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Morning Muster: 3/6/2015 VA to award presumptive condition for Agent Orange?; VA primer on individual unemployability

Vets who flew in contaminated planes after Vietnam War may receive presumptive status; First Lady addresses PTSD stigma; VA whistle-blowers still face retaliation; Congress members push for mental health screening of new recruits; Gen. Chiarelli asks for more mental-health resources; last service member with limb amputated in Afghanistan plays in Vail; VA explains individual unemployability; VA awards contract for antibody-mediated transduction of heat shock proteins

Veterans who flew after the war ended in planes used to spray Agent Orange in Vietnam say they expect VA to announce next that they will soon be added to VA’s presumptive condition list, making it easier for them to get benefits for conditions associated with Agent Orange, reports CBS3’s Michelle Kingston. The change comes after an Institute of Medicine report said those veterans were likely exposed to the defoliant.

First Lady Michelle Obama tackled the stigma attached to combat stress in a speech at the “Give an Hour” conference at the Newseum in Washington this week, reports the Defense Department’s Terri Moon Cronk.

Whistle-blowers still face retaliation when they speak out about issues that could harm veterans at VA facilities, reports the Washington Post’s Emily Wax-Thibodeaux.

A couple of Congress members are pushing legislation to prescreen troops for post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury so there’s a baseline when dealing with later issues, reports The Hill’s Jordain Carney. People are screened for mental health issues before they join the military, but it’s to determine eligibility. The proposal could be good if used to ensure those service members gain further training or counseling to help deal with stress, but not so great if the military or VA uses that screening to determine “pre-existing” conditions and deny benefits for actual injuries gained while in the  military (that’s just Morning Muster thinking out-loud…).

Retired Army Gen. Peter Chiarelli writes in the Washington Post that Americans should do more to support service members, saying that diagnostics for post-traumatic stress “remain crude,” and no drugs have been approved to treat it.

The last service member to lose a limb in the war in Afghanistan hit the slopes in Vail this week, reports Vail Daily’s Randy Wyrick. Marine Staff Sgt. Brandon Dodson, who remains on active duty, skied through the Vail Veterans Program, which was started by Lt. Col. Dave Rozelle, who lost his left leg in Iraq in 2003.

VA’s Dominique Joseph posted a blog today about how individual unemployability works.

VA plans to award an exclusive contract to Rubicon Biotechnology, LLC for antibody-mediated transduction of heat shock proteins into living cells, according to the Federal Register. This could be used for intracellular immunization and tumor therapy. Would be interesting to learn what means.

Bergmann & Moore, LLC, is a national law firm dedicated to serving the needs of veterans in compensation claims before and against the Department of Veterans Affairs. The firm’s partners are former VA attorneys who are very familiar with the VA system. Bergmann & Moore handles all kinds of cases, but has a concentration in claims involving PTSD, military sexual trauma, Gulf War illness and complex medical issues, such as brain cancer or degenerative issues, veterans exposed to Agent Orange often face. For more information, to submit news or to sign up for an email version of this blog, contact Kelly Kennedy at kkennedy@vetlawyers.com.

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