Category Archives: GI Bill

PTSD vets soon coming like tsunami

There is a scary article in the San Francisco Chronicle.  The article predicts a flood of new stressed out veterans as they return form Iraq and Afghanistan, many of whom are on the fast track to PTSD, depression, and other mental health disorders compared to previous wars.   I’ve reprinted a little of it below, but you can find the rest at this link where it is reproduced in SGate.com.   

A flood of stressed vets is expected

C.W. Nevius

Sunday, December 9, 2007

(…) omitted illustrative story about a vet (Tim Chapman) contemplating suicide, find it at the link. 

First a few facts. Bobby Rosenthal, regional manager for homeless programs at the Department of Veterans Affairs, estimates that one third of the more than 6,000 homeless people – about 2,100 – in San Francisco are veterans.

And no wonder the number is so high. California leads the nation in homeless veterans by a mile, according to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans. The 2006 numbers showed 49,724 homeless vets in California. The next nearest state was New York with 21,147.

Now here’s the scary part. Compared with what’s coming, that’s nothing.

Roughly 750,000 troops served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, often with multiple tours of duty. Many are only now returning home. But unlike Vietnam veterans, who didn’t begin to demonstrate post-war trauma until five or 10 years after they left the war, this group seems to be on a fast track.

“Everything is speeded up,” said Michael Blecker, executive director of San Francisco’s Swords to Ploughshares program. “What we’re seeing in San Francisco is guys in their 20s with the kind of stress and trauma that makes it impossible to go on with their lives.”

It’s been called a health care tsunami. Because not only are the Iraq vets prone to post-traumatic stress disorder (something Chapman has battled) but with improved battlefield health care, far more are surviving traumatic injury. On one hand, that’s good news, but it also means many more vets who are severely disabled, having lost arms and legs. Both factors increase the chances that the returning troops will join the sad ranks of homeless veterans.

Cities all over the country are bracing themselves, although some, like San Francisco, are bound to be hit harder. Mayor Gavin Newsom says that at a recent conference of mayors, the group passed a resolution asking the VA “to tell us what you are going to do.”   “It’s great lip service,” Newsom said, “but show me the money.”

If history holds, the mayors shouldn’t hold their breath. If anything, benefits for veterans have been restricted. To take one example, many of us think of the World War II G.I. Bill as a shining example of a reward for service, paying for college for vets. But Blecker, of Swords for Ploughshares, says the current version “is in no way, shape, or form near enough” to pay for a degree.

As Newsom says, “Yeah, support the troops – as long as they are young, healthy and a great photo op.”

For San Francisco, the potential impact could be huge. An influx of traumatized, battle-scarred veterans presents a scary future. Consider the case of Scott Kehler, a veteran of the first Gulf War, who needed years to work through his demons. He recalls passing burned bodies and the constant fear that an explosion would suddenly erupt in the street.

“It was the things I didn’t want to see at night when I closed my eyes,” Kehler said. “I didn’t know what PTSD was. I only knew my dreams, my shame, my guilt, was all coming together.”

(…) omitted a few details, go to link to get the rest.

Kehler, who is mentoring Chapman, is testimony to the effectiveness of the Ploughshares slogan – “veterans helping veterans.”

“Especially now that we’ve got our veterans coming home from Iraq,” said Ploughshares counselor Tyrone Boyd, “we’re going to need people that have been in combat so they know what they are talking about.”

The challenges are unique. Wanda Heffernon, a program and clinical counselor for Ploughshares, said they had a new inductee who slept in the closet. It was the only place he felt safe.

It’s the sudden transition that gets them.  “One day they are fighting in a war,” said Kehler. “The next day they are sitting at their mother’s kitchen table.”

Is it any wonder they end up on the street? Kehler battled alcohol abuse, but Chapman is part of the new breed, who turn to methamphetamine. Married when he returned, he lost his wife and all contact with his parents. Eventually he ended up sleeping in an alley.Now drug-free, living at Treasure Island housing, holding down a full-time job, and reconnected with his mother, he is testimony to the idea that peer counseling seems to work. Ploughshares has earned support from Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Imagine the impact it would have on the San Francisco homeless problem if one third of those on street were able to get help and housing.

But what the vets don’t have is funding.

“Why isn’t the federal government doing something about this? Why isn’t the Veterans Administration doing something?” Blecker asks. “The irresponsibility of our leaders, not to address this, makes me want to tear my hair out.”

The VA’s Rosenthal – who gets high marks from local leaders – says the problem is not being ignored.

“It’s a whole new set of challenges,” she said. “The VA is looking at it. Let’s hope we’ve learned our lesson from Vietnam.”

We can only hope.

“You know what scares me?” asks Boyd. “I haven’t heard a plan (from the federal government) about what they are going to do when the troops come home. What’s the plan?”

Well?

C.W. Nevius’ column appears Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday. His blog C.W. Nevius.blog can be found at SFGate.com. E-mail him at cwnevius@sfchronicle.com.

Oldtimer’s comment:  This story illustrates what I’ve said all along.  PTSD and TBI are leading causes of homelessness among veterans.  It is a rapidly growing problem, approaching flash flood conditions for our heroes returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.   A tsunamis of real people, not just numbers, real people with real names.  Somebody’s sons and daughters, husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters.  Real people, all in serious trouble, heroes in despair  … we should be crying.  We should be helping, we should be calling on congress, questioning our candidates. 

Where is your voice, America?

Oldtimer  

Returning Vets: GI Bill Failing Them

Returning Veterans:

GI Bill Earns Dunce Cap 

GI Bill earns dunce capGI Bill earns Dunce Cap 

 I found this story in today’s @issue section of the Atlanta Journal- Constitution.   The author is Ellis Henican who is a columnist for Newsday.   He makes a point that returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan arrive to an ugly surprise – the highly touted education they were promised is still limping along essentially at World War II rates of funding compared to actual costs of an education.   The GI Bill is failing them and failing us for the promises we make for our heroes that go off to war.

He says what too many of us have been saying for it not to be true:  Our members of Congress from both parties are constantly saying how much they support our troops, yet once again, they shortchange our warriors when they come home.    Read the excerpts and then go back to the link above and read the entire article:

Returning Vets find GI Bill earns dunce cap

by Ellis Henican 

Newsday

Published on: 11/30/07

They’re coming home, the lucky ones are, pulling their lives back together after harrowing times in the war zone.   And the GI Bill is there to help them, same as it was for “the greatest generation,” who returned to civilian society after World War II.

Um, well, not exactly.

American vets now coming back from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are facing an ugly surprise — and I don’t just mean the iffy health care at their local VA hospital. The educational benefits that sounded so alluring in those upbeat recruiting ads? They don’t come close to covering the real costs of college.

“Four hundred dollars? Are you kidding?” Army Reserve Spc. Sheila Pion said of her monthly stipend. “Just my textbooks cost $410.”

A seven-year reservist back home in Long Island City, N.Y., and attending John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Pion served at an Army hospital in Kuwait, tending to wounded soldiers. “It was important duty,” said Pion, 24. “I was happy to do it. But the whole point of me joining the military was to pay for my education. And the educational benefits are nothing like they lead you to believe.”

(…)

Under today’s GI Bill, regular-service combat vets get $1,101 a month, far less for fighting members of the National Guard and Reserve. No one’s going to Harvard or Columbia on that kind of money. And even to qualify, today’s soldiers are required to deposit $100 a month into their own education fund, months or years before they ever get a nickel back.

“A combat tax,” the troops have starting calling these paycheck deductions.

(…)  Read the rest at the link, please.

 “Supporting the troops”

should be more than just a slogan!

______________________________________________________

Note:  After posting this an hour or so ago, I came across this related information. 

Did you know that the “No Child Left Behind” act now carries a provision that requires primary schools (your child’s high school for example) to provide detailed contact information for every child in the school to military recruiters?

Military recruiters can blitz youngsters with uninvited phone calls to their homes and on-campus pitches replete with video war games. This is all possible under a little noted part of the law that requires schools to provide the names, addresses (campus addresses, too) and phone numbers of students or risk losing federal aid. The law provides an option to block the hard-sell recruitment – but only if parents demand in writing that the school deny this information to the military.

It is in the recruitment of lower middle class students, focused on minority blacks and Hispanics, where the education card is pushed hardest in order to meet the recruitment goals to fill the ranks of our military.  These are the kids most likely to see an educational opportunity as a blessing and also the most unlikely to realize that it will not be enough to get them a real education.  It is these recruits that are in most need that later find the GI Bill failing them most dramatically.

Oldtimer

 

Barack Obama: Veterans/Poverty Headlines and Video

Barack and Veterans Issues

Ok, I’m not trying to influence any votes here, nor run off any readers.  It’s just that I’m impressed with what I’ve heard said by Senator Obama regarding homelessness and veterans and what the press and veterans advocates have said.  I don’t know if you have seen them.   He does have the advantage of being a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committe.   I acknowledge that there are other important issues than veterans and homelessness to consider in a campaign, but that is what we are about here, so that is my focus.

I do have an couple of links to the Clinton side.  There is an equal-time segment at the bottom that will give you a look see between the top two Democratic candidates on veterans issues.   I may come back with more of this and feature a Republican or two later.  We will see how this plays out with my readers first.  Are you interested in politics?

BarackObamadotcom  (Video) Dinner with Barack Obama:  Four grassroots donors talk to Barack Obama about veterans and poverty during dinner.

I’ve mentioned Obama and Veterans in a previous post where he discusses his plan to improve veterans care and help get the homeless veterans off the streets as reported by a wire service.

Here are a few more headlines and links on this subject:

SEN. OBAMA: VETERANS ADMINISTRATION DENIED HEALTH CARE SERVICES TO NEARLY 9,000 ILLINOIS VETERANS IN 2005

Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) today announced that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) denied health care to 8,944 Illinois veterans last year as part of a Bush Administration cost-cutting policy begun in 2003. Nationally, more than 260,000 veterans were denied access to VA hospitals, clinics and medications in Fiscal
Year 2005

Clinton v. Obama, Veterans Version

The tit-for-tat between Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama has expanded to new territory:   veterans benefits.

This week, the “Commission on Care of America’s Wounded Warriors” issued recommendations for improving treatment for veterans who return injured from the front. Clinton and Obama responded the way members of Congress often do to government reports – with legislative language.  

(…)  explains different positions

Obama, McCaskill sponsor bill on care for veterans

Sens. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) are sponsoring legislation to improve the lives of recovering veterans at Walter Reed, while Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), a cosponsor of the Obama-McCaskill legislation, said that he would explore ways to direct new funds to Walter Reed and make immediate improvements to its veteran housing.

Barack Obama Honors Sacrifice of America’s Veterans

Barack Obama has a record of helping the heroes who defend our nation today and the veterans who fought in years past. As a grandson of a World War II veteran who went to college on the G.I. Bill and a member of the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs, Obama has successfully reached out to Republicans and Democrats to pass laws to combat homelessness among veterans, improve care for troops recovering from injuries, ease the transition of new veterans into society, and make the disability benefits process more equitable.

Veterans Issues  From Obama’s website

Homeless Veterans

Every year, 400,000 veterans across the country, including an estimated 38,000 in Chicago, spend some time living on the streets. Senator Obama has been a leader in fighting homelessness among veterans. He authored the Sheltering All Veterans Everywhere Act (SAVE Act) to strengthen and expand federal homeless veteran programs that serve over 100,000 homeless veterans annually. During the debate on the Fiscal Year 2007 budget, Senator Obama passed an amendment to increase funding for homeless veterans programs by $40 million. These funds would benefit programs that provide food, clothing, mental health and substance abuse counseling, and employment and housing assistance to homeless veterans.

Working with Senators Akaka and Craig, Senator Obama passed legislation in December 2006 to provide comprehensive services and affordable housing options to veterans through the Department of Veterans Affairs, Department of Housing and Urban Development and nonprofit organizations. This legislation was signed into law and is modeled on parts of the SAVE Act and the Homes for Heroes Act, a measure that Senator Obama had previously authored.

Benefits Disparities

The Bush Administration’s approach to handling veterans’ health care ignores the reality of increasing demands on the VA, and the additional burden placed on veterans. The Administration has established a means test for VA health care eligibility, and it has banned hundreds of thousands of veterans – some who make as little as $30,000 a year – from enrolling in the system. These changes affect both older and younger veterans, and Senator Obama has opposed them, fighting instead for greater funding for veterans’ health care.

Greater Funding for Veterans Health Care

In January 2007, Senator Obama reintroduced the Lane Evans Veterans Health and Benefits Improvement Act to improve the VA’s planning process to avoid budget shortfalls in the future. The bill requires the VA and the Department of Defense to work together and share data so that we know precisely how many troops will be returning home and entering the VA system.

Food for Recovering Soldiers

Senator Obama introduced an amendment that became law providing food services to wounded veterans receiving physical therapy or rehabilitation services at military hospitals. Previously, service members receiving physical therapy or rehabilitation services in a medical hospital for more than 90 days were required to pay for their meals.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
 

Senator Obama fought a VA proposal that would have required a reexamination of all Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) cases in which full benefits were granted. He and Senator Durbin passed an amendment that became law preventing the VA from conducting a review of cases, without first providing Congress with a complete report regarding the implementation of such review. In November 2005, the VA announced that it was abandoning its planned review.

Senator Obama passed an amendment to ensure that all service members returning from Iraq are properly screened for Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). TBI is being called the signature injury of the Iraq war. The blast from improvised explosive devices can jar the brain, causing bruising or permanent damage. Concussions can have huge health effects including slowed thinking, headaches, memory loss, sleep disturbance, attention and concentration deficits, and irritability.

Easing the Transition to the VA

Senator Obama passed an amendment that became law requiring the Department of Defense (DOD) to report to Congress on the delayed development of an electronic medical records system compatible with the VA’s electronic medical records system. DOD’s delay in developing such a system has created obstacles for service members transitioning into the VA health care system.

Part of the Lane Evans Veterans Health and Benefits Improvement Act, which Senator Obama reintroduced in January 2007, would help veterans transition from the DOD health system to the VA system by extending the window in which new veterans can get mental health care from two years to five years. The Lane Evans bill also would improve transition services for members of the National Guard and Reserves.

For Equal Time’s sake:

Compare Senator Obama’s site with Senator Clinton’s site, both on Veterans Issues.

Oldtimer