Posts Tagged ‘Veterans Health Care’

John Cochran VA Cancels Surgeries After 2nd Bout of Feared Contamination

Thursday, February 17th, 2011

A year ago it was dirty dental equipment that put the John Cochran Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Hospital in the news. Improperly sterilized dental equipment lead to the John Cochran VA possibly exposing 1,800 veterans to HIV with their contaminated equipment. Now, the John Cochran VA Hospital is in the news again because of another potential contamination issue. According to the hospital’s medical director, surgical tools that appeared to be dirty forced the VA hospital to cancel and reschedule 35 surgeries.

The canceled surgeries were the last, although very necessary step. The John Cochran VA has been suffering a series of complaints focusing on the hospital’s allegedly unsanitary and detrimental conditions. Once the potentially contaminated surgical equipment was discovered, hospital personnel examined and tested all the other surgical equipment throughout the entire facility as well as any piece of equipment that could even come into contact with a surgical environment.

There have been hundreds of complaints made about the hospital, and a full investigation is planned concerning the possibility for infection the dirty surgical tools caused. Although VA hospitals boast of their superior health care, two contamination issues under a year in the same hospital scream of incompetence. Guaranteeing top-ranked health care for veterans is something for which every VA medical center should always strive.

It is not known how many veterans could have been affected by this latest possible contamination issue. The VA is working with those veterans whose surgeries needed to be rescheduled to make sure everything is as smooth as possible. There is no indication as to when the hospital will be back to performing surgeries.

If you are a disabled veteran who has been denied disability compensation or have not yet applied for benefits from the VA, contact LaVan & Neidenberg. You may be entitled to certain programs and benefits so contact our veterans disability rights firm today.

More Soldiers Being Diagnosed With Concussions

Monday, November 1st, 2010

Keeping soldiers healthy and combat ready while in combat is a very delicate balance commanders must maintain. New protocols that have been initiated place  parameters on how commanders must maintain their soldiers’ health. New rules mandate soldiers within 165 feet of a blast, to include any soldier in buildings and vehicles hit by bombs, must be removed from the battlefield for at least 24 hours. During that time, they will be examined for concussions.

The result? Hundreds of soldiers are being diagnosed with concussions where they would not have been without the new rules being put in place. If soldiers suffer a second concussion before the first one is completely healed, the chances that soldier will develop permanent brain damage is increased.

This means for the last 8 years, potentially thousands of troops have suffered unnecessary brain damage. The new rules were implemented in July, and the amount of soldiers diagnosed with concussions rose to 370 from 62 in June. July to September produced over 1,000 soldiers diagnosed with concussions. By means of comparison, that is over double the amount of soldiers diagnosed with concussions the entire 4 months prior.

While knowing that thousands of soldiers are sustaining concussions on a regular basis is unsettling, it is much better to know of the conditions, treat them, and be able to prevent more severe brain damage from occurring. Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) need to be given this type of attention considering the long-term damage they can cause.

The most frequent source of injury for soldiers are roadside bombs. They have become so commonplace, however, that most soldiers are just told to drive after suffering the blast. More studies must be completed in order to determine if a person’s brain is completely healed in the absence of symptoms.

If you are a disabled veteran who has been denied disability compensation or have not yet applied for benefits from the VA, contact LaVan & Neidenberg. You may be entitled to certain programs and benefits so contact our veterans disability rights firm today.

VA And DoD Integrated Health Care One Step Closer

Monday, October 11th, 2010

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Department of Defense (DoD) have been working on a fully collaborative effort in designing a first ever, fully-integrated health care network.

Right now, the focus is on a fully integrated health care center. The Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center couples resources from the North Chicago VA Medical Center and the Naval Health Clinic Great Lakes. Both military family members, retirees, and veterans will be able to receive health care alongside active duty soldiers and Naval recruits going through boot camp at the Great Lakes Naval Station.

This health center is unique in that DoD and VA medical facilities have always separated their chains of command and their funding sources. The new Lovell Center, however, will operate with a single chain of command. According to the 2010 National Defense Authorization Act mandates, it will also have a single funding source.

The Lovell Center is going to stand as a lighthouse for collaborative efforts between the VA and the DoD. It will be the type of model for others to emulate and will provide state-of-the-art health care to those deserving the best possible care the military can offer, according to VA Sec. Eric Shinseki.

This new facility is very much a one-stop shopping  health care clinic, except the building is spread over several different buildings and is split into two separate campuses. In the end, joined resources and couple capabilities save taxpayer money and allow for more convenient and capable services.

If you are a disabled veteran who has been denied disability compensation or have not yet applied for benefits from the VA, contact LaVan & Neidenberg. You may be entitled to certain programs and benefits so contact our veterans disability rights firm today.

Armory May Find New Use As VA Medical Center

Tuesday, October 5th, 2010

The Florida National Guard controls the Fort Homer Hesterly Armory in West Tampa. What to do with the armory, which is a historic site, has been the subject of much discussion over the last couple of years. Finally, U.S. Representative Kathy Castor (D-Tampa) may have an answer: use it to house a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical center.

Rep. Castor wrote a letter to acting Haley VA Center administrator Nancy Resissener proposing and supporting her idea. There are a large number of veterans in the immediate area of the armory, making the location very significant.  A VA clinic in the middle of Tampa would serve a great number of veterans and would be very accessible.

Heritage Square LLC purchased the land in 2007. Leaving the armory building on the property, Heritage built a hotel and a resort on the armory land. Earlier this year the National Guard declared the property was once again for sale as Heritage was apparently no longer interested in the property.

The National Guard is under contract to give back ownership of the property to Tampa. Rep. Castor saw this as a prime opportunity to contact Mayor Pam Iorio and Councilman Charlie Miranda and ask both of them for help in making her vision for a VA medical clinic a reality.

Castor is pushing for a VA clinic in downtown Tampa. She sees building the clinic as a great accomplishment because it would bring VA health care to so many veteran in the area.

If you are a disabled veteran who has been denied disability compensation or have not yet applied for benefits from the VA, contact LaVan & Neidenberg. You may be entitled to certain programs and benefits so contact our veterans disability rights firm today.

Some PTSD Symptoms may be Connected to Anger

Monday, June 21st, 2010

Because so little is known about post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), research is constantly being done to get to the root of the disorder and its symptoms.  Researchers in Chapel Hill are looking into the possibility of zeroing in on specific symptoms as a way to treat Iraq and Afghanistan veterans suffering from PTSD and anger management issues.

Researchers expected their results to follow where the data was pointing, which was that certain PTSD symptoms were connected to aggressiveness on a consistent basis. Instead, they found those soldiers suffering from anger, hostility, and aggressiveness following their deployment were more likely to be related to hyperarousal symptoms. Those symptoms include:

  • Sleep problems;
  • Being “on guard” all the time;
  • Jumpiness;
  • Irritability; and
  • Difficulty concentrating.

Studying the 676 veterans participating in the study, researchers identified some features related to anger and hostility. According to their conclusions, these features increase the likeliness soldiers will develop issues adjusting to civilian life following their deployment.

Veterans suffering from hyperarousal symptoms, serving more than 12 months on deployment, experiencing combat during their deployment, and experiencing family violence prior to joining the military were all likely to be unable to control violent behavior.

More than other veterans, those veterans with hostile dispositions were more likely to suffer hyperarousal symptoms and come from a background of childhood abuse or familial mental illness. Those veterans struggling to manage their anger also suffered hyperarousal symptoms as well as other stressors.

Learning how to manage risk factors such those associated with PTSD and hyperarousal is of critical importance to both veterans and their families.

If you are a disabled veteran who has been denied disability compensation or have not yet applied for benefits from the VA, contact LaVan & Neidenberg. You may be entitled to certain programs and benefits so contact our veterans disability rights firm today.

PTSD May Create Risk of Alzheimer’s

Monday, June 14th, 2010

There have been a number of studies out recently linking anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to later in life issues. While some of these studies are more concrete and conclusive than others, a new study seems to have produced a link between older veterans suffering from PTSD being twice as likely to also develop Alzheimer’s as well as other dementias.

This is one of the first studies linking the two conditions. Despite the research completed, not every question was answered. One thing the study could not differentiate, for example, is if PTSD increases dementias later in life or if suffering from PTSD is a premature symptom of what will likely develop into dementia in older veterans.

Deborah Barnes, PhD from the University of California at San Francisco says this study does not definitely mean they have proven a link between PTSD and dementia. What this study may stand for is concluding that stress is a factor leading to Alzheimer’s. This couples with already existing evidence showing stress damages the hippocampus. This is significant because it is the part of the brain vitally responsible for memory and learning.

The study focused on over 180,000 veterans for 7 years. Over 53,000 of those veterans had been diagnosed with PTSD and none of them had been diagnosed with dementia in 2000. At the study’s end, about 17% of them had been diagnosed with PTSD.

These results were interpreted to mean those veterans suffering from PTSD were 11% more likely to develop dementia over the 7 year period of the study. Comparatively, those veterans not suffering from PTSD had only a 7% chance of developing dementia. Once researchers eliminated all other risk factors associated with developing Alzheimer’s, they concluded veterans suffering from PTSD were developing dementia at a 77% higher rate than those veterans not suffering from PTSD.

It is very common for people suffering from PTSD to cycle in and out of symptoms. This is why it is so critical to determine if there is a link between the two. The earlier these types of links can be determined,  the more likely it is to actively treat the situation before it presents itself.

Learn more about how PTSD has been potentially linked to dementia and just what the study means.

If you are a disabled veteran who has been denied disability compensation or have not yet applied for benefits from the VA, contact LaVan & Neidenberg. You may be entitled to certain programs and benefits so contact our veterans disability rights firm today.

Researchers Using VA Data to Help Veterans

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has assembled a research team who are working toward identifying certain patterns within symptoms by pouring through millions of VA clinicians’ notes. The hope is that distinguishing patterns will help treat veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars suffering from seemingly unexplainable conditions.

That veterans are returning from war suffering from conditions that modern epidemiological science cannot explain is not a new phenomenon. What is new, however, is that researchers working on these conditions are being given access to all the VA’s medical records as opposed to being limited to only those from their home hospital.

Some of the most common symptoms baffling researchers are:

  • Gastrointestinal problems;
  • Respiratory illness;
  • Blood disease; and
  • Skin rashes.

The VA is the single largest health care system in the United States and one of the earliest health care organizations to adopt digital record-keeping technology. The Veterans’ Informatics and Computing Infrastructure (VINCI) allows researchers secure access to VA patient records. Given the VA’s recent history of having seemingly secure information stolen, access on this level is not given lightly.

Researchers are only allowed to work within VINCI’s secure virtual environment behind the firewall so as to prevent theft of the data. The researchers’ first goal is to change all of the physicians’ narratives from the entire VINCI network into data that can be studied and analyzed. This data will generate millions of key words and will then be analyzed to determine if any patterns emerge.

The ultimate goal of this undertaking is to understand how symptoms and causes are linked. Once on that track it may very well be possible to pin point specific origins. The more data researchers are given to analyze the more likely it is an answer can be found.

Learn more about researchers using the VA’s extensive health care records to find a link between causes and symptoms of mysterious conditions plaguing veterans.

If you are a disabled veteran who has been denied disability compensation or have not yet applied for benefits from the VA, contact LaVan & Neidenberg. You may be entitled to certain programs and benefits so contact our veterans disability rights firm today.

Operation Home Front Helps Florida’s Female Veterans

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is constantly working to improve conditions for female veterans. Female veterans require not only different health care, they require different perspectives from their health care providers.

The VA operates Operation Home Front for the benefit of female soldiers. Approximately 14% of active duty soldiers and 17% of reservists and the National Guards are female. 139,000 female veterans live in Florida alone. Because the VA’s support programs have been traditionally geared towards men, it is a great relief to see the VA focusing so much on caring for their female veterans.

In an effort to close the gap between the traditional male-oriented VA services and what is needed to care for female veterans, the VA and Florida’s Department of Children and Families combined to fund and create Operation Home Front. Operation Home Front is a transitional housing facility located in Cocoa, Florida and will open next spring. 28 female veterans and their children will be able to reside in the facility while the veterans participate in:

  • Substance abuse programs; and
  • Mental health programs.

Operation Home Front is the only facility in Florida, and one of very few in the nation, allowing female veterans to participate in rehabilitation programs while living along side their children. Children are a critical element of the program.

Counselors have found women in treatment programs such as these are easier to treat when they are with their children – children keep the women in treatment. Children don’t just offer motivation for the veterans, their presence allows the bonding process to continue with mother and child throughout the program.

Every female veteran staying at Operation Home Front has a program customized specifically for her needs. Treatment can last from 60 days to over a year and can include:

  • Specialist counseling;
  • Rehabilitation services;
  • Health and psychological support.

Many of the transitions back to the civilian world that female veterans are facing are unique to them.  The VA has recognized this fact and is providing more services every day to help.

If you are a disabled veteran who has been denied disability compensation or have not yet applied for benefits from the VA, contact LaVan & Neidenberg. You may be entitled to certain programs and benefits so contact our veterans disability rights firm today.

Fayetteville VA Clinic Changing For The Better

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

The Fayetteville, North Carolina VA (FVA) Clinic was in need of new direction; the old way of doing things was way out of line. More than 100,000 veterans depend on the Fayetteville VA Medical Clinic so when the Interim Director (ID) took his office it was his top priority to bring the clinic up to standards. The ID made his plan to save the clinic very clear:

  • Patients first;
  • Identify problems;
  • Set priorities; and
  • Solve problems.

Before taking his position, the Fayetteville VA received complaints from veterans ranging from rude staffers to terrible patient response time to faulty phone systems to poor parking. Since the ID has taken the helm, only good things have happened to the VA medical center. Complaints have stopped rolling in about the staff and treatment satisfaction rose to 62% in November and December. This is up from a 45% satisfaction rating in the middle of 2008 to last winter.

Now that the staff is coming around, the outpatient check-in area and the emergency department will be renovated. The renovations will take approximately 18 months and while this is happening, the 2 primary care clinics the FVA houses will be moved into provisional housing.

The temporary location will, at the very least, provide ample parking for the veterans. To solve the parking problem at the main clinic, staffers have been parking away from the clinic. Like the parking issue, the phone system will not be fixed on the ID’s watch. Of the 150 new staffers being hired, approximately 100 will be responsible for answering phones and making appointments.

Miserable may have been the way the FVA used to be described by the veteran-patients. The Interim Director has made broad steps in correcting the errors he could while in office. Once a permanent director is hired, and the renovations are complete, the FVA will be back up to standards and hopefully the veterans will be satisfied with the result.

Rehabilitation Center for Blind Veterans Being Renovated

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

The Waco, Texas Veterans Affairs Medical Center is about to begin renovations to their Blind Rehabilitation Center (BRC). Once construction is complete, the Blind Rehabilitation Center will house 20 beds for blind veterans. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) allocated $49 million to the Waco VA campus and this $9.8 million renovation of the BRC is only one improvement planned for the Waco campus.

The BRC program is designed to aid blind veterans in helping themselves so they develop their own independence; it is 1 out of only 10 facilities in the entire United States. The BRC program caters to both blind and visually-impaired veterans. Additionally, the program serves active duty personnel stationed all over the South-Central U.S.

The veterans participating in the BRC program are trained in how to use specific equipment so as to thrive in day-to-day activities. The training can run the gamut from being trained in how to use a long cane to common activities like making their beds.

The renovations to the center are preemptive. Given the amount of injured veterans returning form the two current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the number of veterans requiring the services of the BRC is going to climb dramatically. The thought process, then, is to be ready for the surge as opposed to having to handle the surge at the same time as attempting to perform renovations.

The completion date for all the renovations has not been set; it is expected to be concluded by 2012. VA clinics that focus on one specific type of injury are able to give much more personalized instruction. For those veterans blinded in defense of our country, the more money given to these centers the better.