Battling the Storm Within

Sunday, February 17, 2019

VA to Roll Out New Claims Appeals Process Next Week

Randy Reynolds, a veteran service representative with the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs Claims and Benefits Division, speaks with a veteran. (Air Force/Kelly White)

In what Department of Veterans Affairs officials are calling the biggest change to its appeals process in decades, the department will launch a new system next week for veterans challenging their disability claims decisions.

The new process gives veterans three options for contesting their claims, with an eye toward drastically reducing the time it takes to receive a final decision.

Dems unveil bill to let VA doctors prescribe medical marijuana

Two Democratic lawmakers on Wednesday introduced a bill to allow doctors at the Department of Veterans Affairs to prescribe medical marijuana.

Military Mulls Medical Personnel Cuts Even as Suicide Rates Rise

(U.S. Air Force illustration/Kathryn R.C. Reaves)

The Defense Department is weighing the option of cutting thousands of uniformed medical personnel, including psychologists and other mental-health professionals, even as military leaders grapple with rising suicide rates among troops.

With the National Defense Strategy pushing for a more lethal force, Pentagon leaders are considering slashing as many as 17,000 uniformed medical corps billets across all the services.

Sexual assault remains 'tremendous problem' for military, lawmaker says

WASHINGTON — A House committee will take a closer look at the “tremendous problem” of sexual assault in the military following a damning report on the service academies, the chairwoman of a House subpanel said Thursday.

The comments, which were part of a House Appropriations Committee subpanel hearing on the quality of life in the military, highlighted recent Defense Department findings that reports of sexual assaults at academies have risen dramatically.

The subpanel’s new chairwoman told the panel of military leaders that the findings painted a “devastating portrait.”

Efforts to help define what's making some Gulf War veterans sick

HOUSTON - Soldiers that proudly served in the first Gulf War now want answers about what's making some sick.  

In August 1991, the United States led a coalition of nations in a war against Iraq after it invaded and annexed Kuwait. Jimmy Arocho was nearing the end of his military career when deployed as a Staff Sargeant in the U.S. Army's Airborne Assault Division.  
He said, "I've always known that there is no greater honor than to serve your country, bear arms in defense of your country."

Veterans are committing suicide in VA parking lots: report

A new report illustrates a troubling trend of veterans committing suicide on VA hospital campuses after receiving inadequate care from individual facilities.

Nineteen suicides have occurred on VA campuses from October 2017 to November 2018 ― seven of them in parking lots, according to data the Washington Post obtained from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Some are worried that this is a gruesome form of protest by veterans to highlight how little help they were given in their time of need by the VA system.

House Passes Bill to Cover Veterans' Child Care During Medical Appointments

Cali Cobb walks through the Po Valley Child Development Center on Fort Drum, New York. (Mike Strasser/U.S. Army)

The House of Representatives on Friday passed a bill that would provide subsidies to veterans for child care during some medical appointments and make permanent an existing child care pilot program at several Department of Veterans Affairs medical facilities.

The Veterans' Access to Child Care bill would make permanent a pilot introduced in 2011 at facilities in Northport and Buffalo, New York, and Tacoma, Washington. It also would provide funds for veterans to pay for child care at a licensed center or private agency, either by paying the facilities directly or going through other agencies.

Women of U.S. Army’s only all-black WWII unit highlighted in new documentary

The historic story of the U.S. Army’s first and only all-black, all-female WWII unit got a lot of attention last year when a monument at Fort Leavenworth was erected in their honor.  And now, the contributions of these ground breaking women are being told in a new motion picture.

Jim Theres, an Army veteran, and producer of the film “The Hello Girls” (which told the story of the 223 American women sent to France as an integral part of the WWI war effort) was showing his documentary at the 2018 Association of the Army Convention when he was approached about the women of the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion.

Most Veterans Who Kill Themselves Are 55 Or Older. The VA Is Trying to Learn Why.

76 year old Army veteran Robert Neilson writes notes of encouragement to fellow veterans who have contemplated suicide. He's struggled with mental health issues since he left the Army in the 1960s.

Veterans are about twice as likely as non-veterans to die by suicide. But the majority of those suicides are among veterans aged 55 or older -- whose military service was decades earlier.

US Special Ops suicides triple in 2018, as military confronts the issue

Washington (CNN)Suicides among active duty military personnel assigned to US Special Operations Command tripled in 2018, in a disturbing and as yet unexplained spike, CNN has learned. 

Special Operations units saw 22 deaths by suicide in 2018, almost triple the eight cases seen in 2017, according to figures provided to CNN by the command.

Death rates, bedsores, ER wait times: Where every VA hospital lags or leads other medical care

A USA TODAY analysis of Veterans Affairs data provides the broadest picture of how each of 146 VA medical centers compares with non-VA care.

‘Sir, I Never Thought I’d See the Day I’d Be Working for a Colored Officer’

“Sir, I never thought I’d see the day I’d be working for a colored officer.” These were not words I expected to hear, in 2003, from a senior enlisted soldier. It was winter in Iraq’s Anbar Province, and we were standing in the bay of an abandoned train station, where our unit now lived. 

As the maintenance officer, I oversaw the bay, where we labored to keep a fleet of vehicles in shape for missions on Iraqi streets. Worn track pads and tires surrounded us. Grease-covered soldiers worked on heaps of metal left inoperable by combat.

VA Doctors Are Now Cleared To Talk About Medical Marijuana With Patients

There’s some good news for veterans in states with legal medical marijuana programs who rely on the sticky green herb and its various distillations for treatment: the Department of Veterans Affairs has officially cleared its physicians and care teams to speak openly with veteran patients about their marijuana consumption.

Suicides among active-duty soldiers are up about 20 percent

The Army reported an uptick in active-duty suicides in 2018, according to service statistics, though deaths by suicide were slightly down in the total force.

Out of 300 total reports, 138 came from the active-duty side ― 22 more than in 2017, Defense Department statistics show.

“Like the rest of America, the Army continues to grapple with the loss of too many of our people to suicide," Army spokeswoman Col. Kathleen Turner told Army Times in a statement Friday. “The loss of any soldier or Army family member to suicide is a tragedy.”

Suicide is the symptom.

I want to preface this article by saying 'I am just an F-16 crew chief.' I do not have any medical training and all of these opinions are just that, opinions. I believe we have a suicide problem in the Air Force, and in aircraft maintenance in particular. Part of the problem is data is very hard to come by.  

There is some data, and it even goes so far as to break down the determined method. However, the data is meta-data at best and doesn't explain all the nuances of each situation.

The US Army Is Equipping Soldiers With Pocket-Sized Recon Drones

The U.S. Army has placed a $39 million order for tiny reconnaissance drones, small enough to fit in a soldier’s pocket or palm.

The idea behind the drones, which are made by FLIR Systems and look like tiny menacing helicopters, is that soldiers will be able to send them into the sky of the battlefield in order to get a “lethal edge” during combat, according to Business Insider.

Cannabinoid oil saves baby’s life, ‘dissolves brain cancer’ after family rejects chemo

Rather than resort to chemotherapy and radiation to shrink an inoperable brain tumor, the father of an eight-month-old baby opted for a non-traditional treatment with cannabis oil. The baby’s physician, Dr. William Courtney, was at first weary about the medicinal benefits of cannabis oil, but has since become a believer in the wake of the child’s remarkable recovery.

While treating the child, the father reported that they dabbed cannabinoid oil on the baby’s pacifier and gradually increased the dosage. In just two months, the baby’s brain tumor shrunk so much that the pediatric oncologist deemed traditional therapy unnecessary.

Daily Dose Of Cannabis May Protect And Heal The Brain From Effects Of Aging

Despite your average Shaggy and Scooby-style stereotypes, researchers believe that cannabis could actually help to sharpen our minds later in life.

Researchers at the University of Bonn and Hebrew University have discovered that low, regular doses of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), one of the main active ingredients or cannabinoids found in marijuana, may help to keep our brains from 'slowing down' as we get older. Published today in the journal Nature Medicinethe German study revealed that while younger mice suffered a performance drop under the influence of THC, the psychoactive chemical gave older mice a considerable performance boost, even putting them on par with younger mice who'd abstained.

Academy sex assaults up 47% since 2016, DoD estimates

The number of unwanted sexual encounters for cadets at the nation’s service academies has risen sharply in the last two years, the Defense Department said, which raises alarms that current efforts to create a safer atmosphere on those campuses have failed.

The estimated number of incidents of unwanted sexual contact rose from 507 across all service academies in 2016 to 747 in 2018, DoD’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office reported Thursday. The study, undertaken every two years, is based on anonymous surveys submitted from each service academy.

Research Proving Cannabis Kills Cancer Cells Safely has been Suppressed Since 1974

Remember the hassles Rick Simpson went through in his Canadian Nova Scotia town trying to bring the cannabis oil cures he and others used to cure themselves of various cancers? Rick assumed the world was ready for him to share the good news from his and his townspeople’s experiences.

After several attempts to get cannabis oil allowed through the court system with many testimonials from those who had been helped, Rick realized this important harsh reality: The cancer industry does not want a cure for cancer.

Veterans overwhelmingly support research and expansion of medical marijuana

In a result that should surprise no one, veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have made up their minds when it comes to marijuana. Hint: they're for it.

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) released their annual survey on Wednesday showing massive support for a mix of marijuana legalization including medical cannabis (83 percent), and for the first time, over half of its members support the straight legalization of recreational pot (55 percent). 

Active-Duty Military Suicides at Record Highs in 2018

Lt. Cmdr. Karen Downer writes a name on a Suicide Awareness Memorial Canvas in honor of Suicide Awareness Month at Naval Hospital Jacksonville, Sept. 10, 2018. (U.S. Navy/Jacob Sippel, Naval Hospital Jacksonville).

Lt. Cmdr. Karen Downer writes a name on a Suicide Awareness Memorial Canvas in honor of Suicide Awareness Month at Naval Hospital Jacksonville, Sept. 10, 2018. (U.S. Navy/Jacob Sippel, Naval Hospital Jacksonville).
The U.S. military finished 2018 with a troubling, sad statistic: It experienced the highest number of suicides among active-duty personnel in at least six years

Bad discipline forced the Army to redesign basic training

The U.S. Army will soon launch a redesign of Basic Combat Training intended to build more discipline after many commanders complained that new soldiers often show up to their first units with a sloppy appearance and undisciplined attitudes.

US Marine and Navy suicides at a 10-year high

The United States Marine Corps emblem hanging on a wall at the Joint Detention Forces Headquarters at Guantanamo Bay US Naval Base, Cuba, April 09, 2014.   AFP PHOTO/MLADEN ANTONOV

(CNN)The number of confirmed and suspected suicides in the active-duty Marine Corps and the Navy reached a 10-year high in 2018.

Sixty-eight active duty Navy personnel died by suicide in 2018 with 57 cases among the Marine Corps, according to data obtained by CNN.

Study Shows Nearly Half of CBD Users Are Able to Stop Taking Pharmaceuticals

The largest study to date regarding cannabidiol (CBD) has shown that many patients are finding such great relief from their ailments using CBD, that they are able to give up pharmaceutical prescriptions entirely.

The research was conducted by Brightfield Group and HelloMD. It covered 2,400 of HelloMD’s community. The pool consisted of 55 percent women. Statistically speaking, the results showed that men preferred THC-dominant products over CBD.

Dr. Perry Solomon, the chief medical officer of HelloMD, says the main reasons people use CBD are to treat insomnia, depression, anxiety, and joint pain.


Women may have to join military draft under potential proposal

Public service option in the U.S. is being evaluated by the National Commission on Military, National and Public Service to determine if women should be included in military drafts or if involuntary drafts should just be discarded altogether.

Members of the commission are still weighing out the options before making any recommendations in a report that isn’t due to go before the White House and Congress until March 2020, Task & Purpose reported.

Besides determining how to handle future military drafts and women’s role in them, the commission said in their interim report released on Jan. 23, 2019 that many changes are being considered in the near future, according to the Military Times.

Marine Suicides Reach Highest Level In A Decade Despite End Of Large-Scale Combat Operations

Every Marine who takes his or her own life is more than a number, but the numbers tell a distressing story: the Marine Corps is losing the battle against suicide.

A total of 75 Marines killed themselves in 2018: 57 active-duty Marines and 18 Marines in the Selected Reserves, according to data the Marine Corps provided to Task & Purpose. As CNN first reported, 2018 saw the highest number of active-duty Marine suicides since 2009.


Free property for veterans? Tammy Duckworth has a new law for that

U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth is hoping veterans who operate small businesses take advantage of a new law giving them access to surplus government property.

The measure that she sponsored, which was signed into law earlier this month by President Donald Trump, adds those veterans onto the list of eligible groups to get federal surplus personal property for free.

“You’d be surprised at how much stuff the federal government owns and how much it’s costing to warehouse it,” Duckworth said in a phone interview from Capitol Hill on Wednesday.


DoD Medical Force Cuts Hurt Military Families

medical poster
“Sorry, but you can’t be seen at the military clinic for that anymore,” a health care provider told me last week when she prescribed physical therapy for my back pain. She explained that the clinic was drawing down staff, especially many of its specialists which will soon only treat active duty uniformed personnel.


New Congressional Bill Requires VA To Study Medical Marijuana For Veterans

House lawmakers introduced a bill on Wednesday that would require the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to conduct studies on the benefits of medical marijuana for military veterans.
Reps. Lou Correa (D-CA) and Clay Higgins (R-LA) filed the legislation days after another bipartisan duo in the Senate introduced an identical companion bill.

The VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act would mandate research into the potential therapeutic use of cannabis for conditions that commonly afflict veterans such as chronic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder.

I survived combat in Iraq and a suicide attempt at home. But many veterans aren't so lucky.

On July 14, 2012, drowning in grief and guilt, I tried to kill myself. Like so many veterans, I had found civilian life desperately difficult. War had drained me of joy. The sights, sounds and smells of the battlefield had been relentlessly looping in my head. The suffering seemed endless. And so, thinking there were no other options of escape, I turned to suicide.
Luckily, I survived. I avoided becoming one of the 20 veterans who kill themselves every day in this country. But I also witnessed firsthand all the ways that our nation's mental health resources fail our fighting men and women. Department of Veterans Affairs facilities and the military simply aren't equipped to properly treat sick vets. We must do better.


Wednesday, February 13, 2019

ICE tried to deport U.S. citizen and Marine veteran in Michigan


- A Marine veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder was held for three days for possible deportation before federal authorities learned that he was a U.S. citizen born in Michigan, lawyers said Wednesday.

Jilmar Ramos-Gomez, 27, lives in the Grand Rapids area. He was released on Dec. 17 from a detention center in Calhoun County after personal records were provided to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, according to the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan.


Army’s long-awaited Iraq war study finds Iran was the only winner in a conflict that holds many lessons for future wars

A two-volume Army study of the Iraq war is a deep examination of the mistakes and success of the war effort that also takes aim at critics who would slough off the conflict as they shift to near-peer threats.

The study, commissioned by former Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno in 2013 and continued under current chief Gen. Mark Milley, was delayed for release since 2016, when it was completed. Some said it was due to concerns over airing “dirty laundry” about decisions made by some leaders during the conflict.


Bill introduced to fight Agent Orange of Post-9/11 vets — burn pits

Over 140,000 servicemembers and veterans have reported exposure to burn pits and toxic airborne chemicals over the past three decades. Exposure to these chemicals can lead to health effects like neurological disorders, rare forms of cancer, lung diseases, and more — making burn pits the Agent Orange of the Post-9/11 generation.

So, yesterday, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D - Hawaii) and Rep. Brian Mast (R - Fl.) — along with Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America — introduced the Burn Pits Accountability Act (HR 5671). The bipartisan bill calls for evaluation of the extent of the exposure of US servicemembers to open burn pits and toxic airborne chemicals.


Thursday, January 17, 2019

REGISTER NOW! The Psychology of Money - March 30, 2019

No photo description available.


For our Money Smart Week Michigan Seminar on Saturday March 30th 2019 12 to 2 pm in Southfield MI “The Psychology of Money” presented by US Marine & US Army Ranger veterans professional financial advisors.

This FREE event is open to ALL veterans and military service members and the Public. There will be networking, door prizes and light refreshments. Hope to see you there ❤️✌🏾🇱🇷

To The Person Who Feels Suicidal But Doesn't Want To Die

Everyone assumes that if you have suicidal thoughts that means you want to die.
Suicidal thoughts are thought of in such black and white terms. Either you have suicidal thoughts and you want to die, or you don't have suicidal thoughts and you want to live. What most people don't understand is there are some stuck in the gray area of those two statements, I for one am one of them.

Abandoning the tribe: The psychology behind why veterans struggle to transition to civilian life

Abandoning the tribe: The psychology behind why veterans struggle to transition to civilian life
I had seen the cliff coming for six months before I eventually fell off it, and I thought I had prepared myself well for the fall. I was wrong. Having spent the preceding 14 years in the army, the last five with special operations, I was looking forward to a slower-paced and simpler life with my young family. As a doctor, job prospects post-army were good and promised wages significantly higher than what I had been earning during my military service. We would be moving back to a newly built house in my wife’s hometown, which meant more social support for the family. I had accumulated a significant amount of leave, which would allow me to ease back into civilian life without the pressure of needing to immediately find work.

Veterans: Women Are Already In Combat, So Stop Saying They Shouldn't Be In Combat Units

Heather Mac Donald, of the conservative Manhattan Institute think tank, wrote that putting male and female service members together for long periods of time, "Guarantees sexual liaisons, rivalries and breakups, all of which undermine the bonding essential to a unified fighting force."

She cites an unnamed Marine commander, who said that during his unit's Afghanistan deployment, things went downhill when a female team assigned with interacting with local women arrived at their forward operating base.


$20 million donated to viral border wall GoFundMe set to be refunded

WASHINGTON – The $20 million that have been donated to a GoFundMe page to help fund President Donald Trump's wall along the southern border are going to be refunded. 
Air Force veteran Brian Kolfage Jr., who started the campaign, announced on Friday he had formed a non-profit in Florida to receive money from GoFundMe contributions to build the wall himself with a team of officials without the help of the federal government.

Six veterans' groups unite, rip shutdown: 'Get your act together' - VIDEO

WASHINGTON – Several prominent veterans’ groups held a rare, joint news  conference Tuesday calling for an end to the government shutdown, saying tens of thousands of veterans in the federal workforce are facing increasingly difficult financial hardships as they continue to go without pay.

USAA donates $15 million to Coast Guard families

In a letter recognizing the anxiety among Coast Guard members who missed paychecks Tuesday because of the partial federal government shutdown, Adm. Karl L. Schultz announced a $15 million donation to support servicemembers.
The donation to the Coast Guard Mutual Assistance, a nonprofit charity that aids members of the Coast Guard, from USAA, a financial services and insurance company, will help the military and civilian workforce in need, said Schultz, commandant of the Coast Guar

CBO Suggests Raising Tricare Fees, Cutting Veteran Benefits to Slash Deficit

Senior Airman Gabrielle Oaxaca takes retired veteran Barry Silva's blood pressure during his dialysis treatment Oct. 13, 2010, at the David Grant USAF Medical Center at Travis Air Force Base, Calif. (U.S. Air Force/Tech. Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III)

With the federal deficit expected to top $1 trillion this year, the Congressional Budget Office in December published a list of options for reducing the imbalance over the next 10 years, including three suggestions on Tricare and six that address veterans benefits.

The Trauma of War Reflected Inside the Cars of Veterans

Photographer M L Casteel’s new book American Interiors begins with a stark page of facts that illustrate how the United States has failed its returning veterans, whether in the low wages and poor healthcare, or the rates of homelessness and suicide. What follows are not portraits of the people he got to know over the years working in the valet parking of a Veterans Affairs hospital in North Carolina, but photographs inside their cars. In their assemblies of mundane and highly personal objects, they give a quiet insight into veterans’ trauma and attempts to move forward.

Malaria drug causes brain damage that mimics PTSD: case study

The case of a service member diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder but found instead to have brain damage caused by a malaria drug raises questions about the origin of similar symptoms in other post-9/11 veterans.
According to the case study published online in Drug Safety Case Reports in June, a U.S. military member sought treatment at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, for uncontrolled anger, insomnia, nightmares and memory loss.

Department of Veterans Affairs could let vets see private doctors

Department of Veterans Affairs sign

The Department of Veterans Affairs is considering new rules that would give vets more freedom to see private doctors outside the federal system, potentially shifting billions of dollars of federal funding out of the VA’s own hospital network.
The guidelines are meant to eliminate long waiting times that have plagued many VA hospitals, but the plan could starve VA hospitals of funds if patients choose other options, critics say, and potentially force some facilities to close.