American Legion Daily News Clips 1.17.20

Good morning Legionnaires and veterans advocates, today is Friday, January 17, 2020 which is Ben Franklin Day, Customer Service Day, National Bootleggers Day and Hot-Buttered Rum Day.

Today/This Weekend in Legion History:

· Jan. 17, 1975: Representatives of The American Legion’s Department of France, the United States and The Netherlands gather at a 300-year-old foundry in Aarel-Rixtel, Holland, to pour molten metal into a mold to cast the Freedom Bell. A double-scale replica of the historic Liberty Bell, the 8.5-ton symbol, mostly of copper, it is scheduled is scheduled to travel on the artifact-filled “Freedom Train” throughout the continental United States over a 21-month period beginning April 1, 1975, in honor of the 200th anniversary of American independence. The bell is tuned one octave lower than the Liberty Bell to the key of F, for “freedom.” Approximately 7 million visit the 28-care train during its tour, and tens of millions more watch it pass along tracks throughout the country. The American Legion’s Freedom Bell is later given a permanent home on Columbia Circle outside Union Station in Washington, D.C.

· Jan. 19, 1920: A newly formed national Committee on Americanism of The American Legion, along with department Americanism chairmen, appears before the Military Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives and presents an agenda that includes assistance in the naturalization and citizenship of immigrants to the United States.

· Jan. 19 – March 11, 1937: The American Legion raises over $250,000 and delivers it to the Red Cross to help victims of floods on the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. As with the 1927 flood, American Legion posts and volunteers transform into relief centers and emergency workers in the devastated areas, distributing some 5,000 tons of food and 3,000 tons of clothing. Hundreds of Legionnaire-owned boats are deployed to search for victims, and a mobile radio unit from a Jamestown, NY, American Legion post is among many called into service when other communications are knocked out. More than 1 million lose their homes in the floods, which take the lives of approximately 350 people.


· Defense One: Eleven US Troops Were Injured in Jan. 8 Iran Missile Strike

· Painkiller Overprescription at 3 Military Hospitals Prompts Scathing Watchdog Report

· Military Times: VA, lawmakers trade barbs after sexual assault claim from congressional staffer

· VA Moving Forward on Implementing Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention Law

· US Kills Two al-Shabaab Terrorists in Airstrike Following Deadly Kenya Attack

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Defense One: Eleven US Troops Were Injured in Jan. 8 Iran Missile Strike

The troops were medevaced this week to Germany and Kuwait to be treated for traumatic brain injury after experiencing concussion symptoms.

Nearly one dozen American troops were wounded in Iran’s Jan. 8 missile attack on Iraq’s al-Asad air base. This week, they were medically evacuated to U.S. military hospitals in Kuwait and Landstuhl, Germany, to be treated for traumatic brain injury and to undergo further evaluation, several U.S. defense and military officials have confirmed to Defense One.

Senior military and Trump administration officials had said on Jan. 8 that 11 Iranian missiles had caused “no casualties, no friendly casualties, whether they are U.S., coalition, contractor, et cetera.”

In the past week, news organizations that were granted access to the base to film the damage and interview military personnel have reported that no Americans were killed, wounded, or “seriously injured.” But the New York Times reported on Monday that some personnel had been treated for concussions.

In a Jan. 16 statement, a spokesman for the U.S. military command in Baghdad said, “As previously stated, while no U.S. service members were killed in the Jan. 8 Iranian attack on Al Asad Air base, several were treated for concussion symptoms from the blast and are still being assessed.”

“Out of an abundance of caution, some service members were transported from Al Asad Air Base, Iraq to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, others were sent to Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, for follow-on screening,” said Col. Myles Caggins, spokesman for Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve. “When deemed fit for duty, the service members are expected to return to Iraq following screening. The health and welfare of our personnel is a top priority and we will not discuss any individual’s medical status.”

A separate U.S. defense official speaking on background confirmed eleven Americans had been sent out of Iraq for treatment.

“As a standard procedure, all personnel in the vicinity of a blast are screened for traumatic brain injury, and if deemed appropriate, are transported to a higher level of care. At this time, eight individuals have been transported to Landstuhl, and three have been transported to Camp Arifjan,” said the official.

Later Thursday evening, Capt. Bill Urban, spokesman for U.S. Central Command, which oversees all military in the region, confirmed those details in a similar on-the-record statement emailed to reporters.

According to a fourth senior U.S. defense official, “About a week after the attack some service members were still experiencing some symptoms of concussion.” The official expected more information would be released soon. “We only got wind of this in the last 24 hours.”

Initial reports about the attack speculated that Iran had tried to avoid areas of the base that housed military personnel. But U.S. officials soon rejected that notion. In a Jan. 8 press conference, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley said, “The points of impact were close enough to personnel and equipment, so on and so forth, I believe, based on what I saw and what I know, is that they were intended to cause structural damage, destroy vehicles and equipment and aircraft, and to kill personnel.”

Still, several news organizations soon reported from al-Asad that U.S. troops had been alerted to the attack hours in advance, and told to head for bunkers 15 minutes before the missiles began to strike. Many U.S. troops, however, manned exposed positions, including at least one group of drone operators who stayed in an above-ground building to get their drones aloft and avoid ground damage. The leader of an Army drone team told NPR that he was “knocked off his feet by the blast.” Others told the New York Times that missiles damaged the building they were in.

On Thursday, Pentagon chief spokesman Jonathan Hoffman declined to say what tipped off the Americans. He did deny reports that the warning came from somewhere besides the United States or Iraq.

This article has been updated to include the additional statement provided by U.S. Central Command. Painkiller Overprescription at 3 Military Hospitals Prompts Scathing Watchdog Report

16 Jan 2020 | By Richard Sisk

Patients were routinely overprescribed opioids at three military hospitals under a system that failed to follow medical guidelines, according to a scathing report from the Defense Department’s Inspector General.

The IG’s audit found that the three hospitals "overprescribed opioids between 2015 and 2017 because policies and processes were not in place to properly monitor and identify" patients receiving more than the federally recommended dose of 90 milligrams of morphine equivalent (MME) daily.

The result was that one patient, or "beneficiary," at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, received 2,450 oxycodone tablets over the course of a year, while another was prescribed 4,700 oxycodone tablets over two years, the audit said.

The audit also found that shoddy bookkeeping practices at JBER; Madigan Medical Center at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington; and Naval Medical Center Portsmouth, Virginia, made it impossible to gauge the scope of the overprescribing.

"These errors prevented us from being able to determine the full universe of beneficiaries who were prescribed opioids above the recommended dose of 90 MME," the audit states.

In addition, the "professional courtesy" shown by doctors to each other often served to let glaring instances of overprescribing go unnoticed, it adds.

The report cites an unnamed doctor who "stated that it was a professional courtesy among physicians not to criticize how other physicians provided services and prescriptions to their beneficiaries."

At one of the three hospitals visited by IG teams, a pharmacist stated that "there is not a will" to stop some patients from receiving too many opioids, the audit found.

The report cites Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines and the Department of Veterans Affairs‘ "Clinical Practice Guideline for Opioid Therapy for Chronic Pain" as recommending "against prescribing opioid doses over 90 MME per day to treat chronic pain."

The IG’s report does not attribute any deaths or suicides at the three hospitals to overprescribing but cites a Veterans Health Administration study, which concluded that "those who died of opioid overdoses were prescribed an average of 98 MME per day, while others who did not die from opioid overdose were prescribed an average of 48 MME per day."

In the existing system, DoD beneficiaries — active-duty service members, retirees and eligible family members — can receive health care at military hospitals and clinics, also known as Military Treatment Facilities (MTFs), on military installations worldwide.

Under the National Defense Authorization Act of 2017, the Defense Health Agency (DHA) and the surgeons general of the service branches are charged with overseeing the MTFs, the audit states.

However, the DHA and the surgeons general "did not identify and monitor those beneficiaries prescribed over 90 MME per day from 2015 to 2017," the audit found.

"For example, one beneficiary received an average of 450 MME per day for 16 months, which is five times the CDC recommended maximum dose of 90 MME that chronic pain beneficiaries should avoid," the audit states.

The report recommends that the DHA "monitor MME doses per day by beneficiary, examine data for unusually high opioid prescriptions, and if appropriate, hold providers accountable for overprescribing opioids."

The DHA agreed with the recommendation, adding that "it has already implemented solutions to the findings in the report."