American Veteran News 07.20.16

VETERANS GROUPS WORRY ABOUT NEGATIVE STEREOTYPING — POLIZETTE — Truth is, our vets are much more likely to harm themselves than anyone else.

The gunmen in both the Dallas and Baton Rouge police officer shootings had a history of military service, bringing to light a scenario troubling to veterans and veterans’ groups: Will the stereotype of the deranged vet — a “Rambo” gone rogue — emerge in the resulting analysis of these horrific events?

One Vietnam veteran and a father of four told Lifezette, “I feel the media rushes to judgment whenever a veteran or military person is involved in a crime in some way — they can’t wait to point out that a veteran was involved. Then they try to paint everyone with the same broad brush, and it’s wrong — and unfair.”

In truth, the larger worry is not veterans harming another, but veterans harming themselves. The Department of Veterans Affairs released findings on July 7 of a recently completed study examining the death records from every state of more than 55 million veterans from 1979 to 2014. The results are troubling: The suicide rate among veterans has surged 35 percent since 2001. The suicide rate for women who have served has increased a whopping 85 percent in that same amount of time.

“I have the sense that our vets are canaries in the coal mine,” said Joseph Graca, a former Veterans Affairs clinical psychologist who is currently in private practice in Minnesota. “There’s so much rift in our society and in our culture, and I think that’s why we have the sky-high suicide rates. We come back and we have a society that is unable to provide a community for healing.”

DON’T CONFUSE VETERANS AND VIOLENCE — NY TIMES — IT was clear the shooter had some training.

When the news was breaking from Dallas, before we knew who he was, or even that there was only one shooter and not three or four, military veterans watched the horror unfolding on our computer screens along with the rest of America. And to our disgust, we recognized a few things.

Veterans on Twitter noted his use of cover and concealment, that he was “slicing the pie,” that in one assault captured on camera he followed standard tactics for a close ambush, which are, as the Washington Post reporter and Marine veteran Thomas Gibbons-Neff noted, to “establish fire superiority and assault through the objective.” Other vets chimed in: This guy knew something about how to use his weapon. And we were all left with a sickening feeling: He could be one of ours.

It turned out he was — he had deployed to Afghanistan as a mason and carpenter. Now, in Baton Rouge, La., we have a second shooter of police officers, this one an Iraq veteran, though again, not one who had seen combat, but a former data network specialist. Both of these men were part of our veterans’ community, attacking another community we have always identified with: the police.

In Iraq, I knew so many Marines with plans of joining their local police force back home it was almost comical, and the reserve units around New York City are chock-full of officers from the police force there. I was once caught going well above the speed limit and the officer who pulled me over saw the Marine Corps sticker on the back of my car. He didn’t ask me if I knew how fast I was going; he wanted to know if I’d been to Iraq. “Yeah, I just got back,” I said. “How is it over there?” he asked me, a little nervous. “I’m in a reserve unit, and we’re deploying next year.”

But now, two deadly attacks later, many Americans are looking at veterans and wondering what’s going on.

AMID POLICE SHOOTINGS, ARMY ‘SERIOUS’ ABOUT TACKLING ANGER AMONG COMBAT VETS — MILITARY TIMES — This month’s shooting deaths of police in Baton Rouge, La., and Dallas by former servicemembers who saw combat in Iraq and Afghanistan comes as the Army is trying to better understand why up to 40 percent of troops return from war struggling with anger and aggression.

Police say rage may have driven Gavin Long, 29, who served five years in the Marine Corps, to kill three police Sunday and Micah Xavier Johnson, 25, a former Army reservist, to fatally shoot five officers on July 7.

Whether there is a link between their military service and the shootings is unknown. And military researchers have been studying the issue of anger for almost a decade.

Since 2007, a series of studies have shown 14 percent to 40 percent of troops surveyed after returning from war or while in the war zone report signs of anger such as kicking, smashing or throwing things, or threatening someone with physical violence. Anywhere from 4% to 18% were getting into fights.

WHY PRINCETON BATTLEFIELD IS SACRED TO VETS — STARS & STRIPES — During my career in the U.S. Marine Corps, I have walked and studied the ground of many historic battlefields in the United States, large and small, with a perspective that comes from personal knowledge of the extreme trial of armed combat. It is a sobering and emotional experience because, as a veteran, I identify with the soldiers who fought on these lands and the hardships they endured. And I always pay my silent respects, especially for those who died.

Earlier this year, I visited the Princeton battlefield, where after months of defeat and failure Gen. George Washington and our Continental Army finally defeated British regulars for the first time. Washington’s army had been routed at Long Island, lost New York City, lost at White Plains and suffered a devastating defeat at Fort Washington, where 3,000 patriots were captured. Four colonies had been occupied by the Redcoats.

I was filled with patriotic pride as I thought of the incredible sacrifices these Continental soldiers made for our country on the morning of Jan. 3, 1777. And yet, as I stood in Princeton Battlefield State Park in New Jersey, my eyes could not avoid the heartbreaking sight just a few hundred feet away. Heavy machinery sat on raw, scraped earth being prepared for a housing development, on ground that is the most historic, most significant piece of the entire battlefield.

It is especially distressing that the developer bent on destroying this hallowed ground is the Institute for Advanced Study, a renowned institution in the academic and intellectual world and the home of Albert Einstein in his final years. I think it’s an absolute travesty that anyone, much less the Institute, could think of erecting homes on this sacred ground when other options exist.

Yes, provide the housing, but do it where the land hasn’t been consecrated by the blood of American fighting men. Because it’s the place itself — the hallowed ground of a battlefield — where you can truly honor those first soldiers who fought to win freedom for this great, emerging experiment in democracy that became the United States of America.

I put myself in the worn shoes of the Marine or the Continental soldier who fought in Princeton 239 years ago in the frigid heart of winter. The casualties of that battle consecrated this ground, including some of the first Marines in American history to die in combat. They were a few good men who decided to tough it out and keep fighting when Washington’s army was on the brink of annihilation and the entire Revolution hung in the balance.

SENATORS WANT TO HELP TROOPS WITH PTSD APPEAL BAD DISCHARGES — MILCOM — A bipartisan group of senators on Tuesday sought to revive a proposal to make it easier for veterans to upgrade “bad paper” discharges wrongly handed down for behavior resulting from PTSD or sexual trauma.

The group of eight lawmakers led by Sen. Gary Peters, a Michigan Democrat and former lieutenant commander in the Navy Reserve, urged inclusion of the proposal before the House-Senate conference committee that is struggling to pass the National Defense Authorization Act for the Defense Department’s 2017 budget.

In a letter to Sen. John McCain, an Arizona Republican and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Rhode Island’s Sen. Jack Reed, the ranking Democrat on the panel, the Senate group said the proposed amendment to the NDAA “is a necessary step forward to ensure that certain veterans suffering from mental traumas such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or traumatic brain injury (TBI) have access to earned benefits.

“The need for this liberal consideration standard remains all too clear as the number of returning Post-9/11 veterans continues to increase,” the letter said. The letter cited an estimate suggesting that discharges for misconduct are 11 times more likely after a PTSD diagnosis.

IOWA CITY VETERAN COMMITS SUICIDE AFTER FAMILY SAYS HE WAS TURNED AWAY AT VA FACILITY — KWQC — BETTENDORF, Iowa ( – The family of a local veteran wants answers after they say the former Marine and Army National Guardsman was turned away from the VA facility in Iowa City recently. Hours later, he took his own life.

Brandon Ketchum served three tours of duty overseas. He deployed twice to Iraq and once to Afghanistan. He’d been struggling with PTSD and substance abuse so he made an emergency appointment at the Iowa City VA Medical Center on July 7th. Afterward, he posted on social media about not being admitted even though he requested it and explained to a doctor that he felt his safety and health were in jeopardy. His family thinks he might still be here today had he gotten the help he was looking for.

“We’re all devastated. We’re all devastated and asking, I guess, why? Why this had to happen,” said Kristine Nichols, Brandon’s girlfriend of several years.

She says she can’t come up with a reason why, after giving so much to his country, Brandon didn’t get the help he wanted.

“I’m angry that I know it took a lot for him to ask for help. I know it wasn’t easy for him.”

GAO RECOMMENDS VA REBID MEDICAL EXAM CONTRACTS — TRIB LIVE — The U.S. Government Accountability Office is recommending the Department of Veterans Affairs rebid its contracts for conducting medical exams for thousands of vets applying for disability payments after concluding the VA made several prejudicial errors in its process.

The decision, issued to interested parties last week, sustains the protests of some competing firms upset that the largest chunk of the $6.8 billion in contracts went to QTC Medical Services, a California firm once headed by former VA Secretary Anthony Principi. The company was sold in 2011 to Lockheed Martin, but Principi now serves as a lobbyist for the firm.

“VA made several prejudicial errors in evaluating the proposals for these contracts,” the GAO said in a summary of its decision. “The VA misled two of the (competing firms) during the conduct of discussions or negotiations. These errors led the VA to make source selection decisions that GAO found were unreasonable because they were based on erroneous conclusions in support of the contracts awarded.”

Among those protesting the awards were Veterans Evaluation Services of Houston, Logistics Health of La Crosse, Wis., and Medical Support Los Angeles of Pasadena, Calif.

The decision was issued under a protective order because the full decision contains confidential proprietary information from the competing firms. The actual ruling will be issued after the confidential information is redacted, according to the July 13 notice.

A GROWING NUMBER OF STATE PROGRAMS BENEFIT VETERAN ENTREPRENEURS — MILCOM — A growing number of states are encouraging entrepreneurship among veterans by either waiving or steeply discounting fees for new business incorporation and annual report filing — a move that can save veterans hundreds of dollars or more.

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), veterans make up 1 out of every 10 small business owners across the country. Along with having put their lives on the line to protect our country, these military heroes are responsible for providing jobs to nearly 6 million Americans. Additionally, not only are veterans more likely to run more than one business, veteran-owned businesses tend to last longer, thus making significant contributions to the American economy.

Because of veterans’ business success rate, an increasing number of states are recognizing that it pays to support veteran entrepreneurs. For example:

INVESTIGATION SOUGHT AFTER VETERAN GETS WRONG RECORDS — JOURNAL GAZETTE — U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly is calling for a “rigorous investigation” by the Veterans Affairs director in Fort Wayne into how a local military veteran received the medical records of two other veterans.

But Donnelly, D-Ind., addressed his letter to a VA official who is no longer director of the department’s Northern Indiana Health Care System.

Donnelly wrote to Mark Murdock, a former acting director who was reassigned to the VA Medical Center in Dayton in late April. He has been replaced as acting director of the Northern Indiana system, which operates a medical center in Fort Wayne, by Jay Miller, formerly the system’s acting associate director.

After The Journal Gazette pointed out the change in acting directors to his staff, Donnelly revised his letter so that it was addressed to Miller.

Fort Wayne TV station WANE reported July 12 that military veteran Kenneth Hanks had mistakenly received two letters in the mail containing VA patient information intended for two other veterans. Hanks told WANE that when he called a local VA official about the error, that official’s response was, “Oh no, not again.”

Hanks told the TV station the letters contained the patients’ names, their doctors’ names and the nature and results of medical tests that were performed, including an ankle X-ray.

“Hoosier veterans have the right to expect that their health information is private and appropriately protected by the VA and other health care providers,” Donnelly wrote in his letter to Murdock and then Miller, both dated Monday.

LOBBYING BATTLE OVER GIVING NURSES MORE AUTHORITY TO TREAT VETERANS INTENSIFIES — POWER POST — Six days before the window closes for public comments, a Veterans Affairs proposal to expand nurses’ authority to treat veterans without a doctor’s supervision has drawn 71,520 comments online.

That’s one of the largest turnouts for a federal regulation in recent history, a sign that the stakes are still very high in the long battle between nurses and physicians over the scope of medical care.

VA runs the largest health-care system in the country, and the outcome of this potential change could reverberate in 29 states that still restrict the authority of nurses with advanced training.

The proposal to give nurses what’s called full practice authority, under consideration by VA for years, has pitted Washington’s big medical powerhouses against each other. On the nurses’ side, the 68,000-member American Association of Nurse Practitioners is leading a coalition trying to fend off physicians who oppose the change, with local radio and television spots, op-ed pieces and more than 10,000 comments on the Federal Register website. The American Society of Anesthesiologists and the American Medical Association are using similar strategies to convince VA to keep the status quo.

ONE WAY THE VA CAN CUT WAIT TIMES FOR VETERANS: MAKE BETTER USE OF NURSES — BDN MAINE — The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs wants to improve our military veterans’ access to needed health care by fully utilizing certified registered nurse anesthetists, or CRNAs, and other advanced practice registered nurses, or APRNs, already practicing in the Veterans Affairs health system. The proposed rule, published in the May 25 Federal Register, would reduce long wait times for veterans to receive care — a dangerous situation that sadly has cost some vets their lives.

The issue has generated more than 70,000 letters to the VA so far, by far the highest number of comments for a proposed VA rule since the agency instituted online comment submission in 2006. Beyond a doubt, this is a topic of keen interest to veterans, their families and the American public.

This important new policy is supported by veterans groups such as AMVETS, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Military Officers Association of America and Air Force Sergeants Association; AARP, whose membership includes 3.7 million veteran households; numerous health care professional organizations, including the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists and other APRN associations; and 80 Democratic and Republican members of Congress.

VA PROVIDES SAFER, MORE EFFECTIVE CARE THAN OTHER SYSTEMS: RAND — MILCOM — Department of Veterans Affairs facilities often provide safer and more effective care than other health care systems, a new report finds, though researchers stopped short of comparing such factors as wait times.

“In terms of safety, VA facilities performed similarly or better in most, but not all, studies comparing morbidity and mortality. Results from studies about complications and patient safety indicators were more mixed,” the report says. “In terms of effectiveness, VA facilities had similar or superior quality to non-VA facilities with respect to preventive, recommended, and end-of-life care, as well as managing medications.”

Rather than collect new data, the report released today by the Rand Corporation looked at 69 studies conducted between 2005 and 2015 about the quality, effectiveness and availability of care at VA facilities versus civilian doctors through private health insurance, civilian hospitals or Medicaid and Medicare.

Researchers then aggregated the results of those studies in an attempt to draw conclusions about overall department treatment benchmarks.

STUDY FINDS QUALITY OF CARE IN VA HEALTH CARE SYSTEM COMPARES WELL TO OTHER SETTINGS — EUREKALERT — The quality of health care provided to US military veterans in Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities compares favorably with the treatment and services delivered outside the VA, according to a new study. In fact, VA facilities perform better in some cases when it comes to the safety and effectiveness of the treatment provided. Those findings are from a systematic review of 69 studies which weigh up the quality of health care provided in VA facilities compared to other settings. The review¹ was led by Dr. Courtney Gidengil of the RAND Corporation in the US, and appears in the Journal of General Internal Medicine², published by Springer.

The VA health care system is America’s largest integrated health care system, and provides comprehensive services to eligible US military veterans who have enrolled. But the quality of care delivered by VA has been a long-standing concern. The Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014 mandated an independent assessment of the health care capabilities and resources of the Veterans Health Administration.

Gidengil and her colleagues systematically reviewed 69 studies conducted in the past ten years that evaluated the quality of care provided by VA compared with other health care settings. The review updates and expands on a similar one conducted in 2009.

“Updating the results of the prior review up to 2015 is critically important given the ongoing interest in the quality of care provided by the Veterans Health Administration,” explains Gidengil.

I THINK ABOUT ENDING MY LIFE EVERY DAY, BUT I DON’T — T&P — What I can and will do is take the very personal step of outlining a life not taken: My own.

I encountered my first veteran suicide in 1970 when my combat partner, Butch, rode his Harley off a cliff in upstate New York. At his graveside, his young wife screamed at me: “You were his best friend, where the fuck were you?” It was less a question than a pointed accusation.

Not a day goes by that I do not see my Team RWB friends do 22 pushups to bring awareness to the alarming rate and number of suicides by veterans. A new study by the Department of Veterans Affairs using a more detailed methodology has placed the “number” at an average of 20 per day and has more clearly detailed the general demographics behind this number — highlighting frightening increases in female veterans and once again noting that the majority of suicides are men over 50.

Now we are also told that the Veterans Crisis Hotline has been underfunded, poorly trained, and ineffective.

Will we now only do 20 pushups? This is not meant to impugn the heartfelt motives of all those that drop and give 22. And it does raise awareness — as I have seen many many passersby stop and ask “why.”

10 AMAZING COMPANIES IN TEXAS HIRING VETERANS RIGHT NOW — T&P — If you’re looking for employment in the Lone Star state, we’ve got you covered.

If you’re a veteran looking for a job in Texas, you’re not alone. With nearly 2 million active duty, veteran, guard, and reservist service members living within its borders, the Lone Star state has the second highest number of military and veteran residents in the United States. Everything that you’ve accomplished in the military should be recognized and respected by your employer — that’s why we’ve compiled this list of 10 veteran-friendly companies that are currently hiring in Texas.

FORMER SOLDIER’S SERVICE MEDALS, BELONGINGS MISSING — COLORADO GAZETTE — Iraq War veteran Jason McDonald knows what a 400-pound improvised explosive device sounds like when it’s hit. He also knows what abject fear feels like and what death smells like.

But the pain that lingers for the former Army staff sergeant who served five tours in Iraq has taken a back seat to the anguish he says he’s now experiencing.

McDonald, 36, says he was improperly evicted from an apartment complex in Colorado Springs, and now his service and commendation medals, three military uniforms, a snowboard with a photo of a buddy who died in combat, a breathing machine for sleep apnea and other possessions are gone.

“It’s upsetting, I can tell you that,” McDonald says quietly, shaking his head.

McDonald served 17 years in the military, first in the Marines and then in the Army, where he worked all aspects of armory, from driving a tank to being the gunner. He was medically retired from the Army in March 2014.

As a civilian contractor at Fort Carson, McDonald now works as a computer operator technician at a downrange training area. He also receives treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury.


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