VCS Weighs in on VA Transparency in Reporting Medical Errors

Everyone makes mistakes.

In the case of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), “institutional disclosures” are the name VA gives to a program that kicks in when its medical facilities have made a medical error that has resulted in medical harm to a veteran being treated in a VA facility.

Or at least, that program is supposed to kick in, and VA is supposed to provide veterans with the information and evidence they need to file a claim against VA, and to assist them in doing so.

However, a new investigative report by the Tampa Bay Times shows that while VA has increased the number of “institutional disclosures” in recent, years, its still failing many veterans and their survivors.

In one example, “76 ‘institutional disclosures’ involving veterans who were hurt by delays in treatment of gastrointestinal cancers might reveal that this confession policy is often not followed, according to interviews and congressional records obtained by the Tampa Bay Times.”

According to the Times, “those disclosures, which included 24 veterans who died, were made only after an extraordinary, one-time investigation of consultation delays by the VA and not in the ordinary course of business, records show. That raises the question of whether any disclosures would have been reported without the VA’s unprecedented inquiry.”

The Times‘ investigative report provides case examples of a large study and of individual examples of Florida veterans who died due to VA medical error but where VA failed to make full “institutional disclosure” until after the news media publicized the cases.

This is why we don’t allow people to investigate themselves,” said Anthony Hardie, a board member of Veterans for Common Sense, a Washington, D.C., veterans advocacy group. “The VA continues to have serious transparency issues.”

According to the Times, “VA acknowledged “obstacles” in reporting mistakes despite its intent of openness,” and, “VA officials in Washington declined requests for an interview on disclosure policy.”

Read the full Tampa Bay Times story, written by investigative reporter Bill Levesque, at the link below.   VA’s Acting Undersecretary for Health, Dr. Carolyn Clancy, is quoted in ht article in a previously released public statement.


Posted in VA Claims, VA Healthcare Crisis, Veterans Articles & News | 2 Comments

Florida VCS to Host Public Lecture on the Iraq Insurgency

Terri K. Wonder, Ph.D., will present a lecture, Transformational Guerrillas and the Iraqi Tribes Who Fight Them, for the Florida chapter of Veterans for Common Sense ( on Thursday, December, 18 2014 in Sarasota, Fla..

In 2008, Wonder was hired by the United States Army to be a civilian social scientist in a mission-essential “Surge” program in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom. She deployed twice with U.S. combat personnel from Ft. Benning, Georgia.

While working for the Corps Theater Command of Multi-National Forces-Iraq, Camp Victory, Baghdad, from 2009 to 2010, she coined the term “transformational guerillas” to describe a special class of Islamic insurgent fighters who refused to stand down even after being given incentives to do so as part of Iraq’s tribal “Awakening” movement in 2007 and after.

Transformational guerillas are distinct from another class of fighters, “accidental guerillas” — local fighters who become caught up in the contagion of fighting at the outset of insurgent warfare — according to Australian counterinsurgency theorist, David Kilcullen, in his book The Accidental Guerilla: Fighting Small Wars in the Midst of a Big One (2009).

From her own research, Wonder concludes that whereas accidental guerillas may be persuaded to stop fighting and even join the other side in a counterinsurgent campaign, transformational guerillas are not easily disillusioned after joining an insurgent campaign. Totally committed to a higher cause, transformational guerillas are not persuadable and will continue to fight until they are captured or killed.

Presented a Superior Civilian Service Award in 2010, Wonder’s cutting-edge statistical and cultural research was credited for saving lives. Wonder ranks among the few people in the world who has had the opportunity to systematically research captive insurgent populations and create a socio-cultural profile of them.

The lecture is free and open to the public and will commence at the 7:00 p.m. at the Waldemere Fire Station, 2070 Waldemere St.  Florida Veterans for Common Sense meets at that location at 7:00 p.m. on the third Thursday of each month.

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VCS to Testify at IOM Gulf War Committee Hearing

Reprinted with permission from 91outcomes.

( – A new Institute of Medicine (IOM) committee to revise and update the IOM’s 2010 Gulf War health review will hold its first meeting as a public session in Washington, DC on Wednesday, December 3, 2014.

The IOM has convened the “Committee on Gulf War and Health, Volume 10: Update of Health Effects of Serving in the Gulf War,” under contract with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).  

The committee will revise the IOM’s 2010 “Gulf War and Health” report via a medical and scientific literature review, with a focus on neurological disorders, cancer, and chronic multi symptom illness in Gulf War veterans, with a 2014 IOM panel directed to be named “Gulf War illness”.

Among the scheduled presenters are the new committee’s chair, Dr. Deborah Cory-Slechta, two VA officials, and Dr. Roberta White, Scientific Director of the VA’s Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses (RAC).  

The IOM’s 2010 “Gulf War and Health” report, which will be revised by this new committee, found:

  • Higher rates of symptoms among veterans of the 1991 Gulf War are “beyond dispute” (p. ix)
  • There is “sufficient evidence of an association” between deployment to the Gulf War and Gulf War illness (p. 210), which affects more than 250,000 veterans of the 1991 Gulf War (p. 262)
  • Gulf War illness “cannot be reliably ascribed to any known psychiatric disorder” (p. 109)
  • Current evidence is inadequate to determine whether an association exists between multisymptom illness and any specific battlefield exposure or exposures.” (p. x)
  • The causes of Gulf War illness are likely the “interplay between genetic and environmental factors” (p. 261)
  • “Veterans who continue to suffer from these discouraging symptoms deserve the very best that modern science and medicine can offer to delineate the true underlying cause of these symptoms in order to speed the development of effective treatments, cures, and, it is hoped, preventions. The committee suggests a path forward to accomplish these goals and we believe that, through a concerted national effort and rigorous scientific input, answers can likely be found.” (p. x)

Several former members of the RAC have expressed concerns regarding the composition and direction of the new IOM committee, in a letter to IOM President Dr. Victor Dzau.  A copy of their letter is here.

Gulf War veterans and others interested in attending the Dec. 3rd meeting may join by phone using the call-in number below.  

Wednesday, December 3rd
1pm to 4pm EST
Access Code: 9958550

Brief comments will be called for after the scheduled presentations.  Gulf War veterans Anthony Hardie – a former RAC member and director of Veterans for Common Sense, a national veterans advocacy organization — and Denise Nichols — a former U.S. Air Force Major and nurse and Vice President of the National Vietnam and Gulf War Coalition — are scheduled to be in attendance and to make a presentation to the committee during the public comment period.

The new committee’s statement of task, membership roster, and agenda for this session are below.






Statement of Task

An ad hoc committee under the auspices of the Institute of Medicine (IOM) will comprehensively review, evaluate, and summarize the available scientific and medical literature regarding health effects in the 1990-1991 Gulf War veterans.  The committee will pay particular attention to neurological disorders (e.g., Parkinson’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, and Migraines), cancer (especially brain cancer and lung cancer), and chronic multisystem illness. The proposed study will update earlier IOM reviews on Gulf War and Health, and this volume (Volume 10) will update the literature since the publication of the 2006 (Volume 4) and 2010 (Volume 8) Gulf War and Health reports.

A note to attendees

This meeting is being held to gather information to help the committee conduct its study. This committee will examine the information and material obtained during this, and other public meetings, in an effort to inform its work. Although opinions may be stated and lively discussion may ensue, no conclusions are being drawn at this time; no recommendations will be made. In fact, the committee will deliberate thoroughly before writing its draft report. Moreover, once the draft report is written, it must go through a rigorous review by experts who are anonymous to the committee, and the committee then must respond to this review with appropriate revisions that adequately satisfy the Academy’s Report Review committee and the chair of the NRC before it is considered an NRC report. Therefore, observers who draw conclusions about the committee’s work based on today’s discussions will be doing so prematurely.

Furthermore, individual committee members often engage in discussion and questioning for the specific purpose of probing an issue and sharpening an argument. The comments of any given committee member may not necessarily reflect the position he or she may actually hold on the subject under discussion, to say nothing of that person’s future position as it may evolve in the course of the project Any inference about an individual’s position regarding findings or recommendations in the final report are therefore also premature.


Committee Roster

Deborah Cory-Slechta, PhD (Chair)

Department of Environmental Medicine

School of Medicine and Dentistry

University of Rochester

Robert H. Brown, Jr., MD

Chair and Professor of Neurology

University of Massachusetts Medical School

Alberto Caban-Martinez, DO, PhD

University of Miami Health System

Ellen A. Eisen, ScD

School of Public Health

University of California, Berkeley

Javier Escobar, MD

University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey

Scott Fishman, MD

UC Davis Medical Group

Mary Fox, PhD

Bloomberg School of Public Health

Johns Hopkins University

Nancy Fugate-Woods, PhD

School of Nursing

University of Washington

Herman Gibb, PhD

Gibb Epidemiology Consulting, LLC

Clifford Jack, MD

Professor of Radiology, Diagnostic Radiology

Mayo Clinic

Howard Kipen, MD, PhD

Clinical Research and Occupational Medicine Division

UMDNJ – Robert Wood Johnson Medical School

Kenneth W. Kizer, MD

University of California Davis

School of Medicine

Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing

Institute for Population Health Improvement

UC Davis Health System

Joel Kramer, PsyD

University of California, San Francisco

Francine Laden, PhD

Harvard School of Public Health

James M. Noble, MD

Columbia University Medical Center

Anbesaw Selassie, DrPH

Department of Public Health Sciences

Medical University of South Carolina


Gulf War and Health Vol. 10: Update 2014

December 3-4, 2014, Meeting 1

National Academies Building, Room 125

 2101 Constitution Ave., NW


1:00–1:10          Welcome and Introductions

                          Deborah Cory-Slechta, Ph.D., Committee Chair

1:10–2:00          Charge to the Committee and discussion

R. Loren Erickson, M.D., Dr.PH – Director, Pre-9/11 Era Environmental Health Program, Department of Veterans Affairs

2:00–3:00          Update on VA longitudinal study

Robert Bossarte, Ph.D., Director, Epidemiology Program, Department of Veterans           Affairs

3:00–3:15        Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses

                        Roberta White, Scientific Director, RAC           

3:15–4:00          Open microphone for public comments

                          Limited to approximately 10 minutes per person


4:00                   Open Session Ends

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INVEST in Our Veterans and Our Energy Future

Veterans for Common Sense is proud to be a supporter of the Incentives for our Nation’s Veterans in Energy Sustainability Technologies (INVEST) Act, H.R. 5494.  


SOURCE:  Huffington Post, Nov. 10, 2014:–o_b_6136436.html

INVEST in Our Veterans and Our Energy Future

-Rep. Barbara Lee and Rep. Mike Honda

Each Veterans Day, our nation pauses to salute the service of our brave servicemen and women who fought for our nation, many of whom made the ultimate sacrifice.

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, more than 1.8 million veterans call California home. Nearly 50,000 veterans live in the Congressional districts that we serve; it is an honor and privilege to represent them in Congress.

Thanks to strategic investments to create and preserve good-paying jobs, the national unemployment rate has fallen to 5.8 percent. However, the unemployment rate for our nation’s 9/11-era veterans is 7.2 percent. This is unacceptable.

As a nation, one of our most pressing priorities should be providing good-paying jobs for veterans. As members of the Appropriations Committee, we have long fought to prioritize funds for our veterans because after fighting for our nation, no veterans should have to fight to find a good-paying job at home.

First Lady Michelle Obama and Second Lady Dr. Jill Biden have been working together on such an initiative for many years and have had great success. But, we still must do more.

Congress needs to build on their actions by providing positive incentives for companies to hire veterans. We must provide opportunities for veterans to transition their military skill set into respected civilian competences.

That is why we have introduced a bill to take a small, but positive, step to promote good-paying job opportunities for our veterans. The INVEST — Incentives for our Nation’s Veterans in Energy Sustainability Technologies — Act (H.R. 5494) will help put our nation’s veterans to work building our nation’s sustainable energy future.

Our legislation would provide a tax credit reward to renewable energy sector companies that hire veterans. It is a simple step that will have profoundly positive implications for creating good-paying jobs for veterans and developing a sustainable energy grid, improving energy efficiency and developing new technologies.

We should INVEST in our veterans, advanced technologies and our sustainable energy future. This legislation would achieve all three goals making it a win-win-win.

During their service in our armed forces, our veterans gain expertise in advanced technologies, an expertise we can use in the civilian sector to build renewable energy infrastructure.

We are proud this legislation has earned the endorsement of American Legion and Veterans for Common Sense.

Additionally, scientists, business and military leaders and the American people agree that addressing environmental sustainability is critical for our economy and the future of our humanity.

For several decades, other nations have been making investments in the sustainability energy technologies that will power our future. Tragically, the U.S. has not maintained a competitive edge in this industry sector. We are being outcompeted.

As these technologies begin to power a greater share of the global economy, the U.S. will become beholden to foreign companies that have developed and perfected these technologies. We cannot allow this to happen.

Let’s employ the ingenuity and expertise of our nation’s veterans to build the world’s sustainable energy future, right here in America.

Let’s create good-paying jobs for veterans that are also good for the planet.

Let’s help our veterans continue their fight to make the world a better and more secure place by providing jobs building a more sustainable future.

On Wednesday, Congress will return to session for four weeks. In that time, Congress could quickly pass the INVEST Act and help put our nation’s veterans to work building our sustainable energy future.

Even though this is a “lame duck” session, we can still accomplish something to help our veterans, our economy and our environment.

Congresswoman Barbara Lee represents California’s 13th Congressional District and is the daughter of a veteran; Congressman Mike Honda represents California’s 17th Congressional District.

SOURCE:  Huffington Post, Nov. 10, 2014:–o_b_6136436.html


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VA Announces Camp LeJeune Medical Reimbursement Program


  Did you live at Camp Lejeune for 30 days or more between 1957-87? Veterans and their families who lived at the U.S. Marine Corps base and were potentially affected by contaminated water may be eligible for VA health benefits. 

Learn more:


October 25, 2014

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has announced publication of the regulations in the Federal Register regarding provision of medical care to Veterans and reimbursement for care to their family members who were exposed to chemically contaminated drinking water at U.S. Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

The regulations implement provisions of the “Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012,” which President Obama signed into law on August 6, 2012.  VA will provide hospital care and medical services to eligible Camp Lejeune Veterans and reimburse eligible family members for care for one or more of the 15 illnesses or conditions specified in the Act.

To be eligible for care, Veterans must have served on active duty at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days between January 1, 1957 and December 31, 1987.  Veterans who are determined to be eligible under the Camp Lejeune authority will not be charged a copayment for treatment associated to the 15 stated conditions nor will their third party insurance be billed for these medical services.

VA may also reimburse eligible family members of Camp Lejeune Veterans for health care related to the 15 conditions. Eligible family members must have resided on Camp Lejeune as a dependent of an Active Duty Service member for no less than 30 days between January 1, 1957 and December 31, 1987 to receive benefits.  VA will also reimburse costs associated with hospital care and medical services, as the last payer, for the Veterans’ family members, including individuals who may have been in utero, for the same 15 illnesses or conditions.  Once those individuals have submitted claims to their insurance companies, they can apply to VA for reimbursement of the remaining balance of charges and fees connected to the qualifying illnesses.

Interested family members may apply online at  Submitted applications and supporting documentation will be reviewed to determine family member eligibility for the program.  If you have questions regarding applying for CLFMP benefits, claims payment, appeals, or other related matters, feel free to call toll-free at 1-866-372-1144.  Additional CLFMP information is located online at the website listed above.

CL_web (2)

The law requires VA to provide health care for the following illnesses or conditions:

  • Bladder cancer                                                          • Miscarriage
  • Breast cancer                                                            • Multiple myeloma
  • Esophageal cancer                                                     • Myelodysplastic syndromes
  • Female infertility                                                      • Neurobehavioral effects
  • Hepatic steatosis                                                      • Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  • Kidney cancer                                                           • Renal toxicity
  • Leukemia                                                                  • Scleroderma
  • Lung Cancer

VHA Office of Public Health offers a website dedicated to the Camp Lejeune Program and information regarding eligibility at:

Veterans seeking more information about VA’s Camp Lejeune Program can call 1–877–222–VETS (8387).  Additionally, Veterans seeking to enroll in VA health benefits can enroll online at

Please share this information with other Veterans and their families.  Thank you for your service.


Terry Walters, MD, MPH


Camp Lejeune Implementation Task Force

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AUSTIN STATESMAN: Congress to Probe VA Research Program

A Congressional committee has begun a probe of VA’s failed health research program, according to news from the Austin American-Statesman newspaper that helps show the critically important role of the media in holding VA accountable.   [Austin American-Statesman, “Congress to probe VA research after Austin Statesman investigation,” Jeremy Schwartz reporting, Friday, October 17, 2014]

According to the Statesman article:

A 10-month Statesman investigation into the Waco Center of Excellence’s brain imaging program found that the VA squandered millions of dollars and six years of research opportunity just as brain injuries were spiking among U.S. service members.

The newspaper found the VA purchased a once-cutting edge $3.6 million mobile MRI scanner in 2008 without a clear plan for success, was unable to recruit enough brain imaging experts and was paralyzed by internal squabbles.


On occasion, critics have accused the VA of covering up research that might show links between deployments and medical problems. In 2012, a VA research advisory committee accused VA researchers of of failing to “mount even a minimally effective program” to study Gulf War illness, vastly overstating the amount spent to study the illnesses affecting Gulf War veterans and misrepresenting the state of scientific knowledge regarding Gulf War veterans’ health.

Yet compared to the VA’s medical and disability benefits branches, which have been beset by numerous scandals in recent years and months, the research arm has received relatively little scrutiny.


U.S. Rep. Bill Flores, R-Waco, told the Statesman Friday that it’s time for “a broad discussion on the role of the VA in health care research” and said staffers with the House Committee on Veterans Affairs would begin scheduling a series of hearings on issues at the Waco center and beyond in early 2015.

The newspaper promised more coverage is to follow.

Read the full Austin American-Statesman article here:


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Pentagon Report Calls Climate Change a “National Security Threat Multiplier”

The Pentagon released a landmark report this week, “asserting decisively that climate change poses an immediate threat to national security, with increased risks from terrorism, infectious disease, global poverty and food shortages. It also predicted rising demand for military disaster responses as extreme weather creates more global humanitarian crises.”  [Quote from New York Times, “Pentagon Signals Security Risks of Climate Change,” Oct. 13, 2014, Coral Davenport reporting]

The preface of the U.S. Department of Defense strategy report, entitled, “2014 Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap“, is signed by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and begins as follows:

The responsibility of the Department of Defense is the security of our country. That requires thinking ahead and planning for a wide range of contingencies.

Among the future trends that will impact our national security is climate change. Rising global temperatures, changing precipitation patterns, climbing sea levels, and more extreme weather events will intensify the challenges of global instability, hunger, poverty, and conflict. They will likely lead to food and water shortages, pandemic disease, disputes over refugees and resources, and destruction by natural disasters in regions across the globe.

In our defense strategy, we refer to climate change as a “threat multiplier” because it has the potential to exacerbate many of the challenges we are dealing with today – from infectious disease to terrorism. We are already beginning to see some of these impacts.

A changing climate will have real impacts on our military and the way it executes its missions. The military could be called upon more often to support civil authorities, and provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief in the face of more frequent and more intense natural disasters. Our coastal installations are vulnerable to rising sea levels and increased flooding, while droughts, wildfires, and more extreme temperatures could threaten many of our training activities. Our supply chains could be impacted, and we will need to ensure our critical equipment works under more extreme weather conditions. Weather has always affected military operations, and as the climate changes, the way we execute operations may be altered or constrained.


Our first step in planning for these challenges is to identify the effects of climate change on the Department with tangible and specific metrics, using the best available science. We are almost done with a baseline survey to assess the vulnerability of our military’s more than 7,000 bases, installations, and other facilities. In places like the Hampton Roads region in Virginia, which houses the largest concentration of US military sites in the world, we see recurrent flooding today, and we are beginning work to address a projected sea-level rise of 1.5 feet over the next 20 to 50 years.


At home, we are studying the implications of increased demand for our National Guard in the aftermath of extreme weather events.


Politics or ideology must not get in the way of sound planning. Our armed forces must prepare for a future with a wide spectrum of possible threats, weighing risks and probabilities to ensure that we will continue to keep our country secure. By taking a proactive, flexible approach to assessment, analysis, and adaptation, the Defense Department will keep pace with a changing climate, minimize its impacts on our missions, and continue to protect our national security.

The full 20-page U.S. Department of Defense report, entitled, “2014 Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap”, is available for download here.

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Ex-Chair of Federal Gulf War Panel Says Concerns Remain

The recently “rotated out” chairman of the federal panel charged with overseeing health research related to veterans of the 1991 Gulf War was quoted extensively today in an Arizona Republic news article, expressing reasoned concerns regarding the approach of VA staff to Gulf War health research.

Legislation to transfer most of the oversight of the committee from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to Congress passed the U.S. House by unanimous consent earlier this year.  The bill, H.R. 4261, the Gulf War Health Research Reform Act, has stagnated in the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

Led by Chairman Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee has yet to schedule a hearing on the bill despite having had the bill since June 2, 2014.

From the article:

[ex-Chairman James H.] Binns detailed his apprehension about the committee’s revolving membership in a four-page memo to members of Congress and veterans associations on his final day as chairman, Sept. 30.

“I leave the committee gravely concerned about the future of Gulf War illness research,” he wrote.

“From here on, neither the Secretary, nor Congress, veterans service organizations, veterans themselves or the public will know the whole truth behind VA Gulf War research. In the absence of an independent, knowledgeable body, staff will operate unchecked, and its campaign to revive 1990s fictions that Gulf War veterans have no special health problem will likely prevail.”


Binns’ final memo has been circulated widely among veterans associations, said Rick Weidman, executive director of policy and government affairs for the Vietnam Veterans of America.

Veterans organizations are lobbying Congress to pass legislation that would have the Gulf War committee report directly to Congress rather than to the VA.

Weidman said it may seem like an extreme step, but VA administrators’ actions were out of line during the Gulf War committee’s last two-day meeting in Washington.

“It really was bizarre because you had the staff of the VA from the environmental-hazards and public-health section trying to drive their agenda. And their agenda is that there is no such thing as Gulf War illness; that it’s all psychosomatic,” he said.

The move to replace the Gulf War committee members came despite a request to McDonald by House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller, R-Fla., and four other members, including Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, D-Ariz., to retain the Gulf War committee members. The lawmakers sent their request Aug. 20.

Read the full Arizona Republic article here:

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