Friday, 19 April 2024

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The Lake County Sheriff's Marijuana Suppression Unit seized 408 pounds of processed marijuana and 820 pounds of unprocessed marijuana at a home in Kelseyville, Calif., on Wednesday, November 3, 2010. Photo courtesy of the Lake County Sheriff's Office.




 


KELSEYVILLE, Calif. – Residents in the Buckingham community took their concerns about a marijuana growing operation to a sheriff's deputy, and the result was numerous arrests and huge seizures of marijuana on Wednesday.


Capt. James Bauman of the Lake County Sheriff's Office said a compliance check at an Eastlake Drive home made by members of the sheriff’s Marijuana Suppression Unit resulted in a total of 15 arrests for marijuana and other related charges.


Seized during the raid was 408 pounds of processed marijuana, 820 pounds of unprocessed marijuana plants, and numerous items of evidence of cultivation and sales of marijuana, said Bauman.


The suppression unit also recovered a 9 millimeter semi-automatic handgun that was reported stolen out of San Diego amongst back packs, tents and other camping debris at the address, he added.


Arrested were Bernardo Rivera Corona, 23, of Santa Rosa; Hormisdas Camacho Chino, 36, of Clearlake; Filiberto Camacho Lopez, 23, of Clearlake; Mario Alberto Flores, 29, of Santa Rosa; Humberto Luna Ortiz, 24, of Kelseyville; Marcellino Reyes Perez, 57, of Santa Rosa; Eduardo Mejia Alvarez, 46, of Kelseyville; Ariel Flores Santos, 40, of Santa Rosa; Aldo Figueroa Camacho, 25, of Santa Rosa; Carlos Nunez, 18, of Santa Rosa; Isaias Camacho Chino, 56, of Santa Rosa; Sabas Ramirez Medina, 41, of Santa Rosa; Jorge Lopez Vasquez, 20, of Lower Lake; and Elisandro Nunez Camacho, 18, of Santa Rosa.


They were booked into the Lake County Jail on felony charges of cultivating marijuana, commission of a felony while armed and receiving stolen property, Bauman said. Nine of the men also had immigration holds placed on them.


The homeowner, 60-year-old Benjamin Bizon, was booked on felony charges of cultivation and possession of marijuana for sales, Bauman said.


“The community of Buckingham is putting all drug dealers and pot growers on notice – it won't be in our neighborhood,” said resident Sieg Taylor, one of the community members who took action to notify authorities of what was taking place.


Bill Groody, president of the Buckingham Homes Association, said the issue of marijuana growing at the home had been known to the association's board for some time because of complaints from residents of the 500-home community.


For at least a couple of months, “There was a lot of anxiety building,” said Groody, who said people were reporting seeing individuals with weapons.


Groody also has received reports of as many as five other marijuana grows in and around Buckingham, including one in a large older walnut orchard, where Taylor said a community member was chased off by growers this summer when she was out looking for a missing cat.

 

 

 

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A marijuana grow with about 30 plants also was discovered in the raid on Wednesday, November 3, 2010. Photo courtesy of the Lake County Sheriff's Office.
 

 

 


The association board began gathering information and was planning to meet with its attorney to take action under its CC&Rs, and other community members had made code complaints. Groody said other community members, like Taylor, contacted the sheriff's office.


Deputy Frank Walsh offered to come to the association's regular monthly meeting on Oct. 26, where Groody said Walsh “got quite an earful” from concerned residents, which spurred further investigation.


Taylor said there were “more people at that meeting last week than there was in a long time.”


Bauman said the Marijuana Suppression Unit had previously detected a relatively small grow at the Eastlake Drive location during an over flight and already had the site listed as a pending compliance check.


Taylor said a neighbor called him when she saw action at the home, and Taylor said he called Walsh to report what was taking place. It wasn't long afterward that the Marijuana Suppression Unit moved to investigate the residence, he said.


Bauman said it was at 10:50 a.m. Wednesday that detectives went to the residence to check the grow for compliance.


After detecting an obvious odor of processed marijuana in the area and getting no answer at the door, detectives went to the back door of a garage where they had heard voices and were greeted by Hormisdas Camacho Chino, Bauman said.


Inside the garage, detectives located two more male adults – Bernardo Rivera Corona of Santa Rosa and Filiberto Camacho Lopez – who Bauman said were apparently in the process of packaging more than 200 pounds of processed marijuana, 52 pounds of which had already been packaged into one-pound bags.


While the three men in the garage were detained, detectives checked the grow they had previously identified from the air, located about 25 yards behind the residence, Bauman reported.


There, a total of 11 more male adults were found in the small grow in the process of cultivation and were immediately detained. Bauman said the grow consisted of about 30 standing plants, but appeared to have had about 50 plants originally.


Bauman said the unit called additional patrol resources to the scene to assist with arrests, while a search warrant was obtained for the premises.


As arrests were being made, Bizon, the homeowner, drove up and was detained. Bauman said Bizon had two medical marijuana cards but allegedly could not account for the excessive amount of processed marijuana found on the property.


Bauman said investigators believe the Eastlake Drive property was used to package processed marijuana from other gardens, since the small grow found on the property could not have produced the amount of marijuana recovered from the site.


“I have the highest praise for the sheriff's department, the way they moved quickly,” said Groody, who gave Walsh credit for doing an “extraordinary job.”


He suggested it was an example of community activism at its best, with a group of highly motivated citizens working with law enforcement. “I'm extremely proud of the community.”


After he heard that a stolen gun was found at the residence, Taylor said, “We need to stop this,” adding that he wants his community to be safe and to feel safe.


Groody said Walsh has offered to appear at another of the association's monthly meetings.


“He offered to brief the community on this raid and what went on, and also he's got a slide presentation that he's going to do,” said Groody.


Groody added, “I think the more people are aware of this, the better off the community is.”


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews , on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf and on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/user/LakeCoNews .

LAKE COUNTY, Calif. – Residents of Lake County are surrounded by stunning natural beauty, outstanding flora and fauna, charming small towns, hometown festivals and friendly people.


The County of Lake Information Technology Department is seeking photographs for the digital portal to Lake County government – www.co.lake.ca.us – that will highlight the best of our environs.


High-resolution digital photos will be rotated each day as the backdrop on the county Web site, showcasing the various amenities of the area where we work, live, and recreate.


Photos must be digital, in a .JPG, .TIFF, or .PNG format, with dimensions of 1400 x 450 pixels or larger.


The person submitting the photo must have all rights to the photo, and sign a statement to that affect.


No financial compensation will be provided by the county of Lake for use of photo, but the photographer will be credited on the county of Lake Web site.


If you would like to submit a photo or have questions, send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .


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KELSEYVILLE, Calif. – The Kelseyville Unified School District Board of Trustees will hold a special meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 9. to discuss district configuration plans.


The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. in the board room at the Kelseyville Unified School District Office, 4410 Konocti Road.


Parents and community members are invited to the meeting to share their input on the site configuration proposals for the 2011-12 school year with the board.


The district reported that the meeting agenda calls for discussion only, with no action.


Previous meetings have taken place on Aug. 12, Sept. 14 and Oct. 5. A district configuration committee also has been exploring the scenarios.


For more information, contact the Kelseyville Unified School District Office at 707-279-1511 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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Carol Kesey and her mums at a previous CLTTGC show. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.
 

 

 

 

LAKEPORT, Calif. – As the fall season is developing, so are the buds on the chrysanthemum plants that are being grown by many members of Clear Lake Trowel & Trellis Garden Club (CLTTGC) in preparation for the group's annual chrysanthemum show.


The show will be held from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, Nov. 12, at the Lakeport Yacht Club, next to the Fifth Street boat ramp in Lakeport. The event is free and open to the public.


The theme for this year’s show is “Memories & Mums,” with all floral arrangements to be created around this theme.


Refreshments of cookies and cider will be available for your enjoyment as you enjoy the show.


Growing mums is an all-year process. Charter member, Carol Kesey, has been sharing her plants and her knowledge of mums with members.


There are many varieties: incurve, reflex, decorative, pompom, single, semi-double, anemone, spoons, quill, spiders, brush and thistle, exotic or unclassified, gnomes, cascades, and garden cushion.


CLTTGC held judged chrysanthemum shows for many years. This is the third year members held a non-judged show – just for the pure joy of enjoying these beautiful flowers with all the varieties and share them with our community.


The flowers will be presented in the form of floral arrangements and also single stems.


Clear Lake Trowel & Trellis Garden Club meets at on the third Tuesday of the month at noon at Scotts Valley Women’s Clubhouse, 2298 Hendricks Road in Lakeport. Visit the group's Web site at www.clttgc.org.


CLTTGC is a member of Mendo-Lake District, California Garden Club Inc., Pacific Region and National Garden Clubs Inc.

 

Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews , on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf and on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/user/LakeCoNews .

 

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Lake County Registrar of Voters staff looks over ballots on the night of Tuesday, November 2, 2010, in Lakeport, Calif. Photo by Gary McAuley.

 

 

LAKEPORT, Calif. – On its busiest night of the year, the Lake County Registrar of Voters Office had a frustrating encounter with Murphy's Law.


Just a few hours past the 8 p.m. closing of the county's 53 precincts Tuesday night, two of the county's three voting machines jammed. Cleaning them didn't work, Registrar of Voters Diane Fridley reported on KPFZ Tuesday night.


Fridley said she said she and her staff were able to rely on a third machine from the department's store room in order to continue the count, which she said was going at about half speed.


In case it didn't work, she was prepared to borrow a machine from Sonoma County.


However, just after 1 a.m. Fridley's office released the preliminary results, with absentees and provisional ballots turned in on Tuesday yet to be counted during the 28-day election certification period.


The results tallied Tuesday night showed that, at least on the local level, voters chose challengers over incumbents, while Congressman Mike Thompson and state Assemblyman Wes Chesbro were returned to office, and Assembly member Noreen Evans won the state Senate seat currently held by Patricia Wiggins, who is retiring.


In the sheriff's race, Francisco Rivero received 8,102 votes or 53.9 percent of the vote, defeating 16-year incumbent Rod Mitchell, who had 6,919 votes, accounting for 46.1 percent of votes cast.

 

 

 

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Sheriff Rod Mitchell and supporters gathered at Angelina's Bakery in Lakeport, Calif., to watch the returns online on Tuesday, November 2, 2010. Photo by Gary McAuley.
 

 

 


Don Anderson is projected to be the new district attorney, taking 7,597 votes or 53.3 percent of the vote compared to his opponent Doug Rhoades, who received 6,663 votes, or 46.7 percent.


Lake County News was unable to reach Rivero by phone early Wednesday morning, but spoke with Mitchell at close to 1 a.m.


Mitchell said it was just after midnight, when 50 percent of the results had been tallied, that he sought out Rivero at the Lake County Courthouse.


At that point he informed Rivero that he could begin the transition for his new administration as sheriff after Thanksgiving.


Mitchell, noting that he loves Lake County, said, “I owe it to the citizens to make sure that I facilitate as smooth a transition as possible.”

 

 

 

 

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County Administrative Officer Kelly Cox and County Counsel Anita Grant assist with the counting of ballots at the Lake County Registrar of Voters Office in Lakeport, Calif., on the night of Tuesday, November 2, 2010. Photo by Tera DeVroede.
 

 

 


He said he hasn't thought about what he will do next, once his term runs out at the end of the year.


“There's too much to do right now in terms of getting ready for a new administration,” he said.


Because of the lateness of results being finalized, Lake County News will follow up with the rest of the candidates in the lead races later Wednesday.


Overall, voter turnout reported thus far was at 48.8 percent, with precinct ballots cast totaling 8,132, or 25 percent, compared to 7,749 absentees ballots, or 23.8 percent of the vote, according to the voting data released by Fridley's office.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews , on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf and on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/user/LakeCoNews .

 

 

 

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District Attorney candidate Don Anderson shot baskets with his grandson at Quail Run Fitness Center in Lakeport, Calif., while he waited for the election returns to come in on Tuesday, November 2, 2010. Anderson later found out he will be the county's new top prosecutor. Photo by Gary McAuley.
 

 

 

 

 

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Activity at the Lake County Courthouse in Lakeport, Calif., went on into the early hours Wednesday after two of the county's voting machines broke down on Tuesday, November 2, 2010. Photo by Gary McAuley.
 

LAKE COUNTY, Calif. – Daylight Saving Time comes to an end on Sunday, Nov. 7, and Cal Fire and the Office of the State Fire Marshal are reminding all Californians that when the time changes, the batteries in all smoke alarms should be replaced.


If smoke alarms in homes are more than 10 years old, Cal Fire recommends replacing them as well.


According to a recent survey among more than 1,000 adults commissioned by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), conducted over the phone in September 2010, Americans continue to have misunderstandings about smoke alarms, including how many they need in their homes and how often they should be tested and replaced.


Smoke alarms, when properly installed, give an early audible warning needed to safely escape from fire.


That’s critical because 85 percent of all fire deaths occur in the home, and the majority occur at night when most people are sleeping. Last year, NFPA documented 3,420 home fire deaths nationwide.


“By taking the time to replace the battery in your smoke alarm you help ensure that you have one of the best ways to alert your family should a fire occur,” said Chief Tonya Hoover, acting state fire marshal.


Cal Fire has the following tips on smoke alarms:


  • Test smoke alarms once a month.

  • Replace batteries in all smoke alarms twice a year.

  • Don’t “borrow” or remove batteries from smoke alarms even temporarily.

  • Regularly vacuum or dust smoke alarms to keep them working properly.

  • Replace smoke alarms every 10 years.

  • Don’t paint over smoke alarms.

  • Practice family fire drills so everyone knows what to do if the smoke alarm goes off.


Find more information visit the Cal Fire Web site at www.fire.ca.gov .


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WASHINGTON, DC – NASA's EPOXI mission spacecraft successfully flew past comet Hartley 2 Thursday morning, and scientists say initial images from the flyby provide new information about the comet's volume and material spewing from its surface.


NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said images taken and other science collected should help reveal new insights into the origins of the solar system as scientists pore over them in the months and years to come.


“This mission represents one of NASA's most successful deep space exploration projects,” Bolden said.


Ed Weiler, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate at the agency's Headquarters in Washington, D.C., said of the flyby, “This was really an exploration moment, seeing something no one on Earth had ever seen before.”


EPOXI principal investigator Michael A'Hearn of the University of Maryland, College Park, said early observations of the comet show that, for the first time, scientists may be able to connect activity to individual features on the nucleus.


“We certainly have our hands full. The images are full of great cometary data, and that's what we hoped for,” A'Hearn said.


EPOXI is an extended mission that uses the already in-flight Deep Impact spacecraft. Its encounter phase with Hartley 2 began at 4 p.m. EDT on Nov. 3, when the spacecraft began to point its two imagers at the comet's nucleus. Imaging of the nucleus began one hour later.


The comet zoomed past the spacecraft at a relative speed of more than 27,000 miles per hour, NASA reported.


“The spacecraft has provided the most extensive observations of a comet in history,” said Weiler. “Scientists and engineers have successfully squeezed world class science from a re-purposed spacecraft at a fraction of the cost to taxpayers of a new science project.”


Images from the EPOXI mission reveal comet Hartley 2 to have 100 times less volume than comet Tempel 1, the first target of Deep Impact. More revelations about Hartley 2 are expected as analysis continues.


Initial estimates indicate the spacecraft was about 435 miles from the comet at the closest-approach point. That's almost the exact distance that was calculated by engineers in advance of the flyby.


“It is a testament to our team's skill that we nailed the flyby distance to a comet that likes to move around the sky so much,” said Tim Larson, EPOXI project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif. “While it's great to see the images coming down, there is still work to be done. We have another three weeks of imaging during our outbound journey.”


Said Bolden, “EPOXI is a wonderful example of the strong collection of NASA science missions we have coming up in the next few years that will enable us to visit destinations across the solar system in new and exciting ways, look through new windows out across our vast cosmos, and expand our understanding of our own home planet. Our increased investment in science will continue to yield valuable dividends for the future.”


The name EPOXI is a combination of the names for the two extended mission components: the Extrasolar Planet Observations and Characterization (EPOCh), and the flyby of comet Hartley 2, called the Deep Impact Extended Investigation (DIXI).


The spacecraft has retained the name Deep Impact. In 2005, Deep Impact successfully released an impactor into the path of comet Tempel 1.


NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., manages the EPOXI mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate.


The spacecraft was built for NASA by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., in Boulder, Colo.


Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews , on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf and on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/user/LakeCoNews .

LAKE COUNTY, Calif. – The cities of Clearlake and Lakeport will each have two new members on their respective councils in December, although some uncertainties remain in the Lakeport race due to a candidate who left the race late winning a seat.


In Clearlake, Jeri Spittler and Joey Luiz were the top vote getters in a field of nine candidates. They were seeking the seats to be vacated next month by Clearlake Councilmen Chuck Leonard and Roy Simons.


Preliminary results released early Wednesday morning by the Lake County Registrar of Voters showed that Spittler led the field with 769 votes, or 19.9 percent, followed by Luiz with 642 votes or 16.6 percent.


Finishing out of the seats were Bill Perkins, 547 votes, 14.1 percent; Jim Scholz, 528 votes, 13.6 percent; Frank Taylor, 457 votes, 11.8 percent; Barbara Grier, 401 votes, 10.4 percent; Raymond Brady, 239 votes, 6.2 percent; Estella Creel, 201 votes, 5.2 percent; and Michael J. Walton, 87 votes, 2.2 percent.


City Clerk Melissa Swanson was returned with 100 percent of the vote, or 1,785 ballots cast for her. No person filed for the city treasurer spot.


In Lakeport, the seats currently held by Mayor Jim Irwin and Council Ron Bertsch were on the ballot, with Bertsch not seeking reelection.


Businesswoman Stacey Mattina led the field, with 433 votes or 20.7 percent of the vote.


She was followed by former Lakeport Police Chief Tom Engstrom, who received 380 votes, or 18.2 percent, despite having dropped out of the race several weeks ago, citing commitments to his church, as Lake County News has reported.


Finishing third was George Spurr, with 315 votes or 15.1 percent of the vote, followed by Irwin, 306 votes, 14.6 percent; Marc Spillman, a city planning commissioner, 304 votes, 14.5 percent; former Councilman Ted Mandrones, 225 votes, 10.8 percent; and P.J. Racine, 130 votes, 6.2 percent.


It's unclear at this point if Engstrom can simply decline to serve, clearing the way for Spurr to take the seat, or if an appointment or special election may have to follow.


In other election news, the Konocti Unified School District Board of Trustees saw two incumbents returned and a new member elected.


Anita Gordon won reelection with 24.8 percent of the vote, or 2,233 votes, followed by Bill Diener, with 2,131 votes, 23.7 percent, and incumbent Herb Gura, 1,638 votes, 18.2 percent. All three will serve four-year terms on the board.


The remainder of the field included Russell Kay Hunt, 1,100 votes, 12.2 percent; Lynda C. Davis-Robinson, 1,008 votes, 11.2 percent; and Philip J. Tuley, 891 votes, or 9.9 percent.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews , on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf and on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/user/LakeCoNews .

Veterans and their spouses who receive Veterans Affairs Disability Compensation and/or VA Disability Pension may also receive Social Security and Medi-Cal needs-based benefits and may also be beneficiaries of an irrevocable special needs trust.


This article discusses how veterans benefits complicate not only the receipt of SSI/Medi-Cal benefits but the drafting of the special needs trust to preserve such benefits should the veteran receive an inheritance or other windfall.


Receipt of VA compensation and pension benefits each reduce SSI benefits dollar for dollar; but SSI does not reduce such government VA benefits.


Accordingly, if SSI is relied upon as the basis for Medi-Cal eligibility then eliminating SSI benefits due to VA benefits may be counterproductive.


Veterans who receive Medi-Cal to pay for their long term care at a skilled nursing home can also receive any VA Pension benefits as income exempt from share of cost requirements, unless otherwise allocated to their stay-at-home spouse’s needs allowance.


Such VA pension money, therefore, increases Medi-Cal’s meager $30 a month spending allowance, i.e., money which the veteran does not have to spend on his or her nursing home care.


But, if the institutionalized veteran’s VA pension benefits are instead allocated to his or her stay-at-home spouse to meet her income needs allowance, then such VA benefits do count towards satisfying the spouse’s needs allowance.


A special needs trust that satisfy only SSI/Medi-Cal requirements will not suffice to preserve VA pension benefits because VA pension benefits are determined based on different criteria.


To qualify for VA pension benefits, a veteran must have served during wartime, be totally and permanently disabled have limited income, and meet a “net worth” test.


The “net worth” test examines whether the veteran’s income and non-exempt assets alone are sufficient to meet his or her basic needs.


Unfortunately, unlike federal SSI and Medi-Cal regulations, there are no federal rules regarding the VA treatment of trust assets.


It appears, however, that a discretionary special needs trust that further limits the trustee to the trust income to buy goods and services for the beneficiary would work to allow the veteran to continue receiving VA pension benefits in addition to SSI/Medi-Cal benefits.


Accordingly, if relevant, any family with a veteran should examine the connections between eligibility for the VA benefits and the SSI/Medi-Cal requirements.


If a special needs trust is being used, it must be drafted more carefully to preserve the VA pension.


Dennis A. Fordham, attorney (LL.M. tax studies), is a State Bar Certified Specialist in Estate Planning, Probate and Trust Law. His office is at 55 First St., Lakeport, California. Dennis can be reached by e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by phone at 707-263-3235.


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Dr. George Peach Taylor, Jr., says he doesn’t yet know if President Obama’s defense budget for fiscal 2012 will propose higher TRICARE fees for military retirees or any other beneficiary group.


If past budget requests are any guide, going back deep into the George W. Bush’s presidency, then higher TRICARE fees could be sought anew and perhaps now a more deficit-conscious Congress will be receptive.


But in phone interview, Taylor, who serves temporarily as the Defense Department’s top health official, mostly discussed higher priorities, for both him and Defense Secretary Robert Gates, including sustaining wartime medical support, improving wounded warrior care and coordinating better delivery of services across the $50 billion-a-year military health system.


Intentionally or not, Taylor’s list of top challenges, and impressive recent advances to help the wounded, made the prospect of unfreezing beneficiary fees for the first time since 1995 seem almost incidental.


The health system’s top priority, said Taylor, is ensuring that fighting forces have the medical teams on scene that they need – properly equipped, properly staffed and with the most advanced technology and procedures available anywhere. The result is surviving what was once unsurvivable.


A second priority is that warriors get the best possible care to recover from injuries, particularly lost limbs, traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder – the signature injuries of current wars.


For amputees, Taylor noted the extraordinary gains in prosthetics but also in the work of the Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine and partners like Wake Forest University so that, perhaps within a decade or even five years, they “can actually build new fingers and new ears, new noses and new toes, new feet and, eventually, new legs.”


Meanwhile, field-level policies have been changed to better protect those exposed to bomb blasts, so all receive medical evaluations after an incident and are not returned to the fight with undetected injuries.


Research is advancing to find biomarkers to detect brain injury. DoD and VA continue to partner on psychological health issues, exploring alternative therapies and more effective clinical guidelines to PTSD.


Several thousand behavioral health specialists have been hired into the military direct care system and they partner routinely with civilian mental health experts.


Taylor, a retired three-star officer and former Air Force surgeon general, is deputy assistant secretary for force health protection and readiness.


But until Congress confirms Dr. Jonathan Woodson, Obama’s nominee to be assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, Taylor is performing those duties. So he is DoD’s top health official and Gates’ principal health advisor on health budget and policy including TRICARE.


On whether higher TRICARE fees are in the offing, Taylor said, “Every year for most of the years I’ve been around, the department has proposed changes to the benefit structure.”


Congress has blocked most attempts to raise out-of-pocket TRICARE costs, even for working-age retirees and their families. But some key lawmakers are signaling it may be time to allow at least modest fee hikes.


At a Sept. 28 armed services committee hearing, ranking Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona seemed to be setting the table, asking Deputy Defense Secretary Bill Lynn, “Isn’t the biggest cost escalation to DoD today in health care?”


Lynn conceded medical is the “largest account … growing at a substantial pace” and that in “the fiscal year 2012 budget I think we will be proposing to Congress some ideas about how to restrain health care costs.”


Pressed by McCain, Lynn agreed health costs are growing “dramatically,” in some recent years by 10 percent or higher.


That same day, at a breakfast meeting with reporters, Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, called rising health care costs “unsustainable” and said, after 15 years, it’s time to raise TRICARE fees.


A few days later the Office of Personnel Management announced health insurance premiums paid by federal civilian workers and retirees will jump in 2011 an average of 7.2 percent. That could apply more political pressure on Congress to accept some sort of TRICARE fee increase.


What might be proposed for the fiscal 2012 budget is still “in department negotiations,” Taylor said. He said he doesn’t yet know what DoD will sign out, or what the White House will accept.


“It’s quite possible the budget won’t contain any benefit changes,” Taylor said. Or “in terms of the core enrollment benefit, it could be that it will contain some pharmacy benefit changes.”


Taylor noted that Gates is “very well on record that health care costs are eating us alive and we need to do something about it. There are only limited things you can do … You can decrease the total number of people that you have; you can change the benefit; you can change the use [of it] and, lastly, the actual technology or state of medicine.”


Looking at past proposals to raise health fees and co-payments, the most successful and accepted have sought to change patient behavior, he said, specifically the tiered co-payments adopted for the pharmacy benefit.


Patients pay higher co-pays today if they fill prescriptions in the TRICARE retail network where a 90-day supply costs TRICARE an average of $294. Lower co-pays are set for TRICARE’s mail order program, now called “home delivery.”


A 90-day supply of mail-order drugs costs TRICARE an average of $169, or 42 percent less than the neighborhood drug store.


Similarly, patients who use generic rather than brand name drugs see even lower co-payments.


The tiered structure for pharmacies changed behavior without “impeding the benefit,” Taylor said. “So we continue to explore those kinds of options.”


The new goal for TRICARE pharmacy plan is to more than double usage of home delivery so 500,000 prescriptions are filled by mail each week. The potential yearly savings would be $238 million, Taylor said.


To comment, send e-mail to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or write to Military Update, P.O. Box 231111, Centreville, VA, 20120-1111.


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LAKE COUNTY, Calif. – Lake County's incumbent congressman has won reelection.


Congressman Mike Thompson, 59, decisively won his seventh two-year term in the House of Representatives on Tuesday.


“I feel both humbled and grateful,” Thompson told Lake County News just after 10 p.m. Tuesday, not long after he was declared the winner in a field that included Republic Loren Hanks, Green Party candidate Carol Wolman and Libertarian Mike Rodrigues.


With 89.1 percent of the precincts in the First Congressional District counted as of 2:45 a.m., Thompson had 92,591 votes, or 61.6 percent of the vote, compared to Hanks' 49,182 votes, accounting for 32.7 percent of the vote. Wolman took 5,138 votes, 3.4 percent, and Rodrigues received 3,600 votes, or 2.3 percent.


Hanks told supporters in Napa Tuesday night that they've seen “a powerful shift in public sentiment” with the toppling of the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives.


“This district kept its incumbent, and we wish Mike Thompson good health in the next Congress,” he said. “But the conservative constituents of the district have awakened and after tonight, we will retool and retrench.”


He said the race “race has been a good first step in a long campaign to return the country to a Constitutional foundation.”


Thompson said he's honored to be able to continue to serve the First Congressional District, where he said he's worked with residents on the issues that are important to them.


He said he is looking forward to getting back to work when Congress goes back into session on Nov. 15.


However, come January, when new members of Congress are sworn in, the House will be under new leadership, with the Republicans retaking the majority, whereas the Democrats retained their majority in the Senate.


As to one of the legislative targets of Republicans, “I don't think they can repeal health care,” said Thompson. “There are just too many good things people are already enjoying.”


Thompson said President Barack Obama also wouldn't sign such repeal legislation.


“Everybody knows that health care was not sustainable,” Thompson said. “It needed to be fixed.”


Thompson acknowledged that there has been a lot of criticism about the fix that Congress produced.


“The truth of the matter is, we have a health care path upon which we'll continue to move, continue to make sure that Californians and Americans have access to quality affordable health care,” Thompson said. “That's something we've been trying to do in this country for decades.”


The Republicans will now steer a lot of legislation, but no matter who is in the Speaker of the House's chair, Thompson said he's not concerned about working closely with his colleagues across the aisle, which is something he said he has always done and will continue to do.


“I've been in the minority more than I've been in the majority,” he said.


Looking ahead at the serious challenges still facing the country, Thompson said he hopes the new Republican majority will be “interested in working with everyone to do what's best for America.”


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews , on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf and on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/user/LakeCoNews .

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