Battling the Storm Within

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Most veterans are obese, but can't collect disability for it, VA says


When you are in the service you are more than likely at your healthiest, between physical fitness training and maintaining standards within body composition regulations,  the probability of becoming overweight or obese is not great. However, when service members get out the odds are not in their favor. According to Veterans Affairs, 78 percent of veterans are considered to be overweight or obese. 

Shanahan calls for reforms as military sexual assaults rise by 38%; highest for young women

WASHINGTON – Acting Defense Secretary Patrick M. Shanahan called for sweeping changes in the way the military handles sexual assaults and harassment following a reported 38% increase in assaults from 2016 to 2018. That spike in crime within the ranks comes after years of focused effort and resources to eradicate it.

Free Dental Care for Veterans Available June 8

Aspen Dental dentists and teams will once again be providing free dental care to veterans nationwide on June 8.
For the sixth year, nearly 500 Aspen Dental offices nationwide will open their doors to serve veterans in their local communities as part of their community giving initiative, the Healthy Mouth Movement.

The VA is stuck between state, federal laws on medical marijuana

ATLANTA - There is a new push for veterans to get access to medical marijuana for treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder.
But recently, the Trump administration has come out against three different bills that would allow the Department of Veterans Affairs clinics to prescribe medical marijuana.
Many believe medical marijuana is much safer than opioids that VA doctors currently prescribe. They say cannabis oil treats pain, as well as seizures and depression.

VA opposes new legislation aimed at improving access to medical marijuana for veterans

Department of Veterans Affairs officials told lawmakers Tuesday that the agency is opposed to three new legislative efforts designed to expand access to medical marijuana for veterans.
“It’s overwhelmingly clear amongst the American people and amongst the veterans across the country that this is an issue that they are keenly interested in and want to have access to,” said Rep. Julia Brownley, D-Calif., the chairwoman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs subpanel on health.

Defense Department to make sexual harassment a crime

Defense Department officials will make sexual harassment a criminal offense amid new reports of increasing bad behavior among service members.
In a statement Thursday morning, acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan called the move a necessary step to combat the “scourge” of sexual assault and abuse in the ranks.
A new report from the department’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response office shows the number of reported cases of sexual assault in the ranks rose from nearly 4,800 in fiscal 2016 to more than 6,050 in fiscal 2018.

"The Normalization of Sexual Assault"

Sexual assault in the military has become increasingly more common and accepted, creating a problem in providing accountability and justice for survivors. This problem stems largely from the Feres Doctrine, a policy that blocks survivors from suing their perpetrators or the government in civil court for their injuries. 

After the revelation of how prominent sexual assault has beenin the military, the Department of Defense started to focus on the importance of the prevention of the assaults described by Section 120 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. [1] However, the level of military-on-military sexual assaults has continued to grow, while the number of prosecutions has declined. [2] The Feres Doctrine, by insulating perpetrators from the consequences of their actions, is adding to a culture that is normalizing sexual assault in the U.S. military. 

Women veterans don't get equal treatment at the VA, so Congress is launching a task force

During Andrea Goldstein's time as a Naval officer, she was frequently the only woman in the room "where life and death decisions were made."
But the teammates who were supposed to guard her life in turn "sexually harassed and belittled" her because of her gender.
Since leaving the military, she says it's not gotten any better. 

Goldstein now faces barriers to care at the Department of Veterans Affairs because male veterans and VA healthcare workers "questioned my right to VA healthcare."

Gulf War exposures may have added health risks to active duty military during Operations Desert Shield,

Gulf War Exposures

Depleted Uranium (DU)

Depleted Uranium is what remains from the manufacturing process of enriched uranium used in nuclear reactors or weapons. It has the same chemical toxicity as natural uranium, retains radioactivity, and a half-life of 4.5 billion years.
DU was used on a large scale during the Gulf War in tank armor and some bullets or rounds — mostly 30mm caliber ordnance — to penetrate enemy armored vehicles. Riding in a vehicle with DU weapons or shielding is not linked to exposure of significant amounts of DU or external radiation.  However, DU can be a health hazard if it enters the human body.  In a struck vehicle, soldiers could have been exposed through wounds if fragments of DU scatter and become embedded in muscle and soft tissue. Soldiers could also be exposed to DU by inhaling or swallowing small airborne DU particles in a struck vehicle or in close proximity to burning vehicles or fires with DU munitions.

Women veterans say they need to have a seat at the table

1 in 4 women veterans have experienced being cat-called, stared at, or been on the receiving end of sexually derogatory comments when visiting a VA facility.

This number came from a VA study published in the Journal of Women’s Health Issues and was the topic of concern among House lawmakers at a hearing to discuss the cultural barriers women veterans face when trying to access care at VA.

Military sexual assaults reported in Pentagon survey jump to 20,000

Sexual assaults jumped across all four military services to 20,500 last year — a rise of almost 38% from 2018 — survey results the Pentagon released Thursday show.
Details: The figures of the anonymous survey found more than 85% of victims knew their assailant and alcohol was a factor in 62% of the assaults. The statistics are close to the same number of sexual assaults reported in 2014, when 20,300 were recorded. Pentagon officials told ABC News the results would lead to changes in its sexual assault prevention efforts.

For Veterans, Outdoor Therapy Could Become Law

On May 1, representative Chris Smith of New Jersey introduced the Outdoor Recreation Therapy for Veterans Act. The bill, HR 2435, directs the secretary of Veterans Affairs to establish a task force to study the implementation of a mental-health program on public lands for veterans. This group, which would be composed of five cabinet secretaries (from the VA, Interior, Health and Human Services, Agriculture, and Defense), plus the chief of the Army Corps of Engineers, would be charged with finding ways to better use public land in treatment and therapy for vets—and coming up with the policy recommendations to make it all happen.  

Task force to highlight ‘forgotten’ and 'invisible’ women veterans

The United States has nearly 2 million women veterans today, but but Rep. Julia Brownley thinks many Americans never really see them.
“Women veterans are too often overlooked, forgotten or feel invisible,” said Brownley, D-Calif. “We are here today to change that. Women have served in uniform since this country’s earliest days … but for far too long their issues have been unnoticed or ignored.”
On Thursday, the Brownley formally launched the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee’s new task force on women veterans, with the goal of “advancing equity in access to resources, benefits and healthcare” for the group.

The US military doesn't follow its own rules when investigating domestic violence on bases

An analysis of more than 200 cases of domestic violence at eight military installations has determined that commanders and law enforcement personnel are not following their own rules when investigating and handling these cases and their victims.

The Toll of War: MilWives and Suicide

The military has all manner of metrics on the rash of suicides among active duty troops, but the statistics on suicides and suicide attempts by military family members mostly show up on the police blotter.
Last January, Julia Powers Schenecker, the wife of an Army colonel at the Tampa, Fla., headquarters of the Central Command, left a note saying that she was going to kill her children and herself. She shot to death her 13-year-old son and 16-year-daughter. Police arrived at the upscale family home and found Schenecker sitting in a chair, covered in blood, before she could kill herself. Police said Schenecker told them that the children had been “mouthy.”
“I’ve lost three of my friends to suicide,” said Kristina Kaufmann, the wife of an Army colonel. One of them at Fort Bragg, N.C., went to the garage and got in the car with her two toddler children and turned on the engine. All three were found dead.

How Trauma and Dissociation Disrupt Your Ability to Form Memories

A person walks home alone in the rain

Memories warm you up from the inside. But they also tear you apart.”  Haruki Murakami
We all know from popular drama (TV shows, movies, etc.) that traumatic events are often forgotten by the sufferer. People who experience a devastating event such as a car accident, natural disaster, or terror attack often cannot remember the incident. It’s also common not to remember what took place right before or right after the incident. In a similar way, many adults who suffered child abuse have difficulty recalling large chunks of time from childhood. In these cases, problems with memory can continue into adulthood as well, particularly when faced with emotional distress.

Congress is flooded with veteran mental health bills. Here's what it means if they pass.


More than a dozen pieces of legislation are being considered by Congress this session that aim to improve veteran mental health care, expand services to more veterans or provide access to new treatments, including medical marijuana.

After four veteran suicides at Department of Veterans Affairs facilities in April alone, and an unchanging rate of 20 veteran suicides per day, Congress and the VA have been under increasing pressure to address veteran mental health and suicide. Lawmakers from both chambers and sides of the aisle have bills piled up for consideration.


More veterans are becoming obese. Are stressful military transitions to blame?

The number of disabled veterans is rising. And so, too, is their weight.
A new study, based on a survey of more than 33,000 post-9/11 service members and veterans, found that 51.7 percent of wounded warriors have a body mass index that qualifies them as obese — up from 48.6 percent two years ago. Of those, 6.2 percent are morbidly obese.

Even more grim? The percentage of vets who are overweight in 2018 is nearly seven times greater than the percentage of those who are not, according to the study released today by Wounded Warrior Project and the nonprofit’s research partner, Westat.