Disability claims soar from Bush’s wars

Deep in a newly released 300-page report on the benefits system for the nation’s veterans lies a first look at the dimensions of the disabilities the Iraq- and Afghanistan- war injured are suffering.

Through March, more than 176,000 U.S. veterans of those ongoing conflicts had filed claims for disability compensation, according to a report released Thursday by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies of Science.

Some of the most common conditions were tinnitus, or ear ringing (36,000 claims granted); back strain (33,000); problems with ankle motion (16,000) and post-traumatic stress disorder (16,000).

More than 550 troops have become amputees. Almost one-fourth of those suffered the loss of more than one limb. At least 1,100 “war on terror” vets have been treated for blindness or significant visual injuries.

The report also estimates that at least 300,000 U.S. veterans of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom ultimately will be added to the nation’s disability-compensation rolls, which currently number 2.7 million veterans receiving a total of $27 billion a year.

Maybe they need a secret handshake: Despite all the effort directed toward developing rapid reactions to natural disasters, terror attacks and mass tragedies such as school shootings, the nation’s first-responders still have no identification system for determining who should be allowed to cross the yellow tape and who shouldn’t.

Even though such calamities bring a swarm of local, state and federal emergency personnel from an assortment of agencies — most unknown to each other — there is no universally recognized, counterfeit-proof ID card or badge that can convey at a glance who the responder is and whether he or she belongs there.

The Navy’s Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center says it is taking a stab at creating such a credentialing system, but don’t expect a solution to be found anytime soon.

A 400-year-old relic from an earlier era of discovery is among the items tucked into a bay of NASA’s space shuttle Atlantis, which is bound for a mission to the International Space Station and back. It’s a small, metal cargo tag, etched with the destination “Yames Towne,” which is believed to have been affixed to a crate or trunk loaded around 1611 onto an English ship setting sail for the New World.

The 17th-century luggage tag was found by archaeologists at Jamestown, Va., the site of the first permanent English settlement in North America and the focus this year of celebrations of its 400th anniversary. Found where it had been discarded at the bottom of a well, the tag will be displayed at a new museum when it returns from its “final frontier” trip.

Indicted Rep. William Jefferson could use some of that $90,000 in cash he stashed in his Washington freezer. Facing an array of federal corruption charges, the Louisiana Democrat’s latest financial disclosure report showed a zero balance in his legal-defense fund.

Though it has gotten almost no press to date, the Monument to the Victims of Communism will be dedicated June 12. Largely a labor of love by a cadre of conservative Cold Warriors, the 10-foot-tall memorial honors the millions killed in Soviet gulags, and in escape attempts at the Berlin Wall, or in rickety boats fleeing Cuba and Vietnam. The bronze figure of a goddess holding a torch will stand in a park within sight of the U.S. Capitol dome.

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