Battling the Storm Within

Monday, October 22, 2018

Sexual assault risk at your military base: Here’s a searchable database

The Defense Department in September released a first-of-its-kind study that estimates the risk of sexual assault service members face at different installations. The estimates were based on more than 170,000 survey responses service members completed in 2014 on whether they had personally experienced sexual assault.

The data has limitations, but military officials will use it to help identify high-risk areas and see what additional steps can be taken to increase safety for men and women assigned there. The data is searchable by service, risk, location and estimated number of assaults.


VA Re-Examining Military Sexual Trauma Claims

woman female victim looking sad

During a live webcast on Oct. 16, VA's new Under Secretary for Benefits, Paul R. Lawrence, Ph.D. said that VA will begin reviewing tens of thousands of PTSD claims filed by veterans who suffered Military Sexual Trauma (MST).

VA Inspector General Report Found Problems With MST Claims

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Contaminated basewater database

Amid growing concerns about the water on military bases, Military Times created a searchable database of all installation drinking water systems, monitoring wells and off-base locations where higher-than-recommended levels of perfluorooctane sulfonate or perfluorooctanoic acid, also known as PFOS and PFOAs have been reported. The compounds have been tied to birth defects and cancers.


Almost 800 women are serving in previously closed Army combat jobs. This is how they’re faring.

This January will make three years since the Army opened infantry, armor, fire support and special operator jobs to women for the first time.

At last count, there were 783 women serving across five divisions and one independent brigade, the Army’s deputy chief of staff for personnel told Army Times in a Sept. 25 interview

Read more....

Vets group calls on DOD, VA to help stop fake news targeting veterans, troops

WASHINGTON – One year ago, Vietnam Veterans of America discovered a Facebook page was using its name to spread disinformation to nearly 200,000 followers. Facebook disabled the site at VVA’s request, citing violations to intellectual property.

The incident sparked an effort at VVA, a congressionally chartered veterans service organization, to find more social media pages that target veterans and servicemembers with sensationalized news and hyper-partisan political content


Disabled and retired vets to see largest cost of living raise in six years

Beginning in January 2019, military retirees and disabled vets will get an increase in their checks, seeing a 2.8-percent raise – the largest in six years.

Those receiving the largest checks stand to see a $369 per month increase, reported. An E-7 with 20 years of service would see an increase of about $67 monthly and an O-5 with 20 years of service would see an additional $126 monthly.

War veterans find sustenance–and solace–in farming

After Congress failed to pass a farm bill ahead of the 2018 midterm elections, a Department of Agriculture program that helps veterans transition into farming faces an uncertain future. For soldiers returning from war, farming can offer a new occupation, reintegration into civilian life and even therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder. Special correspondent Mike Cerre reports.

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Sunday, October 21, 2018

Fighting Homelessness Among Female Vets Takes a Special Approach

These programs were designed with women service members in mind.
Approximately 4,300 women veterans are homeless at any given time, according to a recent report by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. When Cindy Seymour, a former Air Force sergeant, heard that number, she knew she had to do something to help her sisters-in-arms.


Sexual assault and harassment linked to long-term health problems for women, study says

(CNN)High blood pressure. Anxiety. Depression. Insomnia. These are just a few of the possible long-term health consequences facing mid-life women who had experienced sexual assault and harassment, according to a study published Wednesday in JAMA Internal Medicine.


Veterans are sleeping in their cars at VA medical centers

James Schenck, President and CEO of PenFed Credit Union; Honorable Frederick F.Y. Pang, Chairman of the PenFed Foundation, Billy Bryels, Veteran; Lisa Freeman, former Director/CEO, VA Palo Alto Health Care System; Assembly Member Marc Berman (24th District); State Senator Jerry Hill (13th District); William Ball, Chief, Voluntary & Hospital Services, VA Palo Alto Health Care System at the Lee & Penny Anderson Defenders Lodge.

U.S. veterans are forgoing treatment at Veterans’ Affairs clinics due to the high cost of lodging in some areas, but one group has a solution.

Billy Bryels, a retired Vietnam Veteran and double Purple Heart awardee, told Fox News he slept in his car several times because of the high hotel costs, much like several of his fellow veterans.


VA won’t turn over documents related to outside businessmen’s influence on department policy

WASHINGTON — Veterans Affairs officials are declining to give members of Congress documents related to accusations that outside businessmen are unduly influencing department policy, citing legal ongoing disputes over the issue.

In response, the ranking member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee blasted the move as “an attempt to stonewall not only a member of Congress, but the American public.”


The Army Is Fielding Hundreds Of More Recruiters After Failing To Bring In New Soldiers

Sgt. 1st Class Shereka Danzy is the first female New Jersey Army National Guard Soldier to graduate from the U.S. Army Drill Sergeant School at Fort Jackson, S.C. She is using the skills she developed there to help New Jersey Army National Guard enlistees prepare to succeed when they ship to basic training.

WASHINGTON — The Army is adding hundreds of new recruiters after failing to get as many new soldiers to enlist in fiscal 2018 as it had hoped, top service officials said on Monday.

“We’re expanding the number of recruiters we’ll put out in the streets; we’re cleaning up the storefronts; we are moving into 20-plus cities around the United States,” Army Secretary Mark Esper told reporters during the Association of the United States Army’s annual conference. “I think we can and we will do a lot better, but it’s going to take some time to re-position ourselves.”


126,000 service members in crosshairs for separation as DoD’s ‘deploy or get out’ policy takes effect

The Pentagon’s hard line on troop readiness took effect Monday, and 126,000 service members now find themselves on a path to separation if they do not become deployable in the next 12 months.
“Deploy or get out" was an early policy priority of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to improve the overall readiness of U.S. military forces.

 It was formalized in February and gave the services until Oct. 1 to be ready to begin holding troops accountable. Those intervening months also gave troops time to prepare, to get rid of administrative, legal or medical blocks that may have previously kept them in a non-deployable status.


What It Means To Be An Ally To Women In The Military

Members of amphibious assault ship USS Boxer’s (LHD 4) diversity committee present the contributions of female pioneers during a Women’s History Month observance. Boxer is currently in its homeport undergoing a phased maintenance availability.

A toxic culture of gender discrimination and inequality continues to exist in the U.S. military. Worse, it isn’t simply gray-haired military bosses who are responsible for this. The atmosphere created by a few junior military personnel can ruin the career of a promising servicewoman before it even begins.
I know this because I have seen it happen


Advocates call for a renewed national conversation on veteran suicide

WASHINGTON — Melissa Bryant said the 5,520 flags placed along the National Mall Wednesday to illustrate the toll of veteran suicide this year alone were more than just a visual reminder of the scope of the problem.

“When we came out here this morning to plant these flags, every one of us had a friend or family member in mind,” said Bryant, chief policy officer for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. “Some of us standing here could have been one of these flags, but for an intervention.”


Senator: VA missed deadline to inform vets with 'bad paper' about access to mental health care

WASHINGTON – A senator who championed legislation earlier this year to increase access to mental and behavioral health care for veterans with other-than-honorable discharges is worried the word isn’t getting out to the thousands of veterans now eligible for care they were previously denied.

The Honor Our Commitment Act, approved as part of large appropriations bill in March, requires the Department of Veterans Affairs to provide veterans with mental health screenings and care, even if they received other-than-honorable discharges. Veterans who served in a combat zone or area of hostilities, worked as drone operators in combat zones or experienced sexual abuse or assault are eligible.


A staggering number of troops are fat and tired, report says

A 2018 RAND report on health promotion and disease prevention has painted a grim picture of the military’s physical fitness and sleep standards.

The study, featuring roughly 18,000 randomly selected participants across each of the service branches, showed that almost 66 percent of service members are considered to be either overweight or obese, based on the military’s use of body mass index as a measuring standard.


New VA rankings: Five hospitals get lowest one-star rating for third year

WASHINGTON – The number of one-star Veterans Affairs hospitals has dropped from 14 to nine since last year, according to star rankings the VA released Wednesday.

Five VA hospitals remain at the bottom of the rankings for the third straight year, including in Big Spring and El Paso, Texas; Loma Linda, California; and Phoenix, where a wait-time crisis in 2014 triggered a national scandal.


126,000 service members in crosshairs for separation as DoD’s ‘deploy or get out’ policy takes effect

The Pentagon’s hard line on troop readiness took effect Monday, and 126,000 service members now find themselves on a path to separation if they do not become deployable in the next 12 months.

“Deploy or get out" was an early policy priority of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to improve the overall readiness of U.S. military forces. It was formalized in February and gave the services until Oct. 1 to be ready to begin holding troops accountable. Those intervening months also gave troops time to prepare, to get rid of administrative, legal or medical blocks that may have previously kept them in a non-deployable status.


How PTSD and Trauma Affect Your Brain Functioning

About 10% of women and 4% of men will develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) over their lifetimes. Men and women who have experienced sexual trauma are at increased risk, especially if the trauma occurred at a young age or was repeated. PTSD is a mental health condition that may involve disturbances in threat perception, threat sensitivity, self-image, and emotional functioning. It can cause serious disruption in the ability to have healthy, satisfying relationships or tolerate life’s uncertainties, failures, and rejections without excess distress.

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Lawsuit Over Women in Combat Roles Advances

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – The United States government can’t escape a lawsuit claiming it applies biased rules based on gender stereotypes to block female soldiers from serving in combat roles, a federal judge ruled from the bench Thursday.

U.S. District Judge Edward Chen refused to dismiss a lawsuit challenging lingering barriers to military service for women. Chen said he could not yet determine if Department of Defense policies were enacted for sexist reasons as alleged


VA says Marine who killed himself in their parking lot “fell through the cracks”

The VA Inspector General’s Office released a report on a Minnesota Marine veteran who apparently “fell through the cracks” of the VA system- and died as a result.

The report documented the tragic demise of 33-year-old Justin Miller, who fatally shot himself in the Minneapolis VA Hospital parking lot in February. He was found in his vehicle by VA Police officers


Navy Sexual Assault Survivor Gets Discharge Upgrade

Bianca Cruz successfully defended her Navy record in an appeal to the Naval Discharge Review Board.

Connecticut Navy veteran who was sexually assaulted while serving in Japan has been awarded an honorable discharge after she challenged the “bad paper” discharge status she had been given.
Bianca Cruz successfully defended her Navy record in an appeal to the Naval Discharge Review Board, which concluded that “she served honorably as evidenced by no punitive items in her record.”

She was separated from the Navy in 2015 with a general (under honorable conditions) discharge, started the appeal process the next year and filed her appeal in November 2017. The board ruled Aug. 7 and notified her by email Sept. 17.


More Young Veterans Committing Suicide, VA Data Show

According to a new report, veterans accounted for 14% of suicides nationwide though they make up only 8% of the U.S. population.

WASHINGTON—The rate of suicide among young military veterans has increased substantially despite efforts by the Department of Veterans Affairs to curb the problem, though overall veteran suicides declined slightly, according to new data to be released Wednesday.

The VA’s National Suicide Data Report paints a troubling picture for vets ages 18 to 34, for some troops who served in the National Guard or reserves, as well as female veterans.


Woman Veterans Pursue Military Career Paths Beyond Gendered Stereotypes

Army veterans Ericka Carter and Loghan Young.

The role of women is expanding in the military, yet gender stereotypes remain. Today on Veterans’ Voices, we hear from Army veterans and Wright State students Loghan Young of Huber Heights and Ericka Carter of Dayton who pursued career paths in the military that defied expectations.


It's Time For Washington To Help Veterans Access Cannabis

America’s veterans have given their all to protect this country — putting their bodies on the line regardless of the cost. Too many are now dealing with the side effects of their service, problems such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and chronic pain. But increasingly, they are struggling to gain access to medication that could help them effectively cope with those side effects.


I Was Sexually Assaulted by Another Marine. The Corps Didn’t Believe Me.

I would never have guessed that closure would come to me in a small courtroom in Manhattan, Kan. A year and a half ago, on my 34th birthday, I sat on a witness stand and recounted how I was sexually assaulted on New Year’s Day 2006 by a fellow Marine — someone I had considered a friend while we were deployed to the Horn of Africa.


Mattis Can’t Say If Having Women In The Infantry Will Work Or Not

female infantry mattis

“Clearly, the jury is out” on whether having women serve in Marine Corps and Army infantry units makes the U.S. military more combat effective, Defense Secretary James Mattis said on Tuesday.
  • Mattis sounded decidedly unenthusiastic during a visit to the Virginia Military Institute when a cadet asked him about integrating women into combat arms jobs. He said the services are looking into whether it is “a strength or a weakness” to have women serving in units that engage in close combat.


Three Veterans May Have Died Due to Misdiagnoses, VA Officials Say


FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA) - Officials say three veterans may have died due to the misdiagnoses at the Veterans Health Care System of the Ozarks.
This information comes after a public town hall meeting Monday morning.

The incorrect diagnoses are due to a pathologist who was found to be impaired on the job.
As a result, the VA had to review 33,806 cases and as of last Friday, 14,980 reviews have been made.
From that number, over 1,000 errors and misdiagnoses have been found.
Almost 70% of the misdiagnoses resulted in no or little error, which does not have any negative clinical impact on affected patients.


For Women Veterans, No Room at the VA

[Photo: A woman in a wheelchair sits in a dark hospital hallway.]

When Whitney Brown, a National Guard veteran who lives in Wheeling, West Virginia, needs medical assistance, she must travel to U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals in St. Clairsville, Ohio, a half an hour round trip, or Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, an hour each way.

Without outside medical insurance, Brown can only afford to be treated at the VA for any of her physical or mental health concerns. However, care at VA hospitals in Appalachia is not always prompt or easy—particularly for women veterans.


Why Female Soldiers Are Killing Themselves at an Alarming Rate


Stephanie Shannon was just 20 years old when she landed in Saudi Arabia in a tan camouflage uniform still crisp around the edges. She’d enlisted in the Army in November 1989, motivated by the opportunity for a career and seduced by the promise of learning disciplined bravery. Just nine months after she entered basic training, Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein mobilized his forces in an attempt to invade and annex Kuwait, a tiny oil-rich nation southeast of Iraq. Shannon, the latest soldier in a family of military men, was ready.


Even In The Military, Black People Are Punished Disproportionately, Report Shows

Black service members are “substantially more likely” than white service members to be punished in four out of the five branches of the U.S. Armed Forces, according to a new study published by military advocacy group Protect Our Defenders.

Data obtained by the organization through the Freedom of Information Act revealed that black service members were as much as two and a half times more likely than their white counterparts to face court-martial or nonjudicial punishment in an average year. The disparity is notable, considering white service members make up the largest racial group in the military.


Fraternizing women in infantry units should be treated fairly

Fraternization happens all the time in the military. But there is something unusual about “improper relationships” between men and women in combat arms units, where there were no women until the Pentagon formally eliminated gender restrictions in 2016.

In September, we heard about two separate incidents, one in the Army and one in the Marine Corps.


Rape Survivors Share Why They Stayed Quiet In Powerful #WhyIDidntReport Tweets

President Donald Trump wonders why survivors of sexual assault don’t immediately report the crime to authorities.

We know this because Trump literally asked the question Friday morning, in a series of tweets seeking to cast doubt on Christine Blasey Ford’s story that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh forced himself on her when they were high school students.


Female sailors at highest risk of sexual assault, Defense Department finds

PHOTO: Army Cadets boots marching in formation during a ceremony, in this undated photo.

Newly released data from the Department of Defense shows female sailors are at the highest risk of sexual assault, compared to women serving in the Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps. The risk is highest on U.S. Navy ships, including on a majority of the nation's aircraft carriers, the data shows.
Military installations in the Washington, D.C., region were typically associated with the lowest risk of sexual assault for men and women.

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