PAT LAMOUREUX

PAT LAMOUREUX
PAT LAMOUREUX - One episode in a person's life, does not define the person.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Almost all of us are connected to a veteran

Susan Gardner, Redwood Times
Posted: 12/23/2009 11:32:46 AM PST

“I think we can call ourselves a PTSD nation. To be honest we all need to share the blame equally, whether it is liberals or conservatives.”

Wars have been a part of humanity since the beginning of time and probably will be until the end of time. Men, women, and children will die and be maimed both physically and emotionally. But, this does not mean we should ever stop working towards peace or that we should ever forget those who have served their country, especially while protecting our freedoms.

Retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel and Community Presbyterian Pastor Sharon Latour spoke at the Garberville Rotary Club last week about those returning veterans. Latour said almost everyone is connected to, or knows a veteran in some way. She spent two years at USC and four years at UCSB in graduate school.

Latour began by stating that we, as a nation, are just now starting to get our heads around the issue of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) from the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. When she asked the audience how many are connected to a veteran in some way it was unanimous.

She said, “I think we can call ourselves a PTSD nation. To be honest we all need to share the blame equally, whether it is liberals or conservatives.”

Latour said the media has a lot of responsibility with how these veterans are perceived, along with how the war is projected to the public. She refuses to watch the news on TV because it only shows short flashes over and over again and sensationalizes those items that will sell advertising, which is the lifeblood of both print and all other media. She says there is no middle ground.
Latour said, “Those of you who read a lot will see that the pundits are suggesting that the President’s big concern should be if we gravitate to the middle. It actually serves politics to have us at the extremes. We need to continue to be critical thinkers and consumers of what media filters for us to digest.”   

Latour explained that stress is a real part of all our lives and it can kill. As of just a few weeks ago, there were only 43 mental health workers in Afghanistan when there are at least 103 needed. The cases of those soldiers reporting PTSD symptoms have doubled since 2005 and this shortage of military therapists creates a strain all by itself. 

The group that was processing for deployment at Ft. Hood when they were attacked by one of their own has now been sent overseas. One-fourth of their number was wounded or killed that day and those mental health experts are now serving in Afghanistan. Latour questions their ability to process what happened that day in such a short amount of time. 

(Click below for complete article)
http://www.redwoodtimes.com/garbervillenews/ci_14057171.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

“They’re Wasted”: The Price of Pushing Our Troops Too Far

Tuesday 15 December 2009
by: William J. Astore
posted on http://www.truthout.org/

Tuesday 15 December 2009
 
"Signs of severe strain, of being “wasted,” are often not visible to the American public. Nevertheless, they are ominous and growing. Suicides have hit record highs in the Army. Cases of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and depression, having reached an alarming 300,000 in 2008, according to Invisible Wounds of War, a RAND study, continue to escalate, constituting a mental health crisis for the Army. Traumatic brain injuries from IEDs and other explosive shocks in our war zones, difficult to diagnose and even more difficult to treat, may already exceed 300,000, another health crisis exacerbated by a lack of treatment available to veterans. Divorce rates among active duty troops continue to climb. An epidemic of domestic violence and crime has been linked to returning veterans and to the difficulty of readjusting to “normal” life after months, or years, in combat zones. These are just five of the better documented signs of an Army that’s struggling to cope with wars of unprecedented length and still uncertain
outcomes."
 
(click below for complete article - well written but long)
http://www.truthout.org/topstories/121609vh1

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Incarcerated Veteran to receive care from Southern Nevada Veterans Healthcare System

On Thursday, December 10, 2009, at 10:54 a.m., I received a telephone call from the VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System (VASNHS) in Las Vegas, NV. A female voice said, “This message is for Joseph Lamoureux; you have an appointment at the VA clinic in Pahrump on Friday December 11 at 3 pm” - click, end of call. 

I was momentarily stunned. 

Thursday was a visitation day, and of course I couldn’t wait to see Pat to begin with, but following that phone call,  my anxiety to see him built up rapidly.

When I conveyed to him the message I had received he was also stunned, and questioned if it was true. I placed a phone call to his attorney’s office (which went without return phone call). Thursday ended without answers to my questions.

Friday I began to make phone calls, and soon learned that yes, Pat did have an appointment at 3:00 pm. It was true – Pat was scheduled and the appointment had been made the day before! The gentleman on the phone was very kind and helpful, and even called the detention facility to verify that Pat would be brought in.  It was true, the detention facility confirmed that they would transport Pat for the appointment - he was going to be seen!! 

After the appointment Pat called with even more astonishing news. 

The VA is going to coordinate with the detention facility for treatment of his leg. He was told that all of his medications were being renewed and would be supplied by the VA forward from this time; they will make arrangements for him to begin receiving psychological treatment and treatment for his pulmonary condition. It is my understanding that all of this will be taken care of at the VA Clinic here in Pahrump.

This is a huge victory!  

I have persisted in calling people and writing letters and now we just have to pray that the VA does not renege on what has been stated. Thank you to everyone that has written letters and/or made phone calls as well. 

Let's remain confident that this is a positive turning point in this case, and that more positive events lay ahead of us! 

As an additional note,  I didn't hear from Pat from Monday around noon until Wednesday evening.  When he called Wednesday, he informed me that the had been taken to court on Tuesday.  This is the second time that this has happened and I was unaware of it.   At any rate, the District Attorney, as in the last surprise court date, filled a motion to petition the court to move the trial to July of next year.   Fortunately, the judge denied the request again.

Tuesday was a very difficult day for Pat.  They woke him early in the morning, shackled him up and took him to court.  Tuesday morning we had about an inch of snow on the ground.  He sat in a holding cell at the courthouse the entire day without any of his medication.   His case was the last case presented that day.  His arms were bruised from being in the shackles, and again, he was deprived of his medication for the entire day. If that is not an example of cruel and unusal punishment and putting his health in jeopardy, I don't know what is.

I won't be surprised if the DA doesn't pull this "surprise" court appearance in January and February as well. 

Also, I have great concerns about March 9.  That day has been set as the "calendar call" date.  Evidently attorneys will often use the calendar call to maneuver for an advantage by pushing for a time that is nearer or farther away, depending on their perception of what will be to the advantage to do so.  So, we still have to get passed March 9, 2010 before we know if the trial will actually begin on March 29, 2010.

So, as we move forward please continue to keep your strong thoughts and prayers going.  We still have a way to go.  Thank you all for your continuing support.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Denial and Tragedy

By Dr. Shari Julian
Wednesday, 18 November 2009, 9:46

"Therapists must receive specialized training in the military culture and social dynamics, and their support must be made available to every military family and warrior. If not, the final reward we give them for their service will be a lifetime of pain."

When I heard about the Nov. 5 shootings at Fort Hood, I packed my bags for Killeen. As a former military wife, a military mom, and a clinician specializing in mass trauma, I suspected what I would find - not so much about the motivations for Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan's murderous spree as about the military mindsets and myths that through the decades have put millions of other servicemen and servicewomen and their families in peril. I'm not talking about faulty base security or questionable terrorist-tracking mechanisms. I'm much more worried about the U.S. military's failure to provide adequate psychological care for those who put their lives on the line for us.

The memorial at Fort Hood should be a call for better mental health care for U.S. soldiers.

My personal history with military PTSD goes back to when the wounded warriors were mostly Vietnam veterans, including the Marine I married in 1977, who had previously served two tours of duty in that country. For years, as he worked in various locations in the States and overseas, I used my therapist's training informally and formally to help other service personnel and their families handle mental health issues. More recently, as a college lecturer, I have seen military personnel who were my students break down emotionally because they and their families were facing a second or fourth deployment to one of the wars this country is fighting. Now, as a military mother whose son is back from Iraq and facing deployment to Afghanistan, I talk to North Texas military family members who stop by because they see the blue star pennant on my door. I also serve on a national joint services psychological advisory committee for wounded warriors. Part of the reason I headed to Killeen was to gather information for that panel.

(click here for complete article)
http://www.fwweekly.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2197:denial-and-tragedy&catid=3:second-thought&Itemid=374


Saturday, December 5, 2009

President's Afghanistan Strategy - More Questions Than Answers

By Jon Soltz
12/4/2009
(Jon Soltz is Chairman and Co-Founder of VoteVets.org, the nation's largest progressive group of veterans in America. He served in the Iraq War with the Army.)

President Obama's strategy announcement for the war in Afghanistan raises more questions than it answers. But some answers are starting to come, and they're not good news.

The first and most important question, of course, is the feasibility of the strategy. On this question, many in the media and Congress have dropped the ball. They are asking if deploying an extra 30,000 troops is doable, when the question we should be asking is whether or not it is advisable.

Of course deploying 30,000 more troops in six months is doable. But when you delve into the numbers, whether we should do it is much more murky, and what the costs will be remains largely unanswered.

According to the Washington Independent, the US Army reports that it only has 24,000 National Guardsmen available for deployment at this time. Further, the report found that even if the President decided to repurpose heavy brigades that are of no use in Afghanistan as light brigades, there are only 31,600 active duty soldiers ready to deploy right now.

If all forces currently in theater were just beginning to fight, that would be one thing. But when you consider that many troops there are reaching the end of their deployment and should be rotated out, we run into serious problems. 

(click below for complete article)
http://sitrep.globalsecurity.org/articles/091204518-presidents-afghanistan-strateg.html

Friday, December 4, 2009

Joshua Hunter, Alleged Fort Drum Killer, 'Snapped'

MARY ESCH
12/ 3/09 06:28 PM

ALBANY, N.Y. — Relatives of a Fort Drum soldier accused of stabbing his two Army buddies to death said Thursday that he told them he saw his best friend "blown to pieces" in Iraq and came back a changed man: abusive, violent, sleepless, edgy and plagued by flashbacks.

Spc. Joshua Hunter, a military policeman, was expected to be arraigned on second-degree murder charges Friday morning, three days after the bodies of Waide James, 20, and Diego Valbuena, 23, were found in their apartment just outside Fort Drum, about 140 miles northwest of Albany. Hunter and the two victims served in Iraq at the same time in the same battalion.

They all were based at the wind-swept Army post near the Canadian border, home of the much-deployed 10th Mountain Division, and shared an off-base apartment.

Hunter's wife, Emily Hunter, told The Associated Press in a phone interview that her husband was outgoing before he went to war, but when he returned stateside, he was an emotional wreck.

"He wasn't in any good mental shape at all," Emily Hunter said. "I tried to get him to go to therapy. They prescribed him medicine and stuff, but it just wasn't enough."

(click below for complete story)

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/12/03/joshua-hunter-alleged-for_n_378961.html

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Forgotten Cost of War: Caring for Veterans

Paul Rieckhoff
Exec. Director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA)
Posted: December 1, 2009 09:54 PM
 
President Obama has finally laid out his strategy for Afghanistan. Unfortunately, he did so without using the word "veteran" and without articulating any back-end support for our returning troops. In typical fashion, we've heard the media's talking heads ask: Is Afghanistan Obama's Vietnam? Why only 30,000 troops? Will the exit strategy embolden the Taliban?
 
And now, the politics and policy of the new strategy have been broken down into predictable soundbite-sized morsels by the partisans and pundits. But few have focused on how the Administration plans to support those 30,000 troops when they return home. Nor have we heard much talk of their families who won't be on planes to Afghanistan, but are still making sacrifices every day on the home front. These are the brave Americans responsible for executing this new plan or waiting for a knock on the door that they pray will never come.
 
President Obama's plan will significantly increase the demands on our service members, almost 800,000 of whom have already served multiple tours. The propeller-heads in Washington have crunched the numbers determining how much it will cost to send these new forces to the front. But I'm not at all convinced that they've done the back-end planning that's necessary for a complete war plan; one that cares for these troops when they come home.  As we saw with the implementation of the new  Gi Bill, failing to plan is planning to fail. If the President doesn't plan adequately now, Walter Reed will only be the beginning of a decades-long national embarrassment of failing to care for our nation's veterans and their families.
 
The only way to avoid another round of heartache, disappointment and frustration is to guarantee that our returning troops will receive the full support of the president, Congress, the Department of Defense, the VA and the American people (a critical spoke on this wheel that has been neglected for far too long). 
 
We can start by ensuring that every service member receives the resources they need when they come home. This doesn't mean a welcome home parade, although that's always a nice gesture. It means leaders in Washington that don't live at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue stepping up right now. Congress must send the VA health care budget to the president immediately. As of tonight's address, the VA budget is already 61 days late.
 
But Congress cannot stop there. The outdated and ineffective military and VA disability systems that leave hundreds of thousands of veterans waiting for claims to be processed must be reformed. And during these trying economic times, we must redouble our efforts to ensure that every veteran can find employment and a place to call home.
 
Finally, President Obama must find a way to fully engage all Americans in supporting and advocating for all those who've served -- regardless of how they feel about the war. America's foreign policy cannot succeed without these heroes, and their return home won't succeed without us.

Crossposted at www.IAVA.org.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Obama's Plans to Increase Afghanistan Troop Levels Would Leave US With No Reserve

Tuesday 24 November 2009
by: Jason Leopold, t r u t h o u t Report

"The shortage of available combat brigades means that an escalation of between 30,000 and 40,000 troops is 'not realistic‚'" and would leave the US with "no reserve in case you had a problem......."

President Barack Obama intends to announce that he will deploy tens of thousands of additional US troops to Afghanistan, according to numerous published reports citing unnamed administration officials, to fight an eight-year-old war that a majority of Americans do not support and numerous Democratic lawmakers say is no longer worth waging.

Leaks coming out of the White House following Obama's final meeting Monday evening with top military officials, Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, National Security Adviser Jim Jones, US. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry and 12 other senior members of his administration, indicate that the president will send 34,000 additional troops to the region over the next nine months, far short of the 80,000 troops Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal recommended last August.

Still, the surge would bring the total number of US soldiers in Afghanistan to about 100,000 and would severely strain an already stretched military. 

Indeed, as Spencer Ackerman noted last week in an investigative report published in The Washington Independent, "If President Obama orders an additional 30,000 to 40,000 troops to Afghanistan, he will be deploying practically every available US Army brigade to war, leaving few units in reserve in case of an unforeseen emergency and further stressing a force that has seen repeated combat deployments since 2002.

"According to information compiled by the US Army for The Washington Independent about the deployment status of active-duty and National Guard Army brigades, as of December 2009, there will be about 50,600 active-duty soldiers, serving in 14 combat brigades, and as many as 24,000 National Guard soldiers available for deployment. All other soldiers and National Guardsmen will either be deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan already or ineligible to deploy while they rest from a previous deployment.

"The shortage of available combat brigades means that an escalation of between 30,000 and 40,000 troops is 'not realistic‚'" and would leave the US with "no reserve in case you had a problem in Korea," Lawrence Korb, a former senior Pentagon official in the Reagan administration who now studies defense issues for the liberal Center for American Progress, told The Washington Independent. 

According to an in-depth report by veteran McClatchy Newspapers reporter Jonathan Landay, deployments will begin in March of three Army brigades from the 101st Airborne Division from Fort Campbell, Kentucky; the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, New York, and a Marine brigade from Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, "for as many as 23,000 additional combat and support troops.

"In addition, a 7,000-strong division headquarters would be sent to take command of US-led NATO forces in southern Afghanistan - to which the US has long been committed - and 4,000 US military trainers would be dispatched to help accelerate an expansion of the Afghan army and police," Landay reported.   

Officials commenting on the strategy refused to speak on the record, but the leaks appear to be well-coordinated and aimed at softening the blow that will likely result after Obama publicly announces his war plans December 1. His address to the nation next week will come two weeks before the president heads to Oslo, Norway, to accept the Nobel Peace Prize. 

Without commenting on specifics of his strategy, Obama said Tuesday he intends to "finish the job" that began with the overthrow of the Taliban following the 9/11 attacks and promised to "dismantle and degrade ... al-Qaeda and its extremist allies [to ensure they] cannot operate" in [Afghanistan]. 

The president alluded to the fact that the Bush administration failed to commit resources to Afghanistan over the past seven years, choosing to focus exclusively on the occupation of Iraq, which allowed the Taliban to regain a stronghold in the region. Obama predicted the American people would support his efforts, despite opinions polls that show deep misgivings about the war.   

"I feel very confident that when the American people hear a clear rationale for what we're doing there and how we intend to achieve our goals, that they will be supportive," Obama said.  

But convincing Congress, especially on the issue of how to fund the troop increase which Peter Orszag, director of the Office of Management and Budget, pegged at nearly $1 million per soldier, is another matter. 

While Obama promised on the campaign trail not to rely on the use of emergency supplemental money to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan - estimated to have cost nearly $1 trillion thus far - and instead dip into the defense budget, it's likely the president will do just that when it comes time to pay for the surge.  

Congressman David Obey (D-Wisconsin) and Senator Carl Levin (D-Michigan) have proposed a war surtax on the wealthy to pay for additional troops. 

"If we have to pay for the health care bill, we should pay for the war as well," Obey told ABC News in an interview that aired Monday. "The problem in this country with this issue is that the only people who have to sacrifice are military families and they've had to go to the well again and again and again and again, and everybody else is blithely unaffected by the war."  

Obey added that it would also be a "mistake to deepen our involvement" in Afghanistan.   

Sen. Arlen Specter agreed. In a conference call with reporters last week, the Pennsylvania Democrat said, "We ought not to add troops in Afghanistan - let alone remain in the country unless the Obama administration can prove that escalating the war is 'indispensable to our fight against al-Qaeda."  

Specter said he arrived at his decision after meeting with Secretary of State Clinton; Defense Secretary Gates; Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and top intelligence officials. Moreover, Specter said Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai's failure to root out corruption in his government factored into his decision.

That was a sentiment shared by Ambassador Eikenberry, who privately warned Obama in two classified cables he sent to the White House earlier this month about deploying additional troops to Afghanistan because of widespread corruption in Karzai's government.  

(click below for the complete article)
http://www.truthout.org/1124099

Monday, November 30, 2009

$40 billion in annual costs if President Obama sends 40,000 more troops to Afghanistan

"We have this theme in this country that we will support our troops, all work as a team, but there are so many cases when they are just released from service and left on their own.  We treat them as second-class citizens, but they are the ones who pay the price."

More Iraq, Afghanistan veterans need more help
Kevin Fagan, San Francisco Chronicle Staff Writer
Monday, November 30, 2009

Pentagon bean counters see an extra $40 billion in annual costs if President Obama sends 40,000 more troops to Afghanistan, but Michael Blecker sees mainly this:

More than 13,000 new cases of post-traumatic stress disorder. An additional 8,000 or so traumatic brain injuries. More suffering and need coming home in the form of wounded vets than the country can easily handle.

The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have produced more diagnosed cases of PTSD and debilitating injuries per capita than any other war in the nation's history, health care experts say. And veterans who encounter homecoming trouble are becoming homeless more quickly than ever, street counselors say.

It's something most people don't consider when they think of sending more soldiers overseas, said Blecker, head of San Francisco's Swords to Plowshares veterans aid agency. But they should, he said - especially now, as Obama prepares to make a speech to the nation Tuesday.

(click below for complete article)
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/11/29/BADF1APAU2.DTL

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Pennsylvania grandmother befriends wife of PTSD vet charged in slayings

Novebmber 25, 2009
The Charleston Gazette
By the Associated Press

"They are linked by tragedy, but also by a shared conviction that the military does an excellent job of keeping troops alive during combat, but not so well at keeping them healthy afterward."

HOLLIDAYSBURG, Pa. -- When the envelope arrived, Windy Horner was talking with her husband, Nick -- Windy on a cell phone, Nick in the Blair County jail.

Windy did not recognize the return address. She feared hate mail; her husband is charged with killing two men and robbing a sandwich shop, and she blames his actions on post-traumatic stress disorder from his service in Iraq, but others do not agree.

"Just because horner went to iraq,'' read one reader comment on a newspaper Web site, "doesnt mean he shouldnt get what he deserves!!!!!!!''

Now, she wondered: Should she open the envelope? Go ahead, Nick said.

The note was from a complete stranger, a woman named Laurie Claar. It was written on a card decorated with a rainbow and flowers, bearing the message, "Caring Thoughts Are With You.''

"I'm not sure what to say to you all except I understand and you all are in my prayers,'' Claar wrote. "And I don't think bad of Nick as he needs help to deal with PTSD.'

(Click here for complete story)
http://www.wvgazette.com/News/200911250917

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Veterans and Law Enforcement: A New Deal Aimed at Preventing Crime?

By Guy Gambill
Guest Contributor
Catalyst Newsletter 2009 Volume 30, Number 10

Some veterans of the War on Terror (primarily the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan) are running afoul of the law, but is the deck of cards stacked against them? And are they any different from veterans of other wars? Many believe that psychological problems resulting from their combat experience set a good many of these veterans apart.


The bigger issue is whether law enforcement officers, and even our courts, should deal with these veterans differently from others who come in contact with the judicial system. If they are given a second chance and a shot at mental health counseling, will they avoid a repeat offense?


Perhaps now is the time to recognize the unique issues facing these combat veterans and deal with them in a constructive manner that benefits the service members, their families, and the country they have served so well.


(click here for complete article)

http://www.ncpc.org/programs/catalyst-newsletter/catalyst-newsletter-2009/volume-30-number-10/veterans-and-law-enforcement-a-new-deal-aimed-at-preventing-crime

Saturday, November 21, 2009

New state court targets troubled Vt. veterans

By Peter Hirschfeld
VERMONT PRESS BUREAU
Published: November 11, 2009

For troubled veterans whose criminal offenses can be linked to the psychological scars of military deployments, a new Vermont court could replace probation and prison terms with counseling and therapy.

As Vermont prepares for the largest deployment of National Guard soldiers since World War II, mental health professionals and justice officials say they anticipate a surge in the number of veterans entering the state's criminal justice system.

Proponents of the fledgling court say the program, funded in part by a $2.1 million federal grant, will offer a more compassionate, and ultimately more effective, method of dealing with veterans suffering from service-connected mental health conditions.

"It really shows that despite our small size, Vermont many times is on the cutting edge of providing services to veterans," said Clayton Clark, head of the Vermont Office of Veterans Affairs. "We think it's a great way to ensure that veterans having troubles get cared for in the best way possible."

The Jail Diversion, Trauma Recovery program will operate under the auspices of a mental health court already in existence in Chittenden County. The $2.1 million grant, from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, will expand staff there and place a special focus on veterans, though any Vermonter with a mental health condition will be potentially eligible for the specialized court.

Offenders could avoid traditional criminal sanctions by agreeing to participate in court-ordered treatment plans.

(click here for complete story)
http://www.timesargus.com/article/20091111/NEWS01/911110333/1002/NEWS01

Jail Diversion Programs for Veterans Funded

(source:  The National Center for Addiction and Substance Abuse, Columbia University)
October 11, 2009

Programs that work to keep veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress and related disorders out of prison have been awarded a total of $10 million in grants by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

The six SAMHSA grants went to states to expand jail diversion programs on a statewide and local level. Each recipient will launch a pilot program and then expand it to other communities. Grants equal up to $394,000 annually over five years.

Recipients of the awards, administered by SAMHSA's Center for Mental Health Services, including Florida, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio and Rhode Island. Programs will provide addiction and/or mental health services in lieu of incarceration.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Military experiment seeks to predict PTSD

washingtonpost.com
By ALICIA CHANG
The Associated Press
Friday, November 20, 2009; 1:01 AM

TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- Two days before shipping off to war, Marine Pfc. Jesse Sheets sat inside a trailer in the Mojave Desert, his gaze fixed on a computer that flashed a rhythmic pulse of contrasting images.

Smiling kids embracing a soldier. A dog sniffing blood oozing from a corpse. Movie star Cameron Diaz posing sideways in a midriff top. Troops cowering for safety during an ambush.

A doctor tracked his stress levels and counted the number of times he blinked. Electrode wires dangled from his left eye and right pinky finger.

Sheets is part of a military experiment to try to predict who's most at risk for post-traumatic stress disorder. Understanding underlying triggers might help reduce the burden of those who return psychologically wounded - if they can get early help.

(click here for complete article)
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/11/20/AR2009112000003.html

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Policing Vets

SPECIAL REPORT


Policing Vets

By Julia Dahl
Crime Report

Monday, November 16th, 2009 10:33 am

"Farr explains that after reading about an incident near Las Vegas during which police responded to a troubled vet in what he considered to be an over-aggressive manner, he concluded that with the proper instruction they might have been able to talk the vet down. He decided to use his college training as a filmmaker to create a video that would give police an “awareness and sensitivity” to the psychological issues faced by returning veterans."

"The problem of veterans who struggle with the psychological scars of war is not new. Tom Schumacher, the PTSD Director at the Department of Veterans Affairs in Washington State, helped police counsel troubled Vietnam veterans in the 1980s, and says that although law enforcement had relationships with VA counselors back then, there was never any formal training provided to officers.


Farr wanted to change this. He sought permission and support from his bosses at the VA for the video, and in late 2008 received $5,000 from his outreach budget. He consulted with Utah’s CIT program director, hired some friends to help him, and in March 2009 began presenting the 18-minute video entitled “Walking Wounded,” to law enforcement leadership in Utah.

The response was overwhelmingly positive, and Farr says the video is now being used by law enforcement in at least 28 states and by three federal agencies.


In the third and final part of our Veterans Day investigation of how the U.S. justice system interacts with veterans, we look at innovative programs designed to help police understand the traumas afflicting soldiers in the transition to civilian life. 

(click here for complete story)
http://thecrimereport.org/2009/11/16/policing-vets

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

At Army Base, Some Violence Is Too Familiar (Ft. Hood, TX)

New York Times
(A version of this article appeared in print on November 10, 2009, on page A1 of the New York edition.)
By MICHAEL MOSS and RAY RIVERA
Published: November 9, 2009

“Our soldiers are coming back and not getting the help they need,” said Cynthia Thomas, an Army wife who runs a private assistance center for soldiers in Killeen called Under the Hood CafĂ©. “Whether it’s self-medicating, anger or violence, these are the consequences of war, and you have to think about all the people affected by soldiers coming home, the parents, spouses, children, brothers, sisters, aunts and cousins.”


FORT HOOD, Tex. — Staff Sgt. Gilberto Mota, 35, and his wife, Diana, 30, an Army specialist, had returned to Fort Hood from Iraq last year when he used his gun to kill her, and then took his own life, the authorities say. In July, two members of the First Cavalry Division, also just back from the war with decorations for their service, were at a party when one killed the other.

That same month, Staff Sgt. Justin Lee Garza, 28, under stress from two deployments, killed himself in a friend’s apartment outside Fort Hood, four days after he was told no therapists were available for a counseling session. “What bothers me most is this happened while he was supposed to be on suicide watch,” said his mother, Teri Smith. “To this day, I don’t know where he got the gun.” 

Fort Hood is still reeling from last week’s carnage, in which an Army psychiatrist is accused of a massacre that left 13 people dead. But in the town of Killeen and other surrounding communities, the attack, one of the worst mass shootings on a military base in the United States, is also seen by many as another blow in an area that has been beset by crime and violence since the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq began. Reports of domestic abuse have grown by 75 percent since 2001. At the same time, violent crime in Killeen has risen 22 percent while declining 7 percent in towns of similar size in other parts of the country.

The stresses are seen in other ways, too.

Since 2003, there have been 76 suicides by personnel assigned to Fort Hood, with 10 this year, according to military officials.

A crisis center on base is averaging 60 phone calls a week from soldiers and family members seeking various help for problems from suicide to anger management, with about the same volume of walk-ins and scheduled appointments.

(click here for complete article)
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/10/us/10post.html?emc=eta1.

Monday, November 9, 2009

FIRST POSTED ON THE BLOG 11/9/2009 Congressman Sestak Proposes Initiative to Address Medical Care of Incarcerated Veterans

"We must reverse the unacceptable actions of 2003 that locked so many Vets out of the VA medical system......" Congressman Joe Sestak

MEDIA, PA – As we approach Veterans Day and our newest Veterans return from Iraq and Afghanistan with increasing instances of brain injuries and stress disorders, Congressman Joe Sestak (PA-07) wrote to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, General Eric Shinseki, to address how our legal and medical systems can better collaborate to support those Veterans who may find themselves incarcerated as a result of service-related injuries and impairments.


“As someone who witnessed the injustice done to so many of our Vietnam Veterans, I am determined to see that our newest Veterans receive the full benefit of the overdue resources the 110th and 11th Congress have made available to them. Consider the fact that in 1998, an estimated 56,500 Vietnam War-era Veterans and 18,500 Persian Gulf War-era Veterans were held in State and Federal prisons and the need for action is long overdue,” said Congressman Sestak. “I commend The Honorable Seamus P. McCaffery, Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice, for the work he is doing to create ‘Veterans Courts’ in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. For too long our state and national jurists have been content to lock up Veterans rather than afford them the opportunity to have their conditions fully diagnosed and treated—possibly preventing their incarceration altogether. Unfortunately, as a result of inaction, we have had extraordinary numbers of Vietnam-era Vets incarcerated and following their incarceration they have often ended up homeless.


“I am advocating for a seamless transition in which VA doctors communicate with the physicians at the local, state, and federal level charged with providing medical care to prisoners and ensure Veterans receive the treatment they require. Failure is not an option. We will not leave our comrades behind on the battlefield. We cannot leave them alone in prison until we have made every effort to help them become well and whole again.”

(click here for complete article)
http://sestak.house.gov/apps/list/press/pa07_sestak/091108_JailedVetCare.shtml

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Mental Impact of War

Sylvia Coleman
November 7, 4:30 PM
Philadelphia Mental Health Examiner

"So perhaps it’s a perfect time for all of us to realize just how serious of an impact war can have on the mental health of almost everyone involved."

After the shooting rampage that took place at Fort Hood on Thursday, everyone is scrambling to understand why.

How could Major Hasan, an Army psychiatrist and an American citizen, have done this? What was going on inside his head? Was he a terrorist who had been planning the attack all along? Was he suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder? Did he have any type of underlying mental health issues? Or is he simply a mad man?

Right now, all we really know is that it was triggered by the fact that he was going to be deployed to Afghanistan which he openly expressed concerns about.

Indeed, the government and news media are very much focused on digging up any possible ties he may have had with terrorists and his past statements condoning terrorism. But fortunately, this tragic event is also shinning light on some very important issues. It’s raising a whole slew of other questions that the U.S government and military as well as those in the mental health profession are now forced to address:

How common is PTSD among caregivers who specialize in trauma treatment? Are we paying enough attention to Army psychiatrists to make sure they’re able to offer the best treatment? Is enough being done to help soldiers suffering from PTSD? Are we reaching out to them and their families as much as possible?

(click here for complete article)
http://www.examiner.com/x-21860-Philadelphia-Mental-Health-Examiner~y2009m11d7-The-Mental-Impact-of-War

Minds are terrible things to waste in the US military

By Mike Peters (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-11-07 14:57
 
"Nov 11 is Veterans Day in the US. The 535 members of Congress will be on holiday, but when they return, perhaps they will be inspired to fund mental health care for the military at an appropriate level. Enlisted men and women being exposed to the trauma of war deserve no less."

It sounds like the punch line of a joke: The person who went crazy was the psychiatrist.

But nobody was laughing on Friday as the US military struggled to cope with the worst mass shooting in its history.

We may never know why Nidal Malik Hasan took aim and fired at his fellow soldiers in Texas on Thursday. But the tragedy points a bright light at a problem that's been obvious for a long time: The US makes an insuffficient investment in the mental health of its soldiers.

I don't say that to make excuses for Hasan. Those who know him say he was a good soldier and a good Muslim. (Nothing in Islam supports what he's alleged to have done - for any reason. The shootings are the act of a sick man.

But the US Army has more than a few sick men. Consider these news reports:

May 13, 2009: The US military charged an American Army sergeant on his third tour in Iraq with murder in connection with a shooting spree that left five fellow soldiers dead in a mental health clinic at Camp Liberty in Baghdad. Long-time observers of the US military say the shooting shows all the signs of a soldier pushed to the brink of insanity by repeated and consistent exposure to war. The 44-year-old Sergeant John Russell had spent many years of his life at war when he allegedly opened fire and killed five of his fellow soldiers. Russell was coming to the end of his third tour in Iraq and had also served deployments in Bosnia and Kosovo.

(click here for complete article)
http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/world/2009-11/07/content_8928410.html

Friday, November 6, 2009

Vicarious traumatization: PTSD is contagious and deadly

Todd Essig
Simu-Nation
Nov. 5 2009 - 10:03 pm

All the facts about the Fort Hood massacre are not in yet, and may not be for some time. The early facts left me horrified, and a little scared: Terrorism? Warriors run amuck? But when I learned that the likely shooter was an Army psychiatrist who treats PTSD, himself on the cusp of deployment, I thought, “I’m not surprised.”

One fact we do know is that treating PTSD is itself traumatic. Before you judge or maybe make a joke about some shrink wigging out–or indulge ugly racist fantasies–I want you to imagine a work day spent bearing witness to traumas so horrific media outlets won’t even show the videos. Imagine every day trying to help young men and women somehow put their lives back together despite their night terrors, flashbacks, and chronic sleeplessness. While you reach out to help, they mistrust your every move and respond with hair-trigger tempers, not to mention all the physical symptoms, alienation, and hopelessness. Surrounded by thoughts of suicide–and homicide–you try and keep faith with the honor and challenge of providing care.

But soon the line between their experience and yours starts to blur until, well, something like what happened at Fort Hood today becomes an all too real possibility.

The fact is treating soldiers traumatized by war experience is not just an honor and a challenge; it is itself a risky behavior. McCann and Pearlman, in a 1990 article in the Journal of Traumatic Stress were the first to identify:

(click here for complete article)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Is This Any Way to Treat Our Heroes?

HuffPost Social News

Joan E. Dowlin

Freelance musician (French hornist) from the Philadelphia, PA area.
Posted: October 30, 2009 06:00 PM BIO

"This is where we are failing our heroes and veterans. How can Congress pass a $680 billion defense authorization bill on October 22, 2009 to keep spending money and sending soldiers to die or be maimed overseas and not allocate enough for their recovery when they return?"

A close family friend's son recently returned from Afghanistan where he had been working as a government contractor for the US war there. He is a Veteran Marine who joined in 2002 right after terrorists flew airplanes into the World Trade Center buildings on 9/11/01. He unselfishly wanted to serve his country and defend us from these attacks.

He was readily accepted by the United States Marine Corp. and his fellow soldiers, having been voted #1 Honor Man of his boot camp even though he was at least 10 years older than most of his peers. He worked his way up to Staff Sergeant and was so well liked by his battalion that they resisted sending him out to the battlefield. They didn't want to lose him.

But go to war he did with tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan. He served proudly with many honors and awards until 2006 when he started contract work in Afghanistan.

He has a wife and young son, two parents and a sister who love him dearly. You can imagine his family's sense of relief every time he returned home safely and in one piece after each tour of duty. His last trip home in September of this year seemed as any other, but then something very strange and frightening happened. He tried to commit suicide by shooting himself in the head. Luckily, he was a bad shot and survived, ending up needing surgery to repair his eye socket, but the emotional damage is the harder part to heal. We are told he is suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) which afflicts many soldiers and anyone who has been in life threatening situations. We can only imagine what horrors he has endured being in a war zone off and on for over six years.

Read more at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/joan-e-dowlin/is-this-any-way-to-treat_b_336047.html.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Trauma in Iraq leads to drama in Oregon

By Julie Sullivan, The Oregonian
October 31, 2009, 3:00PM

(Editor's note - Details of the crime and quotes are from testimony ini Grant County Circuit Court. Other reporting includes interviews with witnesses, families, police, Oregon Department of Corrections, attorneys and Department of Veterans Affairs reports.)

"And last month, a Grant County jury considered how much war changed Jessie Bratcher. For the first time in Oregon, and among the first cases nationwide, post-traumatic stress from serving in Iraq was the defense for murder."


JOHN DAY -- Later, after the defense attorney wept and the judge put away his robe and the jurors drove home in the fading light, the consequences of war hung over this town of 1,845 like wood smoke on an autumn eve.

Fourteen months earlier, a young woman lay down with a terrible burden. She was pregnant. Her fiancé, Jessie Bratcher, was so thrilled he kissed the home pregnancy test kit. He researched how a baby develops and what the mother should eat.

But Celena Davis was not sure the child was his.

As Bratcher sat on the foot of their bed, she told him that two months earlier, she had been raped.

The Iraq veteran dropped to his knees and cried. Bratcher went to the living room and put the barrel of an AK-47 in his mouth, then stopped. He grabbed scissors and cut off half of Celena's long dark hair. They stayed up all night. When she complained of cramps, he walked her to the hospital at 6 a.m., so tense that nurses shooed him away.

He returned for her in his pickup and drove east to Boise. They went to a movie, "The Dark Knight." He had "Celena" tattooed on his arm and they returned home late.

By 9 the next morning, Aug. 16, 2008, Bratcher shook Celena, "Get up, get up." He wanted to confront the man she identified as the rapist. Bratcher drove to Ace Hardware, paid $10 for a background check and bought a .45-caliber semiautomatic handgun with extra ammo.

He was shaking.

Back in the truck, as he jammed bullets into the magazine, Bratcher told Celena she had a choice: go to the police or confront Jose Ceja Medina.

"Police," she said.

But it was Saturday and the John Day police station was locked. Dispatchers inside saw the couple try the door, then leave. Minutes later, they stood in an open doorway of Ceja Medina's home.

His nephew, Fernando Ceja, a Prairie High ninth-grader, was inside messaging friends on MySpace. He fetched his uncle, doing laundry down the hall. Ceja Medina wore only running shorts.

The three adults stood in the yard, shouting. Celena cried uncontrollably. Ceja Medina denied knowing her. Then, he said it was sex, not rape. If there was a child, he said, he would take responsibility.

Bratcher pulled the gun from his back pocket and fired 10 times as Ceja Medina ran, hitting him in the buttocks, hip, waist, shin and, fatally, in the head.

A neighbor heard it: "Boom, boom, boom, boom, boom ... ."

War has changed the Oregon Army National Guard, which has deployed troops on 8,400 tours in Iraq and Afghanistan since 9/11. It turned the state's emergency volunteers into combat veterans.

And last month, a Grant County jury considered how much war changed Jessie Bratcher. For the first time in Oregon, and among the first cases nationwide, post-traumatic stress from serving in Iraq was the defense for murder.

Testimony in the nine-day trial in Canyon City, three miles from the death scene, revealed how years after a soldier deployed, the invisible wounds of war led to the town's first murder trial since 1992.

Bratcher was raised by his grandfather Jerry Baughman in Prairie City. "He's my grandson and my son both. I raised him from the time he was a little boy. I don't ever use the word step. That step, it's a dirty word, so I call him my real son."

Since Bratcher was a boy, he worked, splitting and stacking the wood that his granddad sawed. They hunted together, "though he would rather I do the shooting," Baughman said. "He didn't actually care for killing anything."

At Blue Mountain Alternative High School, "Jessie was a peacemaker. That's how I would have to define him," said teacher Crish Hamilton. "Jessie would not instigate a fight but would try to cool the parties down, and I can say that because he did that fairly often."

Bratcher joined the Oregon Guard in 2002 in a surge of patriotism and a vague plan to get an education. By Thanksgiving 2004 he was in Iraq, one of 400 soldiers from the 3rd Battalion, 116th Armored Cavalry Regiment out of eastern Oregon. The "M-1 Tankers" retrained for six months as infantry before an 11-month deployment.

In Iraq they policed 96 villages around Kirkuk, patrolling in Humvees and on foot. Insurgents lobbed mortars into their base, which triggered counterattacks by U.S. artillery. Outside the base, roadside bombs awaited, from hand grenades to car bombs.

"It was very difficult to defend against," said Bratcher's team leader, now retired, Staff Sgt. Johnny Torres. "In training, we were told what to look for, but once we rolled into country, the whole country was a garbage dump. It was next to impossible to pinpoint where they were."

Bratcher ran into trouble with his first squad after he refused to shoot at people he couldn't identify as enemies, and filed an incident report that differed sharply from other soldiers'.

"The other individuals were basically trying to cover up," said Martin Castellanoz, his platoon sergeant. "He told us the truth."

After, the others bullied Bratcher, so Castellanoz put him in a squad with his close friend, Oregon corrections officer John Ogburn III.

"They were good-hearted guys," Castellanoz said. "They were the ones going to church together, to chow together, everyone was helping everyone."

On May 22, 2005, an Iraqi truck veered into their patrol convoy, forcing Ogburn's Humvee to swerve. The vehicle rolled. Ogburn, the turret gunner, was crushed as Bratcher and the others watched. Bratcher, who later helped load his friend's casket onto the plane home, withdrew after that, his sergeant said.

Five weeks later Bratcher's Humvee was hit at the same intersection by a roadside bomb. At first the team reported no injuries, though Bratcher and his team leader both had headaches. The team leader learned in 2008 that his recurring anxiety, depression and mood swings were traumatic brain injury from the blast -- symptoms which overlap and mimic post-traumatic stress disorder.

"Inside I don't feel like I've changed, but my ex-wife says I've changed too much," said the team leader, Torres. "That's what she said when she left this year." He described his anger as "almost instantaneous. Almost like a light switch."

(click here for complete story) http://www.oregonlive.com/news/index.ssf/2009/10/post_25.html

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley: Giving voice to vets’ invisible struggle

"As America commemorates Veterans’ Day on November 11, please show support to your hometown vets who risked mind and body, life and limb, to protect our way of life, defend our homeland and preserve freedom around the world."- U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley (Iowa)

"Giving voice to vets’ invisible struggle"
10/26/2009

Military service places a significant physical and emotional toll on our men and women in uniform. Those who serve on the front lines to protect U.S. national security often face considerable hardship and witness unimaginable brutality to shield loved ones at home from the evils of tyranny and terrorism. When war veterans return home, many soldiers also confront an invisible toll, burdened with psychological troubles as they struggle to integrate back into the workforce, society and family life. Throughout my service in the U.S. Senate, I have worked to champion the interests of Iowa military veterans, from protecting veterans’ access to affordable, quality health care close to home, including rural outpatient clinics; to raising better awareness about education benefits through the G.I. program; calling for suicide prevention and outreach to troubled veterans; and hiring vets for federal jobs (in fact, at my prodding the IRS fulfilled its commitment to hire 1,000 vets in fiscal year 2008). Too often we hear stories about returning veterans struggling with homelessness, unemployment, alcoholism or depression. But an unknown number of personal stories go unreported from veterans with unseen injuries. From my leadership position in the U.S. Senate, I am working to raise awareness and change public policy to improve treatment and care for veterans and service members who have suffered mental injuries, including Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury from their service in zones of combat.

(Click here for complete story: http://www.iowapolitics.com/index.iml?Article=174682 )


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

PTSD increases risk of death one year after surgery

Published on 20 October 2009, 16:14 Last Update: 17 hour(s) ago by Insciences

“This is the first time that PTSD, a psychiatric diagnosis, has been shown as a risk factor for increased mortality after surgery,”


A study conducted by researchers at the San Francisco VA Medical Center and the University of California, San Francisco offers evidence that veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder have a significantly lower survival rate one year after surgery than veterans without the diagnosis, even though the veterans with PTSD were seven years younger on average.

In the study of 1,792 male veterans who underwent an elective major surgery requiring hospital admission, PTSD emerged as a significant risk factor for one-year post-operative mortality, even after the authors adjusted for age and for pre-existing medical conditions that are known to increase the chances of death after surgery.

The results of the study were presented by lead author Marek Brzezinski, MD, PhD, a staff physician at SFVAMC, at the 2009 annual meeting of the American Society of Anesthesiologists in New Orleans. “This is the first time that PTSD, a psychiatric diagnosis, has been shown as a risk factor for increased mortality after surgery,” said Brzezinski, who is also an assistant professor of anesthesia and perioperative care at UCSF.

In analyzing the data, which was gleaned from the electronic patient-record database at SFVAMC, the researchers also found that a PTSD diagnosis was associated with significantly higher prevalence of risk factors for cardiovascular disease, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, and alcohol abuse – all of which are known to increase the risk of death after surgery. It also was associated with other known risk factors for post-operative mortality, including diabetes, depression, and drug abuse.

“Nonetheless, even after controlling for these comorbidities, PTSD emerged as a significant independent risk factor,” noted Brzezinski. “The effect of PTSD on post-operative mortality was at least as large as, if not larger than, diabetes, a well-known risk factor, which was surprising.”

(click here for complete story:)
http://insciences.org/article.php?article_id=7245

Monday, October 19, 2009

Jobless flock to sign up for the military

The anemic job market, an increase in sign-on bonuses and new attitudes towards military service are proving to be a winning combination for recruiting.

By Aaron Smith, CNNMoney.com staff writer
October 16, 2009: 12:53 PM ET

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- The nation's armed services wrapped up a record year for recruiting as a withering job market and bigger bonuses trumped two unpopular wars.
The Department of Defense said it met or exceeded recruitment goals for all branches of the armed services for fiscal year 2009, which ended Sept. 30, for the first time since 1973, when the draft ended and U.S. forces withdrew from Vietnam.


"We're pleased to report that for the first time since the advent of the all-volunteer force, all of the military components, active and reserve, meet their number as well as their quality goals," said Bill Carr, deputy undersecretary of Defense for Military Personnel Policy, at a Pentagon press conference on Tuesday.

The active-duty Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy all met their goals, as measured by the number of fresh recruits, while the Army achieved 108% of its recruitment goals, the DOD said. The Reserves for each branch exceeded their goals for recruitment numbers, and the National Guard matched its goal.

(click here for complete story)
http://money.cnn.com/2009/10/16/news/economy/military_jobs/index.htm

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The War at Home

I learned the hard way that the war doesn't stop when our boots touch home soil again, it just changes form.

Jeremiah Workman
Staff Sergeant, United States Marine Corps
Posted: October 17, 2009 07:11 PM

We are proud warriors and patriots, but here at home, we need more than just parades and yellow ribbon magnets. We need support, help and understanding.

Earlier this month, in a chilling reminder of our enemy's strength and capabilities, Taliban forces launched a coordinated assault on two remote outposts in Afghanistan's remote Nuristan Province along the Pakistani frontier. Eight American soldiers from the 4th Infantry Division were killed in action, and almost forty more were wounded in the hours-long defense of their firebase.

In 2004, I faced a determined and courageous enemy inside a large house during the Battle of Fallujah while serving with the U.S. Marine Corps. Some forty insurgents had come to the house to protect a meeting of local leaders. We stumbled across this gathering while searching for weapons and ammunition. The initial contact surprised both sides, and while we recovered quickly, part of my platoon was cut off and trapped on the second floor of the house. For almost four hours, we launched repeated assaults up the stairwell to try and rescue our fellow Marines. We faced grenades, machine gun and small arms fire every time we tried to push up onto the second floor. The battle only ended when our battalion executive officer ordered us to pull back and the house was destroyed by laser guided bombs.

(click here for complete story)
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jeremiah-workman/the-war-at-home_b_324861.html

Thursday, October 15, 2009

VA Head Testifies About Botched Treatments

Concerning veterans who are suffering with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), VA Department’s agency chief Eric Shinseki said they will receive care, but did not explain a new rule that concerns this care.

newsinferno.com
Date Published: Thursday, October 15th, 2009

We have been following several medical scandals at the Department of Veterans Affairs. In one case VA centers in three cities have been accused of reusing colonoscopy and endoscopy equipment without properly sanitizing the equipment. At last count, some 50 veterans have tested positive for blood borne pathogens.

The VA also recently sent erroneous letters to veterans with potential neurological diagnoses, but who do not have ALS—Lou Gehrig’s disease—telling them they were diagnosed with the debilitating, deadly disease. At last count, some 600 veterans received the distressing letters. And, last June, the brachytherapy program at the VA Medical Center in Philadelphia was shut down, after it was learned that scores of veterans had received incorrect radiation doses over a six-year period.

The Washington Times is now reporting that the VA Department’s agency chief Eric Shinseki acknowledged at a Congressional panel yesterday that the Department did make serious safety errors at some of its centers and also was lax in conducting necessary educational and monetary services to thousands of veterans. “While this process is at times painful, it is the right thing to do for veterans and the nation and will ultimately result in greater trust and better quality,” said Shinseki when discussing the issues specifically at the Philadelphia center, said the Washington Times.

(click here for complete story)
http://www.newsinferno.com/archives/13389

$800 Million VA Hospital Doesn't Include Money For PTSD

“For them to have failed to incorporate this into their original plans makes me question a lot about what else is in the plan or isn’t in the plan,” Rep. Mike Coffman said.

Congressman Calls Decision Negligent
By Lance Hernandez, 7NEWS Reporter
POSTED: 11:11 pm MDT October 14, 2009
UPDATED: 12:17 am MDT October 15, 2009


DENVER -- When officials broke ground on the new $800 million VA Medical Center, many veterans assumed that a residential treatment center for those suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder would be built in the new hospital.

But several were surprised to learn this month that the hefty price tag does not include the PTSD treatment center.

“This is beyond comprehension,” said Rep. Mike Coffman, who is himself a veteran of the gulf war and of the war in Iraq.

(click here for complete story)
http://www.thedenverchannel.com/news/21301540/detail.html

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Apartment residents told to take down U.S. flags

By Melica Johnson
KATU News and KATU.com Staff

Video

ALBANY, Ore. - At the Oaks Apartments in Albany, the management can fly their own flag advertising one and two bedroom apartments - but residents have been told they can't fly any flags at all.

Jim Clausen flies the American flag from the back of his motorcycle. He has a son in the military heading back to Iraq, and the flag - he said - is his way of showing support.

"This flag stands for all those people," said Clausen, an Oaks Apartment resident. "It stands for the people that can no longer stand - who died in wars. That's why I fly this flag."

But to Oaks Apartment management, Clausen said, the American flag symbolizes problems.
(click here for complete story)
http://www.katu.com/news/local/64059697.html

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

When a detective read the charges against him more than 12 hours after the early morning spree, the soldier slumped over and cried.

Oct. 13, 2009
By KEITH ROGERS
LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL

On the night of his shooting spree, Joseph Patrick Lamoureux was on at least 14 different drugs, including anxiety pills, steroids and anti-depressants that Veterans Affairs doctors had prescribed for combat stress and respiratory problems.

When a detective read the charges against him more than 12 hours after the early morning spree, the soldier slumped over and cried.

"Pat did not have a clue what happened," his wife, Sue, said Friday.

The drugs are listed and the incident with the detective is described in a 14-page Nye County sheriff's report released this month, more than a year after the Sept. 19, 2008, shooting spree at Terrible's Lakeside RV Park and Casino in Pahrump.

Sue Lamoureux has said her husband snapped, distraught over the loss of a fellow soldier and as a result of nightmarish flashbacks of a suicide bomber attack.

His attorneys contend the drugs intended to ease his pain affected his ability to reason, causing him to spiral out of control. His is among four recent cases in Southern Nevada involving veterans who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, and committed violent acts.

The spree left Lamoureux and Deputy Eric Murphy with non-life-threatening gunshot wounds. Both were airlifted for treatment 60 miles east to University Medical Center in Las Vegas.

(click here for complete story)
http://www.lvrj.com/news/shooting-report-specifies-drug-use-64067382.html

Saturday, October 10, 2009

A MAJOR SET BACK

Just when I think we are on some kind of a level field, the bottom falls out.

There is only one thing that could have been worse than what I have lived in the last year, that would have been receiving word that Pat had been killed in combat.

I am posting this on the blog – so I need to elaborate a little. There are people who read the blog that do not receive the e-mails that contain more information than what has been posted here previously in the last 2-3 months.

For a year, Pat has lived with a bullet in his leg, one of the two gunshot wounds he suffered on September 19, 2008. In late August THIS YEAR, the gunshot wound started showing signs of infection – swelling, redness, warm to the touch. He was taken to a doctor, the gunshot wound was lanced, and blood spewed out of it. Lab work was done which showed an infection. He was eventually put on antibiotics. An additional lab test was done – at my request – it was to evaluate the lead level in his blood. That test result came back as elevated – confirmed on repeat testing.

Nye County Nevada said they would make certain Pat got treated – but that ultimately I would have to pay the bill for the treatment. After much discussion between a Senator’s office, the VA, the District Attorney’s Office and the Sheriff’s Department – it was agreed that the VA would see Pat and that the Sheriff’s Department would transport Pat to the VA for treatment.

That was until Thursday afternoon, when the VA squarely SLAMMED the door in Pat Lamourex’s face once again.

Today is Saturday, October 10, 2009. The bullet remains in Pat’s leg. The gunshot wound is still seeping, so much that it runs down his leg. He has developed an anomaly on both of his arms, which resembles something that occurs when someone is taking blood thinners. It is hard to describe – it resembles bruising, but it is a pooling of blood just under the skin that is not the result of trauma. It just appears.

I called the detention facility Thursday after being told the VA was not going to take care of Pat. I asked them to please have my husband call me – it was important that I speak to him. They refused to relay the message.

It was not until late Friday that Pat finally called, and I gave him the news that we were back at square one. I told him to put in another request for medical treatment. It will be a second opinion; I told him to request repeat lab work, as well as additional lab work that has not been done previously.

There are many possibilities as to what could be causing these “bruising” spots on his arms.

I know that Pat is extremely stressed, and so am I; and he is not getting the appropriate medical treatment from ANYONE for ANYTHING.


This is how we say “Thank you for your service.”

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

PTSD: An Army colonel’s quest for answers

By Kelly Kennedy - Staff writer - Army Times
Posted : Wednesday Oct 7, 2009 14:51:58 EDT

Army Col. Rich O’Connor does not mince words when he talks about the amount of mental health training he had before he took a squadron in the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment to war in Iraq’s Diyalah province in 2006.

“What kind of training did I receive on post-traumatic stress?” he said. “Zero. How much did our soldiers receive? None.”

O’Connor told a room of high-ranking officers and enlisted soldiers at the annual Association of the U.S. Army convention that he was too busy training for war to even think about post-traumatic stress disorder. And he said that after talking to other battalion commanders and command sergeants major, he realized nobody else had, either.

Then a military psychiatrist told him she didn’t believe commanders cared about PTSD.

“I can tell you that’s probably true,” O’Connor said. “We’ve got an issue here.”

(Click here for complete story)
http://www.armytimes.com/news/2009/10/military_ausa_ptsd_100709w/

Veteran in an Acute Dissociative State

(Acknowledgments: The author would like to thank Alan Maiers, PsyD, Brenda Mayne PhD, and Thea Schneider, CNS, for their helpful review of the article. Dr Geppert is associate professor of psychiatry and director of ethics education at the New Mexico School of Medicine in Albuquerque. She is also chief of consultation psychiatry and ethics at the New Mexico Veterans Affairs Health Care System in Albuquerque. Alan Maiers, PsyD, assistant chief of the COPE Division at the Warrior Resiliency Program in San Antonio, Tex, coauthored the case vignettes that appear in this article. ) Cynthia M. A. Geppert, MD, PhD

October 6, 2009
Psychiatric Times. Vol. 26 No. 10
CASE VIGNETTE

A 24-year-old veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) presents to the ED mid-morning on a weekday. While the veteran is waiting to be triaged, other patients alert staff that he appears to be talking to himself and pacing around the waiting room. A nurse tries to escort the veteran to an ED examination room. Multiple attempts by the ED staff and hospital police—several of whom are themselves OIF veterans—are unsuccessful in calming the patient or persuading him to enter a room.

The increased attention escalates the patient’s behavior and he begins to run around the ED. At one point he hides under instrument trays, yelling out “Incoming! We have to get them before they get us! The enemy is coming for us!” He then runs to another location, as if taking fire.

A quick general status evaluation shows a young man with several days’ growth of beard in jeans and T-shirt who looks sleep-deprived. The veteran’s speech is rapid and staccato; he displays hyperactive movements, with frequent scanning of the environment, terrified affect, and loss of contact with the immediate hospital reality.

An experienced female emergency psychiatrist quickly arrives but is unable to orient the patient or convince him to accept medical intervention. All questions regarding his current status are answered with phrases indicating the patient is re-experiencing combat in Iraq. His behavior is increasingly unpredictable and aggressive, leading the ED physician and psychiatrist to be concerned about the safety not only of the veteran but also of other patients and staff. All involved wish to avoid use of force if at all possible, certain this will retraumatize the patient and reinforce his dissociative state.

The ED physician, an older man, tells the psychiatrist that he is an Army veteran and a colonel in the Reserves....

(click below for complete story) http://www.psychiatrictimes.com/display/article/10168/1468071?verify=0 )

Monday, October 5, 2009

Urgent: Veterans' Healthcare Threatened

Published on Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America
By Michelle McCarthy
Created October 5 , 2009

This could be one of the most important phone calls you make this year.

Last week, the Senate failed to pass the VA budget, and six million veterans who rely on the VA for healthcare are paying the price. All passing the budget takes is one vote - the Senate just hasn't gotten around to it.

Now, VA hospitals and clinics nationwide can't plan for critical staffing and equipment needs, leading to longer waits for appointments, and rationed care. This is completely unacceptable.

Take action by calling your Senators now. Tell them to pass the VA budget, so that veterans get the care they deserve. Click here to place your call - our online tool makes it easy. [1]

The VA budget has been late an astounding 20 times in the last 23 years. And every year we've had to fight to get it passed. But your phone call could change that forever. This year's budget includes a provision that will fund the VA a full year in advance. Advance funding the VA is IAVA's top legislative goal for 2009, and it means veterans' healthcare will never be rationed again.

So please place a call to your Senators now and make sure that the VA is fully funded this year, and for years to come. [1]

The only budget that Congress passed on time last week is the one that pays their salaries. Veterans shouldn't have to wait while Congress gets paid. Help us change that today [1].

Thank you for making your voice heard.

[1] http://call.iava.org/16/vabudgetcall

More colleges develop classes on how to treat war veterans

By Gregg Zoroya
USA TODAY
October 4, 2009

Universities are creating classes to train students in how to treat combat veterans and their families suffering from war-related mental health problems.

As psychologically wounded troops return from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the initiatives range from workshops to semester-long graduate courses, such as one on military culture next year at the University of Washington-Tacoma. The University of Southern California is starting a master's program in which students will interact with holographic images of troops in distress

"I think across the nation, a lot of schools of social work have concluded that we need to do something," says Jose Coll, director of USC's military social work program, which offers a degree that emphasizes treating veterans.

In addition to treatment methods, the classes teach military culture, the combat experience and what military families endure. That's a way of life that's mysterious to many new behavioral health students, educators say.

"This is sort of cultural awareness education," says James Martin, a retired Army colonel and Bryn Mawr College professor who has worked on several programs.

(click here for complete story)
http://www.usatoday.com/news/military/2009-10-04-ptsd-schools_N.htm

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Ignoring the Evidence

There is a "widening gulf between clinical practice and science."

Why do psychologists reject science?

Sharon Begley - NEWSWEEK
Published Oct 2, 2009
From the magazine issue dated Oct 12, 2009


It's a good thing couches are too heavy to throw, because the fight brewing among therapists is getting ugly. For years, psychologists who conduct research have lamented what they see as an antiscience bias among clinicians, who treat patients. But now the gloves have come off. In a two-years-in-the-making analysis to be published in November in Perspectives on Psychological Science, psychologists led by Timothy B. Baker of the University of Wisconsin charge that many clinicians fail to "use the interventions for which there is the strongest evidence of efficacy" and "give more weight to their personal experiences than to science." As a result, patients have no assurance that their "treatment will be informed by science." Walter Mischel of Columbia University, who wrote an accompanying editorial, is even more scathing. "The disconnect between what clinicians do and what science has discovered is an unconscionable embarrassment," he told me, and there is a "widening gulf between clinical practice and science."

The "widening" reflects the susbstantial progress that psycho-logical research has made in identifying the most effective treatments. Thanks to clinical trials as rigorous as those for, say, cardiology, we now know that cognitive and cognitive-behavior therapy (teaching patients to think about their thoughts in new, healthier ways and to act on those new ways of thinking) are effective against depression, panic disorder, bulimia nervosa, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and -posttraumatic-stress disorder, with multiple trials showing that these treatments—the tools of psychology—bring more durable benefits with lower relapse rates than drugs, which non-M.D. psychologists cannot prescribe.

(click here for complete story)
http://www.newsweek.com/id/216506

PTSD: New War on An Old Foe

Big changes underway at the VA could mean better treatment for thousands of vets. A bureaucracy in transition.

By Jamie Reno Newsweek Web Exclusive
October 1, 2009

They are the invisible wounds of war, the battered minds and bruised spirits we have come to recognize as posttraumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. By one estimate, more than 300,000 of the nearly 2 million U.S. servicemen and -women deployed since 9/11 suffer from the often-debilitating condition, with symptoms that include flashbacks and nightmares, emotional numbness, relationship problems, trouble sleeping, sudden anger, and drug and alcohol abuse. The number of cases is expected to climb as the war in Afghanistan continues, and could ultimately exceed 500,000, according to a new study by researchers at Stanford University. Mental-health experts say PTSD is the primary reason suicides in the military are at an all-time high; 256 soldiers took their own lives in 2008, the highest number since that data was first tracked, in 1980.

As NEWSWEEK and others have reported, the Department of Veterans Affairs has struggled to address this mental-health crisis, and thousands of veterans have suffered as a result. Now, thanks to new leadership and a new openness to collaboration, things appear to be changing at the VA, if slowly. Veterans still often face insufferably long waits for treatment and steep bureaucratic hurdles when filing disability claims. But there is a new sense of urgency under Eric Shinseki, the retired four-star Army general appointed to head the agency by President Obama, to change the culture within the 77-year-old VA. Shinseki has made PTSD a priority, with efforts underway to address concerns from the way claims are processed to the development of new, more effective treatments. "Brain injuries and the psychological consequences of battle are not new to combat," Shinseki tells NEWSWEEK. "We know from past wars that with early diagnosis and treatment, people can get better."

(click here for complete story)
http://www.newsweek.com/id/216534/page/1

"Grandpa Pat & Kain"

"Grandpa Pat & Kain"
"Kain-man" the jokester....

Pat Lamoureux - Iraq 2003

Pat Lamoureux - Iraq 2003
"Pat is an extraordinary, thoughtful, kind and generous man...not to mention a wonderful friend, in which one could always count upon to be there when in need." (words of a long time friend)

Pat's Family

Pat's Family
Mica & Heather, grandson Kain