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Morning Muster: 12/1/2014

U.S. Marines and Sailors with SPMAGTF Crisis Response - Africa prepare to load bags of concrete onto an MV-22B Osprey to help local and international health organizations build Ebola Treatment Units while in support of Operation United Assistance in Monrovia, Liberia, Nov. 21. United Assistance is a Department of Defense operation to provide command and control, logistics, training, and engineering support to U.S. Agency for International Development- led efforts to contain the Ebola virus outbreak in West African nations. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Andre Dakis/SPMAGTF-CR-AF Combat Camera)

U.S. Marines and Sailors with SPMAGTF Crisis Response – Africa prepare to load bags of concrete onto an MV-22B Osprey to help local and international health organizations build Ebola Treatment Units while in support of Operation United Assistance in Monrovia, Liberia, Nov. 21. United Assistance is a Department of Defense operation to provide command and control, logistics, training, and engineering support to U.S. Agency for International Development- led efforts to contain the Ebola virus outbreak in West African nations. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Andre Dakis/SPMAGTF-CR-AF Combat Camera)

Court holds VA secretary in contempt; researchers see changes in brains of those with PTSD; VA destroys vet headstones used as stepping stones; former professor receives $2 million to study pot and PTSD; vets still struggle to find mental health help; veterans seek help for PTSD years after they leave service; VA secretary making hard sell on VA’s image

A panel of judges of the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims found the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs in civil contempt of court after repeated mistakes led VA to ignore a restoration of a 100-percent disability claim for post-traumatic stress disorder for two years.

“This was a warning shot across the bow,” said Glenn Bergmann, a former VA attorney and partner at the law firm Bergmann & Moore.  “Although the court acknowledged that VA routinely ignores veterans’ pleas for action on their languishing claims, the court made clear that it would not tolerate being disrespected by VA’s failure to respond to its remand order.”

Our press release is here, and the court documents are here.

Science Codex reports that researchers can see changes in the pituitary region of the brains of people with post-traumatic stress disorder. This could mean doctors will be able to tell the difference between people with PTSD and people with traumatic brain injuries. This is key because both injuries have similar symptoms.

The New York TimesRobert Draper has a long report on how sexual assault has been handled at the highest levels in the military. He focuses on a military attorney who, when he began his career, worked to gain perpetrators their freedom. But after years of guilt, he switched to the victims’ side—an unusual decision in the military. He saw commander after commander work to protect the accused, even in cases where service members had been accused of molesting their own children.

The Modesto Bee‘s Erin Tracy reports the 12 tombstone found used as stepping stones in a family’s backyard—stones with errors or that had been removed from cemeteries after a spouse’s name had been included on a new stone—have been reclaimed by VA. The stones had been sold to the previous owner by a business that made headstones. VA officials say the cast-off stones, some of which graced graves for decades before being discarded, are supposed to be destroyed, not sold for use in gardens.

When veterans look for jobs, they hope for a network that will understand their particular skill set. The running joke among grunts is that “bashing in doors and destroying stuff” doesn’t translate well on a resume. The Florida Times-Union’s Clifford Davis reports RallyPoint works much like LinkedIn, only for people who have served in the military. The networking community, formed two years ago, has more than 400,000 members.

An Arizona professor booted from her university has received a $2 million grant to study PTSD and marijuana in veterans from Colorado’s Medical Marijuana Scientific Advisory Council, reports the New York Daily News’ Nina Golgowski. Sue Sisley says she believes she was fired from the University of Arizona in July for political reasons.

Vets are still having a hard time getting mental health help, reports the Kokomo Tribune’s Carson Gerber. A veteran dies every 65 minutes from self-inflicted wounds, while 349 active-duty service members commit suicide every day. When Gerber looked at the problem from a local angle, he found that 2,000 of the 10,000 veterans in Kokomo, Ind., have struggled with mental health issues. They face a two-month wait to see a mental-health worker at a VA facility.

The Wall Street Journal‘s Clare Ansberry reports many veterans don’t seek help until decades after their wars, and that Vietnam veterans are starting to hit the clinics in droves. She reports 530,000 vets received treatment for PTSD through March of this year, nearly double the total through 2006. About a quarter are from the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; the rest are previous generations, mostly Vietnam-era.

Military TimesLeo Shane reports VA Secretary Robert McDonald is working hard to sell VA, using an “ordinary guy” routine to make the bureaucracy seem more accessible. Sometimes, though, his hard sell on the department’s Nobel Prizes leaks into congressional testimony, while the problems with delays and suicides seem underplayed.

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 and complex medical issues, such as brain cancer or degenerative issues, veterans exposed to Agent Orange often face. For more information, or to sign up for an email version of this blog, contact Kelly Kennedy at kkennedy@vetlawyers.com.

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