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July saw a record number of suicides in the Army and among recent veterans. I was nearly one of them.
I suffer from both traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder, the two most common conditions of suicidal veterans. Sometimes life becomes overwhelming.
This summer, as has happened often before, I experienced severe depression, which leads to isolation. Then, when I was feeling most hopeless, I also started feeling tremendously reckless. I found myself feeling aggressive and impulsive, feelings that fuel erratic behavior. With each passing week of the summer, as I pushed yet another friend or family member away, it became easier to envision suicide as an option to break this insufferable tension.
WASHINGTON -- The roadside bomb that exploded outside Andrew Robinson's Humvee in Iraq six years ago broke the Marine staff sergeant's neck and left him without use of his legs. It also cast doubt on his ability to father a child, a gnawing emotional wound for a then-23-year-old who had planned to start a family with his wife of less than two years.
The catastrophic spinal cord injury meant the couple's best hope for children was in vitro fertilization, an expensive and time-consuming medical procedure whose cost isn't covered by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Robinson and his wife were forced to pay out of pocket, with help from a doctor's discount and drugs donated by other patients.
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By Beth Brown
San Antonio Express-News
September 20, 2012
The transition into civilian life hasn't been easy for Michael Jenkins.After 23 years in the Army, he retired as a sergeant first class in February. He has been unemployed ever since.
Jenkins is not alone in his struggle. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that while veterans have a nonseasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 6.6 percent, Gulf War-era II veterans — or those who have served in the military since Sept. 11, 2001 — have an unemployment rate of 10.9 percent. The country's overall unemployment rate is about 8 percent.
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More than 244,000 U.S. troops have been diagnosed with some form of brain injury over the past 12 years, according to Pentagon statistics.
They are the most common injuries among combat veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, and yet little is known about how to treat these wounds or cure the illnesses that result from them, says Peter Chiarelli, retired four-star general and former vice chief of the Army.
For a nation that takes pride in taking care of its wounded soldiers, he laments, it is a shame that the so-called invisible wounds of war get so little attention.
MATT LAUER: It is a startling number. More than 244,000 U.S. troops have returned from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with traumatic brain injuries, an issue that is front and center for the NFL, a league dealing with the problem of concussions among many of its current and former players. The league is now teaming up with the U.S. Army and National Institutes of Health to research ways to limit these types of injuries. Roger Goodell is commissioner of the NFL. Dr. Story Landis is the director of the NIH's Neurology Institute, and General Odierno is the chief of staff of the Army. Good morning to all of you. It's nice to see you.
General, that's a huge number, 244,000 returning military personnel with these brain injuries. I know the seriousness of those injuries varies from person to person, but it's a problem that has to be addressed.
GEN. ODIERNO: Absolutely, and one of the problems we have are soldiers coming forward first to say I have a problem. And so one of the things we're really focusing on is making sure that the same qualities -- mental toughness,physical toughness,dedication to mission accomplishment -- does not impede people from saying "I have a problem and I need to get help." That's why this initiative is important to us. We're now putting sensors in helmets, our kevlar helmets for the first time. About 7,000 soldiers have those in their helmets. As we're collecting more and more data, we're learning more and more information, but we have a lot of work to do yet.
More than 20,000 men and women have left the Army and Marines in the last four years with other-than-honorable discharges, jeopardizing their benefits and leaving some of them struggling to find treatment for health problems.
Jarrid Starks, a troubled Army veteran who received the Bronze Star for Valor but was dismissed from service with an other-than-honorable discharge, has been granted health-care benefits by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Starks was featured in an Aug. 12 Seattle Times story that examined the plight of veterans whose other-than-honorable discharges have put their veteran's benefits at risk.
Starks had been told that it might take a year or more for the VA to undertake a review to see if he is eligible for benefits.
By Greg Barnes, Staff writer
Fayetteville (NC) Observer
Lt. Gen. Frank Helmick stood in front of 14,000 soldiers on Fort Bragg in February with a message:
"We have got to stop the violence."
Just weeks before, Helmick had closed out the combat mission in Iraq and brought the troops home. Now, as he congratulated them for a job well done, he could not ignore some disturbing numbers. In just the past six weeks, he knew of six suicides and 25 accusations of spousal abuse.
Since Helmick retired in May, the violence at home has only gotten worse.
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Caleb Getscher's new home means a lot to him.
The 21-year-old Marine lance corporal lost both of his legs and part of an arm while on duty in Afghanistan last year. His parents' home in Chaptico, where he spends weekends when he is not at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, was not easy to get around in a wheelchair or with prosthetic limbs.
Now he is able to live more comfortably in an addition built to that house, thanks to a program administered by Patuxent Habitat for Humanity. Volunteers and elected officials gathered at the house Aug. 25 to dedicate the new living space.
Colleges sign on for Joining Forces national initiative
With nurses often at the front lines of medical care, there's a movement in the Chicago area and across the country to ensure that nursing students are better trained to tend to a new generation of patients who are military veterans.
The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, the National League of Nursing, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing and other industry groups are calling on nursing schools to take a pledge to do more to educate students on handling veterans and their families. The pledge is part of Joining Forces -- a campaign championed by first lady Michelle Obama and Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, to support veterans. Hundreds of nursing schools have already signed on, according to nursing groups.
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Planned Invictus San Diego facility would treat veterans, and later civilians, who have had amputations or traumatic brain injuries
A group of military, veteran and community health care heavyweights began meeting last year in San Diego to think big about improving treatment for amputation and traumatic brain injury.
The plan that took shape is unlike any nationwide, organizers say: a community center offering medical treatment, family and mental health counseling, job placement and education services under one roof.
Petraeus -- Holly, that is -- makes mark on military by putting herself between soldiers and swindlers
By Rick Hampson, USA Today
When 18,000 members of the Army's 101st Airborne Division flew back to Fort Campbell, Ky., in 2004 after a year in Iraq, Holly Petraeus was there to meet them, no matter the hour, the weather or her other duties.
New York Daily News
October 10, 2012
Be Our Guest
Anyone who believes that our country’s methods are adequate for helping veterans re-adapt to society as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wind down need look no further than at the following data: In the year 2012, 211 members of the United States Armed Forces took their own lives.
At least 53 of them committed suicide in July and August. That is more than the total number of battlefield deaths in those months. This is a crisis that has gone largely unaddressed in this political cycle, and it’s unacceptable.
Nonprofit grooms ex-military for jobs via service projects
Jeffrey Hall knows the look of an empty pantry.
“I do remember some days when we only had crackers in the house,” said Hall, 45, who recalled frequent trips to a food bank on the North Side. “A family of four, and crackers and water.”
Hall left Chicago to join the Navy, but he will return this week as a fellow with The Mission Continues, a nonprofit group dedicated to involving veterans of recent wars in meaningful service projects. More than 100 veterans will gather in Chicago this weekend to prepare for six months of work at nonprofits across the country.
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Civilian employers are reluctant to hire them, they say.
By David Zucchino
WASHINGTON -- Matt Pizzo has a law degree, can-do attitude, proven leadership skills, and expertise in communications and satellite technology from his four years in the Air Force.
By Gopal Ratnam and Michelle Fay Cortez, Bloomberg News
No one knows better than Connie Chapman that almost 150 years since troops came home with "soldier's heart" after the Civil War, the U.S. military is still struggling to identify and treat what's now called PTSD.
The tragic signs of post-traumatic stress disorder or battlefield concussion are all too evident. Even more alarming for researchers is emerging evidence that these newest American combat veterans -- former GIs and Marines in their 20s and 30s -- appear to be growing old before their time. Scientists see early signs of heart disease and diabetes, slowed metabolisms and obesity -- maladies more common to middle age or later.
STORY SUBMITTED BY J.D. LEIPOLD, ARMY.MIL
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Army's Warrior Transition Command unveiled its three-pronged Hire a Veteran education campaign plan Monday.
The plan aims to help employers understand that wounded warriors can bring a wealth of leadership experience and skills to the table and to their bottom line.
"This campaign is about setting conditions, not just preparing our Soldiers for a new career as a veteran, but also preparing employers about this unique population who has so much to offer," said WTC Commander Brig. Gen. David J. Bishop in kicking off Warrior Care Month at the National Press Club.
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By Greg Barnes, Staff writer
Kyle Maynard implored Fort Bragg's wounded soldiers to set impossible goals for themselves and then strive to reach them.
When he had finished speaking, about 300 strong from Fort Bragg's Warrior Transition Battalion responded with a standing ovation.
A wide-ranging inspection of Fort Bragg's Warrior Transition Battalion found that the program for physically and mentally wounded soldiers has shortcomings - notably a need for better leadership.
All Things Considered (NPR), 4:10 PM
ROBERT SIEGEL: When sick or seriously wounded troops return home from combat duty, most are assigned to special units called Wounded Warrior battalions. These units aim to give thousands of soldiers and Marines the month they need to recover.
The Brain Injury Association provides information on brain injury, research, conferences, publications, prevention and education, survivors' voice, assistive technologies, and information and referral. Phone: (800) 444-6443
HeadInjury.com provides brain injury information, education and support to foster self-advocacy and self-care in partnership with families, doctors, rehabilitation facilities and lawyers. Phone: (206)621-8558
The Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center (DVBIC) is a part of the U.S. military health system. Specifically, it is the TBI operational component of the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury (DCoE). Founded in 1992 by Congress, DVBIC’s responsibilities have grown as its network of care and treatment sites has grown.
Life Improvement Following Traumatic Brain Injury (LIFT) is an interventional pilot study to test the effectiveness of a telephone-based and in-person Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) intervention for treating Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) following Traumatic Brain Injury.
Participants are randomly assigned to receive one of the following: 1) Telephone-based CBT, 2) In-person CBT, or 3) Usual care (control).
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The mission of the National Resource Center for Traumatic Brain Injury (NRCTBI) is to provide relevant, practical information for professionals, persons with brain injury, and family members. We have more than two decades of experience investigating the special needs and problems of people with brain injury and their families. With input from consumers and nationally recognized experts, we have developed a wide variety of assessment tools, intervention programs, and training programs.
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The undisputed "experts" at living a fulfilling life with a brain injury are those who "have been there done that."
The purpose of this site is to connect the survivors, their family, friends and caregivers who" have been there done that" to those looking for answers to accomplish the same.
Every brain injury is unique, however, everyone's roadmap has the same elements
Learn how others have traveled their journey and build your unique roadmap.
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Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is a disruption of brain function resulting from a blow or jolt to the head or penetrating head injury.
TBIs can occur on the battlefield, on the football field, on the playground, in a car accident, and even at home.
There are four categories of TBI including mild, moderate, severe and penetrating.
A mild TBI (mTBI), which is also known as a concussion, is the most common form of TBI.
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The Traumatic Brain Injury Survival Guide website is an online book by Dr. Glen Johnson, a Clinical Neuropsychologist and Clinical Director of the Neuro-Recovery Head Injury Program in Traverse City, MI. The website is setup like a book with links to chapters, and the information is focused specifically on TBI and is given very concisely in laymen's terms.
The goal of this online book is to better prepare the person with the head injury and family for the long road ahead.
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The Blinded Veterans Association (BVA) is a U.S non-profit organization that was established to "help veterans and their families meet and overcome the challenges of blindness".
Services from BVA are available to all veterans who have become blind, either during or after active duty. The BVA has its headquarters in Washington, D.C. BVA is a 503(c)(3) registered nonprofit; for the 2008-2009 Fiscal year, BVA's income was $4.2 million.
After running into a young homeless veteran at a mall, Adam decided there needed to be more programs out there to help vets reintegrate back into society.
In April 2010 he started Veterans Farm in Jacksonville, Florida.
The farm trains veterans during six to nine month fellowships and gets them back on their feet. Fellow Shawn Rankin came to farm from Michigan after no one would employ him due to injuries sustained serving in the Navy. He was homeless and now has a house and is starting a farm.
Handheld technology helping to heal the invisible scars of war.
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March is Brain Injury Awareness Month and Army Medicine is taking this time to increase awareness about it. Watch this video to see Lt. Gen. Patricia D. Horoho's message to the soldiers about how the Army is leading the charge in care, education, and technology to treat those with traumatic brain injuries.
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In a deployed environment servicemembers are subject to risks such as post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury. Cases vary in severity but some can be treated in theater allowing servicemembers to return to duty. The Occupational Therapy Team is just one of the specialized groups that work together to help the wounded warriors.
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