PTSD Project & Veterans CARE: VA Initiatives To Promote Employment

PTSD Project & Veterans CARE: VA Initiatives To Promote Employment

Contributed by Kris Baydalla-Galasso

 

PTSD is arguably one of the most significant issues that our Veterans face when they are acclimating to civilian life. Unlike physical wounds which are visible to others, a soldier battles the mental wounds on his or her own. While there are many different forms of therapy available, the treatment is personal and not all therapy methods work for every person. As more research results become available, the additional needs required become increasingly apparent.

 

Post-traumatic stress disorder can cause Veterans to struggle, particularly when it comes to interviewing, getting a civilian position and maintaining a new career. That is where Veterans CARE comes into play.

 

Veterans Coordinated Approach to Recovery and Employment (Veterans CARE) is a $5.1 million Pay for Success initiative that is the result of a partnership between the US Department of Veterans Affairs, local governments, impact investors and Social Finance. The goal of this initiative is to support unemployed or underemployed Veterans with PTSD and assist them in attaining and maintaining employment that is both compatible with their skill set and competitive in their workforce.

 

The first Veterans CARE project will launch in New York City, Boston and Brockton, Massachusetts and Central/Western Massachusetts. It is anticipated that 480 Veterans will benefit from the programs in these areas. Recruitment has begun for this comprehensive “test study” in those areas.   

 

It is expected that local VA medical centers will be able to deliver Individual Placement and Support (IPS) to program participates through Veterans CARE. IPS is a personal approach, tailored to each Veteran, with the goal of supported employment. Veteran CARE plans to assist up to 500 Veterans over the three year period.

 

Funded primarily by project investors, government partners will repay investors when the positive outcomes as a result of the project are proven.

 

This is the first Pay-For-Service project of its kind in the United States. Veterans CARE focuses on improving the health and employment for Veterans. The ground-breaking project, the first to be multi-state, will work to achieve the goals of supporting under- and unemployed Veterans with PTSD in their journey to attain and maintain employment, improve the access to high-quality, evidence-based employment services, and to serve as the demonstration project for the use of the Pay-For-Success model and its successors.

 

For more information regarding Veterans CARE, visit the Social Finance website: http://socialfinance.org/focus-areas/workforce/veterans-care-project/

The Healing Power of Art

The Healing Power of Art

Contributed by Alan Rohlfing

Art as therapy. If you’ve seen it in action, you know the life-changing effects it can have on our Brothers & Sisters that struggle. For years, art has been shown to improve interpersonal skills, increase self-awareness, and boost self-esteem. Clinically speaking, this helps reduce tension and anxiety, which can relieve pain and set a strong foundation for the process of healing or coping with lifelong disabilities. It can also mean relief for PTS and other issues stemming from military service.

For at least one Veteran, the visual arts have long been a format for creative expression, often providing emotional healing, strength, and a sense of purpose. Scott Beaty, a 20-year Navy Submarine Veteran and the founder of Visions for Vets, a small non-profit in St. Louis, Missouri, discovered a way to provide Veteran assistance through teaching and creating art and building strong Veteran camaraderie. As his organization grew, he witnessed his Veteran art students find release from their burdens, express themselves emotionally through creativity, and realize freedom from society’s label of being “disabled.”

“We’ve found that once Veterans have gained confidence in their newly-found, rekindled, or enhanced art skills, they’re ready to serve all over again. Service is at the heart of Visions for Vets and we seek to help Veterans continue the mission through art, building important relationships in their communities and engaging in outreach to bring the power of the healing arts to those in need of peace and joy,” Beaty said.

There’s an emphasis on the power of the visual arts at the national level, as well. As part of the current Presidential Administration, Second Lady Karen Pence uses her national and international platform to shine the light on art therapy. The Departments of Defense (DoD) and Veterans Affairs (VA) have their own platforms in the Creative Forces Network and the National Veterans Creative Arts Festival.

The Creative Forces: NEA Military Healing Arts Network serves the special needs of military patients and veterans who have been diagnosed with traumatic brain injury (TBI) and psychological health conditions, as well as their families and caregivers, placing creative arts therapies at the core of patient-centered care at 11 military medical facilities across the country.

Made possible by a unique collaboration between the National Endowment for the Arts, DoD, the VA, and state arts agencies, Creative Forces is a network of caring people who believe in the transformative and restorative powers of art. The network is made up of creative arts therapists, artists, doctors, military service members, veterans, community leaders and policymakers, helping make a difference on military bases, in hospitals, and at community art centers.

Nationally, Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical facilities use the creative arts as an effective rehabilitative therapy to help veterans recover from and cope with physical and emotional disabilities by encouraging expression in a non-threatening way. Across the country each year, Veterans enrolled at VA health care facilities compete in local creative arts competitions, culminating in the National Veterans Creative Arts Festival.

The competition includes 51 categories in the visual arts division this year that range from oil painting to leatherwork to paint-by-number kits. In addition, there are 100 categories in the performing arts pertaining to all aspects of music, dance, drama and creative writing. Through a national judging process, first, second and third place entries in each category are determined. The Festival is co-sponsored by the American Legion Auxiliary. In addition to raising funds for the event, Auxiliary departments provide volunteers who assist with everything from punching meal tickets to stuffing programs to ironing costumes for the stage show.

 

Hedge Fund Billionaire Spends Millions on Mental Health Clinics for Veterans

Hedge Fund Billionaire Spends Millions on Mental Health Clinics for Veterans

Contributed by Debbie Gregory

Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinics treat veterans and their families for a variety of mental health issues, including post-traumatic stress, depression, anxiety, adjustment issues, anger and other concerns. The founder, hedge fund billionaire Steven Cohen, now plans to expand the Cohen Veterans Network (CVN) from 10 mental health clinics to 25 by 2020 for veterans and their family members.

“We’ve got a two-path approach — take care of today’s problems now and look for better answers in the future,” he said in brief remarks at the opening of the 3rd annual Cohen Veterans Care Summit at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center near the White House.

His clinics have treated 8,000 veterans and family members thus far, and “they tell us we’re making their lives better,” he said.

“Sadly, we’re now facing an epidemic of veterans suicides. We have to stop it in its tracks,” he added. “I want to do something about this.”

Cohen, who reportedly has an estimated net worth of $14 billion, founded CVN in 2015, two years after his firm, SAC Capital Advisors, agreed to pay $1.8 billion in fines and civil penalties to resolve a criminal indictment for insider trading.

It was the largest fine in history for insider trading, according to Preet Bharara, who was then U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.

Cohen, who pledged $275 million of his own funds to found CVN, has assembled an impressive board of directors, which includes retired Adm. Mike Mullen and former Sen. Joseph Lieberman.

The Cohen Network and Cohen’s own spokesman insist they’re not trying to privatize the VA and their only goal is helping veterans. “No single private person in this country has ever donated more money to save veterans’ lives and treat their mental health needs than Steve Cohen has,” Cohen’s spokesman, Mark Herr, said.

Last year, Cohen set out to persuade Congress and the Trump administration to reimburse his clinics for veterans treated there.

From the beginning, the Cohen clinics were advertised as free to patients, but the plan was always to start seeking reimbursement for their treatment from insurance reimbursements, local philanthropy and government grants, according to information posted on the Cohen Network’s website.

Manes and Reins: A Gold Star Sister’s Journey to Healing

Manes and Reins:  A Gold Star Sister’s Journey to Healing

By guest contributor Renee Nickell

I had heard the term PTSD as it related to war heroes, but I did not know much about its impacts on civilians. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a mental affliction that can cause one to be hyper-vigilant, aggressive, easily angered, subjected to nightmares, depression, anxiety and more. After my brother, Major Samuel Griffith, was suddenly and tragically killed in Afghanistan, I did not even realize I, personally, had PTSD.

After several years of traditional therapy without much improvement, I decided to pursue equine therapy. With the assistance of trained therapists who help military and combat veterans and their families heal from the effects of PTSD, I was able to face my own level of PTSD after years of struggling.

Horses are capable of mirroring human emotion, allowing the patient to become more self-aware when feelings cannot easily be put into words. While I was skeptical in the beginning of therapy, the connection with the horse quickly brought comfort I hadn’t found anywhere else.  I must admit: I was absolutely terrified at the start of my journey. I did not know what to expect from the horses or the sessions, and for me, that was scary. Over time, the bond that is formed with your gentle giant increases your confidence and ability to face painful circumstances in far less time than traditional therapy.

Equine therapy is now being used to treat various forms of illness, disabilities and medical conditions to include diabetes, autism, blindness, epilepsy, addictions and more.  Horses do not have the ability to lie, therefore, the patient cannot manipulate the horse beyond its true feelings. This is extremely beneficial when building trust between the patient and the horse.

Gold Star siblings, in general, tend to place our grief on the back burner so that we may help support the surviving spouse or our parents through the grieving process.  While each member of the family deals with their own grief separately, a sibling often postpones their grief, sometimes for years. This delay is to the detriment of the sibling and the family unit around them.  PTSD can last for years, even decades. I have spoken to siblings whose brothers were killed in Vietnam and there is still a level of PTSD.

Not only did I suffer from PTSD, but my teenage daughter did as well.  The day my brother was killed, she stepped into my role. The trauma was debilitating for me and it was my daughter that helped take care of everything that day, including protecting her younger siblings from the impact of the news.  The weeks after, from retrieving his body at Dover to the funeral and then trying to resume somewhat of a normal life, was incredibly traumatic for all of us.

Our family is fortunate that we were able to find the necessary help to move us forward in our grief journey. Not only myself, but my veteran husband and my daughter benefited from equine therapy. We were able to heal as a family and face issues from the past that otherwise weren’t being addressed. We are not talking about playing with horses here! Equine therapy is a lot of hard work and deep soul searching. It can be quite painful to face the things we long to forget, even childhood traumas.  This is why it is so important to find a reputable equine therapist who is skilled in treating PTSD and other mental health disorders.

There are many organizations that are non-profit and will assist a veteran and family for free or low-cost.  Many even take Tricare insurance. If you or a loved one struggle with PTSD and feel you can benefit from equine therapy, I would recommend searching your area for licensed equine therapists.  We are now in a 17-year war with countless veterans suffering from PTSD, and there are many organizations that are ready and willing to help them recover to live as best a normal and peaceful life as possible.

Sam cockpit

(Major Samuel Griffith, USMC, was an F/A-18 aviator and Forward Air Controller.  

He was killed December 14, 2011, in the Helmand Province, Afghanistan in support of OEF.)

Author Headshot

Renee Nickell is the author of “Always My Hero: The Road to Hope & Healing Following 

Her Brother’s Death in Afghanistan.” For more about Renee, go to www.reneenickell.com.

Eglin Air Force Base Opens First Invisible Wounds Center

Eglin Air Force Base Opens First Invisible Wounds Center

Eglin Air Force Base Opens First Invisible Wounds Center

Contributed by Debbie Gregory

Eglin Air Force Base in Florida has opened the first Invisible Wounds Center, which will serve as a regional treatment center for post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury, associated pain conditions and psychological injuries.

“Standing up this facility is just the first step of many in our commitment to care for our warriors with invisible wounds,” said Air Force Surgeon General Lt. Gen. Dorothy A. Hogg. “We owe these brave men and women the very best treatment possible.”

The center will treat retirees, Guard, Reserve, and active duty members from all branches.

Modeled after the Intrepid Spirit Centers, the Invisible Wounds Center will assemble a team of 18 specialties under one roof to provide treatment in an individually tailored, holistic and integrated fashion. Conventional and complementary therapies such as art and music therapy, yoga, acupuncture, physical and occupational therapy and mental health services will be included in treatment.

Following the opening of the National Intrepid Center of Excellence (NICoE) in 2010, the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund began building Intrepid Spirit Centers to serve as satellite facilities to extend care to the home base of many of the troops suffering the effects of TBI and PTS. Seven centers are already completed and in operation: Fort Belvoir, Virginia; Camp Lejeune, North Carolina; Fort Campbell, Kentucky; Fort Bragg, North Carolina; Fort Hood, Texas; Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington; and Camp Pendleton, California. Additional Intrepid Spirit Centers are planned in Fort Carson, Colorado and Fort Bliss, Texas.

Arnold Fisher, honorary chairman of the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, has confirmed that Eglin Air Force Base has also been selected to receive an Intrepid Spirit Center, which will be the first one at an Air Force installation. The facility has an expected completion date sometime in 2020.

Of Fisher, Hogg said, “Today the Air Force is forever grateful to him and all the donors who will make the Intrepid Spirit Center here a reality.”

PTSD: Treatment through Art

PTSD: Treatment through Art

Contributed by Kris Baydalla-Galasso

A trend that has swept the country over the past three years might have more value than you think! Coloring books, once looked at as an entertainment medium for children, have expanded to a new market: adults in need of a break. Adult Coloring Books come in a variety of images – from intricate mandala designs to floral patterns and more. According to Psychology Today, Carl Jung used coloring as a therapy technique in his practices a century ago. His methods have matured and we now know even more about the human brain and the positive impact of simple coloring in the lines.

Though it may seem like a child’s activity, coloring actually increases our focus and intellectual acuity. Coloring can help simplify the process of problem solving. It can alleviate stress and help relax those with anxiety.

According to the American Art Therapy Association, utilizing art in treatment sessions for PTSD sufferers can help relieve much of the trauma surrounding the memories. Veterans are often able to express these dark and terrifying memories through imagery when verbalization of the time proves impossible.

Art therapy encourages veterans to “talk about it” without saying a word. Art therapy offers a means of expression and possibly even resolution for veterans who might find their reality unspeakable.

As with any traumatic event, the greatest success stories often belong to those who employ a multifaceted therapeutic approach. While art therapy might not be right for every veteran suffering from PTSD, many will find themselves benefiting from the art therapy relaxation techniques. Military personnel with PTSD who have used art therapy have reported a reduced level of anxiety, better control over mood disorders often associated with PTSD, a reduction in disruptive behaviors that prohibit daily functioning, an increased ability to verbalize and then resolve traumatic events and an overall increase in self esteem.

Any PTSD sufferer or treatment specialist will tell you that it is a complex disorder. The complexity of the disorder deserves a multifaceted approach and art therapy is proving to be a valid and successful method.

Knowing and Understanding PTSD

Kris Baydalla Galasso

Something terrifying happens to you. Your heart races. Your palms sweat. You can’t sleep. You don’t want to eat. You can’t get the events of that day out of your mind. Any and all of these are completely normal responses to trauma and would be expected of any one of us. We all experience traumatic life events at some point – so we are all familiar with these physical responses. However, for many of us, particularly our service men and women, the physical responses don’t go away with time. In many cases, they become worse.

For those of us living with PTSD – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – the world is an unsafe and scary place. Danger lurks in every corner and we are often unable to trust and unwilling to explore. Many of us find ourselves giving up activities that we once enjoyed because the anxiety and fear keep us trapped in a dark and scary place.

PTSD is a reaction that stems from a trauma. The most common image that many of us call to mind is that of a combat soldier. Our soldier has been overseas, faced combat and is now facing a series of adjustment issues as he or she acclimates to life at home. One of the more common stereotypes that come to mind is a combat veteran having a reaction to fireworks. While yes, the noise of the seasonal display can absolutely trigger memories of traumatic events faced overseas, many veterans face far more commonplace challenges.

Inexplicable anger over seemingly insignificant events – such as road rage over traffic – can be indicative of PTSD. Refusal to attend events with large groups of people or discomfort in public can be another symptom. Flashbacks, nightmares, hyper-vigilance and awareness: all of these and more are the face of PTSD.

PTSD is a family diagnosis. While often just one person is diagnosed, it is the entire family that is impacted. While it may be difficult for a family member to understand the reactions of their loved one, knowing the diagnosis can help ease the transition and treatment process.

Do you or someone you know suffer from PTSD? You are not alone! 1 in 3 veterans suffer from PTSD and there are more resources and treatments available now than ever before. About Face: The National Center for PTSD (https://www.ptsd.va.gov/apps/AboutFace/videos/topics.html?topic=2) is full of helpful information for servicemen and women, veterans and families.

 

Deported Marine Veteran Comes Home in a Casket

MCSalas

Deported Marine Veteran Comes Home in a Casket

By Debbie Gregory

Persian Gulf War veteran Lance Cpl. Enrique Salas put his life on the line for the country he called home since he was a six year old boy. How unfortunate for him that his adopted country was unsympathetic to his plight when he brought the after-effects of military service home with him.

Like many of his fellow service members, Salas was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, and he also struggled with drugs. But it wasn’t war, suicide or drugs that killed him; Salas died on April 12th at age 47, succumbing to complications stemming from injuries suffered in an auto accident.

In 2004, Salas was convicted for possession of a controlled substance for sale, an aggravated felony that made his deportation mandatory. He was deported to Mexico in 2006.

After the accident, Salas received an emergency humanitarian parole visa to cross the border to access better medical care at the University of California, San Diego. While waiting, he suffered the first if two heart attacks, the second while en-route to San Diego, where he was pronounced brain dead. Salas was buried with military honors in a Reedley cemetery beside his younger brother, another fallen Marine.

In 2002, Hector Barajas was deported after pleading guilty to felony charges resulting from issues with alcohol and drugs. He founded the Deported Veterans Support House, known as the Bunker, a shelter for former U.S. military servicemembers who find themselves in the same situation. Last year, Barajas received a pardon from Gov. Jerry Brown, and recently became a U.S. citizen. Barajas though that Salas was headed in that direction as well.

Salas met other deported veterans through the Deported Veterans Support House. Like many of them, Salas learned that had he applied for citizenship anytime prior to his conviction, he could have received U.S. citizenship through his military service. But he was never given that information.

Homeless Veterans Fastest Growing Segment Is Female Veterans

homeless female

By Debbie Gregory.

When most people picture a veteran, it’s a male. And the same holds true for homeless veterans. But the truth is that the Department of Veterans Affairs has found that female veterans, including those with children, are the fastest-growing share of homeless veterans.

Female veterans are two to four times as likely as their civilian counterparts to experience homelessness.

Most of these women, especially those with kids or histories of trauma, don’t sleep on the streets or find shelter placements. They prefer to couch-surf with friends and relatives, which more often than not, leaves them left out of the homeless count.

Far from being a well-understood phenomenon, most people would be hard-pressed to even include women veterans in the overall picture of veteran homelessness — or recognize their unique risk factors and survival strategies.

Many homeless women veterans were victims of military sexual trauma and feel resentment towards the military and the VA, and as a result do not identify themselves as being a veteran.

According to VA’s National Center for PTSD, data from VA’s military sexual trauma screening program show that about 1 in 4 women and 1 in 100 men respond “yes,” that they experienced sexual trauma or assault while in the military.

Female homeless veterans are nothing like their male veteran counterparts in how and why they experience homelessness. Sadly, women veterans are frequently left out of the picture, intentionally or otherwise. One woman veteran in the series described it as “always being an afterthought,” whenever veterans issues are discussed.

Social health is more important to a woman’s healing process than it is to a man’s. The VA is realizing that and tailoring treatments as necessary.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Former Forest Ranger Ordered to Pay Judgement to Disabled Vet

general_court_07

By Debbie Gregory.

U.S. District Judge Judith C. Herrera has ordered a former U.S. Forest Service ranger to pay nearly $600,000 to a disabled Army veteran and another camper for violating their civil rights by using excessive force during their 2014 arrests at the Juan Tomas campground in the mountains east of Albuquerque.

Former U.S. Forest Service Ranger David Chavez confronted Adam Griego, who served in the Army during two tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, and fellow camper Elijah Haukereid, advising them that the road to the campground was closed and that Griego would have to hike into the area to retrieve his belongings.

Griego found another route to rejoin his friends, which apparently angered Chavez, who handcuffed Griego and slammed his face into the hood of Chavez’s truck, and his head into the door frame of the truck.

Griego was forced to remain in the backseat of the truck for several hours without water despite the heat. Once Griego was secured, Chavez focused on Haukereid, who was recording his friend’s arrest on his cellphone.

Chavez slapped the phone out of Haukereid’s hand and threatened him with a taser. When Haukereid questioned Chavez’s order to get on the ground, Chavez commanded his dog to attack Haukereid.

Griego, a Purple Heart recipient, is 100 percent disabled veteran and suffers from both post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury.

Herrera awarded Griego $450,000 in compensatory and punitive damages after finding that the beating he suffered made his combat injuries worse. Haukereid was awarded $140,000 in compensatory and punitive damages.

Although the judgement is directed at Chavez, normally his former employer would have to pay the judgment for his actions.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.