Friday, March 17, 2023

Black veterans #PTSD VA claims denied at higher rates

Before you read this, understand that this is not "new" for any veteran. Claims take far too long to be approved and the burden is on the veteran. Always and unrightly so. They have to prove everything and meet time constraints or see their claim having to be refiled instead of continued. It took my husband over 6 years and that was back in the 90s. I've heard even longer cases when families suffered financially and emotionally. To be wounded or injured while serving this country, body or mind and often both, have a medical diagnosis linking it to service, then enduring the VA rejection of the claim is like a dagger to their soul. Now adding in the color of their skin is a barrier to receiving the medical care and compensation they were promised. This story made me grieve!

Black veterans were more often denied VA benefits for PTSD than white counterparts, newly surfaced study shows

NBC News
By Laura Strickler
March 17, 2023

“Ever since I came back from Vietnam, I knew that I had a problem, but I didn’t know what it was," said one Black veteran.

Richard Brookshire co-founded the Black Veterans Project in Baltimore.
A newly surfaced 2017 internal Veterans Affairs report shows Black veterans were more often denied benefits for post-traumatic stress disorder than their white counterparts.

The analysis crunched claims data from fiscal year 2011 through 2016 and showed that Black veterans seeking disability benefits for PTSD were denied 57% of the time, compared to 43% for white veterans. The report emerged as part of an open records lawsuit filed by an advocacy group for Black veterans.

Terrence Hayes, a spokesperson for the Department of Veterans Affairs, said the agency did not immediately have current data on a racial breakdown of PTSD disability benefits awards and said the agency “is gathering the data and will share it once fully compiled.”

Hayes wrote in an email that the agency could not comment on any ongoing litigation but that VA Secretary Denis McDonough is committed to addressing racial disparities as it relates to VA benefits.
In 2015 he applied to the VA for a service-connected disability claim for PTSD. Nine months later the VA turned him down. With the assistance of advocacy groups, he appealed the VA’s decision multiple times and received retroactive approval last month, seven years after his initial denial.

Forbes told Shaban that he believes racism played a role in his yearslong pursuit of PTSD benefits. “I dealt with it in the military and now outside of the military," he said. "As a veteran, I’m dealing with the same issues through this appeal process.”
read more here

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Congress needs to stop appeasing and start atonement

Wounded Times
Kathie Costos
March 16, 2023

It started as a spiritual battle to give hope of healing to a man so he could pass it on to the world. That was what The Scribe Of Salem was all about. Each one of the people had their own struggles until someone came into their lives to help them heal spiritually. Each of them had given up on the hope they would find the answers in a church. The truth is, far too many churches in this country are far from what Christ preached. We may dismiss all this by saying "to each their own" referring to choices, but that created our blindness to what is going on in this country.
13th Minister Of Salem

By the 3rd book, 13th Minister Of Salem, they realize the battle is far from over. Too many have used faith as a political weapon to destroy those with different beliefs. None of this is new. It happened throughout history all over the world. It happened in this country when people hid behind the church to seek retribution and retaliate against anyone they hated. The Salem Witchcraft Trials were not because the leaders actually believed the accused were witches and wizards. They only used what they caused the people to believe was true. They made use of what was done in Scotland, England, and other countries, paying people to hunt down the accused, and torture them into confessions that were only said to end the torture while knowing it would also result in their deaths.

The Salem Witch Trials were a continuation of the abuse of faith. Men and women did horrible things to innocent people and blamed God for all the terrible things they did.

"As years passed, apologies were offered, and restitution was made to some of victims and their families. In 1697, the Massachusetts General Court ordered a day of fasting and prayer in atonement for errors made by the colony, including the witchcraft trials. On this day one judge, Samuel Sewall, and 12 jurors, came forward to apologize for their roles in the Salem witch trials. The other magistrates never admitted there had been a miscarriage of justice, going to their graves believing they did what was best for the colony." (Salem Witch Museum)
The question is, did they apologize because they saw themselves for what they became, or did they do it because they carried so much guilt that every calamity became viewed as God's judgment against them?
On the morning of December 25—no holiday for the Puritans—Sewall buried his little daughter Sarah. That afternoon he sat in the family tomb and contemplated the coffins of his mother, father, cousin, and six dead children. In these gloomy surroundings he must have meditated on the Bible verses his son had read the previous day, especially Matthew 12:7 (“And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless”), which “did awfully bring to mind the Salem Tragedie.” Over the next three weeks Sewall prayed fervently for help, and by the time of the appointed fast day, he knew what he had to do. (American Heritage)

Let the words "and  if you had known what this means, 'I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,' you would have not condemned the gutless." (Matthew 12:7)

By most accounts, the trials played a major role in the 1st Amendment.
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;"
We are all supposed to have our rights protected equally, no matter what faith we choose as well as the freedom to not participate in any form of religious affiliation. Some want to blame others for trying to take away their rights simply because they do not agree with them, while no one is trying to stop them from believing what they choose. The truth is, those screaming the loudest about are the ones trying to empower their faith to rule over everyone else. Not much different than what happened during the witch trials. Is it?

This is why no member of Congress, no court, and no law enforcement agency should assume the power to prevent citizens from making their own choices. There are plenty of choices for all of us. There are many different faiths, and even within Christianity for us to decide for ourselves. I choose the spiritual path and practice it daily and devotedly. I judge no one for what they believe because I can only judge what they do.

To me, it is less reprehensible for someone to be selfish, evil, power-hungry, and lie about it than it is for someone to claim to be a follower of Jesus while condemning others and spewing contempt for the Son of God they claim to follow and all He taught.

When we allow politicians to make laws because of what they claim they believe, we are no longer free to make our own choices. When we allow our rights to be eroded one by one, we are no longer the country we were meant to be.

The freedom to choose for ourselves what is right for our own families is being taken away from us. It is no longer our decision to raise our children with love and acceptance of their uniqueness. It is no longer acceptable for us, or anyone else, to value the souls of others above the bodies those souls live in. When I hear someone claim to be "pro-life" referring to the unborn, yet they support everything else that destroys the living, they become liars, proving they are pro-birth. Many different faiths in this country believe it is the living, those born with the soul from God within them, that should matter more. 

They condemn people for being "woke" when in fact they want to simply rectify the harm done to others because of the color of their skin. They condemn those who were born into a biological body that does not reflect who they are inside that body. It no longer matters to the "judges" if they are good, loving people treating others with respect and kindness, when they can turn around seeking the power to control them out of hatred.

Politicians use faith like a weapon and then when they cannot find support for their deeds among voters, they seek to remove the ability to vote against them.

Maybe it is time for Congress to have "a day of fasting and prayer in atonement for errors," made by Congress and all leaders in every state who have forgotten they are supposed to be representing all their citizens and not just the ones they seek to appease by abusing the power they were given. 

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Lady Gaga, spiritual hero

Wounded Times
Kathie Costos
March 14, 2023

Are you a hero? I don't mean the type of hero we all think about when we hear that word. I'm talking about the quiet ones that are around us all the time. The type of hero who spends time, not just thinking about others, but acting on what they need and what the hero can give them.

Lady Gaga sang Hold My Hand at the Oscars. I didn't see it until today when I was checking to see who the winners were. I was warmed by seeing her without makeup, or fancy clothes because this fabulously talented lady looked like everyone else. So set aside her fame and wealth, and see the simple fact that she is still just like everyone else. She has had hardship in her life, just like all of us and she has had someone coming into her life to make it a little easier than it would have been without them. Judging by the song lyrics she wrote, it is easy to assume that she helped other people as well. To me, she is a spiritual hero!

Hold My Hand
Lady Gaga

Tell me you need me
Hold my hand, everything will be okay I heard from the heavens that clouds have been grey
Pull me close, wrap me in your aching arms
I see that you're hurtin', why'd you take so long
To tell me you need me? I see that you're bleeding
You don't need to show me again
But if you decide to, I'll ride in this life with you
I won't let go 'til the end
So cry tonight
But don't you let go of my hand
You can cry every last tear
I won't leave 'til I understand
Promise me, just hold my hand
Raise your head, look into my wishful eyes
That fear that's inside you will lift, give it time
I can see everything you're blind to now
Your prayers will be answered, let God whisper how
To tell me you need me, I see that you're bleeding
You don't need to show me again
But if you decide to, I'll ride in this life with you
I won't let go 'til the end
So cry tonight
But don't you let go of my hand
You can cry every last tear
I won't leave 'til I understand
Promise you'll just hold my hand
Hold my hand, hold my
Hold my hand, my hand
I'll be right here, hold my hand
Hold my hand, hold my
Hold my hand, my hand
I'll be right here, hold my hand
I know you're scared and your pain is imperfect
But don't you give up on yourself
I've heard a story, a girl, she once told me
That I would be happy again
Hold my hand
Hold my hand
Hold my hand, hold my hand
Hold my hand, hold my hand
Hold my hand
I heard from the heavens

Source: LyricFind
Songwriters: Michael Tucker / Stefani Germanotta
Hold My Hand lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

It is so easy to dismiss others and walk away. After all, they didn't matter to you in the first place. Yet, when you do care about others, it would be harder to walk away without trying to help them. Most of the time it is because you knew what it was like to need someone, suffered until someone stopped to help you and then felth as if your heart became full again with hope. That is a magical thing!

If all of us do what we can to help someone else, this world would be a better place for all of us, but right now it seems as if hatred has taken over so many. The words of claiming fellowship with Jesus and claims of being "Christian" flow from their lips, but their actions prove otherwise. For the wise, we know they only use faith as a weapon, just as others throughout the couple of thousand years have done.

Maybe that is the biggest reason why most people do not claim to be religious but spiritual instead. To tell you the truth, I think they are living what others only claim to do, when the truth is, they never understood what it is supposed to cause us to do.

Saturday, March 11, 2023

Brandon Caserta's death changed nothing and we should be asking why

Wounded Times
Kathie Costos
March 11, 2023

This is one of the reasons I gave up after 40 years of trying to change the end of the lonlyist battles they have.
"In 2021, the latest year for which numbers are available, 519 US service members died by suicide. Though a slight decrease from the previous year’s 582 suicides, the trend over the last decade and more has been increasing."

That came from CNN but while it is a recent report, it has been reported over and over again with different names attached to bills that have resulted in outcomes like this.
The Brandon Act is named after Brandon Caserta, a young sailor whose parents described him as a “very charismatic and upbeat young man” who “always helped everyone he could.”
But in June 2018, Caserta took his own life at Naval Air Station Norfolk, Virginia. In letters to his parents and to his friends, Caserta said he was constantly hazed and bullied in the Navy, and he saw no other way out. He notified his commanders he was depressed but they took no action and showed no sympathy, according to Brandon Caserta’s father Patrick, who served 22 years in the Navy. (CNN)

Joshua Omvig's parents pushed for change and in 2007 President Bush signed the bill in his name too.

In 2007, I did a massive report on what was happening because of wars and battles they fought alone. I was asking why the press wasn't on suicide watch. After all, they spent a lot of time reporting on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, but not not so much about what those wars were doing to those we sent to fight them. They didn't report on what was going in the military itself.

Brandon Caserta's parents tried to do something to save lives and spare other families from what they went through. It was the same reason the families of Erie County National Guards Matthew A. Proulx, Andrew L. Norlund, Justin C. Reyes and Gary M. Underhill's families grieved. Kevin Grosser and far too many others suffered needlessly with nothing really changing. I was looking up more of their names and bills attached to their names, but sadness started to take over and I had to stop. 

The problem is, people like me know what the truth is and we know what failed, but the most troubling thing is, we know what has saved lives. We should stop asking why members of the military, so committed to saving the lives of those they serve with, end up being unable to save their own. We should start asking why hasn't the military figured out what we knew 40 years ago!

Kathie Costos author of Ministers Of The Mystery Series

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

The ancient art of "whatifism"

Wounded Times
Kathie Costos
March 7, 2023

In the Wizard Of Oz, Glinda asked Dorothy, "Are you a good witch or a bad witch?"

That movie kept popping up in my head as I was writing the Ministers Of The Mystery series. There are good witches and bad ones too, doing good or, doing harm. The thing is, people have always used their spiritual gifts the same way. While God granted gifts to all since the beginning of time, unfortunately, He left it up to them to use them or ignore them.

Maybe you're like me? I'm not normal. I never have been and never will be. I am unique and I embrace that uniqueness because I am the only one who lived my life as my life unfolded. When someone says they just want to fit in, I cringe, because there is always a price to pay for that.

We end up giving up parts of ourselves to fit into what others appear to be. That was made clear to me when I wanted to fit into what others expected my work to fit into.

I didn't want to fit into what others thought over 40 years ago when I first invested my life toward defeating #PTSD. It was bad all the way around. Fitting into what had already been done repulsed me since none of it was working. Too many were suffering and too few were healing.

It is the same way now. For all that has been reported on, talked about, and sadly, fundraised for, too many have settled for "easy" instead of what is accomplishable.

Too many with PTSD are not part of the conversation and that is the greatest sin of all. I guess you could have called me a bad witch back then when someone asked me why I didn't focus on average people with PTSD as well as veterans. I responded with something along the lines of veterans were unique and we owed them all we could do to help them recover from doing what we asked of them.

I finally became a good witch when I realized that was the key to healing veterans! With the number of other survivors out there growing every year, just from living as a civilian, there is power in that. When veterans, and current military members, finally understand they have also been exposed to the same traumatic events the rest of us are, and then exposed to the traumatic events in war, they begin to open their eyes.

That is the biggest reason why all the characters in the series were survivors of different events, and yes, including veterans.

Life as a survivor doesn't have to be as hard as it is. Suffering does not have to follow surviving when healing is ready and waiting to fill up the room with hope. Once you see how much we all have in common, even if our experiences causing PTSD were different, the road toward healing, is the same. We don't get too far doing it alone. When we accept the fact that others will not understand the world we traveled to is much different than anything they will be able to understand, we begin to find others that do understand. When we allow them to help us reach the magical world of healing, we understand we helped them too!

At the end of The Wizard Of Oz, the Scarecrow asked Glind why she didn't tell Dorothy about having the power inside her all along to go home. She replied that Dorothy wouldn't have believed her. She had to learn it on her own, and do you! You've always had the power in you too!