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VA Utilizes IBM’s Watson AI in Cancer Treatment

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By Debbie Gregory.

The Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) and IBM Watson Health have announced an extension of their partnership to bring artificial intelligence and genomic analytics to cancer care.

Watson’s AI is used to identify the specific cancer genome present in a patient and using that knowledge to tailor treatment. The VA’s precision oncology program has treated more than 2,700 veterans, primarily with stage 4 cancer who are eligible for alternative treatment options.

The computer system was initially developed to answer questions on the quiz show Jeopardy! and, in 2011,  Watson competed against legendary champions Brad Rutter and Ken Jennings, beating out the top competitors.

But Watson’s mission in the VA is meant to serve a much higher purpose.

“Our mission with VA’s precision oncology program is to bring the most advanced treatment opportunities to Veterans, in hopes of giving our nation’s heroes better treatments through these breakthroughs,” said Acting VA Secretary Peter O’Rourke.

Watson for Oncology has received some less-than-flattering press; last September, the health care news site Stat News found that “the supercomputer isn’t living up to the lofty expectations IBM created for it.”

The supercomputer came under fire for providing incorrect and ‘unsafe’ healthcare treatment advice to cancer patients. In one example, a patient was recommended a drug that could lead to severe or fatal hemorrhage while he was already dealing with severe bleeding due to his condition.

“It is still struggling with the basic step of learning about different forms of cancer,” Stat reported. “Only a few dozen hospitals have adopted the system, which is a long way from IBM’s goal of establishing dominance in a multibillion-dollar market.”

The VA treats 3.5 percent of the nation’s cancer patients, the largest group of cancer patients within any one healthcare entity. The department isn’t paying for Watson, with the latest extension in the partnership still part of a free trial.

By Debbie Gregory.

Minnesota-based 3M Company has agreed to pay $9.1 million to settle claims that it knowingly furnished U.S. servicemembers with defective earplugs. The allegations were brought against 3M under the whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act by Moldex-Metric, Inc.a 3M competitor.

The dual-ended Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2 (CAEv2) were originally manufactured by Aearo Technologies, which was acquired by 3M in 2008. Aearo was aware of the plug’s defects as early as 2000, many years before it and 3M became the exclusive provider of selective attenuation earplugs to the military. The defects rendered the plugs too short for proper insertion into users’ ears. Additionally, the earplugs could loosen so gradually that the user wouldn’t even notice, resulting in a further lack of protection.

Tinnitus and hearing loss are the VA’s two most prevalent service-related disabilities according to the 2016 Annual Benefits Report issued by the Veterans Benefits Administration.

“Government contractors who seek to profit at the expense of our military will face appropriate consequences,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Chad Readler of the Justice Department’s Civil Division.

The Combat Arms Earplugs were distributed to thousands of service members who deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq between 2003 and 2015.

“Properly made safety equipment, for use by our Soldiers, is vital to our military’s readiness,” said Frank Robey, the head of the Major Procurement Fraud Unit at the Army’s Criminal Investigative Command. “Our agents will respond robustly to protect the safety of our military.”

The False Claims Act allows whistleblowers to share in any funds recovered from a successful lawsuit, which means Moldex-Metric, Inc. will receive $1.9 million.

The settlement was the result of a joint effort by the Civil Division of the Department of Justice, the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of South Carolina, the Army Criminal Investigation Command, and the Defense Criminal Investigative Service.

The Veterans and Military Business Owners Association (VAMBOA) is proud to announce it will be participating in the 30th Annual Department of the Navy Gold Coast event, the premier Navy procurement conference in the country.

VAMBOA, the “go to” association for Veteran and Military Entrepreneurs, is a 501(c)6 trade association that focuses on connecting Service Disabled Veteran Business Owners (SDVBO), Veteran Business Owners, Military Business Owners and Military Spouse Business Owners with corporations that value a diverse supplier network. The non-profit will exhibit at booth #117 on August 7th and 8th at the event location, the San Diego Convention Center, 111 W. Harbor Drive, San Diego, CA.

“VAMBOA invites business owners who are not yet members to stop by our booth and register,” said CEO Debbie Gregory. “I also invite suppliers to come by the booth to discuss how VAMBOA can assist in expanding their supplier diversity network.”

There are not any fees to join VAMBOA.

Gold Coast 2018 provides a forum to educate, guide, and assist businesses, large and small, in support of the warfighter mission within Department of the Navy and throughout the DOD. The event provides exciting and relevant topics delivered by government and industry experts, as well as providing insightful panels, workshops and networking events.

For those unable to attend the conference, Debbie Gregory invites them to email her at dgregory@vamboa.org.

By Debbie Gregory.

In an effort to make sure the Veterans Administration transition to electronic health records (EHR) stays on track, Congress has tasked a new subcommittee to oversee the 10 year, $10 billion-plus project awarded to Missouri-based Cerner.

The Subcommittee on Technology Modernization will be headed up by Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN), a former Navy Reserve supply officer and Afghanistan veteran.

“Service members and veterans deserve a seamless, lifetime medical record and an electronic health record system that supports the highest quality care,” Banks said. “However, I have no illusions about the challenge confronting VA in this monumental undertaking.”

Back in June, House Committee Chairman Phil Roe (R-TN) and ranking member Tim Walz (D-MN) had announced that the new subcommittee would supervise the Department of Veterans Affairs‘ tech projects such as the Electronic Health Record Modernization program.

Cerner CEO Zane Burke told lawmakers that the annual maintenance and operating cost of the electronic health record system his company would provide would be lower than that of the existing system, which is about $1 billion.

In addition to Roe and Walz, Reps. Conor Lamb (D-PA), Jack Bergman (R-MI), Mike Coffman (R-CO) and Scott Peters D-CA) round out  the subcommittee.

Committee members noted that the electronic interchange of health records between VA and the Defense Department is needed to provide quality and timely healthcare for service members and veterans.

“For millions of veterans across the country, their first interaction with VA will be the simple act of booking an appointment,” Walz said. “Unfortunately, even something as straightforward as that can be a struggle due to VA’s antiquated information technology systems.”

The VA said the newly formed Office of Electronic Health Record Modernization, which will be led by Genevieve Morris, deputy national coordinator for the Department of Health and Human Services, “will manage the preparation, deployment and maintenance of VA’s new electronic health care record system and the health information technology (IT) tools dependent upon it.”

By Debbie Gregory.

Former Marine Cody Nichols is the owner/operator of Our Troops Services. The Tulsa, OK resident is also an employer whose company hires veterans for landscaping, fencing and construction jobs.

But unfortunately, on May 20th, Nichols was the victim of a theft that left him without any of his equipment, despite the fact that the equipment was stored in a yard with a barbed wire fence. Working with just of a couple of donated push mowers, the company was facing hard times and falling behind.

Just when it seemed the darkest of times for this veteran and his employees, a shining light in the form of non-profit Soldier’s Wish surprised Nichols with $15,000 worth of new lawn equipment!

Soldier’s Wish identifies and fulfills the unmet needs of military veterans, regardless of branch or rank. The 501(c) 3 organization provides support directly to veteran service members and/or their families to help them lead normal, productive lives.

“We’re going to survive. I really thought our company was going to die,” said Nichols.

As a veteran-owned business, Our Troops Services is one of the approximately 2.4 million veteran-owned small businesses that drive the U.S. economy and employ about 5.8 million individuals.

The company is mostly focusing on lawn care now to get back up and running. According to a GoFundMe campaign set up to help this seven-month-old start-up, the company is looking to move operations out of a private home and in to a safe area.

So far, they have raised over $7,500 of their $25,000 goal. But these veterans have the fortitude they learned during their military service, and they will keep moving forward.

VAMBOA would like to give a big shout out to both Our Troops Services and Soldier’s Wish. We applaud the great non-profits who are assisting those who serve, past and present, as well as their families and supporters.

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