Sunday, February 15, 2015

We're all asking why it is getting worse instead of better

It Won't Get Better If We Forget
Wounded Times
Kathie Costos
February 15, 2015
Yesterday I asked "Are National Reporters Really Stupid, Lazy or Just Lying?" because I am righteously frustrated. As the years go by, more and more veterans are dying instead of healing. 

We're all asking why it is getting worse instead of better? After all, the years of accumulating coffins came with billions of "efforts" to prevent them from being filled. When it comes to a choice between hurting a reporter's feelings and telling the truth for families, families win. Their pain is a lot worse than a reporter having to answer to readers for sucking at their job.

I have to admit that I feel a twinge of guilt getting ready to do it again. So just to clarify from where I sit, I don't envy reporters.

I get to to take all the time I want to dedicate to a post without having to worry about word count or time limits. I have no concerns about advertisers pulling their ads over what Wounded Times supplies. I don't have to worry about wanting to put something out that will gain me a raise since I don't get paid. I don't have to wonder about if what I do will win any awards since the only thing I want to do is be able to save more lives. The only way to do that is to tell the pure ugly truth so that someone will actually do something to make things better instead of sitting back as they get worse.

The only people I owe anything to are veterans and their families, just like mine. Over 30 years of living with the failures and learning from the successes have gotten me to this point. I've seen the worst of what PTSD does but I've also seen the magnificence of what has succeeded. I can tell you that no veteran is frozen in this moment. PTSD is change and you can all change again for the better if you have the right guidance and support.

Peer support works best but it won't work if your peers know as little as you do or they know the wrong information. If their heads were filled with the same nonsense of PTSD coming from being mentally weak instead of the strength of your emotions, then they'll make you feel worse. Yet, if they understand PTSD, know what it is doing to you as well as why, then you get better because they understand instead of standing in as judging you.

We've heard a lot of garbage over the years about families being clued in yet I keep talking to family members when it is too late to save someone they love because no one even told them the basics we learned decades ago.

We've all heard stories about what the government is doing within the military to "prevent suicides" yet then we read how younger veterans are committing suicide triple their peer rates and the suicides among all veterans is double the civilian rate across the country.

If we don't tell the truth about what failed, then we'll just keep repeating all the same recycling of what has already failed them. Here is a good article from USA Today about what happens when some veterans show up looking for help to stay alive.
Whistle-blowers: VA still endangering suicidal vets
Dennis Wagner
February 13, 2015

PHOENIX — During the past eight months, roughly 1,000 military veterans with mental health problems have shown up in the emergency room at Carl T. Hayden VA Medical Center in Phoenix, sometimes intoxicated and potentially suicidal.

They were seeking treatment after closing time at the VA mental-health clinic and, according to hospital officials, most of them received suicide evaluations.

How those after-hours patients are handled has emerged as a new controversy at the scandal-plagued hospital. Two whistle-blowers claim patients and staff are being endangered. VA administrators insist they are doing what they can to ensure safety and security.

There is no dispute that, while awaiting care, some of the at-risk veterans simply decide to leave the ER and are able to walk out without evaluation or treatment.

One medical-center employee, who asked not to be identified for fear of reprisal, said staff concerns about the so-called "elopements" peaked during a Jan. 23 meeting of VA social workers.

The employee, who filed a complaint with the VA Office of Special Counsel and secured whistle-blower status, said Chief of Social Work David Jacobson acknowledged during the meeting several instances where troubled veterans fled the hospital, saying, "We have been really lucky that nothing bad has happened in these instances ... It was sheer luck that nothing (tragic) happened."
Dr. Darren Deering, chief of staff, said the VA hospital is doing its best for troubled vets, but faces challenges when patients choose to leave before a mental-health evaluation can be completed.

"When we're in the process of trying to petition someone (for involuntary commitment)," Deering said, "we can't tie them down. We can't prevent the person from getting up and bolting."

Deering noted that employees might be charged criminally if they detain or confine veterans without following legal procedures. "If patients are determined to elope, they're almost impossible to stop without violating their rights," he added.
read more here

In the same article there was this part
About 22 U.S. veterans commit suicide each day, according to VA data. That's roughly 100,000 since the 9/11 terrorist attacks — more than 14 times the total of American troops killed in action during the same period in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The devastating numbers prompted Congress to recently pass the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act. It calls for the VA to issue annual reports and hire more psychiatrists in veterans hospitals. The bill was signed into law Thursday by President Barack Obama.

In Phoenix, suicide-prevention services first emerged as a major issue in late 2013 when Dr. Katherine Mitchell complained of overwhelmed and untrained staff. Mitchell had been the hospital's ER supervisor and, after that, was medical director for transition services to veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan.

What they didn't tell you was that it had all been done before.
Washington, D.C. – On Wednesday, July 14, 2010, Chairman Harry Mitchell (D-AZ) conducted a hearing of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee to examine the progress of suicide prevention outreach efforts at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The Subcommittee evaluated the current state of VA’s ability to educate the public of VA services concerning suicide prevention and discussed the effectiveness of the media campaign to encourage veterans to seek help at the VA.

Public Law 110-110, The Joshua Omvig Veterans Suicide Prevention Act, required VA to develop a pilot program encouraging veterans battling suicide to seek help at the VA. As a result, VA advertised its suicide hotline using Washington, D.C. metro area buses and metro subway trains, in addition to creating a Public Service Announcement for network television use.

“As you know, many of our newest generation of veterans, as well as those who served previously, bear wounds that cannot be seen and are hard to diagnose,” said Chairman Mitchell. “Proactively bringing the VA to them, as opposed to waiting for veterans to find the VA, is a critical part of delivering the care they have earned in exchange for their brave service. No veteran should feel they are alone,” said Chairman Mitchell.

They sure didn't want to remind you of this either.
Holt and Runyan previously worked together to secure $20 million in veteran suicide prevention funding in the 2012 and 2013 fiscal year Veterans Affairs budgets. Earlier this year, Holt and Runyan led a letter to the U.S. House Committee on Appropriations urging that the funding be continued in fiscal year 2014. Their letter, which was cosigned by 99 members of Congress, is attached.

“Over the past few years, Congress has finally started to take seriously the crisis of military suicide,” Holt said. “This continued funding sends a clear message to our soldiers and veterans: Your country is committed to helping you with the strains of your service, and we will do everything possible to keep you safe.”

That was in 2013 along with this, “Saying, ‘Call this number if you feel suicidal’ is not enough,” U.S. Rep. Rush Holt said. “We need outreach.” Holt (D-12th Dist.) called on the U.S. House Appropriations Committee to continue setting aside $40 million for military and veteran suicide prevention efforts"

The thing is, veterans were calling and turning to the VA. This happened in 2013 to a Vietnam veteran.
By the next day, I was creeping close to the edge: I could not shake the nightmares and the flashbacks to the jungle and cradling that young man. Dying seemed preferable to living, which is what suicide is all about. I finally called the VA to explain my situation and to make an appointment with the mental health clinic. The conversation went like this:
Me: I feel very suicidal and would like to make an appointment to see a doctor.

VA: I’m sorry, we can’t make an appointment for you.

Me: I have a very serious case of PTSD. I have been seeing doctors for 40 years. All I need is an appointment.

VA: Our policy has changed. Before you can get an appointment you must come in and be evaluated for suicide.

Me: How do I do that?

VA: Go to Building 61 and tell them that you are suicidal. Someone will see you and decide if you can get an appointment.

Me: OK. I will go out there now.

VA: I’m sorry, you can’t go now. It’s Friday, too late in the day, and they usually leave early. You’ll never get there in time.

Me: You don’t get it. I’m suicidal now. I need to see someone.

VA: You’ll just have to put that off until Monday.

Me: So I can’t kill myself until Monday?

VA: If you wait until Monday, maybe we can help. Just don’t show up between noon and one. Everyone is at lunch.

The original problem with veterans committing suicide began while they were in the military and not much has changed there either.
2014 military suicides stay high for 5th year straight
Gregg Zoroya
January 13, 2015

The total number of suicides among U.S. active-duty servicemembers last year was virtually unchanged from 2013, remaining at historically high numbers for a fifth year, according to preliminary Pentagon statistics provided to USA TODAY.

The Army reported a decline in soldier suicides for the second straight year: 135 in 2014 vs. 146 in 2013. But increases in suicides among sailors and airmen last year raised total suicides among active-duty personnel to 288, up from 286 of 2013.
read more here
What they didn't tell you here was that in 2012, the DOD had not spent funds they already had for suicide prevention.
Congressman Jim McDermott (WA-7) and Congressman Leonard Boswell (IA-3) urged leaders of the U.S. House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee this week, to work with them in getting the Pentagon to use all of its unspent suicide prevention funds to reach more service members as soon as possible, and to go even further with higher funding next year.

In July, the McDermott-Boswell amendment that would increase critical funding for suicide prevention for active duty military by $10 million passed with strong support in the House Defense Appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2013.

“The Pentagon hasn’t spent the money that it has for suicide prevention for this year – and that money wasn’t nearly enough money to reach all the soldiers who need help. Now we are hearing about bureaucratic technicalities at the Pentagon that are preventing them from acting. This is unconscionable,” said Congressman McDermott. “The Pentagon is funded to help soldiers and needs to do much more on the epidemic of suicides. As we commemorate National Suicide Prevention Week, we are calling on the Pentagon to move much faster.”

Congressman Boswell added, “We lose a soldier to suicide every day, a record pace that is driving the number of military suicides to all-time highs. As I said on the House floor in July, this is a national epidemic that requires immediate Congressional action to provide the necessary resources to prevent these tragedies from happening. With this year’s defense appropriations legislation at a standstill, and only days remaining in the legislative calendar, we urge leaders to act on freeing up the existing funds for soldier suicide prevention and outreach.”
They didn't tell you that back in 2010 McClatchy reported this,
The military has nearly 900 suicide prevention programs across 400 military installations worldwide, but in a report released Tuesday, the task force describes the Defense Department's approach as a safety net riddled with holes.

I couldn't post any of this had reporters not been given a little time to interview folks and gather some information. Yet, if they had the resources to do their jobs, tell the whole ugly truth, I wouldn't have to do this and could go off and live my life like everyone else watching TV. I wouldn't have my heart sunken into my chest on a daily basis with flashbacks of when I was living with the worst of what PTSD does and remembering all that pain. I wouldn't have to hear one more Mom cry on the phone about her son or daughter being buried. I wouldn't have to take a frantic call from another veteran wondering what is wrong with him when the only thing wrong with him is people didn't do what they said they were doing and left him alone.

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