Veterans for America delivers an early holiday present to our nation's military families: "The American Veterans’ and Servicemembers’ Survival Guide," a 599-page guidebook every veteran should own. And there's no need to worry about being naughty or nice, because the VFA Santa has made the ebook available to everyone as a free download.
Download the whole thing at once, or choose only those of its 28 chapters you most wish to read first. (Specific recommendations for PTSD issues are found as a subchapter in Chapter 3: Service-Connected Compensation [pdf]. I've excerpted a portion in extended to give you an idea of what you can expect to find in this vital survival guide.)
In educational interest, article(s) quoted from extensively.
Thursday's New York Times editorial raves:
Far too often, military veterans find themselves desperately short of the information they need as they make the torturous quest for benefits within one of this country’s most daunting bureaucracies, the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Officials say help is on the way, but administrators are forever promising to streamline procedures for an era of conquered paperwork that never seems to come. That is why it is heartening to see that one promising form of help has indeed arrived: a 599-page guide to veterans’ issues, from educational help to vocational rehabilitation, from housing to citizenship. ...
This electronic book is a descendant of “The Viet Vet Survival Guide,” which was published a decade after the end of that conflict — when veterans were still being routinely and shamefully denied their rights. The new book was written by veterans and lawyers for a new generation of soldiers with old problems, like post-traumatic stress, and new ones like traumatic brain injury, the brutal legacy of Iraq’s and Afghanistan’s roadside bombs. ...
No book will ever defeat a bureaucracy this large, but a book can help people to subdue it. Veterans and their families often praise the dedication of health-care providers, but at the same time express utter frustration over incomprehensible thickets of rules and the glacial pace at which benefits and appeals are decided.
Unless and until the government significantly improves its treatment of veterans — and our hopes are high for progress under Gen. Eric Shinseki, President-elect Barack Obama’s nominee to run Veterans Affairs — they will have to keep looking to one another for help, as they always have. This veterans’ guide looks like a powerful updating of that old tradition.
An excerpt from Chapter 3: Service-Connected Compensation [pdf]:
For vets suffering from PTSD, other psychological problems, or dependence on drugs or alcohol, there has been, since 1979, a system of informal offices known as Vet Centers. For many vets, they are the best place to turn.
In 1979, Congress authorized the establishment of Vet Centers under what was originally known as “Operation Outreach.” There are now more than 200 Vet Centers all over the United States and Puerto Rico. We expect that many more will open as the veterans of our current conflicts increase the demand for readjustment assistance. Congress has become very sensitive to the demand.
Vet Centers are open to any Vietnam Era Vet—any vet who served in the period from August 5, 1964, to May 7, l975—not just to those who served in Southeast Asia, and to veterans of all conflict zones, such as WWII, Korea, Somalia, Grenada, Persian Gulf I, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
Vets like Vet Centers. It may therefore come as a surprise to readers that Vet Centers are part of the VA. They are. And they aren’t. Although they are officially part of the VA, they are located away from VA hospitals and other VA facilities. They are found not in giant, imposing buildings, but (usually) in small, storefront facilities.
Most Vet Centers have a staff of four, including professionals and paraprofessionals. Many staff members are war veterans who previously have not worked for the VA. Vet Centers have an informal atmosphere. Vets just walk in. Appointments usually are not needed and staff members are able to see most vets shortly after they arrive. Many Vet Centers are open in the evenings. Services are
provided without charge.
Paperwork is minimal. The vet’s identity is kept strictly confidential. Vet Center client folders are kept entirely separate from the VA medical record system. To help the vet deal with his or her experience in war and in coming home, Vet Centers provide counseling and other assistance. Counseling is available on a one-to-one basis and in groups. Counseling sometimes involves the vet along with his or her family or other people significant in his or her life. In counseling between a staff member and a vet, discussion usually focuses on what happened in the war zone, the impact of war experiences on the vet, and how the war continues to interfere with his or her life.
Once in the Vet Center—surrounded by other vets, and benefiting from counseling—the vet often begins to unburden. He or she talks about the war with others who understand, and who accept what he or she says without being frightened and without condemning the vet for his or her statements. In many cases, the vet begins to feel no longer alone or isolated. He or she realizes he or she’s not crazy, that his her problems can be worked out, and that he or she need no longer run from these problems.
In addition to dealing directly with the vet, most Vet Centers also offer group settings in which the spouses and friends (“significant others”) of vets can learn to understand the effect Vietnam has had on vets. The spouses and friends in many cases find ways to improve their relationship with vets.
Besides helping vets with problems such as PTSD, other psychological conditions, and dependence on drugs or alcohol, many Vet Centers provide other assistance. In emergencies, many help with food, shelter, and clothing. Many also assist with employment and with discharge upgrading. In addition, many Vet Centers answer questions about VA benefits, about how to file a claim for disability compensation, and about Agent Orange.
The help a Vet Center can provide is not limited to the center’s four walls. Most Vet Centers have a network of contacts in local, state, and federal agencies. They can therefore help the vet find the agency that can deal with his or her problem and can help the vet find the right person at the agency. Some staff members at some Vet Centers will accompany a vet to a VA hospital or to appointments at other facilities, providing support and, perhaps, cutting red tape. Where appropriate and where vets desire, Vet Centers also refer vets to psychotherapists and other professionals.
Most Vet Centers also offer help to vets who never set foot in their offices. Staff members sometimes visit the homes of vets who are in a crisis. They also contact mental health professionals, law enforcement personnel, veterans groups, civic organizations, and other groups to explain the nature and treatment of PTSD and the struggle some vets are having in readjusting to civilian life. Some Vet Centers also conduct programs for vets in prison. (See Chapter 14, “Veterans in the Criminal Justice System [pdf].” )
There is so much more (I haven't even included the whole section on Vet Centers!). Everyone should download, read, use, and pass on to others the knowledge amassed here by Veterans for America.
Knowledge is the greatest gift. Thanks, VFA!