Thursday, July 27, 2006

PTSD Combat News Roundup: July 14-27, 2006

Haven't had a roundup in a while, so there's a lot to catch up on including a snippet of a DoD briefing answering a question on PTSD (they fell a bit short at it, imho); the VA's battle to stay on top of the rising cases of PTSD in our returning vets; virtual reality and fly fishing therapy for PTSD; a story of one vet's successful battle to win PTSD benefits from the VA; figures on Japanese troops coping with PTSD...and more.

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

PTSD Combat News Roundup: July 14-27, 2006

July 14, 2006 - DoD News Briefing with Col. MacFarland from Iraq:

Q. Colonel, I'm Carl Osgood with Executive Intelligence Review. There's been a number of stories recently about troops coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan with mental health problems. I'm wondering, how much of an issue is combat stress for you and your troops, and what kind of measures are you taking to deal with it?

COL. MACFARLAND: Well, well, thanks for that question. Combat stress is something that we are very concerned about, and whenever a unit suffers a loss -- which occurs all too frequently, unfortunately -- we immediately put a combat stress team, which -- we have organic teams of brigades down with that unit. They spend a few times, and they talk to the soldiers and work with them. And, of course, we all have our unit chaplains as well who do a terrific job.

So we do the immediate, on-the-scene counseling and working with the units, helping them to overcome the stages of grief and get them back into the fight, and at the same time setting the long-term conditions for their sustained mental health. More >>

July 15, 2006 - Stars and Stripes:

Military health officials trying to keep pace with war’s mental toll

As an Army computer specialist, Brian didn’t expect to find himself in combat in Iraq. But two months after arriving in Baghdad, while on patrol with a cavalry unit, he faced his first of many brushes with death when a makeshift bomb exploded near his vehicle. “That scared the [expletive] out of me,” said Brian — which is not his real name. As a member of Alcoholics Anonymous who recently completed mandatory treatment for alcohol and drug abuse problems, he spoke on condition he wouldn’t have to give his name.

Brian didn’t realize his clashes on the battlefield had mentally scarred him, but memories of what he went through put him in a state of perpetual anxiety. After returning from Iraq, he dealt with his anxiety the same way many Vietnam veterans did and still do: He turned to alcohol and drugs.

Substance abuse often goes hand in hand with post-traumatic stress disorder, a psychiatric condition that affects roughly 15 percent of Vietnam veterans and perhaps as much as 17 percent of Iraq veterans — including, doctors say, Brian. The condition often occurs after experiencing or witnessing life-threatening events. ...

Having slipped through the PTSD screening process, Brian dulled his anxiety with a self-prescribed regimen of alcohol and drugs. His heavy drinking and risky behavior got him two charges of drunken driving in less than seven months. “It wasn’t until I got my second DWI that I was ready to admit I had a problem,” he said.

He was about to get promoted to sergeant, but instead was busted down to private, sentenced to 45 days of extra duty and restriction, and had to forfeit pay. He was also ordered into the Army Substance Abuse Program. It was only after his mental health had thrown his career on the rocks that doctors said he likely suffered from PTSD.

After the diagnosis, he was enrolled in a six-week in-patient treatment program at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Landstuhl, Germany, that helped him deal with his dependence on alcohol and drugs and identify the events that had driven him to substance abuse. More >>

July 17, 2006 - Worcester Telegram & Gazette:

War on terror revives old battles

Stationed in South Korea in the 1970s, Army veteran Randy Della Penna had his share of disturbing experiences. As the war in Iraq becomes more controversial and the deaths of American soldiers continue, Mr. Della Penna has had a recurrence of these memories. Diagnosed a year ago with post-traumatic stress disorder, he believes those memories are the reason he’s jobless and now living at the Massachusetts Veterans Shelter.

Attention is slowly being focused on the sharp increase of PTSD suffered by American servicemen and women who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. The New England Journal of Medicine reported two years ago that 15 percent to 17 percent of the returning GIs were exhibiting PTSD symptoms, depression or other mental health problems.

Not documented, but obvious to counselors who work with vets and several veterans organizations, is a similar increase in the incidence of nightmares, flashbacks and delusional thinking — all symptoms of PTSD — among soldiers who served in previous eras, particularly Vietnam. They are convinced it is a result of memories of their own experiences provoked by news accounts and images of the combat and suffering in Iraq and Afghanistan. “You see these veterans watching the news, angry or shouting at the television,” said Denis M. Leary, executive director of the veterans shelter on Grove Street. “They find themselves getting anxious again when they see a veteran in combat, guns firing, like on CNN these days.”

To hear Mr. Leary tell it, the good news about PTSD is that given the right treatment the symptoms can be eliminated or at least controlled through cognitive or behavioral therapy or medication. But he says the Veterans Administration system is overwhelmed and cannot handle its backlog. “They have a long waiting list at the VA center on Lincoln Street because they can only do so much with the force of clinicians they have up there,” he said. “And treatment makes a huge difference.” More >>

July 18, 2006 - SF Bay Area Independent Media:

Iraq Vet and NJ Native Tells His Story

War means something different to those of us that have looked through the sights of a rifle at another human being’s face. Collateral damage means something different to those of us that have seen the lifeless body of a 9-year-old girl caught in the crossfire. Or for those of us that have struggled to save the life of a 7-year-old boy with parts of his face and neck blown off while his father screams in agony to just let him die and concentrate on saving his other son.

I’ve only mentioned a fraction of what still haunts me from Iraq. I’ve been diagnosed with PTSD and, for about a year, I’ve been going to therapy for two hours a week. I suffer from nightmares, insomnia, flashbacks, and panic attacks. I suffered ligament damage in my knee and ankle while on a mission in Iraq that will require two surgeries to repair. I also have hearing loss from explosions and gunfire. I’m currently using private health insurance to get care, because the treatment that I have received at the VA has been offensive. A huge strain has been placed on my marriage, and at times I don’t think that it will survive. Ultimately I’m left asking, for what? More >>

July 19, 2006 - Waterloo/Cedar Falls Courier:

Iraq vet wins battle for benefits

A Courier story in mid-May related the former Iowa National Guard soldier's battle with post-traumatic stress disorder and his ongoing fight, at that time, to get disability pay to support his family. The story was part of a series of articles about the disorder --- everything from history to prevention --- and the toll it is taking on Northeast Iowa veterans and their families.

Nolan's struggle with the Veterans Administration is apparently over. A VA psychiatrist concurred with the Waverly resident's mental health counselor and family doctor that he does have the disorder and is entitled to disability pay. Early last month he received his first monthly check for about $1,400.

The 23-year-old said the money will go a long way toward recovery, knowing now he can better support his wife and five children. More >>

July 22, 2006 - The Daily Yomiuri (Japan):

Stress haunts returning troops / No fatalities, but GSDF moves to tackle post-conflict trauma

In the United States, 9,154 soldiers, or 5 percent of the about 180,000 involved in combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq in the three years after October 2001, developed PTSD symptoms such as nightmares or personality disorders, according to the Government Accountability Office. Although similar data is not disclosed in Japan, the GSDF's study shows nine GSDF members, or 0.9 percent of about 4,000 who returned from Iraq, were hospitalized or treated for depression between one and five months after returning home.

Meanwhile, among those who were sent to Iraq, five GSDF members including security personnel who were placed in relatively more dangerous frontline positions, committed suicide two to 17 months after they returned to Japan.

According to the Defense Agency's figures, of every 100,000 Self-Defense Forces members aged between 20 and 59, 38.6 SDF members commit suicide compared with 43.3 in the general male population. However, among those who were sent to Iraq, the figure jumps to 78.9. "The suicide rate of those who were dispatched to Iraq is twice as high as that of other members," said a Democratic Party of Japan House of Representatives lawmaker at a Diet session on June 22.

Hiroshi Kato, head of research at the Hyogo Institute for Traumatic Stress, said suicide rates and other statistics concerning stress among SDF members should be made public. "[SDF] members are suffering from extreme stress, and it's necessary to provide them with some care," Kato said. "Maybe the SDF decided not to disclose data regarding suicide and depression because it didn't want to spark anxiety among their families. But this data should be properly analyzed and disclosed after SDF members complete their mission." More >>

July 24, 2006 - Bangor Daily News:

3 wounded veterans experience restorative power of nature

James Stuck and two other wounded soldiers - Christopher Short, 24, of Little Rock, Ark., and Russell Martin, 26, of Dover, Del. - arrived at Bangor International Airport on Friday. They enjoyed a fly-fishing weekend on Moosehead Lake thanks to Project Healing Waters, a volunteer-run charity that helps service personnel recover from injuries by introducing or rebuilding their fly-fishing and fly-tying skills. ...

The deep wounds

Tim Trafford watched the three soldiers carefully from across the Legion hall. As a constituent service representative for U.S. Rep. Michael Michaud, his job involves working with veterans like Short, Martin and Stuck to ensure they get the government services they require.

As a Vietnam War veteran who served as an Army helicopter pilot in 1968-69 and eventually retired as a lieutenant colonel after 24 years of service, Trafford was glad the soldiers received such a warm welcome. "The vets from Vietnam did not have the support that these guys have had," Trafford said, "so when the vets were forced to make that choice whether to go on with their lives or give up, they had no support system whatsoever. So they gave up."

That feeling helped fuel the warm greeting the soldiers met in Greenville, Trafford said. "All of us don't want them to go through what we went through," he said. "Every veteran has a choice. They can feel sorry for themselves or they can go on with their lives, and the more support we show them, the easier it is for them to go on with their lives. That's why events like this are so important."

Still, even today, combat-scarred veterans can be their own worst enemies, Trafford said. "They have been taught by the Army, by its culture, that they don't want to admit that they have problems," Trafford said. "When they lose a limb, they have to come to grips with the fact that they are vulnerable. That's difficult."

Trafford dealt with an Iraq war veteran from Maine who suffered 40 percent disability from combat wounds and post-traumatic stress disorder, but his doctors were prepared to discharge him with a 10 percent disability, which would have been disastrous.

Trafford argued until he realized the doctors didn't know of the soldier's problems because the soldier didn't tell them. A heart-to-heart talk with the soldier eventually led him to seek proper treatment and to get the disability rating he deserved, Trafford said. "The issue is," Trafford said, "at what point are they willing to accept treatment. Some kids with PTSD won't admit that they have it and won't seek treatment. "You have to look at their eyes," he added. "Their eyes will tell you a lot about what's going on in their heads. Always look at the eyes." More >>

July 24, 2006 - Vallejo Times Herald (letter to the editor):

The third war

Everyone is aware of our brave men and women fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Bush administration has extended the tour of duty of our soldiers over and over again, pushing our troops to the point of exhaustion and into the real problems of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD and multiple physical injuries.

But are you aware of the third war our troops face when they get home? This is the war against the Veterans Administration.

These are the people who are supposed to help our injured soldiers, your father, mother, brother, sister and others. Help them with physical and mental disorders. But it seems that the Veterans Administration is more interested in saving money by not giving our men and women the ratings they deserve to receive the benefits from fighting in these unpopular wars.

I served in Vietnam in 1967-68. It took me four years to receive my ratings. This was 40 years ago. The VA has not changed one bit. I have an opportunity to work with veterans and I hear the same stories from them that the Vietnam veterans faced.

The Veterans Administration still drags its feet in issuing ratings. The Veterans Administration is requiring our brave men and women who have been in Iraq and Afghanistan to document their experiences before they receive any kind of rating.

You do not have to be a military strategist to realize the war in Iraq and Afghanistan is unconventional. So if you drive a supply truck or you're a combat medic, infantry, etc., you are at high risk of injuries and death. If you are in a combat zone you face countless dangers. But the Veterans Administration seems to think that our brave men and women are on some kind of vacation with weather and scenery.

Please contact Sen. Boxer and U.S. Rep. Miller and ask them to investigate the VA's antiquated rating system and help our returning veterans from the stress they will face when they apply for their VA ratings.

Ask them to start with the Oakland Veterans Administration office, since this is the office that rates our veterans in this area. We must stop the arrogance, incompetence and mismanagement at the VA. We must fight for our troops on many fronts - this is just one.

Gary Belem, Vallejo

July 24, 2006 - Oregon Public Broadcasting:

Military suicides on the rise

The rate of suicide among US military personnel is on the rise.

Defense officials say they are committing new resources to detecting and preventing suicidal behavior in soldiers, including those fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. But watchdogs -- and a recent government report -- suggest the Pentagon may not be doing enough to make sure at-risk personnel get treatment once they get home.

No legislation has been passed, but Oregon lawmakers are pushing the military to do more. Terry Gildea reports from Capitol Hill.


It was nearly a year ago that the Army awarded Specialist Leslie Fredrick of Fort Lewis, Washington the Combat Action Badge for his service in Iraq. Two weeks after getting the honor, Fredrick shot himself.

Gordon Smith: "It's a tragedy to ever lose a soldier for any cause, but it just seems extra cruel when the cause is suicide. They're defending our country, America's interests and if we can't give them mental health assistance when they're in harm's way, we're really falling down on the job." Preventing suicide is a very personal issue for Oregon Senator Gordon Smith -- his own son Garrett committed suicide.

88 active duty soldiers killed themselves in 2005, a number that was up 13% over 2003 and more than 70% over 2001.

Paul Rieckhoff, executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, calls the figures alarming. And he says an overstretched military and repeat tours of duty are taking a toll on soldiers. Paul Rieckhoff: "The last rotation, roughly 40% were there for the second time. Many are there now for the 3rd or 4th time. Divorce rates are going up, the violence continues to increase, and roughly one in three are coming home with mental health issues or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, so our people are really showing signs of wear." More >>

July 26, 2006 - BusinessWeek:

A Dose of Virtual Reality

Dr. Dennis Wood takes patients on what some might consider an odd journey. He starts off leading them to a military compound in Fallujah, Iraq. He then guides them through an Iraqi marketplace before they accompany a patrol through Iraqi homes. And if he thinks they're up to it, he may even take them onto a battlefield, in the midst of explosions and aircraft flying overhead.

But neither Wood nor the patients is anywhere near Iraq. The therapeutic conflict is part of a virtual reality program developed at the Virtual Reality Medical Center in San Diego and funded by the Office of Naval Research (ONR). It's designed to help personnel returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan cope with so-called acute post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. Brought about by distressing experiences like those in war, PTSD can lead to flashbacks, other psychological ailments, and social problems.

COPING STRATEGIES. A therapist at the Naval Medical Center in San Diego, Calif., Wood monitors patients' heart and breathing rates and even how much they're sweating to see the effect of the virtual environments. The aim is to get patients to draw on their meditation training to regain perspective—and stay calm—when a stimulus causes an emotional response. "The idea being to be in the high-stimulus environment for a long period of time, maintaining low psycho-physiological arousal," Wood says. "The person then can take that learning in the therapeutic environment and transport it out or generalize it to day-to-day life." More >>

Financial To-Do List for Returning Reservists

Here's a list of 7 financial to-do's for returning reservists offered by Actually, these tips are a pretty handy reminder for all vets coming back from duty:

  1. Check your credit.
  2. Take a look at your insurance.
  3. Undo any powers of attorney.
  4. Talk to your creditors.
  5. See your lawyer.
  6. Pay your taxes.
  7. Review your situation.
Check out the details for each tip here.

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Monday, July 24, 2006

Action Item: Contact House and Senate Reps Today

Important action to take this week. Veterans for America has made it easy for us to get armed with info and ready for action in support of 3 vital amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for 2007.

Click on Steve Robinson's picture to listen to this week's legislative update. Then head over to their online action form to really show you support the troops.

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

Before the NDAA comes up for a vote, it's hammered out in a joint House-Senate conference. To be sure the following three amendments make it through this process, we need to contact the House and Senate leaders involved -- Representatives Duncan Hunter (R-CA) and Ike Skelton (D-MO), plus Senators John Warner (R-VA) and Carl Levin (D-MI). You can use this online action form to make contact quickly and easily.

Here are the 3 amendments that need our support (via Veterans for America):

Amendment S. 4224 sponsored by Senators Barak Obama (D-IL) and Bill Frist (R-TN) requiring that traumatic brain injury (TBI) assessments be included as part of post-deployment health care assessments for service members deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan involved in improvised explosive device incidents (road side bombs). Serious brain injuries can have long-term effects if not diagnosed and treated quickly.

Amendment S. 4466 sponsored by Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Joe Lieberman (D-CT), Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) improving mental health care screening before deployment of our troops, establishing a minimum standard requirement and further evaluation by a qualified health care professional if a mental health condition is detected during pre- or post- deployment screening. Soldiers are committing suicide while deployed and after returning home. This screening may help save lives now.

Amendment S. 4409 sponsored by Senators Barak Obama (D-IL) and Kit Bond (R-MO) requiring a report from DoD on the feasibility of providing secure electronic medical and military records to service members when discharged to assist with expediting veterans’ medical care at Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers and private physicians. By providing full sets of records, this amendment allows veterans to choose when and where they go for medical care, and it provides an historical account of their military duty.

And don't forget to thank Veterans for America for providing this service to us, either by dropping them a nice line or two or tossing a few nickels into their bucket.

Thank you for taking action today!

Sunday, July 23, 2006

DSM's Definition for PTSD

For a look at the current progress and controversy surrounding the updating of the PTSD definition for DSM-V, see "Defining PTSD: Update on Our Way to DSM-V." -- Ilona Meagher, 12/07/08

To celebrate the Institute of Medicine's report for the VA in support of the American Psychiatric Association's definition for PTSD in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders (DSM), a look at the current DSM-IV's definition.

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The current definition for PTSD in DSM-IV:

309.81 DSM-IV Criteria for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

A. The person has been exposed to a traumatic event in which both of the following have been present:

(1) the person experienced, witnessed, or was confronted with an event or events that involved actual or threatened death or serious injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of self or others (2) the person's response involved intense fear, helplessness, or horror.

B. The traumatic event is persistently reexperienced in one (or more) of the following ways:

(1) recurrent and intrusive distressing recollections of the event, including images, thoughts, or perceptions.
(2) recurrent distressing dreams of the event.
(3) acting or feeling as if the traumatic event were recurring (includes a sense of reliving the experience, illusions, hallucinations, and dissociative flashback episodes, including those that occur upon awakening or when intoxicated).
(4) intense psychological distress at exposure to internal or external cues that symbolize or resemble an aspect of the traumatic event.
(5) physiological reactivity on exposure to internal or external cues that symbolize or resemble an aspect of the traumatic event.

C. Persistent avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma and numbing of general responsiveness (not present before the trauma), as indicated by three (or more) of the following:

(1) efforts to avoid thoughts, feelings, or conversations associated with the trauma
(2) efforts to avoid activities, places, or people that arouse recollections of the trauma
(3) inability to recall an important aspect of the trauma
(4) markedly diminished interest or participation in significant activities
(5) feeling of detachment or estrangement from others
(6) restricted range of affect (e.g., unable to have loving feelings)
(7) sense of a foreshortened future (e.g., does not expect to have a career, marriage, children, or a normal life span)

D. Persistent symptoms of increased arousal (not present before the trauma), as indicated by two (or more) of the following:

(1) difficulty falling or staying asleep
(2) irritability or outbursts of anger
(3) difficulty concentrating
(4) hypervigilance
(5) exaggerated startle response

E. Duration of the disturbance (symptoms in Criteria B, C, and D) is more than one month.

F. The disturbance causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.

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PTSD Criteria Review Complete for VA, DSM Stands

For a look at the current progress and controversy surrounding the updating of the PTSD definition for DSM-V, see "Defining PTSD: Update on Our Way to DSM-V." -- Ilona Meagher, 12/07/08

Characterizing the process as having gone smoothly, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) has completed its government-ordered study to "review the scientific and medical literature related to the diagnosis and assessment of PTSD, and to review PTSD treatments (including psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy) and their efficacy."

The report supports the existing definition for PTSD in the current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders (DSM). The IOM says there's "no need to change DSM-IV criteria for diagnosing posttraumatic stress disorder when evaluating veterans for the disorder."

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From Psychiatric News:

DSM-IV criteria for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are well-founded and should remain the standard for diagnosis, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) reported in June. The report had been requested by the Department of Veterans affairs in response to concern about increasing numbers of veterans applying for PTSD disability compensation.

Diagnosis should be carried out by experienced clinicians familiar with DSM-IV standards, added the IOM group, chaired by Richard Mayeux, M.D., M.S., a professor of neurology, psychiatry, and epidemiology at the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University. "The committee strongly concludes that the best way to determine whether a person is suffering from PTSD is with a thorough, face-to-face interview by a health professional trained in diagnosing psychiatric disorders," Mayeux said.

"In asking the IOM to evaluate and confirm the DSM-IV criteria, the VA was not seeking to challenge the criteria but to provide validation of those criteria to those who did challenge them," said Ira Katz, M.D., Ph.D., deputy chief patient care services officer for mental health at the VA. "The goals were very well met." ...

Separating diagnosis from treatment and disability was a good choice because the latter two issues probably lay more at the heart of the VA's concerns, said Regier.

The IOM committee will also review evidence for PTSD treatment and prognosis and for determining standards of disability related to the disorder. Those two reports are expected by the end of the year.

Although the primary diagnostic tool for PTSD is the knowledge and experience of the clinician, the report also suggested that use of structured or semistructured interviews such as the Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale (CAPS), the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV (SCID), the PTSD Symptom Scale—Interview Version (PSS-I), can complement clinical interviews.

While some of these interviews might take time to administer, they can provide indications of presence and severity of symptoms. ...

The IOM also noted that PTSD was a true disorder because it met standards for validity, having distinct clinical features that had been consistently documented in a variety of settings and cultures, longitudinal stability, and some evidence that genetic factors accounted for about one-third of PTSD symptoms.

Back in February, the VA-ordered review create a lot of controversy.

At committee hearings in February, several speakers suggested that many veterans applying for disability compensation for PTSD through the VA were not suffering from the disorder, but looking for a government pension. clinicians should be aware of the potential for malingering and should consider discrepancies in the patient's reports, lack of cooperation in evaluation or treatment, and evidence of antisocial personality disorder in their evaluation, said the committee, echoing APA recommendations.

"Part of the reason for asking that clinically well-trained people evaluate patients is to avoid overdiagnosing people faking PTSD," said Regier. Several psychometric tests, like the MMPI-2 or the Impact of Event Scale–Revised, do a good job of detecting fakery, he added. Other speakers at the February hearings presented evidence that there were few instances of malingering among Vietnam War veterans studied. although the impetus for the IOM report arose from concern about veterans of earlier wars, Katz said that about 30 percent of returning veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan come to the VA for medical care. Of those, 33 percent have mental health concerns, and 15 percent of that group have at least some symptoms of PTSD.

Nothing specific in the report should cause the VA to change its approach to diagnosing PTSD, but the department is continually seeking to improve its services, said Katz. "The issue isn't business as usual, but enhancement as usual," he said. "The VA views the best diagnosis as an evolving process, guided by empirical-research evidence and accumulating evidence."

The IOM report also did not presage any developments for PTSD criteria that might appear in DSM-V, said Regier. Research over the next several years may generate new information that could confirm present standards or guide new ones, he said.

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Saturday, July 22, 2006

Advice for OEF/OIF Vet Employers and Co-Workers

The Minneaplis-St. Paul Star Tribune and the Minnesota National Guard are doing a great job in both educating their local communities on returning veteran issues and ensuring their troops have as successful of a reintegration as possible. Read their solid advice for employers and co-workers.

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From the Star Tribune:

For a veteran, there is no such thing as coming back to the same job he or she left, according to Maj. John Morris, deputy state chaplain for the Minnesota Army National Guard. There is no company on the planet that can really let any job go undone for two years -- and even if it could, no job would freeze unchanged over that time, Morris said.

The flip side is that no veteran is the same when coming back to a job from combat areas such as Iraq and Afghanistan, he said. The changes spread wide across not only the soldiers' personal and family lives, but also their work lives.

Morris is conducting a 'webinar' course on Tuesday sponsored by the Employee Assistance Professionals Association of Arlington, Va. This group provides counseling services for many companies to their employees.

Besides the small percentage of post-traumatic stress disorder, Morris said, there are less dramatic but more common "residuals," including hyper-vigilance, sensitivity to loud noises, fear of crowds, and a combat-zone version of defensive driving that can be unnerving.

Some veterans find themselves simultaneously bored and overwhelmed by the jobs they come back to, Morris said. Some young veterans have burned through four or five jobs in six months, sometimes complaining that the boss is dumb and sometimes complaining that the boss thinks they're dumb. Nothing can compare to the thrill and the test of combat.

Morris' advice to employers is to start preparing before the veterans come to work. When soldiers are returning to the workplaces they left, they will come with a reservoir of trust if an employer has made an effort to stay in touch with the solider and the family left behind. That's the kind of employer they'll feel comfortable asking for help, he said.

On arrival, start things off with an official welcome back -- not a grand event, "but let's not act like it's no big deal," he said. Then some mutual understanding during the period of adjustment goes a long way.

Co-workers should brace for a strong indifference from veterans, Morris said, an attitude along the lines of, "I've been at the center of world events, and everything I've been doing is more important than what you've been doing."

On their side, co-workers can stop asking the kind of troubling questions veterans now get. "You do not want to ask, 'Did you kill anybody?' " Morris said. "Or, sometimes people ask, 'Do you think we should be there? Do you think we're winning?' Then they use that to go into their own politics, and that is not appreciated."

Instead, Morris suggests showing interest with open-ended questions, so veterans can go only as far as they're comfortable, questions such as:
  • What was your experience like?
  • How was it coming home?
  • What would you like to share about your time in Iraq?
  • Got any pictures you want to show us?
Employers often are in a good position to spot problem signs -- withdrawn or too kinetic -- and steer the veterans to help, he said. Morris suggests weekly check-ins for a while, for encouragement or intervention.

Some honest advice. Please thank the MSP Star Tribune for their great coverage on this issue.

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10,000 Unique Visitors Reached

PTSD Combat has just had its 10,000th unique visitor!

Although the comments areas are usually pretty quiet, there's always a lot going on behind the scenes. I thought I'd share just a few of the incredible names and organizations that kicked the tires around here the past 10 days. To commemorate, I've tweaked the site design somewhat, too. Thanks for visiting!

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Education: Universities of North Carolina, Indiana, Southern Illinois, California-San Diego, Portland State, South Dakota, Texas at El Paso, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Washington, Northwestern, Harvard, Stanford, Emory, Stephen F. Austin, North Carolina A & T, Western Washington, and Loyola; Saint Joseph College; San Diego City Schools; San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools.

Government: From across the pond, the Houses of Parliament and the Cambridgeshire County Council; closer to home, the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate Sergeant at Arms (I'm not sure if this is a good or bad thing :o); the States of Minnesota and Maryland, Cities of Philadelphia and Madison; and the Town of Norwood Light Department.

Military/Veteran: Department of Defense (DOD); United States Army Corps of Engineers; United States Naval Academy; National Defense University; Forts Belvoir, Carson, and Leonard Wood; Camp Liberty in Moldova; US Army Garrison-Michigan; Reese Air Force Base; 377 Communication Squadron; Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation; and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

Health: The National Academy of Sciences; Loma Linda University Medical Center; Connecticut Center for Health; the Children's Hospital of Pennsylvania; and Baptist Memorial Health Care Corp.

News Organizations: CBS News; Tribune Company; Milwaukee Journal-Sentinal; Mankato Free Press.

The Boeing Company, Ford Motor Company, Land O'Lakes (this one was great to see :o); General Electric Company; United States Postal Service; United Steelworkers of America; Alliance Capital; Avalon Publishing; and Simon & Schuster.

...and these were just a few of the visitors in the past 10 days. Thanks again, for your support and interest -- one and all!

Friday, July 21, 2006

What Do OEF/OIF Vets Have to Say? Check Out MTV Tonight.

Just received this in my email box:

IAVA will be on MTV tonight! Tune in to see IAVA's Executive Director Paul Rieckhoff featured on MTV's special, "Iraq Uploaded", tonight at 8pm EST.

"Iraq Uploaded" will be hosted by Gideon Yago and will explore how the personal videos and blogs from Troops in Iraq are informing the American public about the war. It is a powerful and fast-paced show that IAVA supports fully. "Iraq Uploaded" will highlight unfiltered videos and military blogs that have been coming straight from Iraq through sites like ...

If you miss the show tonight, it will continue to air on MTV over the next few weeks. Check MTV's schedule for more dates/times.

I had the pleasure of meeting Paul Reickhoff last month, and can't rave enough about what he and his organization are doing to get the voices of our returning vets out there. We need to hear more from them -- and IAVA is helping to make it happen. Please consider donating to their organization. And I heartily recommend reading Paul's new book, Chasing Ghosts: A Soldier's Fight for America From Baghdad to Washington. Sample chapter here.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Action Item: HR 5771, Joshua Omvig Veterans Suicide Prevention Act

Last week, important legislation was introduced in the House by Rep. Leonard Boswell [D-IA] that we really need to rally around and support. Called the Joshua Omvig Veterans Suicide Prevention Act, HR 5771 is named after the 22-year old Army Reserve soldier who killed himself three days before Christmas shortly after returning home from combat duty in Iraq. The bill charges the VA with setting up a program to screen and monitor for suicide risk.

The Omvig family have been outspoken advocates for our returning troops in the wake of their loss. General Wes Clark recently spoke in Iowa in support of this legislation. They need our help. Please contact your Congressperson and let them know you support this bill and expect them to do the same.

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

From the Des Moines Register:

Boswell, a Vietnam veteran, said he is very disturbed by the number of young veterans taking their own lives. Aides to Boswell said that since March 2003, 79 vets who served in Iraq or Afghanistan have committed suicide. “One life lost to suicide is too many,” said Boswell. Boswell aides said he picked up 25 co-sponsors in the House as soon as he introduced the bill, including Rep. Jim Leach, an Iowa City Republican.

Under the legislation, the Department of Veterans Affairs would have to:

  • Establish a tracking and counseling referral system to make sure that vets at risk of suicide receive care
  • Provide education and training for VA staff members, contractors and health professionals who work with vets
  • Provide around-the-clock mental health care for veterans found at risk of suicide
Press release:

Boswell Briefing...
By Congressman Leonard Boswell

Joshua Omvig Veterans Suicide Prevention Act

"As a fellow veteran, I am honored to announce I recently introduced the Joshua Omvig Veterans Suicide Prevention Act."

It is estimated almost 1,000 veterans receiving care from Department of Veterans Affairs commit suicide each year. Since March 2003, 79 individuals, having served in Iraq or Afghanistan, have committed suicide. I am extremely troubled these men and women did not receive the proper attention they needed. Suicide rates for soldiers in Iraq are higher than the suicide rates during the Gulf War or the Vietnam War.

As a fellow veteran, I am honored to announce I recently introduced the Joshua Omvig Veterans Suicide Prevention Act. If enacted, this legislation would direct the Department of Veterans Affairs to develop a comprehensive program to regularly screen and monitor all veterans for risk factors of suicide.

This bill would also set up a tracking and counseling referral system to ensure all veterans deemed a suicide risk would receive the appropriate help. In addition, this legislation would provide 24-hour mental health care for veterans who are found to be at risk for suicide and would provide education and training for all VA staff, contractors, and medical personnel who have interaction with veterans.

This legislation grew out of the tragic death of Joshua Omvig from Grundy Center, Iowa who took his life after returning home from an 11-month tour in Iraq. Not all wounds inflected in combat are visible. A simple screening and tracking process could have provided Joshua with the counseling he needed, saving his life. We must now protect those who have kept us safe for so long.

Our men and women in uniform and their families have made many sacrifices for our country, and we must ensure they receive the proper care and treatment once they return home.

As a Vietnam Veteran, I honor the men and women currently serving our nation around the world. During the upcoming months of the 109th Congress, I will continue to work with my colleagues to ensure all veterans are given the proper care they need. For more information on suicide prevention please visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s website at If you or someone you know are in a crisis please call 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Please visit the Joshua Omvig memorial page for more information. Created on January 7th by his family, this website offers links to information and action items, an online photo album, a place to leave condolences, and an invitation to 'light' a memorial candle.

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Saturday, July 15, 2006

PTSD Combat News Roundup: July 10-14, 2006

Good morning!

Sorry it's been so quiet this past week over here. Have been very busy with the book. It's certainly not been a quiet week on the PTSD front, though. This is good. Silence is our enemy; so, as difficult as some of these stories may be, it's a good sign that more people are thinking about these important issues or perhaps hearing about them for the first time. News grafs from the latest articles inside -- some rather important that you won't won't want to miss. Click on 'Article Link' below tags for more...

PTSD Combat News Roundup: July 10-15, 2006

July 10, 2006 - 49ABC News (Topeka, KS):

Cases of post-traumatic stress disorder double since 2000
VA faced with footing the bill of treating PTSD in veterans
With video

Nearly 10,000 U.S. servicemen and women have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder this year. That's already three times the number of cases the Department of Veteran's Affairs expects for all of 2006. "The cost of all of this is enormous," said Nancy Andreasen, who sits on the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Committee. ...

Recently the VA commissioned an institute of medicine study to make sure its doctors are properly diagnosing the disorder. ... This week commission members met to learn more about PTSD and to discuss what to do with the thousands of cases diagnosed this year.

The committee will evaluate the PTSD screening process to ensure only veterans who deserve compensation receive it. "The costs are going up, and they are projected to be so high the VA is going to go bankrupt," Andreasen said.

Some critics say the study is insulting to veterans, but this year's high number of cases leaves little choice. "Some doctors say PTSD, and some say the vet has a different disability there ought to be a board of psychiatrists reviewing that," said Bart Stichman of the National Veterans Legal Service.

The VA budgeted for the compensation of only 3,000 PTSD cases this year. The number of PTSD cases has doubled since 2000. More >>

July 11, 2006 - Empire Information Services:

Ritter Donates PTSD Stress Relief Videos to DOD

n response to the dire need for a more effective and accessible approach to post-traumatic stress in our troops returning from Iraq, Theresa Ritter, Founder of the Advanced Mind & Body Institute, LLC, announced the donation of her two-volume videos developed relieve symptoms of post-traumatic stress due to military service and combat. The videos are now available to the Department of Defense through the Kenneth L. Farmer, Jr., Major General, Medical Corps Commander of the North Atlantic Regional Medical Command and Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC. Colonel Stephen Cozza, Chief of Psychiatry is in charge of implementing this PTSD program.

Provided in multiple formats, the videos may be used in laptop computers, video players and for large groups, in movie theaters. They incorporate the only two therapeutic modalities with proven consistent positive results in healing emotional trauma. Key to their effectiveness is Ritter's use of Advanced Eye Movement Therapy (AEMT), a more progressive format of Dr. Francine Shapiro's original Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), now internationally recognized as the leading treatment for post-traumatic stress. The simple operation of these video programs permits self administration and use in the field. More >>

July 12, 2006 - CBS Evening News:

Stressed-Out Soldiers
Men At One Base Say The Army Is Ignoring PTSD Cases
With video
Also: audio interview with military ethicist Nancy Sherman here.

According to a recent report from the Veterans Administration, more than 50,000 vets from Iraq and Afghanistan are believed to be suffering from mental health problems — nearly half of them from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. It's well documented and, says the Pentagon, well treated both in the field and at home. But CBS News chief investigative correspondent Armen Keteyian reports that at least in one large military base in Colorado, soldiers are saying members of the Army Command are simply paying lip service, at best, to PTSD — hindering their treatment and upending their careers.

The 2nd Brigade Combat Team in Fort Carson, Colo., is training to go back to Iraq after experiencing some of the fiercest combat last year. The unit lost soldiers at double the rate of other Army posts around the country, including Pfc. Sam Lee, who committed suicide at a Ramadi Army barracks.

"As he was going outside, that's pretty much when I came in the room and saw him fire on himself," says Pvt. Tyler Jennings. "The second round actually came by and just missed my head and hit my weapon," adds Pvt. Corey Davis. "So I had to use his weapon. And I mean I got it with his blood on it still."

Jennings and Davis say that surreal scene, among many others, led to nightmares, flashbacks and anxiety attacks — classic symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. "I had panic attacks every time," says Jennings. "And I had it all set up, I was going to hang myself."

In a recent report, more than one-third of Iraqi war veterans sought help for mental health problems, including PTSD, within a year of returning home. A report from a congressional watchdog group detailed failures by the Department of Defense to identify and deal with anxiety issues like PTSD.

In the face of what some are calling an epidemic of PTSD in the military, nearly a dozen soldiers at Fort Carson told CBS News that their cries for mental health either went unanswered or they found themselves subject to unrelenting abuse and ridicule. More >>

July 12, 2006 - Pulse of the Twin Cities:

A Soldier's Heart Then and Now

When Richard Saholt joined the Army in 1942, he did so in hopes of proving himself to his father and society. He did, by becoming a sniper, scout, point man and a member of the infamous 10th Mountain Division.
The division were ski paratroopers, and Saholt earned the Combat Infantry Badge and Bronze Star. The training alone was the most brutal and rigorous training known in the military.

Conducted at an elevation of 10,000 feet, many soldiers couldn’t meet the physical and mental challenges. Later his division fought a fierce battle against the Nazi’s Gothic Line in the Italian Alps during WWII, where 90 percent of the U.S.’s 14,000- member division were wounded or killed. “We destroyed nine of their cracked Alpine Divisions!” he wrote to me. “They were written up in World War II as the finest trained fighters in the world. They were Hitler’s most famous troops!” ...

How is Saholt’s story connected to the millions of other war veterans who have served in World War II and since then?

What veterans have in common are a few things. First, many veterans joined the military to prove themselves to either their families or society; to leave an abusive situation in their home lives; or because of recruiters’ promises—later known to have been broken. Second, plenty of veterans have members in their families who are or were war veterans, and how they came home—or didn’t come home—affected not only the immediate family, but the rest of society. More >>

July 12, 2006 - Colorado Springs Indy News:

Major law-enforcement and psychological agencies in Colorado Springs are not tracking incidents involving returning soldiers and their families in a way that would spotlight pathways for help.

Pikes Peak Mental Health, a community nonprofit that treats families from Fort Carson and other military installations, has seen the need for soldier care surge since the war began, says spokeswoman Cynthia Zupanec. But she cannot say whether post-traumatic stress disorder is predominant among the issues at hand.

While the El Paso County jail gathers data on the arrests of military personnel, it does not record the specific unit the soldier is with — a measure that would help indicate whether there is ebb and flow into the jail for crimes generally associated with the mental health of soldiers returning from war.

Georg-Andreas "Andrew" Pogany, a former Fort Carson soldier who leads Operation Just One, a group that helps Iraq war veterans obtain confidential, free counseling, says local agencies should be gathering data to see if PTSD is causing a rise in social ills. "We know it is out there," he says. "But how will they know how and where to target resources — how to help these soldiers — if they aren't taking the time to track what happens when soldiers return? How will they prevent problems before they escalate?" More >>

July 13, 2006 - Hartford Courant:

A Look At Military Mental Health Policy
Task Force Set To Examine Screening, Treatment
Including large portion of article for educational purposes only.

Members of a military task force examining mental health services for troops will gather for the first time this weekend to assess whether the Armed Forces are doing enough for troubled soldiers.

The Defense Task Force on Mental Health was established by Congress last year, amid criticism of the military's mental health screening and treatment. The 14-member group, split evenly between military and non-military experts, is required to submit a report and recommendations to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld by May 2007.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., sponsor of the bill that established the task force, met Wednesday with Army Surgeon General Kevin C. Kiley - co-chairman of the task force - and said she urged him to pay close attention to three areas:

  • establishing uniform standards governing when troops with post-traumatic stress disorder or other serious mental illnesses can be deployed;
  • deciding which psychiatric medications are compatible with combat deployments; and
  • drafting rules addressing the authority of commanders to overrule a mental health professional's conclusion that a service member is not mentally fit for combat
Boxer said it was important for the military to develop across-the-board deployment policies for troops suffering from PTSD and other mental problems. "There certainly isn't a standard here," she said. The committee is also expected to look at ways to reduce the military stigma associated with mental health treatment - among both commanders and ground troops.

Many of the issues to be examined by the task force were the subject of a four-part series in The Courant in May that reported the military was increasingly sending mentally troubled troops into combat, keeping them there and assigning them to additional combat tours. ...

Boxer said she was moved to propose the mental health task force after hearing a year ago from a military physician who complained he had been pressured to avoid diagnosing soldiers as having PTSD, and was told instead to choose a more transient diagnosis, such as combat stress, that would not interfere with sending a soldier back to combat.

Boxer said she is still hearing from "whistleblower physicians," including a recent call from a doctor who discovered a soldier with bipolar disorder had been accepted for deployment, contrary to the Army's own regulations.

July 13, 2006 - Huffington Post:

Traumatic Stress

Department of Veterans Affairs Hospitals and Clinics have treated more than 168,000 returning veterans and over one third face serious mental distress. Unfortunately, active duty soldiers fear the stigma attached to a post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) diagnosis which can be used to end one's career, so many cases go unreported. No one is inspecting their mental health before they return to combat, and now we are seeing the results.

If we hope to stop these horrifying incidents from occurring we must address the larger issues such as; inspecting the American men and women serving their country as thoroughly as our military equipment, repeated deployments of individuals, and the growing health care needs of the veterans. Accountability must not be limited to the individual soldiers being accused of these crimes and legislation must be passed to protect our soldiers from returning to a war zone with mental health issues. There must be a thorough review of the policies of repeat deployments and the lack of prompt and comprehensive screenings for our returning soldiers

Currently legislation is in the works that will require the military to gain the approval of a credentialed mental health professional before a service member diagnosed as having a duty-limiting mental condition could be redeployed back to a war zone. More is needed! Soldiers must be allowed confidential face to face mental health exams when they return from deployment and our leaders must address the core issues behind the causes of the reported atrocities. By doing this and more we will truly be supporting the troops and ensuring they receive the needed care they have earned.

One of the tragic consequences of stretching our military too thin is that men and women who are suffering from mental health disorders are not only being asked to serve, but often asked to serve multiple deployments. Our nation must stop ignoring the very real question of military readiness as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan draw on. More >>

Monday, July 10, 2006

Boston Psychologists Reach Out to Help Army Reserve Families

We've heard a lot about the trauma of serving in combat; but, we don't talk too much about the stresses placed on family members. Are they doing ok? Do they have ready access to support services during all phases of deployment? Well, if they're an Army Reserve or a National Guard family in the greater Boston area, they most surely do. Here's a free service they have access to:

The Psychoanalytic Couple and Family Institute of New England (PCFINE), with the support of other psychoanalytic groups throughout the country, has launched a new pro bono program called SOFAR: Strategic Outreach to Families of All Reservists. Through this program, SOFAR coordinates the delivery of psychotherapy and psycho-educational services to the families of Reservists and National Guard members who are stationed in or returning from Afghanistan, Iraq, and Kuwait.

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

From channel WCVB-TV [Boston's ABC affiliate]:

When Mom or Dad goes off to war it can be devastating for the family left behind. Now, a unique program is reaching out to those families, enlisting mental health professionals to provide free counseling.

Last August, Lillian Connolly's husband, Joseph, was re-deployed to Iraq. His absence hasn't been easy on their four children. "It was an adjustment for them to be with just me. Because it had always been mom and dad together," Lillian Connolly said. "I was confused and sad that he was leaving us," son Joseph said.

Like many families who have loved ones fighting overseas, the Connolly's had a hard time dealing with the sadness. So Lillian found a new way to help them all cope. "We're interested in helping them feel and be stronger from the experiences that they're dealing with around their loved one's deployment," Dr. Kenneth Reich said.

Reich is the co-chair of SOFAR, or Strategic Outreach to Families of All Reservists, a Cambridge-based program that offers free counseling to the immediate and extended families of Army reservists sent to battle. "They experience loss and separation. And they experience a sense of, often, of helplessness, because they don't know what's happening to their soldier," Dr. Jaine Darwin said.

The SOFAR team has already helped 2,000 families in the New England area. What a great outreach effort this is! Please visit their website for more information and to learn how they set up this important service to help these military families.

Inspiring, isn't it?

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Sunday, July 09, 2006

PTSD Combat News Roundup: June 28-July 9, 2006

Another collection of news and commentary on issues important to veterans and their families -- especially those coping with PTSD.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Vets Disability Benefits Comm: Contact Them Now on PTSD

The President and Congress have created the independent Veterans’ Disability Benefits Commission, meeting next week Thursday, July 13, 2006 to discuss issues revolving around post-traumatic stress disorder. Its work will focus on reviewing current PTSD studies; taking a look at how the military arrives at its PTSD diagnoses; examining how their treatment and outreach programs are working; and considering how PTSD benefits claims are verified. These are all hot-button issues, as cost-cutting desires historically translate to under-cutting the services our veterans deserve to have access to.

The public is welcome to attend this meeting in Washington, DC [details], and public comments are accepted. Prior to the meeting, please consider writing (instructions here - pdf) or phoning (1-800-827-1000) them to add your views.

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

From the Navy Times:

The Veterans’ Disability Benefits Commission will focus on post-traumatic stress syndrome during its July 13 meeting. Commissioners will look at studies being conducted by the Center for Naval Analyses and the Institute of Medicine on how the military diagnoses and assesses new PTSD cases and also at post-deployment health programs and how eligibility for benefits is verified. ...

Dramatic increases in the number of PTSD cases reported among Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans have been a major concern for Congress and the Bush administration, with disagreements surfacing about whether enough steps are being taken to locate and provide treatment for PTSD sufferers. Post-deployment health access has been a major concern for National Guard and reserve members who often live too far from military or veterans’ hospitals to easily receive what help is available.

Retired Army Lt. Gen. James T. Scott is chairman of the commission, which has stirred controversy by creating at least the perception that wants to cut benefits.

Commissioners have discussed cutting disability payments if a cross-check of records shows a veteran is receiving other federal benefits for the same disability. They have also talked about their interest in better job training and employment programs so disabled veterans can find work more easily. Commissioners have denied considering cuts in benefits, saying they are just trying to get a better idea of the overall financial situation of disabled veterans.

How adequately VA benefits replace lost income is one of the core decisions facing the commission under its congressional mandate. Administration officials expect the panel to find that many disability ratings need to be updated because many service-connected disabilities no longer pose serious problems in holding down a well-paying civilian job.

The Institute of Medicine has several contracts with the commission to look at specific benefits questions. On PTSD, the institute is looking, specifically, at the accuracy of screening techniques and how to compensate and treat veterans afflicted with PTSD.

From the Veterans' Disability Benefits Commission website:
The next public meeting of the Commission is scheduled for Thursday, July 13, and Friday, July 14, in the Oasis Room of the Almas Temple located at 1315 K Street NW in Washington, DC. The meeting will begin each day at 8:30 a.m. On July 13, the meeting will end at 4:15 p.m., and on July 14, the meeting will end at 3:00 p.m.

The meeting is open to the public.

The (tentative draft) agenda for the two-day session will include updates on the progress of the research and studies being conducted by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) and the Center for Naval Analyses (CNA). IOM will present a report of its Committee review of PTSD diagnosis and assessment. There will be additional presentations related to PTSD, post-deployment health and eligibility verification. The agenda will also include an expanded discussion on quality of life and follow-up reporting on additional programs serving seriously injured and disabled veterans and service members.

2006 - Tentative Dates and DC-Meeting Locations

  • August 17-18 - Embassy Suites, 900 10th Street NW
  • September 14-15 - Beacon Hotel, 1615 Rhode Island Avenue NW
  • October 19-20 - Beacon Hotel, 1615 Rhode Island Avenue NW
  • November 16-17 - Embassy Suites, 900 10th Street NW
If you can't attend, another option is to submit your comments to the commission (here's a helpful template sheet to help you compose your letter - pdf).

Friday, July 07, 2006

Follow My Work as I Research and Write

Things are a bit less 'busy' around here as I continue the research and writing of my book this summer. Updates may be sporadic; but, even if it's quiet on the front page, things are happening in the background. If you're interested in what I'm digging up, visit my page to see what I've recently indexed and saved. You'll find a wealth of PTSD information on that page, btw, all tagged and sorted to make it easy for you to do your own research, too.

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

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Important Piece: Soothing a Soldier's Spirit

From the Des Moines Register:

"Do you want to know why you are acting the way you are now?" Kittleson asked him. "You are only six months removed from the most stressful year that any 21-year-old will ever have and probably have for the rest of your life. For 365 unrelenting days, your body and mind and soul have been coiled like a spring with fear, anxiety and uncertainty while trying your best to do your job and not let your buddies down.

"No one can go through what you have and return to life as you knew it before. No one. And now your body and soul say that it can't keep that kind of stress and trauma inside any longer. It must come out. The only question is 'Will it come out in a way that destroys me or heals me?' The only way to not be destroyed by your combat experience is to talk with someone who understands. Someone who has 'been there, done that."

Please read the whole article; and consider thanking the Register's columnist, Carlson, for this important piece.

Capitol Times LTE: How about some help for military families?

An impassioned yet cogent Letter to the Editor published in today's Capitol Times out of Madison, WI.

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

Dear Editor: The political posturing over troop withdrawals in Iraq totally ignores the people who are making all the sacrifices for the war in Iraq: the U.S. military and their families. What the Republicans call "cut and run" the Democrats call "pandering for votes." Why not find a fair way to start withdrawing troops from Iraq?

Our president and defense secretary say we don't need a military draft, but the military is deploying, redeploying and then sending the same person back to yet another tour of war. No one is asking, "How much war before someone is physically or emotionally destroyed?" Did we learn nothing from Vietnam?

When looking at plans for troop withdrawal, why not set a limit on the number of times the same person is deployed and remove those who have served the longest first? And Congress should call for an immediate end to "stop loss," the military's version of slavery. We have a voluntary military. However, when someone enlists, honorably serves and then wants to go home to family when his or her commitment is finished, instead of thanks from a grateful country, they are issued stop loss orders for another year or more in a war zone. If military families complain, the military may be "hard" on their loved one. I'm not sure what's worse than another year of roadside bombs, but also don't want to find out.

Congress and the president talk a lot about family values. How about some help for military families? Divorce and suicide rates are up, and there is a major increase in post-traumatic stress. Why isn't someone fighting for them the way they are fighting for all of us?

Lee and Mary Erickson

If you'd like to respond to this LTE, please use the Capitol Times online feedback form.

Emory University Investigates New Iraq Vet PTSD Treatment

A recent press release from Emory University broadcasts the news that researchers are studying a new form of treatment program hoping to help returning combat veterans coping with PTSD get better quicker. The treatment program combines the drug d-cycloserine (DCS) and virtual reality therapy to temper the fear associated with and power of traumatic memories.

[UPDATE - Aug 13, 2008]: New study details.

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

From WebWire:

Emory University researchers will embark on a study they hope will enhance the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and help soldiers who are affected get better faster. The risk for PTSD among Iraq War veterans is estimated to be 18 percent, according to a 2004 study that examined the mental health impact of the war. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the estimated lifetime prevalence of PTSD among American Vietnam war veterans is 30.9 percent for men and 26.9 percent for women. PTSD is a serious condition that can become a chronic problem, with devastating life-altering effects on soldiers and their families.

Barbara Rothbaum, PhD, ABPP, and Kerry Ressler, MD, PhD, from the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Emory University School of Medicine, will lead a study funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) using the drug d-cycloserine (DCS) combined with virtual reality therapy.

DCS binds to neurotransmitter receptors in the amygdala called NMDA (N-methyl-D-aspartate) receptors. The mechanisms governing the fear response are located in that region of the brain. Previous rodent studies of DCS by Dr. Ressler and Michael Davis, PhD, of Emory School of Medicine, the Yerkes National Primate Research Center, and the Center for Behavioral Neuroscience have shown that it has a positive effect on the extinction of fear. The first trial using DCS with Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy for acrophobia, or fear of heights, was completed in 2004, and was very successful.

"We were very excited about the results of the acrophobia study and we are delighted to have the opportunity to move forward with the PTSD study," says Dr. Rothbaum, a professor of psychiatry and director of Emory’s Trauma and Anxiety Recovery Program. "A large part of the problem PTSD patients have is the fear of the memory itself. Although the memories will never really go away, we believe that the DCS will make it easier for patients to learn how not to fear their memories."

Co-investigators in the study will include Michael Davis, PhD, Erica Duncan, MD and Maryrose Gerardi, PhD, all faculty members of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Emory University School of Medicine.

"Persons with PTSD experience both psychological and physical effects, and just like any other illness, PTSD can worsen and become harder to treat the longer someone waits to be treated," says Dr. Ressler. "We hope this study will open up some new doors that will help us get people back to their normal lives as soon as possible."

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