Mobilized Reserve 6 DEC 2011: The Department of Defense announced the current number of reservists on active duty as of 6 DEC 2011. The net collective result is 2967 fewer reservists mobilized than last reported in the 1 NOV 2011 RAO Bulletin. At any given time, services may activate some units and individuals while deactivating others, making it possible for these figures to either increase or decrease. The total number currently on active duty from the Army National Guard and Army Reserve is 68,440; Navy Reserve 4517; Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve, 9778; Marine Corps Reserve, 5904; and the Coast Guard Reserve, 792. This brings the total National Guard and Reserve personnel who have been activated to 89,431 including both units and individual augmentees. A cumulative roster of all National Guard and Reserve personnel who are currently activated may be found at http://www.defense.gov/news/d20111206ngr.pdf. Reservists deactivated since 9/11 total 744,475. [Source: DoD News Release No. 1005-11 dtd 8 DEC 2011 ++]
SBA Vet Issues Update 17: In the latest turn of the screw in an ongoing battle between the Department of Veterans Affairs and members of the small business community, a non-profit association sued the agency and its secretary for alleged failure to comply with existing laws that require veteran-owned small businesses to receive priority in all contract awards. Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business Network Inc. in Pleasanton, Calif., filed a 6 DEC complaint on behalf of its members in a California district court, claiming that the VA violated the 2006 Veterans, Benefits, Health Care and Information Technology Act and the Veterans First Contracting Program, both of which mandate that the agency set aside contract opportunities for veteran-owned small businesses when at least two such businesses are qualified to meet the requirements. The complaint pointed to the VA's refusal to comply with recommendations made by the Government Accountability Office in an 11 OCT protest decision, which stated that the agency violated the law when it failed to set aside two contract solicitations for service-disabled, veteran-owned small businesses. The watchdog agency recommended that the veterans agency cancel and reissue the solicitations as set-aside contracts, a move the VA opted to ignore — claiming the requirement did not apply to acquisitions made under the General Service Administration's contract schedules. "The president of the association has been leading a grass roots movement to challenge the VA's application of the Veterans First program for over a year," said Timothy Power, the attorney representing the association, in an email to Washington Business Journal. His firm, Power Law Office in Sonoma, Calif., provides legal services to small business contractors. "Recently she has been raising money to support the filing of a suit in California to enjoin the VA from ignoring the program." The lawsuit comes one week after two House subcommittees held a hearing on the topic, questioning VA officials about the decision to ignore the GAO recommendations. [Source: Washington Business Journal Jill R. Aitoro article 7 Dec 2011 ++]
Purple Heart Update 02:Lawmakers from Texas and Arkansas have been pushing the Army for years to award Purple Hearts to the victims of domestic terrorist attacks such as the 2009 Fort Hood shooting, but have seen little success. Now, Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman (I-CT) said he’ll take up the cause, too. At a hearing 7 DEC, Lieberman said he will try to insert an amendment in the annual defense authorization bill (currently in conference committee) to award a posthumous Purple Heart to Army recruiter Pvt. William Long, who was killed in a brazen 2009 shooting by a radical Islamic adherent. The case drew national headlines but was not technically classified as an international terrorist attack, preventing Long’s family from collecting the military honor. For the last three years, Texas Republican Rep. John Carter has pushed for similar combat status recognition for the victims of the Fort Hood shooting, where Army psychiatrist Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan killed 13 base personnel and wounded 43 others in an attack officials believe to be motivated by his radical religious beliefs. So far, those efforts have been unsuccessful, in part because of controversy surrounding Carter’s bill language dubbing the attack a case of “radical Islamic terrorism.” Lieberman did not offer any specifics on the wording of his amendment, and whether it would also cover the Fort Hood victims. Lawmakers at Wednesday’s hearing heard testimony from Daris Long, the father of the soldier killed in Arkansas. He said his family felt disrespected and disheartened by the military decision not to fully honor their son’s death with the Purple Heart. Military officials said they sympathized with Long’s family, but the law as written prohibits awarding medal in this case. [Source: Stars & Stripes Leo Shane article 8 Dec 2011 ++]
DoD: Lawsuit ~ Human Testing: Jacksonville resident Frank Rochelle says he still has nightmares about being used as a human guinea pig for military drug testing more than 40 years ago. He considers himself one of the luckier ones. Rochelle, 63, is one of six former “test vets” suing the Department of Defense, U.S. Army, CIA and Department of Veterans Affairs for healthcare and notification about the risks they face as a result of human testing undergone at Edgewood Arsenal in Edgewood, Md., between the years of 1950 and 1976. First filed in 2009, the case is expected to go to trial in the Northern District of California next year.
Rochelle was drafted into the Army in 1968, at the age of 20. He volunteered for a temporary duty assignment in Edgewood Arsenal, he said, when he was told he would be testing military equipment and be entitled to a few perks, such as not having to wear a military uniform during the workday. He signed a confidentiality waiver and then began a course of testing that included atropine, an anticholinergic drug with hallucinogenic properties. During the two-and-a-half days of hallucinations that resulted from inhaling the drug, Rochelle alleged seeing animals come out of the walls, and trying to cut the freckles out of his arm with a razor, thinking they were bugs underneath his skin.
He attributes residual memory loss, breathing disorders and anxiety to the days he spent in testing at Edgewood. Another plaintiff, William Blazinski, said he was dosed with varieties of tear gas, experimental nerve gas antidote scopolamine and physostigmine during his time at the testing facility. He believes his 2008 diagnosis of chronic lymphocytic leukemia and ulcerative colitis may be connected to the experiments he underwent. In addition to notification and health care, the plaintiffs are asking for release from the oaths of secrecy they took to participate in the project.
Gordon Erspamer, the San Francisco-based attorney with law firm Morrison and Foerster who is representing the veterans and two veterans’ support organizations in the class-action suit, said in all up 400 different chemical agents were tested on humans at Edgewood, including LSD and mustard gas, and at least 7,800 American troops were used in testing at that facility alone. “Some of these were the most diabolical experiments you could possibly imagine,” he said. After a series of motions to dismiss the suit by the U.S. Attorney General based on jurisdictional claims and other legal objections, Morrison and Foerster won the right to proceed with the case in early 2010. Notably, the Defense Department does not deny that human experimentation was conducted at military facilities. “Since the end of World War II, DoD periodically evaluated the (chemical and biological) threat and the ability of U.S. forces to fight on a chemical and biological battlefield,” an OSD web page on the subject reads. “In some programs service members were present but not test subjects and in other programs they were volunteer human subjects. Testing of biological agents on human subjects ended in 1969; testing of chemical agents on human subjects ended in 1975. DoD is investigating these exposures that occurred as far back as 30 to 60 years ago.”According to information on the page, the department plans to complete its investigation into the exposures by the end of this year.
Frank Rochelle While the defendants allege they made efforts to notify those involved in the experiments through the Department of Veterans Affairs, the plaintiffs say only a token number of veterans received letters, and these letters assured them they would face no adverse health effects from the testing. “It stands to reason, if you were given chemical warfare agents, you would have adverse health effects,” Erspamer said. The lawsuit is now entering the final weeks of discovery, and Erspamer said he was still fighting for the release of important records, including magnetic tapes documenting nine years of U.S. and CIA involvement in the experiments and documents recording exposures and testing prior to 1953. “We’ve been given a song-and-dance about it for the past two-and-a-half years,” he said. Rochelle is hopeful that the suit will result in more people learning about the health risks they may face from the experiments. “We want to be released from our secrecy oaths, along with the medical care that we’ve been denied for years,” he said. “We’d like to correspond or talk to some of the other people that have been involved with the testing. Through this lawsuit we’ve located a lot more.” The agencies named in the lawsuit do not comment on ongoing litigation. [Source: Jacksonville Daily News Hope Hodge article 6 Dec 2011 ++]
DoD: Lawsuit ~ Human Testing Update 01: Human testing was conducted at Edgewood Arsenal in Edgewood, Md., between the years of 1950 and 1976. A class action lawsuit was filed against the Department of Defense, U.S. Army, CIA and Department of Veterans Affairs for healthcare and notification about the risks service personnel face as a result of human testing with up to 400 different chemical agents. The lawsuit filed by six Edgewood “test vets” and the veterans’ service organizations Vietnam Veterans of America and Swords to Ploughshares includes the following alleged purposes for which the Defense Department conducted human testing of chemical and biological agents on service members. “In short,” the suit concludes, “under this program of human experimentation, the roles of military doctors were reversed from healing to purposely exposing their patients to harm in violation of their Hippocratic oaths.” with the purpose:
To develop non-lethal but incapacitating agents that could be disseminated by airplanes in all environments;
To explore what levels of various chemicals would produce casualties (the socalled “man-break” tests);
To research techniques to impose control over the will of an individual, including neuron-surgery, electric shock, drugs, and hypnosis;
To design and test septal electrodes that would enable direct control of human behavior;
To produce a “knockout” pill that could surreptitiously be dropped into drinks or added into food;
To develop a substance that could produce “pure euphoria” with no subsequent let-down;
To derive an undetectable substance that would lower the ambition and general working efficiency of humans;
To develop a substance that would cause mental confusion and make it more difficult to fabricate answers under questioning;
To create a substance that would alter personality structure and induce dependency on another person;
To develop a substance that would promote weakness or temporarily compromise hearing or eyesight;
To perfect a substance that could be administered surreptitiously, which would prevent someone from performing any physical activity;
To identify a substance that would promote illogical thinking or impulsiveness;
To develop a substance that would increase, prevent or counteract the intoxicating effects of alcohol;
To create materials that would facilitate the induction of hypnosis or enhance its usefulness;
To derive substances that would produce physical disablement, paralysis, or acute anemia; and
To find a substance capable of producing extended periods of shock, mania and stress, and confusion or amnesia.
[Source: Jacksonville Daily News Hope Hodge article 6 Dec 2011 ++]
Military Benefit Upgrades Update 04: Federal authorities from the Justice, Veteran's Affairs and Defense departments asked for and were granted an extension to FEB 2012 to respond to a federal lawsuit alleging discrimination against same-sex members of the military. Rye's Charlie Morgan, a lesbian member of the N.H. National Guard, and her wife Karen, are two of 16 same-sex plaintiffs named in the federal suit seeking “the same recognition, family support and benefits” for same-sex couples that the U.S. military provides for heterosexual couples. The suit alleges gay and lesbian service members and their families are victims of discrimination because of the Defense of Marriage Act, and asks a judge to find DOMA “is unconstitutional as applied to military spousal benefits.” In a 5 DEC motion to the U.S. District Court of Mass., attorneys for the federal agencies say they need more time to respond to the lawsuit because coordination is required among the defendant agencies. The court complied and set a 28 FEB deadline for federal authorities to respond to the allegations.
The suit alleges same-sex military spouses can't be designated to receive next-of-kin notices of the service members' deaths, won't receive surviving spouse benefits, are denied family health benefits and can't be buried in a military cemetery next to their spouses. Named as defendants are U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki. Charles Miller, a spokesman for the U.S. Justice Department's civil division, told the Herald the government has no comment prior to filing its answer with the court. In their latest court motion, the same-sex couples cite case law stating DOMA “fails to pass constitutional muster.” They tell the court DOMA “is irrational in the context of military benefits” because when it was enacted, same-sex marriage was prohibited in all 50 states. Attorney John Goodman of the Washington-based Servicemembers Legal Defense Network filed the suit on behalf of “current and former active duty members of the United States Armed Forces seeking equal benefits for equal work.” Goodman told the court Charlie and Karen Morgan have been together since 1997, and that Charlie, a chief warrant officer, has served in Kuwait, Qatar and Iraq.
Charlie, who was diagnosed with breast cancer, is “especially concerned with obtaining all the death benefits and burial rights that opposite-sex couples receive,” according to the litigation. The couple has been in a legally recognized civil union for 11 years, are the parents of a 4-year-old and were married Oct. 24, 2011. Also named as plaintiffs in the lawsuit are active and retired homosexual members of the military from Boston, California, Arizona, Ohio, Wyoming and Virginia. All of them applied for and were denied federal military benefits for their spouses in the wake of the repeal of “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” on Sept. 20, according to the suit. Charlie Morgan made national headlines when, hours after the repeal of the “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” law, she went on national television and declared, “I'm finally proud to announce that I'm a lesbian.” [Source: Seacoastonline.com Elizabeth Dinan artile 6 Dec 2011 ++]
U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer Charlie Morgan *********************************
PTSD Update 80: The family of an Iraq war veteran who hanged himself has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the hospital that discharged him just hours before he died. The lawsuit filed 6 DEC in U.S. District Court, Davenport, claims Patrick J. Gibbs Jr. was not admitted to the psychiatric unit at Genesis Medical Center-West Central Park Avenue, Davenport, Iowa after a suicide attempt the afternoon of 23 JAN 2010. The lawsuit also claims Gibbs was not given a psychiatric screening before a nurse discharged him after making her own evaluation that he was no longer a risk to himself. Gibbs hanged himself in the basement of his boyhood home in Davenport seven hours after he was discharged from the hospital, the lawsuit says. Defendants named in the lawsuit include Genesis Health System and medical personnel at Genesis West, including Georgiann Hignight, Kathleen Versluis, Jessica Wasson, Vanessa Zaehringer and Richard L. Vermeer. Davenport Emergency Physicians P.C. also is listed as a defendant. Genesis spokesman Craig Cooper said he could not comment on pending litigation.
Patrick J. Gibbs Jr. Former Davenport Mayor Patrick J. Gibbs Sr. filed the lawsuit on behalf of the estate of his son. His son Patrick served in Operation Iraqi Freedom from 2007-08. He achieved the rank of U.S. Army sergeant at age 20, the youngest in his company to do so. “It makes you wonder how many kids are over there in that same situation,” his father told the Times about his son’s battles with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. He wondered then if the Army could have provided more help for his son during and after his service. The lawsuit documents Gibbs battle with mental illness while in the military and in the weeks leading up to his death. According to the lawsuit:
He first attempted suicide while still in Iraq upon learning that his wife, Kayla Gibbs, had left him.
He made another suicide attempt in August 2009 and was hospitalized for two weeks for treatment of anxiety and depression. He was honorably discharged later that year after it was determined his condition made him unfit for command.
His psychological problems continued after returning home. On Dec. 2, 2009, a domestic disturbance with his fiancée, Savannah Huelsman, in their home in Ohio resulted in criminal charges and a restraining order against him.
He moved into a motel on 3 DEC, where he wrote a suicide note, drank liquor and ingested over-the-counter cough syrup and sleeping pills. Early the next morning, police found Gibbs wandering by the side of the road, calling out the names of friends killed in an explosion in Baquba, Iraq.
That month, Gibbs was diagnosed with PTSD and major depression at a Cincinnati VA hospital. He also was diagnosed with possible traumatic brain injury, or TBI, stemming from head injuries suffered in combat. During this time, he was tormented by repeated disturbing memories, nightmares and insomnia. He also reported having increased guilt feelings because of the loss of friends under his leadership as sergeant.
He traveled to Davenport with Huelsman on Jan. 22, 2010, to finalize his divorce from Kayla Gibbs. Following an upbeat supervised visit with his 3-year-old son on Jan. 23, Gibbs and Huelsman argued, and Gibbs, threatening to kill himself, swallowed an entire bottle of his anti-depressant.
His father called 911 to report the suicide attempt around 1:15 p.m., and Gibbs was taken to Genesis West. His father asked that Gibbs be admitted to the psychiatric unit. That request was refused by the defendants. His father asked the nurses on duty to call his son’s psychiatrist in Cincinnati. That request also was refused.
Genesis West had a psychiatrist on staff at the time who was an Iraq veteran and a specialist in PTSD. None of the defendants consulted this psychiatrist on Gibbs’ case.
He was discharged about two hours after his admission to the hospital. He killed himself that night.
The lawsuit contends that hospital regulations did not permit the psychiatric screening of a patient like Gibbs to be done by a registered nurse alone without the direct supervision of a physician. Nurse Georgiann Hignight told Gibbs’ father that she had made her own evaluation and determined that Gibbs was no longer a risk to himself, the lawsuit states. The plaintiffs, including the estate, Huelsman and Kayla (Witt) Gibbs, make claim for judgment against the defendants for loss of parental consortium, plus unknown interest and costs, and for any other relief the court deems just. [Source: The Quad-City Times Brian Wellner article 6 Dec 2011 ++]
PTSD Update 81:A skirmish has been brewing between U.S. Army brass and a seemingly unlikely interlocutor -- the American Psychiatric Association (APA) -- over a possible name change for combat-related Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, the mental illness that has afflicted hundreds of thousands of American soldiers. But now indications of a possible compromise have emerged, even as the issue has triggered a wide-ranging debate among mental health professionals. Some Army officers and mental health advocates have been calling for a change in the “PTSD” moniker on the basis that calling it a “disorder” is stigmatizing soldiers and preventing them from getting the help they need. Initial indications were that the 167-year-old APA -- which is in the process of updating diagnostic standards for PTSD and other conditions -- felt the affliction should continue to be termed a disorder, based on traditional medical definitions and precedents. However, Dr. John Oldham, the group’s president, said in an interview last week that he would be open to the suggestion of changing the name if it would help encourage those who have it to seek help. “If it turns out that that [the word ‘injury’] could be a less uncomfortable term and would facilitate people who need help getting it, and it didn't have unintended consequences that we would have to be sure to try to think about, we would certainly be open to thinking about it,” Oldham told the NewsHour in a telephone interview last week.
Oldham’s comments come six weeks after Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Chiarelli sent the APA a letter requesting that the group consider dropping the word “disorder” from the diagnosis and simply call it Post Traumatic Stress. In an October interview with the NewsHour, the four-star general said using the term "disorder" perpetuates a bias against the condition and "has the connotation of being something that [was] a pre-existing problem" for an individual before entering the Army. In the eyes of some troops, it "makes the person seem weak," Chiarelli said. The number of combat veterans diagnosed with PTSD has skyrocketed over the past decade as hundreds of thousands of troops have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, some multiple times. Rates of PTSD within the Army are estimated at 10 to 20 percent for combat infantry soldiers who experienced direct combat. In some units that experienced high combat, the rates of PTSD affliction are as high as 25 to 30 percent, according to military surveys. The Army has come under fire for not doing enough to identify and treat soldiers with PTSD, compounding the stigma problem. Forty-nine percent of junior enlisted soldiers who tested positive for mental health problems said that seeking help would be seen as an indication of weakness. A comparable number -- 42 percent -- thought that other members of their unit might have less confidence in them if they received mental health services, according to the most recent survey.
Chiarelli told the NewsHour that "it seems clear to me that we should get rid of the 'D' if that is in any way inhibiting people from getting the help they need." Calling it an injury,” for example, instead of a disorder "would have a huge impact," making soldiers suffering from the condition more likely to seek help, he said. Oldham had rejected the notion of just dropping the word “disorder” from the name of the diagnosis, which would leave it simply called “stress.” He said, though, that calling the phenomenon an “injury” -- at least when it pertains to combat veterans -- could be worth discussing. “The suggestion to consider whether Post Traumatic Stress Injury might be a desirable term to introduce is an interesting one,” Oldham wrote in an email to the NewsHour. He indicated that while he was “not certain that the word ‘injury’ would convey the right meaning for all forms of what we now call Post Traumatic Stress Disorder,” nevertheless “it seems to me it would be relevant to think carefully about whether it might be useful for specified groups or circumstances.”
Dr. Matthew Friedman, another leader at the psychiatric association, takes a slightly different view and told the NewsHour he saw “no useful purpose" in changing the name of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Friedman is the chairman of a committee currently updating the definition of PTSD in the American Psychiatric Association manual on mental illness. But Friedman, who heads the Department of Veterans Affairs’ National Center for PTSD, said "we would consider" changing the name if the Army requested it. "The Army is part of the field. And they obviously are a very important constituent, “he said. The leaders of the American Psychiatric Association and Chiarelli are scheduled to meet in the next couple of weeks. Oldham said that even after he and his colleagues consider a change in terminology, they will not necessarily “have a consensus that it makes sense.” “I want to listen to General Chiarelli, I want to listen to these ideas, and I want the troops who need help to get help. And it’s an intriguing idea and I think it’s worth thinking about.,” he said. [Source: PBS Newshour article 6 Dec 2011 ++]