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VA Secretary Shulkin: 'We're Interested In Looking' At Medical Marijuana For Vets
In his first “state of the VA” address at the White House on May 31, Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin highlighted his department’s focus on wait times, accountability, quality of care, and veteran suicides. But it may have been one brief answer to a question after his speech that really signaled Shulkin’s openness to radical reforms for veteran health care.
Asked whether his emphasis on improving veteran mental health and preventing suicides meant he was considering an American Legion proposal to decriminalize marijuana and study the drug as a medicine, Shulkin responded: "I hope the people take a look at that."
"Right now, federal law does not prevent us at VA to look at that as an option for veterans,” he told the assembled crowd of journalists, but he emphasized that any policy change would have to come from lawmakers. Pressed by a reporter on his opinion toward pot as a trained physician, Shulkin praised several states’ careful decriminalization and regulation of medical marijuana.
“There may be some evidence that this is beginning to be helpful, and we’re interested in looking at that,” he said.
The American Legion, a 2.5 million-member veterans service organization that’s never been known for social liberalism, has vocally lobbied for medical marijuana research for some time, issuing two national resolutions on the issue and pressing the White House for meetings on medicinal pot for several weeks.
“There is overwhelming evidence that it has been beneficial for some vets,” Louis Celli, the Legion’s national director of veterans affairs and rehabilitation, told Politico on May 20. “The difference is that it is not founded in federal research because it has been illegal."
Celli and Joe Plenzler, the Legion’s director of media affairs, published a pro-pot Defense One op-ed last week that spurred today’s press-conference question to Shulkin.
“Many Afghanistan and Iraq veterans have contacted the American Legion to relay their personal stories about the efficacy of cannabis,” for a variety of physical and emotional maladies, Celli and Plenzler wrote. “This is why the 2.2 million members of the American Legion are calling on the Trump administration to instruct the Drug Enforcement Agency to change how it classifies cannabis.”
How committed Shulkin is to marijuana research remains to be seen. In his speech, he outlined 13 major areas of improvement for the VA and how to get there. His plans include expanding same-day mental-health and primary-care services for vets at more facilities; getting more firing power over VA employees with congressional legislation; freeing more funds for vet care in the private sector; selling off vacant and underutilized VA property; and modernizing the department’s aged IT infrastructure — an initiative that the secretary said would require an additional funding request from Congress, over and above the Trump administration’s proposed VA budget.
But Shulkin’s highest priority, he said, was reducing veteran suicides, even among vets who weren’t in VA care, and he used his address to announce the launch of a summer campaign by the department to tackle suicides.
While it’s possible cannabis could play a role in that effort, Shulkin acknowledged that the ball’s not entirely in his court.
“Until such a time that federal law changes,” he said, “we are not able to prescribe medical marijuana.”
'It just happened' — the Iraq War’s first living Medal of Honor recipient recalls his harrowing fight against 5 insurgents
On Nov, 10, 2004, Army Staff Sgt. David Bellavia knew that he stood a good chance of dying as he tried to save his squad.
Bellavia survived the intense enemy fire and went on to single-handedly kill five insurgents as he cleared a three-story house in Fallujah during the iconic battle for the city. For his bravery that day, President Trump will present Bellavia with the Medal of Honor on Tuesday, making him the first living Iraq war veteran to receive the award.
In an interview with Task & Purpose, Bellavia recalled that the house where he fought insurgents was dark and filled with putrid water that flowed from broken pipes. The battle itself was an assault on his senses: The stench from the water, the darkness inside the home, and the sounds of footsteps that seemed to envelope him.
With the Imperial Japanese Army hot on his heels, Oscar Leonard says he barely slipped away from getting caught in the grueling Bataan Death March in 1942 by jumping into a choppy bay in the dark of the night, clinging to a log and paddling to the Allied-fortified island of Corregidor.
After many weeks of fighting there and at Mindanao, he was finally captured by the Japanese and spent the next several years languishing under brutal conditions in Filipino and Japanese World War II POW camps.
Now, having just turned 100 years old, the Antioch resident has been recognized for his 42-month ordeal as a prisoner of war, thanks to the efforts of his friends at the Brentwood VFW Post #10789 and Congressman Jerry McNerney.
McNerney, Brentwood VFW Commander Steve Todd and Junior Vice Commander John Bradley helped obtain a POW award after doing research and requesting records to surprise Leonard during a birthday party last month.
Hundreds of Marines will join their British counterparts at a massive urban training center this summer that will test the leathernecks' ability to fight a tech-savvy enemy in a crowded city filled with innocent civilians.
The North Carolina-based Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines, will test drones, robots and other high-tech equipment at Muscatatuck Urban Training Center near Butlerville, Indiana, in August.
They'll spend weeks weaving through underground tunnels and simulating fires in a mock packed downtown city center. They'll also face off against their peers, who will be equipped with off-the-shelf drones and other gadgets the enemy is now easily able to bring to the fight.
It's the start of a four-year effort, known as Project Metropolis, that leaders say will transform the way Marines train for urban battles. The effort is being led by the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory, based in Quantico, Virginia. It comes after service leaders identified a troubling problem following nearly two decades of war in the Middle East: adversaries have been studying their tactics and weaknesses, and now they know how to exploit them.
WASHINGTON/RIYADH (Reuters) - President Donald Trump imposed new U.S. sanctions onIran on Monday following Tehran's downing of an unmanned American drone and said the measures would target Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Trump told reporters he was signing an executive order for the sanctions amid tensions between the United States and Iran that have grown since May, when Washington ordered all countries to halt imports of Iranian oil.
Trump also said the sanctions would have been imposed regardless of the incident over the drone. He said the supreme leaders was ultimately responsible for what Trump called "the hostile conduct of the regime."
"Sanctions imposed through the executive order ... will deny the Supreme Leader and the Supreme Leader's office, and those closely affiliated with him and the office, access to key financial resources and support," Trump said.
While it can be difficult to peg down just how star-spangled a state is, one indicator is the rate at which citizens enlist in the military, especially during the United States' longest period of sustained conflict. At least, that's the thinking behind WalletHub's new study, 2019's Most Patriotic States in America.