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  • Contraception


    A sign apparently posted by a nurse practitioner at the women’s health clinic at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri that told patients she would not provide them with contraception has been removed, officials told Air Force Times.

  • Army Vet Survives


    Adam Greathouse is an Army Veteran, corporal in the Third Infantry Division, Field Artillery.

    In 2001, near the end of his duty day in Kosovo, his sergeant gave him the rest of the day off so he took a nap. When he woke up, he couldn’t move. There was pressure on his chest and he started hallucinating.

    He was sent to a German university hospital where his organs started failing, his heart became enlarged, tubes going in and out of his body, all while he passed in and out of consciousness. He had no control. With the magnitude of trauma to his body, having lost oxygen to his brain, he suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI).

    Suffering from a severe anoxic event that damaged many organs including his lungs and brain, he went into a coma lasting two months. He was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury (TBI) including partial amnesia, memory loss, and physical paralysis.

    Uncertain of his condition, months went by and depression set in. Beaten to the core both physically and mentally, he lay there broken, waiting to die. He had lost more than half his body weight and was frail with hardly any muscle mass.

    Mental toolbox pulled him through

    With the help of VA, Greathouse has learned to adapt to the disabilities caused by the TBI over the years. He pulls tools from his mental toolbox to handle life’s situations and to maintain his current active lifestyle. Each night, he sets cell phone alarms to make sure he is on time in the morning. He does brain training games before bed.

    Today he helps other Veterans conquer challenges as an ambassador at the National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic. His first VA Adaptive Sports event was the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic in 2012, which he followed up with the National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic later that year.

    Drives five hours to volunteer

    In 2014, he started volunteering at the Huntington VA Medical Center in West Virginia as the first voluntary recreational therapy peer support specialist, driving more than three times a week over two and a half hours each way.

    He was very involved with sports before his injuries, so he continues to eat right and stay active. In social settings, he says he must be fully present to not deter his concentration, knowing how many distractions are all around him.

    Volunteering weekly has given him a sense of purpose.

    “I know that when I was in the process of going through it if someone I should have been able to count on said they were going to be there and they didn’t show up, then I would know the whole system failed and I would never come back. I’m not going to let that happen,” he said.

    “Suddenly, BAM, I’m a soldier again,” Adam said, after sharing how much these clinics have brought him back from the darkest days of his life.

    He frequently takes his children out surfing and snowboarding, knowing how many years he missed, watching them from the sidelines, unable to walk. He bought his first house in 2017 and is fixing it up with his dad. You can’t miss him in the crowd, just look for the man with the biggest smile.

    “It’s an honor to be here and watch my brothers and sisters grow in confidence every day. By the end of the week, they have permanent smiles! It’s a life saver, a game changer,” Adam said of the 2018 Summer Sports Clinic.

    “My life was spared for a reason. I couldn’t have done it on my own. I have three people to thank for getting me through it: My mom for her fierce faith in God, my nurse in Germany who put up a picture of my kids, reminding me of why I should fight, and my nurse case manager in Huntington, Cheryl, who pushed me past my own limits.”

    Greathouse was also named as a Veteran of the Day.


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  • Breast Cancer Trtmn


    General Information About Breast Cancer


    • Breast cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the breast.
    • A family history of breast cancer and other factors increase the risk of breast cancer.
    • Breast cancer is sometimes caused by inherited gene mutations (changes).
    • The use of certain medicines and other factors decrease the risk of breast cancer.
    • Signs of breast cancer include a lump or change in the breast.
    • Tests that examine the breasts are used to detect (find) and diagnose breast cancer.
    • If cancer is found, tests are done to study the cancer cells.
    • Certain factors affect prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options.

    Breast cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the breast.

    The breast is made up of lobes and ducts. Each breast has 15 to 20 sections called lobes. Each lobe has many smaller sections called lobules. Lobules end in dozens of tiny bulbs that can make milk. The lobes, lobules, and bulbs are linked by thin tubes called ducts.

    Each breast also has blood vessels and lymph vessels. The lymph vessels carry an almost colorless fluid called lymph. Lymph vessels carry lymph between lymph nodes. Lymph nodes are small bean-shaped structures that are found throughout the body. They filter substances in lymph and help fight infection and disease. Clusters of lymph nodes are found near the breast in the axilla (under the arm), above the collarbone, and in the chest.

    The most common type of breast cancer is ductal carcinoma, which begins in the cells of the ducts. Cancer that begins in the lobes or lobules is called lobular carcinoma and is more often found in both breasts than are other types of breast cancer. Inflammatory breast cancer is an uncommon type of breast cancer in which the breast is warm, red, and swollen.

    See the following PDQ summaries for more information about breast cancer:

    A family history of breast cancer and other factors increase the risk of breast cancer.

    Anything that increases your chance of getting a disease is called a risk factor. Having a risk factor does not mean that you will get cancer; not having risk factors doesn't mean that you will not get cancer. Talk to your doctor if you think you may be at risk for breast cancer.

    Risk factors for breast cancer include the following:

    Older age is the main risk factor for most cancers. The chance of getting cancer increases as you get older.

    NCI's Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Tool uses a woman's risk factors to estimate her risk for breast cancer during the next five years and up to age 90. This online tool is meant to be used by a health care provider. For more information on breast cancer risk, call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    Breast cancer is sometimes caused by inherited gene mutations (changes).

    The genes in cells carry the hereditary information that is received from a person’s parents. Hereditary breast cancer makes up about 5% to 10% of all breast cancer. Some mutated genes related to breast cancer are more common in certain ethnic groups.

    Women who have certain gene mutations, such as a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation, have an increased risk of breast cancer. These women also have an increased risk of ovarian cancer, and may have an increased risk of other cancers. Men who have a mutated gene related to breast cancer also have an increased risk of breast cancer. For more information, see thePDQ summary on Male Breast Cancer Treatment.

    There are tests that can detect (find) mutated genes. These genetic tests are sometimes done for members of families with a high risk of cancer. See thePDQ summary on Genetics of Breast and Gynecologic Cancers for more information.

    The use of certain medicines and other factors decrease the risk of breast cancer.

    Anything that decreases your chance of getting a disease is called a protective factor.

    Protective factors for breast cancer include the following:

    Signs of breast cancer include a lump or change in the breast.

    These and other signs may be caused by breast cancer or by other conditions. Check with your doctor if you have any of the following:

    • A lump or thickening in or near the breast or in the underarm area.
    • A change in the size or shape of the breast.
    • A dimple or puckering in the skin of the breast.
    • nipple turned inward into the breast.
    • Fluid, other than breast milk, from the nipple, especially if it's bloody.
    • Scaly, red, or swollen skin on the breast, nipple, or areola (the dark area of skin around the nipple).
    • Dimples in the breast that look like the skin of an orange, called peau d’orange.

    Tests that examine the breasts are used to detect (find) and diagnose breast cancer.

    Check with your doctor if you notice any changes in your breasts. The following tests and procedures may be used:

    • Physical exam and history : An exam of the body to check general signs of health, including checking for signs of disease, such as lumps or anything else that seems unusual. A history of the patient’s health habits and past illnesses and treatments will also be taken.
    • Clinical breast exam (CBE): An exam of the breast by a doctor or other health professional. The doctor will carefully feel the breasts and under the arms for lumps or anything else that seems unusual.
    • Mammogram: An x-ray of the breast.

    Breast Cancer Trtmn 002

    • Ultrasound exam: A procedure in which high-energy sound waves (ultrasound) are bounced off internal tissues or organs and make echoes. The echoes form a picture of body tissues called a sonogram. The picture can be printed to be looked at later.
    • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging): A procedure that uses a magnet, radio waves, and a computer to make a series of detailed pictures of both breasts. This procedure is also called nuclear magnetic resonance imaging (NMRI).
    • Blood chemistry studies: A procedure in which a blood sample is checked to measure the amounts of certain substances released into the blood by organs and tissues in the body. An unusual (higher or lower than normal) amount of a substance can be a sign of disease.
    • Biopsy: The removal of cells or tissues so they can be viewed under a microscope by a pathologist to check for signs of cancer. If a lump in the breast is found, a biopsy may be done.

    There are four types of biopsy used to check for breast cancer:

    If cancer is found, tests are done to study the cancer cells.

    Decisions about the best treatment are based on the results of these tests. The tests give information about:

    • how quickly the cancer may grow.
    • how likely it is that the cancer will spread through the body.
    • how well certain treatments might work.
    • how likely the cancer is to recur (come back).

    Tests include the following:

    • Estrogen and progesterone receptor test : A test to measure the amount of estrogen and progesterone (hormones) receptors in cancer tissue. If there are more estrogen and progesterone receptors than normal, the cancer is called estrogen and/or progesterone receptor positive. This type of breast cancer may grow more quickly. The test results show whether treatment to block estrogen and progesterone may stop the cancer from growing.
    • Human epidermal growth factor type 2 receptor (HER2/neu) test: A laboratory test to measure how many HER2/neu genes there are and how much HER2/neu protein is made in a sample of tissue. If there are more HER2/neu genes or higher levels of HER2/neu protein than normal, the cancer is called HER2/neu positive. This type of breast cancer may grow more quickly and is more likely to spread to other parts of the body. The cancer may be treated with drugs that target the HER2/neu protein, such as trastuzumab and pertuzumab.
    • Multigene tests: Tests in which samples of tissue are studied to look at the activity of many genes at the same time. These tests may help predict whether cancer will spread to other parts of the body or recur (come back).

    There are many types of multigene tests. The following multigene tests have been studied in clinical trials:

      • Oncotype DX: This test helps predict whether stage I or stage II breast cancer that is estrogen receptor positive and node negative will spread to other parts of the body. If the risk that the cancer will spread is high, chemotherapy may be given to lower the risk.
      • MammaPrint: This test helps predict whether stage I or stage II breast cancer that is node negative will spread to other parts of the body. If the risk that the cancer will spread is high, chemotherapy may be given to lower the risk.

    Based on these tests, breast cancer is described as one of the following types:

    This information helps the doctor decide which treatments will work best for your cancer.

    Certain factors affect prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options.

    The prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options depend on the following:

    • The stage of the cancer (the size of the tumor and whether it is in the breast only or has spread to lymph nodes or other places in the body).
    • The type of breast cancer.
    • Estrogen receptor and progesterone receptor levels in the tumor tissue.
    • Human epidermal growth factor type 2 receptor (HER2/neu) levels in the tumor tissue.
    • Whether the tumor tissue is triple negative (cells that do not have estrogen receptors, progesterone receptors, or high levels of HER2/neu).
    • How fast the tumor is growing.
    • How likely the tumor is to recur (come back).
    • A woman’s age, general health, and menopausal status (whether a woman is still having menstrual periods).
    • Whether the cancer has just been diagnosed or has recurred (come back).


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  • Jim Sherman


    COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - Hundreds of Veterans in our community who are turning 65 years old will need to find a new doctor. Right now, they go to Evans Army Hospital on Fort Carson. Fort Carson told our 11 Call for Action team they are making changes to make room for an influx of active duty soldiers.

    Jim Sherman, a 64-year-old Veteran, gets his care at Evans Army Hospital. But he got a letter saying when he turns 65, because he is eligible for Medicare and TRICARE, his coverage will change and that he will no longer be able to see his doctor at Evans.

    "I was discharged almost 40 years ago, and since that time, that's where I've received my care," Sherman said. "I'm down there -- not every week, maybe every other week, and definitely every month."

    "To just kick everybody to the curb, is not right," he added.

    We reached out to Fort Carson and they told us about 365 letters were sent out to beneficiaries.

    Evans Army Community Hospital said in a statement: "Our mission atEvansArmyCommunityHospital is to ensure the medical readiness of active-duty Soldiers atFortCarson. Due to the increased assignment of Soldiers toFortCarson, Evans is reaching its capacity to provide quality healthcare to our beneficiaries. Evans is notifying beneficiaries approaching their 65th birthday about changes to their healthcare eligibility within the medical treatment facility. Once beneficiaries turn 65, their coverage becomes TRICARE for Life after they enroll in Medicare Part A & B. TRICARE for Life is a Medicare-wraparound coverage for TRICARE-eligible beneficiaries. We are trying to provide beneficiaries sufficient time to find primary care providers in the local community before they turn 65. TRICARE for Life beneficiaries will continue to receive Emergency Care and other services on a space-available basis atEvansArmyCommunityHospital, such as the Pharmacy, Laboratory and Radiology."

    If patients are over 65 and have been getting care at Evans for more than a year, they can stay at the hospital.

    "I am where I want to be," said Sherman. "That's really the only home that I've ever known for hospital care."

    Jim turns 65 in January. He applied for an exception and is waiting to find out if he can stay at Evans.

    In the next two years, Fort Carson said they expect to see an increase of about 1,000 soldiers and 1,500 family members.


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  • VA secretaries spar


    WASHINGTON — The fight over extending benefits to “blue water” Veterans who served on ships off the coast of Vietnam is now pitting former Veterans Affairs secretaries against each other, adding to the confusion over Congress’ next steps.

    Last week, four former VA secretaries — Anthony Principi, Jim Nicholson, James Peake and Bob McDonald — wrote to the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee urging lawmakers not to grant presumptive illness status to roughly 90,000 blue water Veterans who claim exposure to the chemical defoliant Agent Orange, saying there is insufficient proof for their cases.

    “(This legislation) is based on what we believe to be inconclusive evidence to verify that these crews experience exposure to Agent Orange while their vessels were underway,” the group wrote. “We urge the committee to defer action … until such a study is completed and scientific evidence is established to expand presumptions to those at sea.”

    The recommendation is in line with arguments laid out by current VA Secretary Robert Wilkie earlier this month. Department officials have argued that granting the presumptive status to Veterans could upend the system by establishing new, non-scientific criteria for awarding benefits.

    But advocates for the Vietnam Veterans have argued that scientific proof of exposure is impossible given that proper sampling was not done decades ago, as the ships patrolled the waters around the South China Sea.

    They say rare cancers and other unusual illnesses clustering among the blue water Veterans should be enough to spur action from Congress.

    Earlier this year, members of the House agreed. They overwhelmingly passed legislation that would require VA officials to automatically assume those Veterans were exposed to Agent Orange for benefits purposes, the same status granted to troops who served on the ground in Vietnam or on ships traveling upon inland rivers.

    Under current department rules, the blue water Veterans can receive medical care for their illnesses through VA but must prove toxic exposure while on duty to receive compensation for the ailments. Advocates have argued that VA officials are systematically denying those claims.

    In a letters to Wilkie and the committee this week, John Wells — counsel to the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Association — blasted the department’s stance as unfair and inhumane.

    “Whether (the opposition) is due to bureaucratic intransigence or incompetence I do not know,” he wrote. “The bottom line, however, is that they have misrepresented and ‘cherry picked’ evidence to support their flawed position. That is a stain on the national honor.”

    Wells and other advocates have an ally in at least one former VA leader. David Shulkin, who was fired by Trump earlier this year, petitioned the Senate committee this week to move ahead on the issue, calling it a matter of honoring the Veterans’ sacrifice.

    “As Secretary, I was faced with the dilemma of what to do when there was insufficient evidence to make a reasonable conclusion,” he wrote. “I stated then — and continue to believe — that in the absence of reliable data to guide a decision, the answer must not be to simply deny benefits.

    “When there is a deadlock, my personal belief is that the tie should be broken in favor of the brave men and women that put their lives on the line for all of us.”

    Moving ahead with the legislation could prove expensive for the department. House officials estimated the cost of extending benefits to be about $1.1 billion over 10 years, but current VA officials have insisted the total is closer to $5.5 billion.

    For now, the legislation remains stalled in the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. Chairman Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., has said the issue is among his top priorities but has also voiced concerns about whether the House measure as written covers the cost and scope of the problem.

    Wilkie is scheduled to appear before the committee on Sept. 26 to discuss a host of reform efforts at the department since he took over the top leadership post on July 30.


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  • Prostate Cancer Awareness

    Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among males, second only to skin cancer, and affects more than 3 million men in the United States, according to the National Cancer Institute. During Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, health care providers are encouraging men of all ages – especially those with a family history – to learn more about the disease.

    “Prostate cancer can impact all men,” said Army Col. Inger Rosner, director of the Department of Defense Center for Prostate Disease Research at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. “It’s important for men to know if they want to be screened, how and when to be screened, and what their treatment options are if diagnosed, so that they can be equipped to make decisions that are best for their health.”

    The National Institutes of Health estimates that nearly 165,000 men in the U.S. will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2018. Although the disease is the second leading cause of cancer death among men in the U.S., it’s a very slow-growing disease, NIH says. Nearly all of those who get prostate cancer – more than 98 percent – are alive five years after diagnosis.

    Symptoms can include weak or interrupted flow of urine, sudden urge to urinate, frequent urination, pain or burning while urinating, trouble starting the flow of urine, and trouble emptying the bladder completely. Pain in the back, hips, or pelvis, as well as blood in the urine or semen, can also be indicators.

    Rosner said prostate cancer is common in older men but can still affect younger men, particularly if they have a male relative with a history of the disease. Age is the most common risk factor, but other important risk factors include race, genetic factors, and family history. Men who have a relative with prostate cancer are twice as likely to develop the disease as those with no family history, Rosner noted.

    “If you have a positive family history, that puts you at a potentially higher risk for having prostate cancer, and you should bring that potential risk up with your primary care doctor,” she said, adding that patients can then decide with their providers whether or not to be screened for prostate cancer.

    Patients can be screened with a prostate-specific antigen blood test, also known as a PSA test. The test measures the level of PSA in the blood; an increased amount may indicate prostate cancer. But increased PSA levels alone do not diagnose the disease, which is confirmed through a biopsy.

    The American Urology Association encourages men age 55 to 69 to undergo a PSA test every year. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force considers the decision to undergo periodic PSA screening to be an individual choice for men of that age group, stating that they should have the opportunity to discuss its potential benefits and drawbacks with a clinician. The task force said PSA screening offers a potential benefit of reducing the chance of death from the disease in some men, but also carries potential risks, such as false-positive results, over-diagnosis, and overtreatment.

    “The important thing with prostate cancer is educating patients about their disease and their options, and tailoring treatment very specifically to that individual,” said Rosner. “We want to educate and empower people about their disease and help them make the best choices for themselves in terms of treatment or active surveillance.”

    A majority of prostate cancer is treatable, explained Rosner. Since the disease advances slowly, not all cases require treatment, which can alter quality of life, she said. Men undergoing treatment can experience side effects, such as fatigue, pain, vomiting, or nausea as well as urinary, bowel, or erectile dysfunction.

    Patients with low-risk prostate cancer can discuss alternative options with their physician, such as monitoring the cancer – known as active surveillance. Treatment options can include radiation therapy, surgery, chemotherapy, and hormone therapy, among others. All treatment regimens must be balanced against quality-of-life concerns, considering the potential side effects of each treatment, the aggressiveness of the cancer, and the overall life expectancy of the patient, said Rosner.

    “It’s a very treatable disease, but the treatments can have a significant impact on quality of life,” she said. “For some low-risk or low-grade tumors, we tend to favor active surveillance, which is monitoring the disease but not necessarily treating it, because you can live with prostate cancer and not die from your prostate cancer.”

    “While there’s no definitive way to prevent prostate cancer, men can help decrease their risk by being physically active, maintaining a healthy weight, and eating a nutritious diet,” said Rosner.

    In addition to conducting research and clinical trials, the Uniformed Services University’s Center for Prostate Disease Research sees men for all prostate-related issues, including detection and treatment of prostate cancer. Open to active-duty servicemen and retirees, CPDR offers a weekly multidisciplinary clinic for newly diagnosed prostate cancer patients. For coverage details on prostate cancer screening, visit the TRICARE website.

    “Men’s health really comes down to having an open and honest conversation with your physicians or providers,” said Rosner. “The more that we educate and empower our patients, the better off their decision-making will be.”


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  • Com Care Prgms


    WASHINGTON — Veterans Affairs officials announced Tuesday that TriWest Health Care Alliance will take over nationwide operations for the department’s main community care programs despite concerns raised last month about overpayments to the company.

    For the last five years, operations for the department’s primary two outside care programs — Patient-Centered Community Care and Veterans Choice Program — had been operated by TriWest and Health Net Federal Services.

    The new contract extends TriWest’s partnership and names them the sole provider until the two programs are replaced next year with a new overarching community care program mandated in the VA Mission Act, which President Donald Trump signed into law this summer.

    VA officials praised the contract as ensuring that Veterans will not see disruptions in their health care in the coming year.

    “Extending the time and reach of our partnership with TriWest will ensure Veterans get the care they need while the department transitions to delivering care under the Mission Act next year,” VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said in a statement.

    Last month, the VA inspector general found that over a one-year period, TriWest officials filed more than 111,000 duplicate claims for outside care services and made mistakes in nearly 300,000 others, resulting in department overpayments of more than $45 million dollars.

    Similar errors by Health Net officials resulted in $56 million in overpayments, investigators said.

    In response, VA officials implemented new payment controls and recovered about $40 million of that money. Additional reimbursements are being reviewed.

    Veterans’ cases currently being handled by Health Net will be transitioned to the new program in a way department officials promise will not disrupt care. Details of how other cases will be transferred from existing community care programs to future ones have yet to be finalized.

    On Friday, congressional staffers received a briefing from VA officials on the Mission Act implementation, laying out future timelines for new community care rules and parameters for that work.

    Last week, in an appearance before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie predicted the new community care rules will “revolutionize Veterans’ care” once implemented.

    “My view of Congress' trust and mission is to … give that Veteran choice and allow that Veteran to continue with the choice that he or she is most comfortable with,” he said.


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  • DVA Logo 006


    Today the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced it will fund a new center of excellence to expand the department’s capacity to deliver innovative, data-driven and integrated approaches to improve services for Veterans and their caregivers.

    Managed by VA’s Office of Health Services Research & Development (HSR&D), the first of its kind center will be named for Sen. Elizabeth Dole in recognition of her national leadership and advocacy on behalf of the nation’s 5.5 million military and Veteran caregivers, and her support for the landmark RAND Corp. research on their challenges.

    The Elizabeth Dole Center of Excellence for Veteran and Caregiver Research will serve as the model for excellence in peer-reviewed research on innovation, training, evaluation, implementation and the dissemination and adoption of best practices in supporting the caregivers of Veterans across VA, the federal government and private and nonprofit sectors.

    “Given Senator Elizabeth Dole’s significant impact on, and dedication to, military and Veteran caregivers, it is only fitting that VA names this center of excellence in her honor,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “The creation of the Elizabeth Dole Center of Excellence for Veteran and Caregiver Research is a firm example of VA’s ongoing commitment to improving services and outcomes for the families, friends and neighbors who tirelessly care for our nation’s Veterans.”

    The center of excellence consists of a multidisciplinary team that takes advantage of HSR&D’s virtual network of nationally recognized VA investigators and their university affiliates to ensure that their state-of-the-art research will have the greatest possible impact on Veterans and the caregivers who support them. The team of VA investigators will be led by Dr. Luci Leykum of the South Texas Veterans Health Care System.


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  • TBI Vets


    James. A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital (JAHVH) in Tampa, Florida, has been designated a Headache Center of Excellence (CoE) by VA. JAHVH is one of seven facilities throughout the Veterans Health Administration to receive the designation.

    “We’re very lucky because we probably wouldn’t have it if we didn’t have this awesome Polytrauma Center,” Dr. Georgia Kane said. “It means we can offer so much more to our patients. Everybody’s highly excited.”

    Kane, a neurologist and head of the Chronic Headache Management Program (CHAMP), said the designation was due in large part because of the hospital’s Polytrauma program.

    Veterans with a history of polytrauma or traumatic brain injury commonly experience headaches. Headache management for Veterans with TBI and multiple co-morbid conditions is challenging and is best managed by an interdisciplinary team. That’s precisely what CHAMP has been doing for several years.

    “We started an interdisciplinary team about four years ago,” Kane said of the five-week outpatient program. “We noticed that with people with headaches, it’s difficult to treat just the headache, so occupational therapy, psychology and me, we all work together and we meet weekly on patients to maximize their care.”

    Program participants are required to keep a diary, noting the time a headache starts, what they were doing, what they were eating and other aspects of their lives that can be critical to understanding what might be triggering the headaches.

    Options other than medications

    “The number one thing is education. Once you know more about what is affecting your situation, we can then teach options that are other than medications,” Kane said. “Medication will do a certain percentage, but if you only relied on medications to help your situation, then you would be discounting the fact that you’re not sleeping well, or to distract yourself with relaxation techniques or biofeedback that we do to try and get your mind to think of something else.”

    CHAMP participants meet once a week for lectures and other forms of treatment that includes recreation therapy, Botox injections and precise injections in the neck if needed. Botox is used to relax muscles that, when tensed, can cause headaches. The treatment is very effective, Kane said.

    About 60 people are in CHAMP at any given time, including those patients who are followed after discharge.

    While many of the TBI patients with headaches tend to be younger, chronic headaches are non-discriminatory, affecting men and women, young and old, and the additional funding that comes with the Center of Excellence designation will allow the CHAMP staff to add additional treatments for them.

    They hope to work with the lighting in the treatment areas since lighting can affect headache sufferers. Equipment for neck injections, electrical stimulators, and virtual reality equipment are a few of the items Kane said she hopes to procure for the program. Headache treatment is offered to all Veteran patients at all VA medical centers. Patients can get referred to any Center of Excellence but because not all centers offer the same thing Veterans should confirm with their VA health care team and the Center of Excellence that they will receive the specific treatment they need.

    Patients should keep in mind that this is an outpatient program. Patients come once a week for five consecutive weeks – plus the follow-up after they complete the treatment – which is not always easy if referred from a distance.

    “Becoming a Headache Center of Excellence means that we can expand and do more, to be able to offer more things, more physical therapies, recreational therapies, art therapies,” Kane said. “When we were presented with this, it was one of those truly amazing moments.”


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  • Vets Sleeping in Cars


    U.S. Veterans are forgoing treatment at Veterans’ Affairs clinics due to the high cost of lodging in some areas, but one group has a solution.

    Billy Bryels, a retired Vietnam Veteran and double Purple Heart awardee, told Fox News he slept in his car several times because of the high hotel costs, much like several of his fellow Veterans.

    But today he is one of many who goes to the “Lee & Penny Anderson Defenders Lodge” located in Palo Alto, California, where Veterans and their caregiver can stay in the state-of-the-art $17 million facility free of charge. He called it a God-send for Veterans getting treatment.

    “What are other Veterans doing if they don’t have a Defender’s Lodge available to them?” Bryels asked. “I hope this kind of facility continues across the country.”

    It was an idea former VA Palo Alto Health Care System Director and CEO Lisa Freeman thought of after hearing stories like Bryels’ of the Veteran’s plight. Today, a hotel room runs at about $300-400/night in the area.

    “We didn’t have anything,” Freeman told Fox News. “We tried several things – beds in the hospital, hotel vouchers – but the biggest thing the Defenders Lodge provided was capacity and consistency.”

    The Defenders Lodge was the result of a public-private partnership between the VA and the PenFed Foundation, which raised $11 million in donations to fund the construction of the lodge. The 52 room facility can house up to 104 Veterans and has a dining room, library, and private outdoor spaces. Freeman said it is full every night of the year.

    The Palo Alto VA is one of five Level One Polytrauma Centers in the nation and accommodates nearly one million outpatient visits per year. It offers specialized programs such as a Polytrauma Rehabilitation Center, a Spinal Cord Injury Center, a Comprehensive Rehabilitation Center and a Traumatic Brain Injury Center.

    “We have been overwhelmed by the generosity from PenFed – and the community – even with people that don’t have Veterans in their family – people of whatever political stripe – they set that aside, when you’re talking about doing this for Veterans, and they’re just very generous in doing so,” Freeman added.

    The Defenders Lodge officially opened in 2014. The organization celebrated and honored the people who helped bring it all together Monday night, including former Secretary of State George Shultz and Condoleezza Rice.

    “Our Veterans deserve our nation’s support,” James Schenck, PenFed Credit Union President and CEO told Fox News. “Let’s make sure that medical emergencies don’t turn into financial emergencies, and that’s what we’re here to do.”


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