Battling the Storm Within

Friday, January 30, 2015

Women veterans fight for jobs, services, acceptance - Video

The fight to feel like a veteran weighs substantially on female soldiers returning from war, though their numbers have been historic, with more than 280,000 returning from deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan in the last decade.

A News21 demographic analysis shows that 17.4 percent of post-9/11 Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans are women. More than a quarter of those women are black, almost twice the proportion found in the entire U.S. population.

Yet, these same women are less likely to find a job than male veterans and more likely to be a single parent with children to support, interviews and records show.

They return to a nation that historically defines “veteran” as male, which in the post-9/11 era has meant a lack of female-specific resources at VA facilities across the country.


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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Too Often, Military Sexual Assault Survivors Must Fight for Disability Benefits

Military rape survivors are being victimized again—by the very agency tasked with helping them.

One in five servicewomen is raped, sometimes multiple times, during her military career. One in 100 men also experiences rape during military service. Rape may occur in boot camp, basic training, on board ships, on bases, or in military facilities all over the world. It may involve superior officers, subordinates, or people of the same rank. And, for some survivors, it results in a constellation of mental health symptoms including depression, anxiety, and stress, characterizing what the Veterans Administration refers to as Military Sexual Trauma (MST).

Related to post-traumatic stress disorder, MST can be a debilitating condition that may result in involuntary discharge on the basis of health concerns or a decision not to reenlist after serving. Once veterans return to civilian life, though, those with MST often struggle to get the service-connected disability benefits they need to help them access treatment. In this way, rape survivors are being victimized again—this time, by the very agency tasked with helping them.


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Vets worry Gulf War illness board has lost its autonomy

As U.S. military forces entered Kuwait in 1991, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein set the country's oil wells on fire. The smoke was so thick that the service members couldn't see the sun, and droplets of oil rained down from the sky. (Bergmann & Moore/Kelly Kennedy)

A Gulf War illness advisory committee will take part in its first meeting Tuesday since the Department of Veterans Affairs appointed new members, rather than allow the committee to select its own members, in defiance of Congress’s demands for the committee’s autonomy.

The House, in a bill last year, as well as a letter to VA, insisted that the chairman of the Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses appoint the majority of the committee’s members.


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Female veterans battling PTSD from sexual trauma fight for redress

WASHINGTON — Thousands of female veterans are struggling to get health care treatment and compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs on the grounds they suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder caused by sexual trauma in the military. The veterans and their advocates call it “the second battle” — with a bureaucracy they say is stuck in the past.
Judy Atwood-Bell was just a 19-year-old Army private when she says she was locked inside a barracks room at Fort Devens in Massachusetts, forced to the cold floor and raped by a fellow solider.

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Sunday, January 25, 2015

Baylor Scientist Finds First Direct Evidence of Gene-Exposure Link in Gulf War Illness

GWI Desert Storm

WACO, Texas (Jan. 20, 2015) — Nearly 24 years after the 1991 Gulf War, a Baylor University scientist has identified a significant link between Gulf War illness (GWI) and a genetic factor that can render some individuals more susceptible to adverse effects of certain chemicals.  

The final study, published today in the BMC journal Environmental Health, found that veterans with identified variants of the butyrylcholinesterase (BChE) gene were 40 times more likely to have GWI if they took an anti-nerve gas pill called pyridostigmine bromide (PB) during the war, compared to veterans with similar genes who did not take the pill.

The study provides the first direct evidence of a specific gene-exposure interaction in veterans’ risk for GWI, the complex medical condition that afflicts at least one in four of the nearly 700,000 U.S. veterans who served in the 1991 Gulf War.


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Saturday, January 24, 2015

Clear obstacles for women vets seeking care

The Department of Veterans Affairs has started making changes in the way it deals with the treatment of women who served in the military, but more must be done for women who have PTSD from being sexually assaulted in the military. Photo: Matt York /Associated Press / AP

The Department of Veterans Affairs has started making changes in the way it deals with the treatment of women who served in the military, but more must be done for women who have PTSD from being sexually assaulted in the military.

There is a conundrum in how the Department of Veterans Affairs has been dealing with the very real problem of post-traumatic stress disorder as the aftermath of sexual assault on women in the military. It has to do with the paper trail. With military sexual assault victims, there might not be one.

Even in civilian life, such assaults go unreported. But there is some evidence that this lack of reporting is even worse in the military, where an estimated 1 in 4 women report being victims of sexual assault versus 1 in 6 in civilian life.

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Friday, January 23, 2015

State veterans program comes to Flint

FLINT (WJRT) - (01/22/15) - A state program to help veterans is setting up shop in Flint.

The goal of the Veterans Community Action team, or VCAT, is to help vets find solutions to any issues they might be having, and connect them to the right person - which is something veterans have had a tough time doing in the past

"When I came to this community a couple years ago, I didn't know where to start. I didn't know who to get in touch with,” said Sgt. Stephanie Shannon, an army veteran of the Gulf War.

VCAT leaders said the program will prevent veterans from going through what Shannon went through. They'll do that by pooling resources from veteran agencies across the board.
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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Gulf War illness: It’s physical, you can see it, and there is good news on treatment

Every last bit of new research on Gulf War illness shows that it’s a physical, not mental, ailment.
The one in four sick Gulf War vets—or about 250,000 people who served in 1991 in Iraq, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia—already know that.

There have been many reasons for the confusion: Some veterans were sickened after service in the Persian Gulf, while others were not. Veterans serving different countries suffered different symptoms. Even veterans serving in the same units had different symptoms. And the symptoms themselves seemed to have no logic.

There were also some red herrings that, while they may have their own issues, research has shown do not seem to be tied to Gulf War illness, including depleted uranium and vaccinations.

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Study: Veteran suicide risk highest during first years after service

A new study confirms recent veterans coming home from war are at higher risk for committing suicide than ever before.

A detailed study will be published next month in the Annals of Epidemiology.

The study tracks the posts-service suicide risk of recent wartime veterans.
It states the suicide risk is highest during a vet’s first three years out of the military.

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VA revamps Gulf War Illness advisory committee

Veterans' advocates were encouraged Friday by the addition of four new members to the Department of Veterans Affairs' Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses.

The closely watched committee proposes and reviews research on veteran health issues associated with the first Gulf War. The committee's recommendations are expected to set the course for treatment and compensation for as many as 250,000 troops who served in the war in Kuwait and Iraq in 1990 and 1991.

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Monday, January 19, 2015

Pentagon looking for soldiers exposed to chemicals in Iraq - Video

The Department of Defense is contacting service members and veterans who may have been exposed to chemicals — warfare agents such as mustard agents or sarin — during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
This effort is in response to the recent reports in The New York Times, most notably an Oct. 14 article, “The Secret Casualties of Iraq’s Abandoned Chemical Weapons,” which detailed its investigation and the Pentagon’s acknowledgement that as many as 600 U.S. troops had reported chemical exposure, but it failed to realize the scope of the exposure or offer adequate treatment.

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Thursday, January 15, 2015

Clay Hunt bill to overhaul veterans suicide programs passes in House

WASHINGTON — The House on Monday passed a bill named after deceased Marine Corps veteran Clay Hunt that would overhaul VA suicide prevention programs.

The vote was a crucial first step by supporters who hope to pass the bill through the new Congress after it was blocked in December by retiring budget hawk Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla. There were 403 votes for the bill, no opposition and 30 lawmakers who did not vote. Now, it heads to the Senate.


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Monday, January 12, 2015

A new voice for sexual assault victims in the military

It took the Air Force to change — to radicalize, really — Maribel Jarzabek. Specifically, it took the Air Force lawyer serving in the newly created role of “special victims’ counsel” to become convinced that sexual assault cases cannot be fairly handled under the existing rules.

“This job has changed my life,” Jarzabek, 34, told me in a Skype conversation from Germany. She left the military last month, but she still speaks of it in the present tense — “my clients” — and retains its customs, invariably addressing me as “ma’am.”
Ruth Marcus is a columnist and editorial writer for The Post, specializing in American politics and domestic policy.
“I did not believe the ‘Invisible War’ stories,” Jarzabek continued, referring to the 2012 documentary about the prevalence of sexual assault and the military’s inclination for rug-sweeping over punishment. “I did not believe that this was going on. I heard about it, but I didn’t see it, I didn’t believe it. . . . Ruffle feathers, push boundaries, that wasn’t my intention ever.”

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Sunday, January 11, 2015

El Paso VA clinic shooter had threatened doctor - Video

Mario Montes talks at his Central El Paso home about his neighbor Jerry Serrato, who authorities say killed a psychologist at the El Paso VA Health Care

The man who shot and killed a psychologist had previously threatened him before Tuesday's shooting at the El Paso VA Health Care System clinic, FBI officials said Wednesday.   Timothy Fjordbak, 63, had been threatened at a supermarket in October 2013 by Jerry Serrato, 48, who killed Fjordbak before shooting himself at the clinic, said Douglas Lindquist, the special agent in charge of the FBI in El Paso.

The shooting sparked a large response by several law enforcement agencies and a security lockdown that had staff and patients behind closed doors for hours Tuesday at the VA clinic next to William Beaumont Army Medical Center on Fort Bliss.


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Friday, January 9, 2015

America’s women veterans deserve more

More than a quarter-million American women served honorably in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. These brave women sacrificed much to keep us safe. Now that they are home, our country has a solemn obligation to help them transition back to civilian life.
Yet there is mounting evidence that America is not fulfilling this obligation. Based on currently available data, it is clear that our country isn’t fully meeting the unique physical, emotional and employment needs of women veterans. When they return home, they receive less support than their male counterparts from government programs designed primarily for men.

Today, nearly one in five women veterans has delayed or gone without necessary health care in the past year. One in 11 is unemployed. Former servicewomen experience homelessness at between two to four times the rate of their civilian counterparts

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Rape cases to be handled differently

Among the changes to military personnel policy included in the fiscal 2015 defense policy law signed Dec. 22 are provisions to change the way the Pentagon handles sexual assault and rape cases.

The changes grant additional protections for victims and revamp administrative and legal procedures to ensure that commanders and investigative bodies take allegations of sexual assault seriously and properly handle criminal procedures.

While the new measures fall short of the step sought by some lawmakers and advocates — removing the authority of some commanders to decide whether a sexual assault case should be prosecuted in court — the changes overhaul military rules of evidence and give victims more say in how their cases are pursued.


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Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Failing female veterans


Thousands of female veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder after being sexually assaulted while serving are facing a "second battle" as they try to secure the compensation and benefits to which they are entitled from the Department of Veterans Affairs, according to a recent story in The Washington Post.

This is an unacceptable situation, and getting worse. An estimated one in four women in the military have been sexually harassed or assaulted. About 10 percent of veterans, 2.2 million, are women, a population that is rapidly growing, according to the Post, which cites a VA survey. The number of sexual assaults, rapes and harassments are increasing, too.

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Is Rape a Reaction to Women in Military?


"An estimated 26,000 rapes and sexual assaults took place in the military in 2012; only 1 in 7 victims reported their attacks, and just 1 in 10 of those cases went to trial." Victims are demanding compensation for post traumatic stress syndrome caused by sexual trauma. Do you sympathize or do you agree with jarhead1969 (below) who says women have no business in the military in the first place.

"The problem is growing more pressing because female veterans represent the military's fastest-growing population, with an estimated 2.2 million, or 10 percent, of the country's veterans. More than 280,000 female veterans have returned home from deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan. "


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Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Veterans discharged after sexual trauma push for VA health benefits

It took Navy Airman Apprentice Elena M. Giordano nine years to finally be granted service-connected disability compensation from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for the post-traumatic stress disorder she suffered after multiple sexual assaults.

Until recently, she was also not eligible for any VA medical care or other benefits because she was told she did not serve long enough. It’s a common problem for women and men who leave the service early due to sexual trauma.


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Monday, January 5, 2015

Listen Carefully, This Is What Rape Culture Sounds Like In America

Two women just explained the insidious nature of rape culture in under three minutes.

At the 2014 National Poetry Slam in August, spoken word artists Desireé Dallagiacomo and Mwende Katwiwa (a.k.a FreeQuency) performed the poem "American Rape Culture," and explained how some of the songs we sing along to on the radio are directly contributing to rape culture. The result is a bold poem that reminds us how subtle -- and dangerous -- misogyny can be when put to a pop song tune.

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