Category Archives: veterans

Invisible Wounds of War Report Available for Download

The Rand Corp. recently released a 499 page report titled “Invisible Wounds of War”.   This report was briefly summarized by numerous news articles and Internet reports, including my previous article. 

I’m happy to say that the entire report is available for free download online, or you can purchase a hard copy for $50 from the Rand Corporation through their online bookstore (link below).

Here is the link to the downloadable report which has details not reported elsewhere.  I strongly urge you to at least scan the entire report.   The subtitle is:

Psychological and Cognitive Injuries,

Their Consequences, and Services to Assist Recovery

 

 

TERRI TANIELIAN AND LISA H.  JAYCOX, EDITORS

 

 

Download here   (2.9 mb full report)

or here  (200KB summary).

You can find the Rand Bookstore with these links here  

Oldtimer

  

 

20% of Iraq, Afghanistan Soldiers Have Depression or PTSD

Veteranstoday.com

Half of Depression and PTSD affected troops untreated

A study published by the Rand Corporation shows that of the 300,000 troops affected by mental disorders of depression or PTSDless than half have been treated.   Yes, that is 150,000 untreated heroes on active dury or recently released to the streets without proper treatment according to this independent study.

Picture from Veterans Today site.  Find it Here

The sad news continues…  About one in five, about 20%, of our Iraq and Afghanistan active dury and veterans suffer from depression or PTSD.

The Rand study says that too many soldiers and Marines are still slipping through the cracks since the symptoms of depression and PTSD can appear months after an incident, and many mental problems that appear later may never be caught, the study said.

The RAND study interviewed 1,965 current and former service members and asked them how many had suffered from PTSD within the previous 30 days and suffered from depression within the previous two weeks.

  • “We have tried to generate this estimate across the entire deployed population,” said Terri Tanielian, one of the study’s authors. “We are looking at the scope of the problem now among the population back in the United States.”

The study shows that 19.5% of veterans had received a concussion or other traumatic brain injury during their combat tour.    The study found that some service members actively avoid a diagnosis of a mental health problem due to a fear of negative consequences of such a diagnosis.    The worry is that co-workers would have less confidence in them after a diagnosis and thus impact their career.

  • “When we asked folks what was limiting them from getting the help that they need, among the top barriers that were reported were really negative career repercussions,” Tanielian said.

Please read the rest of this article (paraphrased above) here:  Veterans Today.

You can get a different take at Medical News Today.  They report that 30% of our soldiers that are on their third or fourth tour have expressed emotional illnesses as gleaned from 2295 anonymous responses to the survey (11.9 % first tour soldiers, 18.5% second tour, 27.2% third tour).

And from the Associated Press at the Atlanta Journal Constitution website.

I encourage you to write the candidates at every government level and all of our current congressmen to encourage them to show their support by increasing the help for these wonderful men and women that have served our country.  Let’s serve them now!

Help our Heroes!

Housewarming for Al

Housewarming! 

For Al !!

Al Jordan, our homeless veteran friend moved into veteran’s transitional housing on April 1, 2008.  He is still excited.   Pat Shankle of Georgia Home Staging with the help of husband Scott and friends staged his new apartment.  That means she selected the furnishings from the warehouse of MUST Ministries, added other stuff such as pictures, decorations, pillows, kitchen and dining room stuff and then professionally decorated the entire apartment – living room, bedroom, kitchen and dining room.   Pat does this for a living, normally staging houses for sale in order to make them more attractive, leading to quicker sale.   She also staged a home for our last Habitat homeowner, Joi.  Pat has said she is negotiating with MUST to stage a number of additional apartments as part of her homeless ministry.  Admire her work in the following pictures.

Als Apartment entry

Entry to Al’s new apartment.

Some of Als friends from our church gave him a housewarming dinner last night (April 3).   It was a great event for Al and his new housemate, Danny.  

Danny, Pat, Al

Danny McDaniel, Pat Shankle, Al Jordan

The food was catered by our Wednesday night dinner food experts.  It was GREAT eating.

Shrimp!  Chicken was also avialable

Shrimp!  Bacon and green beans.  Chicken was also available.  Desert consisted of ice cream with hot fudge.

Here are a few pictures of Als apartment taken while he gave us the grand tour:

Als Bedroom

Als Bedroom

Car tag

Prized car tag in window! for when he can afford a car.  Link to Macland Presbyterian

Bedroom

Another view of Al’s bedroom. 

Kitchen

Kitchen.  The fridge is opposite the stove.  Yes that is a coffee grinder in the far left corner and bags of Starbucks (gifts) on the shelf.

Dining room

Dining nook and lighting

Now to the gifts and people.  Al’s guests came with gifts ranging from DVD players to $50 gift cards and more than a few misty moments as Al opened them and read the cards.   Here are a few photos:

Ladies and Al

As ususal, all the ladies sat on one side of the room and the gents on the other.  And yes, Al is working with a hankie at the moment.

Cross

Admiring the Cross

Al with Pastor Ray Jones III

Our Pastor, Ray Jones III with Al. 

Towels

More gifts, in this case towels and other bathroom supplies

Scott Shankle

Pat’s husband Scott.

Jeff Staka

Jeff Straka.   You may remember him from our meeting with the Police Chief in an earlier blog.

I think we were all as pleased as Jeff appears to be in this photo with the outcome of our first venture into the homeless world.    Al and Danny seemed pleased too.   Although there are not many pictures of Danny here, he was not left out of the festivities and joined in our meal and prayers as well as shared in the joy of the moment for Al.

Danny and Al seem to be very comfortable house mates and will get along well together.  Danny, also a veteran in the program, has a car and has offered to drive Al to our Wednesday night dinner and to Church.  Looks like we have made a new friend there as well.  Danny’s is a different story where he once was married to the daughter of one of the biggest landowners in this area and now struggling to climb out of homelessness.

We also met a bear of a man, Jon who came in to check the refrigerator.  He is also a veteran, lives on the property and maintains/repairs anything that needs fixing.  This is a 20 unit complex entirely devoted to transitional housing for homeless veterans.   With two men to a unit, 40 veterans are served.  Jon said he is enrolled in the STEP program.   Nether Danny nor Al are enrolled in treatment programs, though they are required to find and keep jobs and eventually work their way out of the housing.

Part of the challange is this:  The entire complex is surrounded by woods habitated by other homeless men, somewhat envious of their neighbors.   The area is a high crime area including drugs.   Part of Jon’s job is to keep the area clear of anyone not residents of the complex.   It seems to be working.  I found the complex clean and nicely kept. 

I was well pleased with the housing situation.   This complex is funded by HUD and run by MUST ministries with grants from HUD.   Something just feels right about this situation.

Slide Show

Here is a slideshow with includes all of the pictures taken by me at the dinner, 47 in all.  Enjoy

Oldtimer

Good News, Good News!

Good News Today

There was particularly good news to report today.    Our homeless friends Al J. and Steve W. have both been assigned a place to live, but we are not talking just a shelter here!  They are excited, I mean really excited.  So is the group at our church that has been working with them so very long.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Al, surprised by the flash.

Al is a homeless veteran.  He had been living in the woods for quite some time.  When our small group first met him he was resistant to the idea of moving out of the woods.   He was heavily bearded with wild long hair and looked pretty ragged.   “I like it here,” he said.    Of course, it was not true.  Later he admitted that he was resigned to living in the woods and never expected to get out.   “I like it here” was just a way of coping.

That was before several families in our Church began to develop real relationships with the homeless they were feeding breakfast to on Sunday mornings.    By relationships, I mean friendships, and true bonds.   This extended beyond just providing food and supplies, beyond inviting them to Church, Sunday School and Wednesday night dinners.   It included true friendships and love for fellow man. 

When Al complained that “I smell,” and said he was uncomfortable in church looking like a tramp, Scott and Pat took him to their home where he showered and put on newly cleaned clothes.   Scott then took him to his son’s hair salon where he was treated like royalty and given a full shampoo, shave and haircut to the astonishment of other customers.    How do you want your hair today, Sir?  Does that look ok, Sir?   

Al looked like and felt like a new man.  Transformed, ready at last to come out of the woods, ready to not be homeless any more.    Somehow he has managed to maintain his neat appearnce despite continuous living in the deep woods.   The homeless ministry team followed through and helped Al get his VA papers.  He said he did not even know he was elgible for help through the VA.   The ministry team managed to get him signed up for the new veteran’s transitional housing program at MUST.   The papers, however, were a long time coming.  Far too long.

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two pictures of Steve.

 

 

 

Steve turns out to be an energetic worker, jack of all trades, experienced in all sorts of construction work.  I know.  He has worked for several families in our church and for me.  

I found that he is an excellent carpenter and never slows down.   When he runs out of a job, he picks up a broom or rake, or starts the next phase.   He is also very dependable and has an excellent outlook on life.   I found out that he is experienced in renovation of old houses and had once owned a house just two blocks from the one my wife grew up in.  He gave it up to his wife and began a long downward spiral from there to homelessness. 

When we first met Steve, he lived in a tarp in a pine thicket between two buildings.  After the police raids in the area and Dominic froze to death, he applied to MUST Ministries for entry into their resident’s progam and was eventually accepted.   He said he “did not want to end up like Dominic”.   Steve is the one in the video talking about Dominic that I posted a few weeks ago.    He and Al have attended Sunday School, Church services and Wednesday night dinners almost every week.  That is a bible he is carrying in the left picture above.

Members of our church sponsored Steve and Al to a family church retreat over a recent weekend.  Al said it was the “most fun I’ve had since I was a child”.  Steve said it was a “wonderful experience”.

 Well, the good news came from both of them today.  Al has been accepted into a veteran’s transitional housing program and Steve into a supportive housing program.  Both through MUST Ministries.    Both start April 1.    Our homeless ministry team is planning to have a dinner for them in celebration.  It will be quite a celebration and with many thanks to God for His Grace.

It has turned out to be a great day.  God is good!  

 

 

 

 

When Laws Should not be Enforced

Oldtimer’s comment, added on the 25th:  I warned the Mayor on the 21st, he called me on the 22d, I posted this article on the 23d,  and today I found out that Dominic, a homeless friend was found frozen to death huddled behind a local business on the 22d.  It means the Mayor likely already knew about the death when he said NO! to the moritorium and delay until warmer weather.  Now read the whole story and my warnings.  I predict we will find homeless people dead in various hiding places until spring.  Our Mayor and his Council are directly responsible for not heeding the numerous warnings from the community!  They cut up their tents, put their sleeping bags and clothing in garbage trucks and sent them into 19 degree weather to die.  The remainder is from Jan 23, 2008:

The Mayor of the City That Doesn’t Care (aka Marietta, Georgia) called me yesterday.  Make no mistake our Mayor does care and cares deeply!  We had a long and good discussion and he gave me full permission to report what he has said and he said all the right things.   He is sympathetic to the problem and supportive of our mission to help the homeless, including those that are being evicted from the meager existence they call home, whether cardboard box, blue tarp, or simply a sleeping bag under a bush.

He expressed appreciation for what we and and our mission team are doing and called it “good ministry”.  

The gist of it all, however, is that the unhoused homeless people have to be out by Wednesday (today) and there will be no exceptions and no delays due to the weather.  

He assured me that the city does not have any access to helicopters and no money to rent one if we did.  That a helicopter was going to be used to hunt down the homeless was just a rumor that developed among the homeless after a meeting of a police commander with the nearby MUST ministries.  MUST has been hosting some 75 residents and feeding the unhoused a meal each weekday.   (The homeless were not invited to the meeting, but thought they were.)  The city also met with the “Mad Housers” which is a group of saints that build simple structures for the homeless.  The city is graciously allowing the Mad Housers to leave the structures in place until they have time to move them. 

Essentially the Mayor said that all homeless camping in Marietta will be sent packing and if they don’t go they will be immediately arrested.  

It was my understanding that all homeless camped on private property that have the permission of the property owner can stay, but the health department will be called to determine if there are suitable sanitary facilities, and whether the campsite is safely habitable.  If not, they will be ordered out and arrested if they refuse the order.  

He suggested that some private property owners might allow them to camp, but the health department will be required to check out the property.   The Mayor seems sympathetic but admitted he has had to call the police in the past about his own property (warehouse nearby) due to homeless camping behind it resulting in concern and complaints from female staff entering and leaving the building. 

How it started:   The Mayor said that the problem started with a series of burglaries that were traced to a homeless person.  They had his picture and went to all the camps to find him, but he had absconded, already left town for parts unknown. 

However the camps on right of ways and on public and private property which they found in the heat of the hunt are illegal and the City can’t NOT enforce the law, and now that the police know where they are, they must be removed, period, no matter the consequences.  End of story.

OK, herein lies a problem for my sensibilities. 

If a law that must be enforced  will bring about, or is likely to bring about. or may bring about serious harm or death of an individual, should that law not be swiftly amended or not enforced when those situations arise? Continue reading

Marietta and Cobb County short 690 beds for Homeless

I’ve pulled out my copy of the 2006 Continium of Care (CoC) for Cobb County, Georgia’s grant application to HUD.   It has a lot of tables and columns and at one point I put some of them in here, but then I remembered I have a lot of readers that could care less about that.  

So I’ll summarize here:  According to this application, our local governments, our cities and counties provide only one service for the homeless –

Law Enforcement, listed in the category of “outreach”.  

Ok that explains it.  Homeless arrests and Evictions are an “outreach”.   Our local governments provide no preventive services and no supportive services for our homeless.  Our non-profit local charities provide plenty of services but they are not enough!  

There are a total of 124 year-around emergency shelter beds among all our shelters.  Plus another 48 “Seasonal” and another 18 “Overflow” beds.  There were no beds “under development”.   The application says that we are 330 emergency shelter beds short!   This is based on finding 330 unsheltered homeless persons during the point in time count.  That isn’t nearly all of them though!

There are another 316 beds that are “transitional housing”. (6 under development)   We are 275 transitional housing beds short!

There are 44 perminent supportive housing beds.  (none under development)  We are 85 beds short.

So Marietta:  Where do you think our homeless friend Al is going to stay tomorrow night?  How about the other 300 homeless people out there? The total of 690 needing help?   The ones with “unmet needs” beds (virtual beds?) Where are they going?   Who among our leaders care?  

There were 175 individuals in families with children unsheltered on January 26, 2006!

Children!!!!

And Marietta simply says “clean them out”.   Take the veterans too.  They might be carrying a flag.

“Go South” you said.   We already ship our poor sick to Grady.  Are we to haul our homeless to Atlanta too?

Oldtimer.

Report – Scientific Progress – Gulf War Illnesses

The full title of this report is “Scientific Progress Understanding Gulf War Illnesses:  Report and Recommendations“.

Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses
September, 2004 

This is an extensive report running 152 pdf pages.   The Executive Summary has these unsettling words:

In the years since the war, thousands of Gulf War veterans have been evaluated and treated by government and private physicians. But the federal research effort has not succeeded in identifying treatments that substantially improve the health of ill veterans.

Further, there are no programs in place to evaluate the effectiveness of treatments currently being used or to identify and develop treatments that may hold promise for these conditions.

(…) Many of the veterans who served in the Gulf War were exposed to a variety of potentially toxic substances during their  deployment.  Among these were several neurotoxins-chemical nerve agents, pills taken to protect veterans from the deadly effects of nerve agents, and multiple types of pesticides-that belong to a single class of compounds that adversely affect the nervous system.

Finding 1  A substantial proportion of Gulf War veterans are ill with multisymptom conditions not explained by wartime stress or psychiatric illness.  (…) 

Finding 2  Treatments that improve the health of veterans with Gulf War illnesses are urgently needed. (…)

Finding 3 A growing body of research indicates that an important component of Gulf War veterans’ illnesses is neurological in character. (…)

Finding 4 Evidence supports a probable link between exposure to neurotoxins and the development of Gulf War veterans’ illnesses. (…)

Finding 5  Other wartime exposures may also have contributed to Gulf War veterans’ illnesses. (…)

Finding 6  The health of Gulf veterans must be carefully monitored to determine if Gulf War service is associated with excess rates of specific diseases, disease-specific deaths, or overall mortality.(…)

Finding 7  Important questions concerning the health of children and other family members of Gulf War veterans remain unanswered. (…)

Finding 8  Progress in understanding Gulf War veterans’ illnesses has been hindered by lack of coordination and availability of data resources maintained by the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs.  (…)

Finding 9  Research on Gulf War veterans’ illnesses has important implications for current and future military deployments and for homeland security.  (…)

Finding 10  Further progress in understanding and treating Gulf War veterans’ illnesses requires federal research programs that are properly focused, well-managed, and adequately funded.  (…)

Each of these findings are supported in detail with charts, data and supporting research documents that are organized by topic and by suspected causes.

Here are just a few of the tables and figures:

You can see from this figure that those in the Gulf war report 2 to 7 times as many symptoms as veterans not in the theatre.

Many of the symptoms are common among veterans that did not serve in the Gulf War as shown in the left side of this figure.  However, those veterans that were deployed in the Gulf are about 10 times as likely to report 3 to 6  types of symptoms from Table 1 than those not deployed.

The excess illness column on the far right was used in the study to show that the excess illness was consistent among particular units of deployed veterans vs non-deployed veterans from the same area of the country.  The ratio of deployed ill veterans was 2 to 4 times as high as those not deployed and even though they came from the same area as those that went to the Gulf .   For example those from Kansas that were deployed in the Gulf had 2.5 to 4 times as many multiple symptoms than those from Kansas that were not deployed.

This table is very alarming to me.   It shows that the deployed Gulf War veterans are developing Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS) at a rate nearly 4 times higher than those veterans not deployed as they age to 55 and older.  ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease, with less than 10 percent of patients surviving more than five years after initial diagnosis.

Possible effects of pesticides, PB (Pyridostigmine bromide pills used to pre-treat nerve gas exposure), and other AChEis (acetylcholinesterase inhibitors) chemicals used during the Gulf War.

Evidence in the literature is suggestive, but not conclusive, AChE inhibitors such as organophosphates and carbamates, could be among the potential contributing agents to some of the undiagnosed illnesses seen in Persian Gulf War veterans. -From: A Review of the Scientific Literature As It Pertains to Gulf War Illnesses–Volume 8: Pesticides48

This topic was extensively discussed and seems to be of significant concern to those conducting the study.   AChEis compounds are sometimes used for beneficial medications for Alzheimer’s Disease, but also to make pesticides and saran nerve gas.  

(…) these studies have consistently identified AChEis to be significantly associated with higher rates of symptoms and illnesses in Gulf War veterans. The uniformity of these results contrasts with a lack of consistent findings in multivariable analyses for such wartime experiences as participation in combat, exposure to oil fire smoke, and exposure to depleted uranium. Limitations in epidemiologic studies that rely on selfreported exposures always require a cautious interpretation of findings.

Taken as a whole, however, this accumulated body of research provides compelling evidence of a probable link between neurotoxic exposures in the Gulf War and the development of Gulf War veterans’ illnesses.

Pregnancies, micsarrages, birth defects: 

In 2001, a report from VA’s large National Survey of Gulf War-era Veterans and their Families indicated that Gulf War veterans reported a significantly greater number of post-war pregnancies that ended in miscarriages or children born with birth defects than nondeployed era veterans.

This table is very alarming to me.  It shows that the rate of birth defects for first live births for deployed veterans is two to 3 times as high as for those not deployed.   This applies to children of both male and female veterans.   Something is tragically wrong with this picture.

The above is only a brief overview of this subject.  Depleted Uranium is also a part of this study, but is largely discounted, but not thrown out.   If you are interested in the details, the report is remarkably readable and available at the link above or can be viewed or downloaded here.  This report is more than 3 years old.  It will be interesting to see how many of its recommendations have been followed.

What is so heartbreaking is that the rate of ALS among deployed Gulf War Veterans is higher at all age levels than Gulf War veterans not deployed, 3.5 times as high at ages above 55, birth defect rates are double, Gulf War Veterans are 3 to 4 times as likely to be ill with these symptoms. Yet the funding is dismal, only about $31 million average a year through 2004.

That is about $32.00 per deployed Gulf War veteran a year research funding.    Hmm, 88 cents a day per veteran – about the cost of a single plain doughnut.

Equivalent Funding for Gulf War Illnesses

(photo courtesy of roboppy who posted as creative commons)

(all the others are copied from the cited report)

The veterans deserve significantly more research, deserve the best possible treatment and deserve adequate compensation to offset their illnesses. They are all heroes to me.

Oldtimer