Friday, December 10, 2010

Local veterans in need of Christmas

Local veterans in need of Christmas

Posted: Dec 10, 2010 4:23 PM EST
Updated: Dec 10, 2010 4:23 PM EST

By Jillian Capobianco - bio | email

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - When we think of giving during the Christmas season, we often think of children and families, but there are others in need, including veterans.

This Sunday is the 10th annual Charity Ride. It helps bring Christmas presents to hospitalized veterans at Dorn V.A. as well as their two homeless shelters. Medal of Honor recipient John Baker says it's what Christmas is all about.

With his 5'2" stature and strong silent demeanor, you may just walk by Baker in the lobby of Dorn V.A. Hospital, but if you did, you would miss out on the stories he could tell. They're stories as to why there is now a bridge and a monument in his name.

On November 5th, 1966, John's life would never be the same. He was fighting in Vietnam when his unit came under fire. Men were going down, but Private First Class Baker stepped in. "I knocked out eight machine gun bunkers and carried eight of my wounded soldiers back to be evacuated," says Baker.

It was his heroism that awarded him the highest military honor, the Medal of Honor. Baker says it was amazing when President Johnson pinned the nation's highest military decoration on him. "I felt great at the time," says Baker, "When they read the citation, I just felt like I was right back."

42 years later, Baker still says the medal is not just his own. " I wear it, not because I won it," says Baker, "It belongs to the men that served our great country of ours. It belongs to them, not me."

It's the love he has for his military brothers that has him involved in this year's Vets' Christmas Charity Ride. The ride raises money to give veterans staying at Dorn V.A. at Christmas. " They're my brothers, my family," says Baker.

The 10th annual Vets' Christmas Charity Ride is happening Sunday, December 12th at 2:00pm. Riders will meet at the Carolina Honda Powerhouse store on 901 Buckner Road in Columbia and depart for the Dorn V.A. Hospital.

You can find out more by calling (803) 252-3381, and to read more about how you can get involved in or donate to this cause, click Give Veterans a Christmas.


It is nice to see veterans helping veterans especially the likes of men like John Baker he really stepped up in 1966 while in Vietnam and he is still stepping up in 2010 SALUTE

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Iraqi War veteran says he's suffering from exposure to burn pits, but is happy to receive military honor

Iraqi War veteran says he's suffering from exposure to burn pits, but is happy to receive military honor

By Kathleen Berger

St. Charles, MO (KSDK) -- The Missouri Air National Guard presented the Hometown Heroes Salute to an Iraqi War Veteran, whose health has been in failure since his return. His family members have become huge advocates in raising awareness about burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan.

That's what the Retired Tech Sgt. Tim Wymore blames for his health problems that have only gotten worse since he returned from Iraq. But the St. Charles man was all smiles Friday as he received a very special honor.

Iraqi War Veteran Tim Wymore was supposed to have received his Hometown Heroes Salute last January, but somehow his name was missed. When the Missouri Air National Guard discovered the mistake, they arranged a ceremony just for him.

"It is kind of amazing that they did this for me, because now I got the whole thing to myself," said Wymore.

The medal and framed letter of appreciation are well deserved for Wymore's 181 days of service in Iraq. Especially after everything Wymore and his family have gone through after they say he was exposed to hazardous chemicals.

"Did a lot of runs to what they call the burn pits, that's what's affected me," said Wymore. "I came home sick, they took a softball size infection out of my colon and small intestine, and I've been kind of sick ever since."

As more health problems persist, Wymore's wife, Shanna, has become an advocate for thousands who've been exposed.

"It's 2010, we've got to shut these burn pits down," said Shanna Wymore.

But the Wymores call the burn pits the new Agent Orange.

"I have to fight and fight and fight," said Shanna. "Arms, limbs, corpses from the dogs, they burn all the water bottles, the Styrofoam, all the plastic, all the food stuff, all the medical supply," said Shanna.

While she focuses on that fight, Tim Wymore is focusing on another.

"I just want to get better. I don't want to have to wear this oxygen or be in this wheelchair the rest of my life, so that's my goal," said Tim Wymore.

Through it all, Tim Wymore says he's very patriotic. He waves American flags from his house. And he considers the hometown Heroes Salute a huge honor.

I first became interested in the "Burn Pits" when I was contacted by Jill Wilkins whose husband had died from brain cancer that started after being assigned to Balad AFB, and she was looking for some help in how to deal with the VA Regional Office about the DIC and CHAMPVA benefits her and the children were entitled to. The VA is making some major improvements in handling claims related to the Burn Pit exposure, but to many veterans and their families are still having to fight to hard and to long for service connection. Like Agent Orange the VA is still coming to terms more than 40 years after that war what medical issues are related to the exposures, hopefully the VA will not make this new generation of war veterans wait 40 years for full disclosure of medical conditions related to the exposures.

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"What's TRICARE Anyway?"

We read your blog, military & veterans: politics for the deserving, and
believe you can help us spread the word to your readers about our upcoming
Webinar. "What's TRICARE Anyway?" is an interactive Webinar co-hosted by
TRICARE and Military OneSource and will be held Monday, Dec. 13, from 11
a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Eastern time.

The webinar will cover general benefit information and participants can
submit questions online or over the phone to be answered following the
information session. More information can be found at: or

Monday, Dec. 13, from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Eastern time.

Fpr all retired military members who use Tricare for some or all of their medical care this is a place where you need to be on Dec 13, 2010

Thse are the links to the Tricare information you need

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Thursday, December 9, 2010

Report: Defense faces large and growing mental health problem

Report: Defense faces large and growing mental health problem

By Bob Brewin December 6, 2010 During the past decade, 767,290 active-duty military personnel have received a diagnosis of a mental health disorder, according to a series of reports expected to be released today by the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center in Silver Spring, Md. Overall, from January 2000 through December 2009, such diagnoses increased 60 percent.

The center also reported that mental health disorders rank as the top cause of hospitalization for male service members and the second cause of hospitalization for women after pregnancy-related conditions. The Army topped the number of admissions.

RELATED STORIES Number of Army suicides already surpasses 2009 total 11/22/10 Soldiers struggle emotionally under stress of war 10/04/10 Agencies examine combat-related substance abuse 08/26/10 Grim trend in Army suicides continues 01/21/10 Suicide prevention continues to elude Army leaders 01/12/10

During this period, 94,391 active-duty service members experienced 109,895 mental disorder hospitalizations. The number of hospitalizations remained fairly stable and then sharply increased from 2006 to 2009, with 15,328 hospitalizations in 2009, up 50 percent from 10,262 in 2006.

The Health Surveillance Center said the findings in the four mental health reports in its November Medical Surveillance Monthly Report "document a large and growing mental health problem among U.S. military members." The reports examined five selective disorders from 2007 through 2009, mental health problems across the active component from 2000 through 2009, hospitalizations for mental health, and the relationship between childbirth and mental health diagnoses.

This includes a sharp increase in mental health disorder diagnoses from 78,658 active-duty troops in 2003, or 5.6 percent of the force, to 123,374, or 8.5 percent of the force in 2009, which reflects the increase in troops deployed to Afghanistan or Iraq, the report said. This upsurge reflects the "increasing psychological toll" combat operations had on deployed troops, the center said.

To put the numbers in context, the center noted a recently completed national survey that showed at least half of all adult Americans will meet the criteria for a mental disorder diagnosis sometime in their life, and that "clearly the large and growing problem of mental disorders among military members reflects to some extent the similar experience of the general U.S. population."

The Army experienced twice the rate of mental disorder hospitalizations than any of the other services during the past decade, the Health Surveillance Center reported: 3.09 hospital years per 10,000 person years (one person year is equivalent to one year in the life of one person) versus 1.52 hospital years for the Marine Corps, 1.51 hospital years for the Air Force and 1.4 hospital years for the Navy.

The report that examined the prevalence of five mental disorders -- post-traumatic stress disorder, major depression, bipolar disorder, alcohol dependence and substance dependence -- found that from 2007 through the second quarter of 2010, the Army had the highest rates of new diagnoses for these disorders while the Air Force the lowest.

The only exceptions were in 2007, 2008 and the first two quarters of 2010, when the Marine Corps exceeded the Army in rates of new diagnoses for alcohol dependence.

The Army also had the highest percentage of troops on active duty with prior mental health diagnoses, 10 percent versus 5.7 percent of Marines. The 10-year study noted "the overall incidences of mental disorders were higher in the Army than in any of the other services."

The Health Surveillance Center also examined the effect of childbirth and deployment on the mental health of female troops and determined mental disorders were linked to early deployment after childbirth. The rate of mental disorders diagnosed within six months of returning from deployment was 37 percent higher among women who had deployed within six months of giving birth compared with women who had deployed later after giving birth.

Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the Army's vice chief of staff, acknowledged the connection between mental health problems, alcohol and substance abuse, and troop suicides at a Pentagon news briefing in July when the service released its comprehensive report on suicide in the Army. (

That report said, ""No one could have foreseen the impact of nine years of war on our leaders and soldiers," including PTSD and other mental health problems.

According to Tom Vande Burgt, an Army National Guard veteran who served in Iraq and runs the PTSD peer support group Lest We Forget in Charleston, W.Va., with his wife Diane, the mental health reports did not make any attempt to link the abuse of drugs and alcohol to the rise in prescription drugs given to troops diagnosed with PTSD.

The center reports also do not detail the Defense Department's treatment methods for mental health problems. But a June 2010 report from the Department of Defense Pharmacoeconomic Center at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, shows 20 percent of active-duty personnel are on high-risk medications, including psychotropic and anti-depressant medications used to treat mental health problems.

Paul Sullivan, executive director of Veterans for Common Sense, said he is "highly alarmed the military continues reporting record mental health and suicide statistics." Sullivan added, "As suicides skyrocket and drug use soars, top military leaders need to be held accountable for their failures to care properly for our troops."

The Defense Department needs to fill hundreds of vacancies in mental health positions, expand efforts to reduce the stigma associated with seeking treatment, and treat mental health wounds of war as equal to physical wounds, Sullivan said.

The Health Surveillance Center noted the data it used to compile its reports resulted in lower estimates for mental health disorders, such as PTSD, than previous reports widely disseminated in the media. The rates of mental health disorders found by the center are not directly comparable to other published rates and the reports generated by the data do not examine the relationship between deployments and mental health, which is something future reports will explore, the center said.

Information in the reports was drawn from health records maintained in the Defense Medical Surveillance System, which documents visits to military hospitals and clinics and civilian facilities covered by military insurance plans. The reports did not include medical facilities serving deployed troops, but included the 39 percent of the force that has not deployed to a combat zone during the past decade.

The information in the reports, which is based on a formal diagnosis entered into an electronic health record, showed an overall PTSD rate of 9.2 percent versus previous reports that showed a 12 percent or higher rate.

The Health Surveillance Center said previous studies relied on self-reported data in post-deployment health assessments, anonymous questionnaires and retrospective interviews in which service members affirm or deny the presence of symptoms associated with mental health disorders. Such screening does not carry the weight of formal diagnosis.

The center said its reports document the incidence of mental health disorders for all 1.4 million active-duty personnel and did not focus solely on the those who have served in a combat zone, which it cited as a risk factor for most, if not all, mental disorders.

The reports also did not contain data about the mental health of National Guard and reserve members who have served combat tours. Nor did they take into account the barriers to care, such as a shortage of military mental health personnel and the stigma that keeps troops from reporting mental health problems and seeking help.

As a result, the Health Surveillance Center said its reports "very likely underestimate the true incidence and prevalence" of mental health disorders in the military.

this is a graph that is in the article that shows the break down by service and the different diagnosis PTSD, Depression, substance abuse etc this is a very eye opening document and should be looked at

to me this shows that the problems are a lot larger than the DOD has been telling the general public and tells me that a lot more help is needed in the military for more mental health professionals to help the soldiers and marines and other military members that have served us during this turbulent period of the past decade and the "war on terror". We have a PROMISE to care for these people while inservice and after they leave active duty and become veterans, are we doing enough? I don't think so.

I am a veteran who is rated as 100% P&T by the Veterans Administration with an effective date of Dec 2003. My stressors go back to Feb 1975 and I have numerous incidents in my 20 years of Army service but one of the easiest to prove was an attempted murder and robbery by fellow soldiers while at Fort Wainwright, Alaska in Feb 1975, they were given general court martials and 4 of the 7 were sentenced to 15 years in leavenworth for their attack on me. I also served in the Korean DMZ during the fall of 1975 and thru Operation Paul Bunyan in August 1976. There were many more incidents that are related to my service conencted PTSD. Like many veterans with PTSD I also had problems with alcohol during service and after, it doesn't help PTSD it just masks the issues and is a terrible method for coping with the issues.

PTSD and substance abuse are usually present in most people with PTSD and they must be treated at the same time. We are failing to do enough and there are not enough beds in VA mental health facilities for the veterans who are falling thru the cracks.

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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Valley of the Shadow of Death

words from the soldier awarded a Silver Star the entire mission in his words

I was returning fire to those bastards from behind a tree when all of a sudden I hear the soft voice of New Dick attempting to yell “Doc’s hit, Doc’s hit.”

Side Note: this is exactly why I wanted that kid to start speaking the fuck up. You MUST be loud in this job. That kid never grasped the concept. He’s lucky I even heard him.

I looked all around me and finally, thirty-five meters to my right, I see Doc laying face down in the dirt on the porch of one of the houses. My stomach dropped out. There are literally no words I can use to fully understand the feeling you get when you see that. I ran over to where he was and dropped directly, but carefully, on top of him. You do that in a fire fight to protect the casualty. The first thing I noticed was the blood on his neck. The second thing I noticed was that he was alive and responding to me. That immediately made me feel better. Doc said he was hit in the left arm, but upon inspection of his arm there was nothing visibly wrong with it. That’s when I started to look more closely at his neck. He had been shot right through the left side of his neck and I could not see an exit wound.
I decided, since the enemy had that spot locked down with heavy machine gun fire, it was time to move him. Yes, he had a gunshot wound to the neck, but if we had stayed there we both would have been killed. That’s when I started to move him.

Wearing all his combat gear, Doc probably weighed two hundred and ten pounds or so. Moving him myself was a slow process. While I was dragging him to a nearby room in this random village, I noticed two things almost simultaneously. The first thing was that the wall to my right was being peppered with incoming small arms fire that originated from the corn fields to my left. The second was that New Dick was about five feet away from Doc in the doorway of a small barn and he had obviously been there the whole time. He had frozen and couldn’t bring himself to come out and help Doc. I’m still not sure if I should have beat his ass or tried to understand his position. I’ve been working with Doc as our Platoon medic for a long time and he’s a good friend of mine. The first thing I thought when I saw him was that I needed to help him right away. New Dick’s first thought was probably something along the lines of “Oh shit, I’m gonna get shot.” He doesn’t know Doc that well and he’s not at all seasoned as a combat Infantryman. So, as I said, I’m still on the fence as to either beating the living crap out of him or telling him to use that instance as a learning experience.

When I saw New Dick I continued to drag Doc to the room (that was now about 10 feet away) and screamed at the top of my lungs to him the following words…


He didn’t move.


That’s when New Dick worked up the courage to take his first step toward Doc and I. And as he took that step, a round hit him right in his left hand. By that time, Washout had made it to our position. I yelled at him to grab New Dick and get back inside the barn, which he did immediately. Shortly after that, Vice City and The Situation had run over, grabbed up Doc, and got him into the room.

Then there is the article about the award of his Silver Star Sec of Defense Robeert Gates awards some Silver Stars for Heroism

St. Charles native and U.S. Army Spc. Richard Bennett thought only of his fallen comrade’s peril when he bolted through heavy gunfire to aid the injured medic during a mission in eastern Afghanistan.

Bennett remained focused on his “brothers” Tuesday after he and Army 1st Lt. Stephen R. Tangen of Naperville each collected a Silver Star medal for their separate actions under fire there this summer. The pair was among six Army soldiers earning the third-highest award for bravery in combat given by the military. U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates presented the honors in person to the soldiers for their actions during various Operation Strong Eagle missions in the Kunar province.

“It was an incredible honor that the secretary of defense would come. It was a little overwhelming,” said Tangen, according to a Department of Defense news account. “Forward Operating Base Joyce gets attacked almost every day, so just the fact that he would come to a remote FOB like this and put his life on the line it doesn’t happen every day.”

Noted recipients of the honor include Lt. Col. Oliver North, Gens. George S. Patton and Douglas MacArthur, as well as Sens. John Kerry and John McCain. More recently, former Arizona Cardinals football player Pat Tillman, who died in friendly fire in Afghanistan, was given the award posthumously.
Heroic actions must be “performed with marked distinction” to earn a Silver Star, an honor bestowed for acts that do not rise to the level deserving of a Medal of Honor or Distinguished Service Cross.

“As far as the award, it is for my platoon. I may have gotten it, but we were all there that day and all of us went through that,” Bennett wrote in e-mail from Afghanistan.

Bennett and his 101st Airborne platoon were on a mission on foot in a valley along a mountainside when they came under heavy fire. During the skirmish, the platoon medic was shot in the neck and he was lying face down on a porch.

“My stomach dropped out,” Bennett wrote. “There are literally no words I can use to fully understand the feeling you get when you see that. … I’ve been working with Doc as our platoon medic for a long time and he’s a good friend of mine. The first thing I thought when I saw him was that I needed to help him right away.”
Seeing the fellow soldier was pinned down by enemy bullets, Bennett left his cover provided by a tree and ran to provide aid and protection for his comrade.
“He ran 35 meters under a hail of gunfire,” said his mom, Lisa Bennett.
Bennett dropped down atop the injured man using his own body to shield the medic while he assessed his injuries, he recalled.

He then pulled the man into the vacant house as gunfire continued. Bullets “peppered” the building, and as he waited for the gunfire to subside, he looked at the bullet-ridden wall and was reminded of a scene from the movie “Pulp Fiction.” In the scene, two characters survive a hail of gunfire unscathed, much like Bennett.

“It was one of the single craziest moments I’ve ever experienced,” he wrote.
The man Bennett saved, and another soldier who was nearby and wounded by a bullet to the hand, survived and are recovering from their wounds.
The award-winning soldiers’ parents were thrilled for their sons.
“I’m incredibly proud of him, but I always have been,” said Bennett’s mom, Lisa Bennett, of Geneva. “He’s always been a person with courage in his convictions … and unafraid.”
She continued, “He’s with an impressive group of soldiers over there too. He really sees those guys in his platoon as brothers. He knows they would do the same for him. They’re all heroes.”

Bennett’s father, South Elgin Police Sgt. Richard Bennett, said it was the second-best news he could get about his son.
“The Silver Star … wow. I’m on the verge of tears now,” said his father, who lives in Elgin. “It doesn’t surprise me. He’s been a heck of a kid his whole life. I don’t think he even thought about it. He just reacted. The only better news is if he was coming home.”
Likewise, Andrew Tangen was impressed but not surprised by his 24-year-old son’s heroic actions.

“They’re like his family,” said Tangen, whose three sons are all Eagle Scouts. His eldest son, Andrew, is a lieutenant in the Navy and also deployed in Afghanistan. “It’s just who they are. They’re doing what needs to be done.”
Tangen suspects his son, who didn’t share details in a weekend call home, was honored for his efforts to save his staff sergeant and close friend during one of the mission’s firefights. Staff Sgt. Eric Shaw of Massachusetts died in Stephen Tangen’s arms as he tried to move him to safety, Tangen wrote to his family.
“He’s a very humble young man,” Andrew Tangen said of his son.
Bennett, 29, graduated in 2000 from St. Charles High School. He attended Aurora University and Northern Illinois University, and then worked as a personal trainer for a few years before enlisting just after President Barack Obama’s election to office.

Bennett and Tangen, who are in the 101st Airborne based out of Fort Campbell in Kentucky, arrived in Afghanistan in May for a one-year deployment.
Bennett plans to return to college for an education degree. Tangen, who is a 2004 Naperville North High School and 2008 West Point graduate, plans to attend medical school and become a doctor.

Read more:


this is the story of a true hero, even though he does not want this label, his actions have earned him this award and distinction, and I am an old Infantry NCO SALUTE him.

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New Approach to Smoking Cessation Boosts Quit Rates

New Approach to Smoking Cessation Boosts Quit Rates

for Veterans with PTSD

WASHINGTON -- Smoking cessation treatment that is made part of mental
health care for Veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
improves quit rates, according to a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)
study published in the Dec. 8 Journal of the American Medical

"The smoking cessation techniques used in this new approach will give
Veterans an important step towards a better quality of life," said VA
Under Secretary for Health Dr. Robert Petzel. "Veterans will be at a
lower risk for cardiovascular or lung disease if they do not smoke."

On measures of smoking abstinence for shorter periods of time,
researchers found that quit rates were as high as 18 percent for the
integrated care group, versus 11 percent for those receiving usual care.
When compared to usual care-referral to a standard smoking cessation
clinic-the new, integrated approach nearly doubled the rate at which
study volunteers stayed smoke-free for a year or longer, from 4.5
percent to almost 9 percent.

Importantly, Veterans in the study who quit smoking showed no worsening
of symptoms of PTSD or depression. In fact, study participants averaged
a 10-percent reduction in PTSD symptoms, regardless of which treatment
they received or whether they quit smoking or not. The findings help
dispel concerns that combining care for PTSD and smoking cessation
detracts from PTSD treatment or makes it less effective.

Study leaders Miles McFall, Ph.D., and Andrew Saxon, M.D., say the
results validate a promising new VA model of care that can make safe,
effective smoking cessation treatment accessible to far more Veterans
with PTSD. The new approach may also be effective for smokers receiving
mental health care for other psychiatric illnesses, they add.

Says McFall, "One of the most important things mental health providers
can do to improve the quality and length of their patients' lives is to
help them stop smoking by using proven, evidence-based practices."

McFall is director of PTSD Programs and Saxon is director of the
Addictions Treatment Center at the VA Puget Sound Health Care System.
Both are professors in the department of psychiatry and behavioral
sciences at the University of Washington.

VA smoking cessation care generally involves a mix of group and
individual counseling, typically in combination with nicotine
replacement therapy or other medication prescribed by a VA health care
provider. In VA's study, Veterans in the integrated-care group worked
with the same therapist on PTSD and smoking issues. Medication for
smoking cessation, if used, was prescribed on an individual basis by the
same medical provider managing pharmacologic treatment of the Veteran's
PTSD symptoms.

The study followed 943 Veterans at 10 VA medical centers nationwide.
Prolonged abstinence from tobacco, as reported by participants, was
confirmed using breath and urine tests to detect evidence of smoking.
Using such "bio-verification" measures in combination with self-reports
is considered the "gold standard" in smoking cessation research, says

Of some 400,000 Veterans being treated for PTSD in the VA health care
system, roughly 30 to 50 percent are smokers, compared to a smoking rate
of about 20 percent among VA enrollees and U.S. adults in general.
Research shows, also, that those with PTSD smoke more heavily than
smokers without PTSD and have an especially hard time quitting.

"We've come a long way in understanding that nicotine dependence for
many Veterans with PTSD is a chronic, relapsing condition that responds
best to intensive treatment extended over time," McFall says. "These
study findings will help us empower more Veterans with the resources
they need to quit smoking. Single-shot, brief episodic care for nicotine
addiction is no match for what is a chronic, relapsing disorder for many
of our Veterans."

Based on the findings and evidence from prior research, VA has begun
piloting the integrated smoking cessation approach as a standard of
practice at six VA medical centers. The researchers say they hope to see
the new approach further expanded over time.

McFall notes that while most of the participants in the study were
Vietnam-era Veterans, integrated smoking cessation care may be
especially beneficial for younger Veterans with PTSD, such as many of
those returning from Iraq or Afghanistan, who stand to benefit greatly
from quitting smoking relatively early in life.

Says McFall, "Ideally, we can help Veterans quit smoking before it
becomes a chronic or intractable condition and causes irreversible
health problems such as cardiovascular or lung disease."

The study was conducted by VA's Cooperative Studies Program. For more
information on CSP, visit

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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Veterans' Caregiving Often Falls to Spouse

Veterans' Caregiving Often Falls to Spouse

96% of Veterans’ Caregivers Are Women, and the Burden Can Be Heavy, Study Finds
By Bill Hendrick
WebMD Health NewsReviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD Nov. 10, 2010 -- When veterans with service-related injuries or illness need caregivers, the role typically falls on women, usually spouses or partners, a new report finds.

The study by the National Alliance for Caregiving and the United Health Foundation reports that 96% of veterans’ caregivers are women, compared to an overall nationwide finding that 65% of family caregivers are women. The study also says that 70% of veterans’ caregivers are their spouses or partners, compared to 6% nationally.

The youngest veterans requiring caregivers are those whose ranks are growing from Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, says the report. More than 40% of veterans who need caregivers are between the ages of 18 and 54, the report finds.

Younger Veterans Receive Help From Parents and Family
About one in four (26%) of the youngest veterans are being cared for by parents who are likely to need more caregiving support as they age.

Conditions for which veterans need help differ widely, depending on when and in which war they served, the report says.

Among key findings:

70% of caregivers say the veteran they help has a mental illness, such as depression, anxiety, or posttraumatic stress disorder. Nationally, mental or emotional health problems are reported by only 28% of caregivers.
29% of caregivers say their veteran has traumatic brain injury, 28% list diabetes, and 20% paralysis or spinal cord injury.

80% of veterans’ caregivers say they deal with two or more of the 10 specific conditions they were asked about, and 67% named additional conditions, with 24% mentioning problems such as bone, joint, or limb trouble, 12% hearing or ear problems, 9% heart conditions, and 9% neuropathy or nerve issues.
The time involvement for caregivers of veterans is also much greater than for other people, with 30% reporting being in their role for 10 years or more, compared to only 15% of caregivers of others nationally.

Toll of Caring for Veterans

“Not only are caregivers of veterans in their role for a longer period, but their burden of care is also heavier -- 65% are in a high-burden caregiving situation, compared to 31% nationally,” the report says. “The increased burden is due to a greater likelihood of helping with activities of daily living, including dressing, bathing, feeding and dealing with incontinence.”

The burden on caregivers also can affect their physical and mental health, the report says. Those who take care of veterans with mental problems, including PTSD and depression, are much more likely to report feeling emotionally stressed, isolated, and financially pressed. The report says that:

68% of caregivers of veterans feel highly stressed, compared to 31% of those who take care of other adults nationally.

Among the 30% of veterans’ caregivers who have children under 18 in their homes, two-thirds report spending less time with their kids than they would like.
57% of veterans’ caregivers said their children or grandchildren had emotional or school problems as a result of their caregiving or the veteran’s condition.
60% of caregivers report declines in healthy behaviors, such as going to the dentist or their own doctor.

The study was based on an online survey of adult caregivers who provide care to a veteran whose injury or illness is related to military service. The report also includes finding from focus groups that discussed caregiving and telephone interviews with people from the online survey. The report puts the total number of survey respondents at 462.

My wife Dori, had to quit working in the spring of 2003 as I was at the point I could not be left alone during the day, she turned into a full time care giver, luckily we are able to live on the SSD and VA benefits and her lost income from working did not leave us unable to pay our bills, it has cut down on some of the frills and spending on wants and the grand kids don't get everything they want.

I regret having to put her into this position but my health is what it is and that is not going to change, I am lucky that she has stuck by me as I have fallen apart, that part where they say thru sickness, richer or poorer I don't think they imagined the part where we turned our sposues into full time nurses. My depression has to have an affect on her, but she never complains, but I can see where many disabled veterans would have problems with family members being turned into full time care givers and there is no vacations for them, they deal with it 24/7 365 days a year, year in and year out.

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Medical care lacking, some veterans say

Medical care lacking, some veterans say

Specialty services often require traveling.
War may be hell, but peace is no little slice of heaven.

At least some of the county's military veterans feel that way about their post-service health care.

But others say they've been treated fairly once they hung up their uniforms.


Larry Garcia, who is retired from the military reserves and served in Iraq in 2004-2005, gets his lungs checked by Dr. Jeanette Paz Kuizon, at the VA Merced outpatient clinic in Merced.

Eli PaintedCrow has complained for years about the lack of medical services available for military veterans in Merced County.

The Veterans Affairs Merced Outpatient Clinic, whose parent company is the VA Central California Health Care System in Fresno, has limited services, PaintedCrow said. "They don't have therapists in Merced, period. The VA has never bothered to look for qualified therapists to work in Merced. They also don't provide physical therapy, which I'm in need of."

PaintedCrow, 50, who served in the U.S. Army and completed two tours of duty in Iraq, has to travel to the main facility in Fresno to get the services she needs -- and that's not easy. In addition to the long travel, appointments can be as much as two months away, she said. "They brag about being the No.1 in the nation, yet they fail to see the places that need correction, even if they've been told year after year about what's not happening in Merced County," she said of the VA Central California. "I really think Merced needs to improve its services."

While some veterans in Merced County have a tough time getting the services that are owed to them, others have had a positive experience, but say improvements could be made.

Antonio Talamantes, 27, who served in the Marine Corps, said he usually seeks services in Merced, but also travels to Fresno when he needs specialized services.

He was at the clinic in Merced recently and was told that he was going to have to travel to Fresno to get X-rays done. Talamantes, who suffers from lower-back pain, received a letter in the mail a few days later indicating his appointment to get the X-rays done is on Dec. 2. "That was pretty quick," he said.

Sean Hinds, acting program director for Public Affairs at the main facility in Fresno, said their goal is to see a patient within 30 days of the referral.

Talamantes said overall, he can't complain about the service in Merced or in Fresno. "I think they've been doing a really good job in helping us out," he said. Still, he said he "could always hope that there would be more doctors" at the clinic in Merced.

VA services in Merced

Shannon Deen, clinical nurse manager at the Merced clinic, said it has three primary care physicians. Two of them are full-time and one is part-time.

One of the providers is a woman, and she sees most of the female patients, Deen said. Overall, they serve more than 3,000 veterans in primary care.

There are about 12,000 veterans in Merced County. According to the most recent figures, as of 2008, there were an estimated 23.4 million living veterans in the U.S. Only about 8.4 million of them received veterans benefits and services that year, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Deen said the facility in Merced is mainly a primary care clinic. Mental health is provided, since they employ a psychologist and a psychiatrist. Lab work also is done in Merced.

Deen said the clinic is going to begin using a telehealth system. The system, which consists of a monitor and a camera, connects the patient with a provider via videostream. "It's going to allow us to prevent some of the travel to Fresno for specialty services," she said. "We will be able to connect people with a specialist, but the patient will come to Merced to be seen."

Depending on a patient's issue, providers in Merced will be able to take images and send them to Fresno to be examined. Deen said some specialist visits will still have to made to Fresno, but the new telehealth system will help reduce the number of trips.

The clinic also plans to expand other services, such as group therapy and diabetes education, among others.

According to Deen, the clinic in Merced will have to expand its staff as the demand increases. "Once we get enough patients to require more staff, we'll look at hiring," she added.

Hinds said the clinic in Merced used to be located in Atwater, but it was recently transferred to a new location in Merced on East Yosemite Avenue. He said the new location has more space to accommodate demand in Merced.

Deen said new veterans are welcome to stop by the clinic and register for services.

The VA Central California's budget is $164 million a year, Hinds said. The VA satellite clinics in Merced and in Tulare are under the same budget, and so is the new clinic in Oakhurst, which is scheduled to open in 2011.

Transportation to Merced and Fresno The Disabled American Veterans offers a shuttle service from Merced to the facility in Fresno, Deen said. Also, the clinic in Merced recently began a program to bring patients to the clinic from surrounding communities, such as Atwater, Los Banos, Turlock and Mariposa. To bring patients "into the clinic even from across town," she continued.

She said the transportation program will also help homeless veterans. There's a pickup point near a homeless shelter in Merced.

Other services for veterans in Merced County:

Merced County Veteran Services Officer Darren Hughes said the county helps veterans file claims and referrals for other services. He said the CVSO sees more than 2,000 office visits a year.

Hughes said his agency enjoys a 99 percent success rate in the claims that are awarded. The awarded claims bring in an average of $1.8 million a year in benefits.

The CVSO also helps bring in an average of $250,000 worth of college fee waivers per year, but not all of them are spent in Merced, Hughes said.

However, he said not all veterans are aware of these services. "It's always a challenge to reach out to every deserving veteran to make them aware that these benefits may be available to them," he added.

According to Hughes, many of their clients are still from the Vietnam era and a few from World War II. A couple of veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan also seek their services. "We serve all," he said.

Just as his clients did for their country.

Reporter Yesenia Amaro can be reached at (209) 388-6507, or
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I get all of my medical care from the VA health care system and I have since I became totally disabled in June 2002, and I have nothing but good things to say about it, but then I live near two major VAMC's the one in Augusta Ga which has two facilities Downtown and Uptown, and then I live 5 miles from Dorn VA in Columbia SC, I choose to drive to Augusta for my medical care as I like the doctors and support staff that work there, I have no respect for the people at Dorn, they treat veterans like they are a nuisance, rather than the reason they have a job.

Not all VA treatment facilities have all services and even at Dorn they send people to salisbury NC for some treatments, as far as I know Augusta VA treats all medical conditions.

Veterans that choose to live in small towns or near small VA community based clinics have made the shoice to accept the available care available to them, if they really wanted better healthcare they would move to a town or city that would allow them access to the services they want or desire, the VA will provide healthcare for all service connected veterans but no where have I ever seen where they said they would provide full medical facilties in every town in America, if you live in a town or the country you will have to travel to where the facility is, if you have a service connected issue they do pay veterans travel pay to get to these facilities.

I know I have extensive medical issues and I need to be near a major medical center due to my cardiac issues, so I bought a home near a VA medical center for this reason, my future is more medical care and I needed to be near a VA medical center so after I was medically retired I moved to be near a VA medical center, all veterans have that option, no one is forced to live anywhere. Is it not cost effective to build major VA facilties in every town in America, and it is not the VAs fault it is the fact of having a budget that Congress sets.

Not all VAMCs have PTSD lock down wards, not all of them do open heart surgery etc if you need these services they pay to transport the veteran to a facility that does provide these services or they authorize the service thru the fee-basis program in the local community.

I have seen far more satisfaction with VA health care than I have seen people upset with it, most veterans I know would much rather keep the VA health care system as it is today, than to go to a national health care card and be told we can go to any hospital or doctor for treatment and then they would close all the VA hospitals, no veterans I know advocates that type of system, VA doctors and nurses understand the medical issues that concern veterans, most if the issues and the causes are similar and veterans seem to enjoy being with other veterans when they are seriously ill and or hospitalized. Regardless of what branch they served in there is a brotherhood with all veterans regardless of what war, what branch etc. VA health care is still one of the most approved government services we have.

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