Showing posts with label dishonorable discharge. Show all posts
Showing posts with label dishonorable discharge. Show all posts

Saturday, October 20, 2012

For gay people military discharge meant "psychological" problems

This is what gay people in the military had to put up with. All this was going on because they wanted to serve this country but happened to love the wrong "type" of person.

Group seeks to clean up paperwork for outed troops
Stars and Stripes
Published: October 20, 2012

WASHINGTON — For the last 18 years, Ross Peterson was reluctant to share his military discharge paperwork with anyone.

“For job interviews, for veterans preference, for veterans benefits, they all want to see your DD-214,” the Army veteran said. “But mine was stamped less-than-honorable with ‘engaged in homosexual acts’ across it. So every time I had to show it, I was outing myself.”

Peterson’s problem isn’t unusual. Gay rights advocates say that before the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law was repealed last year, rules governing what kind of dismissal outed troops received and what information was put on their paperwork was uneven.

Some troops received honorable discharges and clean separation forms. Others received less-than-honorable designations, sometimes simply because of a commander’s bias against gays. Others received confusing or unnecessary commentary about their sexual orientation on their paperwork.

“They actually gave me an option of ‘personality disorder’ or ‘psychological problems’ when they filled out my papers,” she said. “It was easier to give me a quick discharge with those [classifications]. I was pretty upset.”

The honorable designation meant that Trueman had access to her veterans education benefits and VA home loans — veterans with other-than-honorable discharges can’t get them — but she said the “personality disorder” stamp made her reluctant to share her military paperwork with potential employers.
read more here

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Troubled veterans left without health-care benefits

Troubled veterans left without health-care benefits

More than 20,000 men and women exited the Army and Marines during the past four years with other-than-honorable discharges that can restrict their veterans health-care and disability benefits. Critics says those rules leave some troubled combat veterans struggling to find treatment and support.

By Hal Bernton
Seattle Times staff reporter
August 11, 2012

A few weeks after Jarrid Starks ended his Army service in May, he went to an office in Albany, Ore., to enroll for veterans health-care benefits.

Starks brought medical records that detailed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a twisted vertebra and a possible brain injury from concussions. Other records documented his tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, where his bravery fighting the Taliban was recognized with a Bronze Star for Valor.

None of that was enough to qualify him for health care from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

That's because Starks left the military this year with an other-than-honorable discharge — his final year of service scarred by pot smoking and taking absences without leave (AWOL).

He was told to fill out a form, then wait — possibly a year or more — while officials review his military record to determine whether he is eligible for health care.

"I was absolutely livid," Starks, 26, recalls. "This just isn't right."

Starks is among the more than 20,000 men and women who exited the Army and Marines during the past four years with other-than-honorable discharges that hamstring their access to VA health care and may strip them of disability benefits.
read more here

This was news on this blog back in 2007.

10 discharges a day for "personality disorder"
Many soldiers get boot for 'pre-existing' mental illness
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
September 29, 2007
By Philip Dine

WASHINGTON -- Thousands of U.S. soldiers in Iraq - as many as 10 a day - are being discharged by the military for mental health reasons. But the Pentagon isn't blaming the war. It says the soldiers had "pre-existing" conditions that disqualify them for treatment by the government.

Many soldiers and Marines being discharged on this basis actually suffer from combat-related problems, experts say. But by classifying them as having a condition unrelated to the war, the Defense Department is able to quickly get rid of troops having trouble doing their work while also saving the expense of caring for them.

The result appears to be that many actually suffering from combat-related problems such as post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injuries don't get the help they need.

Working behind the scenes, Sens. Christopher "Kit" Bond, R-Mo., and Barack Obama, D-Ill., have written and inserted into the defense authorization bill a provision that would make it harder for the Pentagon to discharge thousands of troops. The Post-Dispatch has learned that the measure has been accepted into the Senate defense bill and will probably become part of the Senate-House bill to be voted on this week.
read more here

Combat Vet With PTSD Booted From Army, Barred From Healthcare

Combat Vet With PTSD Booted From Army, Barred From Healthcare
OPB News
Austin Jenkins
Aug. 11, 2012

SALEM, Ore. – In Salem , a former Army staff sergeant named Jarrid Starks has run out of the medications that keep him stable. He has severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and other mental and physical wounds of war. But he’s currently not eligible for veterans’ health benefits that would include prescription refills. That’s because Starks was kicked out of the Army for bad behavior. He’s far from alone.

Jarrid Starks joined the Army right out of high school with dreams of a 20-year career.

He left the Army earlier this year in disgrace. Starks recalls being escorted from the psychiatric ward at Madigan Army Hospital to an out-processing center and then to the front gate of Washington’s Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

“I had a 90-day supply of medication that I received from Madigan in a paper lunch sack,“ he says.

That sack of pills was Stark’s lifeline: a combination of antidepressants, beta-blockers, anti-psychotics, muscle-relaxants and sleep aides. A daily cocktail that allowed Starks to keep his anger and anxiety in check.

He sports a baseball cap that reads, “Warning this vet is medicated for your protection.”

It’s a joke, but not really.

“Ya, in every joke lay a bit of truth," Starks quips.
read more here

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Marine no one helped now helping others

One Marine veteran's story: Rick Collier
Published: Thursday, April 26, 2012
By Mike Francis
The Oregonian

My name is Rick Collier. I'm a Marine Iraq Veteran and Founder of No Soldier Left Behind, a 501 (c)3 nonprofit for Military Veterans. I’m writing you today in hopes to share my story, and help thousands of Veterans like myself. Stories like mine aren’t shared often and I think it’s time we speak up and start healing together. Helping me share my story might also save lives. Here’s a small version of my story.

9/11 was where it all started. I was a senior in high school as I stood and watched the news coverage in my school's library. The horror of the planes hitting the twin towers shocked all who watched and we just stood silent. The pain I felt watching our own be attacked and murdered lit a fire inside. Within six weeks of the attacks I was fully contracted with the Marine Corps. Infantry was my job.

Not one person wanted to help me; my time in Iraq meant nothing. I meant nothing.

Finally in 2009, 6 years later, I found a Veteran Service Officer willing to help me. He not only took my case, he fought for me like my command should have. I took some time to build my case but I worked hard every step of the way. I collected letters from over a dozen Marines I served with in Iraq, letters from friends and family, from local teachers to Sheriffs and even a fighter pilot in the USAF. I even went as far as getting a Congressman to back me in my fight.

By summer of 2010 I was not only reinstated with VA benefits, but I was diagnosed with several injuries including Severe PTSD and TBI (traumatic brain injury). I was then back paid and enrolled into mental health treatment. I was finally able to start healing. I also gained recognition for my service, and that was something I lived without for many years. I even utilized my VA home loan and bought a house, despite my Bad Conduct Discharge. I started to defy all odds and overcame what others said I couldn’t.

read more here

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Warning of dishonorably discharged soldier scamming churches

Victim calls fake Iraq War vet scam 'Disgusting'
7:57 PM, Feb 10, 2012

Written by
Paul Crawley

DULUTH, Ga. (WXIA) -- 11Alive News has brought you many heart warming stories about the generosity shown to wounded war veterans. Unfortunately, this story will probably make your blood boil.

It's about a wanted man who is taking advantage of that generosity. Even worse, he's a man who doesn't deserve it.

"This guy needs to be caught and put away for a while 'til he learns his lesson," said Richard Dain of Duluth.

He and his church are just some of the victims who know firsthand.

Dain says 33-year-old Michael Allen Bradshaw showed up at the Korean Church of Atlanta just before services began on Sunday, January 15.
read more here

Thursday, July 21, 2011

DOD supports military families? Not this one

You'd think that the DOD understands the struggles military families have by now, especially with all the reports we've been reading, but then read this and know when it came to needing support, this growing family didn't have any.

Metro Detroit Family Says Solider's Discharge Unfair
Updated: Thursday, 21 Jul 2011, 10:58 AM EDT
Published : Wednesday, 20 Jul 2011, 7:55 PM EDT


SOUTHFIELD, Mich. (WJBK) - "How (are we) going to take care of our family because it affects us a lot," said Krystal Jones.

She is worried. Her husband is 22-year-old Darnell Jones -- a private serving with the 101st Airborne Division in Afghanistan. It has been his dream since he was 15 years old. He had just re-enlisted in the Army. They were supposed to move to Germany, but now he's being kicked out instead.

"They always promote family, and it's like they're going against everything they stand for," Krystal Jones said.

You see, Jones was home on leave in metro Detroit back in February when doctors told his pregnant wife she needed to have an emergency delivery. FOX 2 was shown a letter requesting that Jones be there. This was serious so the soldier asked for additional time at home, but was denied.

"My son made a decision to stay home until his son was born safely and with all intentions to return and they're calling it AWOL," said concerned mother Ericka Jones.
read more here
Metro Detroit Family Says Solider's Discharge Unfair

Metro Detroit Family Says Solider's Discharge Unfair:

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Soldier kicked out for being in wrong unit over substance abuse

Their future should not depend on who their commanders are or what rules they apply. Over the last ten years there have been many reports of soldiers using alcohol and drugs to stop feeling the effects of combat but finding help instead of discharges. Unfortunately there there have also been too many given the "bums rush" out the door cutting them off from everything as a member of the military as well as what they would have received as a veteran.

They lose their military pay and benefits including housing and when they need it the most, their healthcare. Where do you think they can go after serving and suffering for doing it when they have been cut off from everything?

They lose the chance to go to college topped off with the fact that most companies won't hire a dishonorably discharged veteran especially when there are so many honorably discharged veterans with medals looking for work when employers won't hire them. They lose the VA healthcare along with compensation for wounds they received including TBI and PTSD. They lose support from organizations, most with bylaws regarding conditions that the veteran was honorably discharged.

Their future should not depend on who they served under but it does. How do you tell a soldier like Bill Surwillo that his service leading to all of his suffering just killed off his future but others found the help they needed and are still in or going to college or being treated for what combat did to them? Then how to you tell him that had they left him alone for one more day, he would have received everything he should have? How do you tell him that? How do you explain to him that while he served at Lewis-McChord and lost it all, if he served under another commander, he would be in treatment and see his service appreciated? Four years in a unit that went through hell and they couldn't give him one more day to heal his life?

Combat Vet Loses GI Bill Over Pot And Spice
Austin Jenkins


NEAR JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. – Here's a soldier's tale. Bill Surwillo deploys to Afghanistan. Nearly a quarter of his platoon is killed. He comes home with PTSD. He turns to marijuana and spice – a synthetic version of the drug – to relax. The Army kicks him out and takes away his GI Bill. Is this fair?

I meet Bill Surwillo at a noisy café just outside the gates of Joint Base Lewis-McChord. His car is packed and he's ready to head home to Wisconsin. He's been kicked out of the Army for drug use one day shy of his official end of service date – and he's bitter.

Bill Surwillo: "I gave my life to that unit for the past four years."

Surwillo is especially upset the Army took away his college benefits. He wanted go to trade school to become a plumber or welder.

Sitting next to him in the café booth is his friend and fellow battle buddy, Nick White. Over the din, they describe the chaos in both their lives since they returned home.

That leads them to war stories from what they call their "gnarly" deployment to Afghanistan.

Surwillo tells me about one of the many roadside bombs that maimed and killed his friends and fellow soldiers.
read more here
Combat Vet Loses GI Bill Over Pot And Spice

Friday, November 14, 2008

DoD Rethinks 'Personality Disorder' Separations, but only half way

I've been covering this since they first started to do this and still waiting to know what anyone is doing to make up for all the veterans they have already done this to. What is being done for them? To stop the bleeding is great but this does not correct any of the damage done to the veterans who were pushed thru the cracks and abandoned.

They were left with no money, no jobs, families that fell apart, some ended up homeless, some ended up committing suicide and Lord knows what else they suffered after they were wounded in service to this nation then slapped in the face by the commanders they trusted with their very lives. That is what this all comes down to. The men and women serving this nation were willing to lay down their lives for this nation and they put their faith and trust in their commanders to give the right orders, have the right plans and equipment needed and the get as many of them home as possible as soon as possible. What they did not allow to enter into their minds was that these very same commanders would be so blind to the wound of PTSD that has been suffered by warriors since man first went to war with man, that they would betray them. Where is their justice? Has anyone bothered to study what happened to any of them? Any clue what happened to over 22,000 of them or their families? Does anyone care? Changing the rules and procedures is great but you cannot forget about the ones it's already been done to. Let's get this right!

DoD Rethinks 'Personality Disorder' Separations
Tom Philpott November 13, 2008
Crackdown Begins On 'Personality Disorder' Separations

Under pressure from Congress and following the Army's lead, the Department of Defense has imposed a more rigorous screening process on the services for separating troubled members due to "personality disorder."

The intent is to ensure that, in the future, no members who suffer from wartime stress get tagged with having a pre-existing personality disorder which leaves them ineligible for service disability compensation.

Since the attacks of 9/11, more than 22,600 servicemembers have been discharged for personality disorder. Nearly 3400 of them, or 15 percent, had served in combat or imminent danger zones.

Advocates for these veterans contend that at least some of them were suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or traumatic brain injury but it was easier and less costly to separate them for personality disorder. By definition, personality disorders existed before a member entered service so they do not deemed a service-related disability rating. A disability rating of 30 percent or higher, which most PTSD sufferers receive, can mean lifelong access to military health care and on-base shopping.

Over the last 18 months, lawmakers and advocates for veterans have criticized Defense and service officials for relying too often on personality disorder separations to release member who deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan or other another areas of tension in the Global War on Terrorism.

A revised DoD instruction (No. 1332.14), which took effect without public announcement August 28, responds to that criticism. It only allows separation for personality disorder for members currently or formerly deployed to an imminent danger areas if:
1) the diagnosis by a psychiatrist or a PhD-level psychologist is corroborated by a peer or higher-level mental health professional,
2) if the diagnosis is endorsed by the surgeon general of the service, and
3) if the diagnosis too into account a possible tie or "co-morbidity" with symptoms of PTSD or war-related mental injury or illness.
go here for more,15240,179143,00.html

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Shafted and shafted again, Iraq veteran, homeless, PTSD, dishonorable discharge and it gets worse

Rewards are lacking for a local veteran

Published: Tuesday, September 9, 2008 at 1:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, September 8, 2008 at 9:10 p.m.
The story of a homeless Iraq war veteran who helped Sarasota police catch a prison escapee, and who now says he's being shorted on the reward money, is really a bigger story.

But let's keep this simple.

Forget about Earl Coffey coming back from combat in Iraq prone to self-medicate to escape flashbacks, often about the day he shot an enemy who turned out to be just an unarmed Iraqi child.

And forget about Coffey's Army court martial and prison sentence for looting many thousands of dollars he and another soldier found in a Baghdad palace. Forget how his less-than-honorable discharge cost him his veteran benefits, which he could really use now that he's a damaged and homeless former soldier.

He has since spent time in jail in Sarasota for trying to sell stolen property. Some life.

Herald-Tribune reporter Billy Cox wrote all about this stuff back in May.

It is just too complicated to even guess who is or should be responsible for what, and what could or should be done to help the man.
click post title for more

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Another PTSD soldier with "less than honorable" discharge

Ex-soldier fights for normal life
The Post-Standard - - Syracuse,NY,USA
Sunday, August 31, 2008

David Marr is coming out of a closet filled with demons.

He's talking about being messed up on drugs, being homeless, being divorced from his wife and losing custody of his children. He's also talking about his 20 years of experience in the military and how he turned his life around, finally.

David credits the Rescue Mission and the Department of Veterans Affairs with giving him the help he needed.

"My heart went out to him." Randy Crichlow explains. Randy manages the Mission's independent living program. "We watched him stay with us and stabilize. I'd say he had plenty of issues and a low level of trust when he came to us in November 2007. Now we're fast friends."

David and Randy have an ongoing pingpong tournament at the Mission, even though he checked out in May. David's ahead, 20 to 16 games.

David says he came to the Rescue Mission a broken man, unable to admit it. He'd been kicked out of the Army, after 20 years, because of a cocaine habit. His wife of 17 years, Laura, divorced him. She has custody of their three children - David III, 17, Valerie, 13, and Lauren, 10.

Now he's off drugs, although still taking medication, after a successful rehabilitation program at Canandaigua Veterans Hospital. He's got a place to live, with his girlfriend in Mattydale. His ex lives on the same street and he sees the kids often. His son, David, just started as a freshman at State University College at Oneonta.

And David's a college student himself, about to start the third semester of a program in emergency management at Onondaga Community Collge. He talks about working for the Federal Emergency Management Agency and running for office.

We sat under a tree in the front yard of the home where he lives on a quiet street off Malden Road. The tranquility is interrupted occasionally by a speeding car and the roar of a plane out of Hancock Field nearby.

I ask David if the aircraft noise brings back memories of his service in civil affairs (in the 403rd Civil Affairs unit) in Bosnia, North Africa, Iraq and Afghanistan.
click above for more

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Pfc. puts life in shambles by taking war spoils

Pfc. puts life in shambles by taking war spoils

By Billy Cox - Special to the Times

Posted : Saturday Jul 5, 2008 7:26:12 EDT

SARASOTA, Fla. -- After nearly three weeks of desert combat and enough death to jangle his brain for a lifetime, Pfc. Earl Coffey arrived in Baghdad in April 2003 thinking he had discovered an oasis.

It was Palace Row, one of the most exclusive tracts of real estate in Iraq, and not even major bomb damage could dim the luster of a tyrant's decadence. Coffey was among the first U.S. troops to secure Saddam Hussein's inner sanctum, the postwar "Green Zone" now hosting diplomats and government authorities. Its allure was intoxicating.

Coffey recalled his awe at seeing gold-rimmed toilet seats, 30-foot wide chandeliers, and Swarovski crystal collections. Over the next few days, he sampled one revelation after another: the Dom Perignon champagne, the Monte Cristo Cuban cigars, even the lion's roar of captive pet carnivores.

He watched as a Bradley Fighting Vehicle rammed and collapsed the wall of a windowless bunker just outside Saddam's palace. The building concealed bundles of U.S. currency stacked floor-to-ceiling and wrapped in binding that read "Bank of America."

To a man who had grown up in the bleak shadows of Kentucky's coal mines, staring down all that money "was like hitting the lottery," Coffey said.

His career was about to drown in a flood of American dollars.

The family business

Today, adrift and troubled in Sarasota, the 34-year-old is worlds away from what he once was -- a trained sniper who took his first shot with a .22-caliber rifle his father gave him when he was 7 or 8 years old in rural Harlan County. At first, he practiced on tin can lids nailed to a fence post 80 yards away. When that got too easy, he began targeting the nails. And other things.

Struggling back home

Homeless, jobless, struggling with drugs, delinquent on child support payments, and spinning in the revolving door of Sarasota courtrooms and jail cells, Earl Coffey said he is hamstrung by civilian life.

And, in an echo of the post-traumatic stress disorder that contributed to the recent death of 24-year-old Marine Eric Hall in nearby Charlotte County, Fla., Coffey claims the combat flashbacks from the invasion have debilitated him.

"Fighting war's not hard; living with it afterwards is hard," said Coffey, who maintains a military-tight haircut. "It keeps coming back on you. For a long time, I was afraid to go to sleep because I knew what I'd see. You get exhausted by the flashbacks and you feel like you're in a trance all the time, like a zombie, like you're just existing."

Ineligible for Veterans Affairs assistance because of his bad-conduct discharge, Coffey said he turned to Oxycontin, a narcotic he purchased illegally on the streets, to dull the jagged edges of memory.

He said he got "a little carried away," completed detox through the Salvation Army, and insists he is drug-free today. But neither his father nor his wife believe it.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Senator Sherrod Brown taking on PTSD problems

Brown's legislation will help sufferers of post traumatic stress disorder
News Journal staff report

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said this week he will introduce legislation to require additional regulations before the Department of Defense can discharge military personnel suffering from service-connected post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury or related conditions.

Brown said his legislation would address the growing number of service members who agree, based on common misconceptions about automatic discharge upgrades, to less than honorable discharges for behaviors that are actually a function of the disorders.

"We must protect our soldiers suffering from PTSD or TBI from getting lost in an administrative shuffle," Brown said. "These brave men and women deserve every consideration and too often they are receiving none."

An increasing number of service personnel are being given involuntary, less-than-honorable discharges but are later diagnosed with the service-connected disorders, the senator said. He added that often that occurs when the military discharges a service member citing a "personality disorder."
Those with a less than honorable discharge are not entitled to military or Veterans Administration benefits.

click post title for the rest

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Less Than Honorable When Military Turns Against PTSD

All Things Considered, December 20, 2007 ·
"Our military families deserve better," President Bush declared in October as he sent a proposed bill to Congress. The legislation, he said, would make it easier for our troops to receive care for PTSD, "and it will help affected service members to move forward with their lives."
But veterans advocates say that even if the military and the Department of Veterans Affairs became models for helping troops with mental health problems, it wouldn't help a large category of vets who are already wounded and forgotten. These soldiers and Marines came back from combat, couldn't get adequate help, "flipped out" and misbehaved in some way — and as a result, were kicked out of the military without all the financial and medical benefits that veterans usually receive.
"I think it's an outrage that we have not taken proper care of them," said Sen. Christopher "Kit" Bond (R-MO), one of the most influential voices on veterans' affairs. "Too many of these people have been kicked out because of the results of the stress they've been under."
'Head and Shoulders Above His Peers'
NPR has tracked down dozens of vets across the U.S. to put a face on the problem.
Until he got PTSD, Patrick Uloth was a poster boy for the Marines in Iraq. He enlisted right out of high school, fought two tours and quickly was promoted to lance corporal. His commander hailed him as "head and shoulders above his peers." He received an award for valor, for helping save his unit one night near Fallujah.
But, like just about every Marine and soldier who has fought in Iraq, Uloth saw violence and death in ways that most people can barely imagine. During one patrol, for instance, a suicide bomber's vehicle exploded in front of Uloth's convoy.
Uloth said that the explosion left one of his Marine buddies decapitated. He remembers that he and two other Marines "scooped the Marine into bags, because he was in pieces." When Uloth rushed to another victim, he realized it was one of his best friends. "There was a large hole in the back of his head," Uloth says.

go here for the rest

Uloth says that if he had benefits, he'd check himself into a psychiatric hospital because, although he can seem charming and cheerful on the surface, he says he is in deep emotional trouble.

Uloth's Superior Speaks
Letter from Uloth's Platoon Sergeant

(Requires Adobe Acrobat)
Uloth says that when he went to the mental health center at Camp Pendleton's hospital to ask for help, they were so overwhelmed by returning troops with mental health problems that he couldn't book a therapy appointment for months. The staff eventually gave him sporadic counseling, and prescribed a cocktail of powerful medications, but Uloth complained that the drugs made him feel worse.

So, he took off from Camp Pendleton without permission: Uloth went AWOL, as it's commonly called. (The Marines call it UA for "unauthorized absence.")

But he didn't disappear. Instead, Uloth checked himself into a psychiatric center he had heard about at an Air Force base in Mississippi. He started getting intensive therapy, which he couldn't get at his own base.

When Uloth's commanders learned where he was, they sent two guards to arrest and restrain him with handcuffs and metal shackles. They locked him in a jail cell at Camp Pendleton for almost two months, even though a military medical staff member concluded that he was "unfit for confinement."

Listen: Matt McLauchlen explains to NPR's Daniel Zwerdling how
he has "fallen through the cracks" of the military system.


Read Letter to President Bush
Letter: Sen. Bond Calls for Special Discharge Review Program
(Requires Adobe Acrobat)

How many more reports do we have to read to understand these men and women risked their lives for us, were wounded in the process, and then they were betrayed by less than honorable treatment of them? When are we going to get this right for all of them? Are we even really trying? I've heard testimonies for years about PTSD and the way the veterans have been treated and I've heard a lot of promises to change what is wrong but have seen very little evidence of it.

Is anyone in Washington giving these veterans the same sense of urgency they did when they issued the orders to deploy them and get them there? It seems only logical and honorable to take care of them when they are wounded. So what's the problem? It can't be money because in the long run taking care of them now saves a lot of money. Is it still ignorance? After years of testimonies by experts and over 30 years of studies, there isn't that much more they have to know before they figure out they have a serious problem. How many more times do they have to hear the figures of the ever growing number of veterans with PTSD not being taken care of, committing suicide because they are not being taken care of or about the numbers of the wounded being kicked out of the military with dishonorable discharges? Seems like we have a bigger problem with the congress being less than honorable to them than the other way around.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Army Still Discharging Traumatic Brain Injury Patients Without Benefits

Army Still Discharging Traumatic Brain Injury Patients Without Benefits, Any Way It Can
by Jesse Wendel, Group News Blog

Sgt. Darren Mischke got hurt bad in Iraq.

A two-tour vet, he was in a wreck tour one, and knocked out. In his second tour, his vehicle was mortared. He has Traumatic Brain Injury.

Like many chronic pain, PTSD, and depression patients, he became a different person, a different "I" from the person his family had always known.

Happens. But the Army, consistently has been taking the easy way out, and shoving soldiers out any way they can, rather than rate them properly.
click post title for the rest

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

'Coming Home: Soldiers and Drugs'

Coming Home: Soldiers and Drugs

Spc. William Swenson was on his final mission in Iraq when his vehicle drove over a 200-pound improvised explosive device. The blast injured Swenson's spine, and he developed syringomyelia. When a laundry list of prescribed painkillers proved ineffective, Swenson says he turned to marijuana.

Back home, Swenson tested positive for marijuana and cocaine, he told ABC News. The Army court-martialed him and threw him in jail for 20 days.

Spc. Alan Hartmann was a gunner on a Chinook helicopter, flying missions from Kuwait into Iraq and ferrying the dead bodies of U.S. soldiers killed in combat.

After surviving his third crash, Hartmann returned home with chronic neck pain, fatigue and nightmares. He traded his prescribed anti-depressants and painkillers for methamphetamines. Hartmann eventually checked himself into rehab and is now clean.

Spc. Jeffrey Smith worked as a medic in a Baghdad ER, where he witnessed the "complete insanity" that would stay with him long after he retured to the homefront. "We saw everything from gunshot wounds to people missing legs, arms, pieces of their face," he told ABC News.

Smith said to escape from the daily "insanity," if even for a short time, many soldiers working in the hospital began to abuse Ambien, Percocet and Prozac, as well as prescription painkillers available on the black market in Baghdad.

Smith told ABC News he self-medicated himself with alcohol, marjuana, cocaine and ecstasy. Smith even attempted suicide, he said. Although he sought help, Smith said he was kicked out of the Army without benefits after testing positive for cocaine twice and marijuana once.

Spc. Matthew McKane worked as a medic in the Baghdad ER. He says his worst day was when a suicide bomber drove a car into a Baghdad orphanage, injuring dozens of children, some younger than five. Like many of his co-workers, McKane turned to drugs to numb his senses. When those weren't enough, McKane said he and a fellow medic tried propofol, a powerful anesthetic. His comrade overdosed and died.

When McKane returned to Fort Carson, he said he tested positive for cocaine. He is currently in prison awaiting a court-martial on misconduct charges. McKane believes he will soon be dismissed from the Army because of his drug use.

(ABC News)

Hidden Wounds Lead to Drugs
Part Three of the Series: 'Coming Home: Soldiers and Drugs'

Nov. 28, 2007

Editor's Note from Brian Ross: In the third year of a joint project with the nonprofit Carnegie Corporation, six leading graduate school journalism students were again selected to spend the summer working with the ABC News investigative unit.
Editor's Note from Brian Ross: In the third year of a joint project with the nonprofit Carnegie Corporation, six leading graduate school journalism students were again selected to spend the summer working with the ABC News investigative unit.

In His Own Words: Spc. Alan Hartmann (go to link for video)

This year's project involved an examination of whether, as happened in the wake of the Vietnam War, Iraqi war veterans were turning to drugs as a result of the trauma and pain of war.

The U.S. military maintains the percentage of soldiers abusing drugs is extremely small and has not increased as a result of Iraq.

The students' assignment was to get the unofficial side of the story from soldiers, young men of their own generation.

Today's report is the third in a series of five reports.

As more U.S. service members return home from Iraq and Afghanistan after witnessing the horrors of war, more will turn to drugs and alcohol to cope.

That's according to mental health experts who say there is a strong correlation between Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, and substance abuse. PTSD is an anxiety disorder that afflicts people who have been through a traumatic event.

Coming Home: Soldiers and DrugsDr. Phillip Ballard, a psychiatrist at Penrose-St. Francis Health Services in Colorado Springs, Colo., said he has seen a significant increase of soldiers from nearby Fort Carson seeking inpatient treatment for substance abuse.

"PTSD has as part of its core diagnosis the use of substances as self-medication for the relief of depression, anxiety, whatever feeling they may have," Ballard said. "Sometimes it's considered to be a weakness or a less than manly thing to ask for assistance or ask for help so they do the best they can do with what they have available...they use the chemicals and drugs they've used in the past to numb feelings up."

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Tale of Three Medics

High at the Mountain Post

This is a good report.

When my husband's nephew came home from Vietnam, he was already addicted to heroin. It was self-medication that he was hooked on. He didn't want to get high. He wanted to kill off feelings he did not want to ever feel again and if it meant he would kill off any good feelings with them, so be it. To him, not feeling that kind of pain was worth any price.

That price sent him to jail for a long time. When he got out, eventually, he fell in love with a good woman with a sharp mind. A professional woman, independent and wealthy by some standards. She helped him begin to heal enough that he was willing to get clean. She made sure he went to the VA to be treated and he was. Eventually his claim was approved. He had shrapnel still imbedded in his body and a lot of back pain, along with a diagnosis of PTSD. All those years, he never knew what it was. He didn't have much of a sense of it until my husband was diagnosed and began to share with his nephew. Andy, well he was just a few months younger than my husband Jack. Both of them enlisted in the Army the same year.

Back then MRI's were very dangerous for anyone with metal in their body. The VA wanted him to have an MRI. He though they were trying to kill him. The next attack came when he sent for his records from the DOD. The response came back that the unit he served in, never existed. Andy had been living with blaming himself for a couple of his buddies getting blown up. The denial meant that the government was also denying his friends died. If the unit never existed, then neither did they.

All that work, all that time of healing, was over with a few days later when he contacted his ex-dealer. He was back on heroin. Not long after, he bought enough for ten men to die. He checked himself into a motel room. Locked the door. Pushed furniture up against the door so that no one could get in. He used all the heroin. He knew what he was doing.

This country can say it as many times as they want but what all of this boils down to is that no one really looks at the soldiers and Marines as human. If they ever did they wouldn't see them as being any different than themselves. They would have to take a good, long, hard look at what we ask all of them to go through when we send them to war. Logical people would understand that in sending them, we should accept the responsibility for them, since they are necessary for the security of this nation. We are not a logical nation. We are an emotional one. We are a judgmental one. For all the talk of being compassionate, while the majority of the people are, those who lead it are not.

A lot of people want to just blame Bush for all of this, but Andy committed suicide when Clinton was in office and it was not Bush in office when Andy and my husband came home. Bush however is in office right now. He did in fact send the troops into two different nations to risk their lives. Debate the righteousness all you want but what is not and should never be open to debate is taking care of them. Bush didn't cause the problems with the VA, he increased them. He did not cause all the wounded veterans, but he added to them and failed to take care of them. The VA was already backlogged and under-funded as well as under-staffed before Afghanistan was invaded and well before Iraq was even being addressed. No one did anything about it.

Now as Iraq and Afghanistan veterans receive preferential treatment, as abysmal as it is, the older veterans are pushed aside. Will we ever get any of this right? Will we ever live up to what we say? kc

Monday, August 20, 2007

Department of Defense to Armed Forces:It's your fault

Treating the trauma of war – fairly
In relabeling cases of PTSD as 'personality disorder,' the US military avoids paying for treatment.
By Judith Schwartz
from the August 20, 2007 edition

Bennington, Vt. - The high incidence of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among soldiers returning from Iraq is one of the many "inconvenient truths" of this war. Inconvenient largely because it is costly: The most effective and humane means of treating PTSD are time-intensive and long-term.

The military, however, has changed the terms and given many thousands of enlisted men and women a new diagnosis: "personality disorder." While the government would be obliged to care for veterans suffering from combat-related trauma, a personality disorder – defined as an ingrained, maladaptive way of orienting oneself to the world – predates a soldier's tour of duty (read: preexisting condition). This absolves Uncle Sam of any responsibility for the person's mental suffering.

The new diagnostic label sends the message: This suffering is your fault, not a result of the war. On one level, it's hard not to see this as another example of the government falling short on its care for Iraq war veterans. Yet there's another, more insidious, bit of sophistry at work. The implication is that a healthy person would be resistant to the psychological pressures of war. Someone who succumbs to the flashbacks, panic, and anger that haunt many former soldiers must have something inherently wrong with him. It's the psychological side of warrior macho: If you're tough, you can take it. Of course, we know this is not true. Wars forever change the lives of those who fight them and can leave deep scars.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

What a difference a year makes at Fort Carson

Aug 14, 2007 5:25 pm US/Mountain

Ft. Carson Wounded Warrior Unit Helps Vets Recover
By Robert Weller, AP Writer

(AP) FORT CARSON, Colo. Spc. Crystal Witte feels guilt, can barely hear and has minor brain damage. All qualify the medic to be a member of one of the Army's newly created wounded warrior units.

Witte, 22, says the treatment she has received since joining the unit of about 100 soldiers at Fort Carson has helped her. "The medical care here has been excellent," said Witte, wounded last year in a rocket explosion in Ramadi, Iraq.

Col. Kelly Wolgast, commander of Fort Carson's Evans Community Hospital, says the unit's primary mission is to heal, so soldiers can return to service or function in civilian society as quickly as possible.

It will have a high ratio of caregivers to soldiers, among them people with "an acute awareness" of psychiatric injuries, including civilian doctors. There is no time limit on how long soldiers are in the unit.

"This is for soldiers who need a little extra time in their recovery," Wolgast said.

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Last year, Fort Carson was not just ignoring PTSD, but discharging anyone saying they had it under "personality disorder" and this year, they are trying to make up for the lost time. This is wonderful for those presenting with symptoms of PTSD so they can have their wounds treated early on. Early treatment stops it from getting worse and the recovery odds are a great deal better.

What does this do for those already discharged falsely under "personality disorder" and still in need for treatment? They are living without anything to help them. With this kind of a discharge, they get absolutely nothing along with this on their records for the rest of their lives. So what is being done to correct the damage done to them? What steps are being taken to correct this outrageous injustice done to them?

Kathie Costos