As the Author of the #1 Amazon National-International Best Seller War Memoir “Battling the Storm Within” about living 20 years undiagnosed with PTSD, MST and the GWI. My mission is to empower others to address their own personal traumas, be healed, restored and live again. I believe in telling the truth, living the truth and being the truth. I will share the truth for it sets you free. I have battled my storm that was within me and won, so can you! Peace and blessings Sgt. Stephanie J. Shannon
NEW BRITAIN, Conn. -- After losing one son to suicide and another to a roadside bomb in Iraq just eight months later, Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Mark Graham implored those gathered inside Central Connecticut State University's Torp Theatre last week (April 11) to help banish the stigma surrounding suicide and mental illness among veterans and military service members.
Suicide is not an easy conversation. Period. It is weighted with the feelings of real or perceived judgment and taboo.
Survivors search for answers and clues about the thoughts and feelings behind their loved one's choice to irrevocably end it all. How could this be? Why did this happen? What caused this? What was the tipping point? Didn't you love me and the kids enough to stay? What could I have done differently? Why aren't you here?
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a complex disorder that is the reaction to a traumatic event. Traumatic events that can result in PTSD often include war, rape, kidnapping, assault, natural disasters, car or planes crashes, terrorist attacks, sudden death of a loved one, sexual or physical abuse, extreme bullying, death threats, and childhood neglect. The symptoms of PTSD can arise suddenly, gradually, or come and go over time. PTSD does not just affect the person with the condition; it also affects the loved ones who are involved in his or her life. If you are living with someone with PTSD, it is important to recognize how PTSD can affect your home life, learn how to deal with symptoms of PTSD that may arise, and help your loved one in as many ways as you can.
MANHATTAN (KSNT) – For a moment Wednesday afternoon, all movement stopped in Bosco Plaza outside the Kansas State University student union.
22 pairs of military boots, set up in formation as a makeshift memorial, empty now but still serving a purpose. The only way a group of student veterans could remember one of their own and the 21 other service members who die each day of suicide.
When it comes to how to strengthen the Department of Veterans Affairs, candidates, Congressmen and pundits need to stop talking and start listening—specifically, listening to veterans. Privatized health care is not what veterans want, yet just last week a congressionally-authorized Commission was discussing whether to shut down the entire VA health care system over the next twenty years.
Researchers at the VA Boston Healthcare System are currently testing the effects of light therapy on brain function in veterans with Gulf War Illness. The current study is following up on promising results from a pilot study in which veteran participants reported fewer symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and better sleep after receiving light therapy. They also experienced gains in executive function, verbal learning and memory.
Gulf War Illness, also called Gulf War Syndrome, is a chronic disorder affecting veterans and civilians who took part in the Gulf War. It features a wide range of symptoms, including cognitive problems, fatigue, muscle pain, rashes and diarrhea.
Some cover-ups are scandalous. Others, like those surrounding the First Gulf War, suggest an official callousness that shocks and awes. During and immediately after the war, 200,000 of 700,000 U.S. troops were exposed to nerve gas and other chemical agents. The Department of Defense (DOD), fully aware of the chemical hazards and the troop exposure, deployed a litany of lies. After this, it concocted a cover-up. That cover-up continues to this day.
Does saying “no” make you feel guilty? If so, you’re not alone.
Maybe the idea of saying no, especially to close friends and family, makes you feel nervous about what the other person will think of you. Maybe you feel anxious that they’ll be upset with you, or that your boundary will hurt them somehow. You might be thinking about how your mom always pulls the guilt trip about not staying long enough when you visit, or maybe you and your partner are accustomed to dancing around difficult topics that involve your needs. Setting boundaries- saying “no”- is totally anxiety-provoking for many of us, because it puts different needs into direct competition with each other. As hard as it is to say no, it is also a totally necessary thing in order to show up fully in your relationships and in your life.
Army Lt. Col. Lynn Ray has become one of the key female officers in the Pentagon's grand design to have them serve as combination role models and taskmasters in moving women into previously restricted military occupational specialties.
The implementation plan varies from service to service, but the bottom line is that "the standard is the standard across the board" for men and women, said Ray, the first commander of the newly formed "Pioneer" Regimental Engineer Squadron of the storied 3rd Cavalry Regiment of the First Cavalry Division based at Fort Hood in Texas.
Recently I found myself in an intensive care unit at the bedside of a loved one. Of course, I was filled with strong feelings of shock, fear, and worry. But I also noticed how easily those feelings, and the thoughts accompanying them, shifted into anger. It projected itself onto anything in my field of awareness, from the staff, to the machines, to myself. I was even angry at the person in front of me who was in need of critical care.
A Marine amputee stands on crutches welcoming home Marines of 1st Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment, upon their return from a seven-month deployment to Afghanistan's Helmand province.
Chris Attig, a veteran and a lawyer who specializes in VA disability claims, shares some insight on the process of filing your claim.
Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared on the Veterans Law Blog of the Attig Law Firm. To receive more information about the VA claims process, follow attorney Chris Attig on Twitter.
You know what’s tougher than the Veterans Benefits Administration? Everything.
I simply refuse to believe that we could force our minds and bodies to do the things we did in military service, but we cannot get our claim granted the way we believe it should be.
New research finds that sleep problems — in the form of nightmares — are often associated with suicidal thoughts, plans, or attempts among individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Although additional factors influence suicidal thoughts, investigators believe the relationship between nightmares and suicidal behaviors represent feelings of defeat, entrapment, and hopelessness.
In the study, researchers discovered suicidal ideations were present in 62 percent of participants who experienced nightmares and only 20 percent of those without nightmares. Multiple analyses suggest that nightmares may act as a stressor in people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Air Force Reserve Capt. Matthew Lee Stanley has a blood sample taken in 2003 as part of an increase in medical screenings for Gulf War Illness and other potential problems. (Photo by Mario Villafuerte/Getty Images)
A recent Institute of Medicine (IOM) report, released on the 25th anniversary of the Gulf War, has concluded that Gulf War Illness (GWI) has no biological cause and is not the result of exposure to pesticides, anti-nerve gas pills, and chemicals in nerve gas agents — as researchers from Boston University School of Public Health and a dozen other institutions had concluded.
On February 23, Congress will hold a hearing on Gulf War health issues in response to concerns and criticism of the IOM report and its potential effect on veterans suffering from GWI, the constellation of chronic health symptoms that include fatigue, pain, headaches, and gastrointestinal and cognitive problems. An estimated 25-33 percent of the nearly 700,000 of the 1990-1991 Gulf War suffer from GWI.
Air Force veteran Liz Skilbeck recently got a new license plate for her vehicle that identifies it as being driven by a female veteran. Before that, the license plate just identified it as being driven by a veteran, causing people to thank her husband for his service.
"It was 'Thanks for your support. What did your husband do?' And my husband didn't," Skilbeck said.
In honor of Women's History Month, Defense Secretary Carter highlights the contributions of women to the defense of our nation throughout history.
This was originally posted on the Department of Defense's blog DODLive. You can view the original post here.
Last week, I visited the United States Military Academy at West Point and spoke to the 4,400 cadets there who will help lead our force of the future. I thanked them for answering the noble call of service and for embracing the awesome responsibility of leadership.
While on campus, I had the opportunity to have lunch with a dozen cadets who have chosen infantry service, including the first women at the academy to do so following my December announcement that all military positions will be open to anyone, male or female, who can meet our high standards.
It is not only these remarkable women who are making history; it is every cadet who is doing so. First in training, and then in battle, they will lead this implementation, and they will demonstrate that the women who recently graduated from Ranger School, who have accompanied our special operations forces, who led convoys in combat and have flown attack helicopters for the past 15 years are not just a news story; they are a vital part of our ability to defend our nation. To succeed in our mission of national defense, we cannot afford to cut ourselves off from half the country’s talents and skills – we have to take full advantage of every individual who can meet our high standards.
Brian Zimmermann joined the Army soon after quitting college. School just wasn't his thing.
"You don't think you'll have to fight when going into the Army," he said.
He was deployed for seven months during the first gulf war.
"We were attached to the seventh corps, and the seventh corps is who breached the berms from Saudi Arabia into Iraq," he said. "And we pushed across the country and made it all the way to the highway of death."
A letter from your doctor to the VA in support of your claim can do wonders. While more advanced cases may require an expert medical opinion from a doctor who has experience in dealing with the VA, sometimes for less complicated claims, a correctly worded letter from your doctor may be what pushes your claim over the finish line. As most doctors aren’t familiar with what the VA is looking for, I’m writing a short guide for you to print out and show your doctor, assuming he or she is willing to write it.
Identify the veteran and the purpose of your letter of support.
Example: “I am writing on behalf of veteran John Smith, who served in the U.S. Navy from April, 1992 to April, 1996. Mr. Smith suffers from Parkinson’s Disease.”
Identify yourself, including your credentials and your experience. Be sure to note if you are affiliated with the VA.
Example: “I am a board-certified neurologist and am currently a resident at Florida Hospital Orlando, with 14 years experience treating neurological disorders, including many patients with Parkinson’s Disease”
Explain your clinical relationship with the veteran.
Example: “Mr. Smith was referred to me in June, 2012 for his Parkinson’s Disease, and has been under my care since that time. We have met approximately once a month during this time period.
State the veteran’s diagnosis. If this is a mental health diagnosis, use DSM-V diagnostic codes and format. Be sure to note the veteran’s GAF or WHODAS score (the VA and the DSM-5 now recommends WHODAS, though GAF still seems to be commonly used.) If the veteran has a score that fluctuates, explain the reasons for the fluctuation and provide a range. GAF and WHODAS scores are very important to the VA who rate the severity of the veteran’s mental health condition. Generally a GAF score of over 50 is seen as minimally disabling. If using the WHODAS, use the “complex” method that breaks down deficit by domain, which will be useful during #6 below.
Describe the veteran’s current symptoms in detail (using the DSM-V criteria if for mental illness.) It is important to be thorough here, and specifically state how long the veteran has been experiencing the symptoms at what severity. Please note how the symptoms are related to your diagnosis (e.g. “Mr. Smith’s sleep disturbances are secondary to his Parkinson’s Disease.”) Also, if possible, explain how those symptoms are consistent with the veteran’s diagnosis. Please keep in mind any side effects of medication which may be disabling (e.g. “Mr. Smith’s diarrhea, while not caused directly by his Parkinson’s, is secondary to the Sinemet he takes for his Parkinson’s symptoms.”)
Describe the effect that the veteran’s symptoms have on the veteran’s function. Focus on social and occupational impairments. Review the veteran’s entire list of symptoms and side effects, and think about how they affect his or her ability to function. (e.g. “Mr. Smith’s tremors are so severe that they affect his ability to hold a pencil, type on a computer, or even to feed himself.”) This is possibly the most important section of the entire letter, so please spend some time detailing the level of impairment.
If the veteran’s disability is NOT currently service-connected, explain the link or “nexus” between the veteran’s symptoms and the in-service event or exposure that caused or exacerbated the veteran’s disability. Remember that the burden of proof is whether there is at least a 50/50 chance that the event or exposure caused or aggravated the disability, so use the phrase “in my opinion, it is at least as likely as not.” If you are certain, state that you have a high degree of certainty. Note where you acquired the information you used to make your decision (i.e. the veteran’s C-file, medical records, clinical interview etc.) Another extremely effective tool is to also include references to medical and academic literature which support your opinion the causal link.
When closing your letter, try and restate your opinion clearly, and include language stating what evidence you’ve reviewed to make your decision, if you know of no other information that would change your opinion, and your degree of certainty. Sign the letter, ensuring you list your credentials with your signature.
Remember that this letter may change the veteran’s life in a very real way. It can be time consuming and difficult, but this letter may mean the world to your patient.
Joshua Bunn was a rifleman in one of the bloodiest valleys in Afghanistan, where his infantry unit killed hundreds of enemy fighters and lost more comrades than any other battalion in the Marine Corps in 2008.
“We were so far out in Taliban country we rarely got resupply,” Mr. Bunn, 27, said in an interview from his apartment in Jonesboro, Ark. “We just got rockets and small-arms fire every day.”
After deployment, Mr. Bunn, suicidal and haunted by nightmares, went absent without leave. The Marine Corps charged him with misconduct and gave him an other-than-honorable discharge.
hen the U.S. military opened up all combat positions to women earlier this year, there were already more than 200,000 women — including me — serving in our armed forces. That number will grow as more women answer the call to serve. After we have done our duty and return home as veterans, what kind of life should we expect?
I'm trying to answer that question right now. As I wind down my military career after 14 years of service, what I want most is a normal life. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is supposed to help me make that transition, but how can I trust the VA will treat me with dignity and respect when there are so many examples in recent years of the department letting us down?
Everything I've learned from the news or heard from other veterans suggests that I could fall victim to excessive wait times at VA medical facilities, unaccountable and negligent staff, or compassionless treatment. None of that will help me find the normal life I'm seeking.
My military service involved extremely high-stress assignments, oftentimes with lives on the line. I provided close air support for ground troops, covering their backs and keeping them safe. Like many veterans in such situations, I'm now suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, more commonly known as PTSD.