VA Secretary Orders Review Of Caregiver Revocations

VA Secretary David Shulkin, MD photo courtesy of VA

Late Monday, the Department of Veterans Affairs temporarily stopped, for three weeks, its VA medical centers from kicking family caregivers off its program that provides caregivers of Post-9/11 veterans a stipend and benefits.

NPR’s Quil Lawrence reported two weeks ago that several VA medical centers had revoked the eligibility for hundreds of caregivers’ at the same time other centers were expanding their programs.

The VA will spend the next three weeks reviewing the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers (PCAFC) but it will continue to accept and review applications according to current eligibility criteria.

“VA is taking immediate action to review the National Caregiver Support Program to ensure we honor our commitment to enhance the health and well-being of Veterans,” said Dr. David J. Shulkin, Secretary of Veterans Affairs. “I have instructed an internal review to evaluate consistency of revocations in the program and standardize communication with Veterans and caregivers nationwide.”

There are some exceptions. Revocations will still be done at the request of the veteran or caregiver, for noncompliance, death or long-term hospitalization of the veteran or caregiver. For more on the program, go to the Caregiver Website  or call the Caregiver Support Line at  855-260-3274.

4 Things Not to Say to Someone with a Brain Injury

An IED blast. Traumatic brain injuries are most often caused by powerful blasts from improvised explosive devices. A roadside bomb explodes and the concussive effect violently shakes the brain inside the skull.

An IED blast. Traumatic brain injuries are most often caused by powerful blasts from improvised explosive devices. A roadside bomb explodes and the concussive effect violently shakes the brain inside the skull.

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is one of those “hidden wounds” that goes unnoticed by many. It’s also one of the signature wounds of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans.

And while many times the wound is not visible, a brain injury comes with real side-effects that make it difficult for the injured persons.

A recent article on brainline.org written by Marie Rowland, PhD, EmpowermentAlly, details 9 Things NOT to Say to Someone with a Brain Injury.

Rowland focuses her advice for the caregiver who, out of frustration and exhaustion, may say something to the brain injured person without realizing its impact. Here are Rowland’s top 4 Things NOT to Say:

1. You seem fine to me.

What does not show is the fatigue, depression, anxiety and pain that may accompany a brain injury. Something like a memory problem can be far more disabling than a physical wound like a limp.

2. Maybe you’re just not trying hard enough (You’re lazy).

Lazy is not the same as apathy (lack of interest, motivation, or emotion). Apathy is a disorder and common after a brain injury. Apathy can often get in the way of rehabilitation and recovery, so it’s important to recognize and treat it. Do beware of problems that mimic apathy. Depression, fatigue, and chronic pain are common after a brain injury, and can look like (or be combined with) apathy.

3. You’re such a grump!

Irritability is one of the most common signs of a brain injury. Irritability could be the direct result of the brain injury, or a side effect of depression, anxiety, chronic pain, sleep disorders, or fatigue. Think of it as a biological grumpiness — it’s not as if your loved one can get some air and come back in a better mood. It can come and go without reason.

4. How many times do I have to tell you?

It’s frustrating to repeat yourself over and over, but almost everyone who has a brain injury will experience some memory problems. Instead of pointing out a deficit, try finding a solution. Make the task easier. Create a routine. Install a memo board in the kitchen. Also, remember that language isn’t always verbal. “I’ve already told you this” comes through loud and clear just by facial expression.

You can read all 9 Things NOT to Say HERE as well as learn other tips for living with, preventing and treating TBI at Brainline.org .

PTSD: An Army Mom Says “Above All Else, Do No Harm”

Photo courtesy of the VA.

One day last week, I was on Facebook and noticed a string of heated comments on the group site, Army Moms, about a Dr. Phil show titled Heroes or Monsters. I don’t watch Dr. Phil so I did a little checking. It turns out the show was about returning veterans with post traumatic stress and the difficult challenges for the veteran and their families.

The topic is an important one. We all need to learn more about the various physical and mental stresses our veterans can potentially come home with. But by using the title: Heroes or Monsters, the Dr. Phil show chose to sensationalize the topic and in the process upset scores of veterans and their families.

The show violated the maxim adhered to by the medical profession of Do No Harm.

Continue reading

Military Family Caregivers Video Contest to find Hero at Home

Photo courtesy of the PenFed Foundation

What better way to honor those family and friends who care for wounded service members than by noting their efforts in a one to two-minute video? Then, submit that video to a contest “hero at home” sponsored by the non-profit organization, the Pentagon Federal Credit Union Foundation .

The video submissions will be used to select a caregiver of a wounded service member or veteran to be honored at the foundation’s 8th Annual Night of Heroes Gala on May 24.

It includes caregivers of those recuperating at the hospital and after they’ve returned home.

To enter, contestants must upload on YouTube a one- to two-minute video about a “hero at home” who went above and beyond to care for an injured service member or veteran, then complete the entry form with the video’s URL. Contestants also must “like” the PenFed Foundation’s official fan page.

Photo courtesy of PenFed Foundation

Service members and veterans, their caregivers or a third-party can submit a nomination. All submitted videos will be featured on the PenFed Foundation’s YouTube contest page.

Officials will accept entries through April 12, and will announce the five finalists April 16. They’ll then invite the public to help choose the winner on the PenFed Foundation’s YouTube finalists’ page through April 22, and announce the winner April 23.

Off The Base: A One Year Summary of Military Families

This is a modified version of the presentation I gave for the conclusion of my yearlong Fellowship as a Rosalynn Carter Mental Health Journalist.

PTSD Affects Entire Families – Caring for the Caregivers

Photo courtesy of Resilience 101 for Military Families.

There’s a new support group for military spouses and significant others whose loved one is living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. National Public Radio’s program “On Point” took a closer look.

To listen the full hour program click HERE

The featured guests are:

Victoria Bruner, director of the military’s new pilot program –- the Spouses and Significant Others Support Group –- for the spouses of servicemen and women affected by PTSD.

Col. Charles Engel, psychiatric epidemiologist and director of the Deployment Health Clinical Center at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Shamale Dancey, participant and peer facilitator in the Spouses and Significant Others Support Group program. Her husband, Army Specialist Marcus Dancey (temporarily retired), experienced PTSD after returning from Iraq.

Sheri Hall, participant in the Spouses and Significant Others Support Group program. Her husband, Army Major Jeff Hall, experienced PTSD after his second tour in Iraq.

With two major wars and more than eight years of fighting, the U.S. military is feeling the strain. Many servicemen and women have experienced severe combat stress, the effects of which can linger long after they’ve returned home.

The burden falls also on their spouses; post-traumatic stress disorder –– PTSD— affects entire families. One resource

PTSD: Who, What, Where and How to Get Help

Courtesy of the VA National Center for PTSD

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is usually associated with returning combat veterans, but did you know civilians can experience it too?

Living through a traumatic event can stress almost anyone and leave them with PTSD-like symptoms such as being jumpy or having nightmares, but that does not mean you have PTSD.

Bottom line whether military or civilian, we all need to know more about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Enter the VA’s National Center for PTSD which has established PTSD Awareness Day June 27, 2011.

Why wait? Here’s a very comprehensive web page on Everything You Want to Know About PTSD and Should Ask About courtesy of Veterans Today.

PTSD Category Symptoms:

  • Reliving the event (also called re-experiencing symptoms)
  • Avoiding situations that remind you of the event
  • Feeling numb
  • Feeling keyed up (also called hyperarousal)

If you think you may have PTSD, here’s an online PTSD  Screening Tool.

Children and adults, military and civilian, anyone can develop PTSD. The key is recognizing the symptoms and getting help early with the PTSD and any other related problems.

  • Depression
  • Drinking or drug problems
  • Feelings of hopelessness, shame, or despair
  • Employment or school problems
  • Relationships problems
  • Physical symptoms

It’s important that everyone understand PTSD even if it’s not touched your family or friends, but if it has, you can help a family member. Here’s a list of where to get help for PTSD.

PTSD Awareness Day is just over a week away, you have time to study up and help someone, maybe yourself.

Here are some things you can do:

  • Visit www.ptsd.va.gov to learn more about trauma and PTSD. Special postings will be made each week throughout June.
  • Print educational materials from the site to hand out.
  • Post a PTSD Awareness Day flyer (PDF) in a common area, where it can be seen.
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