The VA is set to lower copays for prescriptions - We Are The Mighty
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The VA is set to lower copays for prescriptions

The VA is set to lower copays for prescriptions
Col. Teresa Bisnett, Department of Defense – Veterans Affairs Joint Venture Hospital and 673rd Medical Group commander, and Maj. Suzanne Green, 673rd Medical Group Emergency Department Flight commander on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, speak with Robert McDonald, secretary of Veterans Affairs, as part of a tour around DoD/VA Joint Venture Hospital


The Department of Veterans Affairs says that it is “amending its regulation” on the copays that veterans pay for medications they receive that are not for service related conditions.

Currently, veterans pay $8 and $9 for a 30-day (or less) supply of prescriptions.

The VA says that the new system will “keep outpatient medication costs low for Veterans.”

Dr. David J. Shulkin, the VA Undersecretary for Health, said “Reducing their out-of-pocket costs encourages greater adherence to priscribed outpatient medications and reduces the risk of fragmented care that results when multiple pharmacies are used.”

The new system tossed out the old way of determining costs, which was based on the Medical Consumer Price Index.

Three classes of outpatient medications have been designed to help curb the costs.

  • Tier 1 is for preferred generics, and will cost veterans $5 for a 30-day or less supply.
  • Tier 2 is for non-preferred generics, which includes over the counter medications, and will cost veterans $8 for a 30-day or less supply.
  • Tier 3 is for brand name medications, and will cost veterans $11 for a 30-day or less supply.

The new system will go into effect February 27th, 2017, and only apply to medications that are not for service connected issues.

Veterans who are former Prisoners of War, catastrophically disabled, or are covered by other exceptions will not have to pay copays.

Veterans who fall into Priority Groups 2-8 will have a $700 cap on copays, at which point the copays do not apply. To find out which Priority Group you fall into, check out the VA’s list of Priority Groups in their Health Benefits tab (here).

According to 38 U.S.C. 1722A(a), the VA is compelled to require veterans to pay a minimum copay of $2 for every 30-day (or less) supply of medications which are prescribed for non-service related disabilities or connections, unless there is an exemption for the veteran. 38 U.S.C. 1722A(b) gives the VA the authority to set the copay amount higher and to put caps on the amount veterans pay.

MIGHTY CULTURE

NASCAR’s Jesse Iwuji is having the best week ever

We Are The Mighty wants to wish a very Happy Birthday to our favorite racecar driver. Jesse Iwuji turns 33 today, and we are wishing him the happiest of days. While his birthday is no doubt a special day, this year’s celebration is a bit more sweeter.

As many of you know, Jesse is unique among NASCAR drivers. He is a Naval Officer who is following his dreams of becoming a racecar driver. That dream took a big step up this week.

Jesse was recently promoted into NASCAR’s Xfinity Series where he will be driving the No. 13 Toyota Supra for MBM Motorsports. He will continue to also race the No. 33 Chevrolet Silverado for Reaume Brothers Racing in the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series.


In addition to the promotion in NASCAR, Jesse also was promoted to Lieutenant Commander in the United States Navy – talk about having an amazing month.

Here are some of Jesse’s friends, family, superior officers, fellow drivers and colleagues wishing him a happy birthday. You can tell the impact a man has from the company he keeps, and this collection of amazing people shows just how awesome Jesse is and why WATM is such a big fan:

Jesse Iwuji NASCAR Xfinity Series Debut at Road America | US Navy | Military | Congratulations

youtu.be

Jesse was born on August 12, 1987, the son of Nigerian immigrants. Born and raised in Texas, he was an athlete in high school and excelled in both sports and school. That excellence landed him at the United States Naval Academy. Jesse played for the Midshipman while learning to be a Surface Warfare Officer. In addition to playing safety, Iwuji also ran track for the Naval Academy.

He graduated in 2009 and went into the Fleet, first working on mine countermeasures which included a deployment to the Persian Gulf in 2012. He later served on the USS Comstock before moving into the Naval Reserves in 2017.

Then his pursuit of his dream took off.

NASCAR Xfinity Series Road America – Jesse Iwuji

www.youtube.com

Moving into NASCAR is no easy feat. But with his belief in honor, courage and commitment, Iwuji pushed forward through all the obstacles. He first thought about becoming a racecar driver during a Navy football event at the Meineke Car Care Bowl. Throughout his active duty career, he balanced his duties and deployments with his pursuit of his passion. Upon entering the Reserves, he started accelerating his career with stints in the NASCAR KN Pro Series East and West which are regional proving grounds for drivers looking to prove themselves on the stockyard circuit.

From there, he moved into the truck series where he has competed for the last three years. His recent promotion to the Xfinity Series puts him one step closer to the NASCAR Cup Series which is, for those of you who don’t know, the highest echelon of stock car racing in the world.

Jesse’s debut on the Xfinity circuit was at the Henry 180 where he finished the race in the 26th spot. His next race should be at the legendary Watkins Glen road course this weekend.

Hopefully soon, we will see him racing in the Cup Series at places like Daytona, Talladega, Martinsville, Dover and Bristol.

Happy Birthday Jesse and congratulations on both your promotions!

Articles

A Navy SEAL describes what it’s like to receive the MoH

Navy Chief Special Warfare Operator (SEAL) Edward C. Byers, Jr., was on an assault team conducting the rescue of Dr. Dilip Joseph. After a four-hour foot patrol to the target location, a group of special operations volunteers hit the suspected building.


The VA is set to lower copays for prescriptions
Senior Chief Edward Byers, a Navy SEAL and Medal of Honor recipient. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

Byers distinguished himself multiple times in the moments that followed, sprinting to the building after a guard spotted the team 25 yards out, fighting against multiple enemies while trying to fix a problem with his night vision and find the doctor, and protecting the doctor with his own body while engaging multiple hostile targets.

He was later honored with a well-earned Medal of Honor for his actions.

In this video from the Navy’s All Hands Magazine, Byers talks about a seldom explored part of becoming a Medal of Honor recipient, the actual process of learning you will receive the award. From scheduling and receiving the president’s phone call to being inducted into the Hall of Heroes at the Pentagon.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This nonprofit charity helps veterans and their spouses find great careers

This article is sponsored by Disabled American Veterans.

In the wake of World War I, hundreds of thousands of returning and separating American troops came home to a nation ill-prepared to support them. In 1920, DAV (Disabled American Veterans) was founded with the goal of helping these service members transition comfortably back into civilian life. Since then, DAV has been providing a lifetime of support for veterans of all generations and their families by helping them access benefits they earned—like health care, education and disability—and connecting them to meaningful employment opportunities.


The nonprofit charity was founded by an injured infantryman who rose to become a judge in the Superior Court of Ohio after The Great War. The organization was originally known as the Disabled American Veterans of the World War and, as its name suggests, it was focused on helping those who were disabled by the War.

Now, in addition to helping veterans receive their earned benefits, providing outreach to families of disabled veterans, and representing veteran interests to the government, they run an employment program that, in 2017, supported 140 traditional and virtual career fairs that helped over 43,000 attendees — and they’re setting higher goals with each passing year.

DAV established the National Employment Program in 2014, which focuses on connecting veterans and their spouses with employers. Their goal is to improve the lives of veterans and their families by finding meaningful employment.

Today, DAV hosts a job board that has as many as 250,000 active job openings listed at once. They also help represent veterans to employers, explaining to decision-makers why it’s best to target veterans for open positions.

If you’re a veteran or military spouse looking for new or improved employment, check out DAV’s employment resources, specifically their comprehensive hiring guide. And if you’re well-employed and looking to help veterans, consider giving to DAV by donating your time, money, or used vehicles.

This article is sponsored by Disabled American Veterans.

MIGHTY CULTURE

A World War II vet wants cards for his birthday – here’s how to send him one

World War II veteran Recil Troxtel turns 93 years old on April 17, 2019. He stares longingly out the window for much of the day, excited for the mail to arrive. When it finally does, he hops up in the hopes that there might be a personal letter or two, just for him.

With his birthday coming up, all he really wants is more mail. His fellow veterans and members of the military community are sure to step up and drop their friend Recil a line – right?


He sits here in his chair looking out the window every day,” his daughter, Liz Anderson told KSWO, an Oklahoma ABC affiliate. “When the mail is here, he’s like the mail is here, we better go get the mail.”

Unfortunately, there’s not often anything in there for Recil. Now, the soon-to-be 93-year-old Oklahoma man is undergoing cancer treatment. His days of watching for the mail may be short, so maybe we shouldn’t wait for April 17th to roll around. Maybe we should send out greetings, letters, and good wishes to Recil right away. Send them to:

Recil Troxtel
2684 North Highway 81
Marlow, Oklahoma 73055


The VA is set to lower copays for prescriptions

“I don’t get mail anymore,” Recil said. That’s about to change, buddy.

It’s exciting when he gets it because he will sit there and hold it,” his daughter said. “Sometimes he won’t open it for an hour or two. Other times, he has a knife in his pocket, and he rips that knife out and rips that letter open to see what it is.

His family tells KSWO that he didn’t always enjoy the mail, but he’s at an age now where receiving something doesn’t mean he’s getting a bill. It’s more likely a personal message.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Marine Corps off-the-shelf utility vehicles are getting some upgrades

The Marine Corps’ Utility Task Vehicles are undergoing several upgrades designed to improve the safety and performance of the vehicle.

Using critical feedback from Marines and taking inspiration spanning the automotive industry to desert racing, engineers and logisticians from the Light Tactical Vehicle program office at Program Executive Officer Land Systems have been working diligently to research, test, procure and implement changes to the UTV.

These changes include high clearance control arms, new run-flat tires, floorboard protection, a road march kit, a clutch improvement kit and an environmental protection cover.


“We bought the vehicle as a [commercial-off-the-shelf] solution, so it’s not going to have everything we want right from the factory,” said Jason Engstrom, lead systems engineer for the UTV at PEO Land Systems.

Since PEO Land Systems started fielding the UTV in 2017, Marines have consistently pushed the limits of their vehicles, said Engstrom, in many ways beyond what is expected or imagined with a typical off-the-shelf solution.

“Even though we’re in the operations, maintenance and sustainment phases with the vehicle, it’s such a new vehicle and we’re seeing Marines constantly push the limits of the truck,” said Engstrom. “Every day we’re seeing Marines come up with new ideas on how to use the truck.”

The VA is set to lower copays for prescriptions

US Marines drive a Utility Task Vehicle at Fire Base Um Jorais in Iraq, July 4, 2018.

(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Carlos Lopez)

High Clearance Control Arms

The first of these upgrades involves installing high clearance control arms on the vehicle — a crucial component of the vehicle’s suspension system.

“With the different types of terrain Marines cover in these vehicles, we noticed the [original] control arms were frequently getting bent,” said Engstrom. “Rocks were probably the biggest hazard, and that’s primarily where the Marines were driving.”

A bent or damaged control arm can disable a vehicle, said UTV logistician Rodney Smith.

To address this issue, the team looked to industry and ultimately settled on a control arm comprised of material about twice as strong as the original control arms and that provided an extra 2.5 inches of clearance.

With this upgrade, Marines are better equipped to drive off the beaten path while minimizing their risk of damaging the control arms on their vehicles.

The VA is set to lower copays for prescriptions

US Marines conduct Utility Task Vehicle training at Story Live Fire Complex in South Korea, June 9, 2017.

(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. David A. Diggs)

Clutch Improvement Kit

The UTV team is also outfitting the vehicle with a clutch improvement kit. The UTV’s clutch is an important component of the vehicle’s transmission system, which is essential in making the vehicle run.

“One of the things that came right from the factory was a belt-driven [transmission] system,” said Engstrom. “Just like with the control arms, a broken belt takes the whole vehicle out of action.”

The upgraded clutch kit reconfigures the clutch system, enabling it to better engage the belt to keep it from breaking, said Engstrom.

The VA is set to lower copays for prescriptions

Marines unload a Utility Task Vehicle from an MV-22B Osprey on Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, February 19, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Camila Melendez)

Floorboard Protection

The team has also began upgrading the vehicle’s floorboard, which showed evidence of damage after a recent deployment.

“When Marines deployed the vehicles to Australia, they found that high-density sticks and branches on the ground have the potential to pop up and puncture the plastic floorboard, which is a safety hazard,” said Engstrom.

Upon receiving this feedback from Marines, the UTV team researched and tested various potential materials to use in protecting the floorboard.

“We wanted to find a solution that kept the weight down because putting too much weight in the design of the vehicle — like a reinforced floorboard — impacts the amount of cargo Marines can carry on it,” said Smith. “Every pound counts.”

The VA is set to lower copays for prescriptions

Marines unload a Utility Task Vehicle from an MV-22B Osprey on Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, February 19, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Camila Melendez)

Tires

For the UTV’s tire upgrades, the team turned to a novel source for inspiration: the Baja off-road racing industry.

“There’s a new approach to run-flat technology — called ‘Tireballs,'” said Engstrom. “Inside each tire are 16 inflatable cells, so if any one cell pops from running over a spike or nail, you’d still have 15 other cells full of air to continue driving on.”

This, said Engstrom, significantly enhances the UTV’s operational readiness for Marines, allowing them to go farther for longer in the UTV. Along with the Tireballs, the team selected an upgraded tire from BF Goodrich that is more durable than the previous, exceeding performance requirements in various environments that mimic the challenging terrains Marines face.

“The Baja racers are using these tires now while completing 1000-mile races out in the desert,” said Engstrom. “We decided it would be a good upgrade for Marines.”

The VA is set to lower copays for prescriptions

US Marines patrol in their Utility Task Vehicle during a combat readiness evaluation, North Carolina, August 1, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Kenny Gomez)

Environmental Protection Cover

The Environmental Protection Cover, another upgrade to the UTV, provides Marines with protection from the elements while they’re out in the field.

“Have you ever been in a convertible on a hot, sunny day and put the roof up? That’s exactly what this is,” said UTV engineer Christopher Swift. “It’s necessary after being out in the field 8-12 hours a day in the hot sun, especially if it’s the only shelter available.”

The VA is set to lower copays for prescriptions

US Marines conduct Utility Task Vehicle training at Story Live Fire Complex in South Korea, June 9, 2017.

(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. David A. Diggs)

Road March Kit

The team started fielding the UTV’s Road March Kit — comprising turn signals, a horn, and a rearview mirror — last March. Marines from III Marine Expeditionary Force requested these features be added for safety, especially when transitioning between training areas on roads also used by civilian motorists.

The Road March Kit upgrade, along with the other vehicle upgrades, underscores the importance Marines’ user feedback is to the acquisition professionals tasked with delivering products to the warfighter.

“We try to meet customer needs within the requirement [determined by Marine Corps Combat Development and Integration],” said UTV Team Lead Lorrie Owens. “If we can meet the customers’ need to make it more reliable and durable, we will certainly do so within the realm of the requirement.”

The UTV team is taking advantage of the vehicle’s general maintenance schedule to implement the upgrades, which will be done alongside regular maintenance and services.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

No one wants Russia’s new fighter — they want the F-35

Russia recently grabbed a bunch of publicity for its new Su-57 fifth-generation jet by sending a pair of the supposedly stealth fighters to practice dropping bombs in Syria — but it looks like the F-35 could squash the program in its infancy.


Multiple experts recently told Business Insider that Russia’s program to acquire and field the Su-57 desperately needs an infusion of cash from an international investor, like India.

Initially, India was a partner in the Su-57 program, and intended to help develop, build, and, eventually, buy scores of the advanced fighter jet pitched as a rival to the US F-22 and F-35, but those talks soured and Russia never saw the money.

Also read: Russia’s new Su-57 ‘stealth’ fighter hasn’t even been delivered yet — and it’s already a disappointment

Experts now allege that Russia’s deployment of the underdeveloped, underpowered fighters to Syria, a combat zone where they’re hardly relevant as air-superiority fighters not facing any real air threats, was a marketing ploy to get more investment.

But while Russia rushes off the Su-57s for a deployment that lasts mere days and demonstrates only that the supposedly next-generation fighters can drop bombs, the US has made real inroads selling the F-35 to countries that might have looked at the Su-57.

The VA is set to lower copays for prescriptions
(Photo by Alex Beltyukov)

The US sent F-35s to the Singapore Air Show in February 2018 as part of an international sales pitch. President Donald Trump’s administration has loosened up regulations on who the US can sell weapons to, and the F-35, once a troubled program, finally seems to have hit its stride.

“The Russian economy is a mess,” retired US Air Force Lt. Gen. David Deptula, now head of the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies, told Business Insider. “One of the things they can actually get money for is the advanced tech in their weapons systems.”

More: These are the 11 Russian military aircraft in Syria right now

But with the Su-57 seeming like a long shot with trouble ahead, and the F-35 now ready to buy, the Trump administration’s expressed strategy of punishing the Kremlin’s cash flow with military sales might bear fruit.

Asked if the F-35’s export to countries like India posed a threat to Russia’s Su-57 program, Deptula gave a short answer: “Yes.”

The Su-57’s death blow could fall in a boardroom in New Delhi

The VA is set to lower copays for prescriptions
India wants a single-engine fighter jet. It could by the F-16 or F-35. (US Air Force)

Japan and South Korea are both thinking about buying more F-35s, but most importantly, The Diplomat rounded up several reports indicating that India’s Air Force formally requested a classified briefing on the F-35A, and it may buy up to 126 of the jets.

At around $100 million per airframe, such a purchase would likely leave little room in the budget for India to buy Su-57s, which would require vastly different support infrastructure than the US jet.

Related: The Navy’s first-ever F-35 carrier just deployed in the Pacific

“Having been to India and met with their Air Force leadership, while they are a neutral country, their culture is one that fits very well with English-speaking nations around the world,” said Deptula, who said the US trying to sell F-35s to India would be “worthwhile.”

If India decided to buy F-35s, or really any Western jet, Russia would have its struggling Su-57 and one fewer customer for it. Meanwhile, Russia has only ordered 12 of the Su-57s, not even enough for a full squadron.

So, while jet enthusiasts have long debated who would win in a fight between the F-35 and the Su-57, we may never find out.

The US’s F-35 is a real jet — three real jets, actually — that has significant money behind it to keep it flying in air forces around the globe for decades to come. Russia’s Su-57 has no such security.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A ranking senator’s driver was a Chinese spy for 20 years

In July, 2017, Politico writer Zach Dorfman wrote an in-depth piece on Chinese intelligence gathering in the Silicon Valley area of California. The piece was focused on China’s acquisition of modern tech, but a small blurb in the middle of the piece noted that one of Senator Dianne Feinstein’s staffers reported to the Chinese Ministry of State Security, China’s foreign intelligence agency.

The staffer was a spy, working for a Senator on the Select Committee on Intelligence (she was the Chair at the time) and the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee.

Whoops.


The VA is set to lower copays for prescriptions

California State Senator Dianne Feinstein, take a group photo with Sailors and Marines from California at Camp Fallujah, Iraq.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Gunnery Sgt. Blankenship)

Politico’s sources were only referred to as “noted former intelligence officials.” The San Francisco Chronicle took the opportunity to investigate further. The newspaper’s source was an unnamed local who confirmed the FBI showed up at the Senator’s office in Washington in 2013 to address the incident. The FBI alleged the Senator’s driver was recruited by Chinese MSS and reported back to the Chinese consulate in San Francisco.

The Chronicle noted that the driver was only her driver in San Francisco, but he did attend functions for her at the Chinese consulate. The FBI apparently concluded that the driver didn’t have access to anything of substance and couldn’t have revealed anything to the Chinese. The newspaper says Feinstein forced the driver to retire and that was the end of it.

The VA is set to lower copays for prescriptions

President Trump, joined by, from left to right, U.S. Senators John Cornyn, Dianne Feinstein, and Marco Rubio, February 28, 2018, in the Cabinet Room at the White House in Washington, D.C.

(White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

This all happened five years ago.

Feinstein’s communist spy story is reemerging this week due to a Twitter exchange between the Senator and President Trump, who mocked Senator Feinstein for a two-year investigation about the spy.

San Francisco’s local CBS affiliate KPIX talked to former FBI agent and security analyst Jeff Harp about the incident. Harp was running counter-espionage activities in the city, saying Chinese spies would be interested in everything from business, research, and politics to diplomatic secrets. He says politicians are trained what to say and what not to say around people who don’t have security clearances, but noted that 20 years is a long time to be around someone day in, and day out — and slip-ups are possible.

“Think about Dianne Feinstein and what she had access to,” said Harp. “One, she had access to the Chinese community here in San Francisco; great amount of political influence. Two, correct me if I’m wrong, Dianne Feinstein still has very close ties to the intelligence committees there in Washington, D.C.”
MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia could have a loaded gun pointed at Poland’s head

Russia could be storing nuclear weapons at a recently renovated underground bunker in the Kaliningrad region roughly 30 miles from the Polish border, according to a report released by a nuclear watchdog on June 18, 2018.

Satellite images showed the site being excavated beginning back in 2016, renovated, and then covered in 2018, which suggests it could be returning to operational status, according to the report from the Federation of American Scientists.


“The latest upgrade obviously raises questions about what the operational status of the site is,” Hans M. Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, said in the report.

“The features of the site suggest it could potentially serve Russian Air Force or Navy dual-capable forces. But it could also be a joint site, potentially servicing nuclear warheads for both Air Force, Navy, Army, air-defense, and coastal defense forces in the region,” the reported added.

Kristensen told The Guardian that the bunker “has all the fingerprints” of Russia’s standard nuclear storage sites, and while there have been upgrades at the site in the past, none have been as “dramatic” as this one.

“There is a heavy-duty external perimeter of multilayered fencing,” he added. “The bunkers themselves have triple fencing around them as well. These are typical features from all the other nuclear weapons storage sites that we know about in Russia.”

In short, it’s not clear whether Russia is currently storing nuclear warheads at the facility or is planning to, but this shows the bunker is now an active site.

Moreover, these developments will likely increase concerns about Moscow’s nuclear activities in the region at a time of heightened tensions between NATO and the Kremlin, Kristensen told Business Insider.

The VA is set to lower copays for prescriptions
The Kremlin in Russia.

“The upgrade has been known to NATO for some time,” Kristensen said. “But it would appear to reaffirm Russia’s nuclear posturing in Kaliningrad and is likely to deepen eastern European concerns that Russia is increasing the role of nuclear weapons in the Baltic region.”

Back in March 2018, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russia had developed and was testing an array of new strategic nuclear-capable weapons he claimed could outmaneuver American defenses.

“I would like to tell those who have been trying to escalate the arms race for the past 15 years, to gain unilateral advantages over Russia, and to impose restrictions and sanctions… the attempt at curbing Russia has failed,” Putin said at the time.

Kaliningrad also happens to be a base for Russia’s Baltic fleet and is one of the venues for the 2018 World Cup.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Inside the 8,000-mile race to save a wounded soldier’s life

It all had to sync up perfectly.

As the heavy C-17 Globemaster III transport aircraft departed Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, and raced to its first aerial refueling point off the coast of England, more than a dozen U.S. airmen watched the clock, knowing the life of a badly wounded U.S. soldier hung in the balance.

The circumstances were dire. The special operations soldier, unidentified for privacy reasons, had been hit when an improvised explosive device detonated, fracturing his pelvis and gravely injuring his abdomen, arms and legs. It took three aircraft, 24,000 gallons of fuel and about two dozen gallons of blood to sustain the soldier during the 8,000-mile non-stop journey back to the U.S., where he required specialized care.


Nearly a month after the mission, the troops who participated in it are still in awe they were able to get the soldier home alive.

Also amazed is Asia, the special operator’s wife, who is eternally grateful at the way the military mobilized not for combat, but for her husband.

“I knew that they flew straight over, and I knew that they weren’t gonna stop — unless they absolutely had to,” Asia said in an interview with Military.com on Sept. 25, 2019. “They commit 110%.”

A Bona fide bloodline

Early on a Friday morning, Asia was getting ready to take her son to school in Savannah, Georgia, when she got a phone call.

For a moment, time stood still, she said.

The VA is set to lower copays for prescriptions

Lt. Col. Valerie Sams, 59th Medical Wing trauma surgeon, and Lt. Col. Scott King, 86th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron critical care air transport team physician, perform an ultrasound on a critically wounded service member during a flight from Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, to San Antonio on Aug. 18, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ryan Mancuso)

“At first, I just stood there, and then I started crying,” said Asia, who asked to be identified by only her first name. “You’re not prepared for this, if you understand what I’m saying. You’re more prepared for a death.”

She snapped back to reality, knowing she’d be waiting for any type of answers the military could provide for the next few days until her husband was back on U.S. soil.

Asia had been with her husband for nine years and married to him for seven. Eight of those years, he had been in the Army.

She knew he’d been hurt, and doctors in Afghanistan called or sent a text message any time they had an update.

Maj. Charlie Srivilasa, a trauma surgeon with the 455th Expeditionary Medical Group at Craig Joint Theater Hospital in Bagram, had already had a busy morning with multiple casualties coming in when the soldier arrived at the facility.

Grievously injured, the operator immediately became a priority.

“We probably had about five or six surgeons working on him at any given time,” Srivilasa said. In the three days before the soldier was transported, Srivilasa and his team performed four operations, including amputations of his right arm and lower right leg.

The frequent surgeries meant the patient needed a steady supply of fresh blood.

Roughly 100 troops stood in line to donate blood outside the hospital quarters.

Over the course of treatment at Bagram, the soldier received more than 195 units of transfused blood, including whole blood and plasma — some 16 times the volume of blood in the average person’s body.

A side effect of the massive transfusions was the possibility that his lungs could fail, said Srivilasa. The soldier also could have succumbed to infection from his wounds, he said.

“He was by far the most critically ill patient [we’ve] seen here in theater [in my] four months,” he said. Doctors knew the best thing was to put him on a plane to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, where specialized care would be waiting for him.

The VA is set to lower copays for prescriptions

Service members wait in line to donate blood at Craig Joint Theater Hospital at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, on Aug. 18, 2019, as part of a “walking blood bank” for a fellow service member being transferred to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ryan Mancuso)

Up in the air

Maj. Dan Kudlacz, a C-17 evaluator pilot with the 436th Airlift Wing out of Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, was at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, with a planned stop at Bagram that August weekend when he got word the mission would no longer mean picking up basic cargo. Kudlacz was the commander of REACH 797, the call sign for the mission, and one of four pilots and three loadmasters. One of the pilots in the group was also in training, meaning Kudlacz was working on certifying his fellow pilot in addition to keeping the aircraft steady.

At Ramstein, 18 medical professionals came on board, including personnel from Aeromedical Evacuation (AE) and Critical Care Air Transport Team (CCATT), as well as a team out of San Antonio’s 59th Medical Wing. Members of the 59th specialize in extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, known as ECMO.

ECMO machines oxygenate the blood and simultaneously removed carbon dioxide, explained Air Force Lt. Col. Valerie Sams, a trauma surgeon and one of the specialists dispatched for the flight.

“The ECMO team here in San Antonio is the only DoD team,” she said.

By the time the specialists arrived, fortunately, ECMO was no longer needed, she said. But kidney dialysis was.

“His kidneys did not recover immediately, so in order to stabilize him … we had to have dialysis continuously,” Sams said. The teams borrowed one of Craig Joint Theater Hospital’s dialysis machines for the return home.

The VA is set to lower copays for prescriptions

Capt. Natasha Cardinal, 86th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron critical care nurse, monitors her patient during a flight from Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, to San Antonio on Aug. 18, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ryan Mancuso)

Finishing up their necessary crew rest in Afghanistan, the personnel geared up for the 19-hour flight. Another patient also came on board; that service member was ambulatory, able to move about for the duration of the flight, Sams said.

Kudlacz said the aircrew consistently monitored speed and altitude, knowing there were sensitive medical machines on board keeping the soldier alive. The pilots kept a cruise altitude of 28,000 feet, a few thousand feet lower than expected. “Over a 19-hour flight, [that] can make a considerable change in your total fuel,” he said.

He added that, had the critical soldier taken a turn for the worse, the plan was to divert back to Germany.

Asia, the soldier’s wife, was praying that wouldn’t happen.

“I was told that, if they would have had to stop in Germany, it was because something medically was going wrong,” she said. Air Mobility Command’s 618th Air Operations Center, also known as the Tanker Airlift Control Center (TACC), stood by to provide backup assistance.

During the first refuel near England, there was a close call.

Connecting the C-17 to the KC-135 Stratotanker refueling boom almost sent the two aircraft bobbing and weaving. The KC-135, flying on autopilot — which controls the trajectory of the aircraft — started to change the plane’s pitch, which moves the nose up or down.

Kudlacz and his co-pilot disconnected, backed off and tried again.

“To make the situation even more challenging, it was at night, so you don’t have all the visual cues of a horizon. And then we just happened to be right at the top of a cloud layer,” he said.

In the back of the aircraft, the medical teams were monitoring the soldier’s oxygen level, ventilation, blood pressure and kidney function.

“Regular AE and CCATT [teams] cannot do renal replacement therapy; maybe there are some that have just isolated familiarity with the renal replacement machine,” said Lt. Col. Scott King, CCATT physician with the 10th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Flight at Ramstein.

With the help of the ECMO team, “I think it was a coordinated and collaborative effort among all of the members that brought in different pieces together to allow this mission to be accomplished,” King said.

The C-17 had eight hours until its next refuel near Bangor, Maine. Meanwhile, maintenance crew chiefs with the second KC-135 hurried to get the aircraft, which had a gauge problem on one of the engines, ready to fly, said Maj. Jeffery Osgood, chief of 6th Operations Group training and the aerial refueling mission commander from MacDill Air Force Base, Florida.

“Adapting to the mission is probably the biggest takeaway. It’s just making sure you have everything ready to go with all the people that you need and all the support from leadership,” Osgood said. A backup tanker was on standby just in case, AMC officials said.

The second tanker caught the C-17 around 2 a.m. Monday morning. Together, the two tankers offloaded 24,000 gallons of fuel.

The VA is set to lower copays for prescriptions

Lt. Col. Valerie Sams, 59th Medical Wing trauma surgeon, performs an ultrasound to monitor a patient during a direct flight from Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, to San Antonio on Aug. 18, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ryan Mancuso)

“I’ve been doing this for 23 years, and this [is] not something I’ve ever experienced,” said Master Sgt. Joseph Smith, an AE member with the 10th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Flight. The duration and double refuel was not an easy task for the parties involved, he said.

With the amount of equipment and coordination needed, “rarely does it ever work out so perfectly,” he said.

The next journey

Sams, the trauma surgeon, said she’s hopeful the soldier — who has required orthopedic treatment as well as treatment in the burn unit — will be out of intensive care soon. He has months of physical therapy ahead, she said.

Asia is relocating her family to Texas to be closer to her husband as he goes through treatment.

This “is a new normal,” she said. “It’s about four to five months inside the hospital, and then, after that, I would say it’s another six months. So I would say it’s [going to be] a year total.”

Their son will stay with family and friends in Illinois for the next few weeks until Asia and her husband feel he’s ready.

“It’s just a process,” she said. “[But] I feel as though his determination to live and to fight, to come back home, to see me and to see his son has been the number one thing that has kept him alive; and then the good Lord and all the doctors and the medical team.”

She’ll never forget their persistence to save his life.

“They literally put their whole heart in it, their body and soul, and they do what they need to do to get loved ones back [home],” Asia said.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

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The Navy just named a destroyer after this Marine Corps hero

The first African-American to earn aviator wings in the Marine Corps and the first one to receive a brigadier general star in the Corps has been honored as the namesake of the Navy’s upcoming DDG 121, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer.


The VA is set to lower copays for prescriptions
The Marine Corps’ first African-American aviator and first African-American general officer, Lt. Gen. Frank E. Petersen. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps courtesy photo)

Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Frank E. Petersen, Jr. joined the Navy in 1950 and was commissioned as a Marine officer in 1952. He served in Korea and Vietnam before retiring in 1988. Before his retirement, he was the senior-most aviator in the Marine Corps and the Department of the Navy.

During his time in Korea and Vietnam, Petersen flew over 350 combat missions. He flew more than 4,000 hours during his career and was shot down over Vietnam in 1968. His awards include the Navy Distinguished Service Medal, the Distinguished Service Medal, and the Distinguished Flying Cross.

“The courage and perseverance of Lt. Gen. Petersen throughout his distinguished and ground-breaking career make him especially deserving of this honor,” Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus said. “Those who serve aboard DDG 121 will, for decades, carry on the storied legacy of this Marine Corps hero.”

The VA is set to lower copays for prescriptions
An illustration of the USS Lt. Gen. Frank E. Petersen during a Nov. 9 ceremony unveiling the future destroyer. (Photo: Department of Defense live stream screenshot)

The USS Lt. Gen. Frank E. Petersen, Jr. is expected to reach the fleet in 2020 and will have the mission to fight against threats from the air, surface ships, and underwater vessels. The ship will be built according to Flight IIA configuration which features improved anti-air capabilities through updated AEGIS missile systems.

The newest versions of the Flight IIA configurations allow these ships to defend against multiple incoming missiles at once. The USS John Paul Jones shot down three missile targets at nearly the same moment in a 2014 test.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Veteran-owned business, Triple Nikel, pays homage to roots

The military is known for its diversity among service members. But veteran-branded apparel doesn’t typically reflect that. Introducing Triple Nikel.

Ruben Ayala is a retired Green Beret and owner of San Antonio Healthy Vending in Texas. He had long felt veterans who looked like him weren’t really seen for their service. As he watched the violence and racial divisiveness overtaking the country in the wake of police-involved shootings against Black Americans and watched the outrage over athletes kneeling during the National Anthem, Ayala felt called to do something. He felt compelled to change the narrative of people of color and who they are.

After taking a road trip over the summer with a few Army buddies, Ayala and his friends started sketching ideas for a business. Ultimately, they wanted to create apparel that spoke to all veterans, not just a percentage of them that looked a certain way. The guys especially wanted to highlight the stories of minorities and celebrate the beauty of diversity. Triple Nikel was born. “That was the formulation of it, to send a positive message and tell a different story,” Ayala said. 

Founded by Ayala, Curtez Riggs, Rod Graham and Christopher McPhee – all Army veterans – the business name has a special and historical significance. “The idea came to me from our forefathers. All of the founders in the company, we all started as paratroopers in the 82nd Airborne Division. The 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion was the only Airborne unit that people of color could serve in when the Army was segregated,” Ayala explained. A test unit during World War II, they went by the nickname ‘Triple Nickels.’ “It was only fitting to create a company that amplified stories of those who came before us.”

They received the blessing of the 555th Association with the only request being that they altered the spelling to avoid any legal issues. 

Although Ayala knows people could just shrug and say they are just selling t-shirts, he shared that the company is much more than just apparel. “The first thing we want to do with the company is to start a conversation…what we’ve done in 90 days is that we’ve taken four proven leaders who are minorities and we’re taking our stories and amplifying them,” he explained. “We want to change the narrative of what veteran service looks like…You served, too. Anybody can put themselves in women’s shoes or my shoes and can relate to that statement.”

With so many veteran apparel companies creating clothing showcasing things like guns, women in minimal clothing or curse words, Triple Nikel knew they had an opportunity to do something unique. “We really really want to reach the youth that are wanting to serve. If I am a 17 year-old kid looking online for military apparel, I am going to quickly realize that those visuals don’t look like me,” Ayala said. “We want to be able to provide visuals that everyone can relate to. Women, people of color … it doesn’t matter what socioeconomic background you come from. We also want to prove that you don’t have to be the coolest guy in the world with the biggest muscles, biggest beard or the most tattoos to be a veteran.”

Not only does their clothing showcase a diverse side of being a veteran, their apparel also caters beyond one branch of service. “A lot of companies are really segregating certain services and I don’t know why. Everybody should be proud of their service; it doesn’t matter how you did it. We want to amplify that,” Ayala said. 

Triple Nikel launched on Veterans Day, only 90 days after four Army veterans had sketched out their idea for the business. For them, it’s more than an apparel company. It’s a way of life. The founders hope that through their designs and apparel, they can change the narrative of what a veteran may look like and who they are. Their motto is ‘We served, too.’ It’s intentional and direct in order to spread the message that although veterans like them may not be seen as often, they matter. 

To learn more about Triple Nikel and to check out their apparel, click here.

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Hilarious Hoax: A drunken sailor didn’t use a raccoon to pass a breathalyzer test

A hilarious incident report involving a Navy sailor using a raccoon to pass a breathalyzer test so he could drive his car home  was passed around on the internet like wildfire this week, but … it was too good to be true: It’s all a hoax.


A few days ago, WATM noticed an image being passed around, purportedly from an incident report from Camp Pendleton police, telling the full story of what happened after a sailor left the bar in San Diego. Here it is:

The VA is set to lower copays for prescriptions

We were skeptical, though we read it and basically went all Ron Burgundy afterward (“I’m not even mad, that’s amazing”). It sounded quite unbelievable, and it also had a suspicious watermark in the background. The watermark reads, “Always Watching, JTTOTS,” the tagline and acronym for a Marine-focused Facebook page called Just The Tip, of the Spear.

Since it picked up steam and has hit quite a few websites — including making international news — journalists reached out to the military for comment on the incident (We’d love to know how these calls went). Here’s what they said:

“While humorous, it’s not real,” Eric Durie, spokesman for Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, told the New York Daily News.

“I called police records, and while they were highly entertained, they confirmed (the story) is absolutely a hoax,” 1st. Lt. Savannah Frank, a public affairs officer at Camp Pendleton, told the San Diego Union-Tribune.

So this story may not be true, but we have a strong feeling a drunk sailor will someday be inspired to try this.

NOW A REAL STORY: Marine gets arrested for throwing drunken foam party in Air Force hangar

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