Battling the Storm Within

Thursday, June 15, 2017

VA's Choice program running out of money ahead of schedule

Image result for Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, VA Secretary David Shulkin picture

WASHINGTON — The Veterans Affairs Choice program, hailed by President Trump as a key lifeline to veterans, is on pace to run out of money later this summer, potentially causing major disruptions in thousands of veterans’ medical care.

Congress believed they had solved this problem earlier this year, by passing an extension of the program’s rules to keep it operating until late 2018.

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DoD Launches Online Learning Program to Help Military Survivors of Sexual Assault

Today, the Department of Defense launched an online and mobile educational program to help individuals begin to recover, heal, and build resiliency after a sexual assault.

The self-guided program, called “Building Hope & Resiliency: Addressing the Effects of Sexual Assault,” can be completed at the user’s pace and features information about coping mechanisms, practical relaxation exercises, definitions, links to resources  and referrals for on-going support.


4 Truths Church Leaders Should Know About PTSD

REBOOT Academy

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. There is often a stigma associated with the term “PTSD.” It can raise feelings of uncertainty and perhaps even fear. It is closely tied to instability, rage, depression, and suicide. It is widely seen as an issue that is best for the so-called “experts” to deal with. After all, no one wants to risk saying the wrong thing and pushing someone over the edge, so you might figure it’s best to leave it to medical professionals. 

If you’re in a position of leadership at your church, you will (and should) encounter men and women struggling with PTSD. Even if you don’t work directly with combat veterans, you will undoubtedly find yourselves sitting across from someone who has experienced a traumatic event and is suffering from what the medical community calls Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. This disorder can lead a person to present symptoms including agitation, isolation, sleeplessness, anxiety, depression, and in some cases, flashbacks to their trauma. 


This Combat Vet Wants to Inspire a New Generation of Farmers

Morgan Boyd works at his 15-acre, family-owned farm, Pepper Creek Family Farms, in Arroyo Grande, California. (Photo by Susanna Frohman)

Growing up on a 15-acre family farm in central California, Morgan Boyd never dreamed of a career in agriculture. He recalled harvesting corn by hand in the sweltering heat in the Huasna Valley and hawking produce at farmer's markets around San Luis Obispo County.

"I didn't see the farm as something I ever wanted to pursue at all," he said.
But after serving a dozen years in the Army, during which he deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, he was medically retired and struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury. He found peace back on the farm.


Vet groups Endorse VA's call to replace Choice with Care plan

The nation’s largest veteran groups joined key senators Wednesday to endorse conditionally a plan from Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary David J. Shulkin to replace the unpopular 2014 Choice program, which critics contend often has failed to provide timely access to private-sector care when VA health care isn’t readily available.

However, veteran groups adamantly oppose VA’s plan to fund the Choice replacement plan by cutting disability compensation paid through the Individual Unemployability (IU) program to 208,000 severely disabled veterans, those ages 62 and older who also are eligible for at least minimum Social Security benefits.


US Army invests $2million in research to test 'game changer' one-shot injection to beat PTSD

The physician injects a dose of local anesthetic into a cluster of nerves called the stellate ganglion, which connect the body to the brain

A 'stellate ganglion block' is an injection of anesthetic into a nerve cluster called the stellate ganglion, which connects the brain to the body
  • This nerve cluster is key for controlling our response to perceived danger
  • Scientists claim one shot to numb this cluster can 'reset' our nervous system
  • The injection has been used successfully since it was invented in Illinois in 2006
  • Now the US Army has invested $2m in US studies to confirm its effectiveness before endorsing it as a standard treatment method

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    5 Things You Didn’t Know About 100% Disability Ratings

    A veteran speaks to staff at the Washington, D.C. VA Medical Center.
    100% disability rating can mean different things in at least five different types of service-connection claims.

    Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on Veterans Law Blog, the largest and longest running blog on veterans benefits, written by VA-accredited attorney Chris Attig.

    The phrases “100% disabled” or “total VA disability ratings” get thrown around a lot in veterans disability benefits claims.


    For the first time, a woman assumes command of a Special Forces battalion

    Image result for Lt. Col. Megan Brogden picture

    A career Quartermaster officer has assumed command of the 3rd Special Forces Group support battalion. And in a first for that role, the commander is a woman.

    Lt. Col. Megan Brodgen took over at the Special Forces unit Friday morning in a ceremony at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, officials confirmed to Army Times.

    The position is one of about two dozen within U.S. Army Special Operations Command that can be held by a non-Green Beret officer, but until now, a woman had never been chosen. 


    Eating Disorders as a Result of Military Sexual Trauma in Veterans

    Veterans who screen positive for MST are at differentially greater risk for PTSD, depression, substance misuse, and homelessness.

    Veterans who experienced military sexual trauma (MST) are at higher risk for post-deployment eating disorders (EDs), according to a new study1 conducted by Rebecca Blais, PhD, assistant professor of psychology, Utah State University in Logan, and colleagues.

    According to the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) MST affects 25% of female and 1% of male veterans and includes “any sexual activity where a service member is involved against his or her will.”2


    VA Presumptive List


    Chronic Diseases Diagnosed After Discharge
    Tropical Diseases
    Prisoners of War
    Veterans Exposed to Herbicides (Agent Orange)
    Veterans Exposed to Radiation
    Gulf War Veterans
    Mustard Gas and Lewisite Exposure
    Veterans Exposed to Contaminated Camp Lejeune Water

    In order to qualify for VA Disability, a condition must be service-connected. But what if a serious condition develops that doesn’t fulfil the normal requirements for service-connection? Enter the VA Presumptive List.

    In most cases, conditions that cannot be proved service-connected are denied benefits. Over time, however, the VA began noticing patterns in the types of conditions to develop in veterans who had served in similar circumstances. In other words, a significant number of vets who served in the same place at the same time developed similar conditions in a similar time frame.

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    Why So Many Rape Victims Don’t Simply ‘Fight Back’

    Last winter, a judge in Turin, Italy, acquitted a 46-year-old man who had been accused of sexually assaulting a female colleague. His rationale for tossing the case, The Washington Post reported, was that the woman did not react strongly enough. She said “stop it!” and “enough” while being attacked, but did not scream.

    Saying that a woman cannot have been raped because her response was too muted is a deeply flawed argument, but the Italy case is not an anomaly. Women are expected to fight back, and when they don’t, their stories are questioned and even discredited ― sometimes by the very people and systems meant to protect them. 


    Women Veterans and Military Sexual Trauma: the Aftermath

    It’s important to acknowledge that all branches of the armed services are working to eliminate military sexual trauma (MST), to bring perpetrators to justice and to provide treatment for victims. That said, this comes after years of ignoring or dismissing complaints. Years.

    The National Veterans Foundation’s concerted outreach to female veterans finds that MST is often a factor in their lives when we reach them. You won’t hear that from them right away. They call our Lifeline for Vets about housing, education, employment and VA claims just like their male counterparts. But when we engage them in conversation on the phone or on the street, it starts to leak out that their symptoms of PTSD aren’t necessarily related to combat. The biggest clue is the nature of a woman’s discharge from the service. If her discharge is not “Honorable” we know to listen even more closely.


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    What happens when you call White House's new hotline for veterans

    Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin speaks during the White House press briefing in Washingt

    Thank you for calling the White House VA Veteran Complaint Hotline, I am happy to assist you.”
    On Day 2 of Donald Trump’s new veteran hotline, calls were being answered by live operators after a 20-minute hold — at least when the San Diego Union-Tribune tried it at 9:30 this morning.

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    Michigan Women Veterans Empowerment Planted the 1st women veterans Garden in Genesee County


    MIWVE planted 72 organic plants/trees in our 1st women veterans empowerment peace, healing and love garden in Genesee County that's dedicated to women veterans and in memory of the 22 service men and women we lose to suicide everyday. ❤️🙏🏾

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    Homeless Female Veterans: Undercounted and Underserved

    Army veteran LouAnn Hazelwood was fleeing her second abusive marriage when she found one of the nation's few transitional programs for homless female veterans.

    The federal government estimates that on any given night, 3,000 to 4,000 female veterans are homeless.

    But that estimate is probably on the low side,  according to Sara Scoco, who directs the Women's Program of the nonprofit group Soldier On.

    "When people are doing homeless counts, they're going to shelters, they're seeing people on the street," Scoco said. "A female veteran is not the person you see on the street holding a sign."


    VFW- Financial Grants

    Assistance Finanaical hero

    We understand the challenges veterans, service members and military families can face and believe that experiencing financial difficulties should not be one of them. That's the premise behind the VFW's Unmet Needs program. 

    Unmet Needs is there to help America's military families who have run into unexpected financial difficulties as a result of deployment or other military-related activity or injury. The program provides financial aid of up to $5,000 to assist with basic life needs in the form of a grant -not a loan- so no repayment is required. To further ease the burden, we pay the creditor directly.


    VA drops goal of zero homeless veterans

    WASHINGTON — The new Veterans Affairs administration is backing off the department’s 7-year-old target of reaching zero homeless veterans across America, but insists they aren’t giving up on the cause.

    In an interview with Military Times this week, VA Secretary David Shulkin said he no longer sees zero as “the right goal” for his department’s efforts, and instead is focused on cutting the current number of homeless veterans down from about 40,000 to somewhere below 15,000.


    Gulf War Syndrome – Washington's Dirty Little Secret

    In November of 2008, the Committee on Gulf Conflict Veterans' Sicknesses offered a 450 web page report back to Secretary of Veterans Affairs James Peake. The report said that the Gulf Conflict Syndrome (GWS), beforehand dismissed as a psychosomatic dysfunction, is a really actual sickness affecting between 25-50% of the 700,000 US Veterans who participated within the 1991 Gulf Conflict.


    Women Vets Take Aim at a New Target: Public Office

    Image: Mikie Sherrill

    Mikie Sherrill has never run for office. But after piloting Navy rescue missions to places like the Persian Gulf, Italy and Bahrain, where the heat and humidity rattle the helicopter engine and the only thing you can count on is your calculation that you've brought along enough fuel to save lives — she feels up to the challenge.

    "You're always on the edge of your seat," Sherrill said of her nearly 10 years serving as one of the military's few female pilots. "I think my experience gives voters a certain sense of comfort that I can do the job."

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    VA has a woman problem. It starts with its motto.

    The Department of Veterans Affairs has a woman problem. Need evidence? Look no further than its motto: “To care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan.”

    That motto — engraved on plaques outside VA buildings across the country, featured proudly in VA presentations and on the agency’s website — comes from President Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address. It was an eloquent and well-meaning statement in its time. But the face of U.S. troops, and veterans, has drastically changed since then.


    Allegiant Air offers free services to veterans, active military

    ROANOKE, VA (WFXR) – The Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional Airport has announced a new partnership with Allegiant Air.

    The “Allegiant Honors” program will support members and veterans of the United States military with free services when they fly with Allegiant.

    The services include being allowed three pieces of checked baggage, one carry-on bag, one pet in cabin, courtesy boarding pass printing at the airport and free seat assignments, pending availability.



    Army Pfc LaVena Johnson Died of Non Combat Related Injuries in Iraq, Death Ruled Suicide But Independent Autopsy Revealed Rape & Murder (2005)

    Honoring Pfc LaVena Johnson @USArmy (2005)


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    To many Americans, Memorial Day has lost its meaning

    ANNVILLE, Pa. — Allison Jaslow heard it more than once as the long holiday weekend approached — a cheerful "Happy Memorial Day!" from oblivious well-wishers.

    The former Army captain and Iraq War veteran had a ready reply, telling them, matter-of-factly, that she considered it a work weekend. Jaslow will be at Arlington National Cemetery on Monday to take part in the annual wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. She'll then visit Section 60, the final resting place of many service members who died in Iraq and Afghanistan.


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    Sunday, May 28, 2017

    VA defends plan to cut thousands of dollars from elderly vets' benefits

    WASHINGTON — Veterans Affairs officials on Wednesday defended plans to strip tens of thousands of dollars in unemployment benefits from elderly veterans as responsible reforms to the department’s growing budget, but opponents promised to fight the idea.

    Included in President Donald Trump’s $186.5 billion VA budget for fiscal 2018 — a nearly 6 percent boost in discretionary spending from this year — are plans to dramatically cut the department's Individual Unemployability program.


    The VA Does Not Adequately Support Women Veterans

    The Veterans Affairs department's motto is this: To care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan.

    Allison Jaslow, executive director of IAVA, says that the VA's motto reflects a major problem within the organization: it does not take seriously the rights and needs of women veterans. 


    Women Veterans Have Higher Prevalence of Arthritis than Male Colleagues

    Heavy equipment may be contributing to higher rates of arthritis in female servicemembers. New body armor has been designed specifically for the needs of female soldiers. In this photo, Spc. Arielle Mailloux gets some help adjusting her protoype Generation III Improved Outer Tactical Vest from Capt. Lindsey Pawlowski, at Fort Campbell, KY. Army photo by Megal Locke Simpson

    DURHAM, NC – While the commitment to physical fitness demanded of active duty forces can keep many ailments at bay, the rigors of service also bring an increased risk of arthritis and other rheumatic diseases, especially for young women entering (and exiting) the military.

    As the major rheumatic diseases disproportionately affect women, the increasing number of women in uniform means military rheumatologists are likely to see many more patients and primary care providers will need to screen for those diseases more aggressively.


    For Army Infantry’s 1st Women, Heavy Packs and the Weight of History

    That’s just how the Army wants it.


    House passes VA appeals bill and 5 other veterans measures

    The House unanimously passed legislation Tuesday aiming to shorten the amount of time veterans wait for earned benefits, a process that takes an average of six years when a veteran is forced to appeal a claim with the Board of Veterans' Appeals.

    But thousands of veterans are waiting much longer, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.


    5 Reasons Why You're Not Happy After the Military

    If you were like most service members leaving the military you were as happy and as giddy as a 7-year-old child the night before Christmas morning. You walked taller, you smiled more, and you probably even bragged a bit to everyone in your unit that it was time for you to ETS and your were going to receive the greatest gift of all – your DD214 (or was that just me?!?). After all, you had big dreams like going back to school, getting a real cool (high paying) civilian job, and of course, spending more time with your family. And maybe you were fortunate enough to do all of that, but ever since you got out, even more so now, you might feel like you miss the military and you WISH you were as happy as you were while you were in the service.

    Your memory of that time (even if it was tough as hell) is that you felt better, you looked better, and some of you may have even done better financially and emotionally. And perhaps all of that is true, but you’re out now, and unless you have plans to reenlist, it’s time to make the most of what your present moment. It's time to recognize what has changed after you got out and to figure out how to get that “good feeling” back.


    Sick veteran fights for easier access to VA care- VIDEO

    (CNN)Every time Army veteran Henry Mayo Jr. looks in the mirror -- his appearance permanently altered by medical conditions -- he is reminded of his service to the United States. But the Department of Veterans Affairs denies the connection between his sickness and his service, a problem that hinges on the fact that Mayo wasn't sent overseas, but served his country on US soil.


    GAO: Thousands discharged for military misconduct had mental health diagnosis

    GAO: Thousands discharged for military misconduct had mental health diagnosis

    The top government watchdog said Tuesday that nearly a quarter of U.S. troops discharged for misconduct were given other-than-honorable discharges despite previously being diagnosed with a mental health condition.

    The Government Accountability Office (GAO) in its report faulted branches of the Department of Defense (DOD) for having policies inconsistent with — or poor enforcement of — official Pentagon rules for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI) or sexual trauma.


    A Tea That Helps With Fibromyalgia, Hashimoto’s, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus and Multiple Sclerosis

    Tea That Helps With Fibromyalgia, Hashimoto’s, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus and Multiple SclerosisThyme is a common herb that is regularly used to season fish and meat, but a tea made from the leaves of this plant can be surprisingly beneficial. This herb was used by the ancient Romans, Greeks, and Egyptians as a medicine, and modern science has shown that the ancients were right to use thyme as a medical treatment. Research into the health advantages of thyme tea has shown that it can lessen symptoms for people with fibromyalgia, Hashimoto’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and multiple sclerosis.

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    Marine Corps takes new step to separate troops caught sexually harassing others

    The Marine Corps took a new step Tuesday to stop sexual harassment in the service, requiring commanders to submit anyone involved in a substantiated case to be reviewed for possible separation from the service the first time they are caught.

    The move was disclosed in an administrative message, and revises the Marine Corps Separation and Retirement Manual. It specifically applies to cases in which a Marine distributes intimate photographs of someone else without their consent, as well as harassment in which a Marine offers to influence someone’s career in exchange for sexual favors or initiates unwanted physical contact of a sexual nature.

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    Why Is It So Hard to Address Sexual Assault in our Military?

    In a word: the culture. The military/warrior culture of course, but also our culture at large.
    Dr. Carl Castro, Associate Professor and Director, USC Center for Innovation and Research on Veterans and Military Families, points out that sexual assault is seen equally in our civilian society and in society world-wide. Still, the estimated percentage of females who experience sexual assault in the military (MST) can be safely said to be about 25%. That’s one in four. Staggering. (The percentage for men is two to three percent.)


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