May 3, 2016

Sgt. Shaft caricatureDear Sgt Shaft
I understand that the Department of Veterans Affairs is developing a program on head trauma. Do you know the specifics?

Edward K
Via the internet.

Dear Edward
I understand that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has lead a groundbreaking two-day event focused on brain health, Brain Trust: Pathways to InnoVAtion. The first annual public-private partnership event took place two weeks ago at the National Press Club and the IBM Institute for Electronic Government in Washington, DC.

Building on the extraordinary leadership and trailblazing efforts of a number of distinguished VA brain researchers, VA convened many of the most influential voices in the field of brain health – including the Department of Defense, the sports industry, private sector, federal government, Veterans and community partners – to identify and advance solutions for mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI), and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Issues related to brain health and head trauma transcend the Veteran and military community, impacting all Americans. By highlighting the themes of collaborative research, medical technology, and sports innovation for player safety, Brain Trust participants discussed the prevention, diagnosis, treatment, rehabilitation and reintegration of Veterans, athletes, and Americans in general – suffering from head trauma related injuries. The event also served as a showcase for many of the advancements that VA is pioneering to improve brain health for Veterans, the military and for the American public at large.

In addition to many of the world’s most accomplished brain research scientists, other confirmed participants in the summit included sports commentator Bob Costas, Gen. Peter Chiarelli (CEO of One Mind, and the former Vice Chief of Staff of the Army), Briana Scurry (former U.S. Women’s Soccer Player), Jeanne Marie Laskas (author of the GQ article that inspired the movie Concussion), Terry O’Neil (16-time Emmy award winner), representatives from the NFL Players Association, the NFL, the NCAA, DARPA, DOD, NIH, CDC, and many more.

During the summit a special announcement was made by Chris Nowinski co-founder of the Concussion Legacy Foundation (CLF) and former WWE professional wrestler. Joining Chris was a former Super Bowl champion and an Olympic gold medalist, each of whom used this Summit to announce that they will be donating their brains to the CLF for the purposes of advancing brain health. CLF has partnered with VA and Boston University to establish the VA-BU-CLF Brain Bank, directed by VA’s own Dr. Ann McKee, now the largest sports mTBI and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) repository in the world with over 325 brains donated, and over a thousand more pledged.

“VA is uniquely positioned to contribute to the care of Veterans with traumatic brain injury (TBI),” said VA Secretary McDonald. “The work we do produces results and life changing improvements in care for Veterans — as well as for all Americans, and for people around the world who suffer from these brain related injuries.”

The following organizations have teamed up with VA as event partners: Amazon, Booz Allen Hamilton, Comcast, GE Healthcare, IBM, Johnson & Johnson, Optum Health, and Philips.

Shaft Notes
Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) announced today that he successfully secured more than 20 key requests in the FY17 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which passed out of committee this week. In an 18-hour marathon session, the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) considered hundreds of amendments to the spending legislation. The following are several key additions Rep. Johnson successfully passed in the base FY17 NDAA funding bill:

  • $10 million increase in the House Armed Services Committee’s (HASC) intended base funding level to $33 million for science research at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Minority Institutions (MIs);
  • Critical F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter funding increase to additional $1.5 billion (made in Georgia);
  • Increases in funding for additional C130-J’s to be made in Georgia;
  • Establishment of ROTC Cyber Institutes at the six Senior Military Colleges for purposes of accelerating the development of foundational expertise in critical cyber operational skills;
  • Authorization for Cyber Hardening Through Sustainment to address military’s cyber vulnerabilities;
  • Helicopter Funding Increases: the iconic Apache (add $190 million) and Black Hawk helicopters ($440.2 million), made and based Georgia;
  • Creation of a new Tricare Pilot Program that would allow Department of Defense to study cost parity for prescriptions obtained at retail pharmacies;
  • Cosponsored and supported the successful effort to end harmful per-diem rate reductions hurting service members & their families traveling on temporary duty assignment.

“These additions are critical in the effort to maintain America’s superior forces, both at home and abroad, in the face of a changing geopolitical environment,” said Johnson. “They also support programs that provide substantial job creation and economic development in the State of Georgia.” Rep. Johnson is also proud to have been a part of the historic vote that now allows women to sign up for the selective service, bringing us one step closer to equality in the Armed Services.

Rep. Johnson helped defeat or spoke out against several amendments, including:

  • Successfully voted down anti-climate change riders;
  • Voted against allowing the Confederate flag to fly over the Citadel in Charleston, S.C.;
  • Spoke in opposition to and voted against rollbacks to workplace equality measures taken by the Administration (LGBT rights);
  • Spoke in opposition to and voted against attempts to undermine the Fair Pay & Safe Workplace Executive Order, as well as against forced arbitration provisions, in federal employee contracts;
  • Spoke in favor of female service members having access to safe abortion services at military medical treatment facilities;
  • Fought for animal welfare concerns to convince DOD to phase out live animal tissue tasting and training.



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