Long Wait for Mental Health Appointments: Military Connection

el paso

By Debbie Gregory.

Veterans in the greater El Paso, Texas area are still facing challenges when it comes to receiving mental health appointments in a timely manner. This is happening, despite the national focus to improve VA patient care nationally.

Twice monthly, the US Department of Veterans Affairs issues updated statistics on pending appointments in all 141 VA areas and the affiliated clinics. In the most recent report, four facilities in El Paso revealed they average nearly a 17-day wait period – the worst statistic in the state.

The El Paso Health Care System, while improved from its 64-day waits in the last two years, tops the facility backlog to an average 21-day wait for an appointment.

The El Paso VA covers Southern New Mexico and West Texas. It includes the Las Cruces clinic, El Paso Eastside Community Based Outpatient Clinic, Integrated Disability Evaluation System Fort Bliss, and the region’s busiest location, the El Paso Health Care System.

Staff shortages appear to be a significant factor in this inability to manage the volume of patients. The VA standard is 7.2 staff to every 1,000 veterans. El Paso is well below that at 5.5 per 1,000. The most needed positions are nurse practitioners and psychiatrists. Hiring incentives and recruitment efforts are being offered, but recruitment does take time.

Amid the recruitment efforts for clinicians, the El Paso VA Health Care System is seeking a permanent director as well.

Brian Olden, El Paso VA chief of mental health, assures the concerned community that veterans in crisis will be attended to immediately.

“When a veteran shows up at this facility and they’re in a crisis and they need to be seen right away because they’re in danger of hurting themselves or someone else, they will be seen,” he said. “No veteran who shows up and needs immediate care will be turned away.”

While clinicians are being sought and hired, the immediate effort to assist veterans is offered through the VA Choice program. This provision allows veterans to see health care providers outside the VA system if the VA clinic cannot meet their appointment request in 30 days, or for those who live more than 40 miles from a VA facility. Veterans can then return to their VA facility of choice when appointments are available.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their families. We are the go-to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go-to site.

Long Wait for Mental Health Appointments: Military Connection: by Debbie Gregory

The True Definition of a Hero: Military Connection

tim

By Debbie Gregory.

A Special Forces soldier dove into stormy waves to save a drowning girl. But the water was shallow, breaking the soldier’s neck and leaving the hero paralyzed.

However, Sgt. 1st Class Tim Brumit, is determined to walk again, and resume a normal life through determination, spiritual faith and the expertise of his doctors.

A sudden storm at Crab Island churned up winds and crashing waves. Hearing screams that a child was drowning, Brumit rushed to help. The 32 year old Green Beret dove off a pontoon boat anchored off a beach community near his post at Eglin Air Force Base after spotting the 13 year old girl as she struggled in the surf. Brumit dove in without giving it a second thought.

He later said that he had misjudged the waves passing under his boat, not realizing how shallow the water was at that spot.

After his head hit the sand, a fellow soldier pulled Brumit’s body onto a surfboard to wait for help. Other boaters saved the girl.

“I’ve been through tougher. This is not gonna set me back,” he said. Brumit has deployed 11 times in the past 12 years as a member of the 7th Special Forces Group.

Neurosurgeon Dr. Colby Maher has been treating Brumit at the Baptist Hospital in Pensacola. He is being moved in the next few days to the Atlanta Spine Center. Emergency surgeries have enabled Brumit to regain the use of his arms, and he amazes physical therapists with his dedication and hard work during his rehabilitation.

Throughout his recovery, he has embraced the family motto instilled by his father: “what the mind can conceive, the body can achieve.”

“That’s how we special operations guys look at it.” He challenged the physical therapist, “What’s your record? I’ll beat it,’

Randy Brumit said his son has told his surgeon from his bed, “I’m going to walk back in and shake your hand and thank you for what you’ve done with me.”

He knows that seeing his son walk again is “very far away.” He has created a Facebook page to provide updates on his son.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their families. We are the go-to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go-to site.

The True Definition of a Hero: Military Connection: by Debbie Gregory

Fight with ISIS Could Take 20 Years: Military Connection

ray

By Debbie Gregory.

In a recent press conference, Gen. Ray Odierno, the Army chief of staff, projected that the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) will take much longer to resolve than  the White House has been publicizing.

“In my mind, ISIS is a ten to twenty year problem, it’s not a two years problem,” he told reporters. “Now, I don’t know what level it will be a problem, but it’s a long term problem.”

Odierno went on to explain that the movement is growing right now, and that it will take longer than originally thought. Previous reports from the White House estimated three to five years to eradicate ISIS. The militant group appears to be more extensive and has rooted in a greater geographic region.

The discussion arose from reporters inquiring about budget cuts. Odierno was commenting that with the current budget, the Army was simply not going to be able to do the things they are expected to do.

“To defeat them, is not just a military issue. It is an economic issue. It is a diplomatic issue. It is an issue of moderate versus extremists and it is about also, potentially, having the capability to root them out of the places they now hold in Iraq and Syria,” Odierno went on to explain.

In another interview, the chief of staff further explained that when ISIS took control in Mosul, the administration did not rely on his years of experience in command to strategize the plan of defense. Odierno also speculated that an additional compromise was the Army budget cuts over the past four years, decreasing the budget by nearly 14 percent.

Odierno agreed with the White House that the fight against ISIS is best to be handled by local forces on the ground.

“Others should do this,” he said. “I believe the nations in the Middle East need to solve this problem. We should be helping them to solve this problem.”

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their families. We are the go-to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go-to site.

Fight with ISIS Could Take 20 Years: Military Connection: by Debbie Gregory

Simulator Assists Veterans With Job Interviews: Military Connection

Military Connection: molly porter

By Debbie Gregory.

The job interview is where a job is won or lost. But interviews are usually very stressful. They can be particularly daunting for veterans with Post-traumatic stress. But a virtual-reality interview simulator may be the answer to increasing a military veteran’s chances of landing a job.

Originally developed to help train FBI agents on interviewing skills, SIMmersion’s “Job Interview Training with Molly Porter” is a computer program that features an actress who reads carefully crafted questions and responses.

A Northwestern University study focused on veterans. Northwestern researcher Matt Smith believes that veterans often struggle in the interview phase of job hunting, and wanted to find out if the simulator would increase their success rates. He said the results were striking.

“Our trainees were about twice as likely to get job offers as those who didn’t use the platform,” Smith said.

The simulator had been adjusted as an interview trainer for veteran job candidates, but other versions can be tailored to people with: Autism Spectrum Disorder, criminal backgrounds, first time workers, hidden disabilities, mental illnesses, physical disabilities, poor work history, spinal cord injuries or substance abuse issues.

Molly Porter appears onscreen as a human resources executive and asks questions calibrated to the interviewee’s resume. When Molly asks a question, the respondent has a wide range of possible answers, just like in real life. Molly remembers what they’ve said, and shapes the interview. No two interviews will ever be exactly alike.

“She might say: ‘I see you have a gap in your employment history. Can you talk about that?’” Smith said.

Interviewing with Molly allows the user to practice skills and learn from common mistakes in a safe, private format. An on-screen coach offers feedback on everything that is said during the conversation, and a detailed score at the end of each interview helps to identify where to focus for next time. The user also receives a series of potential answers, some better than others. This allows them to learn which answers are better and to practice the good ones.

In some cases, Molly Porter might ask an illegal question, perhaps asking a trainee if they ever have been treated for a mental illness. This gives the trainee the chance to practice handling this situation, Smith said.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their families. We are the go-to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go-to site.

Simulator Assists Veterans With Job Interviews: Military Connection: by Debbie Gregory

Meet One of the Army’s Newest Rangers, Part II: Military Connection

Military Connection: hover

By Debbie Gregory.

First Lt. Shaye Haver is one of the two women who have made history by making it through grueling Ranger School. Haver is an Apache helicopter pilot from Copperas Cove, Texas.

Set on emulating her father, an Army helicopter pilot, Lieutenant Haver became a leader of Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps.

Ranger School is considered one of the military’s most difficult courses physically and mentally. Haver performed the same physical tests as the male students, including an initial requirement to complete 49 push-ups, 59 situps, six chin-ups and a five-mile run in no more than 40 minutes. The course included a 12-mile foot march in three hours, four days of military mountaineering and 27 days of mock combat patrols. In total, they hiked roughly the distance from New York City to Boston with heavy packs.

Haver receives her black and gold Ranger tab today at Fort Benning, Georgia.

In addition to serving as an early step toward integrating women into combat, allowing female soldiers into Ranger School reflected a reality that women have been serving in dangerous front-line military jobs for years, like top gunners in Humvees and door gunners on helicopters in Iraq and Afghanistan. The service branches will make recommendations to Defense Secretary Ashton Carter this fall.

Haver and fellow graduate Kristen Greist will not be able to join the elite 75th Ranger Regiment unless the military’s top leaders open all combat roles to women.

Retiring Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond T. Odierno said that any soldier who remained in Ranger School – male or female – can meet the standards the service has established for a job and should be able to serve in it. Odierno expects the Army will start another Ranger School course in November, which it will again study to decide if the course will be open to women permanently.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their families. We are the go-to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go-to site.

Meet One of the Army’s Newest Rangers, Part II: Military Connection: by Debbie Gregory

Meet One of the Army’s Newest Rangers: Military Connection

Kristen Griest in training. Nikayla Shodeen / US Army

By Debbie Gregory.

Army Capt. Kristen Griest is one of the two women who have made history by making it through grueling Ranger School.

Griest, 26, of Orange, Connecticut, said her successful completion of the two-month program shows that women “can deal with the same stresses and training that men can.”

According to her brother, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Mike Griest, an Army aviator, his sister loves testing her endurance. “If she had been allowed to go infantry out of college, she would have done that,” he said.

Griest receives her black and gold Ranger tab today at Fort Benning, Georgia. However, she will not be able to join the elite 75th Ranger Regiment unless the military’s top leaders open all combat roles to women.

Griest, who said she had several peers and mentors who encouraged her to tackle the program, admitted that she felt some extra pressure as a female soldier.

“I was thinking of future generations of women,” she said, “so I had that pressure on myself.”

Cmd. Sgt. Major Curtis Arnold said he suspected Griest had extra motivation to graduate “because you know everyone is watching. And truthfully there are probably a few folks who want you to fail. So you’ve got to put out 110 percent.”

Officials say the Army, Navy and Air Force likely will not seek exceptions that close any jobs to women. Marine Corps leader have expressed concerns about allowing women to serve in infantry jobs, and may seek an exception.

The service branches will make recommendations to Defense Secretary Ashton Carter this fall.

Ranger School is considered one of the military’s most difficult courses physically and mentally, dating back to the 1950s. It includes phases at Fort Benning, on the mountains of northern Georgia and in the Florida Panhandle swamps in and around Eglin Air Force Base.

Women have been steadily making strides into previously male dominated jobs across the military. Women are also now serving on Navy submarines and in Army artillery units.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their families. We are the go-to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go-to site.

Meet One of the Army’s Newest Rangers: Military Connection: by Debbie Gregory

Intermediate Care Tech Program For Veterans: Military Connection

military connection: medic

By Debbie Gregory.

While service members are often assured that the skills gained in the military can transition into civilian employment, some qualifications do not immediately translate. Examples of this are former military personnel who served as Army medics, Air Force medical technicians, and Navy and Coast Guard hospital corpsmen. While their training in the military was quite extensive, it does not readily meet the qualifications in civilian medical fields.

Recognizing that the skills of these highly trained individuals were not being utilized, the Veterans Health Administration began a program in 2012 to provide a stepping stone for these veterans to bridge to a civilian job in the medical field. Intermediate care technicians (ICT) have become valuable assets to doctors and hospital teams.

Corpsmen and medics typically have the training and experience equivalent to a second-year medical resident. However, they do not meet the qualifications for a civilian physician’s assistant or nurse practitioner, and no reciprocity for their credentials are recognized in such degree programs.

“Former corpsmen and military medics don’t fit in when they get out of the service,” said Dr. Michael Bellino, ER doctor at the Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center in North Chicago, IL. “The outside world doesn’t have a job that keeps up their unique and advanced skills and pays well enough, so they end up stepping down.

“This [program] is a perfect thing to enhance the skill set they gained in combat, or in the service, so they can go into a PA program or become a doctor,” Bellino said.

Bellino understands first-hand the benefits of utilizing ICT employees. His team includes US Army veteran Joe Carney, an Army medic with four combat tours under his belt. As a veteran new to the civilian job market, Carney was turned away by five hospitals, saying he was overqualified for the regular technician jobs, but did not have the civilian certifications to be hired for higher-level positions.

As an employee through the ICT program, Carney has transitioned what was his typical day, saving service members injured on the battlefield, to performing many tasks critical to the care of patients in FHCC’s emergency room. His duties include draining and suturing wounds, starting IVs and inserting catheters, conducting medical exams and doing electrocardiograms.

Carney is now close to completing the prerequisites to enter the physician assistant (PA) program at Rosalind Franklin University Chicago Medical School.

“He’s an absolutely invaluable member of the staff,” said Dr. Jeffrey Dubnow, head of the Lovell FHCC emergency room. “He’s qualified to do many things, which is a great help to the doctors. We’re very happy with him.”

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their families. We are the go-to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go-to site.

Intermediate Care Tech Program For Veterans: Military Connection: by Debbie Gregory

Compensation for C-123 Agent Orange Claims Begin: Military Connection

Military Connection: Fairchild C-123 aircraft

By Debbie Gregory.

Last month, we reported that the VA had approved disability aid coverage for Agent Orange exposure to Air Force personnel and reservists who had served from 1969 to 1986.

The 2,100+ personnel were with the 906th and 907th Tactical Air groups, the 355th and 356th Tactical Airlift squadrons at Lockbourne/Rickenbacker Air Force Base, Ohio; the 731st Tactical Air Squadron and 74th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, Westover Air Force Base in Massachusetts; and the 758th Airlift Squadron, Pittsburgh. They all flew or worked on the Fairchild C-123 aircraft.

After spending years searching for the connection between C-123s and the conditions known to be caused by Agent Orange, the Institute of Medicine’s eventual findings provided the evidence the VA needed to provide care and compensation to the Air Force and Air Force Reserve personnel exposed to Agent Orange through regular and repeated contact with contaminated C-123s and who also developed an Agent Orange-related disability.

To the VA’s credit, the first claim was paid out in just over two weeks.

Retired Air Force Maj. Wes Carter, a former C-123 officer, led the charge for health benefits and compensation.

Carter said, “VA is ready and eager, already reaching out and helping our aircrews and maintenance personnel who are ill. This is the time for C-123 Veterans to get their claims to VA if affected by any of the Agent Orange-associated illnesses. Call the C-123 hotline at 1-800-749-8387 for any questions. I also recommend that vets ask their local VA medical center’s environmental health coordinator for an Agent Orange Registry exam.”

The courtesy of expedited claims processing will be extended to anyone experiencing a financial hardship, advanced age, or a terminal illness, as long as you make them cognizant of the special circumstances.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their families. We are the go-to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go-to site.

Compensation for C-123 Agent Orange Claims Begin: Military Connection: by Debbie Gregory

A Tragic Suicide That Might Have Been Avoided: Military Connection

akins

By Debbie Gregory.

Chrystal Akins has endured a pain that most of us pray we will never experience. She had to bury her child. But Georgia National Guard Spc. Stephen Akins’ death was a tragedy that perhaps could have been avoided.

Spc. Akin had a history of seizures, combat blast exposure and suicide attempts. If ever there was a case for a soldier to be medically retired, this was it. But the Army failed to see it that way. Patrick Lillard, the psychiatrist counseling Akins, said the soldier was in desperate need of more help than the Army could provide, and he tried to arrange hospitalization at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Washington shortly before Akins was to leave the military.

But a two-star general with no medical background concluded that Spc. Akins’ acting out behavior had nothing to do with traumatic brain injury or emotional problems. Instead of a medical discharge, which was clearly warranted, the general kicked him out of the Army.

And just six months after he was expelled, Akins was found dead of an apparent suicide by overdose. His body was discovered by his mother.

It is a known statistic that combat veterans are not only more likely to have suicidal thoughts, often associated with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression, but they are more likely to act on them. The Army has struggled with giving soldiers adequate care for alcohol and drug abuse, often times a result of emotional illnesses and/or brain injury trauma from combat.The Army’s substance abuse program has declined in quality of care since it shifted to non-medical management in 2010, as Army leaders decide whether to shift the program back to medical supervision.

Although the clinic at Fort Gordon, where Akins was treated, is among the best in the Army, it still failed him.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their families. We are the go-to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go-to site.

A Tragic Suicide That Might Have Been Avoided: Military Connection: by Debbie Gregory

Reuniting Filipino World War II Veterans With Family: Military Connection

Military Connection: filipino veterans

By Debbie Gregory.

The Department of Homeland Security recently announced a new program to help Filipino-American World War II veterans bring their family members to the US.

Working with the State Department, the program will allow certain family members to come into the US under a parole status. The standard family immigration process has been extremely backlogged, and many veterans have been waiting upwards of 20 years for their family members to obtain visas. This policy is an effort to help expedite the legal immigration process to help those Filipino-American veterans reunite with their relatives; many being elderly and needing the assistance of family.

Last month, President Obama issued a Presidential Memorandum on “Modernizing and Streamlining the U.S. Immigrant Visa System for the 21st Century.” In this memorandum, the President directed the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Homeland Security to lead an interagency effort to develop recommendations, in consultation with stakeholders and experts, to:

  • reduce government costs, improve services for applicants, reduce burdens on employers, and combat waste, fraud, and abuse in the system;
  • ensure that policies, practices, and systems use all of the visa numbers that Congress provides for and intends to be used, consistent with demand; and
  • modernize the information technology infrastructure underlying the visa processing system with the goal of reducing redundant systems, improving the experience of applicants, and enabling better oversight.

The legal immigration system has not had any significant changes since 1991. The recent policy includes plans to revamp the process for people to apply for visas. Still, the process will take time to implement, and the parole system for Filipino-Americans’ relatives will expedite their immigration process.

“These are World War II veterans, so you can just think about how old they are and how long they’ve waited,” said Erin Oshiro, director of the Immigrant Rights Program at Advancing Justice.

An estimated 260,000 Filipino soldiers fought for the United States during World War II. It was not until the 1990s that they were granted eligibility to become citizens. The White House estimates that 6,000 are still living and reside in the US.

“For many years, I’ve fought to end the visa backlog for the sons and daughters of Filipino World War II veterans,” claimed Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii). “We made a promise to these individuals, and expediting reunification with their children through parole brings us one significant step closer in fulfilling that promise.”

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their families. We are the go-to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go-to site.

Reuniting Filipino World War II Veterans  With Family:  Military Connection: by Debbie Gregory