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The next Open Cockpit Day at Prairie Aviation Museum will be July 20 from 1 to 3 p.m. at the museum, 2929 E. Empire St., Bloomington. Admission is $5 for attendees 6 and older. Admission is free for children under 6 and active military. Call 309-663-7832 or visit www.prairieaviationmuseum.org for more information.

DID YOU KNOW?

A medication for treatment-resistant depression was approved in March by the Food and Drug Administration. The nasal spray called Spravato, or esketamine, has been hailed as a breakthrough treatment in a field with relatively few new options for treating unmanaged depression. Spravato esketamine is different than ketamine, known in its illicit form as Special K, a party drug. A Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) panel voted last week against widespread use, instead restricting the drug for pre-approved, case-by-case treatment. An earlier version of this column incorrectly described Spravato.

According to its manufacturer, while Spravato and ketamine are chemically related, Spravato has undergone extensive controlled clinical trials that have informed the FDA approval of the medicine for use in adults with treatment-resistant depression. 

Spravato will not be on the VA formulary list of widely prescribed medications. The DVA panel found that Spravato proved no better than a placebo in two of three short-term trials. The panel found that during trials, six people died, including three from suicide. The panel also raised questions as to whether the medication is effective in males and patients ages 65 and over — notable concerns at VA, where 90 percent of patients are men with an average age of 63. The panel’s decision means doctors will need prior approval before prescribing and buying the medication for patients.

Q: I just became aware of the court ruling in favor of the Blue Water Navy members who claimed exposure to Agent Orange. I served on a ship that was within the territorial limits of Vietnam in 1968 but did not have “boots on the ground.” My health is generally good, but I have been diagnosed with Type II diabetes. What should I do?

A: If you served on a Blue Water Navy vessel offshore of the Republic of Vietnam, or on another U.S. Navy or Coast Guard ship operating in the coastal waterways of Vietnam, between Jan. 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975, you may have been exposed to Agent Orange. If you meet the above criteria, you have what is known as a presumption of contact. Since the VA Appeals Court ruling, Congress passed Public Law 116-23, the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019. The law takes effect on Jan. 1, 2020. You should file a claim for service-connected disability for your diabetes. If you were denied a claim for diabetes before the law changed, you must refile your claim and request that your original claim date control the retroactivity of benefits to your original filing date. Browse Agent Orange exposure on Navy or Coast Guard ships for more information.

DID YOU KNOW?

VA has recently revised its directives permitting religious literature, symbols and displays at VA facilities to protect religious liberty for veterans and families and to reduce interpretation inconsistencies at various VA facilities. The new policies will allow the inclusion in appropriate circumstances of religious content in publicly accessible displays at VA facilities. They will also allow patients and their guests to request and be provided religious literature, symbols and sacred texts during visits to VA chapels and during treatment at VA. Additionally, the policies will allow VA to accept donations of religious literature, cards and symbols at its facilities and distribute them to VA patrons under appropriate circumstances or to a patron who requests them.

The U.S. Supreme Court, in American Legion et al v. American Humanist Assn. et al (better known as the Blandensburg Cross case) reaffirmed the important role religion plays in the lives of many Americans and its consistency with Constitutional principles. This includes the following values: a display that follows in the longstanding tradition of monuments, symbols and practices; respect and tolerance of differing views; and endeavors to achieve inclusivity and nondiscrimination.

AGENT ORANGE UPDATE

Several new diseases and medical conditions which may be connected to Agent Orange exposure were slated to be announced in the fall of 2018. This did not happen. In March 2019, a decision was to be made within 90 days whether to add four health conditions — bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, hypertension and a condition with Parkinson’s-like symptoms. On July 3, a VA spokesman said the VA did not have any updates on when the additional presumptive conditions would be announced.

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Vogler is superintendent of the McLean County Veterans Assistance Commission. 

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