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1. N.M. governor backs bills to lure veterans to state. A perennial bill to exempt military retirement pay from state income taxes has the support of Gov. Susana Martinez, despite the Legislature’s defeat of similar bills in the past.
2. Army wants state to buy portions of Fort Monroe. The guns and guards are gone, but Fort Monroe remains in the military’s hands more than 15 months after the Army decomissioned the base and moved its personnel and equipment from the historic property.
3. Basic military health records to be online by end of year. All veterans and servicemembers will have health information on things like their medical history, prescriptions, and lab results shared online by the end of the year, a significant step forward in federal efforts to create a lifelong medical record for military personnel.
4. TSA Draws Attention For Amputees’ Screening. Army Times “The next time you’re randomly selected for extra security screening at an airport, remember: Troops and veterans with prosthetics endure it every time they fly.” Civilians sometimes get angry when they see troops and disabled vets getting screened, but the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) “says the extra measures are needed to ensure ‘all individuals are screened appropriately.'” And the TSA, according to the Times, “makes accommodations for severely wounded and injured troops who fly through its Wounded Warrior/Military Severely Injured Operations Center, which alerts security directors at airports of troops’ needs if TSA gets advance notice.”
5. VA Kicks Off Massive Study Of Veterans’ Deaths. NextGov Veterans Affairs “has kicked off a massive study in cooperation with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Defense Department to determine the cause of veterans’ deaths since 1979.” According to Aaron Schneiderman, acting director of VA’s epidemiology program, the study “will help VA determine if there are factors that result in a higher number of veteran deaths than in the general population. VA can then use information to ‘drive down’ particular causes of death, he said.”
6. US Military Veteran Suicides Rise. Reuters A Veterans Affairs study released last Friday found that more veterans are killing themselves than previously thought, with 22 of suicides happening every day. The agency said this data will help improve its prevention suicide efforts because it can better identify the possible location of vets who may be at risk for suicide. The agency’s secretary, Eric Shinseki, stated, “We have more work to do and we will use this data to continue to strengthen our suicide prevention efforts.”
7. VA To Study Iraq, Afghanistan Vets’ Health. Military Times “The Veterans Affairs Department will conduct a long-term study of the possible health effects of deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan, including exposure to environmental hazards and open-air burn pits.” According to Monday’s “issue of the Federal Register, VA will launch a new burn pit and airborne hazards-related longitudinal study of recent combat veterans to determine whether there is a relationship between deployments and illnesses such as cancer, respiratory disease, circulatory problems, neurological conditions and more. VA Secretary Erik Shinseki has asked the Defense Department to take a role in the study and help VA address the medical needs of those who have deployed, the announcement states.”
8. Vet Suspected Of Killing Kyle May Have Had PTSD. AP “Former top Navy SEAL sniper who authorities say was killed at a Texas shooting range was devoted to maintaining camaraderie and helping his fellow veterans find their way after leaving active duty.” Kyle, “author of the best-selling book ‘American Sniper,’ and his friend Chad Littlefield apparently were doing just that Saturday when, officials say, they were shot and killed by former Marine Eddie Ray Routh.” Routh is “being held on $3 million bail in the Erath County Jail.” AP “The Iraq War veteran charged with killing a former Navy SEAL sniper and his friend on a Texas shooting range had been taken to a mental hospital twice in the past five months and told authorities he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, police records show.” Travis Cox, “director of FITCO Cares – the nonprofit that Kyle set up to give in-home fitness equipment to physically and emotionally wounded veterans – said he believes that Kyle and Littlefield were helping Routh work through PTSD.”
9. Ron Paul’s Tweet About Kyle Criticized. Los Angeles Times Kyle was a “victim of gun crime who was against gun control, and his death has already become cannon fodder in an emotional, rancorous debate.” On “Monday morning, former Texas congressional representative and perennial presidential candidate Ron Paul tweeted: ‘Chris Kyle’s death seems to confirm that ‘he who lives by the sword dies by the sword.’ Treating PTSD at a firing range doesn’t make sense.'” Paul was soon criticized on Twitter. Meanwhile, Harry Croft, a San Antonio psychiatrist who has studied veterans with PTSD, stressed that killings like the one that took Kyle’s life are “highly atypical of PTSD-afflicted veterans – suicides are more frequent.” He added, “These kind of events increase the stigma of our veterans and especially those with PTSD.” The Hill “The exact intention of Paul’s” tweet “was unclear. The former congressman has been a staunch supporter of Second Amendment rights, blasting ‘misguided’ and ’emotional’ calls for greater gun restrictions in the aftermath of the Newtown, Conn., shootings.” The Hill adds, “From reports, Kyle was helping Eddie Routh, his alleged shooter, treat his condition with so-called Prolonged Exposure Therapy,” which Veterans Affairs describes as a practice that involves vets “approaching situations that are safe but which [they] may have been avoiding because they are related to the trauma.” NBC News VA “has occasionally partnered with the Tampa, Fla.-based Black Dagger Military Hunt Club to hold shooting programs for veterans. In July, the club is sponsoring the trap shooting competition for the 2013 National Veterans Wheelchair Games in Tampa, providing ammunition and clays.” Black Dagger, which is “made up of ex-military members, also holds four to six shooting events per year.” Atlantic Wire “Ron Paul is, to put it plainly, flatly wrong in his assertion that ‘treating’ someone with PTSD at a shooting range is a bad idea.” Prolonged Exposure Therapy (PET) is “one of the leading ways to treat PTSD, as one” Twitter commenter “pointed out to Paul.” Simpson says PET is “even endorsed” by VA, which calls “it ‘one of the most effective treatments’ of PTSD.
10. DeBakey VA’s Thompson: “Most People With PTSD Are Not Violent.” KRIV-TV Iraq veteran Paul De La Cerda fears that Kyle’s death will “result in the kind of negative ‘blowblack’ against veterans that the Seal sniper was fighting to end.” Karen Thompson, who leads the post traumatic stress treatment program at the DeBakey VA Medical Center, stresses, “Most people with PTSD are not violent. I think its important to support our veterans and help them to understand and their families to understand the devastating impact of being in combat and the lifelong impact that is going to have for many, many people.” Thompson added, “Coming in for help is not a weakness, but a strength.”
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Blue Button for America : Presidential innovation fellows working on Blue Button for America at the Department of Veterans Affairs. In August 2010, President Obama announced the Blue Button. Today, it has been downloaded 2.7 million times and the program has been adopted by both the Department of Defense and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Read more »