Military Supports Alternative Treatments for Treating Pain in Vets and Troops

MilitaryChiroCThe military has long worried that an over-reliance on prescription painkillers for the after-effects of tours of duty was putting both veterans and active-duty troops at risk of dependency, serious adverse reactions to the drugs and accidental death. The problem was found to be greatest among veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan—particularly those with post-traumatic stress disorder—who, according to a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), may have been given “inappropriate prescriptions” for opioids in a misguided attempt to relieve their suffering quickly.

Now, however, change appears to be coming as the military expands its use of alternative treatments such as chiropractic care.

5-Star Special Enrollment Now Lasts Through November

Medicare members now have another chance to join a 5-star Medicare health plan, plus there are more Kaiser Permanente 5-star plans available than last year. Instead of waiting until typical fall enrollment, the 5-star Special Enrollment Period gives Medicare beneficiaries the opportunity to enroll in a 5-star plan all the way through November.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services designed the special enrollment period to urge more seniors to enroll in high-quality 5-star plans. Health plans use a one- to five-star scale, in which five indicates the highest for performance excellence. Other key rating factors include how a plan helps members manage chronic conditions and stay healthy, as well as member satisfaction, pharmacy benefits and customer satisfaction.

Finding the Best Medicare Advantage Plan

Did you know Medicare has a rating system that evaluates health plans based on dozens of quality measures and patient experiences? Very few plans receive the top Medicare rating. Out of 563 Medicare Advantage plans for 2013, only 11 plans with prescription drug benefits earned the top five-star rating. Six of those 11 were Kaiser Permanente plans.

“We are a top plan because we focus on our patients’ health,” said Jed Weissberg, senior vice president for Hospitals, Quality and Care Delivery at Kaiser Permanente. “We help our patients to exercise, eat well, maintain a healthy weight and get regular check-ups. Walking, for example, can have remarkable therapeutic value—cutting the rate of new cases of diabetes by half or more.”

One Family, One Veteran, Two Heroes

From the perspective of many veterans, their military service is merely a duty. They were doing their job. They don’t look in the mirror and see a hero. When wounded Air Force sergeant Tom Marcum returned home from Iraq, he was his family’s hero every day. But his wife April would soon step up to be the second hero in the Marcum family.

Tom’s injuries were extensive, and the impact on April and their two sons was enormous. In two years, Tom endured four separate mortar explosions. He faced a traumatic brain injury (TBI), hearing loss, vision problems and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Christina Ha: The Blind Cook Who Turned Master Chef

If you watched season three of Fox TV’s reality cooking show “MasterChef,” you remember the big smile that lit up Christine Ha’s face every time she impressed the judges with her bold flavors—and especially when her three-course meal of Vietnamese comfort food won Ha the “MasterChef” title.

What casual viewers may not have realized right away is that the amateur cook from Houston, Texas, is blind. In 2003, Ha was diagnosed with neuromyelitis optica (NMO), a rare neurological condition that deteriorates the optic nerves and spinal cord. By 2007, Ha had lost most of her vision. But she had regained her love of reading, with help from the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS).

Military Families Get Relief in Roof for Troops

It’s a good thing no one joins the armed forces to get rich, because it turns out a higher percentage of military families are in debt than civilians.

And that has one New Jersey company ticked off enough to do something about it.

According to a report by the Financial Industry Regulation Authority’s Investor Education Foundation, 27 percent of military families surveyed admitted having more than $10,000 in credit card debt, compared to 16 percent of civilian adults. And while the foundation noted that “navigating the complexities of today’s economy can be challenging” for anyone, it singled out one issue — frequent moves and deployments — that “further complicate” military families’ finances.

New Social Movement Seeks to Replenish Purchasing Power

The 99 percent has watched gas prices follow a perpetual climb that has left consumers wallowing at the pump. By the beginning of April, the national average was $3.92. Though it’s since fallen about 18 cents for most regions, the west coast is still staring at billboards offering $4.37 a gallon.

Fuel isn’t the only cost crippling middle-class Americans. While the consumer price index (CPI) may be relatively unchanged on a seasonally adjusted basis, the Wall Street Journal says core inflation is rising – and the Federal Reserve can’t ignore that for long.

Audiobook Service Helps Blind Vets Recover Independence

In December 1967, a young soldier lay in a hospital bed after sustaining severe eye injuries from a land mine in Vietnam. Tom Miller, now executive director of the Blinded Veterans Association (BVA) in Washington, D.C., was blind, and his mind raced over all of the things he’d never be able to enjoy again. “I’ve spent the past 44-plus years erasing that list, or finding new things I can do.”

Miller says he owes many thanks to the talking-book program of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS), part of the Library of Congress.

New Movement Picks Up Where Occupy Wall Street Trails Off

Occupy Wall Street’s most recent push, “May Day,” exemplifies the crux of the protest: it’s a great forum to express widespread discontent about financial issues, but less adept at affecting bona fide change between giant corporations and average consumers.

Critics of the movement tend to call it politically dangerous and radical, like pollster Doug Schoen in the Wall Street Journal. On the other hand, President Obama is embracing a 2012 platform crusading for the 99 percent against the presumptive GOP nominee.