Metro-East News

Roger That: Senator calls for Department of Justice probe of alleged VA pay scam

The top Democrat on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee is calling for the Department of Justice to investigate allegations of misconduct at the Veterans Administration after a watchdog found that officials there have used their positions for personal gain, according to Stars and Stripes.

“This scheme to defraud taxpayers and manipulate the system is, unfortunately, only the latest example of unacceptable misconduct by VA employees. This behavior is unacceptable for any federal employee, but it is particularly egregious in this case because it evinces a mindset that puts veterans last,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said in a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch.

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The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, while still serving as the commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, has recommended that women be excluded from competing for certain front-line combat jobs, even as other military services are expected to allow women to serve in battlefield posts, according to the Associated Press.

Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, while still commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, has submitted his recommendation to Navy Secretary Ray Mabus. Mabus has made it clear he opposes the proposal and has recommended that women be allowed to compete for any Navy or Marine Corps combat jobs.

The developments have raised questions about whether Mabus can veto the Marine Corps proposal to prohibit women from serving in certain infantry and reconnaissance positions. And it puts Dunford in the position of defending an exclusion in his own service that the Army, Navy, Air Force and U.S. Special Operations Command have suggested isn’t warranted in theirs.

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A new study points to a biomarker that might bring researchers a little closer to the goal of better predicting—and perhaps treating—PTSD and suicide risk: a gene called SKA2, according to the website

Biomarkers, short for “biological markers,” are measurable indicators of health or disease, things like blood cholesterol or antibody levels. Many biomarkers don’t provide a definitive diagnosis of disease, but—in conjunction with other health information—can indicate risk, and also possible avenues of treatment.

Scientists are actively searching for biomarkers that may indicate early signs of diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, lung cancer, and, in this case, risk of suicide. “In the past, we’ve relied on self-reporting to estimate suicide risk—veterans telling us when they have depression or symptoms of PTSD,” says Sadeh. “The field is looking for more objective measurements, and that’s where biomarkers come in.”

Mike Fitzgerald: 618-239-2533, @MikeFitz3000