Showing posts with label VA mental health care. Show all posts
Showing posts with label VA mental health care. Show all posts

Sunday, March 23, 2014

VA PTSD group only had 19 sessions in 4 years?

Sometimes I think an article is about one thing, as with Roseburg VA counselor admits to sex with client but reading it left me shocked.
Carlson admitted she had an intimate relationship with a man who attended 19 group sessions she led at the VA between 2007 and 2011 for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. She told investigators the relationship began in 2011, after the last session he attended.

Is it important to report that a psychologist had an affair with a veteran she had been treating? Yes, but as the report points out, it started after he left her care.

What seems to be the bigger story is this group of veterans she treated only had 19 group sessions in 4 years. Did they really think that was enough?

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Afghanistan veteran accused of stabbing policeman to remain in custody

Northbridge man accused of stabbing policeman to remain in custody
By Mike Gleason
Daily News staff
Milford Daily News
Posted May 15, 2013

A Worcester Superior Court judge ruled Tuesday that a Northbridge man accused of stabbing a police officer is dangerous and must remain in custody.

Adam Tillison, 27, of 11 High St., was arraigned Monday on charges of armed assault to murder, assault and battery of a police officer, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, reckless operation of a motor vehicle and failing to stop for police. He pleaded not guilty to the charges.

After the arraignment, Judge Janet Kenton-Walker heard arguments as to whether Tillison posed enough danger to remain in custody.

Defense lawyer Laurel Singer argued that Tillison, an Afghanistan war veteran, suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and should be placed with a Veterans Affairs treatment program to receive the proper care.

Assistant District Attorney Michael McHugh, however, said the program would not offer a proper level of control over Tillison.

"I'm concerned by hearing from the VA that, if he went to an emergency room unit and didn't fit the criteria, he could simply walk away," he said.
read more here

Monday, March 18, 2013

Despite warnings against using drugs for PTSD, they did it anyway

By Bob Brewin
March 18, 2013

In September 2011, the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury almost shouted its warning against benzodiazepines, emphasizing the guidance in bold-face type on its website: “There is evidence against the use of benzodiazepines in PTSD management as it may cause HARM. Strongly recommend against the use of benzodiazepines for treatment of PTSD.”

The Veterans Affairs Department treats more than 30 percent of veterans diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder with tranquilizers such as Xanax and Valium, despite clinical practice guidelines issued in 2010 warning against their use, VA’s National Center for PTSD reported.

The 2010 PTSD clinical practice guidelines, which also apply to the Defense Department, cautioned providers against using benzodiazepines to manage PTSD due to “the lack of efficacy data and growing evidence for the potential risk of harm,” the PTSD center said in in the March edition of its research quarterly publication.

Research shows that treatment of PTSD with benzodiazepine drugs “may interfere with the extinction of fear conditioning or potentiate the acquisition of fear responses, actually worsening recovery from trauma,” the center reported. This, in turn, may interfere with “first line” treatment such as exposure therapy, in which a trained therapist helps a veteran relive traumatic events.

More than 50 percent of combat veterans diagnosed with PTSD also suffer from alcoholism or substance abuse, and treatment with benzodiazepines can lead to addiction, the center said.
read more here

Monday, February 25, 2013

Why isn't Congress holding anyone accountable for Military Suicides?

I was just reading the Military Times Forum PTSD and Suicide Thread because of this.
This past weekend I lost a friend to suicide. She was a combat medic with the Army. She was "treated" by the Army for PTSD. Their treatment consisted of restricting her to base, having her check in daily with her supervisor, and meds. Then as soon as her time was up; she got out. She tried to get follow up treatment through the VA and had a rough time.

It all seems so senseless to me. When are they going to figure it out and get these people the help they really need.
Response after response had the same message. The leadership has failed.

Confining them is not healing them. Giving them medications do not healing them, they numb them. There are too many experts in this country stomping their feet and screaming at the top of their lungs the facts prove what they are doing does not work! When suicides go up and calls to the Suicide Prevention Hotline go up, that proves the "prevention" programs the DOD put in place are doing more harm than good.
Your friend was failed on many levels. Unfortunately there are many stories like hers. A buddy of mine ended up taking hostages at the hospital on Ft Stewart before they finally took him seriously. Yes, he got prison time, but hes also finally getting the help he needs. Whats funny, is the a key witness for the defense was a doc that was a hostage. The doc vowed to get him the help he needs.

Your friend needed help and the "military family" failed again. It will continue to fail because its not pretty so commanders wont talk about it, and the VA will just push it aside.
Why is all of this still going on? Because Congress does not understand it, has not taken the time to learn, Congressional Aids have failed their bosses and too many people are making way too much money for doing the damage.

There I said it. When there is a government spending, there is someone on the other end making money. Congress gives out millions a year to fund programs in the military and in the civilian world that are supposed to be saving lives and helping these veterans heal. What all the money did was push programs that didn't have a chance in hell of working but were well funded.

Congress has the responsibility of controlling the money of this country and they also have a duty to make sure the money is well spent.

So where are the hearings? Where are the sworn testimonies given by the people who are supposed to be taking care of the troops and veterans? Who has been held accountable? Who has been fined? What contract has been canceled? Who has been fired? Who has been demoted?

The biggest question is, if the American people really do support the troops and love our veterans, then why in the hell aren't they demanding Congress takes action?

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Bereavement Valentines for Military Families

Bereavement Valentines for Military Families
by Kathie Costos
Wounded Times Blog
February 14, 2013

When you read about Military suicides there is a family left behind to grieve for each one of them. Last years alone almost 500 military families received word someone they loved committed suicide. That was 60 Naval families, 59 Air Force families, 48 Marine Corps families, 182 Army families and the usually forgotten about 96 Army National Guards families with 47 Army Reservist families.

Eighty percent of veterans who attempted suicide and survived had received mental health care one month earlier from the Department of Veterans Affairs, underscoring the potential peril of 50-day average wait times they face in trying to access VA treatment, a suicide expert told a Congressional committee Wednesday.
From the same article
According to a VA report released earlier this month, 18 to 22 veterans commit suicide each day. And that rate “has remained steady” since the Iraq and Afghanistan wars began 12 years ago, said Veterans' Committee chairman Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., who noted that during that same span the VA has increased its budget by 39 percent and its staffing by 41 percent.
From the same article
In 2012, for example, the VA’s 24-hour crisis line fielded 193,000 phone calls that resulted in more than 6,400 “rescues” of veterans who were threatening to hurt themselves or their family members, Petzel said.

This part paints the clearest picture of what a massive failure all of this is. 193,000 calls to the crisis line with 6,400 rescues shows what the DOD has been doing on PTSD, outreach, training and everything else they claim they have "done" has resulted in deadly outcomes. They have been claiming to be "taking steps" to reduce the stigma and get these servicemen and women the help they need for too many years and when the press was no longer accepting that for an answer they tried to detour the conversation into the civilian suicide rate without ever mentioning many of the "civilians" committing suicide were in fact veterans. Then they proceeded to further outrage bereaved families by saying "many of them had never been deployed" as if that would make any sense at all.

These men and women were willing to risk their lives when they signed up. They were exposed to combat within the training itself along with seeing coffins come home and amputees fill military hospitals. Did they ever once consider some of these high school kids ended up with some level of PTSD from the training itself? Civilians get PTSD from not being in combat but the military has failed to grasp that simple fact. Not everyone joining the military is cut out to be in the military but they can't just quit so that is more traumatic than losing a job. They also seem unable to consider hazing. Military sexual assaults are forgotten about. The list goes on but again, the military failed to acknowledge that people do not simply go from being willing to die for the sake of others to taking their own lives on a whim.

So each day news arrives that a family member decided they would rather die than spend one more day on this earth because they cannot endure the hell they are in when the military and the VA get away with making unsubstantiated claims.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Veterans committing suicide at 22 a day, percentage higher for older veterans

Veterans suicides now at 22 a day was posted on Wounded Times Blog on January 9, 2013. I posted it after watching two interviews on the Washington Post, The Fold.

VA study finds more veterans committing suicide
Washington Post
By Greg Jaffe
Friday, February 1, 12:01 AM

Numbers according to the VA
29 and younger, non-veteran 24.4%, veteran 5.8%
30-39 non-veteran 20.0, veteran 8.9%
40-49 non-veteran 23.5, veteran 15.0%
50-59 non-veteran 16.9, veteran 20.0%
60-69 non-veteran 7.4, veteran 16.8%
70-79 non-veteran 4.2, veteran 19.0%
80 and older non-veteran 3.6, veteran 14.5%

Every day about 22 veterans in the United States kill themselves, a rate that is about 20 percent higher than the Department of Veterans Affairs’ 2007 estimate, according to two-year study by a VA researcher.

The VA study indicates that more than two-thirds of the veterans who commit suicide are 50 or older, suggesting that the increase in veterans’ suicides is not primarily driven by those returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“There is a perception that we have a veterans’ suicide epidemic on our hands. I don’t think that is true,” said Robert Bossarte, an epidemiologist with the VA who did the study. “The rate is going up in the country, and veterans are a part of it.” The number of suicides overall in the United States increased by nearly 11 percent between 2007 and 2010, the study says.

Bossarte said much work remains to be done to understand the data, especially concerning the suicide risk among Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans. They constitute a minority of an overall veteran population that skews older, but recent studies have suggested that those who served in recent conflicts are 30 percent to 200 percent more likely to commit suicide than their ­non-veteran peers.
read more here

Friday, December 14, 2012

Knowing support is there helps Veterans every day

Knowing support is there helps every day
Dec 12, 2012

Dusty came home from Iraq and felt stressed and on edge. He didn't think what he was going through was out of the ordinary. But when he experienced a flashback, he knew there could be a real problem. He found support at VA and started to work through his challenges. Therapy and family support help him stay strong and live well.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

DoD and VA to Fund $100 Million PTSD and TBI Study

DoD and VA to Fund $100 Million PTSD and TBI Study
No. 763-12
September 19, 2012

The Department of Defense (DoD) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) are investing more than $100 million in research to improve diagnosis and treatment of mild Traumatic Brain Injury (mTBI) and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

“At VA, ensuring that our Veterans receive quality care is our highest priority,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Eric K. Shinseki. “Investing in innovative research that will lead to treatments for PTSD and TBI is critical to providing the care our Veterans have earned and deserve.”

The two groups, the Chronic Effects of Neurotrauma Consortium (CENC) and the Consortium to Alleviate PTSD (CAP) will be jointly managed by DoD and VA.

A primary goal of CENC is to establish an understanding of the aftereffects of an mTBI. Potential comorbidities also will be studied; that is, conditions associated with and worsen because of a neurotrauma.

“PTSD and mTBI are two of the most prevalent injuries suffered by our warfighters in Iraq and Afghanistan, and identifying better treatments for those impacted is critical,” said Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, Dr. Jonathan Woodson. “These consortia will bring together leading scientists and researchers devoted to the health and welfare of our Nation’s service members and Veterans.”

More than 15 percent of service members and Veterans suffer impaired functioning as a result of PTSD. CAP will study potential indicators of the trauma, as well as prevention strategies, possible interventions, and improved treatments. Biomarker-based researched will be a key factor for CAP’s studies.

On Aug. 31, the President signed an executive order to improve access to mental health services for Veterans, service members and military families. As part of that executive order, the President directed the Department of Defense, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Education to develop a National Research Action Plan that will include strategies to improve early diagnosis and treatment effectiveness for TBI and PTSD. He further directed the Department of Defense and Department of Health and Human Services to conduct a comprehensive mental health study with an emphasis on PTSD, TBI, and related injuries to develop better prevention, diagnosis, and treatment options.

Specific information on the consortia, including the full description of each award, eligibility, and submission deadlines, and General Application Instructions, are posted on the and CDMRP websites ( and , respectively).

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Sleep loss is threat to vets with PTSD

This is why you may find an article on PTSD every other place online but not here.
Can sleep deprivation help prevent post-traumatic stress disorder?
A study suggests that a sleepless night can block the consolidation of traumatic memories

I don't jump on stories just because it may sound good or I think I can get more hits by posting something I know is false.

This article was all over websites for days after it was released. Now let's see how long it takes them to catch up to this piece of real news.

Sleep loss is threat to vets with PTSD
In Health
By Sharon Wittke, special to the Beacon
7:35 am on Wed, 09.19.12

The greatest danger to the veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder is loss of sleep.

“There is nothing more fundamental to the successful recovery of a combat veteran after war than the ability to get adequate, good quality sleep,” says Dr. Jonathan Shay, a psychiatrist.

He says sleep loss causes irritability and propensity to anger, which are classic symptoms of combat veterans suffering psychological injury.

Shay says Prazocin, a 50-year-old medicine for high blood pressure, has been shown to be very effective in tiny doses in alleviating combat nightmares.

“About half of the veterans who take it say that their nightmares are gone, and another quarter will say, ‘Well doc, I’m still having the dreams, but at least I can get back to sleep,’” he says.

The VA has begun conducting clinical trials of Prazocin at 13 of its medical centers and expects to complete its study sometime in 2012.

Shay says sleep is fuel for the frontal lobes of the brain, which is where the capacity for emotional and ethical self-restraint lies.

“Sleep is crucial. When you’re totally out of gas in your frontal lobes, you become a moral moron and a lot of the misconduct of combat veterans, I believe, is driven by this measure of frontal lobe function due to sleep loss,” he says.
read more here

You can find more about Dr. Shay right here

Thursday, June 21, 2012

VA to Increase Mental Health Care Access

VA to Increase Mental Health Care Access through 200,000 Telemental Health Consultations in 2012

WASHINGTON (June 20, 2012)– In a continuing effort to increase Veterans’ access to mental health care, the Department of Veterans Affairs has set a goal to conduct more than 200,000 clinic-based, telemental health consultations for all mental health specialties in fiscal year 2012.  This follows VA’s announcement last month that it would no longer charge Veterans a copayment when they receive care in their homes from VA health professionals using video conferencing. 

“Telemental health provides Veterans quicker and more efficient access to the types of care they seek,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “We are leveraging technology to reduce the distance they have to travel, increase the flexibility of the system they use, and improve their overall quality of life.  We are expanding the reach of our mental health services beyond our major medical centers and treating Veterans closer to their homes.”

The clinic-based telehealth program involves the more than 800 VA community-based outpatient clinics (CBOCs) where many Veterans receive primary care.  If the CBOCs do not have a mental health care provider available, secure video teleconferencing technology is used to connect the Veteran to a provider within VA’s nationwide system of care. 

As a result, Veterans can arrange appointments at times more in synch with their schedules.  The program improves access to general and specialty services in geographically remote areas where it can be difficult to recruit mental health professionals.

“As technology is improving people’s lives in many areas, telemental health is making access to health care and support easier for Veterans with mental health conditions,” said Dr. Robert A. Petzel, Under Secretary for Health.  “For example, one combat Veteran from Iraq cites telemental health as a critical factor in rebuilding her life and coping with the aftermath of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and military sexual trauma.  Telemental health offered her a safe and convenient setting to receive gender sensitive services that helped her fit back into civilian life after three months of therapy.”

Since the start of the Telemental Health Program, VA has completed over 550,000 patient encounters.  In Fiscal Year 2011 alone, more than 140,000 encounters were conducted with 55,000 Veterans via CBOCs, where providers at 150 hospitals delivered care to veterans at more than 500 clinics. 

The Telehealth Expansion Initiative launched in May 2011 called for an additional 21 regional leads, 144 facility coordinators and 1,150 clinical technicians to VA’s workforce.  When fully implemented, the expansion will provide a potential capacity of 1.2 million consultations annually. 

Video to the home is currently projected to grow to 2,000 patients by the end of fiscal year 2012, with 1,500 using innovative new Internet Protocol (IP) video connected to Veterans’ personal computers. 

In addition to supporting these current programs, the VHA National Telemental Health Center in West Haven, Conn., has pioneered additional new programs that delivered 1,000 specialized patient encounters from mental health experts at multiple VA sites to Veterans throughout the nation.  These include over 100 compensation and pension exams, 700 clinical encounters to over 165 Veterans enrolled in behavioral pain treatment programs, and 200 clinical-video and telephone encounters to over 70 Veterans enrolled in a bipolar disorder treatment program.

This campaign is part of VA’s overall mental health program.  Last year, VA provided quality, specialty mental health services to 1.3 million Veterans.  Since 2009, VA has increased the mental health care budget by 39 percent.  Since 2007, VA has seen a 35 percent increase in the number of Veterans receiving mental health services, and a 41 percent increase in mental health staff.  

In April, as part of an ongoing review of mental health operations, Secretary Shinseki announced VA would add approximately 1,600 mental health clinicians as well as nearly 300 support staff to its existing workforce of 20,590 to help meet the increased demand for mental health services.  The additional staff would include nurses, psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers. 

For more information, on VA’s telemental health, visit the Office of Telehealth Services at

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

More help coming for veterans with Combat PTSD in Florida

Viera VA clinic to nearly double mental health staff
More help coming for war-weary
Written by
R. Norman Moody
Jun 19, 2012

Since 2007, VA nationally has seen a 35 percent increase in the number of veterans receiving mental health services and as a result, increased its mental health staff by 41 percent. In the past three years, it increased its mental health care budget by 39 percent and last year, provided mental health services to 1.3 million veterans.

Just as the number of troops returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan swelled with the end of one war and the draw-down from the other, so did the number of veterans seeking mental health care.

More than one million troops served in those conflicts during the past decade.

A plan announced last week by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to address the growing need for better mental health care for U.S. veterans will mean the Viera VA Outpatient Clinic will almost double its mental health staff.

The national recruitment effort that already has added some mental health professionals at the Viera clinic — a facility that had 23,000 mental health visits last year — will culminate in about six months with 14 positions added to the previous 16.
read more here

Sunday, June 17, 2012

$2 million missing from 28 veterans' accounts

How do these people live with absolutely no conscience at all?

Thieves swindle disabled veterans, program
By Eric Nalder and Lise Olsen
Sunday, June 17, 2012

Roy Wilson Swirczynski, a disabled veteran in Houston, for years requested an investigation of his fiduciary, Joe Phillips. The VA later discovered nearly $2 million missing from 28 veterans' accounts, the largest theft total uncovered in a fiduciary program.
Photo: Johnny Hanson, Houston Chronicle / © 2012 Houston Chronicle

They survived the Nazis, the Viet Cong and the Taliban. But hundreds of mentally disabled veterans suffered new wounds when the country they served put their checkbooks in the hands of scoundrels.

Gambling addicts, psychiatric cases and convicted criminals are among the thieves who have been handed control of disabled veterans' finances by the Veterans Affairs Department, a Hearst Newspapers investigation has found.

For decades, theft and fraud have plagued the fiduciary program, in which the VA appoints a family member or a stranger to manage money for veterans whom the government considers incapacitated. The magnitude and pace of those thefts have increased, despite VA promises of reform. Three of the largest scams — ranging from about $900,000 to $2 million — each persisted for 10 years or more before being discovered.

In the past six years, the VA has removed 467 fiduciaries for misuse of money, but only a fraction have faced criminal charges, a Hearst analysis of data from the VA's Office of the Inspector General shows.
read more here

If cream rises to the top then you know crud always sinks to the bottom.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

VA Announces New Mental Health Clinic in Tampa

Hope this happens a lot faster than Orlando. The ground breaking was in 2008 for Lake Nona!
VA Announces New Mental Health Clinic in Tampa
Facility Slated for Summer 2013 Opening

WASHINGTON (June 12, 2012)– The Department of Veterans Affairs has selected University Corporate Park of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., to build a new mental health clinic for Veterans in Tampa, Fla.

“This new facility will ensure that Florida’s Veterans continue to have access to high-quality medical care that they’ve earned through their service to our Nation,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki.

The facility will be located at 10770 N. 46th Street in Building E. The project, which will create 13 construction jobs, will be completed in the summer of 2013.

The contract calls for a 22,300-square-foot, one-story building, with 154 parking spaces. VA will pay an annual rent of nearly $600,000 under the 10-year contract. Mental health services are now provided at another leased facility adjacent to the James A. Haley VA Hospital.

The clinic, which will be located five miles from the Haley VA facility, will provide services for nearly 148,000 Veterans in Hernando, Hillsborough, Pasco, and Polk counties.

In the last three years, VA has devoted more people, programs, and resources toward mental health services to serve the growing number of Veterans seeking mental health care from VA. The department is a pioneer in mental health research, high-quality, evidence-based treatment and access to care. VA has many entry points to care through the use of Vet Centers, the Veterans Crisis Line, and integration of mental health services in the primary care setting. Since 2007, VA has seen a 35 percent increase in the number of Veterans receiving mental health services, and a 41 percent increase in mental health staff.

In April, Secretary Shinseki announced VA would add approximately 1,600 mental health clinicians – to include nurses, psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers – as well as nearly 300 support staff to its existing workforce of 20,590 mental health staff as part of an ongoing review of mental health operations.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Gulf War Vet had to wait over 4 months for PTSD help

Delays concern veterans who have mental health issues
Sunday, May 20, 2012
By Karissa Minn

But the inspector general’s report said the Veteran’s Health Administration overstated that percentage. For example, the report said, the Salisbury hospital counts 21-minute telephone intake interviews as full evaluations.

SALISBURY — Donald Shawver had to wait more than four months to see a psychiatrist at the Salisbury veterans’ hospital, and a recent federal report says he’s not alone.

The Gulf War veteran was seeking continued treatment for flashbacks and depression related to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). He applied for assistance in Salisbury after moving from Texas about four years ago.

Shawver said few rotating professionals gave him emergency care at the hospital, but it took 41/2 months to get his first appointment with an assigned psychiatrist.

“Once I got in the VA system, they’ve done me pretty fair, but we need some changes,” Shawver said. “It’s a struggle to get good treatment. I believe they’re just overrun.”

According to an inspector general’s report released last month, many other veterans have waited months for an appointment.

At the W.G. “Bill” Hefner VA Medical Center in Salisbury, federal investigators found patients had to wait an average of 86 days to see a psychiatrist.
read more here

Thursday, April 19, 2012

VA To Add About 1,900 To Mental Health Staff

While this sounds good, it won't help if these new workers are trained the same way most of them have been this far. The most common complaint I hear is that the "doc" doesn't have a clue what it is like to come home after combat. In other words, they have learned about PTSD from a textbook and not life. Huge difference to a combat veteran. The best "docs" are veterans and they have already earned the trust of the veteran sitting in front of them because they have "been there and done that" already.
Veteran Affairs To Add About 1,900 To Mental Health Staff
By ERIC TUCKER 04/19/12

WASHINGTON — The Department of Veterans Affairs said Thursday it was increasing its staff of mental health workers by roughly 1,900, part of an effort to anticipate medical needs of veterans returning home from war.

The department plans to add about 1,600 clinicians, including psychologists, psychiatrists, nurses and social workers, and about 300 support staff to an existing mental health staff of roughly 20,590.

"As the tide of war recedes, we have the opportunity, and the responsibility, to anticipate the needs of returning Veterans," VA Secretary Eric Shinseki said in a statement. "History shows that the costs of war will continue to grow for a decade or more after the operational missions in Iraq and Afghanistan have ended. As more Veterans return home, we must ensure that all Veterans have access to quality mental health care."
read more here

Sunday, August 23, 2009

American Legion Can Play Key Role in Vets Suicide Prevention

Saturday, August 22, 2009
The American Legion Can Play Key Role in Vets' Suicide Prevention, Says VA

LOUISVILLE, Ky., Aug 22, 2009 /PRNewswire-USNewswire via COMTEX
A top medical officer in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) says The American Legion and colleague veterans service organizations can play a key role in suicide prevention among military veterans. Dr. Jan Kemp, the VA's national suicide prevention coordinator, in pointing to the 5,000 self-inflicted deaths among veterans a year, said, "We're failing them. It's all of our responsibility to own up to that. There's no reason any veteran in the United States of America should die of his own hand because they think people don't care, and that there's no way for them to make that situation better."

VA is addressing the critical problem by placing suicide prevention coordinators at every VA facility and opening a 24/7 suicide prevention telephone hotline. Since the hotline was established two years ago, says VA, nearly 84,000 calls have been received by veterans considering taking their own lives and nearly another 11,000 from concerned family members or friends of veterans at risk.

Dr. Kemp said that members of The American Legion can fill key roles in the VA's suicide prevention initiatives by engaging their fellow vets, looking for signs of emotional distress and intervening correctly and quickly when potential trouble is spotted. She noted that the concern surrounding suicide is not just for warriors recently returned from the rigors of battle and perhaps suffering from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but among older veterans, too. Referring to them, she said, "We're thinking about those transitions from working to retirement. There have been some economic changes. Retirement isn't what it used to be for some of us. Those are really critical times in people's lives."

read more here

The American Legion Can Play Key Role

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

President Obama listened to veterans voices

Dear Chaplain Kathie,

I'm on the road in Washington, DC, but I wanted to send you a quick update on two big breaking news stories.

First, just a few minutes ago, the Pentagon officially announced they will be phasing out involuntary enlistment extensions, otherwise known as "stop-loss."

The Pentagon also agreed to pay $500 per month to servicemembers forced to stay beyond their original enlistment term, which is a policy that IAVA has been supporting for a long time.

Stop-loss has had an enormous impact on the lives of many of our nation's troops, veterans, and military families. As I mentioned last week, tonight's episode of MTV's The Real World, which features IAVA prominently, focuses on cast-member Ryan, an Iraq veteran who was stop-lossed. The information about that episode, which airs tonight at 10pm on MTV, is in the forwarded email below.

Second, on what has proven to be a huge day for veterans, there has been another major development in Washington, DC. President Obama listened to IAVA and the other major veterans organizations, and made a critical decision to not move forward with a proposal to bill a veteran's private insurance for the cost of caring for a service-connected injury.

Today, President Obama showed that he understands and respects our nation's veterans.

Later this week, I'll have much more to report about this whirlwind week in Washington, DC, which included meetings with the President, Speaker Pelosi and VA Secretary Shinseki.

In the meantime, be sure to tune in tonight at 10pm on MTV, and keep an eye on your inbox for more breaking news from the nation's capitol.

Thank you for standing with us.



Paul Rieckhoff
Iraq Veteran
Executive Director & Founder
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA)

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Lawmakers want faster progress on TBI, PTSD

Well Comgressman Murtha is getting it right,,,I didn't need to post the rant after all.

Lawmakers want faster progress on TBI, PTSD - Springfield,VA,USA
Lawmakers want faster progress on TBI, PTSD

By Kelly Kennedy - Staff writer
Posted : Tuesday Mar 3, 2009 16:03:36 EST

A hearing meant to give Defense Department officials a chance to explain their plans for spending $900 million allocated for mental health care quickly turned into a debate on how that money should be spent.

As yet, military experts on post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries are still working out which studies should be funded, which treatment methods should be adopted and which pilot programs should be put in place.

“We keep getting studies,” Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., chairman of the House defense appropriations panel, said at a hearing Tuesday. “That’s the problem with the Defense Department — they study it to death.”

“I would say that you’ve helped us significantly,” Ellen Embrey, deputy assistant secretary of defense for force health readiness and protection, told Murtha and other lawmakers. “I would like to report in future hearings what we’re doing with that money.”

Lawmakers had plenty of ideas of their own: Buy more helicopters to get wounded troops out of Afghanistan faster; begin treating traumatic brain injuries immediately using hyperbaric oxygen chambers; and, most importantly, quit spending so much time studying options that never become reality.
click link for more

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Rep. wants probe of VA psychologist firing

Rep. wants probe of VA psychologist firing
The Associated Press
Posted : Sunday Feb 15, 2009 15:16:10 EST

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A Tennessee congressman has intervened in the case of a psychologist who was fired from the Memphis Veterans Medical Center for her handling of a phone call from a distraught Iraq war veteran.

Rep. Steve Cohen sent a letter to Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki asking for an investigation into the firing of clinical psychologist Sidney Ornduff, The Commercial Appeal in Memphis reported.

Cohen, a Memphis Democrat, compared Ornduff’s popularity to that of Florence Nightingale, the 19th-century nurse known for advising and comforting wounded soldiers.

“I want him to investigate and see what happened, to look into that case and, if possible, encourage her to come back because I think she’s a star,” he said.

Cohen said it’s wrong for the administration and veterans to lose Ornduff as a resource.

Memphis VA spokeswoman Willie Logan released a statement late last week saying the agency wasn’t aware of Cohen’s letter but would respond to any request made by Shinseki.

Cohen’s letter marks the latest development in a nearly two-year ordeal that began in the early morning hours of April 2, 2007, when veteran Jared Rhine called the Memphis VA and demanded to speak to Ornduff.

click link for more

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Almost 150,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans already in VA mental health care

I am a member of NAMI, (not that they'd ever listen to me either,) and I trust this information. Think about these numbers for a bit after you read the following. Now, those are some really huge numbers but what you also need to think about is the fact two thirds of the American public still do not know what PTSD and in those numbers are more veterans suffering but without a clue what's wrong with them. 750,000? There's really a lot more than that. As outreach work keeps reaching them, letting them know why they have flashbacks and nightmares, why they think differently than they did, there will be a lot more seeking help but the VA cannot even keep up with the numbers they have now.

Today I was at the Orlando VA Clinic, which is the size of a hospital. Security had to direct traffic because there were over 3,000 cars there already. The patients had to park behind the building. They were parking on the grass spots under trees, usually used for motorcycles as well. Were they all there for mental health? No but it's a clear sign there will be many, many more seeking help from the VA. When it comes to PTSD, it's not something that can be put off. They need help as soon as they are ready to get it. Same with substance abuse. When they are ready to take back their lives and stop self-medicating, the treatment needs to be ready for them, but that doesn't happen either.

Issue Brief: Veteran’s Affairs

NAMI places the highest priority on the nation meeting the treatment and community-support needs of individuals with severe mental illness who have protected our freedoms through military service. According to the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is the largest unified provider of mental health services in the United States.

• Nearly one-half million veterans are service-connected for a mental illness.

• 150,000 veterans are service-connected for psychotic illnesses – chronic, severely debilitating brain disorders that often manifest during or shortly following military service.

• VA has positively adjudicated claims of 150,000 veterans for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – a disorder most often correlated with both acute and chronic stress reactions from combat exposure.

• In 2008, more than 750,000 veterans received mental health services from the VA, including almost 150,000 veterans of combat service in Iraq and Afghanistan.

NAMI endorses implementation of integrated services for veterans living with mental illness including access to physician services, effective therapies, state-of-the-art medications, family education and involvement, inpatient and outpatient care, residential treatment, supported housing, assertive community treatment (ACT), psychosocial rehabilitation, peer support, vocational and employment services, and integrated treatment for co-occurring mental illness and substance abuse disorders.

NAMI endorses the Independent Budget (IB) FY 2010 recommendations for funding overall VA health care, for reforming that funding system to ensure advance appropriations, and for providing comprehensive VA mental health care; NAMI fully endorses the IB FY 2010 policy recommendations to improve VA care and services to veterans with mental health needs.

1. Oversight: VA must provide meaningful oversight of its mental health service programs. Congress should enhance its efforts to provide oversight for VA’s mental health transformation and implementation of VA’s National Mental Health Strategic Plan and Uniform Mental Health Services delivery initiative.

2. VA National Mental Health Strategic Plan: Medical Services funding to support the Mental Health Enhancement Initiative should be provided on a recurring “earmarked” basis, outside of the VERA system, until such time that VA is confident that the programs within the initiative are sustainable. Given the urgency of ensuring the implementation of the Uniform Mental Health Services package, consideration should be given to holding Congressional oversight hearings as soon as possible on the implementation strategy employed by VACO for this initiative. Congress should require VA to provide an assessment of resource requirements, as well as a completion date for full implementation of the Uniform Mental Health Services package.

3. Family-Centered Services: VA must increase access to veteran and family-centered mental health care programs including family therapy and marriage counseling. These programs should be available at all VA health care facilities. Veterans and Family Consumer Councils should become routine standing committees at all VAMCs. These Councils should include the active participation of veteran health care consumers, their families and their representatives.

National Alliance on Mental Illness 2107 Wilson Blvd, Suite 300 ▪ Arlington, VA ▪ 22201 ▪ 703.950.6264 Page 17 of 21

4. Performance Measures: VA and DOD should track and publicly report performance measures relevant to their mental health and substance use disorder programs. VA should focus intensive efforts to improve and increase early intervention and the prevention of substance abuse in the veteran population.

Mental Health Needs of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom (OIF/OEF) Veterans

Evidence grows ever stronger that the health care burden for OIF/OEF veterans will be heavy, and the legacy of their war will be a long one. Utilization rates for health care and mental health services of these veterans predict an increasing requirement for health services in the future. Since 2002, over 300,000 OEF/OIF veterans have contacted VA following their service in these war zones. The devastating effects of poly-trauma, PTSD, traumatic brain injury (TBI), blindness, multiple limb loss, burns, sexual assaults and other injuries with mental health consequences that are not so easily recognizable, and can lead to serious health catastrophes, family dissolution, and even suicide, if they are not adequately addressed.

The DoD and VA have taken the first steps toward improving mental health services for active duty members and veterans of OIF/OEF, but are still far from meeting the mental health needs of OIF/OEF veterans and achieving the universal goal of “seamless transition.”

NAMI endorses the Independent Budget (IB) FY 2010 recommendations to VA and DoD for improving care and services for veterans of OIF/OEF, caregivers of the severely injured among this population, including parent caregivers; and to reinforce programs for peer counseling in the VA’s Readjustment Counseling Service’s “Vet Center” program, its substance-use disorder programs and its programs for co-morbid disorders involving a mental health diagnosis and substance-use disorder.

VA and DOD must ensure that veterans and service members receive adequate screening for mental health needs, including post-deployment mental health issues such as PTSD, anxiety, depression and alcohol and other substance use disorders. When problems are identified with screening, providers should use non-stigmatizing approaches to enroll all veterans in early treatment in order to mitigate the development of chronic illness and disability.

For more information please contact:

Andrew Sperling, NAMI Director of Legislative Affairs (703-516-7222 /

February 2009