Showing posts with label IAVA. Show all posts
Showing posts with label IAVA. Show all posts

Monday, May 27, 2019

Non-profits doing the work struggle to reach veterans in need

Nonprofits Struggle to Reach At-Risk Veterans Who Shun VA Services
By Richard Sisk
26 May 2019

In addition to the VA and other government agencies, there are traditional veterans service organizations and more than 40,000 support groups registered as nonprofits with the Internal Revenue Service, according to the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University.
Participants of the 2019 377th Security Forces Squadron Suicide Awareness Ruck March stand in formation at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, March 29, 2019. The ruck march was created to support The Brave Badge Initiative Facebook page. The Facebook page was created due to the increased rates in suicide in the security forces career field in the past year and aims to give Defenders another place to go to when they are struggling with mental health issues. (Austin J. Prisbrey/U.S. Air Force)
NEW YORK CITY -- From a warren of desks in a downtown Manhattan office building, the small team of social workers and counselors takes calls from veterans who either won't go to the Department of Veterans Affairs or are bewildered on where to turn for help.

This is the Rapid Response Referral Program of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, an effort to combat what Navy Reserve Cmdr. Jeremy Butler, IAVA's chief executive officer, calls the "navigation" problem for veterans trying to find the right fit in a vast and disjointed support system.

"It's an Impossible task, knowing everything that's out there" among the various groups offering help, and "each group seems to exist in its own bubble." Army Staff Sgt. Dennis Higgins
read more here

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Veterans who committed suicide remembered by name at National Mall

Veterans group places thousands of flags on National Mall to draw attention to suicide crisis
Published: October 3, 2018

WASHINGTON — Thousands of American flags filled a grassy expanse on the National Mall on Wednesday morning, each of them representing a veteran or a servicemember who died by suicide in 2018 so far.

Maj. Sandra Lee Altamirano of the Army Reserve said she took military leave to help place the 5,520 U.S. flags. She recently lost three friends to suicide, two of whom were veterans.

A couple of years ago, after serving three deployments in Iraq, she contemplated suicide herself.

“Each of these flags is a name, a person. Three of them are my friends, and one could’ve been me,” said Altamirano, now a suicide prevention liaison in the Reserve. “I hope this helps people see how vast of an issue this is. It’s overwhelming. It’s a crisis.”

The flags were placed on the Mall by Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans for America, an advocacy group trying to draw awareness to the issue of veteran suicide.
read more here

Monday, September 5, 2016

Johnson and Stein Invited to Commander-in-Chief Forum By IAVA

For over a decade and through multiple elections, IAVA has focused on finding every way possible to ensure veterans remain at the forefront of the American dialogue. As the 2016 election season continues to dominate headlines, IAVA will continue to be aggressive in advocating for our community to be a part of that dialogue. That's what our historic Commander-in-Chief Forum event on NBC next week is all about. 

As a non-partisan organization committed to advocating for the voices of all Post-9/11 veterans, IAVA applauds the efforts of some of Governor Gary Johnson's and Dr. Jill Stein's supporters to include their perspective in the conversation. We agree. The conversation focused on veterans should not end on September 7th  and with the major party candidates. IAVA is 100% committed to expanding the public conversation about the issues facing veterans with any viable candidate for President as often as possible.

As it stands today, Governor Johnson is qualified to appear on a ballot in all 50 states and exceeds 10% in a recent poll of active duty troops, Reservists and National Guard members conducted by the Military Times.  Though Mr. Johnson still does not meet the historical standard for general election meetings between candidates set by the Presidential Debate Commission, IAVA took the extra step to develop our own, more inclusive threshold for a series of Commander-in-Chief Forums.  We appreciate the patience of our members as we carefully underwent this important process. We have reached out to Governor Johnson's campaign to invite him to participate in an IAVA Commander-in-Chief Forum event and I had an extremely friendly and productive phone call with him yesterday. You can see a recap from The Military Times here.  

We have also reached out to Dr. Stein to invite her to engage in a dialogue with IAVA Members.

IAVA also believes we have a responsibility to inform our members that, as of today, neither Gov. Johnson nor Dr. Stein has even posted a veterans policy section on their website.  For anyone vying to be Commander-in-Chief, that would be an important early step. IAVA's comprehensive Policy Agenda, informed by our members nationwide, gives them an excellent place to go for guidance.

IAVA is always focused on empowering our generation of veterans and sharing our triumphs and challenges with all Americans. If national leaders want to talk seriously about veterans issues with our members, we're excited to help make that happen. But as a non-profit organization, IAVA can not do this alone.  We need all the help we can get to ensure our voices are front and center for all Americans during this important election season. Even more so, we need everyone to help after the election is over. IAVA is in this for the long haul. Our vital programs change and save lives daily. And just as our members will lead America for decades to come, we'll need support that continues long after the current media attention has faded.

We also look forward to uniting all Americans just days after Election Day for Veterans Day 2016. It will be the perfect time for people of all political backgrounds to come together around our veterans and chart a course ahead that benefits all of us for generations to come.

Our groundbreaking Commander-in-Chief Forum on NBC is just 5 days aways. Go to for all the latest news, FAQs and for ways to get involved online and on the ground. And keep checking your inbox. We'll have more exciting announcements in the days to come--and a way for you to submit your questions to the candidates.

Stay tuned!

Paul Rieckhoff 
Founder and CEO
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA)

Friday, August 19, 2016

IAVA Commander-in-Chief Forum

Whenever there is an election we're pretty much forgotten about. Candidates never seem to have any plans, or even understand what military, veterans and families, go through. Sure there are a lot of issues they have to pay attention to but we're all pretty tired of hearing how much they value us without ever seeing any proof of it. The IAVA is trying to do something about that.
IAVA Commander-in-Chief Forum
Joint Candidate Event to Highlight National Security, Military and Veterans Issues
Live in Primetime on NBC and MSNBC on Wednesday, September 7, 2016

AUGUST 18, 2016 – Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) will host both major party presidential nominees, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, for a live televised primetime forum to focus exclusively on issues the next president will have to confront as Commander-in-Chief.

The event will take place in New York City and will be simulcast on NBC and MSNBC in primetime on the evening of September 7, 2016.

The candidates will appear back to back during the one-hour event. They will take questions on national security, military affairs and veterans issues from NBC News and an audience comprised mainly of military veterans and active service members.

“IAVA is proud to lead this historic event for our veterans community and all Americans,” said Paul Rieckhoff, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of IAVA. “On the cusp of the 15th Anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, New York is a fitting stage to give voice to American veterans and service members that are all too often shut out of our political debate. IAVA members world-wide, 93% of whom say they’ll be voting in November, and many deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan right now, are ready to hear from the candidates and hold them accountable. IAVA is honored to join with NBC on this significant event that will ensure that America’s next Commander-in-Chief, at least for one night, addresses our nation’s moral obligation to support and empower its 22 million veterans, our servicemembers and our military families.”
learn more about IAVA here

They tried ranking politicians before but it did not do much good considering the rest of the population does not have a clue about any of the Bills politicians write. This time, we may get some answers. Hopefully they actually paid attention all along.

Among the questions I'd love to have answered are these.

What will the candidates do about housing civilians on military property?
Thirty-four other U.S. military installations have already brought in nonmilitary residents, and there have been no major security issues, said Mack Quinney, project director for the housing company.
And if they plan on ending this practice or leaving it the way it is?
In 2001, Fort Hood became the first U.S. military installation to hand over housing to a private operator when it entered into a deal with the Australia-based Lendlease Group to form the Fort Hood Family Housing company.

The deal has facilitated the building of hundreds of new homes on Fort Hood, where soldiers have complained about the quality of the housing stock, by allowing them to be financed with private construction bonds, Fort Hood and Lendlease officials said.

Do they plan on actually doing something about the rules and funding of the VA that Congress is in fact in charge of? 
When there is a backlog of claims, do they have any plans to make sure contractors hire to process the claims are not just trained to do it properly, but have enough staff to fulfill the commitment this country made to those who are willing to lay down their lives for the sake of her?
When private-contracted out doctors are evaluating claims, are there any plans to hold them accountable when they fail to put qualified practitioners in the positions or rate claims wrongly?

Do they have any plans to hold contractors accountable for failed programs, like suicide prevention, when clearly they do not work?  

Do they plan on hold any member of Congress publicly accountable for writing and funding Bills they pass when it has been tired and failed before.  Just look at the list of "suicide prevention" Bills coming out of congress in the last decade and you'll see what I mean.

Do they have any plans to hold veterans charities accountable?

Do they have any plans for holding the Joint Chiefs accountable for the rise in military suicides at the same time there has been a sharp reduction of enlisted personnel?

Do they have any plans for holding defense contractors accountable for the billions they receive for programs that do not work and do very little to prevent healing from traumas troops face?

What about ISIS, Iraq, Afghanistan, NATO, the rest of the world including humanitarian missions? Will anyone be held accountable for the mess we're in?

What do they plan on doing about Defense Contractors outnumbering military personnel?

Data compiled by the Congressional Research Service shows that private contractors outnumber U.S. troops in Afghanistan by more than a three to one margin.
The latest numbers covering just the first few months of this year show that there are still around 29,000 contractors in Afghanistan — well over three times the 9.000 troops.

The thing is, there are hundreds of questions all of us have, but unless these politicians are asked, we won't know if they even considered any of it or how much thought they gave to any of us.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Orange is The New Black Needed New Villains,,,They Picked Veterans?

'Orange is the New Black' criticized for portrayal of veterans
Associated Press
July 15, 2016

VFW national commander John A. Biedrzycki Jr. said the show's writers and producers chose to offend all veterans because they needed new villains.
Leading veterans' groups are disturbed by the way veterans hired as prison guards are portrayed in the new season of the Netflix series, "Orange is the New Black."

The veterans' groups say they take issue with the way the new guards disparage the inmates throughout season four of the drama that takes place in a women's prison and the way they talk about their combat experiences.

The Veterans of Foreign Wars called the show "offensive." Iraq And Afghanistan Veterans Of America said it will further stigmatize veterans, and Disabled American Veterans said the show is out of the touch with the reality of the veteran experience.

Netflix didn't respond to multiple messages left Thursday and Friday seeking comment.

In one scene in the finale, a guard tells another guard about innocent people he killed in Afghanistan.

After spending so much time chasing bad guys, he said, "you get so mad, tired and bored" that you "just grab a farm kid" and make him juggle live grenades until one blows up.
read more here

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Donald Trump Won't Account for Money He Promised Veterans Charities

Trump said he raised $6 million for veterans. Now his campaign says it was less.
Washington Post

By David A. Fahrenthold
May 21, 2016

One night in January, Donald Trump skipped a GOP debate and instead held his own televised fundraiser for veterans. At the end of the night, Trump proclaimed it a huge success: “We just cracked $6 million, right? Six million.”
Donald Trump speaks to supporters on the Drake University campus at a fundraiser on Jan. 28, 2016, to benefit veterans after skipping the Fox News GOP debate in Des Moines that night. (Larry W. Smith/European Pressphoto Agency)
Now, Trump’s campaign says that number is incorrect.

Campaign manager Corey Lewandowski said the fundraiser actually netted about $4.5 million, or 75 percent of the total that Trump announced.

Lewandowski blamed the shortfall on Trump’s own wealthy acquaintances. He said some of them had promised big donations that Trump was counting on when he said he had raised $6 million. But Lewandowski said those donors backed out and gave nothing.

In recent weeks, Trump and his campaign repeatedly declined to give new details about how much they have given away.

“Why should I give you records?” Trump said in an interview with The Post this month. “I don’t have to give you records.”
Paul Rieckhoff, founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said Trump’s refusal to divulge how much of the money he had distributed raised questions about whether the candidate intended the fundraiser primarily as a public-relations effort for himself.

“That’s just shady. Right? No matter how you cut it, that’s just shady,” Rieckhoff said. “If he was going to make it right, a couple of weeks before Memorial Day would be a good time to do it. It behooves him, not just politically but ethically, to come forward and account for this money.”
read more here

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Without Warning Senate Votes To Cut Veterans Education Benefits

Vets Group Criticizes Senate Panel Vote to Curb GI Bill Housing Aid
by Brendan McGarry
May 13, 2016

"In a normal process, they would have published a schedule and in two or three weeks time, we're having a hearing to mark up this particular bill,'" Jonathan Schleifer, the organization's chief policy officer, said on Friday during a telephone interview with

"This was done certainly without any notice or warning."
A veterans group is criticizing a key Senate veterans committee for voting to curb the GI Bill housing allowance.

The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America on Thursday issued a statement blasting the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee after members approved omnibus legislation that would reduce by 5 percent the Post-9/11 GI Bill housing allowance to pay for other veterans programs.

"As Congress quietly passed another bill cutting veterans education benefits, veterans are stuck having to beg for the benefits we earned," IAVA Chief of Staff Allison Jaslow said in a statement. "We fought hard eight years ago to get the Post-9/11 GI Bill passed and we will not quit fighting until Congress protects the benefits being earned on the battlefield as we speak."

The Senate committee, headed by Sen. Johnny Isakson, a Republican from Georgia, during a hastily convened session on Thursday afternoon unanimously voted in favor of the legislation, known as the Veterans First Act.

The circumstances surrounding the vote also drew criticism from IAVA officials.
read more here

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

VFW: VA Turned 'Blind Eye' to Insurer Profiteering

VFW: VA Turned 'Blind Eye' to Insurer Profiteering Off Survivors
Bryant Jordan
September 30, 2015
The lawsuit was settled in 2014 when the insurer paid out a $40 million settlement, but did not acknowledge any wrongdoing. The VFW continued to demand release of the documents, however, arguing that they would enable families and the public to better understand what the company did in connection with its administering of federally subsidized life insurance programs.
One of the country's largest veterans' organizations says it has uncovered proof that that the Veterans Affairs Department agreed to an insurance policy payout system that gave Prudential Insurance Co. an edge in holding onto survivor's money rather than pay it out in a lump sum.

A 2009 document shows that that VA allowed Prudential to pay benefits in the form of an account that survivors could draw on rather than a single payment, as the law governing Service Group Life Insurance and Veterans Group Life Insurance required.

"The documents speak for themselves, and they show that Prudential initiated this program for the money that could be gained, not to help grieving military families -- and the VA knew all about it," VFW National Commander John A. Biedrzycki Jr. said. "For an insurance company to profit off the dead is sickening, but for our own government to turn a blind eye to profiteering is something entirely else."
read more here

Looks like the service groups are coming out swinging!
The American Legion has renewed its call for Under Secretary of Veterans Benefits Allison Hickey to resign or be fired.

The Legion, which first sought her removal along with other department officials in connection with a wait-times scandal in 2014, said Hickey now should go because of her connection to officials who used coercion to assume the directorships of regional offices in Philadelphia and St. Paul, Minnesota.

IAVA Chief Criticizes Sanders as ‘Apologist’ for Scandal-Riddled VA The head of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America said presidential hopeful Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, should explain why he didn't early and aggressively investigate the Veterans Affairs Department scandal involving manipulated wait times and the deaths of veterans.

"If you want to be commander-in-chief, let's ask some hard questions of Bernie Sanders on why he didn't do more, why he didn't hold more oversight hearings," Paul Rieckhoff said during a panel discussion on Tuesday in Washington, D.C. "We and others called him out for basically being an apologist for the VA as the scandal erupted around him."

Monday, September 28, 2015

Major Veterans Groups Come Out Against Killing VA

Carson’s ideas to reform VA concern local veterans
Midland Reporter Telegram
By Erin Stone
Sep 27, 2015
The DAV and other national organizations -- American Legion, AMVETS, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans, Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States, Paralyzed Veterans of American, Military Order of the Purple Heart and Military Officers Association of America -- signed and sent an open letter to Carson in response to his ideas for reforming the VA.

The Department of Veterans Affairs has encountered much criticism given the sometimes fatal consequences of its long waiting lists. However, Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson’s recent comments about moving veterans’ health care partially into the privatized realm has veterans -- including those who are well aware of the flaws of the current VA -- up in arms.

In an op-ed published last week in USA Today, Carson described improving the VA with what he called “offer choice,” which would give veterans a health savings account (HSA) “to allow veterans to access the best possible medical care at a nearby DOD, VA or civilian medical facility.”

Leaders of veterans’ organizations worry that this will lead to the complete privatization of veterans’ health care and the eventual elimination of the department altogether, especially given Carson’s comments in an August radio interview stating the VA doesn’t need to exist, said Paul Reed, commander and Service Officer for the Permian Basin Chapter of Disabled American Veterans.

Reed believes the new Veterans Choice Program is a concrete example of this incremental movement toward fully privatizing the VA. Through the Choice Program, eligible veterans are sent a Choice Card with which they are allowed to seek covered care outside of the VA if their wait time is more than 30 days or the closest VA is more than 40 miles away from their home.
read more here

Thursday, April 9, 2015

IAVA Paul Rieckhoff Among Others Removed for New York Mayor's Veterans Council

Mayor to present veteran board appointments, amid harsh criticism
Capital New
By Gloria Pazmino
Apr. 9, 2015

“It’s become clear to the community that the mayor is not serious about veterans' issues,”
Rieckhoff told Capital.

Mayor Bill de Blasio will announce today a new set of appointees to the Veteran Advisory Board, finally replacing many of the members whose terms had expired.

The appointments have angered representatives of the city’s veterans, who say that de Blasio has failed to act quickly on a crisis.

The board, established in 1987, serves as a liaison between veterans and the Mayor’s Office of Veterans’ Affairs and helps guide policy and connect the veterans to resources in the city. The mayor is responsible for appointing six members; the speaker and Council appoint five.

The mayor’s slow pace of appointments led to questions about whether the board was serving its purpose in the early months of his administration. Gotham Gazette reported last year on some of the holdover members’ murky attendance record at meetings and frustration among city veterans who did not feel they had a direct connection to the board.
All board members who were appointed by former mayor Michael Bloomberg have been removed, including Paul Rieckhoff, the founder and C.E.O. of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America—the country’s first organization specifically for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, which boasts over 200,000 members and is headquartered in the city.

Rieckhoff told Capital the members were only told about their removal a day in advance and said he questioned the qualifications of the new members. He also criticized Loree Sutton, commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Veterans’ Affairs, for her slow pace of action so far.
read more here

August 18, 2014
IAVA CEO and Founder Paul Rieckhoff issued the following statement:
“IAVA congratulates General Sutton on this well deserved honor to head Veterans Affairs for the city of New York,” said IAVA CEO and Founder Paul Rieckhoff. “New York is home to one of the largest communities of veterans, who face the same issues as veterans across the country, including homelessness, unemployment, suicide, waiting on disability benefits, and more. General Sutton knows the problems veterans face and is uniquely positioned to help solve them. As a New York based organization, IAVA looks forward to continuing our work with General Sutton as she continues to improve the lives of veterans.”

From NPR in 2010
Pentagon Shifts Its Story About Departure of Leader of Brain Injury Center
Two days later, we got a message from Sutton's boss, Charles Rice, the assistant secretary of defense for health affairs. A Pentagon spokeswoman, Eileen Lainez, said that Haight "misspoke." Sutton stepped down after Rice decided "that a change in leadership was necessary to continue moving the organization forward," Lainez said.

The Pentagon has pledged in recent days to improve its care for soldiers with mild traumatic brain injury — and one place that might need some attention is communications at the top.

Earlier this month, we reported that the military was routinely failing to diagnose such injuries, which are the most common head wounds sustained by soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. We also found that soldiers had trouble getting adequate treatment at one of America's largest military bases, Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

IAVA and VFW Call for Action After Warrior Transition Unit Reports

Veterans organizations call for action on wounded soldiers’ complaints
Dallas Morning News
Published: 10 December 2014

Two of the nation’s largest veterans organizations are calling for Congress and the Pentagon to address the mistreatment of wounded soldiers in the Army’s Warrior Transition Units — a problem that came to light in a joint investigation by The Dallas Morning News and KXAS-TV (NBC5).

Congress and the Pentagon need to do more to protect those assigned to special units to treat injured service members, said spokesmen for both the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

“These are guys and gals who put their lives on the line to defend their country, so they need to be treated with respect, and they need to be treated with a certain amount of compassion,” said Brendon Gehrke, senior legislative associate with the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Washington, D.C.

Hundreds of current or former soldiers have complained of harassment and intimidation by leadership at three Texas-based Warrior Transition Units, or WTUs, according to hundreds of documents and interviews with soldiers and medical experts.

The complaints were reported in “Injured Heroes, Broken Promises,” a two-part series published and broadcast last month by NBC5 and The News.
read more here

Part 1: Wounded soldiers allege mistreatment in the units
Part 2: Transition leaders disrespectful, say soldiers; unit defends selection, training
Complaints about wounded warriors’ treatment pile up
He sought to help, but PTSD hindered him

From NBC

Sunday, March 23, 2014

After suicide: "As an officer, I had to ask, 'was I not doing things right?

Sometimes what you know is not the problem. Sometimes it is worse when you think you know something only to discover what you know is totally wrong.

A Battalion Commander wondered what he did not do after a Marine committed suicide.
"As an officer, I had to ask, 'was I not doing things right? Did that Marine not have the resources available to him?'"

He is left wondering what he did wrong when the truth is, he did what he was told was the right thing to do.

The Marine is still gone along with thousands more and far too many veterans with the knowledge they had been given.

Higher up on the food chain leaders came up with "prevention" programs that were supposed to actually prevent suicides. Lower level officers expected that if they did it right, they would save lives, much like they believed if they trained their men right, more would go home after war.

When these leaders discovered that their men were still taking their own lives, they thought it was their fault because they did something wrong.
W. Mich. Marine 'storming the hill' with colleagues for military suicide prevention
Updated: Friday, March 21 2014

(NEWSCHANNEL 3) - Veterans from across the country will 'storm the hill' next week, to call attention to suicide.

Members of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America are headed to our nation's capitol to demand that Congress take the necessary steps to help veterans in crisis.

A West Michigan veteran is among the group fighting for change, and he spoke to Newschannel 3.

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 22 veterans commit suicide each day.

"While I was a battalion commander, I had one Marine who did die by suicide," said veteran Dan Whisnant, who served 26 years in the Marine Corps.

"As an officer, I had to ask, 'was I not doing things right? Did that Marine not have the resources available to him?'" Whisnant said.

He went to Iraq twice, and says both times he had a great transition back to the U.S., thanks to family, friends, and his work, but he says not everyone is that lucky.

Whisnant says that's why he will be with those Storming the Hill in Washington, calling for change.
read more here

It seems he still doesn't understand that suicide has nothing to do with having a good family or lots of friends. It has more to do with being one out of three deeply changed by the events they endured.

Marine Clay Hunt committed suicide in 2011. Hunt did everything experts said to do. He talked to family and friends. He had plenty of support. He went to the VA and even spoke to others about getting help. Hunt didn't stop there. He was deeply involved with TEAM Rubicon, a group of dedicated veterans traveling all over the world as crisis responders following natural disasters.
Marine veteran Clay Hunt had a tattoo on his arm that quoted Lord of the Rings author J.R.R. Tolkien: "Not all those who wander are lost."

According to the military, Hunt would have had the "training" to prevent war traumas from taking over is life.

Commanders are conditioned to trust the information they are given. If they they are told the enemy is in a certain place, they believe that is exactly where they are. They do no suspect the enemy is right behind them. Unprepared for what is coming, they move forward with the knowledge they were given. It did not change the fact they knew what they were doing. It changed the fact the people responsible for keeping them informed failed.

It is the same thing with what the higher ups are telling them about PTSD. They trust what they are being told even though the outcome is shockingly tragic.

Statistics have proven the failures yet it is the leaders with troops in their care feeling responsible for the loss of lives.

Editorial comment Kathie Costos

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Military suicide rate is 'out of control'

We need to stop pretending and hoping more legislation will do any better than the last 7 years worth have done. The AP put the spotlight on military suicides in 2007. "Army soldiers committed suicide last year at the highest rate in 26 years" because there were 99 suicides. 2007 brought the Joshua Omvig Suicide Prevention Act signed by President Bush. It was also the same year members of the clergy were getting educated on Combat PTSD. A year later, the VA Suicide Hotline announced it had received 37,000 calls and saved 720.

It seems like every year another politician comes out with another bill without ever understanding if it will work or not.

Veterans group says military suicide rate is 'out of control'
Written by
Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON — Suicide prevention is the No. 1 legislative priority this year for the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, says Paul Rieckhoff, the group’s founder and CEO.

His New York-based organization, with 270,000 members, also supports the effort by Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York to have military prosecutors rather than commanders make decisions on whether to prosecute sexual assault cases in the armed forces.

Gillibrand expects a Senate vote on her proposal in the next couple of weeks.

As chairwoman of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel, Gillibrand also plans to convene a hearing this winter on the link between sexual assaults in the military and suicides.
read more here

Monday, October 14, 2013

Veterans groups to protest for veterans, not politicians like Sunday

Veterans Angry Over Tea Party Takeover Of March On Memorials
The Huffington Post
By Mollie Reilly
Posted: 10/14/2013

Organizers of the Million Veterans March sought to distance themselves from the "political agenda" promoted at Sunday's protests at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., criticizing tea party activists for taking over the demonstration.

"The political agenda put forth by a local organizer in Washington DC [sic] yesterday was not in alignment with our message. We feel disheartened that some would seek to hijack the narrative for political gain," the group wrote on its Facebook page Monday morning. "The core principle was and remains about all Americans honoring Veterans in a peaceful and apolitical manner. Our love for and our dedication to remains with Veterans, regardless of party affiliation or political leanings."

On Sunday, hordes of demonstrators converged on Washington, protesting the closure of memorials and national parks due to the partial government shutdown. According to news reports, Sunday's event was much more political than previous demonstrations at the memorial. A number of conservative politicians spoke at the event, including former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin (R) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

read more here
Veterans groups plan protest over deplorable treatment post on October 12th is about veterans fighting for veterans. These groups are not trying to play politics like the one on Sunday, especially grotesque considering Tea Party darling and creator of this mess Ted Cruz was leading the charge. These groups have been around for decades and no matter what party controlled or mess up what, they have always been about fighting for veterans BECAUSE THEY ARE VETERANS. It is too bad the stunt on Sunday made veterans look bad because yet again, they were used. Attacking Park Rangers and security when they are not getting paid but still were doing their jobs was a disgrace. Almost as disgraceful as these Tea Party folks never once complained about anything else being done to veterans all these years later.
Veterans, worried about benefits, to protest shutdown
John Bacon
October 14, 2013

As the government shutdown grinds into its third week, veterans benefits will draw the spotlight Tuesday in what could be the biggest protest yet aimed at pressing Congress and President Obama to solve the political impasse.

The Military Coalition, a group of 33 veterans and military organizations, is planning a rally at the World War II Memorial on Tuesday morning. The groups want to publicize the impact the shutdown is having on many vets and their families amid concerns of delayed disability pay, GI Bill education stipends and other benefits.

The American Legion, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, and Veterans of Foreign Wars are among groups that will be represented. Steve Gonzalez, assistant director of the American Legion's Economic Division, will be among speakers emphasizing the impact on employment and training.

Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki warned last week that financing vet benefits could become difficult if the impasse continues. Compensation checks to 5.1 million veterans won't be issued Nov. 1; 433,000 fully disabled veterans might not receive payments; and 360,000 surviving spouses and children of wartime veterans may stop getting VA money, Shinseki told a congressional oversight committee.

VA tuition and stipend payments to more than 500,000 veterans and spouses enrolled in college also are threatened. The VA has furloughed nearly 8,000 employees, he said.

Ryan Lamke, an Iraq War veteran diagnosed with traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder, works with the Armed Forces Foundation. The foundation is not part of The Military Coalition, but Lamke is fully aware of the problems facing returning vets.
read more here

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Florida veterans among the longest wait for VA claims

Memorial Day weekend brought news that VA Backlog in Florida had veterans waiting 433 days.

By the end of June there was a report out of the Tampa Tribune with this piece of news released in a report saying that the VA had decided 2,100 claims for Florida veterans.
The St. Petersburg VA Regional Office will now join in VA efforts to complete the disability claims of veterans who have been waiting more than one year for a decision, while completing the final batch of oldest claims in progress, according to the release.

The office has been the subject of complaints by veterans, some of whom have waited more than 560 days for a decision.

It also had this in it.
The Tribune obtained documents compiled by the St. Petersburg regional office that showed nearly 70 percent of veterans seeking compensation through that office wait at least 125 days for a rating, a formula that determines how much compensation they receive.
Aside from the different figures used by different sources on the same subject, there is one more thing that has to be pointed out. This is not a new problem for veterans. There was a backlog in 2007, 2008 and 2009 but there were also huge backlogs long before the media decided it was important enough to cover. Unless the VA is fixed for real they will keep seeing more suffering while waiting.
Local veteran to seek answers from state senators
Ryan Smith
August 12, 2013
Action News discovered the average wait for Florida veterans is 240 days.

"If a veteran is waiting on mental healthcare, health care, they can't wait two to four years. They need the assistance right away because the damage they're doing to their families and their communities and themselves is on-going."ongoing."
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The men and women who fight for our freedom are fighting a new battle here at home.

Armed with a legislative agenda, one local veteran is taking the message straight to some of our highest-elected, most prominent local leaders.

Ret. Air Force Sgt. Kris Braddock served more than 20 years in the military.

"Look out for the bad guys, when you see them out there planting bombs ... call in artillery and kill them," said Braddock.

The Clay County man lived to serve his country and he was recognized for doing it. His living room showcases10 medals and 18 ribbons that highlight an illustrious career.

But he says serving can come at a high price. He now sees a mental health counselor after experiencing a traumatic brain injury.

The father of two served a tour in Iraq from 2003-2004 and completed a stint in Afghanistan from 2010-2012.

"Honestly," said Braddock. "most of the people in my peer group are suffering and I admit, I'm one of them."
read more here

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

IAVA to honor Daily Show's Jon Stewart

Jon Stewart to be honored by Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans group
The Washington Times
By David Sherfinski
July 16, 2013,

Comedian Jon Stewart will be awarded the the 2013 Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) Civilian Service Award in November at the IAVA Heroes Gala in New York.

“Stewart has been a great friend to the veteran community,” reads a release about the event. “In recent months, ‘The Daily Show’ has extensively covered the VA disability claims backlog, shining a spotlight on veterans and their struggles waiting for decisions on their claims.”

IAVA will also honor former U.S. Army Staff Sgt. and Medal of Honor recipient Salvatore Giunta with the 2013 IAVA Veterans Leadership Award.
read more here

Friday, April 5, 2013

Veterans groups fighting over VA Claims and equal treatment for all veterans

Veterans groups fighting over VA Claims and equal treatment for all veterans
By Kathie Costos
Wounded Times Blog
April 5, 2013

Where were all these complaints in the press when veterans were suffering even longer, in bigger piles of backlogs topped off with even worse conditions as claims were just denied because the rules didn't allow them to get justice?

There is a reason a new veterans' group like IAVA have complained about the VA recently along with people like Jon Stewart ranted again last night about suffering veterans but older, established groups have the wisdom to know what is behind all of this.
Vet Groups Divide Over VA Backlog and Leadership
Apr 04, 2013

With the backlog of compensation claims at the Department of Veterans Affairs having ballooned in recent years, one would expect major veterans' service organizations to be among VA's harshest critics.

If so, they would join a rising chorus. Recently network news programs have turned cameras and commentary on the mountain of 598,000 overdue claim decisions, suggesting bureaucratic neglect of returning ill and injured vets from Iraq and Afghanistan. Time magazine columnist Joe Klein even asked VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign.

One veteran association, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), says the administration isn't doing near enough to end the backlog with its average wait, from filing to decision, now at 273 days and some veterans in the largest cities reportedly waiting more than 600 days.

But most veteran service organizations aren't joining that chorus, for perhaps two major reasons. One, they believe they understand better than the loudest critics why the backlog has grown so. Some contributing factors these veterans' groups actually fought for.

Two, criticism of Shinseki and his team rings hollow to many veteran groups given the administration's support over the past four years for robust funding of VA, unprecedented cooperation with vet advocates, and the depth of its commitment to reform a 20th Century paper-driven claims process.

That's why groups including Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion came to Shinseki's defense after Klein's call to resign. That's why Joseph Violante, legislative director of Disabled American Veterans, told the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee that VA is moving "down the right path" with many of its reform plans even while "processing over a million claims annually, which in my mind is something phenomenal."

Violante described VA leadership as the most open he has seen in almost 30 years working veterans issues in Washington D.C. He had particular praise for Allison A. Hickey, under secretary for benefits.

At the same hearing, Bart Stichman, executive director of the National Veterans Legal Services Program, praised Shinseki. The NVLSP successfully has sued VA, initially more than 20 years ago, to compensate Vietnam veterans for diseases presumed caused by wartime exposure to herbicides including Agent Orange. Stichman said Shinseki showed courage when, facing a rising claims backlog in 2009, he added three new diseases to VA's list of diseases compensable for Vietnam veterans due to Agent Orange.

This required VA to re-adjudicate 150,000 claims previously denied and to process more than 100,000 fresh claims from Vietnam veterans, including for most anyone with heart disease who ever served in Vietnam. The Veterans Benefits Administration put more than 2300 experienced claims staff – 37 percent of its workforce – on the effort for two and a half years, paying out more than $4.5 billion in retroactive benefits.
read more here

Just a reminder of what really happened
VA Claims backlog 915,000

“Backlogs are at the point where veterans must wait an average of six months for a decision on benefits claims and some veterans are waiting as long as four years,” Butterfield said in a statement. “Veterans deserve better than this.”

Butterfield introduced a bill on Friday, HR 3087, that would automatically approve a veteran’s claim if no decision is made by the VA within 18 months. The bill doesn’t say exactly how the VA would do this, but creates a task force to monitor VA to make sure the 18-month deadline isn’t met with an arbitrary denial just before the claim must be paid.

The bill comes as the number of unprocessed veterans claims exceeds 915,000 — a 100,000 jump since the beginning of the year. In testimony two weeks ago before a House committee, VA officials said the current 162 days is 17 days less than one year ago, a sign that they are beginning to make process.
That was reported in June of 2009! It may come as a shock to the IAVA and others that the backlog of claims was that high before, but it doesn't pack such a big punch now if they mention that simple fact. If they actually remembered how long Gulf War veterans and Vietnam Veterans waited for their combat related disabilities to be taken care of and compensated for, then they would have to face the fact that ALL OUR VETERANS MATTER.

Is there a problem now? Sure there is and there has been one over and over again but as older groups fought longer for all veterans, it seems as if people forget they even exist. What kind of publicity did the Vietnam veterans get fighting the VA in the 70's, 80's, 90's or the other 12 years? Were they supposed to just wait and die for what their service to this country did to them so that the newer generation of veterans could be taken care of? After all they were getting the attention and the funding of mega charities raising "awareness" for their issues even though the older groups were fighting for them equally.

Had it not been for them there would be absolutely nothing for the OEF and OIF veterans coming home with PTSD.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Veterans' advocates lobby hard for attention on Capitol Hill

Veterans' advocates lobby hard for attention on Capitol Hill
by Leo Shane III
Stars and Stripes
Published: March 20, 2013

WASHINGTON — Nearly every major veterans advocacy organization has visited Capitol Hill over the last month, pushing lawmakers to keep the focus on their issues amid the financial fights in Congress.

This week, leaders from Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America brought dozens of young vets to Washington to visit lawmakers and relate their stories.

The Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion held similar lobbying trips earlier in March, and the House and Senate veterans committees invited 18 different advocacy groups to testify on their priorities for the upcoming year.
read more here

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Deaths highlight risks of veteran ‘gun therapy’

Deaths highlight risks of veteran ‘gun therapy’
By Nomaan Merchant
The Associated Press
Posted : Tuesday Feb 5, 2013

DALLAS — Chris Kyle, reputed to be the deadliest sniper in American military history, often took veterans out shooting as a way to ease the trauma of war. Taking aim at a target, he once wrote, would help coax them back into normal, everyday life with a familiar, comforting activity.

But his death at a North Texas shooting range — allegedly at the hands of a troubled Iraq War veteran he was trying to assist — has highlighted the potential dangers of the practice.

Former service members and others familiar with their struggles say shooting a gun can sometimes be as therapeutic as playing with a dog or riding a horse. Psychiatrists wonder, though, whether the smell of the gunpowder and the crack of gunfire can trigger unpredictable responses, particularly in someone suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or other illnesses that aren’t immediately obvious.

“You have to be very careful with doing those kinds of treatment,” said Dr. Charles Marmar, chairman of the psychiatry department at New York University’s Langone Medical Center. “People have to be well prepared for them.”

“But obviously you would not take a person who was highly unstable and give them access to weapons,” added Marmar, who said he wasn’t commenting on the suspected shooter’s mental state. “That’s very different.”

Paul Rieckhoff, founder of the advocacy group Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said he has heard of exposure to weapons being helpful to some veterans who weren’t keen on meeting with a psychiatrist or undergoing therapy sessions.

“These types of programs can often be an on-ramp for people who won’t go to any other type of program,” Rieckhoff said. “Anything that is connected to the military culture is an easier bridge to cross.”

However, he said, therapy with guns is not “incredibly common right now.”
read more here

Thursday, January 24, 2013

OEF OIF veterans show Gulf War Illness

Report: New vets show Gulf War illness symptoms
By Kelly Kennedy
USA Today
Posted : Wednesday Jan 23, 2013

About one-third of Gulf War veterans — or 175,000 to 250,000 people — have Gulf War illness.

WASHINGTON — Veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan may be suffering from the 20-year-old set of symptoms known as Gulf War Illness, according to a new report released Wednesday by the federal Institute of Medicine.

“Preliminary data suggest that (chronic multisymptom illness) is occurring in veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars as well,” the report says.

This may be the first time that the symptoms suffered by veterans of the 1991 Gulf War have been linked to veterans of the current wars, which started in 2001 and 2003, said Paul Rieckhoff, CEO of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

It also means the Department of Veterans Affairs’ definition of who qualifies for Gulf War veterans’ benefits should include those who served in Afghanistan, said Paul Sullivan, a 1991 Gulf War veteran and founder of Veterans for Common Sense.

Because Wednesday’s report associates the symptoms with deployment, Sullivan said, the VA “should expand the geographical definition of the current Gulf War to include the ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

The researchers were to investigate treatments for Gulf War illness, including any existing research, to see what worked for veterans. Their research included traumatic brain injury, which is caused by blunt force to the head or proximity to an explosion; post-traumatic stress disorder, which must involve exposure to trauma; respiratory problems, fibromyalgia; and chronic pain.

Chronic multisymptom illness was formerly called Gulf War Syndrome, the Institute of Medicine report said. It includes symptoms in at least two of six categories: fatigue, mood and cognition issues, musculoskeletal problems, gastrointestinal problems, respiratory difficulties, and neurologic issues that last for at least six months.
read more here