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Keeping Tabs — 9 May 2012


PTSD: Weakness or Wound? (Battleland Blog) — This week, the American Psychiatric Association is meeting in Philadelphia. Among the presentations in the “military track”—a spate of meetings directed towards practitioners focused on military or war related psychology and psychiatry—the top listed presentation is titled “Combat Related PTSD: Injury or Disorder?” Based on conversations I’ve had in the past couple weeks with psychiatrists and psychologists who ply their trade among wounded warriors, this is the hottest of hot topics.  In the next year, the psychiatric community will re-issue its handbook of diagnoses, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). The current manual, DSM-IV, defines Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. A core element of the discussion will be whether or not to change the description of PTSD in DSM-V from a disorder to something else. But to what? I’m convinced the definition must include the word injury.  Some medical practitioners believe that the use of the word disorder in PTSD discourages servicemembers from asking for help because they feel that a disorder is a weakness. I absolutely concur.

A primer on PTSD symptoms, treatments ( — Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder caused by extreme types of life-threatening trauma or witnessing horrific events. Terminology has differed through time for the same symptoms: In the Civil War it was known as “battle fatigue”; in World War I, “shell shock”; in WWII, “combat neurosis.”  PTSD is characterized by three kinds of symptoms:  Hyperarousal states, such as irritability, startled reactions, jumpiness or being “on-guard.”


Ecotech Institute Increases Veterans’ Resources, Including Partnership With Veterans Green Jobs ( — Ecotech Institute, the first and only college entirely focused on renewable energy and sustainability, today announced that it has formed a relationship with Colorado-based Veterans Green Jobs, whose mission is to engage, transition and connect military veterans with meaningful employment opportunities. About 15 percent of Ecotech’s current student population is made up of military veterans.  Together, Ecotech and Veterans Green Jobs will focus on encouraging and enhancing opportunities for military veterans by promoting career opportunities in the green jobs sector, both in Colorado and nationally.  “Our military population has already been through so much and we want to make sure we’re providing the support they need to excel in school and go on to have productive careers,” said Michael Seifert, president of Ecotech Institute. “Veterans Green Jobs has a similar focus, believing that the right jobs can make all the difference in helping our military veterans enjoy a successful life after service.”


Battered and Bruised Minds Lead to Homelessness (Battleland Blog) — The Department of Veterans Affairs first-ever large-scale study of homeless vets shows that the vast majority of homeless vets have mental disorders. “Majorities of the newly homeless diagnosed with mental disorders…were diagnosed before they became homeless, indicating mental disorders usually occurred before homelessness,” the Department of Veterans Affairs inspector general said in a report issued Monday.  Troops deployed to Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom tended to have more mental problems than troops that didn’t see combat.

Veterans’ homelessness a top concern for Montgomery housing officials ( — Of the more than 115,000 residents in the Washington, D.C., metro region who are waiting for federal housing vouchers, about 15,000 are in Montgomery County.  This includes a critical population of homeless veterans, according to experts gathered Monday in North Bethesda for the annual Affordable Housing Conference of Montgomery County.  “Most particularly of concern to me is the fact that people who are serving in our armed forces, who are coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan and coming back to a community that does not provide adequate housing for veterans in the manner that we should have it,” said County Executive Isiah Leggett (D). “This is a real problem and the problem, especially for veterans, will only get worse in the short term, but we are committed to make certain that we do the right thing for those people who have helped this country to be what it is today.”

Number of Local Homeless Veterans Decreasing ( — The fight doesn’t end for service members once they come home. As a society it’s easy to move on after wars end, but for those who fought them, it’s not easy. Local agencies are finding success in helping homeless veterans, but ask for your help.  “I had lost a job and couldn’t get one,” says Ron Waterman, an Air Force veteran. “After my unemployment and those types of things ran out, I ran out of resources and ended up homeless,” says Waterman.  Ron was able to get a place at Saint Martin’s house, an apartment complex run by the Grand Valley Catholic Outreach. “There’s programs that are helping us to remain in homes; training, counseling, and all those types of things that help us stay off of the streets if possible,” says Waterman.


Texas veterans face long waits for VA to process disability claims (Houston Chronicle) — Despite more funding and staff at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the backlog of disability claims in Houston has more than doubled since this time three years ago.  More than 37,100 claims are pending at the Houston VA Regional Office, up from 17,537 in 2009. Veterans wait an average of 263 days for the office to process their claims, according to data obtained by the Houston Chronicle.  The Houston regional office is one of only two VA facilities in Texas that process veterans’ disability claims. The other office is in Waco, where the problem is even worse: More than 51,000 veterans face an average wait of 352 days for the Waco VA Regional Office to act on their claims.


Court Rejects Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans’ Demand for Better VA Care (The Daily Beast) — The plaintiffs in the case of Veterans for Common Sense v. Eric K. Shinseki thought they had a sure winner on their hands. Filed by veterans’ rights groups in 2007 against the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the lawsuit, which demanded that the department fix its mental-health-care system, seemed to have public sentiment, the law, and the truth on its side.  But on Monday a federal appeals court in California voted 10–1 to dismiss the case, ruling that only Congress or the president has the authority to direct changes on how veterans are treated.  The decision overturns a 2–1 ruling last year by the same court, which said that the department’s “unchecked incompetence has gone on long enough,” and permitted the plaintiffs to ask a federal judge to order changes in the VA. The VA appealed that ruling to a larger panel.  Veterans’ advocates expressed extreme disappointment with Monday’s ruling. “It just shows that our veterans are not being served by the VA or by the courts,” said Paul Sullivan, a Gulf War vet and former executive director of Veterans for Common Sense (VCS) who currently works at Bergmann & Moore, a law firm that represents veterans. “There is a crisis at the VA—care is getting worse, not better, but they don’t want you to know about it. And now our veterans know that not even the courts are here to help them.”


Veterans center’s Stand Down brings energy to South End (South Whidbey Record) — Intermittent clouds didn’t keep people from attending the Veterans Stand Down held Saturday at the American Legion Post 141 in Bayview.  The second annual event was put on by the Veterans Resource Center and the American Legion. Visitors were able to gather valuable information on programs and benefits available to veterans of all eras, plus there were free haircuts, along with food, entertainment and much more.  New VRC executive director Fred McCarthy helped kick things off Saturday morning with three cheers. Board members said they were pleased with the progress the VRC has been able to make since partnering with the American Legion and hiring McCarthy.  “We’re energized,” said John McFarland. “I can’t stress enough how important this relationship is with the American Legion. Not only does it build community, but it gives us the ability to do a lot of outreach.”

Nonprofit aims to give female veterans a boost (Fairfax Times) — Sandra Stillman was unemployed and facing eviction last fall, unsure of where to turn, when a friend told her about a new nonprofit helping women like her, an Army veteran and divorced mother of two.  Two days before Thanksgiving, Stillman avoided homelessness by moving into a large house in Fairfax, now shared with four other female veterans, which is run by the nonprofit Final Salute.  “I don’t look at this as a shelter. I look at it as a starting over situation,” said Stillman, who said she and her children also spent some time in a domestic violence shelter just prior to her divorcing her husband. “I can focus on doing what is necessary to get back on my feet.”  She just started a new full-time job, although Final Salute will allow her to stay at the home for up to two years, if she still needs the support.  Final Salute founder and Army Capt. Jasmine Boothe, who now lives in Haymarket, can directly relate to the experiences of the women she is trying to help.


The Power of Shared Service (ArmyLive) — The young Wounded Warrior lay awake, but very quiet. The C17 MEDEDVAC aircraft he was on had just arrived at Andrews AFB from Germany. It was 17:05, Washington DC time. He was back in America. But he’d left a great deal in Afghanistan – three of his limbs to be exact.  An IED blast during a dismounted pursuit of insurgents had thrown him off a trail and shattered his body. The explosion traumatically amputated his left leg below the knee, meaning that there was nothing below the left knee when seconds later the first medic arrived. The damage to the right leg required that it too be removed below the knee a few hours later. More shrapnel had ruined his lower left arm, so surgeons had to remove that hand and arm about mid-forearm.  Even his right hand didn’t escape. One finger on that hand was fractured, as if the devil got in a final kick. The wounded warrior’s face was like a stone, immobile, without emotion. Medication ? and maybe a new and very different perspective ? had put him in a mental state where he silently observed the activity around him, as the aircrew and medical staff were preparing to off-load the patients.

Warrior Games results show all competitors are winners (Navy Medicine Live) — After six days of intense competition, the 2012 Warrior Games have come to an end! The Marines Corps team took home the Chairman’s Cup for the third year in a row, and Marine Jonathan Disbro claimed his second consecutive Ultimate Champion award. Below are the final results of the rest of the weeks’ events.  The event, sponsored by the U.S. Olympic Committee, introduces Paralympics and adaptive sports such as archery, basketball, biathlon, cycling, rowing, sitting volleyball, strength and conditioning, swimming and track and field to wounded, ill and injured (WII) service members.

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