- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

I know that you are very interested in the safety of visually impaired veterans when taking their prescriptions. You understand all too well the danger of not reading prescription labels and the possibility of making a tragic mistake. As you know, the ScripTalk Talking Prescription System is now installed in all VA Medical Centers in U.S. There are tens of thousands of veterans receiving their prescriptions with an audible label that allows them to hear their prescription label information. Thanks for your help in getting the word out on this very important service.

I also wanted to give you an update on the private sector, and our progress in making this technology available to others outside the VA. More and more pharmacy chains and independent pharmacies are now offering ScripTalk as a value-added service to their visually impaired patients. We are now positively impacting the health and well-being of all visually impaired folks in the nation.

Thank you again for your positive contribution in making accessible prescriptions a reality inside and outside the VA.

David Raistrick
Envision America

Dear Dave:

I have been one of the blinded vets that have taken advantage of your wonderful product; however it is disgraceful that President Obama and his minions have not given the civilian blind the opportunity to take advantage of this product.

When I receive prescriptions from the VA, because of your product, I hear the name of the prescription and the instructions on how to take the medication. Mr. President and members of Congress, please make sure the civilian blind can also take their prescriptions safely.

Shaft notes

• The Sarge is hoping that Joe Vet gets help from this study.

The Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense (DoD) are investing more than $100 million in research to improve diagnosis and treatment of mild Traumatic Brain Injury (mTBI) and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

“At VA, ensuring that our veterans receive quality care is our highest priority,” said Secretary Eric K. Shinseki. “Investing in innovative research that will lead to treatments for PTSD and TBI is critical to providing the care our veterans have earned and deserve.”

The two groups, The Consortium to Alleviate PTSD (CAP) and the Chronic Effects of Neurotrauma Consortium (CENC), will be jointly managed by VA and by the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs (CDMRP), on behalf of the DoD.

More than 15 percent of service members and veterans suffer impaired functioning as a result of PTSD. CAP will study potential indicators of the trauma, as well as prevention strategies, possible interventions and improved treatments. Biomarker-based researched will be a key factor for CAP’s studies.

A primary goal of CENC is to establish an understanding of the aftereffects of an mTBI. Potential comorbidities also will be studied; that is, conditions associated with and worsen because of a neurotrauma.

“PTSD and mTBI are two of the most prevalent injuries suffered by our war fighters in Iraq and Afghanistan, and identifying better treatments for those impacted is critical,” said Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, Dr. Jonathan Woodson. “These consortia will bring together leading scientists and researchers devoted to the health and welfare of our nation’s service members and veterans.”

On Aug. 31, President Obama signed an executive order to improve access to mental health services for veterans, service members and military families. As part of that executive order, the president directed the Department of Defense, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Education to develop a National Research Action Plan that will include strategies to improve early diagnosis and treatment effectiveness for TBI and PTSD. He further directed the Department of Defense and Department of Health and Human Services to conduct a comprehensive mental health study with an emphasis on PTSD, TBI, and related injuries to develop better prevention, diagnosis and treatment options.

VA, which has the largest integrated health care system in the country, also has one of the largest medical research programs. This year, approximately 3,400 researchers will work on more than 2,300 projects with nearly $1.9 billion in funding.

Specific information on the consortia, including the full description of each award, eligibility and submission deadlines, and general application instructions, are posted on the Grants.gov and CDMRP websites (http://www.grants.gov and http://cdmrp.army.mil, respectively).

• Other VA mental health initiatives include two U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs public awareness campaigns designed to help veterans who seek mental health care assistance. The campaigns have received 43 industry and association awards for communication and design excellence.

“We are pleased that these campaigns have been recognized for creative and design excellence,” Mr. Shinseki said. “More importantly, they have been effective in helping us address two of our highest priorities – mental health care and suicide prevention.”

The Veterans Crisis Line and Make the Connection campaigns strive to reach veterans and their families and friends wherever they are. Using state-of-the-art online and communications tools, the campaigns have increased awareness of critical VA resources available to veterans and their families and friends dealing with crises or other mental health challenges.

The Veterans Crisis Line has released three PSAs that collectively earned 570 million television impressions since March 2011. The last two PSAs have consistently ranked in the top 5 percent of PSAs tracked by Nielsen.

Additionally, through its suicide prevention outreach plan, VA is creating a network of collaborating partners to spread the word, strategically placing advertising, rebranding the website and developing new collateral materials.

More than 650,000 callers have called the crisis line and over 440,000 of these callers have identified themselves as veterans or family members or friends of veterans. There have been more than 23,000 rescues of actively suicidal veterans to date.

Send letters to Sgt. Shaft, c/o John Fales, P.O. Box 65900, Washington, D.C. 20035-5900; fax 301/622-3330, call 202/257-5446 or email sgtshaft@bavf.org.