Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Service members and veterans issues

Service member Junior Aguilar is expected to return to home today. Daisy Martinez (Action 4 News -- link has text and video) reports that while serving in Iraq, Aguilar fell 30 feet and was seriously injured.

Daisy Martinez: Cyndi Gonzalez tells Action 4 News her son will make the 14 hour trip from a hospital in Germany to Brooks Medical Center in San Antonio. He's expected to arrive in Texas at about 1:00 pm Tuesday. Gonzalez says her son is currently in a medically induced coma and doctors report that he's been responding to simple commands. Most of the trauma Aguilar sustained during the fall was to the right side of his body. Family members say they still don't know how Aguilar fell 30 feet but they remain hopeful he will make a full recovery.

In other news, J Bates offers a video report (KBOI2) of Idaho soldiers in Iraq and the gnome they brought with them. From service members to veterans, Gregg Zoroya (USA Today) reports the latest Dept of Veterans Affairs figures reveal the number of homeless veterans from the current wars ("homeless or in programs" for those who would be) "has doubled three times since 2006." Two months ago, the VA's figure was 10,476 veterans of current wars homeless and 13% of those were women.

On issues facing veterans, the Daily Press editorial board notes:

Even more important is the need for preventive services to ensure service members "get the help they need." At recent Senate hearings before the Committee on Veterans Affairs, veterans testified about long waits for treatment and endless red tape that increase the risks for suicide. Early intervention is considered key in achieving successful outcomes. One retired Army specialist reported that when he tried to reschedule his appointment so he could testify, he was told it would be a 4-month wait.
Another barrier to services is that symptoms of TBI and PTSD often take months or even years to manifest after the initial injury. Many times, consequently, service members leave with either an inaccurate diagnosis or no diagnosis. The Daily Press recently chronicled the case of Monte Webster, a former Army staff sergeant wounded in Iraq. Unable to find help within the system, Webster finally connected with the Veterans Benefit Clinic staffed by law students at the College of William and Mary.
The economy is another stressor faced by those returning from war. Unemployment among recently returned veterans is at 13.3 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, up almost 2 percentage points from last year, and way above the nation's 9 percent rate.

People have different ways of coping, different ways of dealing. What works for you may or may not work for someone else. Iraq War James Casey found a way to address PTSD and other issues he was facing. Chris Campbell (Salt Lake Tribune) reports:

Returning to the U.S. after nearly three years in Iraq, Casey was a shell of his former self, suffering acutely from post-traumatic stress.
"I was extremely depressed," he said. "Suicidal ideation. I was hurting inside and didn't know how to get it out."
Then he began writing his thoughts on paper and everything began to change. Casey enrolled in a writing workshop. The benefits were immediate.
"It was like a floodgate of emotions at once," he said. "I felt relief. I was able to get out what was festering inside me."
Through writing, Casey was able to deal with issues he was unable to verbalize. To this day, his physical difficulty in speaking about his war experiences is apparent. But writing is another matter for Casey, who recently became a father and spends time volunteering for wounded veterans groups.

I am a big supporter of journaling and creative writing but I did want to put that caveat in. Everyone is not helped by the same thing because everyone is not geared the same way. Anyone who hasn't tried what's working for James Casey would benefit from trying it only to know whether it works for them or not. A worship environment is also possible in many communities -- poet and author Maxine Hong Kingston led a veterans workshop which produced the collection Veterans of War, Veterans of Peace. She and others outline how to start a veterans writing group here.

The following community sites -- plus Antiwar.com, On The Wilder Side and The NewsHour -- updated last night and today:

Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. Tomorrow they're holding a hearing.

FOR PLANNING PURPOSES Contact: Murray Press Office

Monday, July 25, 2011 (202) 224-2834

VETERANS: Chairman Murray to Examine the Human and Financial Costs of War for the Newest Generation of Veterans

Hearing will shine a light on the often overlooked long-term costs we owe veterans and their families and how in the current budget climate we must protect and plan for this lifetime of care

(Washington, D.C.) – Next Wednesday, July 27th, U.S. Senator Patty Murray, Chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, will hold a hearing to examine the real human and financial costs of the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and how as a nation we need to plan to keep our promise to these veterans for the rest of their lives.

The hearing will feature the views of budget experts from the Congressional Budget Office and the Government Accountability Office on the long-term costs associated with providing mental and physical health care, supporting caregivers, maintaining prosthetics, and providing benefits. Crystal Nicely, the wife of Marine Corporal Todd Nicely, a quadruple amputee veteran of the War in Afghanistan, will also testify about the lifetime of support her and her husband will require and about the red tape she has already faced in her daily struggle to provide Todd with the care he needs.

WHO: Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Patty Murray

Crystal Nicely, Wife of Injured Veteran, Marine Corporal Todd Nicely

Paul Rieckhoff, Executive Director, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America

Heidi Golding, Principal Analyst, National Security Division, Congressional Budget Office

James Hosek, PhD, Senior Economist, RAND Corporation

Lorelei St. James, Director, Physical Infrastructure, Government Accountability Office

WHAT: Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Hearing: Examining the Lifetime Costs of Care for the Newest Generation of Veterans

WHEN: Wednesday, July 27, 2011
10:00 AM EST/7:00 AM PST

WHERE: Dirksen 562 (NOTE this hearing will not be held in the normal Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing room)

WEBCAST: http://veterans.senate.gov/



Matt McAlvanah

Communications Director

U.S. Senator Patty Murray

202-224-2834 - press office

202--224-0228 - direct


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