Getting Veterans The Medicine They Need

The July 10, 2014 Hearing of the Kentucky Assembly Interim Joint Committee on Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Protection focused on Veteran Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. There were three representatives testifying for the Veterans Health Administration. They were from the Louisville Veterans Affairs Hospital, in the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Program there. They testified that there are 350,000 cases of PTSD among Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans. They also testified about the many therapies and drugs they use to treat Veteran Post Traumatic Stress and that these therapies and drugs are minimally effective at best.
Veterans at the hearing testified that medical cannabis used by thousands of Veterans in Medical Cannabis States to deal with their PTSD report cannabis is very effective in controlling and relieving their symptoms. Many reject the drugs proffered by the Veterans Administration in favor of cannabis simply because it works and without the horrible side effects they experience when using pharmaceutical drugs. Veteran patients, recently applying for the New Mexico Medical Cannabis Program, report a 70% reduction in symptoms when using medical cannabis. Additionally the Vietnam Veterans Longitudinal Study recently reported that there are 283,000 cases of PTSD among Vietnam Veterans giving us a reported total of 633,000 cases of PTSD. This does not include Korean, Gulf War or Cold War Veterans.
Will the Veterans Administration listen? There are some signs that they are. The VA has recently issued guidelines for dealing with Veteran medical cannabis patients and no longer demands they give up their medical cannabis to be treated by a VA pain doctor. While this is some progress, it is not the ultimate goal which is for the VA to provide medical cannabis for its Veteran patients.
There is hope! A legal case over the Scheduling of cannabis as Schedule I, dangerous and having no medical value is currently in progress. Should it result in a classification of anything less than Schedule I, it could allow VA doctors to prescribe it for their Veteran patients. Also there is a PTSD/Cannabis study approved to go forward but is temporarily on hold. Once it begins the science will most certainly show there is no excuse for denying Veteran patients access to this effective medicine.
We hear our legislators and would be legislators on the campaign trail saying all the time, “Anything for our Veterans” and “They deserve all we can do for them”. Well Gentlemen and Ladies, your Veterans need access to medical cannabis now. Not tomorrow, but right now. On this Veterans Day, how about your actions match your words. How about passing legislation that will make this medicine available to those who by their devotion and sacrifice, in your words many times over, “Deserve all we can give them.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

What Will They Do If Elected? Read The Platform!

Kentucky is considered a Republican State. The voters have overwhelmingly elected Republican candidates at the Federal level. To do this requires many in the lower half of the economic spectrum to vote Republican. Even though Republican economic policy mostly hurts the middle class and the poor, Republicans have managed to get the votes needed to come out on top. Democrats at the State level have control of the House and the Republicans control the Senate. The upcoming midterm elections have Republicans thinking they can take the House and are dreaming of the Governorship when the term of Governor Beshear is over.
Kentucky Republicans, in two articles in the September 3rd and 13th, 2014 editions of the Kentucky Enquirer, have released the Republican platform for the November elections. Republicans are calling it,’ Handshake with Kentucky’. I’m not sure who they are going to be shaking hands with, but the creators of the Kentucky Republican platform will not be shaking hands with me or anybody else at the lower end of Kentucky’s economy any time soon.
Republicans with this platform are doubling down on policies that benefit Kentucky’s wealthy at the expense of Kentucky’s poorest. Specifically they talk about repealing the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. This would shut down the KYNECT health insurance exchange and take health insurance away from roughly 500,000 of Kentucky’s citizens who now have health insurance as a result of the Affordable Care Act, (Obamacare). Republicans want a constitutional amendment that would, “prohibit any person, employer or healthcare provider from being compelled to participate in any healthcare system”. Not only do they not want the Federal Government to help you get Health Insurance, but they want it to have the force of law!
They announced they want to pass a so called, “right to work’ bill which has nothing to do with the right to work and everything to do with weakening the power of Unions to protect worker rights and wages. States (mostly red) with these kinds of laws have overall lower wages and benefits than States without them. Eliminating the Union eliminates protections for all workers not just Union members!
They want to create a board to review your malpractice claim before it can go forward. Never mind that a judge does this already, they want another level of scrutiny before you can sue for damage. I wonder if there will be patients or business types populating these review boards?
As always they want to cut taxes again. We just had a shortfall of the last budget so it is hard to imagine how cutting taxes will help matters. In Kansas with a Republican controlled Legislature and Republican Governor, they went tax cutting crazy and have caused panic because the State’s credit rating has been lowered 3 times by their actions. We do not need any financial shenanigans like that here.
Republicans will oppose any raise of the minimum wage here in Kentucky and at the Federal level. Since a raise in the minimum wage generally raises all wages over time, this little provision will hurt most of Kentucky’s working citizens.
Yep, the midterm elections are shaping up to be a referendum on which of our citizens will be represented in Frankfort and Washington. The wealthy, who have benefitted immensely from Republican economic policies to the detriment of the vast majority of our citizens, or the poor and middle class whose wages have been flat since Reagan was President? Will poor and middle class voters wake up and realize the power and value of their vote? Will they wake up and realize that there is not one economic policy in the Republican State Party platform that benefits anyone on the lower half of Kentucky’s economic ladder? We shall see in November.
The voters who are paying attention realize that in the end it always comes down to the money. Republicans in leadership recognize this and despite all the uproar about social issues, vote on their wallets. Kentucky’s poor and middle class should recognize this and do the same. Our wallets may not be as fat as that of the Republicans but our votes count just as much. Maybe it’s time our citizens on the lower end of the economic spectrum use the power of their vote to level the economic waters currently so out of balance.
Those of us who struggle every day to feed our families and make ends meet have the power to stop the inequality imposed and supported by Republican economic policies. Those who think it matters little how they vote need to awaken to the reality that, similar to Kentucky’s State motto, United we stand, divided we get ripped off!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Let Us Finish The Work

A country as wealthy as America should not have a problem with poverty. We should have a basic income for all citizens as a right of citizenship. Eliminate the cap on Social Security taxable income and expand it to all adults. Start accounts for all newborns that they get when they finish school to get started in life. Four year college for all students who can, and tech school for those who can’t. We can do and afford it all if we only have the will!
There are a few countries that do this and similar stuff for their citizens. These countries weathered the recession better than we did!!! Check out Denmark, they do all kinds of stuff for their citizens and before you complain about high taxes think about this. Our companies are complaining that we have the highest corporate tax rate of all modern countries. So how do these countries do these things with low taxes? Simple, they do not let corporations weasel out of paying their fair share like we do.
The blowback I got from those who are well off, (remember 93% of our wealthy folks inherited their wealth), is that if people have a basic income they will not work, but if that is true why do military retirees, who can retire at 38 with a generous pension, still work? Why do social security recipients still work?
A basic income for all would allow us to eliminate the social safety net the rich seem to always complain about. Workers would not have to work to keep from starving and as a result businesses would have to bid for our labor instead of us begging them for a job! You wouldn’t hear about a minimum wage as I imagine the bidding for workers might eliminate that.
Sounds good on this Labor Day! Here’s a plan for taking back from Businesses’ and Corporation’s the dignity and value our work should produce. Here’s a plan for boosting the spending power of the poor and middle class and leaving behind the failed and greedy policy of Supply Side, or ‘Trickle Down’ Economics which has damaged our economy and brought about the latest version of the Great Recession.
Yep we can do it all if we only have the will. We can make this country live up to its promise as articulated by Franklin Roosevelt in his Four Freedoms. We have accomplished 3 of these freedoms, freedom of speech and worship, and freedom from fear. Now we have the power to accomplish the last of these freedoms, freedom from want. The mechanics are already in place. The tools are available to us. Let us make a better country and thereby a better world by finishing the work Mr. Roosevelt set us on some 73 years ago. Let us end poverty and financial inequality in America once and for all.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Veteran PTSD Epidemic Calls For Action

The results of the National Vietnam Veteran Longitudinal Study presented at the American Psychology Association convention on August 8 2014 show there are 283,000 active cases of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder among Vietnam Veterans. Earlier this year, during the Kentucky Assembly Interim Session Joint Hearing of the Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Protection Committee held July 10, 2014, focusing on Veteran PTSD cases, 3 representatives from the Veterans Affairs Hospital in Louisville who work extensively with Veteran PTSD patients testified. They reported that there are 350,000 cases of PTSD among Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans. VA Guidelines for PTSD call for psychotherapy ranging from counseling and group therapy to exposure and cognitive therapies. These are educational therapies that would help in most mental health situations. Then they went on to list the drugs. Drugs with familiar names such as Paxil and Zoloft, Klonopin, Xanax and Prozac were named. They listed antidepressants, mood stabilizers, atypical antipsychotics, anticonvulsants, anxiolytics and sleep aids, not to mention the various pain medications as many of these Veterans also suffer from physical as well as mental pain. They went on to say there is no medication that works for PTSD. The reported cases of PTSD totaling 633,000, does not include Korean, Gulf War or any Veterans of the small engagements of the Cold War.
Veterans suffering from PTSD that live in States having medical cannabis laws are using cannabis as treatment for their condition. These Veterans as reported by groups such as Veterans for Medical Cannabis Access (VMAC), relate stories of relief from many of the symptoms of PTSD. Many claim medical cannabis has allowed them the first decent night’s sleep since the onset of their PTSD and rely on it as their main and perhaps only effective medication. Indeed, Veterans applying for the New Mexico Medical Cannabis program report a 70% reduction in symptoms when using medical cannabis.
What should be done? Considering that, Veterans in medical cannabis States are using medical cannabis with great success and that almost half the States currently have medical cannabis laws and that the number of cases of PTSD among Veterans is of epidemic proportions, we call on the Veterans Administration to begin immediately to provide medical whole plant cannabis to Veterans suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Currently the Federal Government provides tins of medical cannabis to survivors of the old Compassionate Care Program. These patients receive a tin of 300 cannabis cigarettes every month and it would be quite simple to expand this program to Veterans living in States without medical cannabis laws. For Veterans in medical cannabis States the VA could simply do a voucher with the local Cannabis Pharmacies to provide the medicine these Veterans sorely need.
We also call on the VA to immediately begin a study of the effectiveness of medical cannabis in treating the many symptoms of PTSD. Dr. Sue Sisley of the University of Arizona has managed to clear every hurdle placed in front of her in her quest to do a PTSD study of Veterans and cannabis. For the first time in 77 years the Government is actually providing the cannabis! Certainly if a civilian can shepherd a cannabis study through every hurdle placed in front of it by the Federal Government, then the Veterans Administration, a branch of the Federal Government should be able to!
Cannabis is currently listed as Schedule1, Dangerous and having no medical value. This rating was temporary in 1970 when the Controlled Substances Act was passed and it is still temporary to this day. A simple rescheduling of cannabis to Schedule 2 or lower, which can be accomplished by a signature of the President or Attorney General, would allow the Veterans Administration to provide this desperately needed medicine to the heroes who undoubtedly deserve it.
There is plenty that can be done! We call on the President, Congress, the Attorney General and the Veterans Administration to, ‘Git to doing it!’

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Dire Circumstances, Epidemic Numbers

On July 10th 2014 three representatives from the Louisville Veterans Affairs Hospital testified before the Kentucky Assembly Interim Session Hearing of the Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Protection Committee. The VA Representatives testified that although they use many mental health therapies and dozens of pharmaceuticals to treat Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, there is no medicine that works for PTSD. They reported that there are 350,000 cases of PTSD among Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans. This does not count the results of the National Vietnam Veterans Longitudinal Study the findings of which were presented at the American Psychological Association on August 9, 2014. That study found 283,000 active cases of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder among Vietnam Veterans. Added to the cases reported by the VA for Iraq and Afghanistan and we are now talking about 633,000 active cases of PTSD. Korean, Gulf War and Veterans of the many conflicts of the Cold War are not included in this number. In all we could be looking at three quarters of a million active cases of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder based entirely on the VA’s own numbers!
The recent outbreak of the Ebola virus in West Africa saw one of the brave doctors working to contain the outbreak infected with the disease and close to losing his life. The medical authorities allowed those treating the doctor to try an experimental medicine never tried on humans derived from the tobacco plant. To the relief of all concerned it seems to have worked. The doctor is recovering and the medicine is being looked at as a breakthrough in the treatment of the virus. Dire circumstances prompted the action that saved the doctor. The medicine could have just as easily hurt as helped the patient.
The situation with Veteran Post traumatic Stress Disorder is just as dire and given the number of cases approaching three quarters of a million Veterans, could be considered epidemic. The VA in dealing with this epidemic has used every conventional mental health therapy and pharmaceutical they can with minimal to zero effect. The VA itself, as it did in the Kentucky hearing, reports there is no medicine effective for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The VA would be correct in their reporting except for the fact that there is a medicine that is effective for PTSD and unlike the experimental Ebola medicine, has been used for thousands of years by humans with complete safety. Thousands of Veterans use medical cannabis to treat their PTSD in the States having medical cannabis laws all across the nation and they report it’s efficacy in treating their PTSD. As was reported in the Kentucky hearing by the two Veterans who testified, medical cannabis has returned to them a quality of life in dealing with their condition that no medicine or therapy provided by the VA has been able to give them.
Veterans, pointing out the magnitude of the epidemic of PTSD, are calling for the immediate implementation of a program to provide medical cannabis to Veterans suffering with PTSD and to begin a study aimed at determining the benefits of medical cannabis for PTSD and any other conditions which might benefit from cannabis therapy.
The sacrifice of these Veterans, which continues for some till death, and the huge number of cases demands that we do everything our power to relieve and mitigate the suffering of these heroes. The Vietnam Veterans Longitudinal Study showed that the risk of early death among Vietnam Veterans with PTSD is twice as high as those without the condition and for many Veterans is a life long struggle. Their circumstances are no less dire than that of the infected Doctor. We have the medicine. Let us begin immediately to do the ethical work required to get this medicine to those who need and deserve it.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Cannabis Prohibition, Can We Just Stop?

The New York Times, a paper that has many times printed articles endorsing the prohibition of cannabis and editorializing in favor of continuing this prohibition has thrown in the towel. Sunday July 27 2014 saw the end of that position. The Editorial Board of the Times ran an editorial calling for the end of cannabis prohibition. The Times joins several conservative publications such as The National Review in this position.
The Times rightly considered the evidence and decided prohibition is a failure and the time has come for full legalization on the Federal level. Public opinion has moved on this issue over the last twenty years and at this time the majority of Americans favor, not just medical cannabis, but full legalization for the industrial, medical and recreational use of marijuana.
The Office of Drug Control Policy, (ONDCP), responded of course. Their response was what you would expect, vague assertions of negative outcomes when using cannabis for any reason. Interestingly, as public knowledge of cannabis and its many uses become common, the ONDCP has become more selective in it’s predictions of doom and gloom. They cited 4 talking points as the reasons for continuing the total prohibition of cannabis.
1. Marijuana affects the developing brain. This one started in 2009 when Gordon Brown was Prime Minister of England. He wanted to raise the penalties for cannabis claiming marijuana caused mental illness and schizophrenia. He was trying to gin up votes from the Conservatives. His Chief Medical Advisor quit over it. Since then, with no evidence to support it, this notion has devolved to, ‘Cannabis causes schizophrenia in teens’, and from that to, ‘cognitive impairment in the developing brain’. None of this has any solid evidence to support it.
2. Marijuana has a detrimental effect on academic achievement. Students who get d’s and f’s are more likely to be cannabis users. Ok. Let’s just say that having low grades are also more likely to come from teenagers living in dysfunctional circumstances. Which came first, dysfunctional families or cannabis use? Most likely the dysfunctional family.
These first two points are moot anyway because cannabis will still remain illegal for persons under 21.
3. Marijuana is addictive. Yes cannabis is somewhat addictive in the same way ice cream or Twinkies or television can be addictive and we haven’t made them illegal to save the citizens from them.
4. Drugged driving is a threat to our roadways. This one’s easy to debunk. Like the schizophrenia claim, one has only to ask, “Where are the bodies?” Just as there no numbers supporting the schizophrenia claim there is no increase in traffic accidents to support this claim either. Seventeen years of Californians accessing cannabis and no numbers showing any increase in accidents. Reliable studies show cannabis users get into accidents at the same rate as straight drivers.
There you have it! Seventy seven years of propaganda and the suppression of personal freedom and it all comes down to 4 talking points debunked easier than debunking a claim that water is not wet! The prohibition of cannabis has been as dismal a failure as the 13 year prohibition of alcohol was. We have destroyed millions of lives and wasted billions in treasure and for what? Can we just stop it now?

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Veterans Administration Lacks Will for Post Traumatic Stress Study

At the recent Kentucky General Assembly Interim Session Hearing of the Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Protection Committee the issue at the heart of the proceeding and taking up the last half of the hearing was Veterans and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Three representatives of the Louisville VA specializing in PTSD were on hand along with 2 Veteran PTSD sufferers.
The VA discussed the many different therapies they use to treat PTSD along with the various conditions that sometimes accompany patients with PTSD, especially depression and addiction. The VA representatives cited a number of 350,000 current cases of PTSD however, this number only counts Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans and does not include Korean or Vietnam War Veterans. The total number of cases is likely closer to a half million Veterans.
VA guidelines for PTSD cover psychotherapy ranging from counseling and group therapy, to exposure and cognitive therapy. These are all educational therapies that would help in most mental health situations. Then they listed the drugs. Drugs with familiar names such as Paxil and Zoloft, Klonopin and Xanax were named. They listed antidepressants, mood stabilizers, atypical antipsychotics, anticonvulsants, anxiolytics and sleep aids not to mention pain meds as most of these patients suffer from physical as well as mental pain. The VA representatives went on to say there is no medication that specifically treats Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
When asked about medical cannabis for PTSD, the representatives of the Veterans Administration stated the old saw that there is no research. That it might work but there are no studies stating so.
The two Veterans to testify were myself, and Vietnam Combat Veteran Danny Belcher. He spoke about suffering PTSD after participating in horrific combat and suffering physically with a broken back and other injuries. He told of alcoholism as a result of trying to live with the PTSD. Of having been through the VA mill of treatment and being buried in pills. Then he discovered that cannabis used therapeutically, eliminated the need for the majority of the pharmaceuticals he had been prescribed and left him with clarity of mind and a vastly improved quality of life.
After Danny, I spoke and started by informing the Committee that the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Department of Kentucky, having ratified a medical cannabis resolution, supports Veteran access to medical cannabis. I was also able to inform them that the PTSD study at the University of Arizona was all set. That for the first time in 77 years the Federal Government is providing the cannabis for the study. The study is currently on hold due to a problem with the University but on the federal level the study is ready to go. I also informed them that preliminary information of the New Mexico Medical Cannabis Program has Veteran Patients reporting a 70% reduction in PTSD symptoms when using medical cannabis.
My own story with the exception that my PTSD is from childhood sexual abuse and not combat, is remarkably similar to Danny’s. I also went through alcoholism, street drugs and various forms of treatment. I knew the effectiveness of medical cannabis but until I retired I could not avail myself of it. Now I am living with a good quality of life and managing my conditions, PTSD and chronic pain from degenerative disc disease as a result of using medical cannabis.
There we were, Danny and I telling them that here is a medicine that accompanied with therapy really works. And there the VA was saying, we can’t listen to you! All I could think was what it will take to get the VA to listen and to act!
I had always suspected I had PTSD but I hadn’t been given the test for it. At a routine appointment about 7 years ago I was administered the test. I failed 3 of 4 questions. They sent me to a psychiatrist and technician. I told the psychiatrist the whole 50 year struggle with PTSD and how I had used medical cannabis to deal with the condition and that life was pretty well ok. He looked at me and said, “Well seems to me you are doing alright. I can’t write it down but keep doing what you are doing and call us if you need us.” Until the Veterans Administration is able to ‘write it down’ there will be no progress on medical cannabis as therapy to treat Veterans for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
The claim of the Veterans Administration that there are no studies on PTSD is a bit misleading. The Israelis’ have studied cannabis extensively and provide it to their Veterans for PTSD, as do the Canadians. We are allies so I’m sure they both would probably be more than happy to share their research. The VA itself uses Veteran information for all kinds of studies and there is a large Veteran population to draw study subjects from. I venture to say they would be quite willing to participate.
The Veterans Administration could mount a study tomorrow if it deemed it necessary. The University of Arizona under the direction of Dr. Sue Sisley has cleared every hurdle placed in front of it by the Federal Bureaucracy and is ready to go. If a civilian agency can mount a study in the face of Government obstructionism, then there should be no problem with the VA doing so. With a patient population of PTSD sufferers approaching half a million Veterans and the numerous anecdotal reports of Veterans having success using medical cannabis, one would think the VA would be chomping at the bit to do a study.
It is disappointing that the Veterans Administration is not listening to it’s patients and at least trying to do a study instead of throwing their hands up in surrender and not listening to the very Veteran patients they are supposed to be serving. As Veterans we should demand the Veterans Administration stop this ridiculous policy of ignoring the benefits of medical cannabis and begin immediately to mount a study of medical cannabis and it’s effects in treating Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. For the VA to have knowledge of a medicine that can mitigate the suffering of a half million patients and to not at least check out efficacy of medical cannabis is a slap in the face to every Veteran suffering from this insidious condition.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment