Archive for the ‘PTSD’ Category

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Let’s spread the word to raise money to help our troops with PTSD.

Found below is a letter/email blast from a concerned citizen encouraging people to attend SFTT’s fundraising event at the Gotham Comedy Club in NYC on Tuesday, June 26th.  Signup online and support our troops with more than lip service.

Attached is an invitation to an SFTT fundraising event, which will be held on the evening of Tuesday, June 26th at the Gotham Comedy Club on West 23rd Street.

As the invitation details, the purpose of the event is to benefit soldiers who have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”). As the media has widely reported, early in those conflicts PTSD didn’t seem to be a major problem — although the symptoms often don’t manifest themselves until years after the trauma occurred.

I became interested in this issue during my own military service. Although I served only several years on active duty, it was at a time when many Vietnam veterans were beginning to exhibit signs of what we now call PTSD, and (in retrospect) neither the Veterans Administration nor other medical communities were quick enough to recognize the problem and/or be prepared to assist the suffering veterans. (In prior conflicts, the recognition and care were even worse, and the condition was often referred to as “seeing the elephant” (a Civil War term), “shell shock” (World War I), “battle fatigue” (recall General Patton slapping the emotionally-crushed soldier), etc.

Unfortunately, due to a number of factors, the condition is now worsening among this generation’s war veterans. One key problem is the repeated redeployment of our troops to Iraq and, now, to Afghanistan. Apparently, the risk of suffering from PTSD increases geometrically with every deployment to a combat zone, and some of our troops have deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan 4 to 5 times.

As a result, not only are reported cases of PTSD increasing, but so are instances of suicides among returning veterans. Indeed, early in the Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts, the suicide rate among soldiers was much lower than that of the general public. Now, the rate among soldiers exceeds that of the general public, and reportedly is increasing.

Of course, the Veterans Administration is attempting to address this problem, but the VA has its limits, and in any event, more always can be done, and many private groups have tried to step into the breach. Thus, the purpose of this fundraiser.

As for the two hosts, I don’t know Eilhys Hackworth (a link to an interview with whom is included below), but I do know that she is the widow of Col. David Hackworth, who was a legend in the Army, and one of the most decorated soldiers of his time.

The other host is General John Bastiste, whom I have known for 39 years since I was his roommate during my brief ROTC student exchange visit to West Point. John obviously went on to have a superb career, and especially to have garnered a stellar reputation in Iraq as the commanding general of the fabled First Infantry Division. (John’s West Point classmates include Marty Dempsey, currently the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Dave Petraeus, now the CIA director).

Although John now is in private industry serving as the president of a steel corporation, he has been utterly unselfish with his time and unflagging in his efforts to help the soldiers who served under him readjust to civilian life and to cope with any difficulties/disabilities — such as PTSD or physical injuries (such as loss of eyes or limbs) — which they may have suffered in the service of their country.

I hope you can make it to this worthy event, and certainly, please feel free to circulate this invitation to anyone whom you think might be interested in attending. The more the merrier.

I haven’t checked out the website for the sponsoring organization, SFTT (“Stand For The Troops”), but it likely enables a person to make a contribution via the internet.

Anything you could do to help would be greatly appreciated — including by spreading the word.

Call me with any questions.

SFTT targets PTSD: Interview with Eilhys England Hackworth

 

The United State Senate unanimously approved legislation authored by

QUOTE

The event is part of Senator Conrad’s continuing efforts tobring greater awareness to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (“PTSD”), a severe anxiety disorder often associated with having experienced the trauma of combat.

For the third year in a row the Senate passed Senator Conrad’s resolution designating June 27 as National Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Awareness Day. The day is intended bring greater awareness about PTSD and help eliminate the stigma surrounding mental health issues.”National PTSD Awareness Dayshould serve as an opportunity for all of us to listen and learn about post-traumatic stress and let all our troops — past and present — know it’s okay to come forward and ask for help,” Senator Conrad said.

The Senator is encouraging individuals and veterans’ organizations across the country to use June 27 as a day devoted to promoting greater awareness of PTSD as well as its treatment and research.

Senator Conrad developed the idea for a National PTSD Awareness Day in 2010 after learning of the efforts of North Dakota National Guardsmen to draw attention to post-traumatic stress by paying tribute to their fallen friend, Staff Sgt. Joe Biel, who served in the 164th Engineer Combat Battalion. Biel suffered from PTSD and took his life in April 2007 after returning to North Dakota following his second tour in Iraq.The date for National PTSD Awareness Day — June 27 — was inspired by the birthday of Staff Sgt Biel.

The Department of Defense has stated that more than 90,000 service members have been clinically diagnosed with PTSD since 2001 and the Veterans Administration (VA) has treated more than 217,000 veterans from Afghanistan and Iraq for PTSD. And many cases of PTSD remain unreported.

To learn more about post-traumatic stress and locate facilities offering assistance, visit the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ National Center for PTSD .

UNQUOTE

SFTT applauds Senator Conrad and his colleagues in the Senate for taking the initiative of increasing public awareness of the problems faced my many brave young men and women who suffer from PTSD.  Nevertheless, there is increasing evidence that the V.A. simply lacks the resources or resolve to deal with the complexities of helping our warriors deal with PTSD.  Medication alone is not enough and thousands of brave young men are simply not getting regular and effective treatment.

SFTT is convinced that more effective and sustainable treatment and rehabilitation is likely in community-supported initiatives.  For this reason SFTT has established a medical task force to determine “best practices” in treating warriors suffering from PTSD.  The hope is that effective programs can be replicated in other communities in the United States to help there veterans reintegrate themselves into society and reclaim control over their lives.

In a heart-breaking story by Mike Scotti entitle ” below:

QUOTE

THE Department of Veterans Affairs, already under enormous strain from the aging of the Vietnam generation, the end of the Iraq war and the continuing return of combat troops from Afghanistan, announced in April that it would increase its mental health staff by about 10 percent. But too many veterans waging a lonely and emotional struggle to resume a normal life continue to find the agency a source of disappointment rather than healing.

The new hiring is intended to address the infuriating delay veterans face in getting appointments. The V.A. says it tries to complete full mental health evaluations within 14 days of an initial screening. But a review by the department’s inspector general found that schedulers were entering misleading information into their computer system. They were recording the next available appointment date as the patient’s desired appointment date. As a result, a veteran who might have had to wait weeks for an appointment would appear in the computer system as having been seen “without a wait.” That allowed the agency to claim that the two-week target was being reached in 95 percent of cases, when the real rate was 49 percent. The rest waited an average of 50 days.

As a veteran of both Iraq and Afghanistan, I found that news maddening. While the schedulers played games with the numbers, veterans were dealing with mental wounds so serious that getting proper attention at the right time might have made the difference between life and death. Even worse was that the V.A. had failed twice before to change; the inspector general found similar problems in 2005 and in 2007. This suggests a systematic misrepresentation of data and an unwillingness to stop it.

Unfortunately, the problem goes even deeper. There are potentially hundreds of thousands of veterans who are struggling with post-combat mental health issues who never ask the V.A. for help. Some, hamstrung by fear of stigma, are too proud or too ashamed to ask for help. Others don’t ask because they’ve heard too many stories from peers who have received poor care or been ignored.

I have close friends who could no longer drive because of their lingering fears of roadside bombs. Others had gone to the V.A. because they had suicidal thoughts, only to receive a preliminary screening, a pat on the back, a prescription for antidepressants — and a follow-up appointment for several months later.

I’ve had my own struggle: in 2001 I was part of the initial force of Marines who landed in Afghanistan, and in 2003 took part in the heavy fighting of the first wave of the invasion of Iraq. Since coming home, I’ve had my mind hijacked by visions of the corpses of children, their eyes blackened, at the side of the road. I recall carrying the coffins of fallen brothers. I remember losing friends who probably knew exactly what was happening to them, as they bled out on the side of a dusty road in Iraq.

And I’ve felt the shame of having suicidal feelings. Like many others, I chose to hide them. Yet, even in the darkest days of my own post-traumatic stress, when I was considering choosing between making my suicide look like an accident or taking a swan dive off some beautiful bridge, I never considered going to the V.A. for help.

My image of the V.A., formed while I was on active duty, was of an ineffective, uncaring institution. Tales circulated among my fellow Marines of its institutional indifference, and those impressions were confirmed when I left Iraq for home. At Camp Pendleton, Calif., a woman with a cold, unfeeling manner assembled us for a PowerPoint presentation and pointed us to brochures — nothing more, no welcoming sign of warmth or empathy for the jumble of emotions we were feeling. Her remoteness spoke volumes to me of what I might expect at home.

To regain veterans’ trust, the V.A. must change its organization and culture, not just hire more people. First, its leadership must be held accountable for employees’ behavior, and anyone caught entering misleading data should be fired. The agency must reach out, with public awareness campaigns and with warmth, to veterans who may be suffering in silence. It must help reduce the social stigma that attaches to the mental health issues the veterans face.

Dedicated V.A. personnel run a suicide-prevention hot line, but it is only a temporary salve for emergencies. One impressive and highly effective alternative to the V.A.’s traditional treatment process is the Wounded Warrior Project’s Combat Stress Recovery Program, which emphasizes the importance of interpersonal relationships, goal-setting and outdoor, rehabilitative retreats and seeks to avoid the stigma associated with traditional treatment.

What this generation of veterans needs from the V.A. is a recognition that when the color of life has faded to gray, you need to talk to someone about it today, not weeks or months from now. We need America to acknowledge what war does to the young men and women who fight it and to share the message that dragged me out of the darkness: It’s O.K. if you’re not O.K.

Mike Scotti, a former Marine, is the author of “The Blue Cascade: A Memoir of Life After War.”

UNQUOTE

We hear you Mike.   Our thoughts – and action – are with you and the thousands of brave heroes who deserve proper treatment from the V.A.

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photo of a soldierStand For The Troops (“SFTT”) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit Educational Foundation established by the late Col. David H. Hackworth and his wife Eilhys England to insure that our frontline troops have the best available leadership, equipment and training.

In the past four-plus years SFTT'S active campaign has focused on ensuring America's frontline troops get the best available individual protective equipment and combat gear.

Donations and contributions from concerned Americans help fund the SFTT website.

Hackworth Memorial DVD

photo of HackworthIncludes rare footage from Hack's memorial service at Fort Myers Chapel and burial in Arlington National Cemetery.
All donations received from purchasing of The Hackworth Memorial DVD go to Stand For The Troops a 501 (c) 3 non-profit, non-partisan apolitical foundation established by Hack and his wife Eilhys to make sure that America's front-line forces—the kids Hack loved out at the tip of the spear—always have the right training, leadership and equipment to meet their assigned missions and make it home alive and in one piece.

Our Campaigns

  • December 23, 2009: The law firm of Kirkland & Ellis LLP filed the final motion with the Federal Court in Washington, DC in the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) on behalf of the SFTT’s editor for forensic records held by the Department of Defense (“DOD”).
  • October 16, 2009: The Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) issues report to Congress calling for “independent expert assessment of Army body armor test results.” This damning report of US Army body armor test procedures is the outgrowth of a two-year investigative and educational campaign by SFTT to seek fair and impartial test procedures.

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