Dunkirk.”

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

· Military Times: ‘VA is not broken’: Outgoing deputy secretary downplays department’s leadership turmoil

· WUSA9: Retired Army General calls on VA leaders to take responsibility for anti-malaria drug side effects

· Brooklyn Daily Eagle: Veterans fear the worst as Brooklyn VA Hospital announces cutbacks

· Science Daily: Most hospitals now require workers to get flu shots — except those that treat veterans

· Military Times: Drop in LA’s homeless vets may signal good news nationwide

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Military Times: ‘VA is not broken’: Outgoing deputy secretary downplays department’s leadership turmoil

By: Leo Shane III   2 days ago

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WASHINGTON — Thomas Bowman said he has confidence in incoming leadership team at the Department of Veterans Affairs, even if he isn’t going to be part of it.

“The country and veterans need not be concerned that they’ll be appropriately taken care of,” Bowman, the VA deputy secretary, said at his last public appearance on Friday before his retirement later this month.

“VA is strong as an institution, and change in leadership is natural. It’s a way of moving forward. The VA of today is going to change, and the VA of five years from now is going to change.”

VA’s top ranks have undergone significant changes in the last three months, since President Donald Trump fired VA Secretary David Shulkin over Twitter following months of internal policy fights with White House political appointees.

That move should have made Bowman the department’s top acting official, the capstone of a long public service career focused on veterans policy. Bowman has served as VA chief of staff twice before and as majority staff director of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

But similar to Shulkin, Bowman was seen by political rivals within the administration as an opponent to their policy goals, and Trump opted to bypass him to appoint Robert Wilkie as acting secretary instead.

The move irritated veterans groups and prompted a lawsuit from advocates who insist it violated the Federal Vacancies Reform Act.

After Wilkie was named as the next permanent secretary nominee and VA Chief of Staff Peter O’Rourke was elevated to acting secretary over Bowman, the 71-year-old Marine Corps veteran announced his retirement.

At Friday’s event — the annual conference for the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans — Bowman acknowledged his departure but declined to give specifics of the behind-the-scenes infighting at VA.

When pressed after the speech, Bowman said only that “now is the right time for me to retire. That’s my answer.”

But he also used his final official appearance to reassure veterans advocates that the department is still focused on bettering veterans lives and to dispute the public narrative of a dysfunctional federal agency.

“VA is not broken,” he told the crowd of homeless advocates. “It is changing. And like any large system, it has problems.”

He said he hopes that Wilkie is confirmed quickly and pledged that the new leadership will remain focused on helping homeless veterans, despite proposed policy changes that concerned the community last year.

“There is no doubt this administration is still committed to helping veterans,” he said.

Earlier this week, White House Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley released a statement praising Bowman for work “integral to President Trump’s efforts to reform the VA and to the substantial legislative accomplishments over the past year.”

When Bowman leaves his post in two weeks, his departure will leave four of the department’s six top posts without a permanent appointee.

No timetable has been announced for when Wilkie’s confirmation hearing may take place, although Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., has pledge to move quickly on the issue.

No replacement nominee has been announced for Bowman or for the open under secretary for health post, which has been without a permanent appointee since Shulkin was promoted in February 2017.

Meanwhile, Bowman promised to stay active in the veterans community in years to come, although likely not in another official capacity. He said he is looking forward to volunteer work to help veterans charities “and to live out there under those policies I helped pass.”

WUSA9: Retired Army General calls on VA leaders to take responsibility for anti-malaria drug side effects

A retired United States Army General is now calling on the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and other senior military leaders to step up and take responsibility for any psychiatric or physical side effects caused by the antimalarial drug, mefloquine.

Author: Andrea McCarren

Published: 4:40 PM EDT May 31, 2018

Updated: 11:30 PM EDT May 31, 2018

A retired United States Army General is now calling on the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and other senior military leaders to step up and take responsibility for any psychiatric or physical side effects caused by the antimalarial drug, mefloquine.

PART 1: Veterans allege devastating side effects from anti-malaria drug they were ordered to take

Veterans from around the world have told WUSA9 the drug they were ordered to take caused devastating side effects.

"You hear many presidents and many leaders say what we owe them, we can never pay them back. Well, here’s a way to pay them back," said Brigadier General Donald Bolduc.

The highly decorated veteran led ten deployments, survived a bomb blast, a helicopter crash and several firefights. He received two combat valor awards, five Bronze Stars and two Purple Hearts.

But his most challenging battle may lie ahead: holding the United States government accountable for any life-changing side effects that may have been caused by mefloquine. It was ordered for tens of thousands of American service members.

PART 2: Veterans say anti-malarial drug they were ordered to take isn’t in medical records

"We owe it to those who served our country to treat them properly when they have side effects," said General Bolduc.

Veterans allege the drug caused life-changing, career-ending symptoms. Side effects that have lasted for decades. Among them: gruesome night terrors. Depression, anxiety, and paranoia that mimic symptoms of PTSD. Ringing in the ears. Memory loss. Hand tremors. Balance issues. And gastrointestinal distress that often comes without warning.

As a Brigadier General, Bolduc was the Commander of Special Operations across the entire continent of Africa. In that role, he was responsible for more than 1,700 military personnel operating in 28 countries throughout Africa and Europe.

PART 3: Anti-malaria drug blamed for massacre by Army Sgt.

Of our military leadership at the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and the Department of Defense, he said, "Well, I hope they have the moral courage to own up to it. Whatever the liability is, we need to own up to it. It’s about taking care of the health and welfare of our citizens and particularly those who served our country."

From the 1980s to 2013, the Department of Defense ordered service members deployed to Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere to take mefloquine to prevent malaria. The mosquito-borne disease can be fatal.

PART 4: Concerns over new anti-malaria drug fast-tracked by FDA

In an interview at the Pentagon earlier this year, Colonel Andrew Wiesen said, "We attempted to give folks the best possible agent to protect them to the highest degree. To do any less would have done them a disservice."

But starting in 2013, the DOD backed off mefloquine, using it only as a last resort. That was after the Food and Drug Administration issued a black box warning. That’s the FDA’s strictest alert on a drug label when there’s evidence of a serious hazard.

General Bolduc knows the side effects firsthand. He took the drug during multiple deployments and experienced devastating symptoms including night terrors and paranoia, even after he returned home.

PART 5: Australian MP calls for inquiry into antimalarial drugs after WUSA9 reports

"I couldn’t drive. The reason I couldn’t drive was because of hypervigilance," he recalled. "I thought that I had to drive like I was in Afghanistan. Every stimulus around me was a threat."

In 2008, drugmaker Roche stopped producing the brand name version of mefloquine, called Lariam. Two generic forms are still available in the United States by prescription only. Three other generics have been discontinued.

So, how does our government make this right? General Bolduc says the VA should start by contacting every single veteran that took the drug and letting them know they may be experiencing some symptoms. VA doctors need to be trained to recognize them. And, he believes, every health assessment done on a service member or veteran should include questions about mefloquine.

"Please, please senior leaders, take this on. It has to do with the health of the current force and the health of our veterans, later on in life. And that’s hugely important for our country," he said.

The General is one of a growing chorus of voices demanding government accountability on this issue.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle: Veterans fear the worst as Brooklyn VA Hospital announces cutbacks

Ear, nose and throat clinic to close; VA blames SUNY, SUNY blames VA

By Mary Frost

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

Brooklyn’s VA Medical Center is shuttering its ear, nose and throat clinic at the end of June, and veterans groups are fearful that this means the VA is moving ahead with the same elimination of full hospital services that was squelched last year after political intervention.

The Brooklyn VA and SUNY Downstate’s University Hospital are pointing the finger at each other for the program closure. SUNY Downstate provides residents to staff the VA’s clinic.

“SUNY Downstate has decided to no longer support the ENT [ear, nose and throat] program at VA Brooklyn effective the end of June, despite an existing agreement to do so,” said Martina Parauda, director of VANY Harbor Healthcare System, located at 800 Poly Place in Brooklyn. “SUNY has offered no assistance and its attending doctors will not agree to continue to provide care to veterans. We do not want to close the clinic and have patients scheduled thru June 22,” she said.

SUNY Downstate, however, says that the medical school terminated its agreement to supply residents for the program back in December 2017, giving the VA a full six months to hire new staff. The ENT service at Brooklyn VA is run by Dr. Michael Weiss, division chief of Maimonides Medical Center, and he has no affiliation with Downstate.

A SUNY source said that Downstate pulled its residents out because the volume of surgery has declined at the Brooklyn VA to well below the level at other training sites, making it less than optimal for its residents.

Conflicting Information Given to Vets

Veterans who rely on the clinic will now be forced to travel to the Manhattan or Bronx VA facilities, causing hardships on the elderly and disabled in particular, Kristen Rouse, founding director of NYC Veterans Alliance, told the Brooklyn Eagle. Patients given the option of seeking private care using VA Choice will find limited options in the vicinity of the Brooklyn VA, along with a confusing bureaucracy, she added.

Rouse says veterans have received conflicting information about why the clinic will be closing.

“We were told that the residents who have staffed the clinic have lost their credentialing,” she said. However, “VA’s official statement last week blamed it on a regional staffing shortage.” The messaging “seems intended to shift the blame,” she fumed.

“If the strategy is to slowly close off these facilities and say that traffic is down — well, if you lock the door, traffic will be down,” she added. “No matter the reason, it is unacceptable that the unit will be closed, and it’s the VA’s responsibility to properly staff and maintain services for veterans.

The move to close the ENT clinic follows last year’s plan to close outpatient surgeries at the Brooklyn VA, which NYC Veterans Alliance, U.S. Rep. Dan Donovan and other veterans’ advocates halted.

Rally on Friday

On Friday, Rep. and other veteran groups rallied to demand that the Brooklyn VA reverse the closure.

“Our veterans have sacrificed to protect the freedoms we enjoy each day, and ensuring that they have access to the services they earned is the least we can do to try and repay the enormous debt we owe them,” Donovan said in a statement. “Closing the ENT Clinic at the Brooklyn VA Medical Center is unacceptable, and I won’t stop working until this decision is reversed.”

Donovan also sent a letter to the Acting Secretary of the VA requesting that the ENT clinic immediately be reopened and inquiring about what steps are being taken to address staffing vacancies.

Where Will Vets Go?

Parauda says the VA is “actively recruiting” for ENT physicians.

“It has been difficult to find them and we are working with other medical schools to help us find candidates,” Parauda said. "We need 1-2 full time ENT providers.”

“If a physician is not on board by the end of June the VA will schedule patients to be seen at Manhattan in available slots,” she added. “If we cannot schedule them within 30 days we will authorize care in the community under Choice. However, we have every intention of continuing to offer ENT services at Brooklyn as long as we have the doctors available to do so.”

All complex ENT procedures will be offered in Manhattan, and 25 percent of the routine cases are also expected to be treated in Manhattan, a VA spokesperson added. The VA did not supply figures regarding the number of veterans using the clinic.

Science Daily: Most hospitals now require workers to get flu shots — except those that treat veterans

Nearly 70 percent of non-VA hospitals require vaccination, compared with 4 percent of VA hospitals, survey finds

Date:

June 1, 2018

Source:

Michigan Medicine – University of Michigan

In just a few short months, hospitals across the country will start their annual push to make sure their workers get vaccinated against influenza, to protect themselves and others. Memories of the last flu season