Saturday, August 8, 2009
AUGUST 5, 2009
DENVER — Bracing for an influx of soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, the Department of Veterans Affairs has launched an ambitious effort to locate veterans who've had minor brushes with the law and offer them treatment to try to prevent repeat crimes.
The VA started its Veterans Justice Outreach Program early this year — before public attention intensified on a handful of Fort Carson, Colo.-based soldiers accused of murder, attempted murder or manslaughter after returning from a deployment where they faced intense combat. Most of the soldiers had been arrested for domestic violence, assault, illegal gun possession, and alcohol and drug charges before the slayings.
A July 15 Army report said more study is needed to link the soldiers' alleged crimes with their heavy combat duty and lengthy deployments in Iraq.
The VA is training 145 specialists at its hospitals nationwide to help veterans who are in jails awaiting trial or serving misdemeanor sentences. Other VA programs aim to prevent homelessness and help veterans readjust after serving prison terms for serious crimes.
To date, more than 1.9 million U.S. service members have gone to Iraq and Afghanistan, the largest deployment since 3.4 million were sent to Southeast Asia in support of the Vietnam War.
"Some of them are obviously struggling," Jim McGuire, Los Angeles-based director of the VA's incarcerated veterans outreach programs, said of returning war vets. "The VA is very attuned to this and received an education about all this after Vietnam when the whole issue of PTSD came up."
In a typical case, VA specialists would provide a civilian court a report on an accused veteran's medical history — and available VA benefits or programs that might help. It's up to prosecutors and judges to use that information when deciding if a veteran should undergo treatment instead of incarceration.
The VA also is participating in 10 "veterans courts" to help former service members accused of crimes get into treatment programs in exchange for reduced sentences or dismissed charges. More than 40 such courts are planned across the country, including one near Fort Carson, McGuire said.
The courts are patterned after drug courts where defendants are offered treatment instead of jail.
Part of the challenge in finding out who's in trouble is persuading counties to identify veterans in their jails. Only a handful of U.S. counties, including Los Angeles, Hamilton County, Ohio, and Alachua County, Fla., track veterans for VA outreach programs, McGuire said.
In 2002 — before the Iraq War — the Department of Justice reported that veterans accounted for roughly 10 percent of the nation's jail and prison population. Those are the latest figures available.
Advocates say some war veterans facing lesser charges may be self-medicating or acting out as a result of untreated post traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury.
"It's a whole cluster of issues," said Robert Alvarez, who works with injured soldiers at Fort Carson through his affiliation with the National Organization on Disability. He is helping set up the local veterans court. "Some of these guys carry guilt, some remorse for what they had to do, some remorse about the friends they lost, the comrades who they watched die," he said.
Police encounters and pretrial proceedings are often missed opportunities to connect with mental health services, said Bradley Schaffer, director of the veterans housing program at the VA hospital in Butler, Pa., in an article to be published in the American Jail Association's magazine this fall.
An evaluation last year of a VA outreach program Schaffer started in Cincinnati found 399 veterans in jails and prisons in southern Ohio and a corrections center in Northern Kentucky from 2003 to 2008.
About 80 of the veterans served in the Gulf War, Iraq and Afghanistan, and 160 served during the Vietnam War. As a group, the veterans' crimes ranged from probation violations to murder; their ages ranged from 20 to 80.
Schaffer, a former psychiatry professor at the University of Cincinnati, warns against veterans automatically blaming problems on their military service.
"Someone who says, `I'm an alcohol and drug addict because I'm a veteran,' during noncombat periods, I find that very suspicious," Schaffer said in an interview.
Thursday, August 6, 2009
IRAQ WAR VET CHARGED WITH ATTEMPTED MURDER (COLORADO SPRINGS - This incident occurred 5 days after Pat's Incident in 2008)
(Before you read this story, please be sure to be clear that the "Veterans Trauma Court" mentioned is not the same as the Veterans Courts that are springing up around the country. Veterans Courts will only handle non-violent cases.)
It is noteworthy that this individual was taking one of the same medications that Patrick is taking.
This medication causes amnesia, among other horrible side-effects.
The National Center for PTSD will not admit someone into their program if the person is on this medication.
Additionally, FDA recommendations state this medication should not be taken for more than 4 weeks. Patrick has been on it since November 2, 2006. I believe this speaks volumes about the care given to our Veterans by the VA.
I would also like to speak from my heart:
This individual was charged with attempted murder.
Patrick was charged with attempted murder.
This individual was not given proper treatment.
Patrick was not given proper treatment.
This individual has been receiving in-patient care since this incident occurred (five days after the incident with Patrick).
Patrick has been detained in a cell without treatment for almost a year.
This individual had an almost 'clean' record.
Patrick had no criminal record.
This individual, has been offered a plea deal of 5-15 years, which he has not accepted.
Patrick will not be offered a plea deal. He faces 210 years in prison if convicted.
This individual has now been released with an ankle bracelet to the care of his father pending his trial in November.
Patrick's bail was set at 2.5 million dollars, prohibiting him from having a chance at care, or being released pending trial, which will not occur until sometime in 2010.
This individual was active duty at the time of the incident.
Patrick was "just a medically discharged reservist".
These cases are so similar, why the disparity?
This individual is charged with merely attempting to murder his wife.
Patrick is charged with attempting to murder an officer of the law.
What makes this individual, any less "dangerous" than Patrick?
But - Patrick is charged with offenses against law enforcement, and that means he deserves to be punished more severely?
I know Patrick is not "dangerous", but he's been condemned already in this small community.
As human-kind, shouldn't we evaluate the person; the type of person they are; where they came from; what they have done in their lives; who their friends and associates are; what they stand for - before we decide they deserve to be shunned by society and sent to prison - because of one episode in that person's life?
That one episode in a person's life, does not define the person.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Soldier's invisible war: Iraq vet charged with attempted murder
- Soldier accused of trying to kill wife, could face up to 15 years in jail
- Wife says prosecutors have it all wrong -- her husband didn't try to kill her
- Thomas Delgado's case may go before new veterans' court in Colorado
- Wife says her husband was trying to commit suicide and she wrestled gun away
BY Jim Spellman and Wayne Drash CNNCOLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado (CNN) -- Army Spc. Thomas Delgado saved lives as a combat medic on the front lines in Iraq, earning a Purple Heart when a bomb rocked his vehicle during his nearly yearlong tour. Back home, he was sometimes assigned the role of insurgent during combat training at a mock Iraqi village in California.
"He told me he felt like he never left" Iraq, said his wife, Shayla.
Soon after his return in December 2005, Delgado realized something many war veterans fail to recognize. He was suffering from post-traumatic stress and needed help. He complained of "fear of losing self control," "feelings of hopelessness" and "paranoia," medical records show.
The 25-year-old soldier is now at the center of a controversial attempted murder case, charged with trying to kill his wife in September 2008. She says prosecutors have it all wrong. Her husband of five years needs medical help, not prison. And, she says, he never tried to kill her. Watch wife stand by husband »
Delgado's case may become one of the first to be heard at a soon-to-be-opened special veterans' trauma court in Colorado, if the family gets its way. The court was created to get professional medical care for military veterans suffering from trauma-related disorders who are accused of crimes. An estimated 20 percent of Iraq war veterans suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Delgado's only previous run-in with the law was a minor traffic violation.
Delgado medically retired from the Army on Wednesday.
He appeared at a hearing Thursday where he was released into the care of his father and will be monitored by an ankle bracelet while awaiting his November trial. Prosecutors have so far refused the family's request to move the case to the new veterans' court.
"I feel like it was 100 percent preventable," Shayla Delgado told CNN. "All we've really wanted this whole time was someone to help us, someone to give him treatment."
The district attorney's office, which covers El Paso and Teller Counties, declined to comment for this story.
Delgado praised his wife for standing by his side.
"I would definitely be another one of the lost causes if I didn't have her backing me up in my corner. She's just been amazing, doing amazing things on my behalf," he told CNN by phone.
"It's unfortunate that it took an incident like this to get proper treatment."
He said his lawyer advised him not to talk about the night in question. "I'm hoping to stay out of jail," he added.
What really happened?
For the Delgados, the evening of September 24, 2008, just days after their fifth wedding anniversary, began with drinks and an argument. Then everything escalated with whirlwind speed.
Shayla Delgado says her husband grabbed a gun and rattled off suicidal thoughts. "I've been thinking about how I'm going to do it," she recalled him saying. "I just can't live like this any more. I can't do it, I can't do it."
"He was telling me, 'Take our son and leave because you don't want to be here for this,'" she said, breaking down in tears. "I was really, really scared."
She says she pleaded, begged him, to get on the phone with his father. The two spoke. The soldier kept telling his dad how much he loved him, she says. She rushed to the bedroom, cradling their sleeping year-old son, and sprinted out of the apartment.
She dropped the infant off at a neighbor's and returned home, heading straight to the bathroom where her husband was holed up. She kicked in the door. "I see him with the gun in his mouth and I just ripped the gun from his arms and I ran."
It was during that scuffle to wrestle the gun away, prosecutors say, that the soldier tried to kill his wife, breaking her nose and attempting to choke her.
Prosecutors have charged Thomas Delgado with one count of first-degree attempted murder and an array of other charges. They have offered a plea bargain of 5 to 15 years in prison -- a deal Delgado has so far rejected.
A police report on the incident says Shayla Delgado was treated for a broken nose at a hospital, but she had no "visible marks on her neck at that time." The police affidavit says she told authorities her husband wrapped his arm around her neck in the fight for the gun. "Ms. Delgado stated that she was in fear that he was going to kill her or hurt her very badly," the affidavit says.
She then got away and he pursued her, according to the affidavit. "He followed her into the bedroom and again attempted to choke her once more," it says.
"Ms. Delgado stated she stopped fighting in belief that he would let her go and after a few moments he did."
Shayla Delgado told CNN her nose was broken as a result of the struggle for the gun -- not from a malicious, intentional blow from her husband. Her husband was in crisis, she says, and she saved him from suicide in a violent scuffle.
(Side note from Sue: Ativan is a benzodiazepine, generic name, lorazepam)
Delgado's medical records, reviewed by CNN, indicate he remembers few details from that night. Delgado, who was taking the anti-anxiety drug Ativan, "he believes that he got suicidal while intoxicated, got a weapon to kill himself, his wife wrestled with him through this, called the police, and with her visible injuries, he was taken into custody for assault and attempted murder," the medical records say.
"He has limited recall of these events," the records say. "He feels if his mother had not died, 'that day' would not have happened." His mother had died three months earlier, in June 2008, after battling breast cancer.
Trauma court for veterans
The veterans' court is being set up in response to an alarming trend: A growing number of veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are returning home and committing crimes -- from offenses like theft and forgery to more serious charges like domestic violence and murder. However, the court will not deal with homicide cases.
Fort Carson is at the epicenter of the problem, with 14 homicides and attempted homicides there since 2005. Numerous soldiers have been charged with an array of other offenses.
"If you catch this early, you stop a cycle of people who are self-medicating or acting out in a violent way," says Ron Crowder, a district court judge and retired major general from the National Guard who served in Vietnam. (You would be shocked at what is in Patrick's VA medical records, and his providers never did anything.)
Crowder has been tapped to preside over the new court, which will model itself after a handful of others already established in the United States. Veterans and active-duty soldiers accused of crimes will be offered plea bargains in exchange for mental health treatment that will be rigorously monitored. The district attorney's office will be heavily involved in deciding which cases get sent to the veterans court.
Crowder says the goal of the court is "to get these people the help they may have not gotten heretofore."
According to a recent U.S. Army study, only 65 percent of authorized positions at the behavioral health department at Fort Carson were filled in 2008, forcing Army doctors to send half of all cases to civilian doctors off base.
Fort Carson, home to about 25,000 soldiers, has seen the number of soldiers seeking help skyrocket to 2,400 walk-in cases a month -- or nearly 1 in every 10 soldiers.
"I'm trying to track my population and identify people who are symptomatic," said Col. George Brandt, the senior behavioral health officer at the base hospital.
Brandt came on board last year with a mission to improve mental health care for troubled soldiers. He has brought staffing levels up to 74 percent, with a total of 14 psychiatrists, 14 psychologists and 29 social workers. "I always want more staff and resources," Brandt said. "We're trying to build the system right, get the care near where the soldiers are, increase access."
The facility does not have any in-patient care on the base. Even with staffing shortcomings, Brandt said, "I'm never going to let a soldier go without care who asks for it."
One nearby facility utilized by Fort Carson, he said, has a staff consisting of two-thirds former military members who are specially trained in PTSD. "If I can't provide it, I'm going to get a civilian colleague to help me with that," Brandt said.
Maj. Gen. David Perkins, the new commander of Fort Carson, told CNN the base has spent a lot of time assessing problems with PTSD and trying to develop solutions. One of the biggest concerns, he said, is overcoming the stigma of seeking help.
"This is the key point that we're focusing on across the Army," he said. "You have seen, from four-star generals on down, personally come out and talk about their issues with post-traumatic stress disorder. And this alone has created a large momentum to taking the stigma away."
A soldier's journey
Delgado was deployed to Irawq as a combat medic in January 2005, stationed about 20 miles south of Baghdad. His war at home began around Christmas of that year.
His medical records show that he "treated more Iraqi casualties than Americans," but he twice lost comrades -- one from war wounds in the field and another to infection. "States he saw it all," the records say. "He takes great pride in being a competent combat medic. He notes he has had great emotional distance, feeling numb and disconnect since his tour."
Delgado's first job back in the States, at Fort Irwin in California, was to train combat soldiers in a mock Iraqi village. Sometimes, he dressed in Army fatigues and battled would-be bad guys; other times, he suited up as an Iraqi villain, according to his wife.
Delgado first began getting treatment for his PTSD at Fort Irwin, according to his family. At that time, his mother was dealing with terminal breast cancer back in the couple's home state of Colorado. In March 2008, as his mother's condition worsened, the Army relocated Delgado to be near his mother's side and the couple, now with a young son, moved to Fort Carson.
He worked at the emergency room of Evans Army Community Hospital on base, and spent his time off with his ailing mother. She died in June 2008, and according to his wife, that's when he began to unravel. Three months later, he was arrested.
How did it come to this -- a decorated war veteran who sought help now charged with trying to kill his wife?
Delgado's medical records reveal that in the nearly three months between his mother's death and the incident in September, the soldier sought help four times at the behavioral health unit at the base hospital.
Each time, he was referred to a civilian doctor. He saw the off-base doctor twice, and was prescribed anti-depressants, sleeping pills and anti-anxiety drugs.
"It scared me, because I didn't know what was really happening," his wife said of his troubled state. "I didn't know what was going on."
Shayla Delgado believes the treatment her husband received was inadequate. Unfortunately, she says, it took his arrest to get him the care he needed: in-patient treatment at civilian facilities specializing in PTSD.
While her husband tries to heal from his invisible war wounds, she's trying to clear his name.
"It's just so sad because, you know, my husband's a really good person," she said, weeping. "He deserves to be treated better."
Links referenced within this article Watch wife stand by husband »#cnnSTCVideopost-traumatic stress disorderhttp://topics.cnn.com/topics/post_traumatic_stress_disorderIraqhttp://topics.cnn.com/topics/iraq_warIraq Warhttp://topics.cnn.com/topics/Iraq_WarU.S. Army Activitieshttp://topics.cnn.com/topics/U_S_Army_ActivitiesPost-Traumatic Stress Disorderhttp://topics.cnn.com/topics/Post_Traumatic_Stress_Disorder
Find this article at: http://www.cnn.com/2009/CRIME/08/06/accused.soldier.ptsd
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
BREAKING NEWS: U.S. Sen. Grassley: Fights for military members suffering from PTSD and traumatic brain injuries
Patrick did not receive propert treatment either. And he now stands to lose everything.
Here is part of the article. Click on the link for the complete story.
"As a result of his service to his country in Iraq and Afghanistan, Jeremy suffers from PTSD, but was not given proper treatment upon his return to Camp Lejeune. This, as is often the case, led to problems with alcohol and a series of incidents to the point that the Marine Corps was considering an Involuntary Administrative Separation due to misconduct. Despite the fact that Jeremy’s problems were a direct result of the injury he sustained in combat, this would have meant that he would have no access to military or veterans benefits, including the health care necessary to deal with his PTSD."
And for over 10 months Pat has not had access to his veterans benefits including the health care necessary to deal with his PTSD.
The early 70's are “fresh” in my memory. I had graduated high school and was off to ‘conquer the world’.
Little did I know what that ‘world’ would become.
Our country is in a severe economic crisis. The rates of unemployment are historical. Additionally, in unprecedented numbers, people are losing their homes. Countless well educated people are actually living in tents, having lost everything.
Included in this catastrophic economic crisis in our country are our Veterans.
Many Veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are leaving the service as soon as their “stop loss” date occurs. These Vets, much like many other Americans, are then faced with unemployment, and housing unavailability.
Unfortunately due to their service to our country – they are also facing other struggles that the average American cannot relate to or comprehend; post-traumatic stress disorder, and traumatic brain injuries.
With the coupled stressors of the economic crisis in our country and the struggles of the unseen wounds of war that our Veterans carry with them, there is an upward spiral in violence committed by Veterans; domestic violence, substance abuse ending in tragedy, and an increase in suicides, among other violent crimes.
After facing the wars on foreign turf, our Veterans are facing a different battle upon returning home; many of our Veterans are losing that battle and finding themselves incarcerated. Our Veterans are becoming entwined in the criminal justice system at an alarming rate.
Our government, our citizens, the Veterans Administration and the Department of Defense are failing our veterans.
The criminal justice system - the courts, and legal practitioners, and even the American public who will serve on juries, are inadequately prepared to address the problems confronting our veterans.
Among Americans there is a lack of awareness and/or education on the critical situation our Veterans are facing.
With inadequate services available for our Veterans, coupled with a lack of willingness of the citizens of this country to take an involved and proactive approach towards offering preventative measures to our Veterans in trouble – our Veterans will sink.
As our Veterans sink, so does the future of our country. The youth of America will see what is happening to our Veterans, and they will not have the inclination to join the military.
Without our military to protect us – who will?
Instead of spending untold amounts of money attempting to rehabilitate known criminals - who have done nothing for our country, isn’t it fair that our Veterans get the first shot at rehabilitation?
Shouldn’t our Veterans with no previous criminal history be afforded a second chance before being thrown into prison with hardened career criminals?
Isn’t it fair that after defending our country – we defend our Veterans?
Joseph Patrick Lamoureux is a great man, and he deserves a second chance.
Please, help me support and defend my Veteran.
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Veterans Health Administration
Washington DC 20420
April 30, 2009
UNDER SECRETARY FOR HEALTH’S INFORMATION LETTER
INFORMATION AND RECOMMENDATIONS FOR SERVICES PROVIDED BY VHA FACILITIES TO VETERANS IN THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM
Sunday, August 2, 2009
When Pat was in Iraq in 2003, he received a "Care Package" from someone named Sheila McCoy. He sent me her address and asked that I get in touch with her.
Well, here it is 6 years later, and Marion & Sheila McCoy remain a very strong part of our "extended family". We have shared many stories over the last 6 years, and when I had to write them to tell them what happened, they were as shaken by it as the immediate family.
They have remained such strong friends, "family" and supporters of Patrick that I wanted to share these wonderful people with you. These people have made a difference in my life, and in Pat's. Everyone should be so fortunate to be able to call them friends.
They celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary on Saturday, and I just wish Pat and I could have been there to help celebrate with them.
But our celebrations will come at a later date - and when Patrick is free again, there will be a delayed celebration of his parent's 50th wedding anniversary celebration. I hope that Sheila and Marion can be there - they are very much a part of Pat's "family".
So, here's to family and friends - and the difficulty in telling the difference sometimes.
Given our current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, that percentage may be a low estimate.
These are symptoms of PTSD. Patrick has experienced all but two of these symptoms:
Re-experiencing the traumatic event
- Intrusive, upsetting memories of the event
- Flashbacks (acting or feeling like the event is happening again)
- Nightmares (either of the event or of other frightening things)
- Feelings of intense distress when reminded of the trauma
- Intense physical reactions to reminders of the event (e.g. pounding heart, rapid breathing, nausea, muscle tension, sweating)
PTSD symptoms of avoidance and emotional numbing
- Avoiding activities, places, thoughts, or feelings that remind you of the trauma
- Inability to remember important aspects of the trauma
- Loss of interest in activities and life in general
- Feeling detached from others and emotionally numb
- Sense of a limited future (you don’t expect to live a normal life span, get married, have a career)
PTSD symptoms of increased arousal
- Difficulty falling or staying asleep
- Irritability or outbursts of anger
- Difficulty concentrating
- Hyper-vigilance (on constant “red alert”)
- Feeling jumpy and easily startled
Other common symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder
- Anger and irritability
- Guilt, shame, or self-blame
- Substance abuse
- Depression and hopelessness
- Suicidal thoughts and feelings
- Feeling alienated and alone
- Feelings of mistrust and betrayal
- Headaches, stomach problems, chest pain
This is what Patrick has endured since his return from Iraq.