Maj. Ben Richards Hyperbaric Treatment Update

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Yesterday evening, WWLTV.com in Louisiana carried a very moving “progress report” on

Maj. Richards’ tragic story was chronicled by New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof who wrote an article in August entitled “War Wounds.”  For reasons that seem inexplicable to the average American, the Veterans Administration, the Defense Department and our government seemed to wash their hands of any responsibility of the injuries suffered by Maj. Richards.  Eilhys England, Chairperson of SFTT, immediately contacted Maj. Richards and put him in touch with Dr. Paul Harch (shown in the video below) who has been providing Ben with Harch Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatments pro bono.

We are thrilled that Maj. Richards has made so much progress and SFTT is most grateful to those West Point classmates, friends and colleagues who have generously contributed to a fund to support his family while undergoing this treatment.

While we don’t leave our troops behind on the battlefield, why should their needs be neglected when they return home? If you feel strongly about supporting our brave heroes like Maj. Ben Richards, consider becoming a member of SFTT. Your generous contributions help our team find and evaluate promising treatment programs so our brave heroes can reclaim their lives.

For only $35 a year you can stand with us and Stand for the Troops


Choose your Membership and click the button «Become a Member»:

Become a Member

For those who wish to submit your membership contribution by check, please make the check payable to SFTT and send to the following address:

SFTT
PO Box 11179
Greenwich, CT 06831

Members can opt to receive flash updates, a Membership card and a vehicle decal.   Members who donate $100 or more can request a complimentary T-shirt.

PO Box 11179  ?  Greenwich CT 068321  ?   203-629-0288   ?  www.SFTT.org

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PTSD Research Highlights – November 3, 2012

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Note from SFTT:   Every single day new resources appears on the web and canada meds in discussion boards addressing the treatment of PTSD.  Regrettably, most of this advice is not backed by dependable clinical research or professional theory. Even though there are several methods to treat  the  symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, the journey to health and happiness is lengthy and treatment plans will differ dependent on the individual, the degree of the injury and his or her existing social and financial condition.

USD psych professors aspire to help veterans with Post traumatic stress disorder study

A study project targeted at better comprehending the results of distressing force on war veterans will commence in Siouxland within the coming several weeks. College of South Dakota psychology professors Jeffrey Simons and Raluca Gaher lately received a $1.7 …
See all tales about this subject »

TBI and Post traumatic stress disorder Get $100 Million in Research Money

That common goal comes in a cost of $100 million…just within the research to enhance the concern. Based on Defense News, “more than 15 % and services information people and veterans suffer impaired functioning consequently of Post traumatic stress disorder.” Exactly what does that actually work to …
See all tales about this subject »

 

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SFTT Medical Task Force to Focus on PTSD

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Dr. Henry Grayson, Ph.D., Co-Chair of SFTT’s Medical Task Force – Is a  psychologist practicing in New York City and Connecticut. He has a PhD from Boston University, as well as a postdoctoral certificate in Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy from Postgraduate Center for Mental Health and a Theology degree from Emory University. He is the author or three books, founded both the National Institute for Psychotherapies and the Institute for Spirituality, Science and Psychotherapy, and the Association for Spirituality and Psychotherapy.

Dr. Frank M. Ochberg, M.D., Co-Chair of SFTT’s Medical Task ForceA Psychiatry professor at Michigan StateUniversity with degrees from Harvard University, Johns Hopkins University, Stanford University and the University of London. Formerly an associate director of the National Institute of Mental Health, more recently he has been involved with numerous organizations dealing with PTSD including founding Gift From Within, a non-profit PTSD foundation, and consulting at Columbine High School in Colorado. In 2003 he received a lifetime achievement award from the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies.

Dr. Grant Brenner, M.D A graduate of the New Jersey Medical School and as assistant clinical professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine Beth Israel Medical Center. He is a member of Physicians for Human Rights and the International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation. Dr. Brenner is the director of trauma services at the William Alanson White Institute, a board member at the Disaster Psychiatry Outreach, and the author of Creating Spiritual and Psychological Resilience-Integrating Care in Disaster Relief Work.

Dr. Eric D. Caine, M.D. – A Psychiatry professor at the University of Rochester Medical Center School of Medicine and Dentistry. He is a graduate of Cornell University and Harvard Medical School, and a chair of the department of Psychiatry at the University of Rochester Medical Center School of Medicine and Dentistry. In 2001 he received the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry’s Leadership in Training Award for Chair of the Year.

Dr. Robert Cancro, M.D A professor and chairman of psychiatry at the New York University Medical Center. He is a graduate of SUNY Downstate Medical Center, has served as the director or the Nathan Kline Research Institute, a long time consultant of the U.S. Secret Service, and the recipient of numerous awards in the field of mental health including the New York State Office of Mental Health Award and the Irving Blumberg Human Rights Award.

Lorraine Cancro, MSW – A psychotherapist with a Masters from the New York University Silver School of Social Work. She is the executive director of the Global Stress Initiative, a senior consultant at The Barn Yard Group, and formerly the director of business development and military health editor at EP Magazine.

Jaine L. Darwin, Psy.D., ABPP A graduate of Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology is a psychologist-psychoanalyst specializing in trauma and PTSD, relationship issues and depression. Dr. Darwin has run a volunteer organization SOFAR that provided services to family members of military service members and veterans who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Kathalynn Davis, MSW – A psychotherapist with Masters from Columbia University, a certified Sedona Method Coach, Life Coach certified at New York University and Practitioner for International Institute for Spiritual Living.

Dr. Stephen V. Eliot, Ph.D.,  A Psychoanalyst with private practice in Westport CT.

Dr. Mark Erlich, M.D. – is a graduate of the of Profiles & Contours, a clinical assistant professor at New York Medical College and Downstate Medical Center College of Medicine, and a clinical instructor at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. He is also the president of the New York Facial Plastic Surgery Society.

Dr. Mitchell Flaum, Ph. D. – A clinical Psychologist with private practice in New York City.

Dr. Joseph Ganz, Ph.D.,  –  A psychotherapist and a graduate of the Stress Reduction Program from the University of Massachusetts Medical School.  He is also trained in couples and family psychotherapy and is the co-founder, co-director and faculty member of The Metropolitan Center for Object Relations-New Jersey.

Dr. Stephen Gullo, Ph.D.,  –  received his doctorate in psychology from Columbia University, and for more than a decade, he was a professor and researcher at Columbia University Medical Center. He is the former chair of the National Obesity and Weight Control Education Program of the American Institute for Life Threatening Illness at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center. His first book, Thin Tastes Better, was a national best seller as was his second book, The Thin Commandments.  He has been interviewed by Oprah Winfrey, Larry King, and Barbara Walters and has also made numerous appearances on Today, Good Morning America, and Hard Copy. Dr. Gullo is currently president of the Center for Health and Weight Sciences’ Center for Healthful Living in New York City.

Joan S. Kuehl, L.C.S.W. –  Is a social worker with private practice in New York City.

Dr. Judy Kuriansky, Ph.D., –  A graduate of New York University, an adjunct faculty member at the Teacher’s College Columbia University and at Columbia Medical School. She has
provided “psychological first aid” after bombings in Israel, SARS in China, the tsunami in Asia, and after 9/11 in the US. She is a representative to the United Nations for the International Association of Applied Psychology and the International Council of Psychologists.

Dr. Robert Rawdin, D.D.S. –  A graduate of the Northwestern University School of Dentistry and New York University. He is a diplomat of the American Board of Prosthodontics and currently serves as president-elect and program chair of the Northeastern Gnathological Society. He is also a clinical assistant professor at the New York University College of Dentistry.

Dr. Stephen Ross, M.D.  A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and the UCLA School of Medicine. He is the director of the division of alcoholism and drug abuse at Bellevue Hospital, director of the NYU Addiction Psychiatry Fellowship, and director of the Bellevue Opioid Overdose Prevention Program.

Dr. John Setaro, M.D. – A graduate of Boston University, and a resident and fellow at Yale-New Haven Hospital, as well as an associate professor of medicine at the Yale University School of Medicine.

Editor’s Note: While these notable physician give freely of their time, there still remains the task of supporting our troops with “more than lip service.” The needs of our brave warriors are great and SFTT looks to your contributions to help support our Investigative, Information and Intervention campaigns. As a 501(c)(3) educational foundation, we rely on the contributions of concerned Americans to help get the proper treatment to those who need it most. Contribute what you can.

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Support Major Ben Richards

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Major Ben Richards Fund

Major Ben RichardsAs many SFTT readers are aware, Major Ben Richards suffered debilitating injuries while serving in Iraq.  His poignant story was featured in a lengthy column in the New York Times by Nicholas Kristof in August.  Prompted by that story and the lack of support he has received from the VA, SFTT put Major Ben Richards in touch in Dr. Paul Harch who accepted Major Richards into the Harch Hyperbarics program, a cutting-edge alternative to deal with traumatic brain injuries and brain disorders.

As reported earlier by SFTT news release Major Ben Richards Is Not Forgotten, our “You Are Not Alone” campaign needs your support to help Major Richards and his family to recover from this serious injury.  Please contribute what you can.  Warriors like Ben Richards deserve our support and that of a thankful nation.



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Major Ben Richards is Not Alone

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Mr. Kristof details the sad – but all too-often heard tale – of the debilitating problems of headaches, fatigue, insomnia and fainting spells that threatened to destroy his life and that of his family caused by repeated concussions while serving in Iraq.   Unfortunately, Major Richards can’t get adequate treatment to deal with the injuries he has received serving our country. More disturbing is the fact that this growing problem is rarely addressed by either candidate running for President.   As Mr. Kristof writes  “Mental health still isn’t the priority it should be. Just about every soldier or veteran I’ve talked to finds that in practice the mental health system is clogged with demands, and soldiers and veterans are falling through the cracks. Returning soldiers aren’t adequately screened, diagnosis and treatment of traumatic brain injury are still haphazard, and there hasn’t been nearly enough effort to change the warrior culture so that getting help is smart rather than sissy.”

SFTT ‘You Are Not Alone’ Intervention for Major Ben Richards

“SFTT  is responsible for linking Major Ben Richards with Dr. Paul Harch of Harch Hyperbarics in Marrero, LA.  It all started on 10 August 2012 with the NYT article by Nicholas Kristof.  When we read that Ben had been told there was no treatment for his condition, we quickly reached out to both Ben and Dr. Paul Harch, based on our  knowledge of  Dr. Harch’s success treating Vets – and Ben entered Dr. Harch’s treatment program on 23 September 2012.  Dr. Paul Harch is providing the treatment pro-bono–he is a great American.

“SFTT’s ‘You Are Not Alone’ campaign is all about finding and resourcing alternative and more effective treatment programs for post traumatic stress and TBI.  This is an effort to collaborate with the VA, community-based programs, and alternative treatment programs like Harch Hyperbarics.

“While Ben is undergoing the two month treatment in Louisiana, his wife and four children remain in Iowa.  Ben was medically retired, so resources are tight for living expenses, rent, utilities, and airfare to bring the family back together for Thanksgiving.  The goal is to get Ben back on his feet with the hyperbaric treatment so that he can regain his life’s momentum.”

Major General John Batiste, US Army (Retired)

Editor’s Note:  More to follow from SFTT with donation protocols to support Major Ben Richards.  For those who want to help now, consider making a donation to  Stand for the Troops, a 501(c)(3) organization to support our troops.

Excerpts from Nicholas Kristof’s “War Wounds”

Found below are extended excerpts from Mr. Kristof’s article, War Wounds, and all are encouraged to read the entire article to get the full impact of how little we seem to care for our brave heroes who have served our country so valiantly and now need our help:

“While the challenges are acute for those on active duty, they often become even greater when troops take off their uniforms and become veterans seeking services from the hugely overburdened Veterans Affairs Department. Ben and Farrah have found it immensely difficult to get reliable information from the V.A. about what benefits they can count on. Richards says that in 11 phone calls, he has heard different stories every time.

“’The V.A. is an abomination,’ he said. ‘You see that hole in the wall?’ He pointed at what looked like a rat hole. ‘That’s when I threw the phone after someone at V.A. hung up on me.’

“None of this is a surprise. The V.A. says that veterans wait an average of eight months to get an initial decision on the claims they file. When service members seek to retire for medical reasons, the process takes an average of 396 days. Eric Shinseki, the secretary of veterans affairs, notes that the V.A. processes more claims each year than it did before, but that the number of new claims surges by an even greater amount. The upshot is that the V.A. steps up its game but still gets further behind.

“Shinseki notes some areas of progress — the number of homeless veterans seems to have fallen significantly — and he points to new systems and hiring intended to make the system function better. The number of V.A. mental health staff members has risen from 13,000 in 2005 to more than 20,000 today, he said.

“At a time when nearly half of veterans returning from battle file disability claims, it’s fair to wonder whether word hasn’t spread that service members can claim some vague mental health ailment, like post-traumatic stress disorder, and get a paycheck from the government. The V.A. approves roughly half of claims, but the difficulty of diagnosis of mental health ailments means that they may not always be the legitimate ones. We may be getting the worst of all worlds: fraudulent claims approved, while legitimate ones are unrecognized or unconscionably delayed.

“’The V.A. certainly doesn’t care,’ says Jim Strickland, who runs the V.A. Watchdog Web site. ‘The very institution that should be at the forefront of caring for vets is dead last.’ The Web site declares: ‘This country is capable of drafting you, putting you in boot camp, teaching you to kill someone, and then putting you in a war zone within six months. So why can’t they process a claim that fast?’

Editors Note:  Mr. Kristof’s article is a cry for help as countless brave veterans seek treatment for the “invisible” but no less destructive wounds of our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.  SFTT has assembled a distinguished panel of physicians to help evaluate alternative treatment modalities.  Your generous contributions help support SFTT’s investigative research and provide the funds to support brave heroes like Major Ben Richards.

 

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Opioids May Not Be Good for Treating PTSD. Really?

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If the devastating implications weren’t so gut-wrenching, many of us would be rolling in the aisles with laughter.   Unfortunately, Karen Seal of the San Francisco VA Medical Center has sadly concluded that “the use of opiate pain medications in those patients (veterans suffering from PTSD) is, frankly, risky.”  According the Austin Statesman, “a growing body of research shows that PTSD and powerful prescription drugs can be a deadly mix.

“Six months ago, a study of 141,000 veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts concluded that combining prescription opioids such as oxycodone and hydrocodone with PTSD was like pouring kerosene on a fire: Those with mental health diagnosis were nearly three times more likely to be prescribed opiates than veterans without PTSD. Worse, they were also much more likely to have poor outcomes, including overdoses.”

Almost anyone with half-a-wit could have reached the same conclusion several years ago.  In fact, SFTT has reported on many occasions that the prescription of opiates to those with PTDS symptoms has certainly exacerbated problems for veterans and may have turned these troubled warriors into junkies.  Why?   Institutional barricades have been erected to protect those complicit in providing improper treatment to tens of thousands veterans who certainly deserve better care.   Why should anybody be surprised that the government is now throwing another $100 million to help better diagnose PTSD.   Can we expect a better outcome?  If you think so, then you probably believe in the tooth fairly.

What about the 2006 study reported by the Austin Statesman quoting University of Washington pain researcher Mark Sullivan who wrote that the: “Use and abuse of opioids appears to be common in individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder.”   Wouldn’t it have been wiser to throw $100 million at alternative treatments for PTSD than for the VA and Defense Department to pretend they are  now doing something “right” because the pharmaceutical lobby was calling the shots all along.

I don’t mean to be cynical, but drugs are big business and the pharmaceutical companies that provide expensive, addictive and dangerous drugs have a vested interested in keeping the public and their Beltway puppets in the dark on the long term effects of these powerful drugs.  Who suffers?  The taxpayer and the brave young men and women who have sacrificed so much for this country.

If you want your voice to be heard, consider adding your voice to SFTT and help get our veterans the treatment they deserve.

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Henry Grayson: Alternative Approach to Treating PTSD

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In a revolutionary but very down-to-earth book entitled Use Your Mind to Heal Your Body, Dr. Henry Grayson, the founder of the National Institute for the Psychotherapies in New York City, provides a “recipe” for wellness that focuses on practical concepts and techniques for using one’s mind to relieve stress, tension and, even cure disease.

Daniel J. Benor, MD, author of Seven Minutes to Natural Pain Relief writes:

“In this book, Dr. Grayson presents a radical view of health and healing based on an equally radical world view that we are all intrinsically connected rather than separate and that our belief in our separateness is a causal source of emotional and physical illness. Positing the body as the recipient of our beliefs, he shows that reading and responding to the body is a reliable path to emotional and physical healing. This is a challenging read with practical help for all willing to explore beyond the borders of traditional beliefs.”

Dr. Grayson is co-chairman of SFTT’s Medical Task Force and has provided several day-long training programs to care-givers and clinical psychologists  dealing with veterans suffering from Post Traumatic Stress (“PTS”).  SFTT and others have reported at length that medication alone is not sufficient to deal with a problem that is approaching epidemic proportions.  OxyContin may have been the drug of choice for the VA, but it had serious consequences for veterans where the issues run far deeper that masking the symptoms with over medication.   In fact, Dr. Grayson points out the added complications of prescribing anti-depressants.

Dr. Grayson was a Protestant minister before receiving his Ph.D. in psychology from Boston University and post-doctoral certification in psychoanalysis from the Postgraduate Center for Mental Health. In working with troubled veterans, it has become abundantly clear that there is no “silver bullet” or single therapy to treat veterans suffering the effects of repetitive deployments on hostile battlefields. While Use Your Mind to Heal Your Body is applicable to help people of all walks of life cope with depression and serious ailments, it also provides a blueprint of how alternative treatments applied in a constructive manner can help address some of the problems faced by returning veterans.

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PTSD Charitable Fundraising Event in NYC on June 26th

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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

 

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Senate Unanimously Approves National PTSD Awareness Day

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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 .

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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.

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A former Marine comments on the V.A.’s Shameful Betrayal

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

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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.”

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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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