Friday, April 27, 2012

PTSD and other veterans issues

The things that I have done that I regret
The things I seen, I won't forget
For this life and so many more
And I'm trying to find my way home
Child inside me is long dead and gone
Somewhere between lost and alone
Trying to find my way home
-- "Trying To Find My Way Home," written by Jason Moon, from Moon's latest album Trying To Find My Way Home

Tuesday Iraq War veteran Jason Moon will take part in a fundraiser for Soldier's Heart at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 246 S. Church St., Grass Valley, California.  The event, which kicks off at 6:00 pm,  is open to the public and free but there is a suggested donation rate of $10

Iraq War veteran Rick Collier (with No Soldier Left Behind) shares his PTSD story at The Oregonian.  Excerpt:

My time in country left me with traumas and exposures no human should see or be a part of. It also created an environment in which hazing and death threats were part of my ritual coming from my NCO. Without knowing it, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) soon became my reality and at 18 I started to lose control of my life.
Shortly after my return my best friend Daniel Parker died in Iraq. I was the lead pallbearer for his military funeral. After losing Daniel, I felt I lost everything. I struggled with lack of family and support upon my return and found Daniel's death, combined with my PTSD, set me over the edge.
I tried getting help from my command. I spoke with my NCOs in charge and even a Sgt from another platoon. I couldn’t take the harassment from my NCO both in country and at home, topped with PTSD and the loss of my best friend. With lack of help I began to drink and numb my pain. My suicidal ideation grew and I began to lose sight of who I was. I ended up going UA (unauthorized absence) with suicide in mind.
When I was brought back to base by Marine Corps Chasers I soon found myself in the brig again with no help from my command. I was left to deal with PTSD in a cell, like a POW. After a couple months in the brig I was court martialed and given a Bad Conduct Discharge. All I needed was help, I never wanted out.
After being discharged, I was released from duty and sent on my way. Here I was a combat vet, a kid, just left out on the street to fend for myself. Not once did I get mental health treatment. It took me two years after my discharge to finally figure out I had PTSD. It took me doing my own research, trying to help myself, to put all the pieces together from symptoms I was showing. It hurt having to do it alone.

And then Collier got help, right?  Wrong.  That's when he begins a long struggle to get the treatment he needs.  That involved the VA, getting a discharge upgrade and much more.  His experience and wanting to assist in others in the same situation led to his founding No Soldier Left Behind.  Last March, reported on Vietnam Veterans of America's report on the Defense Dept's claiming service members suffered from Personality Disorder to discharge them and hide their PTSD (to avoid paying the benefits owed the service member):

Since 2008, the Department of Defense (DoD) has illegally discharged hundreds of veterans on the alleged basis of personality disorder (PD), denying them veterans’ benefits, according to a Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) analysis of newly disclosed records released today. The analysis further concludes that since Fiscal Year (FY) 2002, the Navy has discharged the most service members on this basis in absolute terms (7735), and in FY 2006 the Air Force set a military record for the Afghanistan and Iraq era when PD discharges accounted for 3.7 percent of all airmen being discharged (1114 of 29,498 service members).
The VVA report, Casting Troops Aside: The United States Military’s Illegal Personality Disorder Discharge Problem, is based on records obtained by VVA in federal Freedom of Information Act litigation. The report found that, since 2008, internal DoD reviews discovered hundreds of illegal PD discharges, and since FY 2001, the military has discharged over 31,000 service members on the alleged basis of PD.
PD can be used as the illegal basis for incorrectly discharging veterans suffering from Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). The DoD considers PD a preexisting condition, and a PD diagnosis renders veterans ineligible for several benefits.
“On a veteran’s discharge paperwork it states clearly, ‘discharged for personality disorder,’ and not only does it keep veterans from benefits they may have earned, but it is one of the first things that prospective employers see. Anyone who sees the veteran’s DD-214 can determine the reason for discharge. ” said Paul Barry, President of VVA Chapter 120, Hartford, Connecticut.
“Shame on the Department of Defense,” said Dr. Thomas J. Berger, VVA Executive Director for the Veterans Health Council. “It acknowledged the widespread illegality of these discharges and changed its rules going forward but has left 31,000 wounded warriors alone to fend for themselves, denied even basic medical care for their injuries.”
In 2008, Congress directed the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to investigate illegal personality discharges. The Congressional pressure prompted new DoD regulations, but VVA has found that illegal personality disorders continued through FY 2010, and that since 2007, the total number of PD discharges has increased at least 20 percent, according to documents released under one of two pending VVA Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuits.
In a document obtained by the FOIA lawsuit, a Navy report on 2008-2009 PD discharges noted that only “8.9 percent [of PD discharges] were processed properly. …This does not paint a pretty picture.”
Additionally, VVA analysis of DoD documents uncovered a two-fold rise in Adjustment Disorder (AD) discharges in the United States Air Force from FY 2008 to FY 2010 that may signal that AD discharges have now become a surrogate for PD discharges.

 Aaron Smith (CNNMoney)  observes, "The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs expects to spend $57 billion on disability benefits next year. That's up 25% from $46 billion this year, and nearly quadruple the $15 billion spent in 2000, before the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan began."

McClatchy Newspapers are featuring an editorial by the editorial board of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram (one  of the newspapers McClatchy owns).  Excerpt:

Even though the Veterans Health Administration reported in 2011 that 95 percent of veterans received a comprehensive mental exam within 14 days of requesting one (the time frame in agency policy), the actual number was 49 percent, the inspector general reported this week. It took an average of 50 days to provide a full evaluation for the rest, the report said.
"VHA does not have a reliable and accurate method of determining whether they are providing patients timely access to mental health care services," the inspector general said.
Part of the problem is with the way records are kept: Schedulers don't always follow the rules, and the lag between referral by a primary care physician and the evaluation might not be reflected properly.
Part of the problem is a shortage of personnel, particularly psychiatrists. Officials knew the data-keeping was problematic; the inspector general pointed it out in reports in 2005 and 2007.
They also knew of the growing staffing needs and, in fact, increased personnel 46 percent from 2005 to 2010, the report said. But in an informal survey of VA mental-health professionals, requested by Congress, 71 percent of those responding said their centers didn't have enough people to keep up. A veteran seeking treatment at the VA medical center in Salisbury, N.C., for instance, had to wait 86 days to see a psychiatrist, the IG said.

Read more here:

A certan New York paper should read it very closely to discover how you focus on issues and details that matter as opposed to using an editorial supposedly on veterans issues to work through your own partisan grudge.

The following community sites -- plus Tavis Smiley, Adam Kokesh,, Susan's On The Edge and CSPAN -- updated last night and this morning:

 David Bacon's latest book is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press) which won the CLR James Award.  Bacon has a photo essay at Truthout on Tuesday's strong protest outside the Wells Fargo shareholders meeting.  We'll close with this from the Green Party of Michigan:

Ecological Wisdom • Social Justice • Grassroots Democracy • Non-Violence
Green Party of Michigan

News Release
April 26, 2012

For More Information, Contact:
Green Party Elections Coordinator, John Anthony La Pietra (269)781-9478
Media Coordinator: Jennifer La Pietra (508)280-1360
Green Party of Michigan Encourages Emergency Manager Law Petition
(Lansing) The Board of State Canvassers approved the sufficiency of the signatures on the petition submitted by Stand Up for Democracy attempting to repeal the Emergency Manager Law, Public Act 4. The projection of 203,238 valid signatures far exceeds the 161,305 required to put the measure on the ballot. However, the measure today was kept off the ballot by the group Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility, claiming it is invalid on a small technicality, effectively silencing the voice of the majority of Michiganders.
The Green Party of Michigan, and especially those members of the strong branch in Detroit, have been watching this process with much anticipation. “The Green Party has long taken a stance for Grassroots Democracy and Decentralization, two concepts challenged by the current Emergency Manager Law.” Stated John A. La Pietra, elections coordinator for the Green Party of Michigan.
After a period during which challenges to the validity of the signatures may be brought before the Board of Canvassers, a sampling of the signatures was determined to be almost 90% accurate and no challenges were made to the validity of the signatures themselves. Other challenges were made as to wording and omissions in the petition, but those were rejected in a "memorandum of law" from Bureau of Elections chief Christopher Thomas. One challenge outstanding which could foil the entire effort was confirmed as within the scope of the Board’s authority. Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility submitted a challenge to the form of the petition, claiming that the typeface of the heading was smaller than the 14-point size required by law.
The petitioners and printer both signed affidavits which state that the typeface did indeed conform, but the challenge is still being argued before the Board of Canvassers. According to the memorandum, the “petitions need only substantially conform to the statutory requirements”. Even if it is determined that the typeface is a point or two smaller than the law requires, the legal standard still favors the signers. Whenever there is a close question, the law likewise favors the signers. As the Court of Appeals states: “[A]ll doubts as to technical deficiencies or failure to comply with the exact letter of procedural requirements in petitions . . . are resolved in favor of permitting the people to vote and express a choice on any proposal subject”.
Despite the deference the standard seems to allow the signers, the Board today was split along party lines: 2-2. Because of this, the measure is kept off the ballot in November - for now.
We encourage Stand Up for Democracy to continue to work for the citizens of Michigan who agree that the Emergency Manager law strips them of their voice in government. We likewise hope the court of appeals will consider the case carefully and to give deference to over 200,000 voters instead of the trivialities brought up by a minority of voices.
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Green Party of Michigan * 548 South Main Street * Ann Arbor, MI 48104 * 734-663-3555
GPMI was formed in 1987 to address environmental issues in Michigan politics. Greens are organized in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Each state Green Party sets its own goals and creates its own structure, but US Greens agree on Ten Key Values:

Ecological Wisdom Grassroots Democracy Social Justice Non-Violence
Community Economics Decentralization Feminism
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Results of April 26th meeting:

Enough signatures approved:

SOS staff report on the petition:

Legal standard for hearing the case:

The e-mail address for this site is