Carolyn May and Wiggles

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PTSD is an ugly, devitalizing, and enervating disorder. Sometimes you just want to hide and avoid people completely. It is difficult to do the things you once loved and PTSD symptoms have adverse and detrimental effects on relationships. When one considers what it means to be well, what it means to be mentally healthy, it is essential that we interact with others have compassion not only for other people, but for ourselves.

Compassion, companionship…. That’s what a service dog provides for their battle buddy. In 2018, I was blessed with the opportunity to receive a service dog from a non-profit organization Healing4Heroes. The process started with choosing a dog. I think Wiggles actually chose me. She is super loving and energetic. I thought to myself “This dog will force me to get out of bed,” even on days when I’m severely depressed and have zero motivation.

Wiggles presence has changed my life for the better. I have a reason to get out of bed, even on the days where the depression is consuming, and I don’t want to do anything. Even if the only thing she does is lay by me on those days where I don’t want to get up, her unconditional love is unfailing. In a world where it is hard to find compassion and unconditional love, my service dog is an exact reflection of those human needs.

I can walk into Walmart with her by my side without feeling panicked or overwhelmed by the excessive amounts of people. PTSD symptoms have caused me to be excessively situationally aware, to the point where I create danger in my mind that is not physically present. My service dog can post and make me aware of when someone is coming up behind me. She can put space between myself and another person so that I can maintain my personal boundary bubble. When I have mobility issues, wiggles gives me a brace to get back up on.

Wiggles senses my anxiety and puts her paw on me to put me in check and make me aware of my mood. She just looks at me and with her big brown eyes, tells me that I’m ok and I need to take a break. When I experience seizures from conversion disorder, she will place pressure on me and relieve some of the thrashing from the muscle spasms. I have an extreme aversion to touch, but that has not stopped Wiggles from giving me a hug every time I walk through the door (hug is actually now a command). In being affectionate with my service dog, I have slowly become more comfortable with human touch.

Having a service dog has made me a better person. I’ve gotten pieces of myself back that PTSD, depression, and anxiety stole from me. I am less withdrawn. I am more confident. I feel like me again.

Getting a rescue dog for a service dog actually rescued me.

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SFTT Salutes: Lance Corporal Charlton E. Johnson USMC, and his Canine Companion Aliana (Ali)

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STAND FOR THE TROOPS (SFTT) is honoring service dogs with our Service Dog Salute Photo Campaign that celebrates the unique relationship between Veterans and their canine companions. SFTT recognizes the significant role these support animals play and wants to show-and-tell this fact to the world.

Lance Corporal Charlton E Johnson Weapons Expert USMC, and his Canine Companion Aliana (Ali)

I am Lance Corporal Charlton E Johnson Weapons Expert USMC, Attached to a Weapons Plt in Golf Co 2nd Bn 5th Mar 1st Marine Div also; Spec 4, Weapons Specialist attached to the Scout Plt in Combat Support Company Naugatck CT.

I first met Didi Tolloch the Pets for Vets (PFV) Manager some 4 years ago and after our first interview became the 1st Veteran to adopt a dog through them in the state of Ct. I want you to know right now that Aliana Saved Me and it was not the other way around! She has become my reason for waking up every day, my reason for Living! I suffer from severe PTSD, Depression and other mental issues from my time in the Military.

 At mine and Aliana first meeting we Both Knew that we needed each other it was and still is A Perfect Match made from the Heavens! Didi and PFV have been there every step to make sure we were both taken care of, Didi is the reason why I can keep and maintain the expense of having Aliana!! Mary Jo Duffy (the trainer) should also be mentioned because she has helped with training and helping both of adjust to our new situation!

I would like everyone to know how grateful I am to these two ladies!! If I would win this, it would mean the world to Aliana and I as I am on Disability at the present time. So, thank you for taking your time to read this letter, as you can see I’m not too good with words and it’s not easy to express myself in the right light!! I’m attaching a picture of Aliana and I at ROAR’s 1st Furry Scurry Event in 2016.

“Semper Fi”

Charlton & Aliana Jane

You, too, can share your unique story and photo of you and your service dog, along with a short description (500 words or less) about WHY this canine relationship has made a difference in your life. We’ll post it right here in our Service Dog Gallery. Submissions will be eligible for a SFTT Lucky Dog Award where two teams will receive a year supply of dog food.

 

TO SUBMIT YOUR STORY

  • Submit your story (no more than 500 words, please) and high-resolution digital photo to info@SFTT.org.
  • Include name, address, email and phone number with your submission.
  • For additional info, please contact Maura Kallaway 203-629-0288.
  • The first of the two awards will be announced 9/6 and 9/30, respectively.

 

By submitting your story (500 words or less) and a photo of your battle buddy, you agree that both items can be posted in their entirety along with any images on SFTT social media streams and www.SFTT.org.

 

 

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The Endocannabinoid System & PTSD:  Could Hemp Oil Be The Missing Link?

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Written by Fatima Cook and Gregg Cook

Let us begin with the basics.

What Is The Endocannabinoid System?

First documented in the 1990s, this system is a relatively new discovery and is an internal (endo-) receptor for cannabidiol, serving as a modulator and communicator between all the other systems in the body.  These receptors are found in the brain and gut as well as the immune, cardiovascular, nervous and endocrine systems, and even in the nuclear membrane of cells. When this enormously important endocannabinoid system is properly primed with sufficient cannabinoids – which in optimal health, the body is able to self-produce – the body maintains homeostasis, or balance, and functions the way it is naturally designed to do. In this way, the body can heal itself. We now know that, aside from the endogenous cannabinoids the body produces, they can also be found in small concentrations in such foods as cacao, echinacea, and fish oil, and is even present in mother’s breast milk.  In its most concentrated form, cannabinoids are found in cannabidiol, or hemp oil, also commonly referred to as CBD.

Hemp oil is extracted from the cannabis sativa plant (or the marijuana plant) and is one of the plant’s two main active compounds – the other being delta-9-terahydrocannabinol, or THC, the one producing psychoactive effects – the well-known “high.”  It has shown powerful results as a treatment for a variety of formerly untreatable conditions, ranging from auto-immune and neuro-degenerative diseases, epileptic seizures, chronic pain, anxiety, insomnia and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), often experienced by Veterans.

How Can Hemp Oil Treat PTSD?       

Hemp oil mitigates two defining characteristics of PTSD: the terror PTSD sufferers experience reliving past trauma and the anxiety that this terror can cause. The immense, unrelenting stress and fear which lead to the disorder cause significant dampening of the endocannabinoid system and the brain’s ability to regulate memories.  Hemp oil fills the gaps, priming the system to self-regulate and expedite the elimination of a conditioned fear. Hemp oil or CBD works synergistically with the body to quell anxiety, therefore allowing for a more restful night’s sleep without the disruption of flashback memories. The added benefit of hemp oil is that it works its magic without the psychoactive component of the hemp plant.

Not All Hemp Oils Are Created Equal

While there are many hemp products in the marketplace today, it is important to know which ones will provide relief and not empty the bank account. The first thing to know is that some CBD products are plant-based while others are lab-created.  Look for plant-based — nature usually does things better than chemicals. Specifically, search for a hemp oil that is derived from the whole plant, including stalks and stems, and pristinely grown without the use of pesticides.

Second, make sure the hemp oil is meticulously extracted so that the amount of remaining THC is undetectable.

Last, but of equal importance, is the bio-availability of the oil.  What we mean by this, is that most dietary supplements need to travel through the digestive tract in order to be processed and for its positive effects to take hold.  In the case of hemp oil, most of the beneficial compounds (upwards of 90%) are destroyed through the digestive process, turning it into a relatively useless, very expensive supplement.  An efficient and bioavailable hemp oil should have two distinct features:

  1. It should be delivered to the body through high-grade liposomes.  A liposome is a microscopic sphere made of phospholipids, the basic building blocks of cell membranes.
  2. Its particle size should be miniscule, ideally, nano-sized (1/100th the width of a single human hair).

When these two features are combined, the absorption of the oil into the body rapidly begins in the mouth.  Consumed regularly, a state of calm focus and restorative well-being can be easily attained.

Looking for more research?  There are thousands upon thousands of studies out there.  Have a look at pubmed.gov and projectcbd.org.

Please contact us at Deep Health Evolution with any questions or concerns about how hemp oil might help reduce the debilitating effects the “invisible wounds” of PTSD and traumatic brain injury (TBI) have on Veterans.

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Treatment of Ten Campaign Extension Until Memorial Day, May 28, 2018

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Guess what?

Because of you, the Treatment of Ten fundraising campaign is becoming a success.

We’ve raised almost enough funds to send one Combat Veteran to our medical facility in Idaho so that he can receive the treatments and therapies that he needs. Now, we need to send the other nine!

To do that, we’ve extended the campaign until Memorial Day because we’re determined to follow Hack’s “orders” to take care of his men and women who are forever on the tip of the sword, whether it be physically when in combat or mentally when at home. These ten Broncos whom we’re committed to help heal are struggling with Traumatic Brain Injury and /or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder here at home, constantly reliving their tours in Iraq!

I’ve been reading some statistics, old and new that have re-broken my heart:

• About 7 or 8 out of every 100 people (or 7-8% of the population) will have PTSD at some point in their lives. About 8 million adults have PTSD during a given year. This is only a small portion of those who have gone through a trauma. About 10 of every 100 women (or 10%) develop PTSD sometime in their lives compared with about 4 of every 100 men (or 4%). Learn more about women, trauma and PTSD. (https://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/ptsd-overview/basics/how-common-is-ptsd.asp)

• Two-thirds of homeless Iraq and Afghanistan veterans in one major sample had post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) — a much higher rate than in earlier cohorts of homeless veterans, who have PTSD rates between 8 percent and 13 percent, according to a study in press in the journal Administration and Policy in Mental Health and Mental Health Services Research. (http://www.apa.org/monitor/2013/03/ptsd-vets.aspx)

• For many service members, being away from home for long periods of time can cause problems at home or work. These problems can add to the stress. This may be even more so for National Guard and Reserve troops who had not expected to be away for so long. Almost half of those who have served in the current wars have been Guard and Reservists. (https://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/ptsd-overview/reintegration/overview-mental-health-effects.asp)

• Another cause of stress in Iraq and Afghanistan is military sexual trauma (MST). This is sexual assault or repeated, threatening sexual harassment that occurs in the military. It can happen to men and women. MST can occur during peacetime, training, or war. (https://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/ptsd-overview/reintegration/overview-mental-health-effects.asp)

• One early study looked at the mental health of service members in Afghanistan and Iraq. The study asked Soldiers and Marines about war-zone experiences and about their symptoms of distress. Soldiers and Marines in Iraq reported more combat stressors than Soldiers in Afghanistan. This table describes the kinds of stressors faced in each combat theater in 2003:

• Soldiers and Marines who had more combat stressors had more mental health problems. Those who served in Iraq had higher rates of PTSD than those who served in Afghanistan. (https://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/ptsd-overview/reintegration/overview-mental-health-effects.asp)

• Thousands of men and women continue to risk their lives in the United States military to protect the freedom of citizens like me. Their psychological and physical well-being of every human being is important. It is particularly important to care for those who get injured while protecting all of us. Why not reach out and help us today to at least take care of our first cohort of 5 who served and sacrificed.
(https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/curious/201409/11-reasons-combat-veterans-ptsd-are-being-harmed)

Let’s keep the needle moving. Please give today to help send the Broncos to Idaho.

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PTSD: Current Status, Key Challenges and Promising Treatments

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Yuval NeriaPost-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) frequently occurs after the experience of traumatic events such as wars, disasters, acute medical events, and domestic violence. It is known as the signature disorder of combat and disaster.  Lifetime prevalence PTSD is substantial, estimated as approximately 8% in the United States, with a prevalence of about 4% in any given year  Among U.S. military personnel, frequently exposed to traumatic events, PTSD rates are even higher ranging from 19% to 22%. Military personnel are at higher risk for experiencing traumatic events, including exposure to combat, injury, loss, captivity, and sexual abuse. Consequently, PTSD is a common syndrome among veterans, and is frequently associated with functional impairment. Veterans with PTSD often suffer from a wide range of additional psychiatric symptoms including depression and substance and alcohol abuse.

PTSD symptoms are often persistent and disabling unless there is a timely targeted intervention. Symptoms of PTSD are wide-ranging and can affect trauma-exposed people in a number of debilitating ways. They include re-experiencing of the traumatic event (including intrusive thoughts, nightmares and flashbacks), avoidance of thoughts of the traumatic event and people, places, or other stimuli that evokes the trauma, changes in cognitions such regarding the world and yourself, hypervigilance, hyperarousal (including irritability, concentration difficulties, and disrupted sleep), and increases in troubling thoughts and negative feelings. PTSD is commonly associated with functional impairment, substance abuse, suicidal ideation, and increased utilization of medical care.

While a number of psychotherapies and pharmacotherapies for PTSD have been developed, research has consistently shown that more than one-third of PTSD patients never fully remit, even if treated. Meta-analysis of psychotherapy for PTSD has found short-term improvements compared to baseline only in about 50% to 60% of patients, with the majority continuing to have substantial residual symptoms. The efficacy of medication in PTSD is also unclear, with a critical lack of advancement in the psychopharmacologic treatment of the disorder. Only 20–30% of PTSD patients experience a complete remission following pharmacotherapy. Importantly, research has shown that among military personnel with PTSD, treatment reach is low to moderate, with a high percentage of service members not accessing care or not receiving adequate treatment.

Researchers in the field have raised a call to action to validate novel interventions that will improve treatment engagement and retention among veterans and family members. Here I would like to highlight three promising treatments that may address some of the above problems.

Attention-Bias Modification Treatment for PTSD:  Emerging research has demonstrated a relationship between biased attention to threat and PTSD.  Attention-bias relates to how people focus their attention; research shows that people with high levels of anxiety tend to focus on negative information in their environment. This knowledge has motivated the development of a novel therapy, attention-bias modification treatment (ABMT), currently provided at Columbia Psychiatry thanks to the generous support of SFTT. ABMT is designed to modify patients’ threat bias, i.e., change their attentional habits, with the use of a computer program. Participants with PTSD and attention bias towards or away from threat (documented by the dot probe task) undergo a 4-week (8-sessions) course of ABMT or an inactive Attention Control Program. Findings from this study are about to be published in the near future.

Interpersonal Psychotherapy for PTSD: Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT) is a time-limited, evidence-based treatment, has previously shown efficacy in treating major depressive disorder and other psychiatric conditions. Rather than focusing on the trauma, as in exposure based treatments, IPT focuses on the patient’s current life events and social and interpersonal functioning for understanding and treating symptoms. This treatment currently provided at Columbia Veterans Center, is a novel use of IPT as treatment for PTSD. Evidence from studies conducted at Columbia Psychiatry suggests IPT may relieve PTSD symptoms without focusing on exposure to trauma reminders. Hence, IPT offers an alternative for patients who avoid or do not respond to exposure-based approaches. Interpersonal Psychotherapy focuses on two problem areas that specifically affect patients with PTSD: interpersonal difficulties and affect dysregulation. The treatment help the patient identify and address problematic affects and interpersonal functioning, and to monitor treatment response.

Equine Assisted Treatment for PTSD. Equine-Assisted Therapy for PTSD (EAT-TSD) is a unique, group treatment that might reduce symptoms of PTSD, particularly individuals who encounter difficulty in more traditional treatments. In EAT-PTSD, a mental health professional and an equine specialist work together to guide participants with PTSD through a series of structured activities with a horse. Presently this treatment is studied at Columbia Psychiatry as part of the Man O War Project . It is an eight-week study aimed to examine how well EAT-PTSD works for veterans with PTSD. Treatment groups consist of 4-6 veterans at a time. 90-minute EAT sessions take place at the Bergen Equestrian Center in Leonia, New Jersey. Columbia Psychiatry provides transportation to treatment sessions. Treatment does not include riding horses. Through various interactive exercises with the horses, the veterans learn how their actions, intentions, expectations, and tone have an impact on their relationship with the horses (and ultimately with the people in their lives). Over the course of treatment, the equine specialist and the mental health professional assist veterans in drawing connections between what the horses may be doing, thinking, or feeling, and their own PTSD symptoms, increasing emotional awareness and ability to regulate emotions and behaviors, and learning to more effectively interact with the horses, and by extension other people as well.

Contributed by Dr. Yuval Neria
Stand For The Troops Special Medical Advisor
Professor of Medical Psychology, Departments of Psychiatry and Epidemiology
Research Scientist, The New York State Psychiatric Institute
Director of Trauma and PTSD Program, The New York State Psychiatric Institute
Director of Columbia-NYP Military Family Wellness Center
College of Physicians and Surgeons
Columbia University Medical Center

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The VA and Shulkin: “It Shouldn’t Be This Hard to Serve Your Country”

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Dr. David Shulkin has been pushed aside (read fired) as the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs (“the VA”).  Without taking sides in what appears to be yet another partisan issue, Dr. Shulkin did a reasonably good job in bailing water in a sinking ship:  the VA.

David Shulkin

As such, it was with regret that we read Dr. David Shulkin’s self-serving departure editorial in the New York Times “it should not be this hard to serve your country.”   Indeed, many Veterans poorly served by the VA have felt the same.  But these Veterans, with a legitimate claim were rarely afforded space in the editorial section of the New York Times to discuss their grievances.

The title of the New York’s editorial says it all:  “David J. Shulkin:  Privatizing the V.A. Will Hurt Veterans“.   I am not sure that Dr. Shulkin would have titled his departure editorial this way, but clearly, the New York Times, David Shulkin and J. David Fox, the President of the American Federation of Government Employees, agree that privatizing the VA will harm Veterans.

SFTT is unaware of any compelling evidence that providing “privatized” care to Veterans would jeopardize the mission of the VA or add to the difficulties of Veterans.  Indeed, J. David Fox, seems more concerned about the rights of unionized VA employees than he does about Veterans.

While it is easier to frame the discussion as a debate about the merits of public or private healthcare,  SFTT has long argued that the VA is simply Too Big to Succeed.  It never has been a question of “ownership” or “control,”  it is simply a case of an institution that has become too large to manage effectively.  With over 18 million Veterans, it is unlikely that an overwhelming majority would agree that the VA is provides services that are “second to none.”

In fact, Dr. Shulkin claims that “the percent of veterans who have regained trust in V.A. services has risen to 70 percent, from 46 percent four years ago.  This is not exactly a ringing endorsement on how well the VA is fulfilling its mission.

There are many areas of the VA that fulfill President Abraham Lincoln’s promise:  “To care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan” by serving and honoring the men and women who are America’s Veterans.

But there are other areas in which the VA fell well short of fulfilling President Lincoln’s promise.

Specifically, SFTT has for years called into question the way the VA has treated Veterans with PTSD and TBI:  “the silent wounds of war.”  There is compelling evidence that the VA, through its administrators, has consistently lied to Veterans, their caregivers, Congress and the public on the effectiveness of treating Veterans with brain injury.

More to the point, the VA medical staff has been grossly negligent in providing Veterans with opioids to treat the symptoms of PTSD and TBI rather than offer any real treatment.  Was the VA complicit in fueling the opioid epidemic?

Political posturing on the benefits of public or private ownership doesn’t really help the hundreds of thousands of Veterans suffering from brain injury and their largely forgotten caregivers.

Changing of the guard will do little to fix the VA.  Only a true bipartisan effort to address the problems of the VA will help restore confidence in an institution with far greater promise than the actual results it delivers.

Thank you for your service Dr. Shulkin.

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Happy 2018!

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Is it too late to wish you all a happy new year? We think not!

Here at SFTT we’ve been busy wrapping up our 2017 initiatives and planning for an even better 2018 with new programs and partners to help Veterans suffering from Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Post Traumatic Stress (PTSD).

During the past year, Stand for the Troops, the Little Organization That Could and Has, hit a major milestone — we turned 20! Twenty, old enough to be a combat soldier which, in many ways we are. SFTT is at war helping American Veterans combat invisible war wounds.

In 2017, we fought for — and aided — our Veterans who suffer from TBI and PTSD by:

  • Securing educational grants 2017 for west coast Veterans wanting to pursue a career in sustainable agriculture and presently, a 2018 grant to continue this program is being reviewed. We’re also working to expand this program to make it available to Veterans on the east coast.
  • Helping fund Attention-Bias Modification Treatment for PTSD research at Columbia University and the New York State Psychiatric Institute by supporting the Principal Investigator, Dr. Yuval Neria. Dr. Neria’s other related projects establish innovative trauma care for Veterans and their family members, such as Man of War Project & Military Family Wellness Center.
  • Working in concert with the Knights of Columbus on The Frank Robotti Golf Classic where we raised awareness and funds for service dogs. We’ll be awarding money to a local service dog program soon.

In 2018 we plan to continue this good work while introducing a program that focuses on our co-founder, Col. David “Hack” Hackworth’s commitment to safeguarding frontline soldiers with more than lip service. Our new treatment plan, unveiled in the next few weeks, integrates proven medical and wellness therapies to effectively treat combat-related traumatic brain injury.

We’d love to hear from you so please drop us a line at info@sftt.org!

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Points of View: Al Jazeera on Treating Veterans with PTSD

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There was a time when many considered Al Jazeera to be a voice of Middle Eastern terrorists.   Whether it was or not is a matter of conjecture, but most would now agree that Al Jazeera has morphed into a credible news organization.

In an era of conflicting points of view, “alternative facts,” political agendas and outright lies; it is difficult to find common ground or agreement on any issue.  As such, it is surprising that Reem Shaddad of Al Jazeera has written such an insightful article on the plight of US Veterans entitled:  “The Battle Within:  Treating PTSD in Military Veterans.”

Department of Veterans Affairs

While one could nitpick some of her conclusions, it is difficult to refute the argument that within the Department of Veterans Affairs (“the VA”) “the McDonaldisation of mental healthcare is a problem.”

” . . . if you go to any VA in the country, you’re going to probably get cognitive processing therapy or cognitive behavioural treatment (actually, prolonged exposure) because those are the evidence-based practices that they use. It’s like if you go to any McDonald’s, a cheeseburger is going to be the same.”

Yep, the VA only serves two flavors of milkshakes (chocolate and vanilla) to treat Veterans with PTSD:

  • Cognitive Processing Therapy, and
  • Prolonged Exposure Treatment.

More to the point, if the VA’s two PTSD therapy programs don’t work, its doctors are likely to prescribe a cocktail of potent drugs to keep the Veteran’s symptoms in check.   This is hardly the outcome our brave warriors and their families should expect.

For an organization that prides itself on providing “evidence-based” medical treatment to Veterans, the GAO and the Rand Corporation have found that these programs resulted in negligible benefits for Veterans with PTSD.   In effect, “evidence-based” medicine seems to apply to every “alternative” therapy program other than the failed programs mandated by the VA.

As distinguished members of medical profession talk about “evidence-based” medical programs to treat PTSD, one can only wonder how warriors with the symptoms of PTSD in the distant past coped without the benefit of clinical trials.

Mind you, acupuncture seems to be have successful for some 2,000 years without the benefit of clinical trials.    The benefits of oxygen therapy programs have been around for centuries and there have been many documented therapy programs listed since as early as the 1930s.    Nevertheless, the folks at the VA – headed-up by chief spokesperson, Dr. David Cifu – still dispute the benefits of hyperbaric oxygen therapy in treating Veterans with PTSD.

Despite efforts by Reem Shaddad and many others to expose the hypocrisy within the VA,  Veterans with PTSD and TBI will need to seek help outside the VA.

SFTT is not convinced that there is a “silver bullet” to cure PTSD and TBI, but it is abundantly clear that the two PTSD therapy programs mandated by the VA are not effective.  For this reason, SFTT endorses a far wider use of alternative therapy programs to provide Veterans with a “real” choice over the VA’s failed programs.

Sure, there will be some “snake-oil” peddlers and charlatans that seek to take advantage of Veterans, but it is unlikely to be nearly as severe as the opioid epidemic perpetrated by the “evidence-based” healthcare system.

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SFTT Military News: Week Ending Nov 3, 2017

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Found below are a few military news items that caught my attention this past week. I am hopeful that the titles and short commentary will encourage SFTT readers to click on the embedded links to read more on subjects that may be of interest to them.

If you have subjects of topical interest, please do not hesitate to reach out. Contact SFTT at info@sftt.org.

North Korean Defector Warns of “Massive” Military Counterstrike
North Korean military officers have been trained to trigger a devastating counterstrike if their country is attacked by the United States, according to a high-profile defector. Former North Korean diplomat Thae Yong Ho’s comments to U.S. lawmakers suggest that military action on the Korean peninsula — a course of action repeatedly raised by President Donald Trump — would almost certainly result in a catastrophic number of civilian casualties. “North Korean officers are trained to press the button without any further instructions from the general command if something happens on their side,” Thae said Wednesday. “So if there is any sound of fire or bombs or strikes from Americans, the [North Korean] artillery and short-range missiles will fire against South Korea.”  Read more . . .

Kim North Korea

First U.S. Airstrikes Reported Against ISIS in Somalia
The U.S. military for the first time has conducted two airstrikes against Islamic State group fighters in Somalia, where the group is a growing presence in a country long threatened by the al-Qaeda-linked extremist group al-Shabab. The U.S. Africa Command said the two drone strikes killed “several terrorists” in northeastern Somalia, with the first around midnight local time and the second later Friday morning. The U.S. said the strikes were carried out in coordination with Somalia’s government.   Read more . . .

Syria Claims that Last ISIS Outpost in Syria Falls
The Syrian government declared victory over Islamic State in the eastern city of Deir al-Zor on Friday, a big blow to the jihadists as their last stronghold in Syria crumbles. Deir al-Zor, on the west bank of the Euphrates River, is the largest and most important city in eastern Syria, and is the center of the country’s oil production. “The armed forces, in cooperation with allied forces, liberated the city of Deir al-Zor completely from the clutches of the Daesh terrorist organization,” the military source said, using an Arabic acronym for Islamic State.  Read more . . .

VA Plea for New Drugs to Treat PTSD
Reported cases of post-traumatic stress disorder are increasing, and trends indicate that growth will continue as more military men and women return from overseas service. But treatment help doesn’t appear to be coming quickly. So far in 2017, six dermatology drugs have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration, but no drug has been approved for treatment of PTSD since 2001. At this point, two drugs — Paxil and Zoloft — have been given FDA approval for PTSD. The Department of Veterans Affairs created a PTSD Psychopharmacology Working Group, which has issued an urgent plea for the development and approval of new drugs for PTSD as part of a national mental health priority.  Read more . . .

Ecstasy in the Loop to Treat PTSD?
In July, the Food and Drug Administration took the important step of approving two final-phase clinical trials to determine whether a party drug that has long been on the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Schedule I list of banned substances could be used to treat a psychiatric condition that afflicts millions. The drug is MDMA, a psychedelic commonly known as Ecstasy, previously deemed to have “no currently accepted medical use.” The trials aim to determine whether the drug is, as earlier trials have suggested, a safe and effective treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, when combined with psychotherapy.  Read more . . .

Eye Movement Desensitization Reduces PTSD
In a meta-analysis of clinical trials published in PLoS One, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing was shown to reduce the symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), with a longer duration of treatment correlating with better outcomes. The study authors evaluated 26 randomized controlled trials that evaluated the use of eye movement desensitization and reprocessing in patients with PTSD. Outcomes included the effects of treatment on PTSD symptoms, depression, anxiety, and subjective distress.  Read more . . .

Drop me an email at info@sftt.org if you believe that there are other subjects that are newsworthy.

Feel you should do more to help our brave men and women who wear the uniform or our Veterans? Consider donating to Stand For The Troops.

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SFTT Military News: Week Ending Oct 20, 2017

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Found below are a few military news items that caught my attention this past week. I am hopeful that the titles and short commentary will encourage SFTT readers to click on the embedded links to read more on subjects that may be of interest to them.

If you have subjects of topical interest, please do not hesitate to reach out. Contact SFTT at info@sftt.org.

Why You May Not Know Anyone in the Military
Active-duty military now make up just 0.4 percent of the U.S. population, down from 1.8 percent in 1968 and 8.7 percent in 1945. Military personnel also tend to come from certain parts of the country more than others. Here, from the Defense Department’s most recent annual report on population representation in the military services, are the states with the most military recruits in fiscal year 2015 as a percentage of the population aged 18 through 24.   Read more . . .

The US Military Presence in Africa
. . . the Niger operation typifies U.S. military missions underway in roughly 20 African countries, mostly in the northern third of the continent. They tend to be small, they are carried out largely below the radar, and most are focused on a specific aim: rolling back Islamist extremism. In almost all of the missions, the Americans are there to advise, assist and train African militaries — and not to take part in combat. Still, those supporting roles can often take U.S. forces into the field with their African partners, as was the case in Niger.  Read more . . .

Al-Omar Oilfield in Syria Captured from ISIS
U.S-allied fighters said they captured Syria’s largest oil field from the Islamic State group on Sunday, marking a major advance against the extremists and seizing an area coveted by pro-government forces. With IS in retreat across Syria and neighboring Iraq, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces and the Syrian government have been in a race to secure parts of the oil-rich Deir el-Zour province along the border. The SDF, with air support from the U.S.-led coalition, said Sunday it captured the Al-Omar field in a “swift and wide military operation.” It said some militants have taken cover in oil company houses nearby, where clashes are underway.  Read more . . .

David Shulkin

Will Dr. David Shulkin Resign as the Head of the VA?
A long-awaited overhaul of veterans’ health care is being unveiled to the world. At the helm throughout the two years of developing this roadmap has been David J. Shulkin. As the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is finally on the cusp of rolling out its master plan to ensure every veteran has access to timely, quality care, the VA secretary reportedly is interviewing for another job. As the Wall Street Journal revealed Friday, the White House brought Shulkin in last week to discuss having him take over the Department of Health and Human Services, a post left vacant by the abrupt resignation of Tom Price. (VA did not confirm or deny the Journal’s reporting.)  Read more . . .

Are Changes in the Wind for the VA’s CARE Program?
The VA announced that it has submitted the Veterans Coordinated Access & Rewarding Experiences (CARE) Act to both the House and Senate Veterans Affairs committees. The bill would eliminate the current wait time and distance requirements under the Choice program, which limits participation to veterans who face a 30-day wait for an appointment at a VA hospital or who live 40 miles or more from a VA facility.  Instead, veterans would be able to seek care outside of the VA if they face a wait that is longer than a “clinically acceptable period.”  The changes would create options for veterans to use walk-in clinics for non-emergency needs and would place veterans and their physicians “at the center” of decisions on where to receive care, according to the VA.   Read more . . .

Virtual Therapists for Evaluating PTSD?
WHEN US TROOPS return home from a tour of duty, each person finds their own way to resume their daily lives. But they also, every one, complete a written survey called the Post-Deployment Health Assessment. It’s designed to evaluate service members’ psychiatric health and ferret out symptoms of conditions like depression and post-traumatic stress, so common among veterans. But the survey, designed to give the military insight into the mental health of its personnel, can wind up distorting it. Thing is, the PDHA isn’t anonymous, and the results go on service members’ records—which can deter them from opening up. Anonymous, paper-based surveys could help, but you can’t establish a good rapport with a series of yes/no exam questions. Veterans need somebody who can help. Somebody who can carry their secrets confidentially, and without judgement. Somebody they can trust.  Read more . . .

Drop me an email at info@sftt.org if you believe that there are other subjects that are newsworthy.

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