color: SOME SOLDIER'S MOM: February 2008

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Pure Crap: Veterans' Mental Health Treatment First Act

Updated with additional links 2/27/08
My friend Maggie pointed me to this Opinion Piece (thanks Maggie!)

Sally Satel, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (just what is a resident scholar?? Do they LIVE there?) wrote this opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal in which she (once again) posits that veterans who receive disability compensation for the VA have no incentive to receive treatment... that, in effect, if you compensate an individual for his mental health disability, you are paying him to be ill.

And don't be fooled by this statement in the OpEd: "Last year the Government Accountability Office, the President's Commission on Care for America's Returning Wounded Warriors, and the Veterans' Disability Benefits Commission all urged that the disability, compensation and rehabilitation benefits systems be reformed and updated." While it's true that the GAO and these two commissions recommended many reforms, THIS legislation is not in response to those recommendations to come out of the reports and studies. This is just one of Dr. Satel's little pet theories she's willing to try out on Veterans. I watched her testimony before the House Veterans' Affairs Committee last May and pointed out
Dr. Satel's (and others') clueless testimony then.

This scholar (how do you get to be designated a "scholar" and I'm not clear exactly what subject she is actually a "scholar"... Does a 5-year medical residency -- where PTSD may have been one of any number of neuropsychiatric disorders afflicting her patients make you a scholar on the many manifestations of combat-induced PTSD?? I digress.) Dr. Satel -- whose admirers love to cast her as the maverick challenging the establishment (how terribly '60's!) -- has been carping ("that posttraumatic stress disorder is a straightforward diagnosis... She questions... and speculates on why they are perpetuated. The case of combat veterans will be discussed with emphasis on the implications for failing to consider alternative explanations (and treatments) for post event phenomena." Yah.) and whining about PTSD in veterans for many years. This latest pronouncement in the WSJ is nothing more than a position she (and the Senator) have been promoting for a number of years (see the VA Watchdog site; see also, this Vietnam Veterans of America article.) Only this time they're disguising it as the Veterans' Mental Health Treatment First Act (Search S.2573 at for brief text.)

They like to characterize this latest proposed legislation as "helping wounded veterans" -- but that is far from the truth. For a person who has decried the "victimization" mentality, she and the Senator are doing a damn fine job of victimizing veterans with PTSD.

It is clear that this woman DOES NOT GET IT. Her AEI biography says she worked as "Staff psychiatrist, West Haven (CT) VA Medical Center, 1988-1993" although the Wiki bio says, "She completed her residency in psychiatry at Yale University between 1988 and 1993" so I assume she conducted her residency at the VA (that means she graduated from medical school and got to "practice" at the VA. Other than her political appointments and testimony before government agencies, it appears her only other work as a psychiatrist (per the NYTimes) is a sum of "12 hours a week as a psychiatrist at Dr. Clark's [Oasis] methadone clinic in northeast Washington." Oh... and she was a professor and is now a lecturer. Oh. Author. Although in her testimony before various Congressional Committees she says she "formerly worked with disabled Vietnam veterans", it is apparent she never listened to those vets. And it's clear she has no clue about patients coming directly or near-directly from the military to the VA.

While I find something rational in her reservations about veterans who 25 or 40 years after their military service suddenly develop PTSD) she has certainly never worked in a military setting when she says, "Judging an individual to be doomed to a life of invalidism before he has even had a course of therapy and rehabilitation is drastically premature, even reckless." [emphasis added]

I don't challenge the portion of her latest (2005) tome, "
One Nation Under Therapy: How the Helping Culture Is Eroding Self-Reliance" which she posits that a diagnosis of PTSD is too often assigned to people who just can't seem to deal with life's little annoyances (like minor auto accidents and moviegoers who have seen The Exorcist), but I can hardly imagine that anyone the VA has found to be disabled to a significant degree by PTSD is lounging around on that stipend and refusing to work.

First off, Dr. Satel, no one who has been found to be suffering from PTSD (or sought treatment for it) while in the service has simply been handed a ticket out of their commitment and then handed a check. There are evaluations, counseling and treatment requirements -- in both the military and the VA. If someone has been found unfit for duty as a result of his or her PTSD, they have been through more evaluations, counselings and reports than are ever required of anyone in the civilian sector. And, if they have been judged to be 100% disabled as a result of PTSD or some other mental impairment -- trust me, THEY ARE NON-FUNCTIONING. They are not just sitting around waiting for the check to come in... and they are most definitely not sitting around thinking, "Well I must be an invalid for the rest of my life because the government is paying me to be an invalid."

In her most recent OpEd, Satel says that $2,500 a month is nice for a struggling vet... and t
hen goes on to say how detrimental this disability payment is, "By abandoning work, the veteran deprives himself of its therapeutic value: a sense of purpose, distraction from depressive rumination, a structure to each day, and the opportunity for friendships." You're kidding, right? Lady, you frick'n need to visit the real world on occasion. Other than the 100% disabled veteran, you assume that a veteran with PTSD is just sitting at home and NOT working. I have news for you, Doctor: Few veterans receive a 100% disability rating for their PTSD and few get even a 50% rating (which would translate to less than $750 per month)... for a 30% disability they would receive $348 per month. And you think they can afford to sit home and ruminate depressively? I also posit that if an OIF/OEF veteran has received a 100% disability, it was/is most likely as a result of a combination of his/her physical conditions and less for [claimed] mental impairments [if any]. The VA Compensation tables are here. See for yourself.

The people with whom I am personally familiar that have PTSD (whether mild or chronic and officially diagnosed or not) want principally to get on with their lives... but above all, they want to NOT have the symptoms of PTSD. All find their own ways to cope: counseling... medications... drinking... hard physical activity... sleeping with the light on... a combination of things. But I can assure the good doctor that these vets are not sitting around watching the soaps, eating bonbons and waiting on the direct deposit. Are there exceptions? Sure.

Dr. Satel in this current OpEd says, "Remarkably, something essential is missing from the claims process: treatment." No, it's not. Treatment is available for every Veteran who wishes it. And veterans who claim a service-connected disability for PTSD have to be evaluated by a clinician -- they have to have real symptoms and credible evidence that their service was a cause. Does the criteria for long-delayed claims (25 or 30 years later?) need to be revised? Probably. But this legislation doesn't address that problem.

I am highly uncomfortable not only with with Dr. Satel's 2005 pronouncement that "...the VA must beware of the disability trap: Veterans should not be urged to obtain long-term disability payments for at least two years after their return from overseas. In most circumstances, psychiatric conditions will be temporary. Moreover, generous disability payments provide an economic incentive to remain ill. In fact, work is often good therapy, providing structure, a sense of purpose and social opportunities" but also with her continued 2006 assault, "With a new generation of soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, the Veterans Affairs Department needs to look at post-traumatic stress disorder in a new way: the department must regard it as an acute but treatable condition." [emphasis added.] Treatable? Yes... although not always successfully and not always completely. And.Not.Curable.

And back in 2006 Satel proclaimed that, "Only in rare instances should veterans be eligible for lifetime disability..." So, let's follow Dr. Satel's logic: if a veteran loses a leg, the military or the VA provides a prosthetic and the Veteran learns to walk again, should we also end their disability compensation because they have been treated although not cured??

Dr. Satel and the Senator forget the principle of Veterans' Disability Compensation:
The purpose of VA disability compensation benefits is to compensate veterans who suffer from disability related to service for an average impairment of earning capacity related to their disability. 38 U.S.C.A. § 1155 (West 1991); 38 C.F.R. Part 4 (2002). [emphasis supplied]

Is the VA a perfect system? Hell no. But there are much more meaningful changes and modifications that have been recommended that will help it improve.

Are there those who take advantage of the system? Well yes. As with any system, once you know the rules you can beat it... but there are few (and Dr. Satel is one) who believe the fraud is widespread. Do we need to be sure that benefits are paid to those who truly need them? Of course. But this legislation does nothing of the sort.

Do we need a whole 'nother system of applying, certifying and paying? Hell No. Veterans already complete reams of paper work and forms for everything they do: getting into the services, seeking medical treatment in the services, leaving the services, getting into the VA system, and receiving care in the VA system. Veterans do not need one more layer of bureaucracy and paper work. The VA is not a welfare organization -- it is a system to reward (as in GI Bill, VA loans, small business incentives...) and to care for and compensate VETERANS when they need it. They have earned it.

Will this program actually encourage Veterans to get treatment and reduce the stigma of seeking treatment? Highly unlikely and No.

This proposed legislation should be sh*tcanned. The Senator would better spend his time trying to get legislation that is tied up in committee that actually responds to recommendations OUT of committee and before the Congress. And the money that would go to fund this useless piece of feel-good-does-nothing legislation would be better spent paying back the poor veterans who have had to REPAY the military branches for their medical severance payments or continue health insurance for medically discharged veterans.

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Monday, February 25, 2008

ASY, DoD and BlogTalkRadio

The citizen broadcasting network, BlogTalkRadio, has, in collaboration with the Pentagon, created two Internet broadcasts by the DoD hosted on BlogTalkRadio. You may be familiar with BTR because of the terrific (and fun and informative) work the military spouses do at SpouseBuzz radio.

The two new shows are:

· ASY Live "America Supports You," is a nationwide program designed to recognize citizens' support for our military men and women and communicate that support to members of our Armed Forces at home and abroad. Interviews range from Department of Defense personnel, to patriotic citizens and non-profit homefront organizations. ASY Live can be heard at

· The Department of Defense Bloggers' Roundtable connects bloggers and online citizen journalists with DoD civilian and military leaders and subject matter experts. The Roundtable provides source material where available, including audio, photo, video, transcripts, biographies and related fact sheets.

Now you can stay informed with DoD initiatives and some other military moms around the nation. The entire new release about this collaboration can be found HERE.

And you should be sure to listen to ArmyWifeToddlerMom's (A-DUB!!!) SpouseBuzz Radio broadcast on PTSD -- directly in the context of military service (including confidentiality, affects on military careers, access to clinical info, why me and not him, etc.!!)... the first segment on the issue HERE. Fascinating and informative... really. (Thank you, Rachelle (and Carren & Dr. Roca.))

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Friday, February 22, 2008


HEALTH INSURANCE. Many people assume that Veterans receive free health care based solely on their status as Veterans. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Let's start by saying that Noah has received the best and most compassionate care imaginable from the two VA Medical Centers at which he has received care since his discharge (except for the truly uncaring imbecile woman who makes his appointments in Phoenix -- but I'll save that for another post.) However, the VA Health Care system has an
enrollment "priority" system -- from 50% or greater service-connected disability (Priority Group 1) to Group 8 for "higher income" veterans (income must be less than $36,000 for Vets with 2 dependents... here's the chart). And that's gross income, not net.

However, because so many vets enrolled in the VA system between 1996 (after passage of the Veterans Health Care Eligibility Reform Act) and 2002, the VA was ordered in 2003 to stop enrolling Veterans in Group 8 (with it's 4 subcategories). So even people like my husband who was promised "free health care for life" if he made the military a career (he did -- 25 years) and served two deployments to Vietnam but was not wounded, is not eligible for enrollment in the VA Health Care system.

Here's what my research and some new Veterans have told me: Veterans of the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan who are medically unable to continue in the service but receive less than a 10% disability from their service branch, receive no medical insurance once they separate. For those with service-connected disability ratings of 10 or 20% (ratings are 0% or greater in 10% increments), they receive UP TO 12 months of medical insurance (Tricare) for themselves and their families after separation; for 10% and 20% ratings it is typically 6 months but can be 9 or 12 months depending on the medical condition. If a service member receives a disability rating of 30% or greater from the service branch (a medical retirement), medical insurance for themselves and their families continue at no cost to them FOR LIFE.

Remember: 90% of Soldiers, 83% of Marines, 73% of Airmen and 64% of Sailors who were injured, wounded or became chronically ill while in the service received a disability rating of 20% or less. Unless they were covered by an employer or can afford other insurance within say 6-9 months after their discharge, they and their families have no health insurance coverage.

Here are some (appalling) numbers:

Army soldiers approved for permanent retirement disability (30% or greater rating) in 2001 (2 years BEFORE OIF): 642

Army soldiers approved for permanent retirement disability in 2005 (2 years into OIF): 209 (hmmm... 2/3 less while at war...)

Army soldiers receiving medical discharge (20% disability or less), 2001: 4,544
Army soldiers receiving medical discharge, 2005: 4,468 (hmmm... fewer while at war...)
(wounded and not returned to duty within 72 hours: 7,988 in 2004; 5,598 in '05)

Percentage wounded/injured soldiers receiving disability retirement (30% or greater rating), 2001 (BEFORE OIF): 10%

Percentage wounded/injured soldiers receiving disability retirement, 2005 (2 years into OIF): 3% (hmmm... fewer while at war...)

I know this has been covered (perhaps ad nauseum) in many publications in the past, but in case you hadn't read anything on this (or you forgot), these soldiers are then shifted out of the military medical system and into the VA... keeping in mind that the service branches only are required by law to compensate a member for the single condition (or combination of conditions) that make him unable to continue his military service, while the VA is mandated to compensate all injuries and conditions which were received during military service.

Note that annuities paid by the services (DoD) for medically retired individuals are charged to the services; "moving" a disabled member to the VA system shifts the financial burden to the VA. For example, we know of one Veteran who received a "does not meet retention standards" but a 0% rating from the Army for his burns and injuries received in a tank fire; the VA rated that same condition at 40%. Another Veteran was determined fit for duty even after a serious shrapnel wound to his thigh that his Navy physician determined should make him unfit and which the VA rated after his end-of-service discharge at 30%. Another veteran received a 10% disability rating from the Army for severe PTSD, and the VA rated that condition at 50% disability. The two soldiers medically discharged received the exact same lump sum severance payment when they left the Army (which both are reimbursing from their VA benefits) and none of these soldiers now has health insurance. (I know that now the military services and the VA are supposed to be using the same schedules and interpretations of those schedules, but that doesn't help previously discharged Wounded Warriors.)

Veterans can enroll for temporary health care coverage under the "
Continued Health Care Benefit Plan" within 60 days of losing their military health care -- at a cost for family coverage of $665 per month -- a little out of reach if you're trying to go to school full time on the GI Bill AND the government is taking 50% of your VA disability benefit (for the next 17 months!!) to pay back the Army (or Marines, Navy, AF or CG) -- even if your wife went back to work three weeks after the birth of your child to help pay bills (you know -- things like rent, food, gas, utilities...)

As Noah quickly discovered, there is some less expensive health care insurance ("less expensive" being a relative term when you have no money), but when he put in an application with an insurance agent, the agent said, "Let me get this straight: you were wounded in combat and have shrapnel in your skull and chest, you had a neck and spinal injury, a fractured elbow, you have a torn ACL in one knee, a possible torn rotator cuff, traumatic brain injury, lost a portion of your hearing in both ears, have tinnitus -- not to mention PTSD... and you want US to insure YOU?"

Noah assured him that the VA would cover his service-connected conditions (he's Priority 1)... but the agent told him that his company already had millions of claims in dispute with the VA and wasn't interested in more. (I should also point out that the VA has many, many millions of dollars of claims for non-service connected medical services provided to individuals in VA facilities for which they are awaiting reimbursement from Veterans' insurance companies as well.) Noah has been unable to find health insurance and, as of last week, he, his wife and their 2 month old son have no health insurance. (Please do not give me, "This is why we need socialized/socialist health insurance." We only need figure out how to insure the less than 10% of Americans who lack insurance.)

According to
this Harvard Medical School Study, there are 1.6 million American Veterans and family members who lack health insurance. That is about 12% of the approximately 47 million uninsured in America. (Now I'll caution that the study and report were authored by a physician who is pushing for the socialist system of national health care, but I don't doubt the empirical numbers.)

The Dole-Shalala Commission recommended
that all combat-wounded service members retain their insurance but I believe the legislation proposed as a result of that Commission's recommendations (the legislation that everyone made a big deal about in October but doesn't exist on paper apparently since no one can seem to provide a copy for review...) went further and recommended that all service members medically discharged from the service retain their insurance

If they continued Tricare for those medically discharged and assuming that if only half of those medically discharged from 2000 to 2006 lack medical insurance there would be at least 33,000 fewer uninsured Veterans and perhaps another 33,000 family members. I don't completely disagree with the VA priority system -- after all, there has to be some way to manage limited resources (on the other hand, perhaps we should be building MORE facilities and not restricting access to any Veteran??!!) That being said, Veterans -- who served this country and her citizens in war or peace -- who cannot afford or cannot acquire medical insurance for themselves and their families should be covered by either Tricare or the VA.


P.S. I have wondered recently why our government doesn't sell "Veterans Bonds" like our government used to sell "War Bonds" (and like the Savings Bond Program). I can't think of a person (or politician -- since those groups are occasionally mutually exclusive) who wouldn't buy them to support our Veterans (if you wouldn't -- you need to consider another country of residency... really). I'd like to do my part to assure that our Veterans' needs are met forever and are not held hostage to the budgeting processes of Washington or the threats or whims and flops (as in flip-flop) of "say one thing, do another" politicians. I'd like to be sure that no other agency could EVER touch the money we as citizens commit to our Veterans... until we have no more Veterans that need care. If there is a law that forbids it, the law should be changed.

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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Fair Enough.

He was in his early 20’s with dark hair and eyes. He had a slim build – not scrawny, but thin and well-muscled. What some would call well-proportioned. He sat in the stiff backed chair in a small waiting area at the Veterans’ Medical Center awaiting his appointment with the physician who would give him a thorough examination and evaluate the injuries he had received the prior year in Iraq.

The waiting room wasn’t so much a room as it was a few chairs and a television carved out of a hallway between two wings of the building. The floor was clean but the grey linoleum was worn. A small television perpetually tuned to CNN played softly on a swivel shelf near the corner. Even if his hearing had not been so deteriorated from multiple IEDs and he could make out the words, he was far too anxious to follow what the talking head was saying. He fidgeted and scanned the room… left to his 90 and then right; because his neck didn’t rotate the way it once did, he shifted his weight slightly from side to side to improve his field of vision. He was aware of the phone ringing down the hall, the clack of a file cart as it wheeled past, the low voice of the quite elderly gentleman asking something of the younger man propelling his wheelchair, a crackling noise from the speakers overhead. He occasionally tugged at the sleeves of his jacket, worried his fingers over the bill of the ball cap he held in his hands and shifted the envelope holding his papers from one knee to the other.

The only other occupant of the small area was a man who appeared to be in his 70’s. He was tall and wiry – his knees jutting forward from the chair. His back was straight although age bowed his head slightly forward. His skin was deeply creased like the soft leather of an old flight jacket. He had no hair to speak of and his scalp was darkly spotted with age. He wore a navy blue windbreaker that seemed a size too large with the word “Army” over the left breast and a hat that proclaimed him a Korean War Vet sat on the empty chair to his left. He stared at the television although the younger man wasn’t sure the older one could hear either given the hearing aid in his left ear.

The old man and the young man each sat at opposite ends of the one row of chairs – which wasn’t saying much with just four chairs to the row. They sat for a while in silence… each lost in thoughts. Occasionally when their eyes met, they would exchange glances and a look that wasn’t quite smile or grin… just a nearly imperceptible acknowledgement of the other’s presence.

After a while, the old man turned in his seat to the younger and asked in a deep, rich voice, “You a vet?”

“Yes, sir,” the younger man replied.


“Yes, sir.”

“Were you wounded?”

“Yes, sir.”

“What happened?”

The young man looked away and remained silent for a moment before turning back with his response. “Well, I was blown up a few dozen times... but that thousand pounds of C-4 in a yellow dump truck got me.”

The old man remained silent for the briefest moment, then barely nodded his head as he thrust his hand at the young man. “Fair enough,” he said.

They shook hands.. the handshake of brothers... members of a brotherhood that no one wants to join. The bridge of generations. The silence of the room now wrapped around them and was unbroken before they went their separate ways that day.

Friday, February 15, 2008


Updating and Ranting (Just a Bit). I know I haven't blogged much lately, but no rest (or blogging) for the wicked, I guess.

Here's the "updating" on our disabled Veteran son: Noah and his wife M arrived in August straight from Fort Benning and began college classes two days later. Their baby Thomas was born just days before the end of the semester. Although running on little sleep, Noah finished his classes and state certification as an EMT and is scheduled to take his National certification soon. He attends sessions at the Vet Center and is seen regularly at the VA; he is currently enrolled full time in a Fire Sciences program in college and doing very well. M is also taking classes and working. Thomas is growing by leaps and bounds and is the smartest, sweetest, most loveable grandbaby ever (I know you other grandparents know exactly what I'm sayin'!)

I plan to do a series of posts covering Noah's experiences with being medically discharged from the Army (mostly bad) and with the VA system (still needs major improvements)... but I'd like to start with two critical areas that need addressing AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.

Let's start out by telling you (if you don't already know) that a service member who receives a service disability rating of 30% or greater receives an annuity payment and medical insurance for him/herself and their families FOR LIFE.

Next, understand that approximately only 10% of all service members that are medically discharged receive a rating of 30% or higher. 90% receive a rating below 30%. (Service disability ratings are 0% and then in 10% increments.)

"SEVERANCE PAY". From 2000-2006, approximately 9,600 service members each year (a total of approximately 67,200) were discharged from military service as medically unfit with service disability ratings of 0%, 10% or 20%. These service members received a lump sum "severance" payment of roughly twice their monthly base pay for each year of service. If you want to do sample calculations, here's the 2006 pay charts. For an E-4 with 4 years of service, that equates to about $15,000.

For those service members medically discharged before January 28, 2008 (the effective date of the 2008 National Defense Authorization) that elected to enter the Veterans Administration system and -- after a full evaluation -- received a disability rating (this is separate and is not connected with or dependent upon the "disability percentage" the Army/Navy/AF/USMC doled out) and were awarded disability compensation (VA compensation schedules), a portion of this VA allowance was or is being WITHHELD FROM THE VETERAN UNTIL THE SEVERANCE PAYMENT IS REPAID.

That's right. Injured, wounded or ill as a result of or during their military service they have to GIVE IT BACK. THEY HAVE HAD TO PAY BACK THE SERVICES FOR THEIR INJURIES! Exactly why the payment that is supposed to be for the early termination of your military service/career must be repaid with funds that are supposed to compensate the Veteran for his/her loss of civilian earnings potential as a result of their service-connected disability is mind bending... and just wrong. When I tell people this most people are incredulous and as appalled as I am.

Now Congress has seen the error of its ways and stopped that practice with the 2008 Defense funding bill... BUT IT ONLY APPLIES GOING FORWARD... BECAUSE













WTF is this??? Really. WTF???

Even if Congress couldn't bring themselves to cut some meaningless shitty little piece of pork (or a small percentage of all those shitty pork projects) to cover all the vets back to 2001 that have had to PAY BACK THE ARMY OR USMC (etc.) FOR THEIR INJURIES THEY RECEIVED IN DEFENSE OF THEIR COUNTRY, THEY SHOULD AT LEAST STOP ONGOING REIMBURSEMENTS.

At 9,600 personnel per year, the number of veterans that are currently having their Veterans' compensation docked would have been maybe 10-12,000... (because some veterans have not sought disability compensation from the VA, some received no disability from the VA, and some have already completed the reimbursement.)

Now someone in Congress needs to "find the money for any veteran being docked on or after January 28. FIND THE FRIGGIN' MONEY. JUST DO IT.

I don't know what kind of outfit you're running there, but I'm certain these Veterans have earned it.

Next post I'll talk about Health Insurance... or rather, the lack of it.

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Friday, February 08, 2008

Military Discount at the Post Office!

All I can say is "It's about damn time!" and "Better late than never!" WHHHOOOHOO and HOOAH!

Planning to send a care package to a military service member serving abroad? Send it after March 3 to take advantage of a new flat-rate box from the Postal Service that is 50 percent larger and delivered for $10.95 to an APO/FPO address -- $2 less than for domestic destinations.

"This is the first time the Postal Service has offered a special price for our armed forces serving overseas," said Postmaster Gen. John Potter. "We're proud that family and friends will be able to use this new larger-sized box to send much appreciated packages from home to our dedicated troops overseas.

"The new priority mail large flat-rate box (12" x 12" x 5-1/2" or 800 cubic inches) will be available in post offices nationwide beginning March 3, but customers can begin ordering them Feb. 20 at or by calling 800-610-8734. Some of the new boxes are co-branded with the logo of "America Supports You," which is a Department of Defense program that connects citizens offering support to the military and their families.

"It's terrific that the Postal Service continues to think of ways to help Americans support our troops and their families. Postage is always a concern when shipping care packages, and this new flat-rate box means our home front groups and supportive citizens can do more with their resources," said Allison Barber, the deputy assistant secretary of Defense. "We're especially pleased that some of the boxes will bear the America Supports You logo reminding our service members that they have our nation's support.

"The $2 discount is applied when the priority mail large flat-rate box es are shipped to an APO/FPO destination. The two existing flat-rate boxes (11-7/8" x 3-3/8" x 13-5/8" and 11" x 8-1/2" x 5-1/2"), which currently retail for $8.95 for U.S. addresses, are not available for the military discount. All flat-rate boxes can be used for international shipping.

The new flat-rate boxes will be available in Post Offices starting March 3. The 'America Supports You' branded box will be available online, at select post offices near military bases, or by calling 800-610-8734.

(Story by by Debora Preitkis, U.S. Postal Service.)

Thursday, February 07, 2008

A Cowboy Named Bud

A cowboy named Bud was overseeing his herd in a remote mountainous pasture in California when suddenly a brand-new BMW advanced out of a dust cloud towards him. The driver, a man in a Brioni suit, Gucci shoes, RayBan sunglasses and YSL tie, leans out the window and asks the cowboy, 'If I tell you exactly how many cows and calves you have in your herd, Will you give me a calf?'

Bud looks at the man, then looks at his peacefully grazing herd and calmly answers, 'Sure, Why not?'

The guy parks his car, whips out his Dell notebook computer, connects it to his Cingular RAZR V3 cell phone, and surfs to a NASA page on the Internet, where he calls up a GPS satellite to get an exact fix on his location which he then feeds to another NASA satellite that scans the area in an ultra-high-resolution photo. The man then opens the digital photo in Adobe Photoshop and exports it to an image processing facility in Hamburg, Germany. Within seconds, he receives an email on his Palm Pilot that the image has been processed and the data stored. He then accesses a MS-SQL database through an ODBC connected Excel spreadsheet with email on his Blackberry and, after a few minutes, receives a response. Finally, he prints out a full-color, 150-page report on his hi-Tech Miniaturized HP LaserJet printer and turns to the cowboy and says, 'You have exactly 1,586 cows and calves.'

'That's right. Well, I guess you can take one of my calves,' says Bud.

He watches the young man select one of the animals and looks on amused as the man stuffs it into the trunk of his car.

Then Bud says to the man, 'Hey, if I can tell you exactly what your business is, will you give me back my calf?'

The man thinks about it for a second and then says, 'Okay, why not?'
'You're a Congressman,' says Bud.

'Wow! That's correct,' says the man, 'but how did you guess that?'

'No guessing required,' answered the cowboy. 'You showed up here even though nobody called you; you want to get paid for an answer I already knew, to a question I never asked. You tried to show me how much smarter than me you are; and you don't know a thing about cows. This is a herd of sheep. . .'

'Now give me back my dog.'