Of Note


Urged to Passengers with Disabilities Contact TSA


Blinded veterans who travel with guide dogs, or who wear external medical devices that may be detected as an anomaly by Transportation Security Administration screening agents, should be aware of the screening process prior to passing through airport security.

According to TSA's Disability and Multicultural Division, passengers wearing such devices can be screened without removing or disconnecting them if they identify to screeners what the devices are and their location before screening begins. In addition to guide dogs, the most common devices for blinded veterans would include insulin pumps and hearing aids.

Passengers with disabilities and medical conditions wishing to receive information about what to expect during screening may call TSA Cares. The service is available Monday through Friday during 9 a.m.-9 p.m. EST at toll-free 855-787-2227.

VA Launches New Benefits Handbook


All veterans enrolled in the VA health care system, a total number that now reaches 8.5 million, will soon receive personalized booklets that explain their health care benefits. The booklets also contain other useful information.

The name of the new booklet is Health Benefits Handbook. It will provide a personalized listing of health benefits based on each veteran's specific eligibility. The handbook will also have contact information for local VA medical facilities, appointment scheduling information, guidelines for communicating with the correct clinical team, and, as applicable, information about co-payments.

Distribution of the handbooks began in February and will continue throughout 2012. Veterans will also receive updates to their handbooks to reflect changes to their benefits or eligibility.

For more information about the Health Benefits Handbook, visit www.va.gov/healthbenefits/vhbh or call VA's toll-free number at 877-222-VETS.

Stem Cells in Eyes Offer New Hope


A new source of stem cells at the back of the eye may one day provide a way to repair the damage from Age-Related Macular Degeneration, or AMD, the leading cause of vision loss of people over 60 years of age.

The claim comes from Dr. Sally Temple, a developmental neuroscientist at the Neural Stem Cell Institute, in an article published on January 5 by Sheryl Ubelacker, Health Reporter at The Canadian Press.

Temple's finding is also described in the January issue of the journal Cell Stem Cell. She and her team identified the central nervous system stem cells in a single layer called the retinal pigment epithelium, or RPE, which lies behind the retina.

Millions of photoreceptor cells make up the retina, which converts light into electrical signals that are sent to the brain via the optic nerve. The brain then translates those signals into the images that individuals see.

Temple and her research staff salvaged the stem cells from the RPE layer in the eyes of more than 100 deceased donors, who ranged in age from 22 to 99. The cells can also be isolated from the fluid surrounding the retina at the back of the eye, meaning that they are also accessible in living people. In culture dishes, researchers were able to get some 10 percent of the RPE-derived stem cells to grow in the lab.

The cells are laid down in the embryo and can remain dormant for 100 years, Temple indicated. She said that surgeons can literally go in and poke a needle in the eye and get such cells from the sub-retinal space. Although it appears complicated, retinal surgeons perform this procedure every day.

Buck Knife Presentations Climb to New Highs


Retired Marine Graham Crutchfield of Hayden, Idaho, continues to thank servicemen and women for their sacrifice and service through presentation of commemorative Buck Knives.

BVA members, Operation Peer Support participants, and dignitaries attending the 64th National Convention each received such a knife personally from Crutchfield following the Opening Business Session.

Graham Crutchfield, pictured here at BVA 64th National Convention in Portland,  continues his quest to provide tokens of gratitude to service members and their families by presenting them personally with the keepsake Buck Knives.
Graham Crutchfield, pictured here at BVA 64th National Convention in Portland,  continues his quest to provide tokens of gratitude to service members and their families by presenting them personally with the keepsake Buck Knives.

The idea started in 2005 when Post Falls, Idaho, Mayor Clay Larkin wanted to say "thank you" to the Idaho National Guard troops returning home from Iraq and contacted Crutchfield. Originally believed to be a one-time offer, the idea turned into a long-lasting project that continues today.

Well over 1,500 total knives have been given. In 2011, Crutchfield arranged for the presentation of 324 knives, two of which went to triple amputees and several to families of service members killed in action.

Charles T. "Chuck" Buck, CEO and Chairman of the Board of Buck Knives, Inc., supports the program wholeheartedly and offers the knives to Crutchfield at a substantially discounted price.