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Sunday, April 29, 2007

Details on Moving a Nation to Care's May Launch

Much writing going on over here every day (none I can share with you right now, but will at a later date) while (im)patiently waiting for Moving a Nation to Care's May 1 publication date!

We are steady approaching it now.

My publisher tells me that the books have been printed. They are shipping as we speak from the distribution warehouse to stores that have ordered copies. Unfortunately, Amazon.com and brick and mortar stores will get their stock about a week late (a ship date scheduling error), but everything will be in place by mid-May.

Interestingly, a few upcoming events have moved around independent of the shipping error. So the fates have stepped in to create a mid-May book launch it seems (see below). So, we will come in like kittens this month, but plan to go out roaring like lions by the end of May. That's the plan. Everyone on board!?

A few of the events to watch for next month. More coming...

May 10, 2007: Back Pages Books - 7:30 p.m.
Waltham, MA
My first bookstore appearance takes place three days after my NIU finals. It's going to be a thrill to be able to visit with you guys out in the great state of Massachusetts!

May 14, 2007: Clark Community Network - published in morning
Online
Second installment of the CCN Troops & Vets PTSD series is slated to publish. Register with General Wesley Clark's blog so you can interact and leave a comment.

May 16, 2007: Robin's Bookstore - 6 p.m.
Philadelphia, PA
My second appearance in the New England area will be at Robin's Bookstore, the oldest independent bookseller in a city steeped in a long tradition of fine print and press.

May 18, 2007: Barnes & Noble - Greenwich Village - Evening
New York, NY
Planning to have some interesting guests at this event, which Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) has offered to sponsor. Stay tuned.

May 20, 2007: Firedoglake - 5 p.m. ET :: 4 p.m. CT :: 2 p.m. PT
Online
Featured author on Firedoglake's Sunday Book Salon -- what a nice treat. I'll be available online to answer your questions. Register your username and leave a comment.

Check out the full book tour schedule.

I'll appear on Air America Radio's About Face program, hosted by Dennis Stout, Mark Fleming, and John Henry and broadcasting Sunday mornings from balmy Phoenix, Ariz., on June 3, 2007. Later that week, June 6, I've got a book signing in Tempe, Arizona. (Thanks, Mark!)

Latest addition to the book tour?

Another California stop, a special bookstore event hosted by the Barnes & Noble in Oceanside, CA -- near Camp Pendleton. I've been invited to appear from noon to 3 p.m. on Saturday, June 9, 2007. Still getting more event details, and will pass them on when I have them. I know some have asked for a stop out in Oceanside, so I'm really glad we were able to add this to the list.

Updates will be more frequent after early next week (May 7).

Hang in there with me, guys!


Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Opinion: Proactive Community Needed to Help Troops Reconnect, Reintegrate

From the Spring Grove [MN] Herald:

I am watching the growing furor over the shortcomings in the Veterans Administration system and the fallout from Walter Reed Army Hospital with growing alarm. I am concerned that we are going to fix the crisis and forget the problem.

The problem is how to help warriors, and their families, successfully reintegrate back into our communities, and their homes, after combat. A portion of that problem is health care related. For a majority of combat vets, however, only a small part of their reintegration challenge has to do with health care for physical injuries. Behavioral and mental health are bigger issues. And for most, the biggest challenge is relational: rebuilding marriages, reconnecting with children, rejoining friends, rejoining the global economy, getting back to the communities of faith we left, etc.

The problem with focusing on the VA is we may well fix the VA only to convince ourselves that the reintegration of our combat veterans is a government program, not a community process. If we expect the government to take care of everything, we will have failed our combat veterans and their families as well as ourselves.

We have sent our precious men and women to war. The VA can't bring them home. Only we can. We have a moral obligation to ensure that all of our combat veterans come all the way home to their families, their jobs, their schools and their communities.

A government program can't do that. A community can.


Click on 'Article Link' below tags for suggestions...

Opinion piece included in full in the interest of education.

each of us needs to roll up our sleeves and do more than castigate the VA. It means the following:

If you are a health care provider in Minnesota, do the right thing: Become a Tricare provider. Tricare is the insurance the government issues to mobilized reservists and guardsmen.

Two-thirds of Minnesota health care providers are not Tricare providers. The result: We do not have an in-patient chemical dependency treatment center in Minnesota that is a Tricare provider. We have a dire shortage of behavioral mental health providers who are Tricare providers. The VA can't fix this ... we can.

If you are an educator, sign up for an Operation Military Kids workshop and learn about the daunting challenges our 7,000 Minnesota military kids face when their parent marches off to war, and when they return. Help our children while we are at war. Parent educators, we need you to offer classes in every school district in Minnesota, for military families. We need your help in learning how to parent our children again.

If you are a member of the clergy, learn all you can about the toll combat takes on marriages, families, mothers and fathers of military personnel. You don't have to support the foreign policy to pray for us while we are in harm's way and to visit our parents, our spouses and our children while we are gone. When we come home, we need your help in putting our marriages, families and lives back together.

If you are an employer, please give my spouse some grace. She or he is juggling a job, a family, a home and a huge heartache. There are no laws to protect them while we are at war, as there are to protect my job when I come back. They struggle mightily and may need some special attention and some extra time off. Do the right thing - help them.

If you are a social service provider, learn all you can about combat operational stress, the challenges of reintegration for combat veterans and the impact of war on the family system. You are our "first call for help;" don't fail us because you choose not to invest in your professional development.

If you are a politician, don't politicize the shortfalls in the VA or the military medical system. We aren't pawns in an election cycle; we are your constituents, and we are counting on you to fix the problems. Energize the community on our behalf to do right by us. We're not asking for showy programs. We are asking for tangible signs of support in terms of services offered.

If you are our neighbors, and you are, don't "victimize" us. Most combat veterans come home without PTSD, mental disorders, physical wounds or destroyed lives. We generally readjust well and go on to live productive lives. Expect great contributions to society from us. We won't disappoint you. Challenge us to greatness; we know how to serve.

Watch over our families while we are gone. Extend a warm welcome home when we return. Walk with us through the months of readjustment, and make a place for us in the community. If we are among the tragic few who come home physically or mentally wounded, help us by connecting us to local, county, state and federal resources.

Certainly, address the problems with the VA, the military medical system and other systemic issues that face us. But, above all ... bring us all the way home.

A program can't do that. You can.

Major John Morris is a chaplain in the Minnesota Army National Guard. For more information about his and others' ground-breaking work on reintegrating returning soldiers, go to www.minnesotanationalguard.org and look for the "Beyond the Yellow Ribbon" link.

This is great advice for us all.


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Wednesday: Senate Hearing Explores Mental Health Issues of Returning Troops

Following the stunning testimony yesterday by Pat Tillman's family and Army Private Jessica Lynch, more families are coming forward today. Streaming live (beginning 2pm ET) and archived here.

From IAVA:

On Wednesday at 2:00pm ET, the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs will be holding a hearing on the mental health issues faced by returning combat veterans. IAVA Legislative Director Patrick Campbell will be talking about recent efforts by the VA to address these issues, and about his own experiences in Iraq. Ellen and Randy Omvig, whose son Joshua committed suicide just a few months after returning from a tour of duty in Iraq, will be speaking on the panel with him.

Watch the hearing live or afterwards here.

Wishing my best to the Omvigs.

Click on 'Article Link' below tags for full witness list...

Witness List:

Panel 1

Tony Bailey, father of Justin Bailey

Randall Omvig, father of Joshua Omvig

Accompanied by:
Ellen Omvig, mother of Joshua Omvig

Patrick Campbell, Congressional Liaison, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America

Connie L. Best, PhD, Senior Faculty Member, National Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center, Medical University of South Carolina



Panel 2

David Oslin, MD, Director, VISN 4, Mental Illness Research Education and Clinical Center, Department of Veterans Affairs

Jan Kemp, RN, PhD, Associate Director for Education, VISN 19, Mental Illness Research Education and Clinical Center, Department of Veterans Affairs

Patricia Resick, PhD, Director, Women’s Division, National Center for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Department of Veterans Affairs

Accompanied by:
Ira Katz, MD, PhD, Deputy Chief Patient Care Services Officer for Mental Health, Department of Veterans Affairs

Ralph Ibson, JD, Vice President for Government Relations, Mental Health America

From yesterday's hearings, Kevin (brother of Pat) Tillman's opening statement:



Jessica Lynch opening statement, very powerful:




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Sunday, April 22, 2007

WV Vet? Military Families Invited to 31st Annual 20K Classic Run and Walk Inaugural Event

From the Wheeling [WV] News Register:

Organizers of the Ogden Newspapers 20K Classic Run and Walk are reminding local veterans that they can be a part of the Classic’s inaugural torch run Friday, May 25.

The event will begin at 4:30 p.m. at the Osiris Shrine parking lot at the corner of National Road and Kruger Street in Elm Grove. Wheeling Police Chief Kevin Gessler will be the first to carry the torch. Others involved in the event will be Wheeling Mayor Nick Sparachane, Wheeling City Manager Robert Herron and West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin.

Four local veterans also will carry the flame—Lt. Col. Paul Hicks, Lt. Col Pat Plunkett, Tech Sgt. Jim Koonce and Gunnery Sgt. Dale Sigler.

Click on 'Article Link' below tags for more...

Veterans of all wars are invited to participate.

What: Inaugural Torch Run of Classic's 20K Race
Where: Wheeling, WV
When: Friday, May 25, 2007, 4:30p.m start time
Registration: No registration required for veterans. Please go to designated areas as listed below.
More: Visit the race website or
call R. “Scat” Scatterday, race director, at (304) 233-1312.

Ogden Newspapers 20K Classic Run and Walk Schedule

  • Veterans who served from 1991-present should join Hicks in the run at the bottom of Wheeling Hill (on the Fulton side).
  • Veterans who served from 1960-90 are invited to join Plunkett in the event when he is given the torch at the top of Wheeling Hill by the windmill.
  • Veterans who served from 1950-59 are asked to join in as Koonce is given the torch at the historical marker on Stone Boulevard.
  • Veterans who served from 1949 and before are asked to join in the passing of the torch to Sigler at the former Lincoln School.

View the course map to find your start location.

More on the rest of the weekend's events:

Ogden Newspapers 20K Classic

Race Start Times

FRIDAY, MAY 25th, 2007
6:45 p.m. - Ogden Tiny Tot Trot
7:00 p.m. - Ogden Fun Run
7:15 p.m. - Ogden Mile

SATURDAY, MAY 26th, 2007

7:30 a.m. - 20K Walk
8:00 a.m. - 20K Run
8:15 a.m - Ogden 5K Run & Walk

Updated race results posted online.


Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Colorado State Senate Supports Funding OEF/OIF Family Mental Healthcare

With far too many military families coping on their own with reintegration issues after their loved one has seen combat, some veterans even slipping through the cracks while families are left to pick up the pieces, the Colorado state senate has agreed to fund a pilot program aimed at providing mental healthcare access for those who literally provide support for our troops: military families.

From the Associated Press:

The proposal (Senate Bill 146 - pdf) would set up a three-year pilot program in Colorado Springs to provide mental health treatment and education to the families of veterans who cannot get services on their own. ...

Veterans are still eligible to receive mental health care through the military after they leave the service, but their families are not, said Sen. John Morse, D-Colorado Springs, the sponsor. He said if spouses and children get counseling, veterans might be encouraged to do the same.

Click on 'Article Link' below tags for more details...

From the Colorado Springs Gazette:

[The bill] would create a three-year program in the Pikes Peak region before expanding it to the rest of the state if it is successful. ... Freshman Sen. John Morse, D-Colorado Springs, proposed the mental health services program after a voter told him about the need to help veterans returning from combat.

The bill doesn’t address the actual veterans, who are covered by Veterans Administration services even after they leave the military, but seeks to help the spouses and children who might be dealing with men and women reluctant to go to counseling. About 100 families a year would be allowed to receive these services from Springs-area providers after paying $20.

“If the federal government was really stepping up to the plate and supporting our troops, we wouldn’t need this. But they’re not,” Morse said after the hearing. “The federal government, in my view — and this is just an opinion — is not as focused on the families of veterans as they ought to be.”

Morse said the program may be up and running as early as July 1, and has an annual cost of about $300,000. Funding would come from tobacco settlement monies.


Important GAO Request Made By Senators Seeking Answers on PTSD-Deployed Troops

The issue of returning troops dealing with PTSD and other psychological burdens back into the combat zone has been a story that I've been following (and been angered by) for a long time. This latest move by Senators Obama, Boxer, McCaskill, Harkin, Lieberman, and Bond is a long-needed next step after a lot of energy and eyes have been directed at the problem (Sen. Boxer especially has been a key person on this one).

Follow the timeline of this issue by clicking on any of the links under 'Related Posts', and click on senator names above to send them your thanks for moving this oversight forward.

From the The Swamp, Chicago Tribune's Washington bureau blog:

A batch of senators led by Barack Obama (D-Ill.) is asking congressional investigators to probe the Defense Department's treatment of soldiers who suffer mental-health ailments after returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

In a letter set to be sent today, the senators -- Obama and fellow Democrats Barbara Boxer (Calif.), Claire McCaskill (Mo.), Tom Harkin (Iowa), independent Joe Lieberman (Conn.) and Republican Kit Bond (Mo.) -- tell the General Accounting office they're concerned by reports alleging soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health problems have been denied care by superior officers and instead deployed for new tours oversees.

The letter says some of the senators voiced those concerns to the Defense Department earlier but have yet to hear a response. The senators ask the GAO to brief them first on "upsetting" allegations of mental health treatment -- or lack therof -- for soldiers at Fort Carson, Colo., and then expand to include "system-wide mental health deficiencies within the DOD."

Click on 'Article Link' below tags for full letter...

The letter:

April 18, 2007

The Honorable David M. Walker
Comptroller General
Government Accountability Office (GAO)
441 G Street, NW, Room 7125
Washington, DC 20548

Dear Mr. Walker:

We are writing to request that the General Accounting Office (GAO) undertake a review of Department of Defense (DOD) screenings, diagnoses, referrals and treatment of service members who may have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other mental health conditions related to their service in Iraq and Afghanistan. Several of us previously wrote the DOD requesting an examination of command practices and reports of biases and misdiagnoses in the treatment of mental health-related injuries such as PTSD and other deployment-related health problems, including Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), but have not yet received a response.

The stigmas associated with PTSD and other mental health needs are no less potent within the military than in the civilian world. Indeed, reports from soldiers suffering from PTSD suggest that the stigma is worse, with some military commanders appearing to minimize the significance of PTSD and other mental health needs; or suggesting that a service member is malingering to avoid redeployment. There are allegations of commanders at Fort Carson, Colorado denying soldiers access to mental health care and instead ordering them redeployed for additional tours in Iraq. We have also heard of cases in which service members with PTSD are diagnosed as having "personality disorders" that the Army considers "pre-existing," thus depriving otherwise eligible combat veterans of disability benefits and much-needed mental healthcare. Because the stakes for our service members' and their health are so high, we must move quickly to investigate and correct any deficiencies.

We have come to learn about a number of upsetting allegations at Fort Carson. Therefore, for the purposes of an expedited review, we request to be briefed initially by GAO on these immediate cases. We ask that you subsequently focus your inquiry not only on Fort Carson but on system-wide mental health deficiencies within the DOD.

With the significant burdens already being placed on our service members and their families with multiple extended deployments, we must ensure that they are not further burdened with any humiliation, stigmatization or other minimization of genuine mental health needs. Our service members are risking their lives for our nation's security; it is our moral obligation to care for them. We therefore ask the GAO to assess:

1) Known cases of improper discharges or misdiagnoses and patterns of systematic stigmatization employed by military commanders regarding the mental health needs of service members throughout the chain-of-command at Fort Carson and across DOD departments;

2) The growing number of discharges for personality disorders, and whether or not such discharges are being improperly used when service members should in fact be given a mental health diagnosis that DOD does not consider preexisting.

3) The overall number of misdiagnosed cases of PTSD, other mental health conditions, and TBIs (at Fort Carson and force-wide);

4) DOD progress in implementing previous mandates to develop force-wide criteria and procedures for screening, diagnosing and referring mental health cases for follow-up treatment;

5) The efficacy of the DOD's current mental health safety net and treatment capabilities: for example, what current mechanisms are available to service members in the event of misdiagnosis?;

6) The steps and resources required to implement one-on-one, face-to-face mental health screenings for all returning service members;

7) The number of service members, men and women, reporting mental health concerns related to sexual assault during deployment; and whether current DOD personnel training and diagnostic guidance is sufficiently responsive to the needs of both men and women.

We seek to ensure that the DOD has the resources necessary to diagnose and treat service-connected injuries that impact the mental health of U.S. service personnel. It is vital that the U.S. military ensures it is treating the mental health needs of our forces with the same priority and resource investments it is devoting to physical injuries. If you would like to discuss this request, please contact [redacted].

Thank you for your assistance in this matter.

Sincerely,

_____________________

Barack Obama

_______________________

Barbara Boxer

_______________________

Tom Harkin


______________________

Christopher Bond

_____________________

Joe Lieberman

_______________________

Claire McCaskill


Cc: Gordon England
Deputy Secretary of Defense


Pete Geren
Acting Secretary of the Army


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Denver/Boulder 'Strength after Service' Event for Vets, Military Family and Community Members

News of an upcoming event in the Longmont Daily Times-Call:

A 36-year-old Army special forces veteran on Monday attended the first of two Strength after Service workshops for fresh perspective on his combat experiences in Iraq in 2003. “It’s a gateway for understanding to a person who’s just come back from surviving the most grotesque, incomprehensible event,” said the Denver resident, who requested anonymity.

The Boulder-based nonprofit organization One Freedom sponsored the free, two-hour workshop at the Longmont Public Library to share stress-management techniques without the stigma of therapy, said Dan Taslitz, a former Marine and One Freedom speaker.

“Strength is a more global experience than being physically strong in a bad environment,” he said. “Service requires a lot of sacrifice. It also brings a very special reward. What we want to do is provide a framework (for vets) to access the reward and embrace the challenges of reintegration.”

Click on 'Article Link' below tags for more...

Continuing:

One Freedom pairs veterans such as Taslitz — a reconnaissance team leader in Iraq in 2004 and 2005 — with stress-management experts such as Stephen Robinson. Both men acknowledged the importance of “training up” for combat — becoming hyper aware and focused on the mission to survive and accomplish it. They said training down after discharge to reconnect with family, friends and the community is just as critical. ...

Some vets need professional help. Others need more personal resources, One Freedom organizers said. “You can use your mind, or it can use you,” Robinson said. To train down the mind, he discussed the neurophysiology of stress and touched on five stress-management skills: breath control, attention control, simulation, energy management, and rest and recovery.

“It’s not enough to wave the flag, play Toby Keith music and put a yellow ribbon in the car,” [the vet] said. “For my buddy who’s sitting next to me and drowning himself in alcohol, this may be just what he needs to open the door (for healing). ... The way I view this is it completes the circle of being a warrior.”

If you are in the area and wish to attend next Monday's session, it is open to veterans, military family and community members alike.

Event Details

What: Strength after Service, a stress-management workshop sponsored by Boulder-based One Freedom for returning veterans, their families and the community

Where: Longmont Public Library, 409 Fourth Ave. General Information Desk: 303-651-8470

When: Monday, April 23, 2007, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Cost: Free

What a great community resource!


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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

New Blogger Elbows Its Way In

Just a quick point or two about technology happenings.

Yesterday, Blogger switched me over to the New Blogger platform (I was dragging my heels; problems inevitably crop up -- as they already have -- whenever you do any type of upgrade, and I've been a bit time-crunched). While I haven't switched PTSD Combat's template over to New Blogger's 'widget' system, there are a few immediate changes I wanted to make you aware of.

One Feedburner note: I've just tweaked a problem created by the way New Blogger handles my Feedburner feed; apologies for those on the email list who received old posts along with the new ones this morning. It may occur one more time tomorrow (?) but should be corrected afterwards. Sorry for the confusion.

Click on 'Article Link' below tags for more...

For now, the most important change is the new labels system.

The new 'Labels' line replaces my Del.icio.us 'Tags' line. I'll still maintain my Del.icio.us indexing system, but using labels will make in-house searching and grouping of related posts a lot easier. Click on a label topic, and you'll stay right here (rather than jumping over to Del.icio.us), related posts at your beck and call one after another in the PTSD Combat environment. I've updated the last 15 or so entries with the label system so you can try it out. Until I can carve out more time to update earlier posts, it'll return pretty skimpy results, though. I'll upgrade as time allows, aiming to have fully loaded labels by early summer.

Another change is the way search bar items are now returned.

In the past, typing in your keywords in the Blogger bar above returned a link list. You had to click on every link to see what the post was all about (and annoyingly sometimes those links didn't work, either). No more. Now the posts themselves are returned (in the same way as the label items are returned, one after another in the PTSD Combat environment). This alone will make it a lot easier to find what you're looking for. Yeah!


Family 'Respectfully Disagrees' With VA Report on Son's Suicide

From the Associated Press:

[Iraq vet Jonathan] Schulze had made at least 40 visits to the VA hospital in Minneapolis, where doctors diagnosed him with post-traumatic stress disorder, the report said. But it said mental health workers at the St. Cloud hospital told investigators Schulze never mentioned suicide to them, and they would have taken it seriously if he had.

“The report and story has been whether something was, or was not, said,” [Family friend Robert] Herubin said. “The real issue is: Jonathan finally made the decision to change his life and get the help he needed. He made a commitment to become a good dad, and he packed his bags. Irregardless, he was put on a waiting list and was turned away.” ...

Schulze’s mother and stepfather, Eileen and John Carlson...said they’re now trying to move forward. They announced they have begun setting up the Jonathan Schulze “I Can’t Hear You” Foundation, using a favorite Marine phrase, to reach out to returning veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.

“So his death isn’t for nothing,” Eileen Carlson said. “I’m hoping that at least we will be able to help other people. I want to not only help other veterans, but I want to help their parents, too. Because I wish I would have had a better understanding of PTSD when I was going through this with Jonathan.” ... [Herubin] said the name of the foundation refers to the need to pay closer attention to what veterans might not be saying.

Click on 'Article Link' below tags for more...

Continuing:

Eric Satersmoen said he was best friends with Schulze when they fought in Fallujah in 2004. “Every day there was some type of combat. ... Basically it was a lot of urban warfare, door to door, losing a lot of friends, a lot of carnages, everyday war, I guess you would say,” Satersmoen said. Satersmoen said he, too, was diagnosed with PTSD and is getting counseling through the VA. He said he “most definitely” believes the foundation can make a difference.

Schulze’s family and friends also announced plans for a benefit for Schulze’s daughter, Kaley, and soon-to-be-born son, Jonathan Jr. It will be at the Prior Lake VFW on May 19.

...........

Donations for Schulze’s children can be sent to “Kaley and Jonathan Schulze” while donations to the foundation can be sent to “Operation Jonny Schulze,” both in care of Wells Fargo Bank, 16817 Duluth St. SE, Prior Lake, MN 55372.

Wishing the Schulze family peace and commending them for the work they have now embarked upon.


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Monday, April 16, 2007

Wisconsin Law Enforcement Proactive in Meeting Needs of Veteran and Community

Good to see such programs springing up across the country. From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

What would be considered road rage on Wisconsin highways is normal driving for a U.S. military member at the wheel of a Humvee in Iraq. What could be considered assault or inappropriate aggressiveness at a Madison bar is behavior and split-second violent decision-making that could keep a soldier alive in a combat zone.

U.S. military members in Iraq and Afghanistan must carry their weapons wherever they go, but in Wisconsin it's illegal to carry concealed weapons. Veterans now returning from war often have difficulty moving from one culture to another - the culture of war, death and violence to the culture of home, peace and family. Some make the transition smoothly; others don't.

Which is why a group of Madison police officers intently watched a PowerPoint presentation last week on the effects of combat stress and post-traumatic stress. Because some Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are crossing paths with law enforcement, the Madison Police and Dane County Sheriff's departments are requiring all sworn officials to go through an hourlong session to help them understand why some veterans are getting into trouble and, more important, how to help them.

Click on 'Article Link' below tags for more...

In the interest of education, article quoted from extensively.

Continuing:

Although the majority of U.S. military members serving in a war zone return to civilian life with few problems, combat veterans are at a high risk of post-traumatic stress and other mental health problems, said Jeff Johnson, a state Department of Veterans Affairs official who is handling the training for law officers. They're also less likely to seek help. ...

Johnson, who was a Marine recruiter in Wisconsin for many years, recounted the story of a Marine he knew who was home on leave during his second tour of Iraq. He was at a tavern when he saw a man touch the shirt of the Marine's girlfriend. The Marine broke the man's jaw and gave him a concussion. He later sought alcohol treatment and is now out of the military, going to college and receiving disability payments for post-traumatic stress. "There's a unique set of stressors coming out of this war," said Johnson, who retired from the Marines in 2003 and now operates Mission: Welcome Home for the Department of Veterans Affairs. His son arrived in Iraq last month with the Marines.

High on the list of stresses: not knowing who the enemy is and not knowing if someone will try to kill them. Returning to civilian life after months or a year or more of being hyper-vigilant is difficult, said Johnson, who told the police officers that the warning signs of post-traumatic stress include aggressive driving, inappropriate aggression, alcohol abuse, carrying a weapon because they feel safer armed, being secretive, angry or detached.

Over 800 deputies and police officers have gone through Johnson's program to date where he equips attendees with knowledge, skills and resources that will later help them in the field.

"For once we're a little out front on this topic. We haven't seen tons and tons of this stuff but enough to" schedule the training, said Madison Police Sgt. Lauri Schwartz. "It's kind of like 'Oh, I wouldn't have connected the dots without the presentation.'"

Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive from law enforcement officers, including those who served in Iraq or Afghanistan with the National Guard or Reserves, said Schwartz and Dane County Sheriff's Sgt. Lorie Wiessinger. Wiessinger said she didn't realize that military members who always carried weapons in a combat zone sometimes feel the need to carry a weapon when they're back home, something law enforcement officers should know when responding.

So far, Dane County and Madison are the only Wisconsin agencies undergoing this type of training. Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. was not aware of the training, said department spokeswoman Kim Brooks, but it does refer veterans who come in contact with sheriff's deputies to the Department of Veterans Affairs and other agencies.

Johnson says the program also helps officers have a deeper understanding of the bond they share with veterans, and the training can also help to identify possible problems in their own ranks.

"When they stop and think about what these men and women went through (in Iraq or Afghanistan), you can see the emotions from the police who themselves have seen it in the line of duty," Johnson said.

If I had my way, this type of program would spread like wildfire across the country.


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Sunday, April 15, 2007

Editorial: Enough with Congressional Reports, Time for Action is Here

From the Clarksville [TN] Leaf-Chronicle:

It's been established beyond doubt that the outpatient care that many injured troops and veterans are receiving is severely lacking. The attention now needs to be centered on how to make it better. ...

Among the charges is that the health care system is too difficult to navigate. Those who were injured in war complain of long waits for proper treatment — if it ever comes at all — and differing ratings on disabilities once they change from military hospitals to the VA system. On that latter point, during Senate hearings, members heard testimony that the Army is more likely than the other services to rate a disability at less than 30 percent. That's the cutoff for whether service members and their families get lifetime health benefits.

Retired Army Lt. Gen. James Terry Scott, chairman of the Veterans Disability Benefits Commission, testified there are various legitimate factors as to why the Army may rate below 30 percent. But he also said at the Senate hearing there obviously is incentive to keep soldiers at the lower rating "so only separation pay is required and continuing family care is not."

Scott's commission was formed in 2004 to study ways to improve the benefits system. It will be issuing a formal report later in the year. How much longer will our soldiers and veterans have to wait for action? The pressure is now on Congress and the Department of Defense to turn the situation around and ensure that everyone who needs a high degree of care actually receives it.

I couldn't agree more.

Click on 'Article Link' below tags for related posts...


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Saturday, April 14, 2007

A Personal Call to Keep Pushing for Our Veterans

Have you noticed?

The winds have picked up, the ground is shifting. And the sands of time are increasingly falling in our favor. Maybe it was the reporting of the Washington Post, or perhaps the Hartford Courant. Or could it have been NPR that had a hand in it, or was it that much-loved political cartoonist, Garry Trudeau?

ABC News reporter Bob Woodruff surely played a crucial role. So did one father, and a Navy psychologist. Certainly tireless veterans like Paul Rieckhoff and Steve Robinson and countless others can take a lot of credit for it. Military families who have borne the ultimate price like the Omvigs and the Luceys can, too.

Editorial boards from the Kansas City Star to the Yakima Herald-Republic and many others can be credited. But so can hard-working and well-meaning VA and DoD personnel of every rank and station who are desperatly trying to fix a system that they know needs fixing. The GAO has done an admirable job, as have the researchers at Walter Reed.

And, thankfully, our elected leaders in the House and the Senate have at long last begun answering our call, gaining courage (and political cover) from us on the outside and inside pushing for and demanding real change this time.

This progress is not due to the effort of any one person or group, but rather of the combined energy of many. So many working together to fix the mammoth problems that have existed in a post-combat healthcare system that we all realize does not honor the work and sacrifices of anyone involved: veteran, military family member, or government employee.

We have a long, long way to go, yes.

Frankly, we're never going to resolve all of the problems that our returning troops have to deal with when they begin to wind their way through the military and VA healthcare system. But we are well on our way to correcting not only the small things that make their experience trying, but a few of the larger difficulties as well. Of course there are scores of news reports than can disprove my optimism. But we are within range, my friends.

Some great things are happening, making it all that much more important that we keep pushing.

Click on 'Article Link' below tags for a few positive moves forward...

Here's one individual leading by example:

Retired USAF Lt. Col. Charlie Brown will be presenting financial contributions to a number of local veterans support organizations at an event scheduled for Monday, April 16th at the Roseville Veterans Memorial Hall.

The event comes just days after Brown's son deployed for his fourth rotation to Iraq, and in the wake of growing concerns about the wide spectrum of post-combat aftercare needs confronting veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. "We've all heard the troubling trends concerning PTSD, homelessness, suicide, divorce, and the myriad of other challenges that have faced past and current generations of veterans," Brown said. "Many people may not be aware of the vital role that local groups play in delivering services to those in need, and how much they count on the support of private donors and volunteers."

"This event is about highlighting their work, their needs, and what others can do to help," Brown added. It's about the shared obligation of people of all stripes-politicians, businesses, and individuals--to come together, put their money where their mouth is on troop support, and address a common challenge that will be with all of us for decades to come---no veteran left behind."

Another charity extending itself to help our vets:

There’s a celebration today on the South Side [of Chicago] as a residence for homeless military veterans is dedicated in the Auburn-Gresham neighborhood. Catholic Charities built St. Leo Residence at 77th and Emerald. It serves 141 veterans....133 men, eight women. Nate Gilham, the director of veterans services for Catholic Charities says, “the goal of the program is self-sufficiency....moving vets from state of homelessness”.

It does that by offering drug and alcohol counseling, support groups, help in lining up jobs as well as eventually finding their own housing. Catholic Charities team leader Misty Brown says, “This is a way for them to get grounded, get more independent...(and) is a starting point for them”. ...

Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn, a long-time advocate for military veterans has praise for St. Leo’s Residence. “It’s our duty to take good care of those who’ve borne the battle. For homeless veterans we’ve got to pull out all the stops”. ...

The Veterans Administration estimates that, on any given night, there are more than 300-thousand homeless veterans in the United States and that nearly half of them are from the Vietnam Era. Many have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, have health and substance abuse problems and are out of work.

States are getting involved, too. Indiana, for one:

Indiana soldiers, veterans and their families are getting a boost from state lawmakers, who've set aside partisan wrangling over the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to help those serving the nation. Bills have advanced that would give new tax breaks to active-duty soldiers, members of the Indiana National Guard and reservists; provide money to help military families struggling because a member has been mobilized; and allow parents, spouses and siblings of Guard members and reservists who are being deployed to take some unpaid leave from their jobs to be with their families.

"Of all the stuff we are doing right now, I'd rather see us pass something to help the kids who are busting their butts for us over there," said Republican Sen. Thomas Wyss of Fort Wayne, chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security, Transportation and Veterans Affairs.

It is not yet clear how many bills to benefit soldiers will pass, or in what form, but Gov. Mitch Daniels recently expressed optimism that several would reach his desk with bipartisan support. "I'm looking forward to signing them," said Daniels, who proposed a package of benefits for soldiers and veterans before the session. Many are in a bill that passed the Senate and House, although differences in the versions must be reconciled in a House-Senate conference committee.

One bill already bears his signature.

That new law, which takes effect July 1, will give National Guard members returning from active duty priority for placement in employment and training programs provided by the state. Spouses of Guard members also are eligible. "We want to make sure that the transition back into our work force is as easy as possible," said Sen. Sue Errington, D-Muncie, the bill's author.

Minnesota, too:

A [Minnesota state] Senate panel on Tuesday approved a proposal to spend $1 million to test more than 800 veterans for exposure to depleted uranium, which the U.S. military has used to harden shells and other munitions for piercing armor.

The legislation puts Minnesota at the forefront of a gradual movement by states -- whose National Guard members and reservists have contributed heavily to the wars -- to improve testing for uranium and determine its long-term consequences.

While critics say proponents have failed to make a convincing case for more testing, advocates liken their campaign to early efforts to learn about the effects of defoliants on soldiers in Vietnam. "Exposure to depleted uranium may well be the Agent Orange of the Iraqi wars," David Francis, a retired Navy officer who served on nuclear submarines, told the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Veterans. "When we send our men and women into war ... we have a sacred obligation to provide the best possible health care for them when they come home."

The state House is advancing a similar proposal to fund sophisticated testing of veterans who feel they are suffering health problems resulting from exposure to depleted uranium.

And veterans groups and educational institutions are finding creative ways to support returning troops:

With backing from key state legislators, a veterans group and a community college in Central Massachusetts plan to build what is believed to be the country's first residential treatment and education facility for injured veterans and their families. The center would be on 10 acres of land donated by Mount Wachusett Community College in Gardner and provide 20 two-bedroom cottages, where veterans from across the country could recover in the company of their families for up to two years, according to planners.

Many of the veterans are expected to have traumatic brain injuries caused by roadside bombs and firefights in Iraq, as well as burns, amputations, and post-traumatic stress syndrome. The veterans could attend classes at government expense at the community college and use its swimming pool and track. The college, in turn, would provide students in physical and occupational therapy to help in the veterans' rehabilitation.

"This is a win-win for everybody," said Leslie Lightfoot, a former Army medic and founder of the Veterans Hospice Homestead in Fitchburg, which is spearheading the project. The group is seeking to raise about one-third of the estimated $5 million needed to open the Northeast Veterans Trauma Rehabilitation Center and expects the remainder to come from the state and federal governments.

Daniel M. Asquino, president of Mount Wachusett Community College, said he supports the project and expects the college's trustees to endorse the plan this spring. "Whether you believe in the war or not, they're sacrificing life and limb," Asquino said. ". . . Those individuals need a compassionate place to recover and get their life back in order."

Nonprofit advocacy groups are also working to offer support to returning troops -- and even the individuals advocating for them. And I have first-hand experience in this area.

My publisher and I had not yet been able to arrange a Seattle stop for the Moving a Nation to Care book tour, when one day I received a really kind letter from a member of a local combat PTSD advocacy group (the group is connected to Dr. Edward Tick's Soldier's Heart organization; Tick is the author of what I believe to be one of the best volumes on the matter, War and the Soul).

The writer asked if I was planning a visit out their way. I replied saying that we hadn't arranged a venue yet.

She and her group sprang into action, lobbied University Bookstore, and I now have a Seattle, WA stop on the calendar for July 12, 2007. But this kind new friend and ally threw her support in my direction in another way, too. She wrote the following letter to the Seattle Times and shared it with me:

I just read about this book when I ran across the author’s blog:
“Moving a Nation to Care: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and America's Returning Troops,” by Ilona Meagher

I’m a member of a small grass-roots nonprofit in Seattle called Soldier’s Heart Seattle. Our purpose is to raise consciousness (that favorite ‘60s phrase!) about post-traumatic stress disorder and try to provide a safe homecoming for our Iraq and Afghanistan vets and their families. To that end, we’re putting together a “care package” for returning vets with info and support on PSTD issues.

I haven’t read Ms. Meagher’s book (due out in May) but if it’s as thorough and well-written as her Web site then it ought to be good. Also, Dr. Edward Tick wrote a very positive blurb for it. Ed, a psychotherapist in Albany, NY, and author of “War and the Soul,” is the one who inspired our group with the healing work he’s done with Vietnam, gulf war, and Iraq vets. Getting medical care and understanding for PTSD is a huge issue for combat vets, as you may be aware. (I was also intrigued that the author is a former flight attendant who decided to take on this issue as her work after 9/11.)

Bottom line: it would be great if Ms. Meagher’s book could be reviewed in the Times. She appears to have done a phenomenal amount of research on this issue and maintains the blog/Web site for vets and the public. One thing our group has learned is how many, many people want to do something to “support the troops” beyond a bumper magnet, but they don’t know where to turn. A book like this can broaden the public discussion considerably at this time and inspire more efforts on behalf of vets with PTSD.

Thank you for your consideration.

I could continue on with many other examples of people reaching out to move the issue of taking better care of our troops forward.

I thank those like Ramona above who have personally helped me, and more importantly have the greatest appreciation for everyone working in big and small ways to ensure our vets know we've got their backs -- just as they have had ours.


Thursday, April 12, 2007

Why Are They Fighting in Iraq?

I've been taking an interesting and informative class at NIU this semester, a special section called Iraq on Film.


Eventually, I'd like to find the time to put a post together on the class itself, but today I wanted to share a link that we were given by our instructor. It's a momentary divergence from the issue of PTSD, but a quick trip to view the well-produced multimedia presentation by MSNBC will be well worth it if you'd like to understand why the different ethnic groups are fighting in Iraq.


Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Three Months Tacked Onto All Army Combat Deployments

From VOA:

The U.S. Defense Department announced Wednesday that most of the U.S. army troops now in Iraq and Afghanistan and other parts of the Middle East and East Africa will have their assignments extended from 12 months to 15 months, and that the longer tours of duty will apply to soldiers who deploy to the region for the foreseeable future. VOA's Al Pessin reports from the Pentagon the move is designed to enable the U.S. military to sustain the higher troop level in Iraq that President Bush ordered in January.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced the change in policy Wednesday, saying he hopes it will be temporary, but unable to say how long it will last. ... Secretary Gates said the change will enable the U.S. military to sustain the surge of more than 20,000 additional troops in Iraq for at least a year, but he said no decision has been made to maintain the higher troop level for that long. ...

The secretary and the top U.S. military officer, General Peter Pace, acknowledged that extending combat tours will put a further strain on the U.S. military. General Pace said steps are being taken to reduce the strain in the future, including a long-term expansion of the U.S. Army and Marine Corps. But he said for now, U.S. leaders have no choice but to ask more of the current troops and their families.

"Is it an additional strain to go from 12 months to 15 months? Of course it is," said General Pace. "Is it in combat and therefore even more difficult? Of course it is. The troops want to and deserve to know that their leaders are mindful of what we're asking them to do, mindful of the additional strain, working to make that less than it is."

Click on 'Article Link' below tags for more...

Continuing:

The policy of the U.S. Defense Department is to provide active-duty soldiers two years at home for every year of deployment abroad. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as other U.S. military commitments worldwide, have moved that to one year away and one year at home.

Secretary Gates said the decision to move to 15 months away and a year at home is designed in large part to ensure that all soldiers do get the full 12 months at home before their next deployment, and to provide predictability to the soldiers and their families. He said he hopes to get back to the original deployment schedule, but he could not say when that might happen.

The decision on longer deployments in Iraq, Afghanistan and some nearby areas only affects the Army, not the other U.S. military services, and only active-duty soldiers, not members of the Reserves or the National Guard. The vast majority of the U.S. troops in that region are active-duty members of the Army.

These extended deployments come on the heels of 1,800 forced Marine Individual Ready Reserve call-ups and an unprecedented second call-up of 12,000 National Guard troops from Ohio, Arkansas, Indiana and Oklahoma. Click on the state names to see a few governor reactions -- they are not good.


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Study: Drug May Ease Combat PTSD Nightmare Incidence

From Veterans Affairs Research:

A generic drug already used by millions of Americans for high blood pressure and prostate problems has been found to improve sleep and lessen trauma nightmares in veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

"This is the first drug that has been demonstrated effective for PTSD nightmares and sleep disruption," said Murray A. Raskind, MD, executive director of the mental health service at the Veterans Affairs Puget Sound Health Care System and lead author of a study appearing April 15 in Biological Psychiatry.

The randomized trial of 40 veterans compared a nightly dose of prazosin (PRAISE-oh-sin) with placebo over eight weeks. Participants continued to take other prescribed medications over the course of the trial.

At the end of the study, veterans randomized to prazosin reported significantly improved sleep quality, reduced trauma nightmares, a better overall sense of well being, and an improved ability to function.

"These nighttime symptoms are heavily troublesome to veterans," said Raskind, who also is director of VA’s VISN 20 (Veterans Integrated Service Network #20) Mental Illness Research, Education and Clinical Centers program (MIRECC). "If you get the nighttime symptoms under control, veterans feel better all around."

Click on 'Article Link' below tags for more...

The press release is quoted in full for educational purposes.

Raskind, also a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of Washington, estimates that of the 10 million U.S. veterans and civilians with PTSD, about half have trauma-related nightmares that could be helped with the drug.

Participants were given 1 mg of prazosin per day for the first three days. The dose was gradually increased over the first four weeks to a maximum of 15 mg at bedtime. The average dose of prazosin in the trial was 13.3 mg. By comparison, typical prazosin doses for controlling blood pressure or treating prostate problems range from 3 mg to 30 mg per day in divided doses.

The drug did not affect blood pressure compared to placebo, though some participants reported transient dizziness when standing from a sitting position during the first weeks of prazosin titration. Other occasional side effects included nasal congestion, headache, and dry mouth, but these were all minor, according to the authors. "This drug has been taken by many people for decades," said Raskind. "If there were serious long-term adverse side effects, it is likely we would know about them by now."

The relatively small size of the study was due to the easy availability of this generic drug, Raskind said. "If you are doing a study with a new drug, the only way people can get it is to be in the study. With prazosin, we have approximately 5,000 veterans with a PTSD diagnosis taking it already in the Northwest alone. So we had to find veterans with PTSD who were not [taking it]."

For treating PTSD, prazosin costs 10 to 30 cents a day at VA contract prices. It is not a sedating sleeping pill, emphasized Raskind. "It does not induce sleep. But once you are asleep, you sleep longer and better." And better sleep can make a big difference. "This drug changes lives," Raskind said. "Nothing else works like prazosin."

Trauma nightmares appear to arise during light sleep or disruption in REM sleep, whereas normal dreams — both pleasant and unpleasant — occur during normal REM sleep. Prazosin works by blocking the brain’s response to the adrenaline-like neurotransmitter norepinephrine. Blocking norepinephrine normalizes and increases REM sleep. In this study, veterans taking prazosin reported that they resumed normal dreaming.

One dose of prazosin works for 6 to 8 hours. Unlike similar drugs, prazosin does not induce tolerance; people can take it for years without increasing the dose. But when veterans stop taking it, Raskind said, the trauma nightmares usually return.

Aside from the VA-funded study he just published, Raskind is working on three larger studies of prazosin. One, a VA cooperative study slated to start this month, will enroll about 300 veterans at 12 VA facilities. The second, a collaborative study with Walter Reed Army Medical Center and Madigan Army Medical Center, will enroll active-duty soldiers who have trauma nightmares. The third study, funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, will look at prazosin in the treatment of civilian trauma PTSD.



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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Reintegration Tips for Returning Vets

From the Utica Observer-Dispatch:

Fred Bush, a clinical social worker with the Veterans' Administration hospital in Syracuse, said he has seen many returning soldiers who exhibit a wide range of feelings and reactions as they try to readjust to their old home lives. "Everybody will have some sort of readjustment issues," he said. "Whatever a person has experienced will never go away, and we should never forget what we've done," he said, "But if you can learn to live with them, and symptoms are not stopping you from having a productive life, (it's alright)."

It's when the symptoms don't go away or start to interfere with relationships or the soldier's ability to function professionally or in other ways that the returning soldier should seek help. ... It's estimated many as 30 percent of those may need clinical intervention at some time, he said. Each returning veteran must readjust to life in the United States after experiencing things most American civilians can't fully comprehend.

Click on 'Article Link' below tags for his reintegration tips...

Readjustment issues are normal, but if they persist, the returning soldier should seek help from a mental health professional.

Watch for acute changes to behavior, like excessive drinking, social isolation or high levels of anxiety.

It's normal for a person returning from a combat situation to sleep lightly for a while, but continued problems sleeping, or repeated bad dreams could be a sign help is needed.

A readjustment period in a marriage after being in a war zone is common. Home-life patterns may have shifted in the soldier's absence. It helps to let the returning spouse feel needed and have them take on responsibilities they used to perform, even if the spouse who stayed home had been doing them.

It's helpful if a returning soldier can find at least one person to talk to about their experiences. Family and friends should let soldiers know, without badgering or pressuring, that they're willing to listen.

Returning soldiers shouldn't be afraid to share their experiences with people close to them. It can help to talk. Also, some soldiers think they shouldn't tell their loved ones about dangerous or disturbing situations they faced, because they don't want to hurt or upset them. It can still be important to share those stories with the right person and to reach out for support.

Returning soldiers may have been near explosions, and could have undiagnosed brain injuries. Behaving out of character can be a sign of such an injury.

No matter what your view of the politics surrounding the war, be sensitive when talking about them to a returning veteran. A "thank you" or a pat on the back can go a long way.

•For information about readjustment issues faced by returning soldiers, or to find out how to get help, call the Veterans' Administration's TelCare information line at 1-888-838-7890. To ask Veterans Administration Clinical Social Worker Fred Bush to speak at your organization, call 425-4400 ext 52719.

Source: Veterans Administration Clinical Social Worker Fred Bush


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New Amazon.com Listmania List: Afghanistan, Iraq and Combat PTSD

Get the scoop on some of the books and films that were a great help to me during my background research for Moving a Nation to Care. You'll find a list of my top 30 resources, and a brief reflection on each.

From Afghanistan, Iraq and Combat PTSD:

No matter the label given in past eras -- nostalgia or soldier's heart, shell shock or battle fatigue, post-Vietnam syndrome or today's PTSD -- we have forever felt the sting of war's affect on soldier and society. Our newest generation of veterans and our nation is no different, attempting to find meaning in the most violent of experiences and expressions known to man.

These are the books and films that I found to be most helpful in my quest for deeper understanding and direction. While I've placed mine in the #1 slot on this list, Moving a Nation to Care's pole position perch actually reflects the fact that it humbly stands on the shoulders of the deep and broad knowledge of those below it.

Moving a Nation to Care was also included on author Lesley Thomas' Love, Not War Listmania list on March 28.


Monday, April 09, 2007

U.S. News & World Report: More Evidence That Military Downgrading Disability Ratings

The evidence keeps piling up:

U.S. military appears to have dispensed low disability ratings to wounded service members with serious injuries and thus avoided paying them full military disabled retirement benefits. While most recent attention has been paid to substandard conditions and outpatient care at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, the first stop for many wounded soldiers stateside, veterans' advocates say that a more grievous problem is an arbitrary and dysfunctional disability ratings process that is short-changing the nation's newest crop of veterans. The trouble has existed for years, but now that the country is at war, tens of thousands of Americans are being caught up in it.

Now an extensive investigation by U.S. News and a new Army inspector general's report reveal that the system is beset by ambiguity and riddled with discrepancies. Indeed, Department of Defense data examined by U.S. News and military experts show that the vast majority-nearly 93 percent-of disabled troops are receiving low ratings, and more have been graded similarly in recent years. What's more, ground troops, who suffer the most combat injuries from the ubiquitous roadside bombs, have received the lowest ratings.

One counselor who has helped wounded soldiers navigate the process for over a decade believes that as many as half of them may have received ratings that are too low. Ron Smith, deputy general counsel for the Disabled American Veterans, says: "If it is even 10 percent, it is unconscionable." The DAV is chartered by Congress to represent service members as they go through the evaluation process. Its national service officers are based at each rating location, and there is a countrywide network of counselors. Smith says he recently asked the staff to cull those cases that appeared to have been incorrectly rated. Within six hours, he says, they had forwarded him 30 cases. "So far," Smith says, "the review supports the conclusion that a significant number of soldiers are being fairly dramatically underrated by the U.S. Army."


Sunday, April 08, 2007

Activities and Programming for Military Kids and Their Parents

Every year, the Defense Department designates April as the Month of the Military Child, and this year is no exception. What better day than today, a day where many of us have been fortunate to spend time with family, to bring together a few resources created especially for our littlest of troopers who sacrifice so much for their country?

Here's to our most precious of patriots.

Click on 'Article Link' below tags for more...

Must-see Television Programming/DVDs
Monday, April 9, 2007, PBS plans a rebroadcast of one of their most popular programs, When Parents Are Deployed, hosted by Cuba Gooding, Jr. [pdf flyer] You may need to set your recorder, as it's scheduled to air at 10:30 pm, but it will be well worth it. An intro:



PBS has resources waiting for you online, too.

Next stop, the Sesame Workshop for a really sweet video featuring Elmo coping with his father's deployment [ view | download ]. There's also a parents' video just for you. [ view | download ]. The companion website offers lots of activities for your kids as well as a way to order your own free Talk, Listen and Connect: Helping Families During Military Deployment kit that includes the Sesame Street DVD featuring Elmo and his dad as he deploys, a poster showing how Elmo is dealing with the his absence, and a helpful magazine filled with tips for military parents.

FREE Summer Camp For Military Kids

Operation Purple summer camp registration begins March 15th and ends May 1st! Check out the 2007 camp locations and register today!

The Operation Purple Camp Experience

Many children are experiencing multiple deployments or have more than one parent or family member deployed. The stories from those who attended Operation Purple summer camps offer a glimpse of the heavy emotional and psychological burden that falls on the sons and daughters of service members. The goal of these free summer camps is to bring together youth who are experiencing some stage of a deployment and the stress that goes along with it. Operation Purple camps give kids the coping skills and support networks of peers to better handle life’s ups and downs.

This year more than 40 weeks of camps will be held at 34 locations in 26 states. The camps’ outreach programs provide the skills and positive outlets for their feelings, but it’s the camaraderie campers are able to build with one another that’s so important. Learning coping skills, making new friends, and experiencing life lessons at an early age are what make Operation Purple camps so unique.

Operation Purple Camp for Children of Wounded Service Members

As a pilot program in 2007, the Operation Purple camp program will provide additional help for kids who are going through a potentially difficult adjustment—an injury to a parent. This specialized, dedicated camp will incorporate additional mental health support into the daily camp activities—without losing the focus on fun!

Online Resources Worth an Exploration
Websites you may wish to check out, gathered by the Kitsap Sun:

What can you do to recognize and honor the military children in your life and community? I’m glad you asked. Consider checking out these Web sites for ideas. If you are an educator, www.monthofthemilitarychild.com has ideas and lesson plans to incorporate in your observance of this month in your classroom. Business leaders also can find ideas to support initiatives for military children on this Web site including sponsoring a journaling/scrapbooking event.

America Supports You (www.americasupportsyou.mil) provides ideas and opportunities to express your support for our troops and their children.

Parents, I want to recommend a few resources for you and your children, not just for this month, but throughout the year. Military Teens on the Move and MTOM for Kids is a "cool" site (www.dod.mil/mtom) full of tips to help military youth get the most out of this "life of adventure." Helping kids and teens cope with relocation, the site provides information on each military installation, communities, schools and ways to weather the pre- and post-move periods.

Kids Information on Deployment Stuff, sponsored by DeploymentLink, strives to make moving around the world or learning of a parent’s deployment destination more fun. Games and information are presented at grade level and provide military children the opportunity to learn about cultures, religions, geography, as well as health and nutrition, family life, personal safety and even kid appropriate news. Check them out at www.deploymentlink.osd.mil/kidslink.

MilitaryStudent.org is a great resource for parents, children and teens to find information and resources on quality-of-life issues such as relocation, deployment and education. There is a section dedicated to special-needs families, educators and military leaders to provide a central location for tools and resources to enhance both educational and social well-being.

I'd also add a stop over to Military Homefront.

A video for kids; Dr. C talks to Elwood and Dulci about PTSD after their fathers return from Iraq:



Special Base Events and Activities
Meanwhile, bases around the country and world have special programs set up for the kids this month. Here are a few examples, but be sure to contact your local base to see what they're offering.

From the Hilltop Times [Utah]:

Hill Air Force Base 'Month of the Military Child' Events

April 11, 18, and 25, Gerrity Memorial Library hosts Story Hour and crafts beginning at 10:30 a.m. for preschool age children. April 11 is “You Are What You Eat”, April 18 is “Child Abuse Prevention Puppet Show,” and April 25 is “Move It and Groove It”. For more information call 777-3833.

April 10 and 24, Hill Bowling Center will host Month of the Military Child events. April 10, 6 - 9:30 p.m., pay only $1 per game. April 24, 6:30 - 9 p.m., experience Thunder Alley for only $5 per bowler or rent-a-lane for $25. For more information call 777-6565.

April 13, Child Development Center hosts Race Day. It will be held in the parking lot from 2:30 -5:30 p.m. Everyone is welcome to this free event, which includes race cars and monster trucks on display that children can sit in for photos along with prize drawings, hamburgers, cookies, popcorn and beverages. There will also be a St. Judes trike-a-thon in the back parking lot by the chapel. For more information call 777-6321

April 14, Cherish Our Children 5K and One-Mile Family Events Course hosted by the Fitness Center and Family Advocacy Programs. This event Starts at 9 a.m. and is $10 to pre-register or $15 at the event. It includes T-shirt, bounce house, and prize giveaways. For more information call 777-2761.

April 16, Family Child Care Open House, 6 - 9 p.m., in Bldg. 460 (Thornton Community Center). Stop by to meet providers and learn more about becoming a home day care provider. Light refreshments and door prize drawing will be included. For more information call 777-0695.

April 18, Kid’s Deployment Day hosted by the Airmen and Family Readiness Center. The activities for children will include a tour of the deployment processing line and various aircraft, and K-9 and gas mask demonstrations. Students from Hill Field Elementary School will have designated class times to attend the event. Parents of students from other schools can call the A&FRC at 777-4681 to make reservations for the activities scheduled for after 4 p.m.

Hubbard Golf Course Free Golf - Every Saturday throughout April. Dependents ages 17 and under can enjoy complimentary golf after 1 p.m. One child can play for free per paying adult. For more information call 777-3272.

Information, Tickets & Travel is sponsoring a Month of the Military Child Coloring Contest. Children of active-duty military members can stop by ITT and pick-up a Mickey’s Coloring Sheet for a chance to win a free Lagoon Day Pass. The age categories are: 1 - 3 years, 4 - 7 years, 8 - 12 years and 13 and older. Color your picture and turn them in at ITT by April 23. One winner in each age category will be contacted by April 30. For more information call 777-3525.

Arts & Crafts Center is offering a 10 percent discount on customer framing for family and child portraits during the month of April. Individuals can show thier Members First Plus card and save an additional 10 percent off their order. For more information call 586-0567.

From Media Newswire:

The contributions of military children will be celebrated across the Defense Department as April is designated as Month of the Military Child, and the spirit of the event will be felt by military families, including members at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo.

Officials at Whiteman AFB are conducting a mock deployment April 28, named Operation Spirit, to celebrate the month. Operation Spirit will give military children a chance to tour the flightline, process through a deployment line, see a pallet building demonstration, and watch a military working dog demonstration. The goal of the event is to educate children about the military, said Tech. Sgt. Karen Simpson, the readiness NCO at the Whiteman AFB Airman and Family Readiness Center.

Lots more resources to help military families in last years' post, too.


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