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'We Pretend The Vets Don't Exist'

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.'

Posted in Veterans News

2 Wars, 11 Years, 725 Fallen Californians

By Diana Marcum
Los Angeles Times
Pg. 1

They came from Walker Basin, a speck of a community at the edge of the Sequoia National Forest. From the farm town of Reedley, where a barber gives boys joining the military free haircuts before they ship out.

They came from San Francisco. Los Angeles. San Diego.

When they died, photos went up on post office walls in their hometowns. On Veterans Day, there are parades and charity golf tournaments. Buddies gather at graves to drink to the ones who are gone.

In the 11 years since the wars began in Iraq and Afghanistan, 725 service members from California have been killed.

Many died young -- 41% were not yet 22. Sixty-three were still teenagers.

They were fun-loving singles. Forty-seven were engaged. They were married, leaving behind 307 wives and husbands. They had children -- 432 sons and daughters.

Posted in Veterans News

A Marine's Death Brings Together His Dad And His Battlefield Buddy

By Michael M. Phillips
Wall Street Journal
Pg. 1

HOOVER, Ala.—Two years ago, Matthew Proctor dropped to his knees in the Afghan dirt and watched his best friend bleed to death.

These days, when dreams get disturbing or guilt eats at his gut, there is one person the former Marine corporal is likely to call: Thomas Rivers Sr., his dead friend's father.

When Mr. Rivers, 60 years old and a pharmaceutical executive, feels himself sinking into black depression or misses the pleasures of raising a son, it is the 24-year-old Cpl. Proctor he confides in or invites over for a boat ride. "He lost a best friend, and in a sense I lost a best friend as well as my son," says Mr. Rivers. "That is a bond we share."

War sunders some relationships and forges others. More than 6,500 Americans have died in Afghanistan and Iraq, leaving gaping holes in families across the nation. Out of duty or kindness, guilt or need, the troops who survived often step forward to fill the voids their buddies left.

Posted in Veterans News

A Purple Heart, A Bronze Star And Kickoff Coverage

By Robert Weintraub
New York Times
September 22, 2012
Pg. D2

When No. 10 Clemson plays at No. 4 Florida State on Saturday night, Daniel Rodriguez, a walk-on wide receiver, will be a member of the Tigers' kickoff coverage unit. The sure-to-be frenzied atmosphere is not likely to affect him much.

That is partly because, at 24, Rodriguez is older than most college players. And also because his service in Iraq and Afghanistan will probably leave him unfazed by the raucous cheering of Seminoles fans.

On Oct. 3, 2009, Rodriguez was deployed in Nuristan Province, in the far northeastern corner of Afghanistan along the Pakistan border. He was a sergeant and had experienced a year of fighting in Iraq. About 50 United States and Afghan soldiers manned Combat Outpost Keating, a forward operating base near the remote town of Kamdesh.

Posted in Veterans News

Army veterans start training for manufacturing jobs

Even with an 8.2% unemployment rate, the United States has a massive problem with getting manufacturing positions filled in this country. This problem isn’t going away any time soon, but it looks like the Army is trying to do something about it:

On Monday, the Army launched a six-week pilot program, in coordination with the Society of Manufacturing Engineers, to provide military-to-civilian engineering certification for the tens of thousands of servicemen/women who will be exiting the Army over the coming years as the U.S. winds down operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

Posted in Veterans News

Backlog Of VA Disability Claims Growing

WASHINGTON – Although the Obama administration has stepped up efforts to process medical disability claims by U.S. veterans, a top Department of Veterans Affairs official is set to tell lawmakers Wednesday that the agency's backlog continues to grow.

Allison Hickey, undersecretary for benefits at the VA, said in written testimony submitted in advance of a hearing before a House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee that the flow of VA claims has increased 48% over the past three years.

Posted in Veterans News

Big Dip In Unemployment Rate For Young Veterans

The jobless rate for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans fell dramatically in June despite an overall economy that produced few jobs and left the national unemployed rate unchanged.

The unemployment rate for Iraq- and Afghanistan-era veterans fell to 9.5 percent, down from 12.7 percent the previous month and from 13.3 percent in June 2011, according to the employment situation report released Friday by the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.

For veterans of all generations, the June jobless rate was 7.4 percent, a slight improvement over the 7.8 percent rate for May.

Posted in Veterans News

For Veterans With Post-Traumatic Stress, Pain Killers Carry Risks

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.

Posted in Veterans News

For Veterans, Finding A Job Is Biggest Challenge, Survey Finds

44 percent polled say they are not ready to make civilian transition

Despite a continued drop in the unemployment rate among Iraq- and Afghanistan-era veterans, a new survey reports that more than two-thirds of their post-9/11 generation believe that finding a job is the greatest challenge they face in making the transition to civilian life.

Among the most striking findings of the Veterans’ Employment Challenges study, released last week, is that 44 percent of veterans participating in the poll said they were not ready to make the transition to civilian life.

Posted in Veterans News

Former War Commander Fighting For Funds To Combat Brain Injuries

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.

Posted in Veterans News

Gen. Odierno Discusses Army Efforts To Limit Traumatic Brain Injuries

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.

Posted in Veterans News

Improve Care for Veterans With PTSD: Report

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.

Posted in Veterans News

Iraq, Afghanistan Vets Are Congregating Online, And VA, Veterans Groups Are Following Them

DENVER--Busy, tech-savvy and often miles from their peers, thousands of new veterans are going online to find camaraderie or get their questions answered -- forcing big changes in long-established veterans groups and inspiring entrepreneurs to launch new ones.

"We're going back to school, we have full-time jobs, we have families and kids," said Marco Bongioanni, 33, of New York, who deployed to Iraq twice while on active duty in the Army.

That leaves little time for what he calls "brick-and-mortar" groups like the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion.

Posted in Veterans News

Iraq, Afghanistan Vets See Jobless Rate Tick Up

Men 18-24 years old hit hardest; unemployment for veterans overall dips

By Steve Vogel

Unemployment among Iraq- and Afghanistan-era veterans stood at 12.1 percent in 2011, a slight increase over the previous year, according to a report issued Tuesday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

By comparison, the unemployment rate for non-veterans decreased from 9.4 percent to 8.7 percent over the same period.

Posted in Veterans News

Making A House Home For Veteran

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.

Posted in Veterans News

Medal of Honor winner Dakota Meyer is fighting for a new cause: helping veterans find jobs back home

With his marine unit caught in an ambush, Dakota Meyer knew what he had to do. In September 2009, Meyer and Staff Sgt. Juan Rodriguez-Chavez drove their Humvee into the thick of the ­action in the Afghan village of Ganjgal, stopping repeatedly under murderous fire so that Meyer could leave the ­vehicle to pick up stranded ­Afghan soldiers. Using a machine gun and grenade launcher to ward off the swarming Taliban militants, Meyer darted house to house searching for four missing Americans. They were dead, and while the precise details of the action have been a matter of controversy, an official review of the battle credited Meyer with saving the lives of numerous fellow marines and Afghan troops.

Posted in Veterans News

Military Bonds Draw Veterans to Mental Health Jobs

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.

Posted in Veterans News

Military PTSD: All-Star Scientists Start Mental Health Mega-Project

There's no question that plenty of soldiers from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are afflicted with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). But exactly how many soldiers? That's a question that even top medical experts, not to mention military officials, still can't quite answer.

Now a new consortium, manned by some of the nation’s top scientists where PTSD is concerned, is hoping to develop an objective means of diagnosing the condition. In other words, the group hopes that the illness can — one day soon — be diagnosed using medical techniques like blood tests or brain scans, rather than self-reported symptoms.

Posted in Veterans News

Murray: 285 Madigan PTSD Diagnoses Reversed

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.

Posted in Veterans News

Nearly 30% Of Vets Treated By V.A. Have PTSD

Jamie Reno
TheDailyBeast.com

A new study by the Veterans Administration reveals nearly 30% of its patients who served in Iraq and Afghanistan have PTSD. Jamie Reno reports.

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.

Posted in Veterans News

Poll Shows Jobs Top Issue For Military

By Kevin Cirilli
Politico.com

As GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama prepare for Monday's foreign policy debate, a new poll shows that members of the armed forces view veterans' unemployment as their top concern, and a majority think the country is headed in the wrong direction.

Eighty-eight percent of military members think Iraq and Afghanistan war vet joblessness is a problem, according to the poll from non-partisan advocacy group Concerned Veterans for America and obtained by POLITICO.

Posted in Veterans News

PTSD can harm families of veterans

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.

Posted in Veterans News

Solace in the sky: Flying helps combat veterans free themselves

by Vince Delvin
Missoulian.com

"Many military veterans who fought for your freedom now fight for their own – a freedom from symptoms of the post-traumatic stress disorder that threatens to take over their lives and relationships."

"Sadly, suicide is not an uncommon escape for those with PTSD. Jesse Roods, director and chairman of XSports4Vets – as well as a wildland firefighter who served as a Marine in Iraq – says an average of 17 veterans commit suicide every day in America."

POLSON – Brandon Bryant has done most of his flying from the inside of trailers.

The U.S. Air Force veteran piloted drones over Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya during his seven years on active duty. He steered the unmanned combat air vehicles with his feet firmly planted on a floor and his eyes not on the skies so much as on banks of computer screens.

So this was a little different, last weekend, when Bryant slipped on a helmet and took off from the Polson Airport on the back of what amounts to an open-air two-seat tricycle with a wing attached, and a motor capable of propelling it all through the sky at speeds up to 90 mph.

Posted in Veterans News

Soldiers' Mental Health: An Emergency

By Arnold Fisher And Bill White
New York Daily News
October 10, 2012
Pg. 32

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.

Posted in Veterans News

Treating Veterans Sexual Trauma

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.'

Posted in Veterans News

Unemployment Rises For Afghanistan And Iraq Era Veterans

By David Lerman, Bloomberg News

The unemployment rate for U.S. veterans who've served during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan increased last year, while the rate for non-veterans declined, the Labor Department reported yesterday.

Posted in Veterans News

VA Disability Problems

CBS Evening News, 6:30 PM

SCOTT PELLEY: Finally tonight, America of course owes a great debt to the men and women who have sacrificed so much in more than a decade of war. But it turns out many are forced to wait months, even years, to get disability benefits. David Martin has been investigating what’s behind the delay.

Posted in Veterans News

VA Short Of Mental Health Specialists

Need critical as PTSD cases rise

By Gregg Zoroya, USA Today

As thousands of additional veterans seek mental health care every month, the Department of Veterans Affairs is short of psychiatrists, with 20% vacancy rates in much of the country served by VA hospitals, according to department data.

Posted in Veterans News

Veteran Discusses PTSD

CNN Sunday Morning, 6:00 AM

RANDI KAYE: Thousands of U.S. troops are heading home from wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. But now many of them are fighting a war after the war. We're talking about post-traumatic stress disorder, also called PTSD. It is a term that we first started to talk about in the aftermath of the Vietnam War, but for today's troops, it is as relevant as ever. PTSD is a mental disorder that some get after seeing or living through a dangerous event such as war combat. A person may have a flashback or begin reliving the event. They may have bad memories or even nightmares. They might feel numb or become jittery, or always be on alert or on the lookout for danger.

Even knowing what PTSD does to a person, it's shocking that many veterans commit suicide in this country. How many? On average, as many as 18 every day. Mike Scotti is a former Marine lieutenant who served in Afghanistan and Iraq. He has recovered from PTSD. Good morning, Mike, thanks for joining us this morning.

Posted in Veterans News

Veterans Unemployment Rate Improves Again In July

The job outlook for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans continues to brighten as the unemployment rate for the group fell for the sixth month in a row.

The unemployment rate for veterans who entered service after Sept. 11, 2001, fell to 8.9 percent in July, down from 9.5 percent the previous month and from 12.4 percent in July 2011, according to the latest monthly employment report released Friday by the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Posted in Veterans News

Veterans' Homelessness High Priority For Agency

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.

Posted in Veterans News

Vets Struggle To Go From War To Work

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.

Posted in Veterans News

Wal-Mart Therapy Tried By Pentagon For Traumatized Troops

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.

Posted in Veterans News

War Might Be Making Young Bodies Old

BOSTON -- A litany of physical or emotional problems spill out as Iraq and Afghanistan veterans make their way, one by one, to the 11th floor of a VA hospital in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood.

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.

Posted in Veterans News

Coming Home Project

The Coming Homeâ„¢ Project is a non-profit organization devoted, since 2006, to providing expert, compassionate care, support, education, and stress management tools for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, service members, their families, and their service providers. We are an experienced team of psychotherapists, veterans and interfaith leaders committed to alleviating the unseen wounds of war. Our nationally recognized, evidence-based programs address the emotional, social, moral, and spiritual injuries and the family challenges experienced during all stages of deployment, especially reintegration.

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans for America (IAVA)

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans for America (IAVA) is the first and largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. With over 200,000 Member Veterans and supporters nationwide, IAVA strives to build the New Greatest Generation. Our programs empower our community online and offline, and include Smart Job Fairs, our signature New GI Bill calculator and Community of Veterans, a veterans only social network.

Coalition for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans (CIAV)

The Coalition for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans (CIAV) is a national non-partisan partnership of organizations committed to working with and on behalf of all military, veterans, families, survivors and providers to strengthen the existing system of care and support for all those affected by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Video - Take me out to the Ball Game! A Backpack Journalist Report

A Backpack Journalist interns Hannah and Stacey spend a day at Turner Field Ball Park during the Memorial Day game to interview some interesting people who are dedicated to helping military families, including Gen. (RET) Peter Chiarelli, CEO of 1mind4research.org - a leading organization specializing in treating Post Traumatic Stress Injury.

Posted in Veterans Videos

Video - Talking With Heroes Reports from Afghanistan

Talking WIth HeroesWATCH as we talk with 10th combat Aviation Brigade Bravo Company 277th Aviation Support Battalion soldiers in Bagram Air Field Afghanistan where they work on aircraft and more. We talked with SPC Sean Ginn from Midwest, Wyoming, SGT Joshua Maidinbaam with six years of service including an infantry division deployment to Iraq and now to Afghanistan. He is from Marmora, NJ, SPC James Henderson with 4 years of service and from Azle, Texas, PFC Joseph Wheelihan from Belleglade, FL, SPC Thomas Tipton from Phoenix, AZ, SGT Donald Wilkins with 5 years of service and from Louisville, KY, They talk about Care Packages especially from SoldiersAngels.org and OperationShoebox.org. They all give Shouts Outs to Family and Friends back home!

Posted in Veterans Videos
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