Veterans news update for Oct. 27

Veterans news update for Oct. 27

Veterans news updateDoes the VA have a women veterans problem? (National Journal)
When Angela King left the Navy and enrolled in Ohio State University, she struggled to find classmates who could understand her military experience. But instead of turning to a local branch of the Veterans Affairs Department for support, she looked for help in a student veterans group on campus. “I think a lot of women feel like they don’t fit in [at the VA]. I think there’s not a lot of trust in the community to receive care there,” said King, 28, who is now a graduate student at Duke University School of Medicine in North Carolina. And it’s not just King. Officials and advocates agree: The department has a long way to go in its handling of the many issues faced by women veterans. In many ways, female veterans face tougher challenges than their male counterparts, as they are more likely to be uninsured, unemployed, divorced, and suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder—often the result of a sexual assault.

The junk science behind conservative radio host’s attack on veterans with PTSD (Media Matters)
Michael Savage suggested that younger military members think they are “the only generation that had PTSD.”  Contrary to Savage’s straw man argument, it’s been widely reported that an estimated 12 percent of Gulf War veterans have PTSD in a given year, and 30 percent of Vietnam veterans live with this condition at some point in their lives. Additionally, since the disorder wasn’t officially recognized by the American Psychiatric Association in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) until 1980, it took time for the medical community to recognize the illness and adequately diagnose it. Savage also recommended that people who suffer from PTSD should simply focus on “the good things in your life.” But PTSD isn’t just a sad feeling, and it certainly isn’t a choice. It permanently affects people’s lives, sometimes to point of debilitation. Trauma survivors don’t choose to have night terrors, severe depression, eating disorders, or the plethora of physical symptoms that can result from the illness.

The last moments of Jeremy Sears; in twist of fate, combat veteran with him at end (San Diego Union-Tribune)
Chris Naganuma had the sense that something was wrong from the start. He and his mother went to Oceanside’s Iron Sights indoor gun range for a simple practice session. In the lane next to him, a guy in a backward baseball cap was shooting haphazardly. Even at only 10 feet away, he could barely hit the target’s inner circle. Naganuma, a 28-year-old Army veteran, sized up his neighbor as a fellow vet. T-shirt, jeans, flip-flops. The man wore a black metal bracelet, a “hero bracelet” bearing the name of someone killed in action. Naganuma wears two himself. “First thing I asked him was, ‘Hey man, where did you deploy to, and how are you doing?’” “He stopped for a second. Looked up at me,” Naganuma recounts. “And the only thing he said was, ‘Nowhere important, man. But thanks for asking.’”

Friend: Nothing has changed at Las Vegas VA center since veteran’s death (Las Vegas Review Journal)
Dee Redwine’s heart sank when she found out two weeks after Sandi Niccum’s funeral that the video of Niccum’s painful, five-hour ordeal waiting for treatment at the North Las Vegas VA Medical Center’s emergency room had been erased. “I was just devastated when we received that answer that there was no video. I couldn’t believe it. I still can’t,” she said in an interview to mark the one-year anniversary of Niccum’s ordeal Oct. 22, 2013. The experience was too much to bear for Niccum, a blind Navy veteran and brittle diabetic suffering from a ruptured colon abscess. Redwine can’t erase that day from her mind. In a year’s span, she feels nothing has changed that would prevent a similar experience forced upon other veterans. Redwine said the investigation into Niccum’s ordeal that followed failed because she was the primary witness but was never interviewed in person by the inspectors.

‘Suicides are a problem in the Guard’ (Air Force Times)
Tami Mielke’s decision to end her life raises serious questions about South Dakota’s care of its emotionally wounded warriors. A gunshot June 24 at Mielke’s rural Sioux Falls acreage silenced the demons that came back from Iraq with the 50-year-old former Air National Guardsman. But it hasn’t quieted concerns about the way the Guard helped and supported her after she returned — or any other members who struggle with their war experiences. And there have been others. Since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on America, 12 South Dakota Army National Guardsmen and one airman have died by suicide, including three who took their lives this year. None of those include Tami Mielke, who was retired by the time she ended her life.

VA silent over ‘pill mill’ concerns (Charleston Post & Courier)
The Department of Veterans Affairs has been giving South Carolina’s congressional delegation the silent treatment in response to their concerns that VA hospitals here and across the country have become “pill mills.” Seven Republican members of the Palmetto State’s delegation sent the federal agency a letter in July, saying they fear doctors are overprescribing addictive painkillers at VA hospitals, including those in Columbia, Augusta and Charleston. They cited data that the number of opioid prescriptions written for veterans increased by 270 percent between 2001 and 2012. n response to an inquiry from The Post and Courier, the Department of Veterans Affairs said Friday it is still in the process of preparing a response to the delegation’s concerns. “VA takes medication safety very seriously,” the agency stated. “We are to doing whatever it takes to minimize the risk of over-prescribing opioids to veterans. We employ a variety of alternative therapies to assist veterans with pain management. In addition, patients who are prescribed opioids are counseled on using medication safely.”

Veteran’s cancelled appointment drips with irony (Army Times)
In October, Army Reserve Maj. Leslie Haines walked into the Fort Wayne campus of the Northern Indiana VA Health Care System for her regularly scheduled appointment at the PTSD clinic. The session had been on the books for months; Haines says she attends appointments like clockwork to treat her “high-level PTSD, that’s often exacerbated” by her civilian job — counseling troops and veterans. But on Oct. 9, the clinic receptionist told Haines her appointment that day had been canceled. The reason? Mental Illness Awareness Week.

Injured Marine uses viral post to promote VA reform (Military Times)
Many are likely to view getting shot as the worst thing a person could experience, but former Lance Cpl. Matt McElhinney said getting turned over to Veterans Affairs care has been more painful than anything he experienced on the battlefield. McElhinney, who served as a machine gunner with 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines, wrote a detailed account about what landed him in VA care on the social media website Reddit. He was deployed to Marjah, Afghanistan, in 2010 when a bullet missed his body armor, made solid contact with the small of his back and tore up his insides. The grisly piece ended up on the website’s “best of” section. “It felt like a sledgehammer hit me in the back, my stomach felt like the worst incontinence imaginable,” he wrote. “Then you paradoxically try to resume your task in the fight, until you realize your own bodily dysfunction.” Despite the intense pain, McElhinney said it was nothing compared to the pain and frustration he later faced when accessing VA health care. Now on disability from his job as a forger in a steel mill, McElhinney has taken to writing attention-grabbing accounts of his experiences to help encourage VA reform.