Military Families Serve Too, So Center Offers Help

Family therapy, couples therapy, individual therapy, even weight management groups are all services that have been available at the USF Psychological Services Center for decades. Now, the center’s director, who served 10 years in the U.S. Army, is reaching out to the veteran and military families offering help.

Photo courtesy of the USF Psychological Services Center.

Photo courtesy of the USF Psychological Services Center.

“We know that there are veterans, for whatever reason, are still hesitant about seeking services in the VA,” said Jack Darkes, director of the University of South Florida Psychological Services Center.

Veterans and active-duty personnel both worry that they could lose their security clearance or a possible promotion if it becomes known they’re seeking psychological help.

But because USF’s clinic does not take insurance, Darkes said, a client’s records are confidential.

“Being basically a private pay, our records are under the control of the individual who pays for them. There is no third party payer involved and therefore anything that would happen in our clinic is confidential within the limits of the law,” Darkes said.

The law says therapists must report child or elder abuse or if their client is a threat to themselves or someone else. Everything else is confidential.

Another attractive option at the USF clinic is the price. Fees are on a sliding scale. Continue reading

NPR Report on ‘Other Than Honorable Discharge’

NPR correspondent Quil Lawrence.

NPR correspondent Quil Lawrence.

This week, NPR’s Quil Lawrence is reporting on veterans who did not receive an honorable discharge after service in the military.

Eric Highfill spent five years in the Navy, fixing airplanes for special-operations forces. His discharge papers show an Iraq campaign medal and an Afghanistan campaign medal, a good conduct medal, and that he’s a marksman with a pistol and sharpshooter with a rifle.

None of that matters, because at the bottom of the page it reads “Discharged: under other than honorable conditions.”

The “other-than-honorable discharged” have been turned away from medical care at the Department of Veterans Affairs and from programs offered by other veterans’ organizations.

… more than 100,000 other troops left the armed services with “bad paper” over the past decade of war. Many went to war, saw combat, even earned medals before they broke the rules of military discipline or in some cases committed serious crimes. The bad discharge means no VA assistance, no disability compensation, no GI Bill, and it’s a red flag on any job application.

Yet, many with a bad discharge said it is due to post traumatic stress and other conditions directly tied to their military service.

You can read the full story and listen to the report here.

Researchers Work to Prevent Neglect Felt by Past Veterans

U.S. Marines Cpl. Ryan L. Avery, left, a crew chief and Lance Cpl. Michael J. McGrath, a CH-53E Super Stallion mechanic, both with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 462 (HMH-462), provide aerial security over Helmand province, Afghanistan, Oct. 28, 2013. HMH-462 supported Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, during an interdiction operation in Gurjat Village. (Official Marine Corps Photo by Sgt. Gabriela Garcia

U.S. Marines Cpl. Ryan L. Avery, left, a crew chief and Lance Cpl. Michael J. McGrath, a CH-53E Super Stallion mechanic, both with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 462 (HMH-462), provide aerial security over Helmand province, Afghanistan, Oct. 28, 2013. HMH-462 supported Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, during an interdiction operation in Gurjat Village. Official Marine Corps Photo by Sgt. Gabriela Garcia

An estimated 2.3 million men and women have served during the nation’s 12 years of war. And as they transition out of the military, the veterans will need care for immediate and long-term conditions like post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury.

And many from health care professionals to retired military are concerned that the neglect of past veterans is not repeated with this new generation.

Troops in WWII came home in 1945 and went right back to work and college. There was no re-integration, no recognition of post-traumatic stress. So many WWII vets had to find their own ways to cope with the trauma of war.

“I never saw my father go to bed – in my entire life – sober. I never saw him go to work drunk,” said retired Lt. Gen. Martin Steele. “I always saw this tortured man with the self-discipline and commitment and resolve to live life one day at a time.”

SAN DIEGO (Oct. 29, 2013) Engineman 1st Class Kevin Ives, assigned to the guided-missile cruiser USS Princeton (CG 59), embraces his sons during a homecoming celebration at Naval Base San Diego. Princeton conducted maritime security operations, theater security cooperation efforts and support missions for Operation Enduring Freedom. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Christopher Farrington

SAN DIEGO (Oct. 29, 2013) Engineman 1st Class Kevin Ives, assigned to the guided-missile cruiser USS Princeton (CG 59), embraces his sons during a homecoming celebration at Naval Base San Diego. Princeton conducted maritime security operations, theater security cooperation efforts and support missions for Operation Enduring Freedom. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Christopher Farrington

Alcohol was how Steele’s step-father, a WWII veteran, dealt with his trauma of having his fighter plane shot down, spending a year in a Prisoner of War camp and being tortured by the Germans.

His step-father’s story of survival transfixed Steele who joined the Marines at age 18 and served two tours in Vietnam.

“Many of my generation in Vietnam struggle every day. They’re not coming out,” said Steele, who retired as a three-star Marine Corps general.

Yet only recently, did two of his closest buddies from Vietnam confided to him that they suffered from post-traumatic stress. Steel said they told him in the hope that current PTSD research could possibly help them.

Steele now serves as associate vice president for Veterans Research at USF – home to several veterans health initiatives for treatment of Military PTSD. One example is Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART). Dr. Kevin Kip, head of research for the College of Nursing, runs the ART program.

U.S. Army Pfc. Rohan Wright, center, a cavalry scout with a personal security detachment with the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, prepares to fire an M203 grenade launcher at the weapons range at Forward Operating Base Thunder in Paktia province, Afghanistan, Oct. 18, 2013. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Justin A. Moeller

U.S. Army Pfc. Rohan Wright, center, a cavalry scout with a personal security detachment with the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, prepares to fire an M203 grenade launcher at the weapons range at Forward Operating Base Thunder in Paktia province, Afghanistan, Oct. 18, 2013. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Justin A. Moeller

“We do have a new study starting up for post-traumatic stress disorder many of whom the veterans will be treated at the C.W. Bill Young Building on campus,” Kip said.

The goal of academia is to apply the research as quickly as possible according to Interim Vice President of USF Health Dr. Donna Petersen.

“We simply can’t wait for the usual trickle down of our scientific papers and years later becoming accepted practice,” Petersen told a gathering at USF’s national conference on veterans health.

But research is just the first step in caring for the new generation of Afghanistan and Iraq war veterans.

“This population that we now have who have served in this 12 years of protracted war that we have to have a net for them,” Steele said. “Yes, they have to take care of themselves but we have to have a net for them to be able to welcome them with open arms and provide all the resources this nation can bring to bear to ensure that they have a quality of life.”

And Steele added that caring for today’s veterans will help mitigate the lack of services provided to veterans of WWII and his generation from the Vietnam War.

You can hear the radio version of this story at WUSF News.org.

Help with PTSD Sleep Problems, Trauma Reminders, Etc

VAntage Blog

VAntage Blog

The following is part of an entry by Cybele Merrick on the VA Blog VAntage

“It’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get up,” legendary football coach Vince Lombardi once said. When you think about it, Coach Lombardi was really talking about coping skills and resilience. Trauma can knock you down; yet there are now online tools to help you develop valuable coping and problem-solving skills following trauma.

With the release of PTSD Coach Online, you can now go to your desktop or laptop computer anytime to work on skills that can be helpful following trauma. You can use its tools in the privacy and comfort of your own home—or anywhere with Internet access. These are the same type of skills you learn in professional therapy.

PTSD Coach Online extends the reach of the PTSD Coach mobile app’s groundbreaking symptom management tools to those who do not have access to smartphones. The PTSD Coach mobile app has already been downloaded more than 100,000 times in 74 countries around the world.

PTSD Coach Online is a free, online suite of tools designed to help people cope with sleep problems, trauma reminders, anxiety and other problems that can develop after trauma. It includes versions of many of the tools that are found in the PTSD Coach mobile app, plus more. One of its unique features is the inclusion of videos from coaches who provide video introductions and help throughout each tool.

You can read the full blog entry here.

A Green Beret Busting Myths About PTSD

Saint Leo University veteran student Brian Anderson is willing to talk about his experience with post-traumatic stress to bust myths held by the general public.

Saint Leo University veteran student Brian Anderson is willing to talk about his experience with post-traumatic stress to bust myths held by the general public.

The U.S. military is downsizing. The war in Iraq is over, and combat troops are due out of Afghanistan by the end of next year. So more than 1 million service members are expected to enter the civilian workforce in the coming years.

That’s why two veterans are on a mission to help employers and the community in general separate fact from fiction when it comes to post-traumatic stress disorder.

First, not every veteran has PTSD. It affects only an estimated 20 to 25 percent of combat veterans, according to Saint Leo University associate professor Dr. Jim Whitworth, a 21-year Air Force veteran with a Ph.D. in social work.

There’s a lot to understand about post-traumatic stress and the best teachers are those with the diagnosis. However, most veterans are not comfortable talking about their traumatic experiences.

That’s where the bravery of Brian Anderson shines through. He is willing to share what can be painful details so clinicians, the public and employers have a better understanding of returning veterans.

Anderson joined the military because of September 11th. His first hitch in the Army was as a photo-print journalist with the 82nd Airborne Division. Anderson then became a Green Beret.

“I killed my first man on Dec. 31st 2008. And, you know, at that point it was more of a high-five type experience.  I was psyched. I was really pumped about it,” Anderson said. “The second deployment, I went in, our very first fire-fight was eight hours long. And we killed 39 Taliban that day and we had a couple of our guys wounded. Continue reading

PTSD Myths vs. Reality Workshops for Employers, Public

Air Force veteran and Saint Leo University faculty member Dr. Jim Whitworth, Ph.D.

Air Force veteran and Saint Leo University faculty member Dr. Jim Whitworth, Ph.D.

Some military veterans report that employers are hesitant to hire them due to worries about post-traumatic stress.

So St. Leo University, 30 miles north of Tampa, is offering two free workshops to human resource professionals, mental health experts and the general public who want to learn more about “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in the Workplace.”

Dr. Jim Whitworth, Ph.D. and member of the Saint Leo University social work faculty, will lead two workshops on the myths versus reality of veterans diagnosed with PTSD.

Air Force veteran and social work faculty member, Dr. Jim Whitworth, will lead both half-day workshops on the “Myths versus Reality” of veterans diagnosed with PTSD.

“The truth is is that it’s just a normal person in many cases dealing with that abnormal incident that with time and good support they can get better,” Whitworth said. “And of course, they bring all these great strengths to the table as well that we know about military members that they have a high commitment to their employers in many cases and lots of attention to detail.”

The workshop on Wednesday is scheduled 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and focuses on employers and businesses looking to hire veterans. The Thursday workshop is geared more for mental health professionals and also is set from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Both workshops are free but require registration. You can find details at the Saint Leo website.

A Soldier Deals with Guilt of Surviving 9-11 Pentagon Attack

This article, written by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jarad A. Denton, was originally published by Army.mil. Below is the first part. I encourage you to follow the link to read the conclusion on how Army National Guard Chief Warrant Officer 4 Clifford Bauman survived suicide and eventually did get to save three lives eight years after the terrorist attacks.

Army National Guard Chief Warrant Officer 4 Clifford Bauman examining the gloves, boots and hard hat he wore Sept. 11, 2001 trying to save lives at the Pentagon.

Army National Guard Chief Warrant Officer 4 Clifford Bauman examining the gloves, boots and hard hat he wore Sept. 11, 2001 trying to save lives at the Pentagon.

JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. – Each year when the nation collectively remembers the attacks of 9/11, Army National Guard Chief Warrant Officer 4 Clifford Bauman tries everything possible to forget. But the memories of being in the attack on the Pentagon are too vivid to forget.

“There was stuff floating everywhere,” Bauman said, as he described his journey through knee-deep water into the Pentagon’s outermost ring, the E-corridor. “We made our way back around between C- and B-corridor and saw where the nose of the aircraft detached and shot through the building.”

Immediately the team stepped outside, set up equipment designed to locate active cell phones and went to work searching for signals.

“Once we started pinging, I re-entered the building, crawling,” he said. “We were there all day and into the night, looking for people – eighteen hours and no survivors — not one.”

Looking back at what he did — what he forced himself to do – Bauman said there was only one word to describe everything he experienced.

“Horrific,” he said. “Seeing your fellow soldiers, airmen, sailors and Marines lying dead in an area where you would think it was impossible, was hard to deal with.”

Even though Bauman had steeled himself to seeing the remains of fallen service members and comrades, he continued to work through the night. The painful reality began to fester inside him like a cancerous wound. Continue reading

How to Answer National Security Questions on Counseling

many_ptsdThere’s a belief that many in the military do no seek help for post traumatic stress symptoms because they don’t want to lose their security clearance.

Here’s a solution from Corina Notyce with the Defenses Centers of Excellence – a portion of her article for the Military Health System Blog is below.

The Standard Form 86 “Questionnaire for National Security Positions” Is required.

The government uses the information from this form to conduct background checks and evaluations of those under consideration for a national security position and for those requiring access to classified information. As you complete the form, you’ll need to answer questions about your personal life, including whether you’ve had psychological counseling — Question 21.

Seeking psychological health counseling or treatment won’t automatically impact your ability to obtain or maintain a security clearance.

However, Question 21 still discourages some people from applying for certain jobs or from seeking help.

The Real Warriors Campaign recently published an article, “Security Clearances and Psychological Health Care,” to help you answer questions about your psychological and emotional health history and to debunk myths surrounding Question 21. Here are some things to consider before you fill out the form.

Above all, be honest. Question 21 asks if you have received counseling from a health care professional for an emotional or psychological health concern in the past seven years. There may be some psychological health concerns that can impair the ability to safeguard classified information and hold a clearance. Still, you may be uncertain about whether the counseling you received should be reported. So, how should you respond? It depends on the type of counseling you received.

Respond “No” if the psychological health counseling was strictly related to:

  • Grief, marital or family concerns
  • Adjustments from service in a combat zone
  • Being a victim of sexual assault

Respond “Yes” for any other counseling for an emotional or psychological health concern taking place in the past seven years, along with additional information related to care or treatment received.

Further, the psychological health care counseling you report is protected by privacy rights. Therefore, when a credentialed personnel security investigator contacts your psychological health care provider, they must first ask if you’re coping with a psychological health concern that could impair your judgment, reliability or ability to safeguard classified information. If your provider answers “no,” then no further questions are authorized. If you suspect a privacy violation, report it to the Defense Department Inspector General hotline at 800-424-9098.

Banning of Vet’s Service Dog Spurs 100 Comments

NPR Two Way. Originally published on Mon August 12, 2013, it has generated more than 100 comments. Read and please comment if you have had a similar experience or are confused about the law allowing service dogs.
An example of service dogs in training. Photo courtesy: Hill County Disabled Group

An example of service dogs in training. Photo courtesy: Hill County Disabled Group

A 19-year Army veteran was given a summons and told to leave the ocean-side boardwalk in North Wildwood, N.J., Thursday, after a police officer refused to accept the presence of the veteran’s service dog. Jared Goering says it was the first vacation for him and his wife, Sally, in years.

“Before I got my dog, I didn’t want to do nothing,” the veteran tells ABC affiliate WFTS in Tampa, Fla., where he lives. “I didn’t want to go with my wife anywhere. I didn’t like crowds. Then I got my dog and eventually I was able to go out and do that stuff.”

Goering, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, left the Army in 2009 after enduring two IED explosions in 36 hours. The effects of those events are still with him, but he says his service dog, a Labrador retriever named Navigator, has helped him adapt.

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the dog is allowed to accompany Goering wherever he goes. But it seems the police officer in New Jersey was confused about the law.

After being questioned by the officer, Jared and Sally Goering pointed out the dog’s vest, which is marked with an insignia identifying him as a service dog. But they say the officer stated that the rules on such animals only apply to guide dogs who help the blind.

Arch at the north end of the boardwalk at North Wildwood, NJ. Photo credit: Wikimedia.org

Arch at the north end of the boardwalk at North Wildwood, NJ. Photo credit: Wikimedia.org

“He went on to say that, ‘What do they do? Give every vet a dog now?’” Sally Goering says in a report on the news site NJ.com.

The summons issued on the boardwalk has been filed for dismissal, according to a statement by the North Wildwood police department, which says it is investigating the matter. The officer in question will be reprimanded if necessary, the agency said Sunday, in a report by the Cape May County Herald.

“We’ve always proudly supported military veterans,” chief of police Matthew Gallagher tells Florida’s WFTS.

Gallagher also said he and one of his officers had also gotten in touch with the organization America’s Vet Dogs, to discuss how to identify guide dogs, service dogs, and therapy dogs.

“I respect cops, I respect what they do. I know they don’t have an easy job,” Goering tells NJ.com. “But my job for 20 years was to defend the country. I got shot at on a daily basis, I’ve been blown up. You know… yeah, it hurts.”

You can comment HERE.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Obama: VA Disability Claims Backlog Is Shrinking

Veterans take photos of President Barack Obama as he works a ropeline after speaking at the Disabled American Veterans convention in Orlando, Fla., Saturday, August 10, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Veterans take photos of President Barack Obama as he works a ropeline after speaking at the Disabled American Veterans convention in Orlando, Fla., Saturday, August 10, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama acknowledged the obvious when addressing the Disabled American Veterans gathering Saturday in Orlando. He noted that there’s still a backlog of benefits claims at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

However, it’s just under 500,000 claims according to the Associated Press. And that’s smaller than the 611,000 claims backlog in March.

“Today I can report that we are not where we need to be, but we are making progress,” Obama said. “So after years when the backlog kept growing, finally the backlog is shrinking.”

A claim is considered “backlogged” if it’s been in the system for four months.

The president also unveiled a  national plan for prevention, diagnosis and treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).

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