SFTT News: Week Ending July 15, 2016

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

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

New Brain Study May Explain Some Veteran’s Agony
A new brain study may help explain the agonizing and puzzling symptoms suffered by so many combat veterans, from headaches to fuzzy thinking, military researchers reported Friday.  They found a unique pattern of scarring in the brains of men who died days or years after being in or near powerful explosions. The scarring doesn’t look like damage sustained by people with other types of brain injury, such as sports or car accidents, the team at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USU) in Maryland said.  Read more . . .

US Offering Russia Military Pact in Syria
The United States is offering Russia a new military pact against the Islamic State and al-Qaida in Syria, according to a leaked U.S. proposal that, if finalized, could dramatically alter America’s role in the Arab country’s five-year civil war.  The document, published by The Washington Post, calls for joint bombing operations, a command-and-control headquarters and other synchronized efforts. U.S. and Russian officials with expertise in intelligence, targeting and air operations will “work together to defeat” the extremist groups, the eight-page paper states.  Read more . . .

military dog

U.S. Military Dogs to Be Brought Home
President Barack Obama signed a bill into law last month that guarantees the safe return of all retired military dogs to the United States after serving abroad. In the past, some of these animals were left to retire overseas because they were no longer considered service dogs, and were therefore ineligible for military-funded transportation home, The Washington Times reported.   Read more . . .

Is Spider Silk the New Military Body Armor?
Kevlar has been the Army’s go-to body armor for decades, but a new technology might be challenging that paradigm. Kraig Biocraft, a bioengineering company based in Michigan, has genetically altered silkworms to produce spider silk. Today, they announced an Army contract to develop this silk, called Dragon Silk, for use in body armor.  Spider silk is one of the strongest natural fibers, but it’s difficult to produce in large amounts. Spiders are territorial and cannibalistic, so it’s nearly impossible to create a cost-effective spider farm. To combat this problem, Kraig Biocraft inserted the genes for making spider silk into silkworms. The result was a composite silk that was as strong as normal spider silk yet much easier to produce.    Read more . . .

Army is Upgrading Standard Rifle
A new U.S. Army video shows how today’s standard infantry weapon, the M4 carbine, is being updated to perform better on the battlefield. The Army is gradually converting its entire inventory of M4s to the improved M4A1 standard. Where the original M4 was capable of semi-automatic and three-round burst fire, the M4A1 trades burst fire for fully automatic. The carbine is fitted with a heavier barrel that can better withstand prolonged, full automatic firing.   Read more . . .

Damage to Pituitary Gland May Cause PTSD
When Charles Wilkinson thinks about soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) his mind jumps to a pea-size structure tucked behind the bridge of the nose and ensconced below the base of the brain. There the pituitary gland serves as the master regulator of the human endocrine system, producing vital hormones that influence growth and development—except when something goes awry.  Read more . . .

Pituitary gland

Vietnam Veteran Share Journey Coping with PTSD
Chris Lambert, who served in Vietnam, said the realities of war affected him for decades. He received three Purple Heart medals. “Almost everyone in a fire fight, sooner or later, urinates on themselves. But you never see something like that in a movie,” Lambert told ABC10 News. “So here you are in a firefight and the next thing you know, you’re wet. And the next day you don’t talk about it. Now you think you’re a coward. There’s a lot of trauma created because we haven’t been able to express ourselves.”  Read more . . .

 

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

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SFTT News: Week Ending July 8, 2016

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

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

President Obama Says 8400 Troops to Remain in Afghanistan
President Barack Obama gave up Wednesday on ending the war in Afghanistan during his term in office and said that at least 8.400 U.S. troops will still be on the ground for the next occupant of the White House to command.  With the Taliban resurgent under a new leader, and the Afghan army struggling to make headway, Obama bowed to the recommendations of his generals to shore up the Kabul government with a continuing U.S. and NATO presence along with billions in additional funding.  Read more . . .

President Barack Obama

 Veteran Daily Suicide Rate Now at 20
On average, 20 veterans a day committed suicide in 2014, a slight decrease from the previous government estimate, but federal health officials are cautious about concluding the suicide problem is getting better.  Rather, they say the Department of Veterans Affairs is relying on a more comprehensive database than ever before, making comparisons to prior studies difficult and possibly offering a truer snapshot than what was captured in the past.  Read more . . .

VA Secretary Corrects Statement on VA Wait Times
Veteran Affairs Secretary Bob McDonald on Tuesday took an “opportunity to correct” a comparison he made of the long wait for medical care at his agency’s facilities to lines at Disneyland. “If I was misunderstood, if I said the wrong thing, I’m glad that I have the opportunity to correct it,” he told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell. “I’m only focused on one thing, and that’s better caring for veterans. That’s my job, that’s why I’m here.”  Read more . . .

Nato Repercussions from Brexit
The dominant vibe in Warsaw is all about unity. The results are mostly pre-cooked. And there should be few surprises. With little dissent to speak of, in the next couple days NATO is expected to beef up its forces in its vulnerable frontline states in the east; forge closer ties with traditionally neutral Finland and Sweden; and upgrade the importance of cyber defense.  Read more . . .

Anemia Negatively Affects TBI Recovery
Approximately half of patients hospitalized with traumatic brain injuries are anemic, according to recent studies, but anemia’s effects on the recovery of these patients is not clear. Now, researchers from the University of Missouri School of Medicine have found evidence that anemia can negatively influence the outcomes of patients with traumatic brain injuries.  Read more . . .

Genetic Factors for Treating PTSD?
Individuals with trauma- and stress-related disorders can manifest symptoms of these conditions in a variety of ways. Genetic risk factors for these and other psychiatric disorders have been established but do not explain the diversity of symptoms seen in the clinic — why are some individuals affected more severely than others and why do some respond better than others to the same treatment?

DNA Research

“People often experience stress and anxiety symptoms, yet they don’t usually manifest to the degree that results in a clinical diagnosis,” says Allison T. Knoll, PhD, post-doctoral fellow at The Saban Research Institute of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. “We felt that if we could understand differences in the severity of symptoms in a typical population, it might provide clues about clinical heterogeneity in patients.”   Read more . . .

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

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SFTT News: Week of June 17, 2016

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

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

Protests to U.S. Military Presence in Okinawa
Tens of thousands of people on Okinawa protested Sunday against the presence of U.S. military bases on the Japanese island, many wearing black to mourn the rape and killing of a local woman in which an American contractor is a suspect.  Read more . . .

VA from SFTT

VA Gets Third Benefits Chief in Less than a Year
The acting head of the Veterans Benefits Administration is retiring, leaving the position he has held since his predecessor left under a cloud in 2015. Danny Pummill, a retired Army colonel who joined the Department of Veterans Affairs in 2010, had planned to retire in 2015 but stayed on as acting undersecretary of benefits after his predecessor resigned last October, VA said in a statement. Allison Hickey called it quits after a long period of criticism from lawmakers and veterans organizations, most recently for allowing VA senior executives to move into jobs that they reportedly coerced others leave.  Read more . . .

Iraqi Forces Reportedly Retake Fallujah
Iraqi special forces swept into Fallujah on Friday, recapturing most of the city as the Islamic State group’s grip crumbled after weeks of fighting. Thousands of trapped residents took advantage of the militants’ retreat to flee, some swimming across the Euphrates River to safety.   Read more . . .

Shrinking US Military is Here
Every year at this time, we see the same kind of headlines: “U.S. biggest military spender in the world.” They’re are all based on the release of the global military spending database, an annual report compiled by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).  What the headlines usually miss is that U.S. defense spending is going down while global military spending is going up. The fact that the U.S. spends more on defense than any other individual nation dramatically misses the point.  Read more . . .

Syrian President Assad Discusses Military Support with Russia
Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu has met Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus to discuss “military cooperation” in Syria’s conflict, a bone of contention between Moscow and Washington.  Shoigu was sent by President Vladimir Putin for the unannounced meeting with Moscow’s long-time ally Assad on Saturday, the Syrian state news agency SANA said.  Read more . . .

Post Traumatic Stress on Veterans
Here’s a frightening statistic: Every day, some 22 American heroes take their own lives because of the stresses they experienced on the battlefield. Many more don’t seek treatment and find their lives spiraling out of control.  “60 Minutes” correspondent Steve Kroft will host “Combat Stress: Finding the Way Home,” a special radio hour exploring the impact of post-traumatic stress disorder on our nation’s veterans to be broadcast during Memorial Day weekend.  Read more . . .

Sebastian Junger Draft Proposal:  Non-combat options
Junger avoids proposing a comprehensive solution to the problem he presents in “Tribe.” But he told Military.com in an interview this month that one possible way to build a more cohesive society might be to create a different kind of draft: one in which some form of national service is mandatory for all eligible citizens, but the military is only one of several service choices, along with options like the Peace Corps and urban improvement projects.  Read more . . .

PTSDcanna

New Jersey Assembly Passes Legislation on Treating PTSD with Marijuana
The Assembly on Thursday passed legislation to allow qualified New Jersey residents with post-traumatic stress disorder to get medical marijuana treatment. The Democrat-led Assembly voted 55-14, with seven abstentions, sending the bill to the Senate for consideration.  Read more . . .

 

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Hyperbaric Oxygen: What the VA Doesn’t Want You To Know

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The gatekeepers at the Department of Veteran Affairs (the “VA”) remain intransigent in providing urgently need care to Veterans suffering from PTSD and/or TBI. Standard Operating Procedure (“SOP”) at the VA is to argue that FDA-approved clinical studies are needed to sanction treatment methods – regardless if these treatment alternatives have been used with success in many other countries for decades and, in some cases, hundreds of years.  

hyperbaric oxygen and the VA

Instead, the VA serves our Veterans a cocktail of potentially lethal prescription drugs that do carry the FDA’s “Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval.”   How is this possible when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) reports  an epidemic in addiction to prescription drugs?

Unfortunately, the VA’s SOP in prescribing these opioids to Veterans with PTSD and TBI hasn’t changed in many years.   Why?  Could it be that the benefits to Big Pharma outweigh the benefits of providing our Veterans with the treatment they merit?   I am most hesitant to ask this question, but I can think of no other explanation.

For instance, treating head injuries with Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (“HBOT”) has been around for decades.  It is the standard procedure provided to wounded soldiers and civilians with head injuries by the Israeli medical profession for decades.

This short video below is in Hebrew with English subtitles, but it provides a very compelling argument why our Veterans should have access NOW to HBOT while the bureaucrats and FDA twiddle their thumbs and continue to ingratiate themselves with Big Pharma lobbyists.

Gordon Brown  of Team Veteran argues that  “We need this type treatment in our VA and military hospitals instead of the DRUG therapy they are now using. Most TBI cases have been misdiagnosed as PTSD and drug treatment cause further complications for our veterans.”   Gordon’s views reflect my own and those of hundreds if not thousands of Veterans.

In fact, some hospitals in the private sector are taking radical steps to curtail the use of opioids in treating pain.  In an recent New York Times article, St. Joe’s hospital is implementing wide-ranging changes to comply with CDC recommendations:

“St. Joe’s is on the leading edge,” said Dr. Lewis S. Nelson, a professor of emergency medicine at New York University School of Medicine, who sat on a panel that recommended recent opioid guidelines for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “But that involved a commitment to changing their entire culture.”

In doing so, St. Joe’s is taking on a challenge that is even more daunting than teaching new protocols to 79 doctors and 150 nurses. It must shake loose a longstanding conviction that opioids are the fastest, most surefire response to pain, an attitude held tightly not only by emergency department personnel, but by patients, too.

Is it too much for that lumbering behemoth VA to show the same sense of urgency?

I suppose we can continue to get distracted with the many other “big” issues facing our country, but providing our Veterans with proper therapy is one issue where Americans can easily unite.  Let’s not let the bottom line of Big Pharma distract us from that mission.  The brave men and women who have served our country deserve no less.

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Latest Developments on Treating PTSD

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Much has been written about the terrible long-term consequences of Post Traumatic Stress or “PTSD,” but there appears to be no clear way of treating PTSD.  Some argue that PTSD is best treated using “psychological” methods to treat the trauma while others argue that certain war-related events (i.e. IEDs) cause physiological changes in the brain.

treating ptsd

This dilemma makes diagnosing and treating PTSD so difficult.  Based on SFTT’s experiences, we have found that Veterans with symptoms of PTSD respond differently to various forms of therapy.   In short, there seems to be no definitive solution to a very serious problem which is now reaching epidemic proportions.

In a recent article published in the New York Times, medical scientists now believe that traumatic war-related events may actually cause physiological changes in the brain.

Quoting Dr. Daniel P. Perl, a neuropathologist who led a study for Lancent Neurology, evidence now exists that changes brain patterns:

Less understood is how the blast wave — the pulse of compressed air that shoots in all directions faster than the speed of sound and arrives before the wind — affects brain tissue after crashing through the helmet and skull. Blasts are also believed to compress the sternum and send shock waves through the body’s blood vessels and up into the brain. . .

The researchers examined the brains of the five veterans who had been exposed to blasts, and compared samples with those of 16 other veterans and civilians with and without brain injuries from military service or other activities. Scar tissue in specific locations of the cerebral cortex, which regulates emotional and cognitive functioning, was found only in the blast-injury cases.

Dr Perl and fellow researchers discovered the following changes in the brain following concussion like events:

Perl and his lab colleagues recognized that the injury that they were looking at was nothing like concussion. The hallmark of C.T.E. is an abnormal protein called tau, which builds up, usually over years, throughout the cerebral cortex but especially in the temporal lobes, visible across the stained tissue like brown mold. What they found in these traumatic-brain-injury cases was totally different: a dust-like scarring, often at the border between gray matter (where synapses reside) and the white matter that interconnects it. Over the following months, Perl and his team examined several more brains of service members who died well after their blast exposure, including a highly decorated Special Operations Forces soldier who committed suicide. All of them had the same pattern of scarring in the same places, which appeared to correspond to the brain’s centers for sleep, cognition and other classic brain-injury trouble spots.

Then came an even more surprising discovery. They examined the brains of two veterans who died just days after their blast exposure and found embryonic versions of the same injury, in the same areas, and the development of the injuries seemed to match the time elapsed since the blast event. Perl and his team then compared the damaged brains with those of people who suffered ordinary concussions and others who had drug addictions (which can also cause visible brain changes) and a final group with no injuries at all. No one in these post-mortem control groups had the brown-dust pattern.

Dr. Perl on Treating PTSD

While it will takes years of analysis and research to determine whether these neurological changes can be reversed, many Veterans will continue to suffer the “invisible wounds of war.”  Dr. Perl is justifiably worried:

 After five years of working with the military, he (Dr. Perl) feels sure, he told me (author Robert Worth), that many blast injuries have not been identified. “We could be talking many thousands,” he (Perl) said. “And what scares me is that what we’re seeing now might just be the first round. If they survive the initial injuries, many of them may develop C.T.E. years or decades later.”

This is not hopeful news, but at least we as a society are beginning to take PTSD seriously.  Hopefully, we will not try and bury the research in the way the NFL has sought to hide the effects of CTE on NFL players and downplay its significance to football fans who seem addicted to the violence of the spectacle.

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Equine-Assisted PTSD Therapy Study Seeks Veteran Volunteers

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The New York Presbyterian Military Family Wellness Center at the Columbia Veterans Research Center is currently conducting a Trauma-Focused Equine-Assisted Therapy for Veterans with PTSD study.  See details below:

equine2

Through the NYP Military Family Wellness Center we offer veterans and family members evidence-based treatments at no cost in the context of a research study. Essentially, patients are periodically assessed during and after treatment so that we can learn more about the needs of the veteran population.

Equine Therapy Program

In the equine study we’re investigating the efficacy of an alternative treatment for PTSD that has not been thoroughly studied in the past. The treatment does not involve riding horses, but instead focuses on ground activities such as grooming and leading horses.

It is a group treatment with each group consisting of 4-6 veterans. Treatment sessions will take place at the Bergen Equestrian Center in Leonia, NJ (about 15 minutes away from our office in Washington Heights).

Veterans or their loved ones who seek more information, please contact Anne Hillburn at (646) 774-8042.

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Veterans with PTSD: Can We Unite As a Society?

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As one who watched a largely unappreciative nation heap scorn on returning Veterans from our war in Vietnam, I am struck by the contrived efforts to celebrate Veterans who have now served in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.   In particular, I shed a tear for Veterans with PTSD who have difficulty coping with an unsympathetic society that seems far different from the camaraderie they experienced while serving in a war zone.

While I do not doubt that many Americans genuinely honor the sacrifices of young men and women who have served in these wars;  the American flag pin in one’s lapel or tributes to Veterans at major sporting events fall well short of the support these brave heroes deserve.

This point was made abundantly clear by Sebastian Junger in a recent MSNBC interview. Sebastian Junger, an acclaimed war-correspondent and author, has just published Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging. In his book, Mr. Junger suggests that Veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan find a deeply divided and “alienated society” and argues passionately that our society may be as much to blame for Veteran suicides and depression as a Veteran’s war experience.

Mr. Junger articulates his views in a very moving Ted Talk that was filmed late last year.


As an anthropologist, Mr. Junger’s arguments are quite persuasive. It is hard to argue with his premise that the incidence of “suicides and depression” tends to decrease during periods of great stress: he cites 911, the bombing of London in WWII and many other similar situations. Junger suggests that people’s behavior tends to become “more tribal” during periods of great stress and that this provides a level of support and comfort that many returning Veterans do not presently encounter when they return home to our “alienating society.”

Mr. Junger concludes that many problems for Veterans with PTSD would be greatly diminished if we “can unite as a society.”

640px-Politics

As we watch an increasingly hostile and bitter presidential race unfold, it is not hard to understand Mr. Junger’s premise.  Imagine a young man or woman serving their country in a hostile and dangerous environment returning home to see a dysfunctional society at war with itself. How discouraging.

Indeed, if the Department of Veteran Affairs (the “VA”) doesn’t have your back, who does?

In an unfortunate analogy, Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald stated “‘When you get to Disney, do they measure the number of hours you wait in line? Or what’s important? What’s important is, what’s your satisfaction with the experience?'” McDonald said Monday during a Christian Science Monitor breakfast with reporters. ‘And what I would like to move to, eventually, is that kind of measure.'”

This is not the first time, Secretary McDonald has been embroiled in a controversy, but I am quite sure that Secretary McDonald wished he hadn’t been quite so candid.  Nevertheless, his “misspeak” provided plenty of fuel to other politicians.

House Majority leader Paul Ryan correctly pointed out that Veterans had lost their lives while waiting in line for someone at the VA to pickup the phone.

This is precisely the type of dysfunctional dialogue engaged in by “tribal leaders” that Veterans – and many others – find so frustrating and largely disingenuous.

Most everyone knows that the VA is not functioning properly.  Rather than simply point fingers to gain personal political leverage, let’s harness our efforts and begin solving the many problems faced by the VA.

One man or woman’s political advantage pales in comparison to the suffering of the many brave men and women who have placed their lives at risk for a society that seems hellbent on tearing itself apart.  How tragic.

Mr. Junger, your heartfelt appeal is noted and I sincerely hope that we as a nation can embrace the challenge.  I pray that our tribal leaders will unite to provide our country with the inspirational leadership that our brave men and women in the military service deserve.  Anything less is tragic.

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SFTT News: Week of May 27, 2016

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

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

Military Suicides:  Most Appear Before Combat
“We found the highest rates of suicide attempts were among never-deployed soldiers and those in their first years of service,” Ursano’s team (Dr. Robert Ursano of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda) wrote in their report, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association’s JAMA Psychiatry. Six months into a deployment is often when they get their first break. “That six-month time is usually the time most soldiers are taking a visit home,” Ursano said. “They are transitioning home and back again.”  It’s not precisely clear why suicide attempts — as opposed to completed suicides — go up at these times. Other research shows the risk for a completed suicide has little to do with whether someone has been in actual combat.  Read more . . .

VA Restores Benefits to Veterans Wrongly Declared Dead
A Florida congressman says the Department of Veterans Affairs cut off the benefits of more 4,200 people nationwide after they were wrongly declared dead.  Rep. David Jolly says these people were “very much alive” and their benefits were resumed after the VA looked into their cases, which happened between 2011 and 2015.  Read more . . .

VA Secretary Compares Veteran Wait Times to Lines at Disneyworld 
Critics said Monday that Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald had trivialized the long-standing problem of lengthy wait times for appointments at California’s veterans medical centers by comparing them to waiting in long lines at Disneyland. His comments sparked an angry backlash from California lawmakers who felt that he had dismissed the angst and frustration of their constituents. McDonald made the comments Monday during a roundtable discussion with reporters hosted by The Christian Science Monitor.  Read more . . .

VA Secretary Robert McDonald

Five Things to Know about President Obama’s Trip to Vietnam
President Barack Obama is visiting Vietnam, the third U.S. president to do so, for a series of meetings with officials aimed at deepening U.S. ties with the country through new economic and security initiatives. The two governments are expected to announce a host of new agreements. Here are five things to know about Mr. Obama’s trip to the Asian nation.  Read more . . .

Dining with President Obama in Hanoi
Deep in the heart of Hanoi, US President Barack Obama sat down for a $6 meal with celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain on Tuesday. The chef, known for his love of adventurous street food, described the occasion in a series of tweets and an Instagram post.  Read more . . .

Obama Bourdain Hanoi

Former Navy Seal Sheds Light on PTSD
First Sgt. Clint Castro spent 15 months on the front line as a medic in Iraq. When he came home to East Meadow, he faced another kind of battle against post-traumatic stress disorder. He says it led him to drink and lose his temper, and he isolated himself from his family. Castro turned to Northwell Health’s Rosen Family Wellness Center for help. He admits it wasn’t easy initially to ask for assistance.   Read more . . .

Treating Ukranian Veterans with PTSD with Service Dogs

The Coming Changes to the War in Afghanistan
U.S. officials on Monday justified the weekend drone strike that killed Mullah Mohammed Akhtar Mansour by saying the Taliban leader planned to attack American or coalition forces in Afghanistan. But some observers believe the secretive operation that targeted the extremist at a southwest Pakistan hideout represents a shift in how the White House plans to execute the long-running war.  Read more . . .

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

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VA Dismisses Alternative PTSD Therapies

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In what seems like a broken record, the Department of Veteran Affairs (the “VA”) continues to dismiss alternative therapies for treating PTSD or post-traumatic stress disorder.

While not entirely dismissing the efficacy of “Complimentary and Alternative Medicine” or “CAM” for treating PTSD, the VA argues that CAM does not really fit-in all that well in the canons of Western medical practices:

Broadly conceptualized, “complementary and alternative medicine” (CAM) refers to treatments not considered to be standard in the current practice of Western medicine:

– Complementary refers to the use of these techniques in combination with conventional approaches.

– Alternative refers to their use in lieu of conventional practices.

Many treatments and techniques that are considered CAM within the U.S. are part of conventional medicinal practices in other parts of the world. As Western practitioners and consumers increasingly adopt these approaches, the boundaries between conventional medicine and CAM continue to shift. Please visit The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) for a complete overview of CAM interventions.

For instance, in describing acupuncture,  the VA notes that “. . . five of the six studies examined in that review were conducted in China, where acupuncture is a mainstream treatment. Therefore findings may not generalize to the use of acupuncture as a CAM modality in Western medicine.”

Accupuncture:  Alternative PTSD therapies

In effect, the VA is saying that clinical trials based on “western medicine” practices is the only recognized and authoritative standard to prescribe alternative therapies for treating PTSD.

The absurdity of the VA’s position is the assertion that Western medical practices are in some way scientifically better than Asian medical practices which date back over 2,000 years.  Imagine what Asian physicians might think of Western medical practices where:

– The first surgery using anesthesia was only performed in 1846;

Clean and relatively sanitary conditions in U.S. medical facilities didn’t really occur until 1900.  In fact, it is widely believed that President James Garfield died in 1881 because doctors used unsanitary medical instruments.

– The U.S. has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world, far behind such countries (cities) as Hong Kong, Singapore and Japan.

The argument can be made – and should be made – that complimentary and alternative medicine that is non-invasive and has a long history of producing positive results in other countries should be made available to Veterans should they demand it.

As we are now discovering, FDA approved prescription drugs for treating the symptoms of PTSD are producing side-effects and dependencies that were simply not contemplated in clinical trials.  Why shouldn’t Veterans be given the option of determining what treatment alternative works best for their particular circumstances?

I have no idea why the VA has taken such an intransigent position regarding alternative treatment programs if its goal is to provide Veterans with improved outcomes for the many brave warriors who suffer the silent wounds of war.

Indeed, any non-invasive therapy seems preferable to the toxic prescription drugs now considered efficient by “Western medical practices.”

SFTT is not wedded to any particular therapy program to treat PTSD.  In fact, SFTT has been quite supportive of Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (“HBOT”), dog and equine therapy programs, Yoga and many others.

Based on SFTT’s observations, Veterans who suffer from PTSD tend to react differently to alternative therapy programs or conventional drug therapy.  Shouldn’t Veterans be free to choose which program seems to be more effective based on their own personal preferences?

Sadly, it seems that only public outrage and a radical overhaul of the VA will bring about a much needed change to the way Veterans with PTSD are provided effective therapy by “Big Brother” VA.

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SFTT News: Week of May 20, 2016

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

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

Should women register for the military draft?
The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell said on Tuesday that he believed the role of women in the military had expanded so broadly in recent years that they should be required to register for the draft just as men do.  Mr. McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, was quick to stress that he did not envision any return to the use of the Selective Service and believed that the volunteer, professional military had been “very successful.”   Read more . . .

Military Draft Women

Can Congress save the U.S. Military?
This week the House of Representatives takes up the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year 2017. Much of the debate and media coverage will revolve around a handful of controversial provisions ranging from nuclear weapons to religious freedom. These debates are important, but the most important question that Americans should ask Congress is this: Will this bill begin to rebuild the U.S. military?   Read more . . .

The U.S. Needs to Revisit PTSD Treatment Guidelines
Organizations from the United Kingdom and Australia and the World Health Organization take the position that trauma-focused psychotherapies such as prolonged exposure, cognitive processing therapy, and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing are most effective when it comes to PTSD treatment. Basically, their stance is that the evidence for meds is just not as strong. A recent study carried out by military and VA researchers, and published in the journal Depression and Anxiety, supports this position.  Read more . . .

Size of Brain Region Associated with Response to PTSD Therapy
A study has found that PTSD patients with a larger hippocampus–a region of the brain key to distinguishing between safety and threat–are more likely to respond to exposure-based therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  In this study, the researchers examined the relationship between hippocampus volume, measured with MRI, and response to treatment in 50 participants with PTSD and 36 trauma-exposed healthy controls. The participants were evaluated at baseline and after 10 weeks, during which time the PTSD group had prolonged exposure therapy, a type of cognitive behavioral therapy that has been shown to help patients with PTSD discriminate between real and imagined trauma.   Read more . . .

Brain size and PTSD Therapy

Worst Charity for Veterans Run by VA Employee
At first glance, the National Vietnam Veterans Foundation is a roaring success. According to its tax filings, the charity has received more than $29 million in donations from generous Americans from 2010 to 2014 for what it calls on its website “aiding, supporting and benefiting America’s veterans and their families.”  But look a little closer on those same filings and you can see that nearly all of those donations have been cycled back to telemarketers, leaving less than 2 percent for actual veterans and veterans’ charitable causes.   Read more . . .

How Congress and the VA Left Many Veterans without a ‘Choice’
NPR — together with member stations from across the country — has been reporting on troubles with the Veterans Choice program, a $10 billion plan created by Congress two years ago to squash long wait times veterans were encountering when going to see a doctor. But as we reported in March, this fix needs a fix.  Around the nation, our joint reporting project — called Back at Base — has found examples of these problems. Emily Siner of Nashville Public Radio reported on troubles with overcrowding in Tennessee. And Monday, we reported on hospitals and doctors not getting paid in Montana and veterans getting snarled in the phone systems trying to make appointments in North Carolina.  Read more . . .

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