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Monthly Archives: April 2010

VFW Washington Weekly

In This Issue:

1. President Signs TRICARE Protections

2. Mojave Desert Memorial Update

3. House VA Committee Hearings

4. Assistance Dog Benefits Clarified

5. Eight WWII MIAs Identified

1. President Signs TRICARE Protections: The President signed into law
this week H.R. 4887 (P.L. 111-159) to recognize all Defense Department
TRICARE and nonappropriated fund healthcare programs as meeting
minimum essential coverage standards under the new national healthcare
law. VFW National Commander Thomas J. Tradewell Sr. thanked the
President and Congress for protecting the healthcare programs of more
than 9 million beneficiaries, but said "Getting H.R. 4887 signed into
law is just half the fight. Now we need the House to pass the
legislation so that all VA care provided to eligible veterans, widows
and children will also be recognized and protected." The VFW asks you
to take Action today by contacting your legislators on this critical
issue. To send a message to your legislators, go to
http://capwiz.com/vfw/issues/alert/?alertid=14936976. For the VFW
press release, go to
http://www.vfw.org/index.cfm?fa=news.newsDtl&did=5452.

2. Mojave Desert Memorial Update: After seven months of deliberation,
the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday reversed a lower court ruling to
tear down a cross-shaped veterans memorial in the middle of the Mojave
Desert that VFW members built in 1934 to honor the fallen of World War
I. But there's still work to be done, according to VFW National
Commander Thomas J. Tradewell Sr. "Their ruling was a strong step
forward, but the 5-4 split decision only protects the memorial today
and doesn't yet allow the congressional approved land transfer to
occur or remove the plywood box that currently encases it," he said.
The Supreme Court decision sends the case back to the lower court. To
read the VFW press release, go to
http://www.vfw.org/index.cfm?fa=news.newsDtl&did=5457. To read the
ruling and justices' opinions, go to http://www.supremecourt.gov/.
The case is Salazar v. Buono.

3. House VA Committee Hearings:

· The Subcommittee on Health held a hearing on VA's enhanced
contract care pilot program. Congress passed legislation in October
2008 which required VA to implement a contract care pilot program for
veterans living in rural areas. The pilot was authorized to expand
access to health care for rural veterans residing in areas where the
VA is unable to provide care. According to statistics, 40 percent or
nearly 3 million veterans who use the VA health care system live in
rural areas, to include more than 100,000 veterans in highly rural
areas. The subcommittee focused on potential barriers hindering the
pilot program, as well as current implementation of the program and
contracts in five VISNs.

· The Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity continued its
ongoing oversight into the status of veteran-owned small businesses by
discussing barriers and recommendations to improve existing programs.
Witnesses included the GAO and veterans' organizations, as well as the
Small Business Administration, Export/Import Bank of the U.S., and a
veteran representing the International Franchising Association. The
first panel provided positive information on franchising and programs
administered by the Export/Import Bank which offers veterans a
wide-variety of small business opportunities.

For more on any of the hearings, or to view recorded webcasts, visit
the House VA Committee website at http://veterans.house.gov/.

4. Assistance Dog Benefits Clarified: VA recently clarified section
1714 of Title 38, which outlines eligibility criteria for veterans to
receive service dogs. Filing guidelines are under the VA Prosthetic
and Sensory Aides Services (PSAS) program, which is on the VA website.
Any veteran who was previously denied, but who now thinks may be
eligible, should reapply immediately. PSAS stated that claims will be
adjudicated within 10 days of receipt of a veterans form 10-2641. For
more information, go to
http://www.prosthetics.va.gov/Guide_and_Service_Dogs_Frequently_Asked_Questions_FAQs.asp.

5. Eight WWII MIAs Identified: The Defense POW/Missing Personnel
Office announced that the remains of eight airmen out of an 11-man
B-24J Liberator crew have been identified and returned to their
families for burial with full military honors. The group remains of
Lt. Jack S. M. Arnett (WV), Flight Officer William B. Simpson (NC),
Tech. Sgts. Charles T. Goulding (NY) and Robert J. Stimson (CA), and
Staff Sgts. Jimmie Doyle (TX), Leland D. Price (OH) and Earl E. Yoh
(OH) were identified, plus the individual remains of Lt. Frank J.
Arhar (PA). On Sept. 1, 1944, their aircraft was shot down while on a
bombing mission of enemy targets over the Pacific island of Palau.
Crewmen on other aircraft reported seeing Arnett's aircraft come apart
and crash into the sea. Two parachutes were spotted, but none of the
11-man crew returned to friendly territory. Post-war Japanese
documents established that three other crewmembers survived the crash,
but died while POWs. In 1949, the American Graves Registration
Service declared the remains of all 11 crewmembers to be
non-recoverable. They were … until the Joint POW/MIA Accounting
Command got involved. To read more about the recovery, go to
http://www.defense.gov/releases/release.aspx?releaseid=13491

Read more: http://blogs.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=blog.view&friendID=224008955&blogID=533655797#ixzz0mc96YL2t

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Shinseki Announces VA Cutting Insurance Premiums for Families

WASHINGTON (April 29, 2010) – Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K.
Shinseki announced today that military personnel insuring their families
under the Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance (SGLI) program, which is
administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs, will have reduced
out-of-pocket expenses beginning July 1.

"VA hopes these reductions will allow more military personnel to obtain
affordable life insurance coverage for their spouses, particularly in
these difficult economic times," said Shinseki.  "Without insurance
protection, life after the loss of a spouse can be not only challenging
emotionally, but can place a severe financial strain on a family."

Family SGLI (FSGLI) monthly premium rates will be reduced for all age
groups by an average of 8 percent.  The new rates are based on revised
estimates for the cost of the program.  This is the third time that
premiums have been reduced since the FSGLI program began in November
2001.  Spousal premiums were previously reduced for all age groups in
2003 and 2006.

FSGLI coverage provides life insurance protection to military personnel
for their spouses and children.  Children are automatically insured for
$10,000, with no premiums charged.

Based on the coverage of service members, spouses may be insured for up
to $100,000.  Military personnel pay age-based premiums for spousal
coverage — the older the spouse, the higher the premium rate.

The premium reduction ensures FSGLI remains highly competitive compared
to commercial insurers.
FSGLI coverage is available in increments of $10,000.  The current and
revised monthly premium rates per $10,000 of insurance, along with other
information, are available on the Internet at www.insurance.va.gov.

Official Calls Wounded Warriors Report ‘Unrepresentative’

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 26, 2010 – The focus of a New York Times article depicting neglect and suffering endured by a group of wounded soldiers recovering in an Army program is unrepresentative of the recovery effort at large, the Army surgeon general said today.

Lt. Gen. (Dr.) Eric B. Schoomaker stopped short of the calling the article that appeared yesterday inaccurate, but said the overwhelming majority of soldiers in warrior transition units are satisfied with the recovery regimen, according to an Army survey.

"I don't see them as necessarily crafting fiction," Schoomaker said to Pentagon reporters about the article. "But I do believe that it is wholly unrepresentative of the totality and the context of what we've done for warrior care, especially in the last three years."

Overall, 81 percent of participating soldiers are satisfied with the program, and about 90 percent of wounded soldiers recovering at Fort Carson, Colo. — the focal point of the New York Times article — are satisfied with their warrior transition unit according to the survey, Schoomaker said.

These figures paint a picture in stark contrast to the New York Times report, which the paper said was based on interviews with more than a dozen soldiers and health care professionals from Fort Carson's transition unit and reports from other Army posts. The article states that warrior transition units have become "warehouses of despair" for many soldiers.

The Army surgeon general took umbrage at this portrayal of warrior transition units — which are responsible for some 9,300 soldiers — calling it "a poor characterization" and "almost 180 degrees of the truth."

Schoomaker was asked specifically to comment on the report's description of the units as "warehouses of despair, where damaged men and women are kept out of sight, fed a diet of powerful prescription pills and treated harshly by noncommissioned officers."

"Of all of the descriptions in there, with the exception perhaps of the suffering that individual soldiers and families have had," he said, "that sentence alone is among the most offensive to us. And I think it wholly describes a situation that we feel is not present.

"We welcome you and any member of the press to go out and physically visit warrior transition units," he continued, "to talk with those soldiers, to talk with their cadre and to see the larger context of how care is being delivered."

The article raised concerns about the over-prescription of drugs by doctors and the abuse or misuse of both prescribed and illicit substances. A military official told reporters that 78 incidents of illegal drug use have been recorded at the Fort Carson warrior transition unit since 2008.

"We have concerns about the diversion of prescription drugs that can be used for recreational uses, just as in the nation at large," Schoomaker said. "That's a big problem right now across the country. We're also concerned because illegally obtained drugs can be used as complements to these other drugs."

Schoomaker said an inspection of warrior transition units by the Army inspector general will be completed soon, and Army Brig. Gen. Gary Cheek, commander of Warrior Transition Command, is slated to visit Fort Carson to review policies and practices of their warrior transition unit later this week.

"With 9,300 soldiers currently in the program, we don't always get it right," Schoomaker said. "To that end, we take every criticism and concern seriously and continuously strive to improve our program."
 

Related Sites:
Army Medicine

Honoring #42 from Chicago to Kabul

Dear Sean,

Watch  the recap video now19 of us turned out in Philadelphia. 26 in Austin. 185 in Tempe. And dozens as far away as Camp Eggers in Afghanistan.

Together, we ran over 1,600 miles to honor former NFL player Pat Tillman's legacy of courage and sacrifice.

This past Saturday, hundreds of IAVA Member Veterans in 14 cities nationwide and Camp Eggers, Afghanistan raced in Pat's Run Shadow Runs sponsored by the ASU Alumni Association and the Pat Tillman Foundation.

Click here to watch a quick video of the runners in action.

Over 20,000 people attended the race in Tempe this year and Team IAVA, with over 150 runners, won the award for the largest military team in attendance, as well as the award for 3rd fastest team overall. It was an incredible day of unity and fun. And thanks to your support in our first Pat's Run 'Super Fan' competition, hundreds of fans from San Francisco to Huntsville turned out to cheer us on.

Click here to watch the video recap. You can also get the official Pat's Run-Team IAVA jersey, and all net proceeds will benefit the Pat Tillman Foundation.

Thank you for your continued support.

Sincerely,

Paul

Paul Rieckhoff
Executive Director & Founder
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA)

U.S. Airman MIA from WWII is Identified

                The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office announced today that the remains of a U.S. serviceman, missing in action from World War II, have been identified and returned to his family for burial with full military honors.

                U.S. Army Air Forces Tech. Sgt. Walter A. McClellan will be buried Friday in his hometown of Pensacola, Fla.

                On April 17, 1945, McClellan's B-17 Flying Fortress was struck by enemy fighters while on a bombing run against a rail depot in Dresden, Germany. Following the war, U.S. teams attempted to locate the remains of the crew but because the area was under Soviet control, no further searches could be conducted. The U.S. Army was forced to declare the remains of the "Towering Titan's" crew to be non-recoverable. 

                Two reports from German citizens in 1956 and 2007 indicated that the remains of a 19-year-old were buried as an "unknown" in a local church cemetery in Burkhardswalde. Church records revealed that the grave held the remains of a young American flyer who had parachuted from his aircraft over the town of Biensdorf, was captured and killed by German SS forces near Burkhardswalde. He was first buried in the town's sports field, but exhumed by the townspeople after the war and reburied in the church cemetery.

                In September 2008, a recovery team of the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command exhumed the grave in Burkhardswalde and recovered human remains and other artifacts, including a silver Army Air Forces identification bracelet bearing the emblem of a qualified aerial gunner. The biological profile of the remains and McClellan's dental records enabled JPAC scientists to establish the identification.

                For additional information on the Defense Department's mission to account for missing Americans, visit http://www.dtic.mil/dpmo or call 703-699-1169.

Official Urges Gulf War Vets to Seek VA Care

By Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 22, 2010 – Gulf War veterans with medical symptoms should seek treatment through the Department of Veterans Affairs in light of a recent study that says Gulf War service is a cause of post-traumatic stress disorder, a senior Military Health System official said yesterday.

In an interview, Dr. Michael Kilpatrick, director of strategic communications for the Military Health System, said that if Gulf War veterans seek care through VA, rather than private doctors, researchers can continue to track their data and search for causes of their symptoms.

Congress has ordered that Gulf War veterans still qualify for high-priority care through the VA, and Kilpatrick urged them to use it.

"For Gulf War veterans who think they may have symptoms and they are undiagnosed, we still encourage them to seek care," he said.

The National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine found in its most recent study on the health effects of the Gulf War, released April 9, that military service in the war is a cause of post-traumatic stress disorder in some veterans and also is associated with multiple other medical symptoms.

The VA-funded study said researchers found sufficient evidence that service in the Gulf caused PTSD. The study did not find a cause-and-effect relationship between a host of other illnesses found in the veterans, but acknowledged sufficient evidence of an association between their service and other psychiatric disorders such as anxiety and substance abuse and gastrointestinal problems.

The study found "limited evidence" of an association between Gulf service and ALS — a disease of the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord also known as Lou Gehrig's disease — as well as a widespread pain condition called fibromyalgia and sexual difficulties.

The study found insufficient evidence to link Gulf service to any cancers, blood diseases, respiratory illness, multiple sclerosis, neurological disorders, cardiovascular disease and other ailments. The study found no evidence of a link between Gulf War service and peripheral neuropathy and decreased lung function and heart disease deaths in the first 10 years after the war.

Kilpatrick said the findings do not change the Military Health System's approach to treating the symptoms of Gulf War veterans without knowing the causes.

"From the [Defense Department] standpoint, we've always believed that Gulf War veterans' symptoms were real," Kilpatrick said. "Not knowing the cause didn't make them not real. They are deserving of treatment for their symptoms and, medically, we frequently treat symptoms without knowing the reason for the symptoms."

Many factors complicate knowing the cause of the veterans' symptoms, which may never be determined, Kilpatrick said, echoing the comments of Institute of Medicine officials.

The United States sent nearly 700,000 servicemembers to the Persian Gulf between August 1990 and July 1991. Of those, 147 were killed in combat and 233 died from noncombat causes. More than 250,000 "suffer from persistent, unexplained symptoms," the institute said in its release of the report.

Kilpatrick noted other factors that complicated research. Combat operations lasted only 100 days, and many Gulf War veterans left service before their symptoms appeared. Also, little was known about PTSD in the early 1990s, there were no pre- or post-deployment health exams, and no electronic records.

"There are a lot of nuances that are hard for people to understand," he said. "Our biggest difficulty when we're looking at 700,000 people is to say, 'What is the cause?' Was it the deployment, the combat, or something not related to their combat life?

"We're working hard today, starting with new recruits, to understand that."

Kilpatrick called the institute's research methods "the gold standard," and said the department strongly supports its suggestion for more study of what has become known as Gulf War Illness.

"We continue to focus on the health of Gulf War veterans and we owe a lot to them today for their self protection and readiness to protect today's forces," he said. "The health of individuals as they deploy is extremely important to us and we want to know that they are as healthy when they come home as when they left."

The military continues to learn from the health experiences of Gulf War veterans and then apply that knowledge to today's troops, Kilpatrick added.

"There are many medical lessons learned from the Gulf War," Kilpatrick said. "We've learned a lot about deployment and its effect on individuals."
 

Biographies:
Dr. Michael Kilpatrick
Related Sites:
Institute of Medicine Report, "Gulf War and Health"
Military Health System

American Cold War Veterans – National Meeting 2010

http://www.facebook.com/?ref=logo#!/event.php?eid=351233208819

Date: April 28, 2010
Location: Senate Dirksen Building Room SD-G11
Time: 1:30PM-4:00PM

The April 28th general meeting is "open to anyone" interested in the Cold War, it's history, and our continued pursuit of a Cold War Service Medal. We will be on the Hill working to convince Congress to authorize and direct the Department of Defense to issue this award this year.

Scheduled speakers include:
*Dr. Lee Edwards; A Distinguished Fellow of the Heritage Foundation, Chairman of the Victims of Communism Museum, and author or editor of more than 20 books.

*Major Wulf Lindenau (RET); Senior Vice Commander General of the Military Order of Foreign Wars of the United States.

Reports concerning progress on authorization of a Cold War Service Medal, A National Day of Recognition for Cold War Veterans, and a memorial dedicated to Cold War Veterans.

We are also attempting to ensure equal treatment and rights for ALL veterans through the Veterans Administration, to reduce or eliminate section eight requirements.

At the conclusion of the general meeting we will regroup in Arlington National Cemetery (Section 34) to hold a memorial service for fallen heroes of the Cold War and place flowers on some of the graves of the Forgotten Heroes of the Cold War.

April 28th – Ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery – 5:00PM

During the week we will be:

1. Storming Capitol Hill to convey the importance of this legislation and for it to be included in the National Defense Authorization Act 2011.

2. Do our best to persuade Congress to declare May 1st of every year as a Day Of Remembrance Of The Cold War and to recognize Cold War Veterans.

VFW Urges Passage of Veterans Jobs Bill

Corporate America the key to stemming rampant unemployment rate

Washington D.C., (April 20, 2010) — The Veterans of Foreign Wars of
the U.S. is backing legislation introduced today by Sen. Patty Murray
(D-Wash.) to create a veterans jobs bill to help ease the rampant
unemployment rate among Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.

"The nation's economy is showing signs of improvement, but the
unemployment rate of current war veterans is accelerating in the wrong
direction," said VFW National Commander Thomas J. Tradewell Sr., of
Sussex, Wis. "We believe Senator Murray's bill will help address many
of those concerns and impediments to employment."

According to the Department of Labor, there are more than 1.1 million
unemployed veterans, a quarter-million of whom are Iraq and
Afghanistan veterans, with unemployment rates of 30.2 percent for age
24 and younger, and 17.9 percent for ages 25 to 34. The national
unemployment average is just below 10 percent.

In testimony last week before the House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee
on Economic Opportunity, the VFW said Washington cannot solve the
veterans' unemployment epidemic alone, but Washington can — and must —
do a better job of selling veterans to corporate America.

"The federal government must become a veteran's greatest cheerleader,"
said Tradewell, who is very supportive of Murray's bill to expand
counseling, training and placement services, as well as
entrepreneurial opportunities, because "veterans hire veterans."

The VFW also wants federal incentives increased to entice more
businesses to hire more veterans.

One such incentive, for example, would be to double the $2,400 and
$4,800 Work Opportunity Tax Credit for businesses who hire veterans
and disabled veterans, respectively, as well as eliminate the
program's five-year window that currently excludes 765,000 unemployed
veterans from being eligible.

In addition, the VFW national commander wants America's veterans who
are in the corporate world to use their veteran status as a bully
pulpit to push "Veterans First" in boardrooms across the country.

"A young platoon sergeant or lieutenant is in a foreign country right
now helping a small community get back on its feet — and they are
doing it in a different language and armed primarily with the common
sense in their head and the people skills they learned in the
military. Just imagine what that can-do attitude could bring to
America's business community if just given a chance," said Tradewell.

"Our greatest generation returned home from World War II to become the
scientists, scholars and captains of industry who led our nation's
tremendous era of growth in the second half of the 20th century. That
is exactly what America's newest greatest generation is capable of,
and it all begins with one job and one employer who believes that
those we entrust to protect our nation can also be trusted to run
their companies."

-30-

The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. is a nonprofit veterans'
service organization composed of combat veterans and those who
currently serve on active duty or in the Guard and Reserves. Founded
in 1899 and chartered by Congress in 1936, the VFW is the nation's
largest organization of war veterans and is one of its oldest
veterans' organizations. With 2.1 million members located in 7,900
VFW Posts worldwide, the VFW and its Auxiliaries are dedicated to
"honor the dead by helping the living" through veterans service,
legislative initiatives, youth scholarships, Buddy Poppy and national
military service programs. The VFW and its Auxiliaries contribute
more than 13 million hours annually in community service to the
nation. For more information or to join, visit the organization's Web
site at www.vfw.org.

Contact: Joe Davis, Director of Public Affairs, VFW Washington Office,
(o) 202-608-8357, jdavis@vfw.org

A Uses Recovery Act Money to Repair Historic Monuments

WASHINGTON (April 16, 2010) – The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)
will use up to $4.4 million in funds from the American Recovery and
Reinvestment Act program to repair and preserve historic monuments and
memorials at VA-operated national cemeteries, soldiers' lots and other
facilities throughout the United States.

"The Recovery Act will help us preserve these historic memorials for
future generations," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K.
Shinseki.  "In many cases, these irreplaceable historic structures will
receive long overdue repairs while keeping skilled American artisans
employed on projects important to our heritage."

Funds for the monument and memorial repairs are coming from more than
$1.4 billion in the Recovery Act allocated to VA.

Forty-nine monuments at 36 sites in 23 states will be repaired or
conserved under this program.  These represent some of the oldest and
most significant memorials at VA cemeteries, and require treatments that
include cleaning, roof and step repairs, stone consolidation, joint
repointing, and painting or waxing of metals.

Cost estimates for individual projects range from less than $10,000 to
$510,000.  The monuments and memorials included in this treatment
initiative were installed between 1842 and 1952, and most are associated
with the Civil War.

The most costly preservation project is the National Soldiers' Monument
at Dayton National Cemetery in Ohio.  The Soldiers' Monument dominates
the landscape from atop a mound at the center of the cemetery.  The
cornerstone was laid in 1873 and it was completed in 1877.  This
dramatic structure is composed of a 30-foot marble column on a granite
base and topped with a soldier at parade rest.

At the corners of the base are four figures representing the infantry,
cavalry, artillery and Navy.  President Rutherford B. Hayes delivered
the dedication address on Sept. 12, 1877, to a crowd of about 22,000.
This monument was severely vandalized in 1990, and the current
initiative will address problems associated with the repair.

The oldest monument among the 49 sites is Dade's Pyramids at St.
Augustine National Cemetery in Florida.  The pyramids cover vaults that
contain the remains of 1,468 soldiers who died during the Second
Seminole War from 1835 to 1842.  The three Dade's Pyramids are each six
feet tall and were constructed in 1842 of coquina stone.  They were
dedicated at a ceremony that marked the end of the Florida Indian Wars.

The funds will also be used to repair and conserve three monumental
limestone entrance archways built around 1870 at national cemeteries in
Nashville and Chattanooga, Tenn., and Marietta, Ga.  VA will also use
ARRA funds to conserve the soldiers' obelisk monuments at cemeteries
affiliated with the National Homes for Disabled Veteran Soldiers.  Also
scheduled for repairs are 11 monuments funded by states where large
numbers of their troops were buried, five Confederate monuments, and a
memorial to President Zachary Taylor located near his tomb in
Louisville, Ky.

The Recovery Act, signed into law by President Obama on Feb. 17, 2009,
is an unprecedented effort to jumpstart the American economy, create and
save millions of jobs, and put a down payment on addressing
long-neglected challenges so our country can thrive in the 21st century.
In addition to repairs to monuments and memorials, America's national
cemeteries will receive an estimated:

*       $25.9 million for national shrine projects to raise, realign,
and clean headstones or grave markers and repair sunken graves at
various locations across the country;

*       $5.9 million for energy-related projects such as conserving
energy and water through the use of wind turbines, solar power and other
measures;

*       $9.5 million to repair roads, buildings, and other cemetery
infrastructure at locations nationwide; and

*       Nearly $6 million for equipment purchases for cemetery
operations.

VA operates 131 national cemeteries in 39 states and Puerto Rico and 33
soldiers' lots and monument sites.  More than three million Americans,
including Veterans of every war and conflict – from the Revolutionary
War to the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan – are buried in VA's
national cemeteries on more than 19,000 acres of land.

Five Steps Veterans Can Take to Support PTSD Treatment

Five Steps Veterans Can Take to Support PTSD Treatment

Recovery from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can be an ongoing, daily and gradual process.1 It does not happen through sudden insight and it requires veterans to use their strength to reach out for treatment. But influences outside of treatment such as support from fellow veterans, continuing education or returning to work can have a positive influence on recovery. If you are a veteran coping with PTSD, consider taking the following five steps to support your return to peak performance.
1. Lean on Your Fellow Veterans

Stress injuries are common among veterans of the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, so you are not alone. Reaching out to other brave men and women who have served our nation can bolster your return to peak functioning, and support groups for PTSD are available at each stage of the recovery process. These groups focus on topics ranging from overcoming daily challenges to entering into VA or DoD counseling programs.2 Whatever the topic, support groups can offer veterans coping with PTSD a sense of community and encouragement during a time of uncertainty.

Support groups can be held in informal environments, such as another veteran’s home or a community center, or in settings such as a Vet Center or VA Medical Center. They offer helpful information and encouragement to those who are looking for information about seeking professional, clinical counseling, and can show veterans that seeking treatment is a sign of courage. Finally, PTSD support groups provide an environment filled with others who have shared traumatic experiences and begun to follow a path toward recovery.

Tools for Success
Use the following resources to find PTSD support groups in your area:

   * Contact your local VA facility
   * Find psychological health providers near you
   * Search the Anxiety Disorders Association of America’s support groups list
   * Connect with other veterans at the Real Warriors Message Boards

2. Continue Your Education with Support from VA

Continuing your education can positively influence recovery from PTSD, and enrolling in a degree or certificate program can help channel your thoughts toward learning and new ways to be involved in productive activities.
Soldier receiving an award

Photo by Staff Sgt. Orly N. Tyrell

Veterans who have successfully coped with PTSD have found that working towards a goal like a degree or certificate can be beneficial to recovery. (Watch Staff Sgt. Megan Krause discuss how she coped with PTSD while pursuing her degree.)

Tools for Success
In recognition of their service, VA provides three programs to veterans to aid them in continuing their education:

   * The Post-9/11 GI Bill is the largest investment in veterans’ education since World War II, covering the full cost of an undergraduate education at any public university or college in the country, as well as many private schools
   * The Montgomery GI Bill – Active Duty provides up to 36 months of education benefits to eligible veterans for several types of education, including college, vocational courses and flight training
   * The Reserve Educational Assistance Program (REAP) was established in 2005 to provide educational assistance to veterans from Reserve components called or ordered to active duty in response to a war or national emergency

3. Return to Work or Volunteering

One of the major symptoms of PTSD is a strong feeling of anxiety. Employment offers an opportunity to keep focused on specific tasks, minimizing the amount of time the mind has to wander back to stressful memories. In addition, seeing that you can achieve goals at work while coping with symptoms of PTSD can help you feel more empowered in your quest for full recovery.

Volunteering for a community organization is a similar way to positively aid your recovery. Working with local youth programs, medical services, literacy programs or sporting activities allows veterans to feel they are contributing to their community.3

Tools for Success
To start searching for a job today, use the following resources:

   * America's Heroes at Work is a U.S. Department of Labor project that addresses the employment challenges of returning service members living with PTSD
   * The U.S. Office of Personnel Management provides information about opportunities for veterans within the federal government
   * The Veterans Employment Coordination Service recruits former service members to work in the VA system
   * Veteran Employment and VetJobs list employment opportunities just for veterans
   * Search for volunteer opportunities in your area with Serve.gov and VolunteerMatch, or by contacting your local community or faith center

4. Exercise to Relax Your Body and Mind

Exercise can benefit those coping with PTSD. Activities like jogging, swimming, weight lifting and walking may reduce physical tension, and activities like stretching, yoga or pilates are effective relaxation techniques. Using these types of activities can help you feel more energized and confident, and can provide a break from painful memories or difficult emotions. Perhaps most importantly, exercise can improve self-esteem and create feelings of personal control.4 (Always be sure to consult with your health care provider before starting any new exercise program.)

Tools for Success
Learn more about how regular exercise can reduce stress and positively impact recovery:

   * Read a success story about a wounded Navy corpsman who used exercise to support his recovery from PTSD and substance misuse

5. Talk with Your Social Support Network

It’s easy to feel lonely when you’re coping with PTSD, but you are not alone and isolation can actually make you feel worse.5 Reestablishing or increasing contact with a child, spouse, partner, friend or work colleague can help you feel less isolated, and aid in your recovery.6 Members of your social support network are an important part of your recovery, and they are there to listen and help you through rough times.7 In addition, research shows that spending time talking with friends can make you feel better and have a significant effect on your health.8 So don’t isolate yourself — use the strength you built as a warrior to reach out to your family, friends, colleagues or fellow veterans for support.

Soldier receiving an award

Photo by Staff Sgt. Orly N. Tyrell

Tools for Success
To get free, confidential advice about tools for discussing PTSD — or for information about any of the tools discussed above — contact a trained health resource consultant 24/7 at the DCoE Outreach Center:

Sources

1,3,4,6Coping with PTSD and Recommended Lifestyle Changes for PTSD Patients,” National Center for PTSD, last accessed March 16, 2010.
2,7PTSD Anonymous Web site, last accessed March 16, 2010.
5Mental Health America, fact sheet on PTSD, last accessed March 16, 2010.
8Dealing with Combat and Operational Stress” fact sheet [PDF 110kb], last accessed March 16, 2010.