Category Archives: Army

Soldier Who Captured Saddam has PTSD, But VA says No! to war hero.

This is a story from 

By Dana Priest and Anne Hull
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, June 17, 2007; A01

Army Spec. Jeans Cruz helped capture Saddam Hussein. When he came home to the Bronx, important people called him a war hero and promised to help him start a new life. The mayor of New York, officials of his parents’ home town in Puerto Rico, the borough president and other local dignitaries honored him with plaques and silk parade sashes. They handed him their business cards and urged him to phone.

But a “black shadow” had followed Cruz home from Iraq, he confided to an Army counselor. He was hounded by recurring images of how war really was for him: not the triumphant scene of Hussein in handcuffs, but visions of dead Iraqi children.

In public, the former Army scout stood tall for the cameras and marched in the parades. In private, he slashed his forearms to provoke the pain and adrenaline of combat. He heard voices and smelled stale blood. Soon the offers of help evaporated and he found himself estranged and alone, struggling with financial collapse and a darkening depression.

At a low point, he went to the local Department of Veterans Affairs medical center for help. One VA psychologist diagnosed Cruz with post-traumatic stress disorder. His condition was labeled “severe and chronic.” In a letter supporting his request for PTSD-related disability pay, the psychologist wrote that Cruz was “in need of major help” and that he had provided “more than enough evidence” to back up his PTSD claim. His combat experiences, the letter said, “have been well documented.”

None of that seemed to matter when his case reached VA disability evaluators. They turned him down flat, ruling that he deserved no compensation because his psychological problems existed before he joined the Army. They also said that Cruz had not proved he was ever in combat. “The available evidence is insufficient to confirm that you actually engaged in combat,” his rejection letter stated.

Yet abundant evidence of his year in combat with the 4th Infantry Division covers his family’s living-room wall. The Army Commendation Medal With Valor for “meritorious actions . . . during strategic combat operations” to capture Hussein hangs not far from the combat spurs awarded for his work with the 10th Cavalry “Eye Deep” scouts, attached to an elite unit that caught the Iraqi leader on Dec. 13, 2003, at Ad Dawr.

Veterans Affairs will spend $2.8 billion this year on mental health. But the best it could offer Cruz was group therapy at the Bronx VA medical center. Not a single session is held on the weekends or late enough at night for him to attend. At age 25, Cruz is barely keeping his life together. He supports his disabled parents and 4-year-old son and cannot afford to take time off from his job repairing boilers. The rough, dirty work, with its heat and loud noises, gives him panic attacks and flesh burns but puts $96 in his pocket each day.

Once celebrated by his government, Cruz feels defeated by its bureaucracy. He no longer has the stamina to appeal the VA decision, or to make the Army correct the sloppy errors in his medical records or amend his personnel file so it actually lists his combat awards.

“I’m pushing the mental limits as it is,” Cruz said, standing outside the bullet-pocked steel door of the New York City housing project on Webster Avenue where he grew up and still lives with his family. “My experience so far is, you ask for something and they deny, deny, deny. After a while you just give up.”

An Old and Growing Problem

Jeans Cruz and his contemporaries in the military were never supposed to suffer in the shadows the way veterans of the last long, controversial war did. One of the bitter legacies of Vietnam was the inadequate treatment of troops when they came back. Tens of thousands endured psychological disorders in silence, and too many ended up homeless, alcoholic, drug-addicted, imprisoned or dead before the government acknowledged their conditions and in 1980 officially recognized PTSD as a medical diagnosis.

Yet nearly three decades later, the government still has not mastered the basics: how best to detect the disorder, the most effective ways to treat it, and the fairest means of compensating young men and women who served their country and returned unable to lead normal lives.

Cruz’s case illustrates these broader problems at a time when the number of suffering veterans is the largest and fastest-growing in decades, and when many of them are back at home with no monitoring or care. Between 1999 and 2004, VA disability pay for PTSD among veterans jumped 150 percent, to $4.2 billion.

By this spring, the number of vets from Afghanistan and Iraq who had sought help for post-traumatic stress would fill four Army divisions, some 45,000 in all.

They occupy every rank, uniform and corner of the country. People such as Army Lt. Sylvia Blackwood, who was admitted to a locked-down psychiatric ward in Washington after trying to hide her distress for a year and a half [story, A13]; and Army Pfc. Joshua Calloway, who spent eight months at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and left barely changed from when he arrived from Iraq in handcuffs; and retired Marine Lance Cpl. Jim Roberts, who struggles to keep his sanity in suburban New York with the help of once-a-week therapy and a medicine cabinet full of prescription drugs; and the scores of Marines in California who were denied treatment for PTSD because the head psychiatrist on their base thought the diagnosis was overused.

They represent the first wave in what experts say is a coming deluge.

As many as one-quarter of all soldiers and Marines returning from Iraq are psychologically wounded, according to a recent American Psychological Association report. Twenty percent of the soldiers in Iraq screened positive for anxiety, depression and acute stress, an Army study found.

But numbers are only part of the problem. The Institute of Medicine reported last month that Veterans Affairs’ methods for deciding compensation for PTSD and other emotional disorders had little basis in science and that the evaluation process varied greatly. And as they try to work their way through a confounding disability process, already-troubled vets enter a VA system that chronically loses records and sags with a backlog of 400,000 claims of all kinds.

The disability process has come to symbolize the bureaucratic confusion over PTSD. To qualify for compensation, troops and veterans are required to prove that they witnessed at least one traumatic event, such as the death of a fellow soldier or an attack from a roadside bomb, or IED. That standard has been used to deny thousands of claims. But many experts now say that debilitating stress can result from accumulated trauma as well as from one significant event.

Oldtimer’s comment:  This story makes my head hurt.  It turns my stomach.  These men and women are Heroes.  They deserve better.  We cry “support our troops”  and yet this is allowed to continue to grow worse.

It is this kind of service by the VA that ends up making Heroes homeless or living in poverty.     NOTE:  I’ve posted only a part of the story.  Please go to the link above for the rest of it!

Program for homeless N.H. vets could close

Program for homeless N.H. vets not funded

Something is wrong here.  

Something is very wrong!  

We seem to be backing up.   The article below is just one of many like it.   Federal funds in support of our homeless are drying up, and even worse, many homeless veterans that have found shelter are themselves cast out onto the streets.  At least Liberty House is determined to keep up the fight for our veterans.   Our government doesn’t seem to really care.   To paraphrase: “We cut the funds, but it is local yokels that decide where the remainder is used.”   

I’ve seen some of the inside workings of these interagency counsels.  It is kind of like, “they cut our funds for band-aids.  Which wound needs the dressings the most?  Where are the screams coming from?    Do we save that arm or let that leg go?   It is a fact of life that there are no good choices when there isn’t even close to enough money to go around and people are in serious trouble everywhere you look.    So they prioritize, hoping that HUD will not cut funding for the vets.    When an application has 6 choices and HUD chooses to fund the first 5, they are in effect saying, “the homeless veterans on the list are not worth our money”.   Even the VA shortchanges our homeless vets – they allocate only a net of $1.37 a day per homeless veteran.  

Find the rest of this story here

Program for homeless N.H. vets could close 

By PHILIP ELLIOTT, The Associated Press
Published: Wednesday, Mar. 14, 2007

CONCORD – A temporary home for homeless veterans in Manchester will lose its entire federal budget next year, officials said Tuesday. Liberty House received $150,000 over the past three years from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, founder Don Duhamel said. But the money wasn’t included in the proposed federal budget. “We’re fighting for our life,” Duhamel said. “We’re going to have to go out and beg and whatever and find other sources.”Liberty House was at the bottom of Manchester’s six-item, $881,000 HUD application. The agency funded the first five requests and awarded them $723,000. It also set aside $82,000 for emergency shelters. “We don’t pick and choose the projects to receive funding in any local community,” HUD spokesman Brian Sullivan said. Those are chosen by local interagency committees, he said. Liberty House didn’t make the cut. “There’s only so much money that HUD gives,” said Paul Crawford, chair of Manchester’s board that reviews potential federal homeless programs. “We’ve been waiting for six months to hear. It wasn’t until the federal budget for the last year was done that we could find out.” Mary Sliney helped coordinate the city’s applications. She said outside experts in homelessness reviewed the proposals and ranked them.Liberty House has 10 beds for homeless vets and recently started letting another two sleep on couches, Duhamel said.

“I’ll be damned if we’re going to close our door,” he said. “We’re taking them off the street and sending them back out there as taxpayers. We want to get them a job, an apartment, have them walk out of here as taxpayers and living a clean life.”

Duhamel pointed to the growing number of Iraq war vets as a reason to keep funding his program.

“They are giving us a hard time and this is when they need us the most. With this kind of war and all these brain injuries, they’re going to be hurting for the next 20 years,” he said.

Sliney agreed that veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan need attention. 

“This is a critical time as we’re looking at the folks who are the new veterans from our current wars,” Sliney said. “This is something we need to pay attention to.”

Oldtimer’s comment:

Wave more than just flags ’cause…

 Heros are out there too.

For all homeless Veteran Posts

VA Allocates $1.37 per Homeless Vet per day.

Maybe an egg biscuit and water?   What kind of Hero treatment is that?   It is little wonder that the VA can only host the homeless with a Stand Down once a year.   Let’s look at the facts as provided by the Veteran’s Administration:

 (This is a two day’s ration, about $2.60)

Photo by  Carey Tilden    

The Veteran’s Administration says this about its homeless program: 

“VA is the only federal agency that provides substantial hands-on assistance directly to the homeless. It has the largest network of homeless assistance programs in the country.  More than 10,000 transitional housing units and 2,000 permanent beds case managed by VA staff are available for homeless veterans throughout the country.”

There is a back side to that in the same paragraph: 

“More than $200 million is dedicated to specialized homeless programs to assist homeless veterans, including grants and per diem payments to more than 300 public groups.”

And the VA says this on the homeless webpage:

“About one-third of the adult homeless population have served their country in the Armed Services. On any given day, as many as 200,000 veterans (male and female) are living on the streets or in shelters, and perhaps twice as many experience homelessness at some point during the course of a year. Many other veterans are considered near homeless or at risk because of their poverty, lack of support from family and friends, and dismal living conditions in cheap hotels or in overcrowded or substandard housing.”

Ok, lets see how this all adds up.   200 million funding per year, 400,000 homeless veterans per year and 200,000 homeless any one night.  That is $500 per year per homeless hero ($1.37 per day) spread across all programs including grants, per diem and 300 public groups .    

A dollar-thirty-seven a day.  No wonder the vets like being homeless so much – they are getting rich off the per diem!  Oh -wait – I forgot this isn’t 1807, it is 2007!    Hoo boy, what a rip. 

Wait… we are about to forget about the beds!  The VA’s  2005 VA CHALENG  report says 7688 beds, the VA’s PR report says 10,000 transitional (not permanent) beds and 2000 permanent beds.  So we give them the benefit of the doubt 12,000 beds. 

OK where are the other 188,000 homeless veterans going to sleep?   Oh, yeah right, down to only 16 vets per bed from the 25 using the other numbers.   Still ok for cold nights, cosy even. 

I read from several of the faith-based community providers that the VA gives them $30 a day to house a homeless veteran.   If that is the case, 200 million dollars would fund a total of 18,265 beds for a year, if no other programs used any of the money.   Still short about 181,000 beds, or else 15 vets per bed.  

But then, these are only Heroes that used to fight wars, not troops to be supported anymore.   After all, what have they done for us lately? A better question is, “what have we done for them lately?”  These men and women that served our country in time of war deserve 10,000 times better.

Our Heroes are still out there – just look in any alley and along any creek.   Forty three percent of all homeless men are veterans, virtually all overlooked by our country. 

We need to hold our heads down and cry!

Oldtimer’s Comment:  Click For All homeless veterans articles

Homeless Bedlam: 25 to the Bed!

Data taken from the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans.   The following table shows the number of beds funded by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Homeless Providers Grant and Per Diem Program in each state compared to the estimated number of homeless veterans reported in each state. This information was taken from the 2005 VA CHALENG Report and tabulated and published by the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans. 

AK              0              450
AL             42              816
AR             40           1,350
AZ           199           3,637
CA         1,875         49,546
CO           102           3,895
CT           103           4,675
DC             43           2,400
DE             15              500
FL            430          19,394
GA           165           5,715
HI            118             800
IA              56              615
ID              10              350
IL             136           2,243
IN             108          1,300
KS             47              620
KY           115              963
LA           150           10,897
MA          378            1,680
MD          241           3,100
ME              0               120
MI           139           2,910
MN            23              493
MO            82           4,800
MS             60           1,136
MT             17             247
NC           182           1,601
ND              0           1,000
NE             12              460
NH            36              350
NJ           142           6,500
NM           30              902
NV          201            4,600
NY          274          12,700
OH          261          1,898
OK            27             770
OR          159          6,940
PA          332          2,691
RI             23             175
SC           110         1,375
SD            42            165
TN          241         2,500
TX          233       15,434
UT          145           585
VA            86           911
VT            10            20
WA         167         6,567
WI          209           915
WV          41           357
WY          31           111
PR             0            75

TOTAL 7,688    194,254

YES!  You are seeing what you think you are seeing.  Less than 8000 beds for nearly 200,000 veterans.    

Government Standard?   25 Veterans per bed.    

Repeat after Me:  That Ain’t Right!   That Just Ain’t Right!

Our heroes deserve better than that.

Support All our troups – past present future

Click for all homeless Veteran posts
 Click for all homeless Youth posts

Homeless Veterans Chart 1997-2006 Changes

INTERNATIONAL UNION OF GOSPEL MISSIONS Veteran’s Survey –  1997  and 2006  

The original survey of more than 1,200 veterans was conducted in 1997  by 58 Rescue missions around the nation.   Today I asked the AGRM if they had any updated information and Phil Rydman, Director of Communications of the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions in Kansas City was kind enough to immediately send me summary data for years 1990 through 2006 which was  collected in their extensive yearly surveys.   Data on veterans was collected beginning 1997.     

NOTE from Oldtimer:  The Data is from AGRM, the charts are mine.   

Where did you serve?

  •                   1997             2006
  • Korea            1o%               4%           
  • Vietnam         42%              39%
  • Gulf War         10%              16%

 Chart 1997 vs 2006 homeless veterans

You can see that the Korean Veterans are now declining due to death and age, whereas the Gulf War veterans are increasing.   The year by year data (not shown here)  shows a sharp peak for the Korean homeless veterans in 1998 (16%) and a sharp decline beginning in 2002.    The year by year data also shows that the Gulf War homeless veterans had gradual increas to 2005, but then  a sharp jump (12% to 16%) in numbers from 2005 to 2006.

(The AGRM serves 32 million meals and provide 14 million nights of lodging each year.   What a blessing this organization is.  I thank them for collecting and sharing this data.)

These Heroes are still out there!  Support these troops too!

Oldtimer’s Comment:  Click For All homeless veterans articles

Survey of 1,200 Homeless Veterans

INTERNATIONAL UNION OF GOSPEL MISSIONS Veteran’s Survey – October, 1997 This survey of more than 1,200 veterans was conducted in late October by 58 Rescue missions around the nation

NOTE from Oldtimer:  The Data is from IUGM, the charts are mine. 

1. Which branch of the service were you in?

    Army 49%
    Navy 19%
    Marines 19%
    Air Force 12%
    Coast Guard 1%

    Homeless Vets service

2. Which of the following (if any) are true:

    I served in Korea during the Korean War 10%
    I served in Vietnam during the Vietnam Conflict 42%
    I served in the Persian Gulf region during the Gulf War 10%

    Theatre Served

3. The total number of years you spent in the armed forces:

    Less than 2 yrs 25%
    3-4 yrs 44%
    5-6 yrs 15%
    7-9 yrs 7%
    10+ yrs 9%

4. In what decade did you leave the armed forces?

    Before 1950 4%
    1950 – 1959 11%
    1960 – 1969 20%
    1970 – 1979 33%
    1980 – 1989 20%
    1990 – 1997 12%

5 What type of discharge did you receive?

    Honorable 71%
    General 17%
    Medical 7%
    Dishonorable 5%

    Discharge Type

6. You are:

    Male 96%
    Female 4%

7. You are :

    Caucasian 51%
    African-American 37%
    Hispanic 6%
    Other 6%

Notice that only a very few homeless have dishonorable discharges.   Most of our homeless veterans have honorable discharges!    These veterans do not deserve to be treated like this!

Oldtimer’s Comment:  Click For All homeless veterans articles