~A Veteran~

A veteran - whether active duty, retired, national guard or reserve - is someone who, at one point in his life, wrote a blank check made payable to The United States of America, for an amount of "Up to and including my life". That is honor, and there are far too many people in this country who no longer understand it. - Author Unknown

Thursday, July 31, 2008



REFERENCE TO VETERANS AS "INVENTORY" IRKS NEWSPAPER EDITOR / DISABLED VET -- "Yep. We don't even qualify as veterans any more. We've been reduced to inventory."

VBA 'inventory' drops to 390,000
By Bruce Coulter

Burlington -- After reading the statements of a number of people who appeared at a hearing before the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs earlier this month, it's no wonder veterans are still waiting an inordinate amount of time for responses to claims and appeals.

Patrick W. Dunne, the Veterans Benefits Administration's acting undersecretary for benefits, reported he expects a more than 5 percent increase in the number of overall claims submitted by veterans, from 855,000 in fiscal 2008, to as many as 883,000 for fiscal 2009.

Veterans will be happy to know, however, that after adding more than 2,700 new employees to the Veterans Benefits Administration's (VBA) payroll, the time spent processing veterans' claims has dropped from 183 days to – sit down if you must –182 days.

On the bright side, as of the end of May, Dunne told committee members, the VBA's "inventory" had been reduced to a mere 390,000 claims backlogged. Yep. We don't even qualify as veterans any more. We've been reduced to inventory.

Dunne, by the way, is a retired Navy rear admiral. Go figure.

Speaking on behalf of the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) was Kerry Baker, the group's associate national legislative director.

Baker asked lawmakers to remove procedural roadblocks in the appeals process, noting how lengthy (he's correct) the process is. Now, if I could just understand what the hell he was talking about.

Committee members were told: NOD to receipt of SOC – 213 days – VARO; SOC issuance to receipt of VA Form 9 – 44 days – appellant; receipt of VA Form 9 to certification to the Board – 531 days –VARO; receipt of certified appeal to Board decision – 273 days – Board; total –1,061 days from NOD to Board decision – sadly, many are much longer.

God love the DAV for what they do for veterans, but huh? Would the average veteran understand what Baker's talking about?

To be fair, the transcript supplied on the committee's Web site explained the abbreviations, but why not speak in plain language, perhaps something like this: "Mr. Chairman, the claims process is entirely too *&^$* long and we have more veterans dying every (&$!@ day. How long is it going to take to %$@&*% this $%@$% process? Thank you for taking the time to hear our concerns."

Is it just me, or did I get my point across in three sentences?

Next up on the dais was J. David Cox, the national secretary-treasure of the American Federation of Government Employees, AFL-CIO.

This irritates me on a couple of fronts. First, never trust anyone not willing to use their first name. What's the worst it could be; John, Joshua or Jamal?

What's worse is his reason for appearing before the committee. Oh sure, he began his little fireside chat with the efforts of his union members to ensure veterans are well cared for. But eventually, Cox got around to the real reason his was there: money and benefits for the rank and file.

The "production quality and workplace morale" would be greatly enhanced if there was a "collaborative environment" between management and employees.

Cox also pleaded with the committee to make veterans service representatives' career ladder more competitive, noting employees can only rise to the level of a GS-10 unless they pass a skills certification test. In other words, Cox is urging the VBA to pay higher salaries without having to prove they can do the job.

I can't argue with wanting more money. Who doesn't? To paraphrase Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman, if offered, I will accept; if given, I will not return it. But the purpose of the hearing was to review undue delays in processing claims, and not to conjure up a Dickensian image of Oliver, begging, "Please, sir. I want some more."

The cast of characters didn't end with Cox, but it would take up too much space to continue. The facts are simple: the VBA's claim process takes too long. Veterans, particularly those struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder need help immediately, not some time in the future.

I realize dealing with the VA can be a Byzantine experience. The cure to the lengthy waiting period is not as simple as, "Here's a check. Have a nice day." But I dare say if the process was discussed in simple language, it might translate to shorter decision times.

Bruce Coulter is the editor of the Burlington Union and a retired, disabled veteran.


VA'S CRUEL BENEFITS POLICY: IF YOU DON'T ASK, WE WON'T TELL -- Lack of VA outreach costs World War II POW more than 60 years of benefits. When family files, VA loses paperwork and vet dies with nothing.

The following is a very sad story about a brave veteran who lived for over 60 years never knowing he had earned VA benefits.

How can this happen?

Because the VA has no obligation to inform "older" veterans of their benefits.

Until recently, the VA didn't notify any veterans about their benefits, but now they are required to do outreach to veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan.

While this is a good thing, those "young" veterans make up less than 3% of the veteran population.

That leaves the other 97+% without any mandated outreach.

Congress tried to implement legislation requiring the VA to notify all veterans of all possible benefits...but, VA argued against it. It's time for Congress to bring this legislation back.

In this election year, we hear politicians of both parties talking about supporting the troops and caring for veterans...but, that's just 3% of the veterans. Iraq and Afghanistan vets get priority healthcare and claims adjudication as well as a special outreach program to inform them of their benefits.

The older vets just sit and wait their turn in line. Anyone who served prior to the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan is truly "Old and in the Way."

-Larry Scott-


After World War II vet misses out on decades of government benefits, family moves to raise awareness among others

Posted by Beata Mostafavi

The Flint Journal

GENESEE COUNTY, Michigan -- World War II veteran and former Prisoner of War William Jones didn't know he was eligible for thousands of dollars in veteran benefits over the past six decades.

By the time he did, it was too late.

Months after filing paperwork to get help with medical costs -- a process that was delayed when the Veteran's Administration lost his information in Detroit -- the Burton vet died July 9.

And without a surviving spouse, his claim file was closed.
John W. Adkisson The Flint Journal(From left) Jill Walker, Megan Jones and Shawna Meilke hug at the funeral of William Jones on Friday afternoon at Crestwood Cemetery in Grand Blanc Township.

"He could have lived a different lifestyle," said Jones' son Dean, who said his father worked two jobs to support five children. "They could have paid for his prescriptions and helped him out a little bit. Both his and my mom's health could have been different. They could have traveled more.

"They told us that now that he's deceased, there's nothing more they can do."

It's a common story -- many veterans unaware of the health care, tax breaks and pay they are entitled to never receive state or federal benefits.

Dean Jones, of Davison Township, said his family now wants to honor their father by raising awareness for other vets who might not know what help is available to them.

They also are urging the VA to invest in more outreach to people like their father who could have received about $2,700 a month in VA payments and full medical and dental coverage.

Dean Jones said his father thought he'd already received all of his benefits when he returned from war -- a $160 check for being a POW and getting dental work after a German officer knocked his teeth out with the butt of a rifle.

"He deserved all the money he was missing all those years but it isn't going to bring him back and isn't going to help anyone now," Dean Jones said.

"We want (the VA) to make right by our father and all veterans. We'd like to see other veterans get what's coming to them. They took care of us. We need to take care of them."

Jones' family is asking the VA to help with burial and funeral costs but isn't trying to collect any of the estimated hundreds of thousands of dollars or more his father might have received total over the years.

The family started researching his benefits when they were considering hospice, which wasn't covered by Jones' General Motors insurance for salaried retirees.

The family said they are disappointed that no one ever contacted the late Jones, who suffered from prostate cancer and was 87 years old, to explain benefits.

To make things worse, after five months of scrambling to collect all of Jones' military records to send to the VA, the family was told it had gone missing.

"They sat on it and someone dropped the ball," Dean Jones said. "He was dying and it was very critical."

Bill Traylor, a veterans service officer who handled Jones' case, said all of Jones' paperwork was filed correctly out of the Genesee County office.

But he acknowledged that it got lost in the shuffle when it reached the VA's Detroit office.

"We submitted it to the VA but somehow it never got to his file, which does happen because there's a lot of paperwork down there," he said.

He said POW claims get priority and normally Jones' case would have been processed more quickly. The lost records delayed the process by a month.

"What's really unfortunate is he could have been receiving his benefits since 1945. He could've been taken care of for 60 years," Traylor said. "When the family came in, they had no idea about all of these benefits. It's just a terrible shame."

He said the VA has made efforts in the past to inform veterans who qualify for unused benefits.

"There are an astronomical number of WWII vets who either didn't know they qualified for benefits or feel like they don't need them," Traylor said. "I talk to these guys and a very high percentage of them came back with the attitude of 'this was something I had to do, something I did for my country and I don't want anything from the government.'"

"I can't say enough about these World War vets. It truly is the greatest generation."
The late Jones never shared much about his POW experiences. He was captured in France in 1944 and spent about six months in prison where daily meals consisted of horse meat soup and coffee.

Gathered together the morning of his burial, his children said the grandfather of 11 and great-grandfather of 12 suffered from nightmares and ulcers and endured malaria in Africa and a gunshot wound in his hand.

They remember him soaking his legs in hot water and squeezing out bits of shrapnel.

And the Purple Heart recipient always carried a pocket-sized Bible with him -- which he said saved his life when it blocked shrapnel from piercing his chest while in minefields in Europe.

"He went through hell," said daughter Marla Coon, whose husband Earl researched Jones' service through the Internet, museums and historians. "He was a brave man. He taught us that nothing is for free."

The family is now working to ensure Jones' six medals -- discovered through their recent research -- come home. They also are asking a military review board to consider awarding him a Silver Star for braving mortar fire and heavy enemy shelling in Italy when he returned to a minefield for two injured soldiers.

"I just want to make things right for him and honor his final wishes," Dean Jones said.


Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Assoluta Tranquillita: Verbatim: From the sandbox-Obama's FALSENESS to Our Nation

Enter this writers Blog, and see the TRUTH. Snopes can dig, but you can't always trust Snopes. NOT ALWAYS.
Obama and the people that follow him blindly need to open their eyes and seek TRUTH.

Assoluta Tranquillita: Verbatim: From the sandbox

HAPPY BIRTHDAY DONNA CROSS-POST FROM: Assoluta Tranquillita: For my friend Donna :)

Assoluta Tranquillita: For my friend Donna :)

This is a tribute to an Angel who's son serves our Country, and the mom who raised an outstanding soldier! Donna, your a special lady, with a special son.
Happy Birthday Donna, may your day be filled with joy, peace and love.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


Looks like the Clintons4McCain group have been growing in numbers as I have heard them mentioned various times and various media outlets.

Do you know why there were 200,000 in Berlin? They weren't there for Obama, they were there for a free concert. Have you seen the headlines - "Obama wins German hearts and minds"? Please! the MSM is giving this guy a free ride.

On the National Review-Tank; The Report is that Obama was not comfortable visiting our wounded HEROES without his political advisers. Why? Does he need someone to hold his hand? Or better yet, his CUE CARDS so he can open his mouth and speak the words "THANK YOU" perhaps? So instead, he has his PR and PA reschedule his "world tour" to be relocated in Berlin just at the time of the "Free" concert. The MSM says "oh no no no, it was specific for Obama, to warm up the crowd. Funny, I have friends in Berlin, they vaguely remember some american candidate guy there to speak---but they SURE remember the CONCERT, Free Beers and Bratwurst! No..sorry MSM, no-one is buying it. YOU Obama, are NOT a "Berliner" and NOT worthy of the Highest Office in this Nation.

From the The Tank on The NationalReviewOnline:

Former CSM of Landstuhl on Obama [Gregory S. McNeal]

The former Command Sergeant Major of Landstuhl from 2003 to 2005 released this statement today regarding Senator Obama's decision to not visit wounded soldiers in Landstuhl:

Having spent two years as the Command Sergeant Major at Landstuhl Hospital, I am always grateful for the attention that facility receives from members of Congress. There is no more important work done by the United States Army than to care for those who have been wounded in the service [of] our country. While Americans troops remain engaged in two hot wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, there is a steady stream of casualties to the hospital, and a steady stream of visitors who wish to meet with those troops and thank them for their service.

Senator Obama has explained his decision to cancel a scheduled visit there by blaming the military, which would not allow one of his political advisers to join him in a tour of the facility. Why Senator Obama felt he needed an adviser with him to visit U.S. troops is unclear, but if Senator Obama isn't comfortable meeting wounded American troops without his entourage, perhaps he does not have the experience necessary to serve as commander in chief.


No ma'am, you may NOT go on vacation! There is a BILL that WE THE PEOPLE want VOTED ON PRIOR to VACATION BREAK, and YOU WILL STAND DOWN all other agendas, and STAY until the JOB is COMPLETED.
You can "save the planet" and advocate for saving the planet on YOUR OWN FREE TIME, Ms. Pelosi! Being SPEAKER of the HOUSE means YOU WORK FOR THE PEOPLE, just in case you have forgotten, and WE do not PAY YOU to "save the planet" we PAY YOU to SCHEDULE a VOTE on the HOUSE FLOOR and DO THE PEOPLES WILL!
If you can NOT PERFORM, then STEP DOWN.
You can schedule your book tour on your FREE time. We do not PAY you to write your garbage books. That is not in the SOP for your JOB DESCRIBTION.

Washington, Jul 29 - In an interview this morning on FOX News’
America’s Newsroom, House Republican Leader John Boehner (R-OH) repeated his
demand for a vote to lower gasoline prices before Democratic leaders send
Congress home for the month of August and called on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi
(D-CA), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), and Senator Barack Obama
(D-IL) to stop blocking an up-or-down vote. Boehner also highlighted the
House GOP American Energy
(H.R. 6566) to increase production of American-made energy and help
lower gas prices.
MEGYN KELLY: Republican Congressman and House Minority Leader, from
Ohio, John Boehner joins me now. Good morning

Megyn, good morning.

KELLY: Thank you for being here.
So, OK, there is a bill that would address some of these issues like drilling
offshore. Nancy Pelosi and the House says it’s not going to get a
vote before the recess. You don’t think there should be a recess.

BOEHNER: I do not think there should be a recess. The
American people want us to do something about a high-price gasoline, the high
price of energy. The only way really to effect the price, really is
to do all of the above. We need to conserve more, we need biofuels, we
need alternative sources of energy, we need nuclear power, and, yes, we need to
produce more American made oil and gas in an environmentally-safe way and we can
do that. We introduced a bill last week, the American Energy Act.
What we’ve been asking the Speaker for eight weeks now is a vote. And we
don’t think the Congress ought to go on summer recess at the end of this week
without voting on the American energy plan.

position is you have got the votes to pass this thing, you just cannot get to
the House floor because Speaker Pelosi says she is not bringing it.

BOEHNER: I do think we have the votes in both the House and
the Senate. But it is Speaker Pelosi, it’s Harry Reid, it’s Barack Obama
who want no part of allowing the Congress to work its will on a vote that would
produce more American-made oil and gas. They’re absolutely opposed to
drilling. They worship at the altar of radical environmentalists.
That is why they have been blocking this vote, but the American people can
help. All they have to do is call their Member of Congress, their Senator,
and say don’t leave until you have a vote on this bill.

KELLY: Here’s what the Speaker said. I have it here so
bear with me while I read it. She said when pressed on what she’s not
allowing this to go for a vote, “I am trying to save the planet. I am
trying to save the planet. I will not have this debate trivialized by
their excuse,” meaning Republicans, “for their failed policy.” Any

BOEHNER: Megyn, for 25 years, Democrats have
blocked more American-made oil and gas. That is why we are in the
predicament we are in. That is why 70 percent of our energy comes from
overseas. And she has time to go out and promote her book tour and her new
book, but she does not have time to schedule a vote on the floor of the House
and let the American people have their will expressed. I mean, we
got elected to Congress to go there and represent our constituents.
They want us to vote on more American-made oil and gas. We want to do
that. She, Harry Reid, and Barack Obama are standing in the way.

KELLY: You say that number one, this is a defining week for
the Congress. But you say that the reason the Democrats are not allowing
this to come to a vote is because of, and I quote, “a band of radical special
interest groups that support high gas prices.” What do you mean by

BOEHNER: Well, if you listen to Barack Obama during the
primaries, you know, he didn’t think $5 gas was all that bad. He just was
upset that it got there so quickly. And what you’ve got, you’ve got a
bunch of radical environmentalists who think that we ought to have higher
gasoline prices so that Americans will drive less and that we will wean
ourselves off oil by putting cars away. That is not what the American
people want. They want a reasonable approach to our energy problems.
And the way to do that is to do all of the above. That is the American
energy plan.

KELLY: Do you think this is what Congress has
such low approval ratings because our viewers are watching this here.
You’ve got the votes you think in both Houses to pass this thing. We’re
in, some would say we’re in an energy crisis, and you cannot even get a bill to
come to a vote on the House floor because, you know, you’re basically getting
the thumb of the nose from the Democrats who control things.

BOEHNER: Yes, we have been through this before. It is
a legislative way to avoid a vote. They’ve shut down the appropriations
process in the House and the Senate because they are afraid that a member may
pass a pro-drilling vote on an appropriation bill. They’re trying to run
out the clock. We’re only going to be there this week. We’re only
there three weeks in September. And they’re hoping to get out of town
before anybody notices.

KELLY: I think the American people
are going to notice. You’re doing your best to make sure that
happens. House Minority Leader John Boehner, thank you for being here.

BOEHNER: Thanks, Megyn.

Army Wives (Season 2)

As I watch the season series 2 of Army Wives I notice more and more that the story line is veering off the path of the typical daily life of a true Army Wife, and more into the drama loaded byproduct of Hollywood.

Hollywood's "perception" of what Army Wives are, versus what they truly are...the simplicity of a military wife verses the trumped up version that is now taking hold in the new season has lost my attention.

We have the cute perky Roxie who is newly married into the arena of being a military wife all wrapped up in opening a Bar that was previously blown up by a disheartened GI who found out his wife was having an affair. She still doesn't grasp her husbands HONOR and DUTY or OATH to serve in the MILITARY, nor the anxiousness within him to GET BACK to Iraq and finish his tour of duty with his unit.

We have the Commander's wife, Claudia-Joy, who is still dealing with the loss of her child (same bar explosion) and helping others deal with loss when a soldier is a KIA.

We have the Cancer Patient-Betty, who gave the Bar to perky Roxie--who is obviously going to be cut from the show soon, probably by death...which will lead to some long lost stranger of a relative making the scene into Roxie's life because at this last episode, Roxie's husband made mention that eventually they will PCS, and THEN what is Roxie going to do about the BAR---yea, we all know where this is going...Roxie will probably DX the hubby to keep the bar and find a new love interest in previous mentioned stranger via Betty's death.

Then we have the ever rolling drama of the secret squirrel club of SPEC OPS wife, and here comes the Hollywood drama for what it best at trying to depict. Good lord in heaven. Supposedly there is some theft ring going on with the SPEC OPS guys, a few arrests were made, and the SPEC OPS team are now dual CIA operatives to boot! ta da! Hollyweirdos. This does not happen. Sorry. Your writers were smoking something, and it wasn't cigarettes.

Finally the HOLD OUT for hope. Denise, the Nurse. I was really hoping that the relationship she had with Frank, would be the long standing no holds barred no affairs type, and Denise would be happy re-inventing herself and Frank would be happy to come back to a GREAT wonderful PERFECT special wife with all this new talent! He would champion her and bless her with praise and adore her for learning so much and being so strong!
Ahhhh nope. Frank is a control freak. He doesn't like the motorcycle, he doesn't like her going to Nursing School, he doesn't like her taking care of herself physically to stay beautiful, and he doesn't like her looking into her past and trying things she once liked to do....Frank is an ASS. When Denise tries to see that perhaps spending time with ye' ole young doctor is a bit much--she does pull back though! Got to give her that.

Finally the love birds with a baby on the way. WHEW. Some saving graces. A couple devoted to each other, and kicking butt and taking names. Roland and his wife are AT LEAST a couple to depend on for something solid in this program.

I can say I have honestly lost interest in this season's series, so much that I wait for it to upload online, and then catch it when I am utterly BORED with not a single thing left to do on my plate for the day. Not even play a game online. Or sleep. However, I made a promise to watch it to completion and blog my thoughts, so there you have it. My solid commitment.

Watch something else. This show is 5 thumbs down.

Assoluta Tranquillita: "...what's a heaven for?

Assoluta Tranquillita: "...what's a heaven for?"#links

And while your there, remember to be kind and use the DONATE button on the right! It is just a suggestion mind you, but a suggestion loaded with LOVE and HONOR for a writer with whom this world is a better place for so many reasons.
You owe it to yourself today, to do something for the greater good---and donating to Assoluta Tranquillita---is the GREATER GOOD.

Thank you all, and be so very blessed!

Pieces of the article:

"I am a lunar lady. I have always been fascinated by the moon and space travel since I first saw man land on the moon. Today, as NASA celebrates 50 years, I am reminded of the Robert Browning's quote:Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp, Or what's a heaven for?"

"In 1961 when President John F Kennedy made his pledge to land a man on the moon, I was unaware of America - yes, really! But, by a few simple words, President Kennedy dedicated the best of America's brains to landing a man on the moon and bringing him home safely..In his inaugural speech he promised that within the next decade man would reach for the stars."
For the rest go here:

Monday, July 28, 2008


-- San Francisco research center has the urgency of a Manhattan Project site, this time looking to unravel the mysteries of PTSD.

First issue within this article, is that the soldier under the microscope, "with" PTSD is being compared to a soldier who has not been diagnosed with PTSD. The soldier under the microscope was not "scanned" PRIOR to combat and being diagnosed with PTSD, so the FLAW in this is that they do not KNOW for CERTAIN if those highlighted area of his brain were already discolored in the pattern they are "SUGGESTING" might be the "signature" pattern of PTSD.

Remember, the researchers WANT to be able to point and click and say PTSD is a DISEASE--and HERE--with this UBER machine that costs MILLIONS and the scanning of every soldier that costs BILLIONS--we can point and shoot the brain and get THIS pattern--and "ta da" PTSD confirmed. Sign em up boys! Meds meds meds--and Pharma REJOICES!

PTSD is an direct result of EMOTIONAL TRAUMA, STRESS, and STRAIN produced in an environment unknown to a soldier. IT IS A BY-PRODUCT of WAR, NOT a DISEASE, it is a CONDITION of WAR that causes an EMOTIONAL barrier.

The BRAIN say "HOLY CRAP BATMAN!" and starts to rewire and shut down parts it doesn't want to remember, or locks away some parts and stimuli that it considers hazardous. Sometimes those things leak through--so the brain works overtime to lock them down again and again. This internal struggle is a SURVIVAL instinct, that our bodies have. It takes TIME, and patience and the right "tools" (counseling measures without over medicating) to unlock those Pandora's boxes and safely LEARN HOW to LIVE WITH the memories and images of War. THEY WILL NOT GO AWAY--but they can be dealt with and Incorporated into LIFE. This TAKES TIME and there isn't an INSTANT quick cure or FIX for it.

So...the VA continues to plug along and keep PHARMA at the ready with a PILL to cure the ill's of our heroes. And because they are scientists, neurologists, and the "VA" or others; with the studies and "findings" no matter how SKEWED the reports are---if it sounds and reads scientific, society will defend it! The "simplistic" route will be laughed at.


PTSD leaves physical footprints on the brain

Justin Berton, Chronicle Staff Writer

At a recent conference for some of the area's leading neurologists, San Francisco physicist Norbert Schuff captured his colleagues' attention when he presented colorful brain images of U.S. soldiers who had returned from Iraq and Afghanistan and were diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

The yellow areas, Schuff explained during his presentation at the city's Veterans Affairs Medical Center, showed where the hippocampus, which plays major roles in short-term memory and emotions, had atrophied. The red swatches marked hyper fusion - increased blood flow - in the prefrontal cortex, the region responsible for conflict resolution and decision-making. Compared with a soldier without the affliction, the PTSD brain had lost 5 to 10 percent of its gray matter volume, indicating yet more neuron damage.

Schuff, who was dressed in a Hawaiian shirt just as colorful as the brain images he'd brought, reminded his colleagues that while his findings were preliminary and the trials ongoing, researchers were at least inching closer to finding the biological markers that distinguish a brain affected by PTSD. As the technology of brain imaging improves and the resulting data are refined, doctors believe that one day they will be able to look at a computer screen and see PTSD as clearly as they now see a brain tumor.

"But we're still in the infancy of neuroimaging," Schuff cautioned later in his office. "Do you get PTSD because you have a small hippocampus? Or does a small hippocampus mean you'll develop PTSD? That, we still don't know."

Schuff's research is at the forefront of a bold push by the Department of Defense to address PTSD, the psychological disorder that will haunt an estimated 30 percent of the veterans returning from the current two wars, according to the Pentagon. Forty thousand veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan, Pentagon officials say, have already been diagnosed with PTSD, which is defined as an anxiety disorder triggered by exposure to traumatic events; symptoms can include nightmares, flashbacks and panic attacks.

Left untreated, clinicians say, patients with PTSD are more likely to engage in anti-social behaviors such as alcohol and drug abuse. The disorder, neurologists are now learning, can also lead to long-term maladies, such as Alzheimer's and dementia.

Manhattan Project urgency

The quest is to understand how the disorder begins inside the brain. The Defense Department has invested $78 million in San Francisco's Northern California Institute for Research and Education at the VA center in the past four years, making it the largest VA research institute in the country and the only one that specializes in neuroscience. With 200 researchers on staff, and an estimated 40 ongoing studies that rely on 60 to 80 veterans as research participants, the center has the urgency of a Manhattan Project site, this time searching for a way to end a mental health crisis.

The Department of Defense "has such a compelling need for these answers," said Dr. Thomas Neylan, an associate professor of psychiatry at UCSF and director of the post-traumatic stress disorder program at the VA center. "They want to know these answers now, which is the right approach. We want the answers now; people are still going off to the war, coming back, and a lot of them are suffering for a long time."

The search for PTSD biological markers through brain imagining is the primary concern of five research centers in the country, including teams at Harvard and Emory universities. Researchers believe that once the markers are defined, successful treatments can be developed.

Since 1995, magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, has been used to explore the brain through mostly black-and-white images with fuzzy resolution. But in the past few years, advances in computer-imaging technology have enabled neurologists to detect the smallest changes in brain activity.

At the San Francisco VA center, thanks to the installment five years ago of a $4 million MRI machine called the 4T - T stands for Tesla, a unit of magnetic field - Schuff and his colleagues are now able to look into the brain at 1 millimeter resolution, in color and in 3-D. By contrast, Schuff said a 1.5T MRI machine could not register atrophy on PTSD brains. But the 7T MRI machine that was installed at the UCSF Mission Bay campus last year can detect microscopic neuron damage that a 4T is incapable of "seeing."

"With each stronger magnet, we get a finer view of what's going on in the brain," Neylan said.

These advances allow neurologists not only to further understand PTSD, but to study its relationship with brain trauma, one of the leading injuries incurred by soldiers in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

The effects of IEDs

At the VA conference, titled "The Brain at War: Neurocognitive Consequences of Combat," Col. Karl Friedl, director of the U.S. Army Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center, explained why brain injuries have become more prevalent. The main cause: the improvised explosive device, or IED, a homemade device that has become the enemy's signature weapon.

While some well-armored soldiers were able to survive the IED blasts, incurring no outward signs of damage, they later complained of dizziness and "having their bell rung," symptoms consistent with the lesser-known mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI).

As many as 150,000 troops have been diagnosed with brain injuries, the Congressional Brain Injury Task Force reported last year, but it's unknown how many suffer from mTBI. Mild brain injuries are less often diagnosed because soldiers often believe getting knocked around is part of the job. But over time, with each successive mild brain injury, the effects can become more severe.

The link between mild brain trauma and PTSD is being studied at the VA center in San Francisco by Dr. Gary Abrams, whose preliminary studies show that the overlap between PTSD patients and sufferers of mild brain trauma injury "is tremendous." Abrams has yet to release definitive numbers.

During the next two years, Neylan expects the center will produce a few major findings in terms of possible treatments and advances in neuroimaging. One of the outcomes of the advanced brain imaging could be a prescreen test for soldiers to detect brains already showing PTSD tendencies. Neylan, who specializes in the role sleep plays in a healthy mind, is working on a study of police officers who are resistant to PTSD.

"We're using this opportunity to also see why some people are able to walk away from these situations and live healthy lives," he said, "and why others are not."

Recent attempts to estimate frequency

Iraq and Afghanistan: The number of post-traumatic stress disorder cases is in dispute. The Pentagon estimates 30 percent of veterans from the Afghanistan and Iraq wars will be diagnosed with PTSD. Vietnam War: In 1988, a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated the rate of Vietnam vets with PTSD at 14.7 percent. But the 1990 National Vietnam Readjustment Study calculated the rate at 30.9 percent. Both relied mainly on self-reporting. In 2006, a paper in the journal Science added to the debate by estimating the rate at 18.7 percent. World War II: Though there was no official PTSD diagnosis until 1980, after World War II the term "shell shock" was reported by veterans troubled by combat experiences. Researchers such as Dr. Charles Marmar at the San Francisco VA center's Northern California Institute for Research and Education estimate the number of WWII vets with PTSD is consistent with the 1-in-5 figures found in Vietnam and the Persian Gulf War. - Justin Berton

Experiments probe further into post-traumatic stress disorder

Four PTSD-related research experiments at the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center:

Nasal spray: Scott Panter is developing a battlefield-ready nasal spray for troops who suffer brain trauma. After the trauma occurs, the brain swells, causing tissue damage. Panter's nasal spray, applied within 20 minutes of a trauma, would aim to stop the swelling process. Troops could carry the spray in their packs and self-apply or administer to others.

D-cycloserine: Dr. Charles Marmar is conducting trials on PTSD patients using D-cycloserine. The drug, which was originally used as an antibiotic for tuberculosis, has also proved to help lab animals "unlearn fear responses." Given in small doses 30 minutes before a therapy session, D-cyclo is meant to help PTSD patients open up about their traumatic experiences and become more willing to engage in therapy. The hypothesis is that the group taking D-cyclo will make more and faster progress in therapy.

Blood/gene test: Dr. Lynn Pulliam is trying to establish a blood profile to diagnose PTSD. Using gene array technology, researchers will be able to take an RNA test, much like a DNA test, to determine whether a patient "tests positive" for PTSD.

Sleep experiment: Dr. Thomas Neylan is conducting a study on improving veterans' sleep habits without drugs. Neylan said PTSD patients often feel anxious about sleeping, in part because they anticipate insomnia but also because they worry about nightmares. Subjects are coached to avoid substances that interfere with their sleep. "If we get them to sleep better at night," Neylan said, "they'll have fewer nightmares and feel better during the day."