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Author and former marine Anthony Swofford gets to the bottom of an epidemic.
I was sitting next to Melissa, a call responder at the VA Crisis Hotline in Canandaigua, N.Y., when she looked at me and whispered, 'He just said he thinks he should walk out into traffic on Interstate 5 and end it all, that life is not worth living.'
By Mike Mullen and Steven A. Cohen
Our nation is finally emerging from one of the worst recessions in American history, yet for our military veterans there is no recovery in sight. The nation's unemployment rate is 8.1 percent. But the unemployment rate of our youngest military veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan hovers at a stunning 29 percent.
Forensic Methods Led To Loss Of Pensions; Soldiers retested after problems at Madigan
The policy, obtained by The Seattle Times, specifically discounts tests used to determine whether soldiers are faking symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. It says that poor test results do not constitute malingering.
The written tests often were part of the Madigan screening process that overturned the PTSD diagnoses of more than 300 patients during the past five years.
The Army Medical Command has a hotline available for soldiers and veterans who have been screened by forensic psychiatric teams since 2007 as part of the evaluation process for medical retirement. Soldiers and veterans with concerns about their diagnosis may call 800-984-8523.
In 1999, President Bill Clinton convened the first White House Summit on Mental Health. The aim of the conference and the public campaign that followed was, in part, to educate the media on the moral and ethical imperative related to dispelling the stigma associated with mental illness. In a radio address to announce the conference, Mr. Clinton said, "Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of, but stigma and bias shame us all."
In recent years, the Department of Defense has made unprecedented progress toward eliminating the stigma associated with post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health issues affecting service members. This cultural shift within the military is a sea change, as more and more of our service members are seeking and receiving the support they need and deserve from a grateful nation. In the face of that progress, itâ€™s unfortunate that some in the media continue to perpetuate a stigma linking military service to mental illness and violence.
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.
Neither the Defense nor the Veterans Affairs department -- which operate the world’s largest electronic health records systems -- tracks treatments used for post-traumatic stress disorder, according to a report the Institute of Medicine issued last week. What’s more, Defense does not even know how many PTSD treatment programs it or the services provide.
By Patricia Kime, Army Times
An internal Pentagon task force is recommending the creation of a single defense health agency that would have broader reach and responsibilities than the current Tricare Management Activity, but would leave command of military treatment facilities within the individual services.
The Department of Veterans Affairs says it plans to hire 1,900 psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, clinicians and clerical employees, a 10 percent increase in its mental health staff. That's welcome progress for a system that is struggling to meet the needs of veterans. But there are questions about whether it will be enough â€” and whether the department is truly facing up to its problems.
In an effort to provide more opportunities for wounded veterans, multiple federal agencies discussed what they could do to employ veterans as they continue their medical recovery.
Wednesday's meeting was the first time many of the local agency representatives had heard about the program and what opportunities are available to them to provide extra training to wounded veterans and to get extra hands at their office. Those in attendance included a wide range of agencies, from U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to the National Weather Service.
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.
By James Dao
Veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder are more likely to be prescribed opioid pain killers than other veterans with pain problems and more likely to use the opioids in risky ways, according to a study published Wednesday by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
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.
Marine turned entrepreneur and filmmaker Zach Iscol on an extraordinary and undervalued talent pool.
Retired Master Sergeant Ken Holman was confused when Scott Miller and Paul Cotter approached him about applying for a job at Microsoft.
On Feb. 21, 2002, his vehicle flipped over during a training exercise. His seatbelt broke, flinging him against the windshield. He broke his neck in three places and shattered his lower vertebrae, leaving him partially paralyzed. He had to relearn how to talk, walk, read, and write.
He'd served 26 years in the Marines specializing in bulk fuel and later in acquisitions. Though he had run a 2:35 marathon, served as a drill instructor and as a Marine recruiter, he had zero IT background.
So why were they interested in hiring him?
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 Hugh Lessig
The Obama administration has selected the Hampton VA Medical Center and a site in San Antonio as launch points for a massive medical record-sharing program between the departments of Veterans Affairs and Defense.
FRIDAY, July 13 (HealthDay News) -- Access to care for U.S. military service members and veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) must improve, says an Institute of Medicine report released Friday that also calls for better tracking of treatments and results.
The congressionally mandated report also said that the departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs should launch research programs to evaluate the effectiveness of their PTSD programs and make the findings widely available.
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.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness released a report Thursday calling on the Defense Department, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Health and Human Services to eliminate barriers to mental-health care and make better use of local care in the treatment of military service members, veterans and their families.
by: Rob Kane
Veterans have turned to psychology to become mental health professionals, and they’re filling in gaps in veteran care that government and civilian efforts have left open. And while they are still rare, programs to train them are slowly emerging at universities and nonprofit organizations around the United States.
Senator Calls For New Evaluations; Army investigating screening process
By Hal Bernton, Seattle Times staff reporter
The Army Medical Command has identified some 285 Madigan Army Medical Center patients whose diagnoses of post-traumatic stress disorder were reversed as they went through a screening process for possible medical retirements, according to U.S. Sen. Patty Murray.
The Department of Veterans Affairs has quietly released a new report on post-traumatic stress disorder, showing that since 9/11, nearly 30 percent of the 834,463 Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans treated at V.A. hospitals and clinics have been diagnosed with PTSD.
Veterans advocates say the new V.A. report is the most damning evidence yet of the profound impact multiple deployments have had on American service men and women since 9/11. Troops who've been deployed multiple times to Iraq and Afghanistan are more than three times as likely as soldiers with no previous deployments to screen positive for PTSD and major depression, according to a 2010 study published by the American Journal for Public Health.
The report, which revealed that 247,243 veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars have been diagnosed with PTSD, was buried on the V.A.'s website without fanfare.
Average case now drags on for more than a year
Five years after launching a combined effort to cut the time it takes to complete disability evaluations and begin paying benefits to wounded, injured and ill troops, it now takes the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments an average of 100 days longer to close a case.
The Integrated Disability Evaluation System was launched in 2008 to combine the separate DoD and VA systems into one and cut the time it takes to complete to 295 days for active-duty troops and 305 days for reserve-component members.
The Department of Veterans Affairs is processing more than a million disability compensation claims a year, for veterans of every age and era, whether they served in wartime or during periods of relative calm.
But that has not been enough to keep the claims backlog from rising through current wars and the expansion of compensation eligibility to more medical conditions, particularly for veterans who served in Vietnam.
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama signed an executive order Friday directing the Department of Veterans Affairs to expand mental health services and suicide prevention efforts.
The president made the announcement in a speech to troops at Fort Bliss, Texas, where he was scheduled to hold a roundtable with soldiers and their families.
Much of what’s outlined in the executive order are initiatives that were previously announced earlier this summer by the VA.
The Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs approved legislation on Wednesday that would expand access to infertility treatment for disabled veterans. The bill would authorize the Department of Veterans Affairs to cover the cost of in vitro fertilization treatment for veterans and spouses.
By Associated Press
New York Times
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.
The Center for Custom Prosthetics in Naples, Florida, is making an impact on U.S. military veterans by providing them with unique prosthetic solutions. The Center also provides the same quality service that veterans receive to the general public, which includes creating custom prosthetic eyes, noses, ears, hands and more. Based out of the west coast of Florida, the practice will be expanding its reach this Fall by opening new offices on Florida's east coast.
For 22 years, Shirley Booze attributed her husband’s violent nightmares and depression to “mental fatigue.”
It was clearly more than just everyday stress that was affecting the Army veteran, but Booze had no other way to classify his emotional isolation.
“It was like he was in a foxhole and trying to protect himself,” she said.
Largest research project in U.S. military history, started in 2001, follows 187K service members for 21 years
The largest research project in U.S. military history aimed at studying the long-term effects of post-traumatic stress disorder has now passed the halfway point.
The Millennium Cohort Study, run out of the Naval Health Research Center in San Diego, is a 21-year study that is comprehensively following the lives and habits of 187,000 service members. Researchers began accumulating data 11 years ago, in 2001. The project is scheduled to run another decade, until 2022.
Researchers hope the massive amount of data they collect will help them pinpoint who gets PTSD and why.
The stress of readjusting to civilian life is a major reason some soldiers seek treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, a new study finds.
Many veterans who require mental-health care do not receive it, and a great deal of previous research has focused on barriers to treatment. The new study was conducted to identify characteristics and factors that motivate veterans to seek mental-health treatment.
By Michael Melia, Associated Press
HARTFORD, Conn.--As a truck driver for the U.S. military in wartime Iraq, Ed Young racked up 7,000 miles, facing a constant threat of attack that left him struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts.
Four years later, he is driving long hauls again, but now in the U.S. as one of a growing number of veterans turning entrepreneur. The Navy veteran who had seen his post-war life spiraling out of control says his Connecticut-based car transportation business has helped to put him on the road to recovery.
Rep. Howard Waxman says the Veterans Affairs bureaucracy is impenetrable. His opponent says Waxman hasn't tried hard enough.
By Steve Lopez
Los Angeles Times
September 26, 2012
Bob Rosebrock and I sat under a tree on the West Los Angeles Department of Veterans Affairs property, discussing his pet peeve: How the country is failing its veterans. There was plenty to talk about.
Nearby was the gleaming $253-million California Veterans Home, opened with great fanfare more than two years ago, with local politicians lining up to take bows. But today, in a region with an estimated 8,000 homeless veterans, many of whom can't get access to care, roughly four-fifths of the 396 rooms are empty.
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.
In the first comprehensive review of the government's programs for treating post-traumatic stress disorder in service members and veterans, a panel of experts recommended on Friday that the Defense Department and the Department of Veterans Affairs expand access to services, particularly for people in rural areas, in the National Guard or Reserves, or in combat zones.
The report, by the Institute of Medicine, also concluded that the two departments need to improve their assessment of how well their many treatment programs work, as well as find better ways of coordinating care that can begin overseas and then continue on bases or in small towns across the country.
Emerson College Polling Society Survey Reveals Veterans Seek Anonymous Treatment of PTSD from Private Organizations
BOSTON, Dec. 12, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- One in five U.S. Military personnel returning from deployment said they are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and 41% of service members know a fellow soldier suffering from PTSD. However, 46% of service members said they are not seeking counseling, according to a poll conducted by the Emerson College Polling Society (ECPS). The poll surveyed both members of the military, and citizens who personally know members of the military, about symptoms related to PTSD.
Felix Chen, an international student and chief analyst for the Emerson College Polling Society, found the most important reason cited as to why military personnel do not seek PTSD counseling was embarrassment by admitting they needed professional help (25%) and not wanting to identify themselves in order to get treatment (11%).
For every soldier killed in combat, 25 veterans are dying by suicide. It's time to broaden efforts against PTSD.
By Robert Morgenthau
Wall Street Journal
During the Civil War, they called it "soldier's heart." In World War I, doctors called it "shell shock." In World War II, the war I served in, we called it "battle fatigue." Now we know it as post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. The name may have changed, but one thing is clear: It is reaching epidemic proportions among our soldiers and veterans.
According to a Veterans Administration report released this March, current or former military personnel represent an estimated 20% of all known suicides in the United States—that's more than 7,000 veterans and service members each year. For every soldier killed in combat, 25 veterans are dying by suicide.
Baltimore VA center offers help to victims of attacks and harassment in military
By Matthew Hay Brown, The Baltimore Sun
Machele Fredericks had to face her attacker every day.
She was in the Air Force. He was a fellow service member on the base. And he said that if she told anyone what he'd done, he'd kill her.
"You didn't hear much of people getting raped in the military back then," Fredericks said. "At least I didn't. So, you know, it was like fear every day: 'I hope he's not at the gate today.'
But vets must take first step: seek help
The most common misconception about post-traumatic stress disorder is that there is no effective treatment.
Dr. Matthew Friedman, executive director of the Department of Veterans Affairs' National Center for PTSD, is working to get the word out that it's "very treatable."
PTSD is more prevalent among service members today, with 17 percent to 20 percent of the troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan suffering from it, he said. But studies have shown that 80 percent of those, given proper treatment, are without symptoms after five years.
For Johnnie Larmore, a veteran of three combat tours in Vietnam, living with post-traumatic stress disorder means bursts of anger followed by wells of depression.
Last week, the Port Angeles man left a recently expanded treatment program at VA Puget Sound American Lake Division in Lakewood. He calls it “the best staff and the best facility” he’s seen in his 41 years seeking help coping with Army combat-related PTSD.
By Agence France-Presse
The number of suicides in the US Army rose by 80 percent after the United States launched the war on Iraq, American military doctors reported on Thursday.
By Rick Maze, Staff writer
Congressional negotiators have taken a big leap in expanding veterans' health care by proposing Veterans Affairs Department treatment for veterans and dependents exposed to contaminated well water at Camp Lejeune, N.C.
Up to 750,000 people â€” Navy and Marine Corps members and their families â€” may have been exposed to water found to be contaminated by carcinogens from the 1950s into the 1980s.
VA pursuing strategic, and some say lofty, goal of ending problem by 2015
WASHINGTON -- On a cold night in Monmouth County, N.J., a lone dishwasher stayed late, taking on extra work to buy time. The restaurant's owners, trying to close up, guessed the man had no place to go. And when they tried to find him one, they struck out.
The restaurant is owned by rock legend Jon Bon Jovi's foundation, and Bon Jovi and his wife, Dorothea Hurley, discovered that night that finding services for the homeless is no easy task. For the Department of Veterans Affairs, which is trying to tackle the problem of veterans' homelessness, figuring out how to make the task easier is a pivotal goal.
Report says department overstated how quickly it provided service
By Steve Vogel
The Department of Veterans Affairs has greatly overstated how quickly it provides mental-health care for veterans, according to an inspector general's report released Monday.
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.
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.
Complicated grief is a debilitating condition that has been under-recognized by the mental health profession.
Our Complicated Grief Treatment Program focuses on finding treatments that can help people with complicated grief, and on teaching professionals to recognize and treat this condition. Our goals are:
- To improve the lives of people suffering from complicated grief; and
- To find the best ways to disseminate and implement complicated grief research and treatment information
GET FREE VA CLAIMS ASSISTANCE
If you've been diagnosed with mesothelioma, you're entitled to benefits and compensation from the VA. This compensation can pay for your treatment and improve your quality of life. Our free Veterans Guide will help you navigate the VA claims process and get the benefits you deserve.
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
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.
Macho Spouse PTSD Video Series: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder - Treatment
Our friends over at Macho Spouse - the male military spouse online community - have posted the fourth video in their Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) series. In this video on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) treatment, Dr. Nicholas Lind, Co-Owner of Post Trauma Resources (Columbia, SC), shares his philosophy behind what makes PTSD treatments effective and what programs Post Trauma Resources uses to help those suffering from PTSD control their symptoms.
The National Center for PTSD is the center of excellence for research and education on the prevention, understanding, and treatment of PTSD. The Center has seven divisions across the country.
The Mesothelioma Center (Asbestos.com) is an organization devoted to assisting veterans through their application processes for VA benefits, and helping them obtain the maximum benefits for which they are entitled.
WASHINGTON (AP) â€” The Department of Veterans Affairs continues to retaliate against whistleblowers despite repeated pledges to stop punishing those who speak up, a group of employees said Tuesday. One called the department's office of inspector general a "joke."
VA whistleblowers from across the country told a Senate committee that the department has failed to hold supervisors accountable more than a year after a scandal that broke over chronic delays for veterans seeking medical care and falsified records covering up the waits.
Shea Wilkes, a mental health social worker at the Shreveport, Louisiana, VA hospital, said agency leaders are "more interested in perpetuating their own careers than caring for our veterans."
Wilkes, who helped organize a group known as "VA Truth Tellers," said "years of cronyism and lack of accountability have allowed at least two generations of poor, incompetent leaders to plant themselves within the system," harming medical treatment for veterans. The informal watchdog group includes more than 40 whistleblowers from VA facilities in a dozen states.
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.
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.