Category Archives: veteran

Vietnam Veteran Loses Arm for Second Time

Teresa Yonkers of the Florida VA Team  aka Soldier’s Angels asked for me to help put out the following alert copied from their website:

(Click picture for video)

Vietnam Veteran Mitch Robertson and his wife Vickie left their home in Montebello, Virginia for their vacation in Destin, Florida. On their way they stopped in Gaffney, South Carolina at a hotel for the night. When they woke up their vacation had turned bad.

Mitch and Vickie went out to their car and found that someone had broken in and stolen their bags. In one of those bags was a Prosthetic Arm that helped give Mitch his freedom.

Mitch had lost his entire left arm when his helicopter crashed in Vietnam. The prosthetic arm that was stolen is a bionic model that was made specifically for Mitch. Mitch not only has lost his arm but is also slowly dying from Agent Orange. The new bionic arm gave him hope that his remaining years would be easier and that it would give him the freedom to do things he hasn’t done in 38 years.

Mitch put out a plea saying that who ever broke into his vehicle can keep his suitcase full of clothes and even the electronics that he had in there for his boat but please give him back his arm.

Our own Lori Tucker, SouthEast Regional Manager for the VA Team contacted Mitch and Vickie today. Lori asked Vickie what can Soldiers’ Angels do to help. Vickie’s response: For right now please just help us get the word out.

So to help this Veteran get his freedom back I’m posting this.

Here is some information on how to spot the bag:

-The arm is in a black and yellow duffell bag
-MHC Prosthetics is written on the bag
-the charger in the bag has the phone number of the company who made the arm

Link to Video   (from Channel 7)

(or click picture above)

Any one in the Gaffney, South Carolina area should be on the lookout and with ears wide open.  It is not likely the thief will try to pawn it or to sell it, but it is likely they will keep it around for the novelty of it and word will get around, so if you hear something from your kids or neighbors about someone with an extra arm or showing one off, or if you find one discarded somewhere, or it is donated somewhere, please call the direct number to the manufacturer 1- (540)-292-1165  (number is on the charger) or contact me through my blog or contact the Florida Angels througth their website and also the local police and give them this story.  If you have a blog of your own, consider posting this story there also!

Oldtimer

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VA overrates its success stories

VA overrates its success stories

This problem was first brought to light by an article written by Chris Adams that appeared in the Ledger Enquirer in an article printed May 11, 2007.  

The McClatchy Newspapers study shows that the VA has “habitually exaggerated” its success stories in ways that would assure Congress that the agency is doing a good job of caring for our soldier heroes.   The indented areas below are details taken from the article linked above.  Large portions of the original article are omitted and others paraphrased.  You should take the time to read the original article in its entirety to get all the details.  

The agency has touted how quickly veterans get in for appointments, but its own inspector general found that scheduling records have been manipulated repeatedly.

For example, on Oct. 2, 2003, a veteran was referred to an ophthalmology clinic. On May 3, 2004, a scheduler created an appointment, saying the “desired date” was June 21. The appointment was scheduled for June 23, the inspector general said.

Actual waiting time: 264 days. Reported waiting time: two days. Some schedulers even kept “informal waiting lists” to consult when they were ready to make formal appointments.

The VA boasted that its customer service ratings are 10 points higher than those of private-sector hospitals, but the survey it cited shows a far smaller gap.

The article details how that the gap narrows to 3 points (still favorable but not nearly 10 points higher) when adjusted to the same conditions.  

Regarding the key issue of PTSD treatment, the VA said this about the PTSD treatment teams: “There are over 200 of them,” Dr. Michael Kussman told a congressional subcommittee. He indicated that they were in all of the agency’s roughly 155 hospitals.

When McClatchy asked for more detail, the VA said that about 40 hospitals didn’t have the specialized units known as “PTSD clinical teams.” Committees in the House of Representatives and the Senate and experts within the VA have encouraged the agency to put those teams into every hospital.  

Dr. Jonathan Perlin, then the top VA health official, said in a radio interview that RAND “compared VA care to 12 other health-care organizations, some of the best in the country,” and found VA superior. Studies such as RAND’s showed the agency’s care to be “the best that you can get in the country,” he said.

Kussman wrote in a statement to McClatchy earlier this year that RAND “recently” reported that veterans “receive better health care than any other patients in America.”

The VA’s public affairs department wrote in a magazine that the study “was conducted by the RAND Corporation, an independent think tank,” as well as researchers from two universities.

Those are pretty lofty statements, but as it turns out, the RAND study was neither fully independent nor all that recent. A VA grant helped pay for it. Two of its main authors had received VA career-development awards, and four of its nine listed authors were affiliated with the agency, according to the study’s documentation.

It was published in 2004 but used data from 1997 to 1999, when the system treated far fewer patients than it does now.  In additon, the “12 other health care organization” were not organizations at all but 12 health care regions under many mixed organizational entities.

Once again, we see some deliberate misleading statements from the VA, often directly to Congress.  Yet they seem to get away with it.  

Oldtimer

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  

Thanksgiving, Wounded Marine Welcomed Home

Wounded Marine Welcomed Home

Community Renovated Home –

Gives Hero Welcome

The following story is local to me.  I live in the countryside between Marietta and Hiram Georgia.  The distances are about the same to each, although my entire family grew up inside the city of Marietta and all live there, children and grandchildren, all except for myself and wife.  My wife was born there and I lived within the city more than 50 years of my life and so it is home.  We always go to Hiram to get our barbeque and my artist’s supplies and do some shoping there.   The birthplace of some of my wife’s ancestors is in Hiram.

It is with great interest that I report this story, and I wish there were a Hiram news outlet that I could get so that I would have known about this project before I read it too late to help.

I have to applaud everyone that helped out here and add them to my good neighbor list.   I found the story on our Atlanta Channel 11 news, 11 Alive News and copied some of it here.  Go to the link to read the rest.  Great reporting on our local Hero.

Blair Meeks reports

Justin KinneeJustin Kinnee

Last Modified: 11/22/2007

He wasn’t supposed to live, but a Marine from Hiram (Georgia) gets a Thanksgiving homecoming that gives his family new life. Corporal Justin Kinnee was on foot patrol in Iraq two years ago when an IED exploded two feet away from him.

Kinee lost 90 percent of his blood, which caused a stroke and then paralysis. He fought his way out of a coma and then learned to walk again. Now, thanks to the community, he’s coming home to a completely renovated home.

The rolling thunder of American Legion Riders rumbled into Hiram. Deputies and police officers from the community joined in the escort. They called it a heroes welcome, and as former military men walk to shake the hand the man they’re calling hero, that hero makes it obvious he’s uncomfortable in the glare of this attention.

Dozens of people, businesses and church groups came together to renovate the house for Kinnee and his mother, who helps with his care.

Karen Allen, project coordinator said, “There are a lot of people that honestly appreciate our military and they appreciate the job they’re doing sense they really are fighting for our freedom.”

Two years of hospitals and surgery and he’s back on his feet. His new community is helping make sure he stays that way. It’s difficult to find the words to say thanks.

“Especially a community that I don’t even know.. would want to come and thank me. It’s like speaking Chinese to me, I don’t know what that is and I don’t know how to respond to that,” Kinnee said.

A Marine, not used to hearing thanks, hears in it a big way from an entire community.

“It’s the house that God built,” said Hazel Kinnee, his mother.

Kinnee still has a lot of recovering to do. His left arm is still paralyzed. His face is still numb, but he will probably be out of the Marines by January or February. Then it’s on to his new life.

This is the way we should treat our Heroes

Oldtimer

Driver Prevented From Wearing Hat Honoring Veterans

Bus Driver Prevented From Wearing Hat

Honering Veterans

Reported By: Valerie Hoff   (link also has video of this story)
Web Editor: Michael King
Last Modified: 5/25/2007 
Veteran, hat in disputeA Gwinnett County bus driver wanted to show support for veterans who lost their lives fighting for our country. So today, the last day before Memorial Day, he wore a patriotic hat. 

Gary Rolley, who’s a vet himself, said he was ordered to take the hat off. A supervisor told him it wasn’t part of his uniform.  Rolley is proud of the four years he served in the Navy. He is proud to be an American.   “I love my country,” he said.

Rolley said he is paying tribute to all veterans by wearing his American Legion hat, but the he said that didn’t’ go over well with his bosses at the Gwinnett County Transit Authority.  “The supervisor said, ‘You are you have uniform; you have to take that hat off.’ I explained this was a hat I wear for the holiday.”

Rolley said he continued to wear the hat on his bus route.  “As we were going down the road, a second supervisor radioed me. He said, ‘What do you have on your head?’ I said, “Why are you asking me that?” And he said ‘Take that hat off now,'” Rolley explained.

Rolley said he turned the bus around and went back to headquarters.  “I said ‘I’m sorry, I got sick over this. I’m sick to my stomach, and I’m going home sick’,” Rolley said. “I turned around and I left.”  Rolley said patriotic hats have been allowed in the past, and Santa hats are allowed at Christmastime, so he doesn’t understand why the rules have changed.

“It’s just to me a slap in the face to our veterans,” Rolley said.  He said he wore the hat on Friday because he has the day off on Monday — Memorial Day. He said he plans to spend Monday honoring American veterans.  The general manager of the Gwinnett County Transit Authority said that Rolley was asked nicely to wear the proper uniform, and he opted to go home. John Autry said there is a standard issue hat that all bus drivers are required to wear.

Way to go Rolley.   I support you – America supports you.   We need to honor our fallen and all our Heroes in uniform or who have worn it in the past .

Oldtimer 

Click for all homeless veteran posts 

Homeless Veteran in Ohio cites Cat, “Companion Animal” as therapy

Companion Animal – One Cat Dose 

The following is from a blog by a disabled veteran living in NE Ohio.  He has been blogging since June of 2006 about his life and his attempts to negotiate through the VA system for medical care and also into some sort of housing.   I’ve had a copy of this article for some time because I was doing a little research on the homeless-with-pets problem.  Most shelters will not allow pets, and thus disenfranchise shelters as an option for many.   This homeless vet has at least been able to do some couch surfing with friends, but only those that allow a cat in the house.   Some won’t, but he can’t function without it.    He is working on a disability claim for 10 months now and is stewing over whether or not the VA will let him keep his cat if they find him an affordable place. 

The following came from his June 2006 archiveSee his blog here

Since last July when I became homeless, I have had to pare down even more of my belonging, throwing a lot of stuff out. Last July, between garbage and GoodWill bags — we counted 28. I really used to be an “adult” — a rack of kitchen small appliances, formal dining room, china, flatware, full living room, “home office”, guest bed, my own washer&dryer, all of that “adult” stuff, and now here I am, 30-something, with my “world” in a rented storage bay, trying to find a place to sleep where my cat is welcome too.

“Housed-homeless”, it seems like such a strange concept, but there’s probably more of us “couch surfing” veterans than anyone is counting as “officially” homeless

As to VA Homeless resources: the biggest set-back to me accessing VA homeless assistance right now is my cat. My social worker and [new!] psychiatrist have very well documented the fact that during the 10 months my disability claim was re-opened and still now that I am waiting on my I.U. claim — one singular thought “my cat can’t feed herself” has kept me from doing really stupid things more times than I can count.

In January, my psychiatrist amusingly asked me if I was OK with just one cat or if I felt I needed to “move up to a two cat dose.” No crap, he really asked me that! I told him that if she had a playmate, she would probably ignore me, so one cat works plenty fine for me. 8lbs of nothing but fuzz and cuddles can really make a difference on an ugly day.

They won’t let me move without her, and finding open space with any friends where both of us are welcome is really tough. It’s true, she does keep me alive, so I can’t really argue with them, but trying to find yet another place where both of us are welcome drives me completely insane whenever I wear out my welcome where I am at. The VA prefers that I spend $20/month on food and litter, rather than ask them to spend several thousand dollars to keep me inpatient every time the world looks really black and I can’t even fathom as far as “lunchtime tomorrow.”

Every time it takes me weeks to find somewhere I can keep her with me and actually have to consider the reality that I might just have to give her up — yes, my world falls apart. My cat is listed as a “companion animal” in my records, not as a pet, but do you think the VA is doing much to help me find an affordable place where I can keep her? Cats are not the VA’s job.

Oldtimer’s Comment:  Click for All Homeless Veteran Posts