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23 minutes | Jul 11, 2021
Veteran Doctor - Episode 25 -Veterans Stress – Stress has Dramatic Effects
Good Morning Veterans, Family, and Friends, welcome back to the TWENTY-FIFTH EPISODE of the Veteran Doctor. On this week's episode, we will discuss Veterans Stress – Stress has dramatic effects on the Mind and Body. As veterans, we are faced with different challenges as life gets back to somewhat of a normal pace again after COVID. Some of us are happy, while others are getting a little stressed and anxious. Stress is very powerful. We, as veterans, have dealt with different forms of stress throughout our lives. We should be experts, but all of us deal with stress differently. So, I would like to educate everyone on the effects of stress to help us understand it and potentially deal with it better when our lives get into those stressful moments. So, there you are, sitting in traffic, late for a necessary appointment, watching the clock tick away. Your brain decides to release the stress hormones! These stress hormones trigger your body’s “fight or flight” response. Your heart races, you begin to breath more rapidly, and your muscles tense, ready for action. This response was designed to protect the body in the case of an emergency; however, as this response keeps firing day after day, it could cause severe risks to your health. Stress is a natural reaction to many different life experiences. Everyone experiences and handles stress differently. Anything from work, school, or family to serious life events, a new diagnosis, war, or death can trigger stress. For short-term situations, stress can be beneficial by helping you cope with serious situations. Although, if your stress response does not reset and these stress levels stay elevated, it can affect your health. Chronic stress can produce a variety of symptoms and affect your overall well-being, like irritability, anxiety, depression, headaches, and insomnia. Central nervous and endocrine systems One of the responsibilities of your central nervous system is the “fight or flight” response. The hypothalamus gets the ball rolling in your brain, telling your adrenal glands to release adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones speed up your heartbeat and send blood rushing to the areas of need, such as your muscles, heart, and other vital organs. When the perceived fear is gone, the CNS should return the body back to normal; however, if the stress doesn’t go away, the response will continue causing chronic stress. Chronic stress is also a factor in overeating, drug and alcohol abuse, and social withdrawal. Cardio and Respiratory Systems Stress hormones affect every aspect of our respiratory and cardiovascular systems. During a stress response, you breathe faster to distribute oxygen-rich blood to your body quicker. If you have prior breathing issues like asthma or emphysema, stress is going to make it worse. Stress hormones cause your heart to pump faster, which constrict your blood vessels and divert more oxygen to your muscles, so you will have more strength to react. This process also raises blood pressure. As a result, chronic stress will make your heart work too hard, too long. When your blood pressure rises, so does your risk of having a stroke or heart attack. Digestive system Under stress, the liver will produce extra blood sugar (glucose) to give you a boost of energy. If you are under chronic stress, your body may not be able to break down this extra glucose flood. Chronic stress may potentially increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The body's increase in hormones, increased heart rate, and rapid breathing can also upset your digestive system. You are more likely to experience heartburn or acid reflux, thanks to an increase in stomach acid. Stress can also affect how food moves through your body, primarily leading to nausea, vomiting, stomachache, diarrhea, or constipation. Muscular system During stressful times, your muscles tense up to protect themselves from injury. Your muscles will release again once you relax, but if you are constantly under stress, your muscles may never get the chance to relax. Tight muscles cause back and shoulder pain, headaches, and body aches. Over time, this can cause secondary unhealthy issues of cycle-stopping exercise and turn to pain medication for relief. Sexuality and reproductive system Stress is extremely exhausting for both the body and mind. It is not unusual to lose your desire when you are under constant stress. In comparison, short-term stress may cause men to produce more male hormone testosterone, although this effect is not long-lasting if stress for long periods of time, a man’s testosterone levels can begin to drop. This can interfere with sperm production, cause erectile dysfunction, or even impotence. Immune system Stress stimulates the immune system. This stimulation helps in avoiding infections and healing wounds. But excessive stress hormones can weaken your immune system and reduce your body’s response to fight foreign invaders. People who experience chronic stress will become more susceptible to viral illnesses like the flu, common cold, and other infections. Stress can also drastically increase the time it takes you to recover from a disease or injury. Managing your stress levels We have established that chronic stress is terrible for us, but what is more important is how to realistically manage it properly. Reorganize and Refocus. When stress increases, we are focusing on an event or situation that could or has gone wrong. Instead of focusing your attention on the negative aspects of these stressful events, take a step back and refocus. Train your mind to start thinking about things that can go positive. Every situation is only as stressful as our mind perceives it. If we can assess and reorganize our thoughts, then we can focus on what we can control. We are much less likely to become stressed. Assign yourself reasonable goals. It is common for most people to take on more than they can handle. We think we can do it all. Truthfully, we all have our limitations. Assess the amount you can manage and recognize when it is beginning to feel like too much. It is fine to say “no” to some requests. If you feel like you cannot take on anymore, just say so! This helps to eliminate unnecessary stress and allow for time to relax! Make and create time for yourself. Create enjoy at least one relaxing activity every day. This means make time and listen to music, read, or even just sit in a quiet room. These 15 to 30 minutes can help lower your stress levels and help you focus and think more clearly. Get some perspective. Easier said than done! Especially when something negative has happened. However, a more important question to ask yourself: is this truly worth my attention? Try to focus on the positives and just move on. You need to spend your time on things that are important to you. Exercise. Numerous studies have proven the benefits of managing stress with exercise. Try working out 30 to 60 minutes each day by performing any activity, whether weight training, yoga, pilates, cardio, etc. If this is too unrealistic for you, try these other options: (1) Park your car at the far side of any parking lot for a longer walk, (2) Take the stairs instead of the elevator, or (3) Bring in groceries one bag at a time. So, I hope you enjoyed this information. Even if it may not pertain to you at the moment, there will be times that stress will affect you in one way or another. If not, share it with another Veteran who may be having some issues with stress. Anyway, have a good week, stay safe, and I will see you at the next week. Take Care! REFERENCES: Healthline.com (2021). The Effects of Stress on Your Body. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/stress/effects-on-body Mannsfield, T. (2017). 5 Things you Can Do Before Stress Takes Its Toll. Core Life Eatery. Retrieved from https://www.corelifeeatery.com/5-things-you-can-do-before-stress-takes-its-toll/
37 minutes | Jun 25, 2021
Veteran Doctor - Episode 27 - Leashes of Valor
Leashes of Valor www.leashesofvalor.org About Founders About Danique Masingill President & Co-Founder Danique’s journey to serving as Leashes of Valor’s president began when she was a member of the U.S. Navy. Her duty was to enforce military law, but she was left with nowhere to turn when she was sexually assaulted by senior leadership. The trauma from this experience led her to leave the military after five years of service. But her will to help fellow veterans remained a guiding force. As a student at Syracuse University, she quickly established herself as an expert in the field of military working canines and service dogs. Congress, The Department of Transportation and Government Accountability Office each tapped Danique’s knowledge to craft wide-ranging policies regarding service dogs and military canines. Then, amid surging suicide rates among veterans in 2017, Danique co-founded Leashes of Valor, as a means to help former service members recover from post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury. In furtherance of this goal, Leashes of Valor recently partnered with Thomas Jefferson University’s College of Nursing to research service dogs as a scientifically proven treatment. About Jason Haag CEO & Co-Founder Captain Jason Haag spent 13 years in the United States Marine Corps, including two tours in Iraq, conducting frontline operations during Operation Iraqi Freedom, as well as Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, retiring as a Marine Corps Captain. After sustaining a machine gun injury and multiple traumatic brain injuries (TBI) during service, Captain Haag struggled with the after effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), leading him to be medically retired after numerous combat tours to Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2012 Captain Haag contacted an organization that provides warriors with service dogs. Within 7 months of applying Captain Haag was paired with his post-battle buddy and lifesaver, a service dog named Axel. Since experiencing the firsthand benefits of service dogs, Captain Haag has toured the country, educating policymakers, warrior organizations and warriors on the importance of service dogs for military warriors. He has been featured on over 50 news outlets including CNN and FOX News, and has been invited to speak publicly at Academic Institutions, Veterans Service Organizations, as well as Congressional briefings. Captain Haag has played an integral role in the creation of new laws regarding the acceptance of service canines in public establishments in Virginia and Florida. About Matt Masingill Canine Operations & Co-Founder Matt T. Masingill is a 21-year retired United States Navy veteran, has spent over 27 years in uniform and is an advocate serving the veteran and military community. Masingill served honorably from 1992 to 2012 as a Boatswains Mate First Class (SW). Throughout his time in the service, he drove small craft in a variety of roles, managed harbor operations overseas and in the continental United States supervising ship maintenance and operated as a combat Coxswain instructor for Anti-terrorism force protection certifying Second Fleet vessels. Over the past five years, Masingill has become very active within the Veteran Service Dog industry. Masingill previously served with organizations such as American Humane Association and K9s for Warriors and has extensive experience in program management and development, training service dogs with veterans, and acting as the lead Warrior trainer with over 200 Warrior K9 teams graduating and recertifying under his leadership. Masingill not only brings his own military experience to his work, but also leverages his perspective as a veteran and military spouse; his wife is a Navy Veteran. Statement. Leashes of Valor is a national non-profit working to provide every post 9/11 veteran who needs one with a highly-trained service dog to assist them in mitigating the symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). Our mission is to bring service dogs and post 9/11 veterans together in order to enrich and improve the lives of both. What We Do. We provide task trained service dogs that are public access ready to veterans dealing with PTSD, TBI or MST at no cost to the veteran. We also provide an Emergency care grant called Dust Off for working dogs. How We Do it. We rescue dogs and train them at our facility to become Service dogs. Through the application and interview process we derive the necessary tasks to train for a specific dog to mitigate the veteran’s symptoms and assist in their daily life. The 16 day residential program at the ranch is designed to train the veteran on the use of their service dog, conduct tasks for public access and to instill the foundation of their bond. The dog has received all public access and task training prior to the veterans arrival and pairing, so the two-week program is solely for the veteran to focus on their training. The success of this training methodology is based on the peer to peer aspect, in which the veteran is immersed in a small unit of veterans that have been through or are simultaneously going through the training. This is all made possible by generous contributions from our donors, to ensure no veteran has to incur costs in order to receive their service dog. Facility. Leashes of Valor is located on a 20-acre farm in rural Virginia, where we have our live-in facility for our Warriors and Service Dogs. At max operation, our facility graduates 3 Service Dog teams per month. Training a Service Dog is expensive, costing upwards of $20,000 per dog. This is due to the long period of time necessary to ensure the quality of training these dogs receive. Service Dogs. OUR DOGS Leashes of Valor provides meticulously trained service dogs to Veterans suffering from symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury. Every one of our dogs receives 100+ hours of training and months of public socialization, obedience and task training. In addition, each must pass their public access testing and the industry leading Canine Good Citizen Test. We take great pride in the quality of training that our service dogs receive and take great care in ensuring each is accurately paired with the Warrior who is their perfect match. Every one of our dogs is highly qualified to provide the practical physical and emotional support needed to empower their Warrior with greater independence. Training. WARRIOR TRAINING Once a Warrior and dog have been matched, their first step together on this journey is a 16-day in-house training program on our farm in Virginia. During this time, they will receive 120 hours of hands-on training with professional canine and warrior trainers. They will also participate in practical and theoretical seminars and receive basic service dog equipment, veterinary care, meals and housing at no cost. All of this is made possible because of the generous support of our donors. OUR PHILOSOPHY Leashes of Valors’ philosophy is to pair each Warrior with a top quality trained service dog and ensure their public access training is achieved. We ensure the Warrior is in an environment that fosters the opportunity to be part of the solution to their recovery. Matt Masingill, K9 Director at Leashes of Valor, heads up our kennel and leads all of training and trainers. Matt is a 21-year veteran of the United States Navy and a graduate of the Carson Long Military Academy. Our facility is located on 20 acres and the planned kennel will house between 18-25 rescued shelter dogs while they go through their rigorous service dog training. Once these brave dogs are paired with their warrior, they stay with their warrior tethered for the entire 16 days of training. This allows for the warrior and their new service dog to strengthen their bond. Our organization upholds the highest quality of service dog training and overall canine care. We invest in continued education for our canine and Warrior trainers. We ensure our LOV team provide our Warriors with customized training tools that cater to each individual service canine’s needs, as these Warriors lives may depend on it.
54 minutes | Jun 13, 2021
Veteran Doctor - Episode 24 - Veteran PTSD / The Cannabis Cure
Good Morning Veterans, Family, and Friends, welcome back to the TWENTY-FOURTH EPISODE of the Veteran Doctor. On this week's episode, we will discuss Veterans PTSD – The Cannabis Cure. Marijuana Use for PTSD Among Veterans The use of Marijuana for medical conditions is an issue of growing concern. Many Veterans use marijuana to reduce symptoms of PTSD, and many states specifically approve medical marijuana for PTSD. However, research has not been conducted on the safety or effectiveness of medical marijuana for PTSD. There is no evidence currently that suggests marijuana is an effective treatment for PTSD. This research indicates that marijuana can be harmful to individuals with PTSD. Epidemiology Marijuana use has increased over the past decade. In 2013, a study found that 19.8 million people reported using marijuana in the past month, with 8.1 million using it almost every day (1). Daily use has increased by 60% in the prior decade (1). Several factors are connected with increased risk of marijuana use, involving diagnosis of PTSD (2), social anxiety disorder (3), other substance use, mainly through youth (4), and peer substance abuse (5). Cannabis Use Disorders among Veterans Using VA Health Care There have currently been no studies of marijuana use conducted on the overall Veteran population. The data we have gathered comes from Veterans using VA health care, who may not represent the Veteran population overall. When considering this subset of veterans seen in the VA health care with co-existent of substance use disorders (SUD) and PTSD, cannabis use disorder has been the most diagnosed SUD since 2009. Veterans in the VA with PTSD and SUD diagnosed with cannabis use disorder increased from 13.0% in FY 2002 to 22.7% in FY 2014. As of FY 2014, more than 40,000 Veterans with PTSD and SUD are seen in VA diagnosed with cannabis use disorder. People in 33 States can use medical Marijuana. Why Haven't Veterans Been able to Use It for PTSD? Dogs have been prescribed medical marijuana, but veterans still cannot get the drug from the Veterans Affairs. Several Veterans groups are working on getting medical marijuana approved as a form of treatment for PTSD. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) still refuses to provide marijuana to veterans because it is listed as a Schedule I drug. Many Veterans groups want to get that designation changed and have more research conducted on the benefits of medical marijuana. Doug Distaso served his nation in the United States Air Force for 21 years. He had the opportunity to command joint aviation, maintenance, and support personnel globally and served as the primary legislative affairs lead for two U.S. Special Operations Command leaders. However, after an Air Force plane accident left Distaso with a traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and chronic pain, he was given more than a dozen prescription medications by doctors at the VA. "I was taking everything from opioids, antidepressants, benzodiazepines, and sleeping pills," Distaso stated. "Like countless other veterans, the cocktail of drugs that I was prescribed quickly threw my life into a turmoil, affecting my ability to perform at work, while straining my relationships at home." Distaso states that living his life in a prescription drug-induced, zombie-like state left his wife and family begging with him on Christmas morning to come back to them. "What brought me back to my family and career was medical cannabis. Cannabis helped me get off the pills and regain control of every facet of my life," Distaso said. Unfortunately, for millions of veterans who depend solely on their VA healthcare benefits, federal law ties their VA doctors' hands. It harshly denies these veterans access to needed medical cannabis as a treatment option. Distaso currently works for his fellow veterans as the Veterans Cannabis Project founder, which advocates for veterans' cannabis access, education to policymakers, and support for veterans seeking treatment options beyond the opiates and other prescriptive and addictive drugs they obtain from the VA. It is time for Congress to approve the VA to research the effects of cannabis on familiar veterans' health issues and allow doctors at the VA to recommend and assist veterans in accessing medical cannabis. The VA denial of cannabis Cannabis use is still branded as harmful to veterans on the VA's website. "Cannabis use for medical disorders is an issue of growing concern," the VA states. Cannabis also remains on the Schedule I list under the Controlled Substances Act, the same as heroin. According to the VA website, "measured studies have not been fully conducted to evaluate the safety or effectiveness of medical marijuana for PTSD. Thus, no proper evidence that marijuana is an effective treatment for PTSD has been collected." Conversely, the tide has turned nationally in terms of the attitude toward marijuana, especially for medicinal purposes. Despite the unattainability of medicinal marijuana at the VA, veterans nationally are using cannabis to deal with their PTSD symptoms of anxiety, depression, and chronic pain. Recent scientific studies are showing the medicinal properties of cannabis. The VA website downplays the approval of marijuana in the United States, stating that "several" states have accepted the use of medical marijuana and/or recreational marijuana. In all actuality, it's far more than "several." Thirty-three states have enacted medical marijuana laws that allow eligible people to obtain or grow cannabis to treat various conditions. Additionally, 15 states have decriminalized marijuana, and 11 states have legalized recreational marijuana. A recent poll conducted at Politico and Harvard's T.H. Chan School of Public Health shows that Americans feel that marijuana is much less harmful than alcohol, tobacco, or e-cigarettes. In the survey, one in five Americans state they believe marijuana is very harmful to people. Twice as many stated the same about alcohol, 52 percent characterized e-cigarettes as very toxic, and 80 percent indicated tobacco cigarettes are hazardous. And more than six in ten U.S. adults said they favor changing federal law to legalize marijuana for recreational use. Another recent survey shows strong majority support among Americans for legalizing marijuana. Also, almost all Democratic presidential candidates agree to remove marijuana from the federal list of controlled substances. And veterans and the American public overwhelmingly support medicinal cannabis for veterans. In the 2017 American Legion survey, 92 percent of veterans said they supported research into the use of medical cannabis, and 83 percent support legalizing medical cannabis. A new study on PTSD and cannabis A new study concludes that cannabis may already be helping Canadians cope with depression and suicide in people suffering from PTSD. This study was conducted on more than 24,000 Canadians, which concluded that people experiencing PTSD and not medicating with cannabis are far more likely to suffer from severe depression and have suicidal thoughts than those who used cannabis over the past year. The study provides initial evidence that cannabis use may contribute to decreasing the connection between PTSD, severe depressive, and suicidal states. This research states that there are limited treatment options for PTSD, so many patients have acted by medicating with cannabis to alleviate their symptoms. However, this is the first time that outcomes from a nationwide survey have exposed the potential benefits of treating the disorder with cannabis. This research documented the first relationships between PTSD, cannabis use, and severe mental health outcomes in the veteran population. The big question is: If a Canadian health survey looked at PTSD and cannabis with such a convincing conclusion, where is the VA on this issue, which affects as many as thirty percent of the American veterans who served in the wars since September 2001? Veterans group supports medical cannabis While the VA still stands on the statement that it is not allowed to do research; however, this is not actually true. They just have to coordinate with outside agencies to conduct it. Only one-third of veterans mentioned cannabis to their doctor because of the stigma attached to marijuana use. Veterans have a legitimate fear of reprisals at VA and in the workforce, where there have been programs that they can lose their jobs for testing positive for marijuana. We have found that in different parts of the country where the use of cannabis is less stigmatized open conversation can be conducted with the VA physicians. However, in parts of the country where it is still illegal, providers are more skeptical or judgmental. It shuts the veteran up and is then dangerous as the veterans do not communicate openly with their provider. Why the VA will not budge The biggest hurdle for veterans seeking cannabis from the VA is that it is still on that Schedule I list of controlled substances at the federal level. This means that cannabis "no acceptable medical use and has a more significant potential for abuse and risk for arrest," as identified by the federal government. The VA considers any form of marijuana illegal. This means veterans cannot get help accessing medical marijuana from their VA doctors, relying on their own means to obtain any. The recent congressional hearing explored bills that would allow for extended access to medical marijuana for veterans. VA representatives confirmed their position opposing any policies as long as marijuana remained illegal at the federal level. Many agencies are "committed to improving treatment options for veterans and supports research into potential treatment options that may prove valuable." Specific federal law restricts the VA's research with Schedule I controlled substances, including marijuana. Before conducting any VA research using a Schedule, I controlled substance would involve lengthy communications and coordination with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), National Institutes of Health, National Institute on Drug Abuse, and the Health and Human Services. Particular requirements include reviewing an investigational new drug application and approval of the research protocol by the FD, obtaining the medical drug through NIDA and the nationally approved medical marijuana production laboratory, and an investigator registration and site licensure by the DEA. These restrictions that are contained in federal law are clear. Research is allowed but must be done with the identified federal entities. If Congress wants more federal research into Schedule I controlled substances such as marijuana, it can eliminate these restrictions. Multiple sources explain that Congress and the President can reschedule marijuana to make it accessible to veterans and make it researchable by the VA. Former VA secretary wants more research The Former VA secretary says that the VA should study cannabis. "It is a little bit strange that marijuana is Schedule I while cocaine is Schedule II," stated the former VA secretary. "To say there is completely no medicinal value or application in cannabinoids is not true at all." "There is already an FDA-approved drug on the market, which is a cannabinoid, to treat pediatric epilepsy." The FDA approved Epidiolex in June 2018; the first drug derived in the U.S. from the cannabis plant to reach local pharmacies. He added that when he ran the VA, he was told the agency could not discuss cannabis with veterans and could not do research. But he discovered later that this was not true. "We can talk to our veterans about it. We just cannot prescribe the cannabis," says the former VA Secretary. "It is possible to do research at the VA, but the barriers and bureaucracy are lengthy and painful. I can now more effectively articulate that Congress is the most likely player to streamline this research. And yes, it needs to be done." Medical marijuana research The Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research (CMCR) is the nation's oldest research center for the safety and efficacy of cannabis. CMCR recently announced research to explore the effectiveness and safety of medical cannabis as an alternative treatment for schizophrenia, insomnia, alcohol dependence, rheumatoid arthritis, and anxiety linked to anorexia. Research done by the CMCR has also shown that cannabis can be useful for relieving pain, but research has not been conducted for studying cannabis concerning PTSD. This center is directly linked to the VA's regional office located in San Diego. The legislation is not moving Certain Congress members have tried to push for new legislation to make medical marijuana available to veterans at the VA without success. Here are a few bills that have not made any progress: 1) The Veterans Equal Access Act allows the VA health providers to recommend medical marijuana to their veteran patients and provide the required paperwork to enroll in state marijuana programs. 2) The VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act of 2018 supports the scientific and medical research of medicinal cannabis for veterans diagnosed with TBI, PTSD, chronic pain, and other injuries by clarifying that research of medicinal cannabis is within the authority of the VA. 3) The Veterans Medical Marijuana, Safe Harbor Act is an act that would enable VA physicians to issue medical cannabis recommendations under the laws of states where medical cannabis is legal. 4) The Safe Harbor Act would require the VA to conduct studies on the effects of medical marijuana on veterans in pain related to their treatment programs involving medical marijuana approved by states, veterans' access to these programs, and a reduction in veteran opioid abuse. OK, for dogs but not veterans? It is ridiculous that Americans in most states now have access to medicinal marijuana, but America's veterans do not. I have a non-veteran friend, and he receives medical marijuana for his dog's anxiety. He was shocked when he discovered that dogs could get medicinal marijuana, but veterans cannot get the same treatment at the VA. Washington, D.C. is an echo chamber of circular logic. We are convinced there is a national craving for this issue on medical cannabis for veterans. Still, politicians only seem to hear themselves and continue to assume that there is not. We must change this view and make it known. Cannabis May Help Veterans With PTSD After 17 years in the military and deploying to almost every terrorist filled location on Earth, former Green Beret Adam Smith discovered that while his combat battles had ended, his personal one still lingered. "I had a hard time with anxiety, sleeping, hyper-vigilance, and symptoms that revolve around PTSD," Smith, remembering his difficult transition to civilian life, starting in 2015. "I found myself hopeless and in an awful place," said Smith, who also suffers from the effects of several past brain injuries. "The bottom of this black hole was me sitting on a couch with a pistol in my mouth." Thankfully, Smith did not go through with it and said that in the years since, what's helped sustain him is the lessened joint pain, better sleep, and moderated his constant sensation of always feeling "switched-on," has been … self-medicating with cannabis. Smith is just the kind of veteran lawmaker that is trying to help with two U.S. House bills that approved at the House Committee of Veterans Affairs on March 12: H.R. 712, the VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act of 2019, directing the Veterans Administration to research marijuana's impact on physical conditions related to active duty. H.R. 1647, the Veterans Equal Access Act of 2019, allows physicians to complete state-legal medical marijuana proposal paperwork due to VA doctors currently being prohibited from doing this, forcing veterans to turn to private-network physicians. Irritatingly Smith states, "When it comes to veterans and veterans' rights, the game of politics should not exist." Smith has publicly talked about his avoidance of Veterans Administration treatment because of its chosen response to suffering veterans. That response includes treating veterans' symptoms with anxiety meds, sleeping pills, and high blood pressure meds and does not necessarily treat the total patient. Smith finally realized in 2015 when he tried marijuana for the first time, alongside a military buddy who said marijuana had sharply reduced his seizures and improved his sleep. This may not display hard evidence to support cannabis as a solution for PTSD; many veterans swear by it. Post-traumatic stress is no joke; Post-traumatic stress is something that's hitting our community in an epidemic. The social answer to deal with the trauma is to drink and drug our way into distraction or sedation, so we do not have to feel the pain anymore. That should not be the methodology." Many Americans agree. A recent poll of 5,369 U.S. adults found support for CBD treatment, with 53 percent of those polled agreeing that medical dispensaries should be considered an "essential service." What seems here like a cultural shift may have as much to do with the current anxiety engendered by the coronavirus crisis (which has spiked cannabis sales) as it does the different sort of pain veterans and first responders experience. Marijuana is a top treatment for veterans' pain, PTSD, but the cost is a barrier According to recent survey data, military veterans are using cannabis to treat chronic pain, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and depression, among other ailments. But the cost of medical marijuana is a barrier since it is not covered by insurance, even though veterans are using cannabis as an alternative to pharmaceuticals. Final results from the 2019 Veterans Health and Medical Cannabis Study, which looked at 201 veterans in Massachusetts and 565 respondents nationwide, were presented at the Cannabis Advancement Series. The study, which was performed March 3 through Dec. 31, was conducted by Marion McNabb, Steven White, Stephen Mandile, and Ann Brum. Over half of the 201 Massachusetts veterans who completed the survey through outreach by veterans' groups, marijuana dispensaries, and social media sites were age 50 or older. Most, 54 percent had served in the Army. The sample was overwhelmingly male, 90 percent and 84 percent were white, non-Hispanic. Chronic pain, anxiety, and PTSD are the top medical conditions facing veterans. Nearly one in three, 30 percent, of the veteran participants, were currently or homeless in the past. Ninety-one percent of participants reported using medical marijuana. Recreational marijuana was used by 59 percent. Results from 2019 Veterans Health and Medical Cannabis Study Top health conditions Massachusetts veterans are facing As reported by 201 Massachusetts survey participants in the 2019 Veterans Health and Medical Cannabis Study 37% Chronic pain 25% PTSD 10% Anxiety Primary health conditions Massachusetts veterans find cannabis most helpful for treating 36% Chronic pain 24% PTSD 11% Anxiety 6% Depression Top barriers to accessing cannabis reported by Massachusetts veterans 55% Money to purchase prod money 37% Money required to get a medical card 33% Access to the right products 33% Stigma 26% Owning a firearm 21% Workplace testing or other policies Massachusetts veterans report cannabis allows them to: 89% Experience a much better quality of life 79% Experience much less psychological symptoms 69% Experience much less physical symptoms 44% Use alcohol much less now 40% Use prior medication (non-opioid) much less now 23% Use tobacco much less now 22% Use opioids much less now Many veterans responded to the survey reporting that cannabis provided relief for their primary medical troubles, and 77% said that they were actively trying to reduce the use of their over-the-counter or prescription medications with medical cannabis. The top symptoms being treated with medical cannabis included: pain, 51 percent; sleep problems, 50 percent; depression or mood, 45 percent; anxiety or panic attacks, 41 percent; and aggression, 24 percent. "It surprised me, but it is not that surprising," McNabb stated. "They are consumers of medical cannabis. They are finding relief in medical cannabis." The survey's findings brought additional attention to previously published research on medical marijuana by Staci Gruber. Gruber stated that almost all research on the impact of cannabis on the brain and cognitive functioning comes from recreational users, most of whom began using the drug as teenagers while their brains were still developing. Studies conducted by Gruber have found that after three months of treatment, medical marijuana patients demonstrated an improvement in task performance accompanied by changes in brain activation patterns measured in imaging. Further, after treatment, brain activation patterns appeared more similar to those in healthy controls, who weren't using marijuana than pretreatment with medical marijuana. Gruber said her research suggested that medical marijuana use may affect the brain differently compared to the brain impacts among recreational marijuana users. Consistent with the veterans' survey, Gruber's study also found medical marijuana patients reported improvements in how they felt and notably decreased their use of prescription drugs, predominantly opioid and benzodiazepines, after three months of treatment. Mandile became an advocate for medical marijuana after being seriously wounded in Iraq while deployed in 2005. His Veterans Affairs doctors put him on 57 medications, which included nine opioids. In 2013 he attempted suicide. In 2014, his wife's ultimate goal for Mandile was to wean himself from prescription drugs by using marijuana, which he accomplished in only five months. He formed a nonprofit organization called the Alternative Treatment for Veterans to advance awareness of medical marijuana and work with dispensaries to offer discounts to veterans who have been rated 100 percent disabled by the VA. The product 11 marijuana dispensaries across the state have picked up the product discounts testified on proposed legislation, H. 4274, that would allow veterans to use their VA paperwork to qualify for a medical marijuana card instead of paying hundreds of dollars for the state-required card. The 2017 state law legalizing the adult-use of marijuana called for the Cannabis Advisory Board to make recommendations to the Cannabis Control Commission on related costs associated with the purchase of medical marijuana by U.S. military veterans insured through the VA, and to make recommendations on improving cost-effective access. But the study and recommendations were never made by the Sept. 2018 deadline, Mandile said. "As much as legislators can feel the connection with anecdotal stories," Mandile said, "they needed something more concrete, more data-driven." This data found Massachusetts veterans spending an average of $79 a week on cannabis. Nearly three-quarters, 72 percent, purchase cannabis from regulated dispensaries, while one out of five, 19 percent, grow their money The money to purchase marijuana products and get a medical marijuana card was the top two topics reported in the veterans' survey. DAV - The Cannabis Cure DAV requests more research on medical cannabis as an alternative treatment for veterans with chronic pain, PTSD, and TBIs Like many veterans, military service rigors have taken a toll on Air Force veteran Jarid Watson's body. He is not sure when the injury occurred—perhaps during the 12 years of physical training or while loading and unloading cargo planes—but at some point, the ball joint of his hip tore his labrum and damaged the surrounding cartilage. The injury brought on Watson's chronic pain and eventually led to his medical retirement in 2016. It also severely affected his sleep, which negatively influenced his motivation and mood. As a father, husband, student, and entrepreneur, something had to be done to fight this pain and restore being able to achieve a good night's rest to restore himself, his family, career, and studies. For Watson, there was only one choice. "As soon as I knew my military career was ending and dealing with this chronic pain was in my future, I considered medical cannabis as an option because I'm not going to take pain pills and potentially get addicted.' Watson's reluctance toward pain pills stems from his personal experience. As a native of northeast Ohio, the Afghanistan War veteran lost two close friends to opioid overdoses and has witnessed how addiction can destroy individuals and their families. "That area has been devastated with opiate and heroin use. That is tearing families apart in this country. It is killing people," Watson said. The National Center for Health Statistics released a report in 2017 stating that there was a national opioid crisis killing more than 42,000 Americans in 2016. Alarmingly, a 2013 analysis by the Center for Investigative Reporting found that opioid prescriptions for veterans spiked 270 percent over 12 years, while a 2011 Department of Veterans Affairs study found that veterans were twice as likely to die as compared to the rest of the population from an opioid overdose. The VA also estimates that 68,000 veterans, 13 % of the total veteran population currently taking opioids, have an opioid-use disorder. According to VA officials, doctors continue to prescribe them for chronic pain, a condition that 60 percent of veterans sustained from deployments to the Middle East and 50 percent of older veterans. "Sixty percent of what the VA treats falls into the category of chronic pain, and the VA system is not designed to do much more than push pills, and those pills are not working," said Nick Etten, founder and executive director of Veterans Cannabis Project. The story of Air Force veterans Jarid and Priscilla Watson helps display the effectiveness of medical cannabis. Jarid uses medical cannabis to help treat his chronic hip pain rather than using opioids pharmaceuticals, which he feels are dangerous. "He's much happier, more productive, and more motivated in his everyday life," said Priscilla, noting the difference. Etten, a former Navy SEAL, also noted that medicinal cannabis is an effective treatment for the wounds he sustained in the Middle East—PTSD and TBI. He named pain, sleep, and anxiety as the primary symptoms veterans deal with concerning their service-connected injuries. "Cannabis is proving to be safe and effective in treating my injuries," he said. "That's where it can be transformative and a potential game-changer." "Before cannabis, he was constantly complaining about how tense he was and how much pain he had," said Watson's wife, Priscilla. "His pain would keep him up all night, so he would be exhausted, tired, and need naps throughout the next day. But now, he sleeps all night and is not in pain anymore." As an Air Force veteran and nutritional therapist herself, Priscilla feels cannabis is a more natural and safer alternative to attending to his pain than opioid pharmaceuticals, noting the disparity between what she calls "the obsolete argument that marijuana is dangerous." "He is happier, more productive, and more motivated," she added. "So, it has changed his quality of life greatly." Medical cannabis's benefits associate with its responsible use, including refraining from driving while under the influence and ensuring that proper dosage is administered. "As someone with a nutrition background, I do not let Jarid smoke it because I do not like having to deal with the damaging effects of the smoke in the lungs," she said. "He uses cannabis in the form of edibles, which I think is a lot safer, and tends to produce a more positive effect." While the VA cannot deny any veterans benefits due to medical marijuana use, the VA providers cannot recommend or prescribe any form of cannabis since the Food and Drug Administration still classifies it as a Schedule I drug. Instead, Veterans must pay out of pocket for an annual physician's evaluation and medical cannabis cards in one of 30 states, which have legalized medical marijuana. Participation in any state marijuana program does not affect a veteran's eligibility for VA care and services. VA providers can discuss cannabis use with veteran patients and adjust care and treatment plans as needed. However, Etten adds that the federal classification of cannabis leaves many veterans in limbo. While some can afford to pay the out-of-pocket costs, many others cannot and must rely solely on the VA for health care. Until cannabis has been removed from the Schedule I list and elevated from a health policy issue where it can be treated as a medical treatment, we will be stuck in this legal gray zone where we are currently located. However, the federal government maintains that more research into the efficacy of medical marijuana needs to be conducted before it is declassified and made available to service-connected disabled veterans through the VA. DAV Resolution #23 supports additional research in the use of medical cannabis, noting the DAV's call for more research—rather than just legalization—requiring the need to know more about both the potential benefits and risks associated with medical marijuana. As veterans, we do not want to prescribe a new form of treatment without research showing it is safe and effective. The VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act of 2018 promotes the scientific and medical research into the safety and efficiency of medicinal cannabis usage on veterans diagnosed with PTSD, TBI, chronic pain, and other injuries by clarifying that research medicinal cannabis is well under the authority of the VA. "We have heard of veterans who use cannabis medicinally to cope with physical and mental injuries sustained from active service for our country," said Walz. "Twenty-two percent report using cannabis as a safer and more effective alternative to opioids and drug cocktails currently prescribed by VA for the medical conditions such as PTSD or chronic pain." "As a physician, I am acutely aware of the need to look for opioid alternatives to treat patients' chronic pain," said Roe. "I've heard from many veterans who suffer from physical and invisible wounds and believe medical cannabis could benefit them." The Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act (S. 3409) would also empower VA physicians to issue medical cannabis recommendations under states' laws where it is legal. This legislation would also force the VA to conduct studies on "the effects of medical marijuana on veterans in PTSD and pain" and "the relationship between treatment programs involving medical marijuana that are approved by States and a reduction in opioid abuse among veterans." In 2014 a study by the Journal of the American Medical Association discovered that medical marijuana laws had a twenty-five percent lower average annual opioid overdose death rate than states without such laws. "If veterans can ease some of their chronic pain, symptoms of injuries they have received from serving their country without turning to opioids, the VA has a responsibility to research it," said Sen. Jon Tester. Despite the criticisms of medical cannabis use, as it becomes gradually accepted, no other demographic stands to benefit more from its use and legality as America's veterans. "I was tentative at first to be open about it because of the stigma that is still associated with cannabis," said Watson. "However, ultimately, you finally realize how much it helps, and you feel guilty for not sharing that information with everyone else." Veterans organizations like DAV are precisely what medical cannabis users need to advocate for making medical cannabis an available alternative for veterans everywhere. References: Bonn-Miller, M. & Rousseau, G. (2015). Marijuana Use and PTSD Among Veterans. Department of Veteran Affairs. Retrieved from https://www.ptsd.va.gov/professional/treat/cooccurring/marijuana_ptsd_vets.asp Hunter, T. (2018). A Cannabis Cure. Disabled American Veterans (DAV). Retrieved from by https://www.dav.org/learn-more/news/2018/the-cannabis-cure/ Oleck, J. (2020). Cannabis May Help Veterans With PTSD. And Lawmakers May Be Acknowledging That. Forbes. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/joanoleck/2020/03/30/cannabis-may-help-veterans-with-ptsd-and-lawmakers-may-be-acknowledging-that/?sh=79ecf8315fe6 Reno, J. (2019). People in 33 States Can Use Medical Marijuana. Why Can't Veterans Get It for PTSD? Healthline. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health-news/why-are-veterans-still-being-denied-cannabis-for-ptsd-treatment Spenser, S. (2020). Marijuana is a top treatment for veterans' pain, PTSD, but the cost is a barrier. The Metro West Daily News. Retrieved from https://www.metrowestdailynews.com/news/20200204/marijuana-is-top-treatment-for-veterans-pain-ptsd-but-cost-is-barrier
32 minutes | Jun 6, 2021
Veteran Doctor - Episode 23 - Veterans and Hobbies
Good Morning Veterans, Family, and Friends, welcome back to the TWENTY-THIRD EPISODE of the Veteran Doctor. On this week's episode, we will discuss Veterans and Hobbies. A hobby is defined as: "any activity is done regularly by a person for leisure or pleasure." Finding pleasure in your day-to-day life is essential for everyone, but hobbies are not just a space-filler for empty gaps in your schedule. They are often the things we enjoy the most in this world and give meaning to our lives. Transitioning from a high-stressful and physical job like the military and going into civilian life is already challenging enough. Often, veterans are struggling with PTSD, mental illness, or physical disability. Hobbies can be the distinct difference between being depressed and unmotivated to giving purpose and satisfaction. In many cases, they are even the difference between life and death. Here are 20 great hobbies for military veterans: Fishing If you love to be outdoors, fishing could be the perfect hobby! It is also something that can be done virtually anywhere. If there is a body of water, most likely, you can fish in it. You can start with a cheap rod and tackle, some advice from your local sportsman's shop, and a fair deal of patience. Then progress from there as you learn. Most states even provide discounts for fishing licenses. Camping or Hiking Here is one for outdoor enthusiasts. Luckily, this hobby can be done as mild or extreme as you want, depending on how far you want it to go. This is a way to enjoy places away from everything and disconnect from modern technologies. It gets people outdoors into nature while presenting opportunities of being in the water, in a tent, and exploring the natural world in many different ways. Outdoor enthusiasts can find excitement, while people who have never tried it may enjoy it, too. Hiking and hunting can all be ways to enjoy being with friends and family to go exploring on excursions or solo treks. Set up a camping trip with friends and see how it goes. Woodworking Woodworking can be as simple as working a pocket knife from a stick. It can also be as complicated as creating a pristine bowl from a tree burl. There are a million little projects in between. It is working with your hands; like so many vets are used to creating something extraordinary from raw materials. Work with your Hands and Doing Creative Art While woodworking may be a form of art, it may not work for you. Veterans often battle with mental and physical challenges. To help get past this obstacle, be creative, and try working with hands. Art is an over-arching term that can include painting, needlepoint, writing, photography, taxidermy, and even coloring. Yes, they make coloring books for adults. They are pretty popular, too. It is expressive to think about patterns, create something, and bring it to realization. Pottery work is popular also. Glass blowing is an opportunity to create beautiful pieces, learn something new, and connect with others. Poetry, reading aloud, or doing story slams are currently popular, where people share stories from their journeys. They nurture the story, share it, and find some peace knowing that sharing a part of themselves may help others while helping themselves. Art therapy is a therapeutic experience that uses art to help heal people. All these art forms and types of handiwork can be healing. Art therapy is a real thing! Overall, art just makes everyone feel better! It gets you into "The Zone," a state of mind that is proven to make our brains feel healthier and happier. Do not be discouraged if you think you are a terrible artist. The point of doing it is to experience it! You do not have to be good. Being an artist is not something you are either born with. You have to practice! Give it a try; see what you think. Brewing beer Like beer? Are you interested in learning how to make your own? Double-check. Brewing could be a hobby for you! When talking about military veterans' hobbies, this one comes up pretty often; I do not know if it is because soldiers just love beer. In any case, it is a great way to learn a new skill that can maybe save or make you money down the road. If that does not pan out, well, you still get to drink the beer. Weightlifting or CrossFit Military veterans are always looking for ways to stay fit after service, and there is already a considerable percentage who have taken up lifting. Weightlifting or CrossFit is a fantastic sport to increase your health while also increasing your confidence and improving your appearance. 7. Running Exercise is an excellent means of stress relief. Running with feet pounding on the ground helps people get out their repressed emotions. Create a goal to train with someone for a 5K run or maybe another similar goal. Fitness has positive effects like bringing down blood pressure, leveling out blood sugar, and keeping stress under control. Many veterans usually run on their own but meet with others who share their goals and make it their new hobby. Yoga Yoga has been practiced for thousands of years for its physical, mental, and spiritual aspects. Military veterans can use yoga as an excellent tool to cope with PTSD in both psychological and physical improvements. Yoga has been deemed as one of the most popular hobbies used by many different foundations and programs to help veterans deal with a wide array of problems. Stress resilience and mental resilience are essential things that yoga teaches that military veterans will find great use in. Playing an Instrument and Music If you have not learned an instrument by now, you may feel like you have missed your opportunity, but you are wrong. It is never too late to learn how to play an instrument! While it is true that children usually pick up new skills more effortlessly, you can still become an expert guitarist at age 30, 40, 50, 60, and beyond. Learning to play an instrument is a stress-reliever, confidence-builder, and is just plain cool. Even the simplest of instruments, a hand drum, is accessible for veterans who are not very musically inclined. Drum circles and therapeutic drumming are great ways to enjoy this type of musical experience. Piano and other instruments can help relieve stress and build confidence as well. This also provides an expressive outlet for veterans who struggle with sharing their experiences. Reading Reading is a quiet activity, which is excellent for people with loud, active, and busy lives. Not only does it train your brain to think quicker and retain more information, but it helps transport you into an entirely different and new world. Whether your interest is sci-fi, romance, or history, everyone has something to gain from reading. Quad or RC car racing For those of you who are adrenaline junkies and want to get physical: Try quad racing. It is fast-paced, invigorating, and can help you get that competitive edge back. For those who are not as physically active, you can still race; but RC (radio-controlled) car racing lets you participate from a distance. To start quad racing, you should join the nearest All-Terrain Vehicle Association or ATVA; that will allow you to race in any ATVA sanctioned quad races and give you a good feel for the sport. Water sports (If your weather allows) Jet skiing can be expensive for the initial cost, but then you are just paying gas. It's a lot of fun! Additional water sports like sailing, spear-fishing, scuba diving, paddle-boarding, kayaking, and kite are a lot of fun too. Surfing is another sport also. The ocean can be used as a perfect healing remedy. Surfing is an excellent therapeutic way to promote mental and physical wellness. Several foundations use surfing as a way to help improve veteran's well-being. Golf Golf may not seem like it would alleviate stress for some by trying to hit a little ball into a little hole over 500 yards away. However, If you change your perspective; You are outdoors, getting exercise on some of the most beautiful terrain, drinking what? Your favorite alcoholic beverage while you are playing! (please be responsible). Additionally, the more you play, the better you get! Fishing Many people enjoy the outdoors! Some enthusiasts love to sit on the water without any outside noise or contact. It is actually very serene! One of the primary triggers for veterans with PTSD, constant stress, and anxiety, can be noise. Places of peace can provide healing with quiet time away from everyday chaos. Fishing is not about the end game. The goal is to find rest and relaxation away from everything. There is also camaraderie if you can find people to go fishing together. Fishing trips at a cabin by the water can be fun while exploring the wilderness. Find what works and give it a try. Gardening Playing in the dirt is fantastic for healing. Emotional and physical challenges cannot stop people from getting into the dirt to plant herbs or flowers. Soil therapy is very underrated as it provides people with treatment without a lot of work. Many community-based planting opportunities offer small gardens and plots to join. A veteran can gain the fruits of their labor by being able to eat the food that they grow. Knowing where the food came from and that a person's hands helped produce it is often therapeutic. The witnessing of growth can be something positive amid a veterans' challenges in recovery. Archery The sport of archery is the perfect way to strengthen both the mind and the body. Archery requires concentration, technique, discipline, focus, and attention, which are skills that military veterans have been trained and are accustomed to. This perfect sport that can make the transition into civilian life more manageable. As your skills improve and you notice your arrows being more consistently accurate, a new sense of fulfillment drives you and your confidence. Shooting The sport of shooting is very therapeutic. Concentrating on the fundamentals of shooting to hit a precise target can be very relaxing, along with taking your mental frustrations out on that target. There are actually health benefits to shooting! Physical Discipline – To be able to control a firearm, it takes a bit of physical strength. Handguns significantly increase arm and wrist strength. When firing a pistol, it is essential to maintain control of the weapon after the recoil and a steady arm to ensure proper aim. Rifle firearms take a different arm and body strength as well as different firing techniques and positioning. Depending on the caliber's size, each requires the right strength and stance for adequate control. Along as stamina develops, better hand and eye coordination will follow with firearm practice. Improves Eyesight – Shooting does not cure your eye problems. However, it can help exercise your eye's full capabilities. Modern technologies like TVs, computers, phones, and tablets, stress our eyes from daily activities. The eyeball uses muscles that automatically adjust to what we are looking at. If our faces are stuck on the screen, we are not using all of the muscles in our eyes. This can ultimately lead to imbalances. While shooting, you are looking downrange at the targets to acquire proper sight alignment with your weapon and the target. This allows your eyes the opportunity to use the different muscles located in your eyes, allowing you to exercise different muscles and help provide balance. Mental Focus – When shooting, it takes a measurable amount of mental focus and discipline to perform well. Depending on what or where you are shooting, you will need to be aware of your surroundings (who is near or around you, and your targets). Additionally, it is essential to learn how to control adrenaline, which can interfere significantly. Military and law enforcement are continually training to maintain full control, especially under high adrenaline settings. They must ensure their abilities in controlling their weapon, ammo consumption, and knowing their target. Many accidental shootings or injuries are due to high adrenaline situations and failure to properly and safely operate their weapon. When at the range and before even getting your weapons out, take in your surroundings. Make a mental note of who is around and what possible distractions could take place. Stress Relief – Many find the discipline and practice of shooting to be a stress reliever. When shooting, it is your time to clear your mind of your problems. Shooting is like your own personal meditation session, where you can focus on yourself and self-improvement. If you suffer from stress, it is time to go shooting and leave your problems at home. Horseback Riding While dogs have been known to be man's best friend, there is another animal in the world who has also been seen by our side than the horse. Equine horse therapy has gained massive popularity with veterans by dealing with their mental health issues like PTSD. Riding horses helps people keep active in an outdoor setting, build core physical strength, and develop deep bonds with beautiful creatures. Equine therapy programs are being promoted worldwide, which is becoming more accessible to veterans everywhere. Cycling Military veterans have often sustained injuries from their military service, and cycling provides benefits for their disabilities or inabilities. There are customized bikes, like tricycles, that are used to participate in races. Cycling is a fantastic way to boost strength, confidence, and reduce vulnerability to stress. Skiing Extreme sports, like skiing, positively use adrenaline to affect negative triggers. Skiing brings an adrenaline rush to the veteran and helps put them in a focused state of mind where they live in that specific moment. Several foundations of programs, like the Vermont Adaptive Ski & Sports program, use skiing to help treat symptoms of combat PTSD in military veterans. Finding pleasure in daily life is essential for people to feel and experience validation. Hobbies are not just something to fill time when there is nothing else to do. They can significantly enrich a person's life and bring some joy and peace amidst the challenges. Hobbies are a perfect way to help reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, leading to an increase in happiness. It is better to mitigate stress whenever and as much as possible. The best hobbies in the world are ones which people can enjoy either alone or with others. References: Indoored.com (2020). Best Sports & Hobbies for Military Veterans. Retrieved from https://indoored.com/sports-hobbies-for-military-veterans/ Lawrence S, De Silva M, Henley R. (2010). Sports and games for post‐traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2010, Issue 1. Art. No.: CD007171. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD007171.pub2. Ley, Clemens et al. (2018). "In the Sport I Am Here": Therapeutic Processes and Health Effects of Sport and Exercise on PTSD." Qualitative health research vol. 28,3 (2018): 491-507. doi:10.1177/1049732317744533 Leidy, L. (2020). 12 Great Hobbies for Military Veterans. Our Military. Retrieved from https://www.ourmilitary.com/hobbies-for-military-veterans/ Pressman, Sarah D et al. (2009). "Association of enjoyable leisure activities with psychological and physical well-being." Psychosomatic medicine vol. 71,7 (2009): 725-32. doi:10.1097/PSY.0b013e3181ad7978 Shooting Range Industries LLC (2020). Shooting Range Therapy; Can Firing a Gun Relieve Stress, Provide Physical Strength Training & More? Retrieved from http://www.shootingrangeindustries.com/shooting-range-therapy-can-firing-a-gun-relieve-stress-provide-physical-strength-training-more/ Strive (2020). Veterans Can Try These 7 Great Hobbies to Release Stress. Retrieved from https://www.strivecares.com/veterans-can-try-these-7-great-hobbies-to-release-stress/
35 minutes | Jun 5, 2021
Veteran Doctor - Episode 22 - Veterans and Dogs
Good Morning Veterans, Family, and Friends, welcome back to the TWENTY-SECOND EPISODE of the Veteran Doctor. On this week's episode, we will discuss Veterans and Dogs. We will also have our UBI and Veteran News, so stick around for some great stuff ahead in our program! Many brave soldiers return home with scars – both visible and invisible – that makes it challenging to transition back into civilian life. At the same moment, millions of wonderful companion animals wait in shelters for a forever home. When a Veteran is appropriately matched with the right dog, both of their lives change for the better. The Veteran saves the animal from their demise and welcomes them into a loving home. The pet provides the Veteran with support, unconditional love, relieving stress, depression, loneliness, and anxiety. Here is a very informative article I found on veterans and dogs written by Correll, D. (2020) from the Military Times that might be helpful: While there are multiple options to choose from for treatment, nonprofit organizations like K9s for Warriors and Southeastern Guide Dogs have founded a treatment method that veterans cannot receive directly from the VA, and that is service dogs. These extremely trained animals can perform a range of tasks such as tactile stimulation to help the veteran cope with anxiety or panic attacks or standing directly in front of their handler in a crowd to give the veteran space from other people. The goal is to empower veterans who are living with PTSD. “Dogs will never cure your issues, but they are simply going to be a tool to help them in their recovery with it,” Suzy Wilburn, director of admissions and alumni, support at Southeastern Guide Dogs, told by the Military Times. The VA is currently evaluating whether service dogs can benefit veterans diagnosed with PTSD. Although Congress first mandated a study on the topic in 2010, it has been put on the back burner twice. Most recently, it was relaunched in 2015 and is still being conducted. According to the New York Times, the VA said that in May, it would unveil the study’s results in 2020. But K9s for Warriors, who matches post-9/11 veterans with service dogs, has pointed to research Purdue University released in 2018 that found veterans with service dogs experienced lower overall symptoms of PTSD, lower levels of depression, and a more remarkable ability to engage in social activities. Purdue partnered with K9s for Warriors for the study and examined 141 veterans with PTSD: 75 who had graduated from the K9s for Warriors program, and 66 who were on the waitlist. Under current policy, Veterans cannot be matched with a service dog through the VA. But the agency can recommend veterans work with nonprofits that are members of Assistance Dogs International or the International Guide Dog Federation, coalitions that provide accreditation to organizations who train and place service dogs, to start the process of adopting a service dog. Military Times spoke with experts at K9s for Warriors and Southeastern Guide Dogs, accredited organizations with the agencies above, and here’s what you need to know. What’s the process like? To apply for a service dog, veterans typically must submit documentation that they have been diagnosed with PTSD from their military service, conduct a series of interviews over the phone and/or at home with the service dog providers, undergo criminal background checks, and participate in a training course. Information, including the contact information of the Veteran’s current mental health provider, primary care physician, and references, are also commonly requested. “Here at Southeastern Guide Dogs, we have a pretty extensive application process that they go through,” Wilburn said. “What we want to find out is if they’re appropriate to have a dog,” Wilburn added. This ensures that Southeastern Guide Dogs knows essential information about the applicant upfront to prevent wasting a veteran’s and organization’s time if it’s not the right match. Approximately 50 percent of the applications that Southeastern Guide Dogs receives are rejected due to various reasons, including criminal background, or if the Veteran is not also receiving treatment from a mental health professional, Wilburn said. “We tend not to place our dogs if there’s a tendency toward any kind of violence,” Wilburn said. The organization also conducts an at-home interview to guarantee that the Veteran lives in an environment safe for a dog. During those checks, Wilburn said they figure out what a veteran is looking for in a service dog. That is, do they want a dog that will help them leave the house for the grocery store during the middle of the day or one that will help them cope with flashbacks or nightmares. At that point, Southeastern Guide Dogs determines which dog they’ve been training is best suited for the Veteran, and then they work with that animal for 12 weeks to customize commands tailored to that specific Veteran. Lastly, veterans are brought to the Southeastern Guide Dogs campus in Palmetto, Fla., for an 11-day training course to instruct them on how to work with their service dog. Altogether, it can take up to two years for Southeastern Guide Dogs to train the service dogs the organization breeds, Wilburn said. Matching a veteran with a dog through Southeastern Guide Dogs takes between six months to one year. K9s for Warriors also has a thorough application process and asks for various information in its 37-page application to service veterans diagnosed with PTSD, a traumatic brain injury, and/or military sexual trauma. “We look at your mobility, we look at your activity level, we look at your home life, we look at the animals that you have in your home, we look at the goals that you have within three to five years,” Mike Drafts, Warrior Relations Manager at K9s for Warriors and a Marine Corps veteran, told Military Times. Like the Southeastern Guide Dogs’ application process, veterans must submit documentation from a physician confirming they have service-connected PTSD. K9s for Warriors also conducts criminal background checks and contacts personal references. Likewise, veterans also must submit confirmation that they are physically and mentally able to participate in a 21-day training program where they will go out in public with a service dog. According to Drafts, 85 percent of the dogs K9s for Warriors trains are rescue dogs. The organization has a dedicated procurement team that evaluates dogs in shelters to determine if they have the aptitude and are medically cleared to work as a service animal. If a dog cannot pass the K9s for the Warriors training program, they are then adopted through the organization to help prevent them from ending up in any kill animal shelter. According to Drafts, K9s for Warriors has accepted approximately 360 applications in 2019. Drafts said a “good percentage” of applicants are accepted; however, they noted that failing to meet requirements will disqualify some candidates. Those who are approved won’t receive a dog immediately, though. Even after being accepted into the K9s for Warriors program, veterans must be very patient because the organization’s waitlist is between 12 to 18 months. The final portion of the matching process requires the veterans to complete 120 hours of training on-site at their headquarters in Ponte Vedra, Fla., where the Veteran is matched up with a fully trained service dog. The training is designed to show the veterans how they can instruct the service dog and work together as a team. Once veterans graduate from programs like Southeastern Guide Dogs and K9s for Warriors, they must cover costs associated with having a service animal. However, veterans who have substantial mobility limitations stemming from a mental health disorder can qualify to receive veterinary benefits for their service dogs, provided the dogs were adopted through an organization Assistance Dogs International or International Guide Dog Federation has accredited. Drafts said approximately 38 graduates from the K9s for Warriors program had received approvals for this benefit this year. Service dog vs. emotional support animal Service dogs and emotional support animals are not the same and do not perform the same functions. Although emotional support animals have attracted media attention in recent years, experts note there are several significant distinctions between the two. “The big difference between a service dog and an emotional support animal is not the dog itself, but the handler,” Rory Diamond, K9s for Warriors CEO, told Military Times. “For a service dog, the handler has a disability, and that dog is trained to help with that disability.” That differs from an emotional support animal that could help anyone “feel better,” regardless of whether the handler has a disability or not, Diamond said. Wilson expressed similar sentiments when asked about emotional support animals. “Although it does the emotional part of it, it is not trained in any specific tasks to do that,” Wilson said. “It is going to sit on your lap and let you pet it and love it, and you are going to feel better about yourself, however, it is not going to help you mitigate anything disability-wise.” Wilburn also pointed out service dogs have public access rights covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act, which only recognizes dogs and miniature horses as animals specifically trained to perform tasks for those with disabilities. In contrast, emotional support animals do not have public access rights at all. The PAWS Act Groups like K9s for Warriors do not charge veterans going through their program to train and place a service dog. But both chambers of Congress have introduced legislation that would provide veterans a voucher to use to receive a service dog, known as the Puppies Assisting Wounded Service Members Act, or PAWS Act. “The PAWS Act would change VA policy completely,” Diamond said, adding this could allow groups to match more veterans with service dogs. The legislation would instruct the VA to establish a grant program to give veterans with PTSD $25,000 vouchers to adopt a service dog if that organization belongs to the Association of Service Dog Providers for Military Veterans. K9s for Warriors estimates it costs $27,000 to train and place each dog. Rep. John Rutherford, R-Fla., introduced the measure in the House in June, and Sen. Debbie Fischer, R-Neb., reintroduced it in the upper chamber in November. Previous efforts to pass the legislation have been unsuccessful. For example, it was first introduced in 2016, again in 2017, and most recently in 2019. Even so, the legislation has consistently been referred to the House and Senate Veterans Affairs committees and hasn’t faced a vote. Diamond said that K9s for Warriors will continue working to advance the legislation and will instead invest more energy into the Senate in 2020 to try to ensure the legislation advances this time around. “What you’ll see is a big push in the Senate in January...we’re going to put all of our efforts into the Senate side since the House seems to want to kill it every year,” Diamond said. Advice for veterans? For veterans starting the process of adopting a service dog, Wilburn and Diamond advised veterans to do their research ahead of time. In particular, Wilburn warned that illegitimate organizations could attempt to target veterans because they may be in a “vulnerable” state. “Although they may not feel that way, there are organizations and scammers out there that know that they’re vulnerable and will take advantage of that,” Wilburn said. To safeguard against this, Wilburn said that veterans should head to Assistance Dogs International, which establishes training standards to ensure the dogs “meet the highest standards in the industry,” according to the organization’s website. “That’s the best place for a service member to start, is to look at these accredited organizations around the country,” Wilburn said. Diamond also recommended that veterans visit the Association of Service Dog Providers for Military Veterans’ website to familiarize themselves with various providers that connect veterans with service dogs, what the standards are, and what’s expected during the process. Similarly, he recommended that veterans avoid working with organizations that require veterans to pay for the service dogs. “There are lots of groups that are working for free,” Diamond said. For Drafts, he recommended that veterans have ample support from their family to adopt a service dog because it can significantly alter the dynamic between a veteran and their family. “What I mean by support is that this is a lifestyle change like no other, meaning that it is a service dog, and it’s almost like you’re adding a third person to a relationship,” Drafts said. Drafts pointed out that the service dog is very different from a family pet and said the animal is designed to develop a bond with one person: the Veteran. But no matter what, Drafts said K9s for Warriors wants to be a resource for veterans — even if their organization can’t directly assist them. If you need help, let someone know, Drafts said. “It’s not just that we’re providing service dogs for veterans,” Drafts said. “We’re here to help any and every veteran.” According to the VA, veteran suicides increased in 2017, averaging approximately 17 per day. Reducing that number is K9s for Warriors’ ultimate mission, and Drafts said that’s why they want to help all veterans — period. “We’re just here to change lives,” Drafts said. “And that’s what we’re trying to do.” Hopefully, this article is something that you find informative and intriguing. Animals are very therapeutic in helping Veterans in many different ways. If you feel that a dog could help you, please see your local VA and consult with your mental health professional. They should also be able to guide you in the right direction. If you have any further questions, please let me know. Until next time, take care, be safe, and I will see you next week Reference: Correll, D. (2020). Is adopting a service dog right for you? What veterans diagnosed with PTSD need to know. Military Times. Retrieved from https://www.militarytimes.com/veterans/2020/01/02/is-adopting-a-service-dog-right-for-you-what-veterans-diagnosed-with-ptsd-need-to-know/
31 minutes | May 2, 2021
Veteran Doctor - Episode 21 - Scams Targeting Veterans
Good Morning Veterans, Family, and Friends, welcome back to the TWENTY-FIRST EPISODE of the Veteran Doctor. On this week's episode, we will discuss Scams Targeting Veterans. We will also have our Veteran News, so stick around for some great stuff ahead in our program! Veterans deserve many things: Praise. Honor. Security. Respect. Here’s what they don’t deserve: attempts to take advantage of their service. Yet every day, scammers attempt to swindle our veterans of their hard-earned benefits, steal their identity, take their life savings, and worse. According to an AARP survey, veterans are twice as likely to fall victim to scams as the population at large. Some scammers offer veterans the opportunity to refinance Veterans Affairs (VA) loans at extremely low rates. Others will pose as government agencies in order to access personal information, or offer lump sum payments up front, in exchange for signing over all their future monthly benefit checks. There have even been instances where scammers will create fake charities that target veterans or pretend to be old friends offering “sure thing” investments. Why are veterans so susceptible to these particular scams? For starters, veterans implicitly trust fellow members of the military, making them vulnerable to imposters claiming to be veterans themselves. Sometimes, because of their military experiences, veterans also find it more difficult to recognize and combat the emotional manipulation used by scam artists. That’s why the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and AARP joined forces to create Operation Protect Veterans, and provide valuable information and resources that veterans, their loved ones, and their friends can use to help protect against scammers. Together, we can fight back and take one small step to repay our veterans for the service they’ve given and the sacrifices they’ve made. Secret Veteran Benefits Scam Veterans are told they qualify for “secret” government programs or benefits that offer thousands of dollars – but first, they attempt to collect personal information or a fee. Fake Charitable Giving Request Scammers make fraudulent claims about charities benefitting wounded service members. Benefits Buyout Offer Scammers take advantage of veterans in need by offering a quick upfront buyout – usually at a fraction of the value – of future disability or pension payments. Veterans Affairs (VA) Loan Scams Scammers offer to refinance Veterans Affairs loans at extremely low rates. Bogus Employment Scam Scammers post fake job descriptions to collect personal information from a veteran’s job application, or they charge an employment fee. Fraudulent Records Offer Scammers try to charge veterans a fee to access military records or government forms—information that is actually available for free through the National Archives (for military records) and VA.gov or local Veterans Affairs offices (for forms). Veteran Affairs (VA) Phishing Scam Scammers pose as Veterans Affairs employees to get access to personal information. Update your File Scam An imposter claiming to be from a government agency attempts to get a veteran’s personal information to “update their file” so they can maintain their benefits. Aid and Attendance Scam Veterans (or their family members) receive an offer to move their assets into a living trust so that they can qualify for financial assisted-living benefits. Veterans Choice Program Scam Scammers set up a phone number nearly identical to the number veterans dial to find out if they are eligible to use approved health care providers outside of the Veterans Affairs system. Veterans call the fake number and a message prompts them to leave their credit card information in return for a rebate. Make sure to dial the correct number for the VCP: 866-606-8198. GI Bill Education Marketing Scam Scammers use deceptive marketing tactics and provide false information to push expensive for-profit educational institutions to veterans seeking to take advantage of the GI Bill for college courses. The Veterans Affairs offers a comparison tool to help you locate a school and determine your benefits. Visitwww.vets.gov/education/gi-bill. Special Deals for Veterans Scam Scammers offer special discounts for veterans on a range of products, like loans and car purchases, but the products aren’t discounted at all, or they don’t actually exist. Rental Scam A scammer posts a fake rental property on a classified ad website offering discounts for active duty military and veterans. Once they have your security deposit, you find out there is no rental property and your money is gone. Romance/”Catfishing” Scam Scammers steal a veteran’s photo and create a phony profile on a dating site to “catfish” singles looking for love. Most Common Scams Targeting Veterans, by State Alaska Credit Card 2. Charity 3. VA Loan/Tech Support Alabama Credit Card 2. Tech Support 3. Charity Arkansas Credit Card 2. IRS Tax 3. Tech Support Arizona Credit Card 2. Tech Support 3. IRS Tax California Credit Card 2. IRS Tax 3. Tech Support Colorado Credit Card 2. IRS Tax 3. Tech Support Connecticut Credit Card 2. Tech Support/IRS Tax 3. Charity DC Credit Card/IRS Tax 2. VA Loan/Tech Support 3. Phishing/Charity Deleware Credit Card 2. IRS Tax 3. Tech Support Florida Credit Card 2. IRS Tax 3. Tech Support Georgia Credit Card 2. IRS Tax 3. Tech Support Hawaii Credit Card 2. Tech Support 3. IRS Tax Iowa Credit Card 2. IRS Tax 3. Charity Idaho Credit Card 2. Tech Support 3. IRS Tax/Charity Illinois Credit Card 2. IRS Tax 3. Tech Support Indiana Credit Card 2. Tech Support 3. IRS Tax Kansas Tech Support 2. Credit Card 3. IRS Tax/Charity Kentucky IRS Tax 2. Credit Card 3. Charity Louisiana Credit Card 2. Tech Support 3. IRS Tax Massachusetts Credit Card 2. Tech Support 3. Charity Maryland Credit Card 2. Tech Support 3. IRS Tax Maine Credit Card 2. Tech Support/IRS Tax 3. Charity/Other Michigan Credit Card 2. IRS Tax 3. Charity Minnesota Credit Card 2. Tech Support 3. IRS Tax Missouri Credit Card 2. Tech Support 3. IRS Tax Mississippi Tech Support 2. Charity/Credit Card 3. IRS Tax Montana Credit Card 2. Tech Support 3. IRS Tax North Carolina Credit Card 2. Tech Support 3. IRS Tax North Dakota Credit Card 2. Tech Support 3. Charity Nebraska Credit Card 2. Tech Support 3. IRS Tax/Charity New Hampshire Tech Support 2. Credit Card 3. IRS Tax New Jersey Credit Card 2. Tech Support 3. IRS Tax New Mexico Credit Card 2. IRS Tax 3. Tech Support Nevada Credit Card 2. Tech Support 3. IRS Tax New York Credit Card 2. IRS Tax 3. Tech Support Ohio Credit Card 2. Tech Support 3. IRS Tax Oklahoma Tech Support 2. Credit Card 3. IRS Tax Oregon Credit Card 2. Tech Support 3. IRS Tax Pennsylvania Credit Card 2. IRS Tax 3. Tech Support Puerto Rico Other 2. Phishing/VA Loan 3. Credit Card Rhode Island Credit Card 2. IRS Tax/Charity 3. Tech Support South Carolina Credit Card 2. Tech Support 3. IRS Tax South Dakota Credit Card 2. IRS Tax 3. Tech Support Tennessee Credit Card 2. IRS Tax 3. Tech Support Texas Credit Card 2. IRS Tax 3. Tech Support Utah Credit Card 2. Tech Support 3. Charity Virginia Credit Card 2. IRS Tax 3. Tech Support Vermont Tech Support 2. Credit Card/Charity 3. IRS Tax Washington Credit Card 2. Tech Support 3. IRS Tax Wisconsin Credit Card 2. Tech Support 3. IRS Tax West Virginia Credit Card 2. Tech Support 3. IRS Tax Wyoming Credit Card 2. IRS Tax 3. Charity/Phishing Unknown Credit Card 2. Tech Support 3. IRS Tax Here what you should never do in these situations: Don’t give personal information Don’t give any personal information over the phone. This includes bank account numbers, credit card numbers and your Social Security number. Don’t send money Don’t send/wire money or gift cards to anyone you don’t know well. Don’t feel pressured Don’t be pressured to act immediately. If you are dealing with a legitimate outfit, they won’t try to pressure you to act before having a chance to check it out and think about it. If they do, just say “no” and hang up. These are things you should always do in these situations Consult a friend Check out the offer with a trusted family member, friend or your local veteran’s affairs office before acting. Check the security Verify any charity asking for money before sending it. There are several online services veterans can use, such as the Better Business Bureau, Charity Navigator, CharityWatch and GuideStar. Do your homework Get credible information on how to qualify for veterans’ benefits by contacting your state veterans’ affairs agency. Visit www.nasdva.us, for additional information.
26 minutes | Apr 25, 2021
Veteran Doctor - Episode 20 - 11 Interesting Facts About Veterans
Good Morning Veterans, Family, and Friends, welcome back to the TWENTIETH EPISODE of the Veteran Doctor. On this week's episode, we will discuss 11 Interesting Facts about Veterans. We will also have our Veteran News, so stick around for some great stuff ahead in our program! A big day for all veterans is a day called Veterans Day. What is veteran’s day? Some people do not know (believe it or not). So here you go! Veterans Day (once known as Armistice Day) is a federal holiday in the U.S., observed annually on November 11th to honor military veterans who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces. It coincides with Armistice Day and Remembrance Day, which celebrates the ending of World War I. World War I formally came to an end on the 11th hour of the 11th day in the 11th month of 1918 when Armistice with Germany finally went into effect. Armistice Day was renamed to Veterans Day in 1954. Veterans Day is a distinctly different holiday from Memorial Day, which is celebrated in May. Veterans Day celebrates the service of veterans, while Memorial Day honors those who had died and paid the ultimate sacrifice. Here are eleven interesting facts about veterans. Beyond everything veterans do to keep our nation safe, they have sacrificed long periods of time away from family and friends. Please remember these facts for this upcoming holiday and share them with friends, family, and anyone who would appreciate this information. Veterans are individuals who have served in the military (U.S. Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard) in war or peacetime. As of 2019, 12,987 living veterans served all through World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. Veterans Day is observed on November 11th, the same day that World War I ended. Initially known as Armistice Day before being renamed as Veterans Day in 1954. Veterans Day pays tribute to all veterans. Memorial Day pays homage to those who lost their lives in combat. In 2017, there were about 1.9 million female veterans in the U.S. In 2017, the largest living cohort of male veterans served during the Vietnam War era, while the largest living cohort of female veterans served during the post-9/11 period. As of 2019, the states with the highest veteran populations are California (1.56 million), Texas (1.46 million), and Florida (1.44 million). The overall unemployment rate for veterans who served post-9/11 was 3.5% (2018) — the lowest recorded rate since 2008. As of 2019, 11.7 million veterans are over 65, which is about 61% of all veterans. Veterans make up roughly 11% of adults experiencing homelessness. 70% of veterans experiencing homelessness also experience substance abuse, and 50% live with mental illnesses like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). You are probably wondering why I am sharing these facts with you. Well, we are in the business of helping veterans in our local community. Staying informed and knowledgeable is the best way to help veterans. This information is the beginning step in making us think about what we can do to get out to help our fellow veterans this Veterans Day. What can we do as an organization? What can you do as an individual? It is just a thought that intimately will make us better as a community. Anyway, hopefully, this information was helpful. Some people may call this useless information, while others call it useful. I have another acronym for this type of information; UBI (Useful Bit of Information). Enjoy!
79 minutes | Apr 16, 2021
Veteran Doctor - Episode 19 - Helping Veteran Ideas.
Good Morning Veterans, Family, and Friends, welcome back to the NINETEENTH EPISODE of the Veteran Doctor. On this week's episode, we will discuss Helping Veteran Ideas. We will also continue our fun facts of UBI (Useful Bits of Information) and Veteran News, so stick around for the program! Hello fellow veterans! I hope everyone is doing well during these challenging times we are in with the COVID-19 quarantine. It seems like we have been experiencing issues for a while now with no light at the end of the tunnel. I guess you can say we are establishing a new normal for our way of life. Who knows!? Anyway, I want to talk about help veterans today! We always discuss this at our meetings, and our primary mission as an organization is to help veterans within our community. I think we do an outstanding job at this! However, what do we do as individuals? If you would like to show some gratitude for the sacrifices made and support veterans, there are many ways to make it happen. Sometimes even a small gesture can have a significant impact. Our veterans have many needs and challenges because of their military service, and they can use support and assistance in various ways that may not always be obvious. It is just a thought, and it does not take much to devote a little time to help a fellow veteran out. Here are some ideas. (NOTE: I realize some of these ideas do not comply with current COVID-19 quarantine restrictions. So please use with caution and be safe). Some of these ideas may have to wait till after all of this COVID-19 stuff calms down. Pick up the tab for a Veteran's coffee or meal. The next time you see a veteran in a restaurant or standing in line for coffee, pick up the tab. You can do so anonymously if you would prefer, but even a quick "thank you for your service" would mean a lot to the veteran. You don't have to limit yourself to dinner or a latte—you could pay for a tank of gas, a prescription, or a cart of groceries. Show you, support Veterans, by Providing Transportation. One way to support veterans in your local area is to provide necessary transportation to get to medical and mental health treatment appointments. The VA has a volunteer transportation network that allows volunteers to donate their time and/or the use of their vehicles for veterans in need. Donated vehicles may also be used or accepted by the program. Visit Wounded Vets in a Nearby VA Facility. Another great way to show that you support veterans is to pay a visit to wounded vets at a VA facility near you. These injured veterans may not have many visitors to brighten their day. Once you find the nearest VA facility, contact the staff, and find out if you can arrange a visit. The staff may be able to identify veterans who would benefit the most from a visit. Say Thank You and Mean It. One of the easiest ways to support veterans is a simple thank you, as long as it is heartfelt and sincere. A simple act of gratitude for everything that the veteran faced and gave up seems like such a small thing, but it is something that American veterans do not hear as often as they should. These two words can brighten even a lousy day for a veteran because you acknowledge their service.In particular, saying, “Welcome home. Thank you for your service” to Vietnam veterans can have a substantial emotional impact on them since Vietnam era veterans did not experience even the lip-service support from American society that today’s veterans receive. Fight Homelessness, Eviction, and Foreclosure among Veterans. If you support veterans, then you realize that many veterans face foreclosure, eviction, and homelessness. You can volunteer with the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, donate your time and effort to Homes for Our Troops, or even provide financial assistance to veteran organizations to prevent the eviction of a military family. Perform Home Repairs or Household Chores for a Veteran in Need. One terrific way to support veterans is to perform home repairs or household chores for a veteran in need. Many veterans in your area may need help with household chores or home repairs because of a disability, a severe injury, or even a lack of financial resources. When you help out in this way, you will gain an incredible sense of satisfaction while helping repay a veteran who deserves it. Donate your Time to a Veteran Organization. There are other ways to support veterans, even if you do not have special skills or a lot of knowledge in-home repair. You can volunteer with a veteran organization and make a difference. These organizations depend on volunteers to keep costs down. Clerical work, answering phones, organizing, and stepping in to help with menial work can make an enormous difference. The National Veteran Foundation welcomes volunteers of all ages and skill levels at our offices in Los Angeles. Replace one light bulb in your home with a green one. The Greenlight a Vet project is a simple way to remind yourself and others about the sacrifice veterans have made for our country and to show your appreciation to them. Simply purchase a green bulb and place it somewhere in your home—a porch lamp is ideal since it's most visible to others. Over 9 million people across the nation have logged their green lights into the project's nationwide map so far. Volunteer your Services to Help Vets in Need. If you do have special skills that you can offer, whether these are IT skills, tax preparation training, or medical training, then you can support veterans by providing your skills free of charge. You will be able to use your knowledge and training to help veterans who need these skills right now and who may have limited financial resources to pay for this type of assistance. Write a letter to thank a veteran. Operation Gratitude is an organization that coordinates care packages, gifts, and letters of thanks to veterans. You can work through them to send your appreciation to a vet or volunteer to help assemble care packages. And, if you still have candy kicking around from Halloween, Operation Gratitude also mails sweets to deployed troops. Spend Time with a Vet and Take the Time to Listen. One way that you can give something back to a veteran who was willing to sacrifice everything is to spend time with them and listen to them. Many veterans end up socially isolated, and this can have a negative effect on their mental and physical health. Get to know veterans in your area and spend time with them so that they have social opportunities and do not end up isolated. Provide Food for Veterans. Many veterans are hungry, and a home-cooked meal will provide them with much-needed nutrition. Even vets that are not lacking food will benefit from a meal or a homemade batch of cookies. It shows them that someone cares. Contact your local church or veteran organization to see who might appreciate your culinary delights. Feed Our Vets is an organization that specializes in feeding hungry veteran families. Get involved with a Veterans assistance program. There are veterans in your community that could use help—but how do you find them? Contact a local veterans assistance program, such as the one offered by DAV. They'll be able to put you in touch with local vets who need help doing chores like yard work, housework, grocery shopping, or running errands. Help Veterans with job training. Adjusting to civilian life after military service isn't always smooth sailing. Hire Heroes helps vets with interview skills, resumes, and training so they can find a post-military career. They even partner with various employers to host a job board. Through Hire Heroes, you can help veterans with mock interviews, career counseling, job searches, workshops, and more. Help build a house for a Veteran. Building Homes for Heroes builds or modifies homes to suit the needs of veterans injured in Iraq or Afghanistan. The houses are given mortgage-free to veterans and their families. You can volunteer your painting, carpentry, plumbing, wiring, and other skilled services—or you can just donate to the cause. Volunteer for an "Operation Reveille" or “Stand Down” event for homeless veterans. The VA continually hosts Operation Reveille or Stand Down, a series of one- to three-day events that give much-needed supplies and services to homeless veterans. Vets can receive everything from food and clothing to health screenings, housing solutions, substance abuse treatment, and mental health counseling. They take place at various places across the nation all year long, so contact the representative in your state about when and how you can volunteer. Visit a Vet with your Pet. It is a well-known fact that animals provide emotional and physical benefits. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Animal-assisted therapy can significantly reduce pain, anxiety, depression, and fatigue in people with a range of health problems.” Dogs are the most commonly used for therapy and service dogs. A well-behaved dog can receive certification and be able to bring some affection and calmness into a vet’s life. Send a care package. In addition to helping people send care packages to active duty members, Operation Gratitude’s “Welcome Home Heroes” initiative sends care packages to veterans. “Just as with our care packages to deployed troops, we want to put a smile on the face of every veteran who courageously served our nation,” says Operation Gratitude’s founder Carolyn Blashek on the organization’s website. Veteran care packages can include many of the items sent to active-duty troops, including personal letters of thanks, snacks, books, magazines, and hygiene items. So, this list is not inclusive by any means. Please add to it and be creative in your ways to give back to Veterans in our community. They will appreciate it, just as you did when you received something in the past. Believe it or not, it is also just as therapeutic for you to help and give to other veterans.
79 minutes | Apr 5, 2021
Veteran Doctor - Episode 18 - MVP (Merging Vets & Players)
Good Morning Veterans, Family, and Friends, welcome back to the EIGHTEENTH EPISODE of the Veteran Doctor. On this week's episode, we have some special guests who are visiting today to discuss MVP (Merging Vets and Players)! So stick around for some really exciting stuff. History of MVP: Jay Glazer has spent years working with warriors from the ring and the gridiron, many of these men and women have also struggled to apply their skills beyond their field of battle. As part-owner of Unbreakable Performance Center he dedicates time to train elite athletes from all sports in addition to hosting Bellator MMA fights on Paramount Network and various shows for NFL on FOX. Nate Boyer is a U.S. Army Green Beret Veteran and former NFL athlete who played with the Seattle Seahawks. Living both lives as a veteran and former professional athlete, he brings years of paralleled experience of our members of the loss of identity, purpose, and community. He also hosts Indivisible, a documentary series highlight the communities in football cities. MVP was created to leverage Jay and Nate’s unique role at the crossroads of all of these warriors. By merging veterans with players, these warriors can benefit from each other's strengths, experience and abilities to unlock their full potential - and lead their families, communities and country towards a better future. Merging Vets and Players ensures these men and women know that the challenges they are facing are far more about who they are - Warriors - than what they did in the military or on the field. In reality, that is a title that no one can ever take from you. Mission Statement? MVP empowers combat veterans and former professional athletes by connecting them after the uniform comes off; providing them with a new team to assist with transition, promote personal development, and show them they are never alone.
51 minutes | Mar 29, 2021
Veteran Doctor - Episode 17 - America's Veteran Population is Changing
Good Morning Veterans, Family, and Friends, welcome back to the SEVENTEENTH EPISODE of the Veteran Doctor. On this week's episode, we will discuss how America’s Veteran Population is Changing. We will also continue our fun facts of UBI (Useful Bits of Information) and Veteran News, so stick around for the program! Hello fellow veterans. I hope all is well, and everyone is staying safe in these challenging times. It has been a while since we have last discussed any topics. I have been surfing for some different and interesting ones to discuss, and I found one on the changing face of the veteran population that I think you might find interesting. I hope you enjoy it. There were around 20.4 million U.S. veterans as of 2016, according to data from the Department of Veterans Affairs. This represents less than 10% of the total U.S. adult population. I have included some key facts about those who have served in the military and how this population is slowly changing and represented within the American population. 1) Gulf War-era veterans now account for the largest share of all U.S. veterans. This surpasses the Vietnam-era veterans as of 2016, according to Veterans Affairs’ 2016 population model estimates. There were 6.8 million American veterans who served during the Vietnam era and 7.1 million who served in the Gulf War era, which spans from August 1990 to the present day. (Some veterans served through both eras.) There were also around 771,000 World War II veterans and 1.6 million who served during the Korean conflict, according to VA estimates. About three-quarters (77%) of veterans in 2016 served during wartime, and 23% only served during peacetime. 2) The share of the U.S. population with military experience is declining. As of 2016, 7% of U.S. adults were veterans, which is down from 18% in 1980, according to the National Census Bureau. This drop coincides with decreases in active duty personnel due to military downsizing. Over the past half-century, the number of people on active duty has dropped significantly, from 3.5 million in 1968, during the draft era, to 1.3 million (or less than 1% of all U.S. adults) in today’s all-volunteer force. The military draft ended in 1973. VA projections suggest the number of veterans will continue to decline in the coming decades. By 2045, the department estimates there will be around 12 million veterans, a roughly 40% decrease from current numbers. By that time, Gulf War-era veterans are projected to make up a majority of veterans. 3) The demographic profile of veterans is expected to change in the next few decades. As of 2016, nine-in-ten veterans (91%) are men while 9% are women, according to the VA’s 2016 population model estimates. By 2045, the share of female veterans is expected to double to 18%. The number of female veterans is also projected to increase, from around 1.9 million in 2016 to 2.2 million in 2045. Male veterans, on the other hand, are projected to drop by almost half, from 18.5 million in 2016 to 9.8 million in 2045. Projections also indicate that the veteran population will become slightly younger by 2045, with 33% of veterans more youthful than 50 (compared with 27% in 2016), even as the overall U.S. population continues to age. The share of veterans ages 50 to 69 is expected to shrink from 39% to 33%, while the percentage of those 70 and older is predicted to be around a third of the total (34%) by 2045, similar to the current share. As with trends in the U.S. population overall, the veteran population is predicted to become more racially and ethnically diverse. Between 2016 and 2045, the share of veterans who are non-Hispanic white is expected to drop from 77% to 64%. The percentage of Hispanic veterans is expected to nearly double from 7% to 13%, while the share who are black is likely to increase from 12% to 16%. 4) Fewer members of Congress have prior military experience than in the past. As the share of Americans who are veterans has declined, so has the percentage of Congress members who have previously served in the military. In the current Congress, 20% of senators and 19% of representatives had prior military service, down drastically from just a few decades ago. The share of senators who are veterans reached a post-Korean War peak of 81% in 1975, while the percentage among House members peaked in 1967 at 75%. However, there are signs more veterans could run for office in the future. 5) The Department of Veterans Affairs receives a low favorability rating. While the public expresses favorable views of many federal agencies, the VA received the lowest rating among ten agencies and departments in a Pew Research Center survey earlier this year. Roughly half of U.S. adults (49%) had a favorable view of the VA, and 34% expressed an unfavorable view. As with all the agencies and departments in the survey, there were partisan differences. Republicans and Republican-leaning independents expressed lower favorability for the VA (40%) than Democrats and Democratic leaners (60%). Americans continue to see veterans’ services as an essential priority.
51 minutes | Mar 23, 2021
Veteran Doctor - Episode 16 - Veteran Specific Health Issues
Good Morning Veterans, Family, and Friends, welcome back to the SIXTEENTH EPISODE of the Veteran Doctor. On this week's podcast, we will discuss Veteran Specific Health Issues. We will also continue our fun facts of UBI (Useful Bits of Information) and Veteran News, so stick around for the program! Hello, fellow veterans! I hope everyone is doing well now that we have been living with COVID for over a year now. Who would have thought this type of thing would come to our society, or world, and make such an impact as it has today? Well, with all of these health-related challenges, what a perfect opportunity to discuss the challenges that veterans face daily that are health-related. Some of you are familiar, some maybe not so knowledgeable, but it is always good to stay up-to-date so that we can help other veterans through their challenges. Mental health or behavioral adjustment disorders Medical records of veterans reveal that one in three patients have been diagnosed with at least one mental health disorder – 41% were diagnosed with either mental health or a behavioral adjustment disorder. In compensation or combination with military-related diseases, many veterans develop substance use disorders (SUDs), and a large number ultimately commit suicide. Also, the research found that male veterans diagnosed with depression, manic-depressive disorder, heavy or binge drinking, and alcohol-related problems were significantly associated with an increased risk of suicide. Thus, identifying and treating mental health illness has the most significant potential to mitigate suicide risk. Unfortunately, reluctance to seek help or treatment makes diagnosing and treating mental illness difficult in this population. SUDs The stressors of military service increase the risk of veterans having problems with alcohol, tobacco, or drugs. Cigarette smoking and alcohol consumption are higher among veterans than non-military personnel. For some veterans, treatment of a co-morbid condition (e.g., PTSD, depression, pain, insomnia) may resolve the problem. PTSD Also known as "shell shock" or "combat fatigue," PTSD results from witnessing or experiencing (directly or indirectly) a traumatic event. PTSD is a combination of symptoms, severity, and duration. Diagnosis is based upon four symptom categories: intrusive symptoms (flashbacks), avoidance of reminders (isolation), negative thoughts and feelings ("no one can be trusted"), and arousal and reactivity symptoms (exaggerated startle response). PTSD is often associated with "traumatic brain injury (TBI), military sexual trauma (MST), sleep problems, substance use, pain, and other psychiatric disorders, and requires comprehensive assessment." Treatment is aimed at therapy (psychotherapy, prolonged exposure therapy, family/group therapy, and others), social support, and/or medication such as antidepressants. TBI TBI is a traumatically induced structural injury and/or physiological disruption of brain function due to an external force. TBI can be classified as mild, moderate, or severe depending on the length of unconsciousness, memory loss/disorientation, and responsiveness of the individual following the event (i.e., are they able to follow commands). While mild TBI (or concussion) is the most common, diagnosis is difficult since symptoms include headaches, dizziness/problems walking, fatigue, irritability, memory problems, and problems paying attention. Depression Among the available data from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), depression ranks among the most common mental health disorders. The diagnosis rate for veteran depression is 14% (although NAMI believes depression is under-diagnosed). Notably, NAMI found that individuals with PTSD were less likely to commit suicide versus those with depression, probably due to the increased awareness and acceptance of PTSD. Despite its devastating effects, major depression is a treatable illness with 80%–90% success rate using medication, psychotherapy, and/or electroconvulsive therapy. Suicide With 18 to 22 veterans committing suicide daily, risk assessment and intervention are paramount. Private and public health care professionals must be aware of patients' military history (since not all veterans seek care in VA clinics) and be able to recognize suicide-risk factors, regardless of age. Young veterans aged 18–44 years are most at risk of suicide; yet, it has been found that even older veterans, aged 50 years and older, were still almost twice as likely to commit suicide versus non-veterans (69% and 37%, respectively). Additionally, 11% of veterans who survive a first suicide attempt will reattempt within nine months, and 6% of those will die. Evidence has been discovered supporting the efficacy of VA health care systems in lowering veterans' non-fatal suicide attempt rates. Thus, referral to a VA facility is recommended for appropriate counseling and health services. Chronic pain With 82% of OEF and OIF veterans reporting chronic pain, diagnosis and treatment are essential. A comprehensive assessment of pain is crucial and identifies associated physiological/biological and psychological factors since chronic physical pain is often associated with co-morbid conditions, including TBI and PTSD, that may complicate treatment. Treatment should focus on concurrently addressing all needs, with extreme cautionary use of opioids due to the heightened risk of veterans developing SUDs. Amputations Advancement in medical technology and bodily protection allows soldiers to survive injuries at a higher rate than in previous wars. Yet, the scars from a traumatic amputation are deep, and many soldiers develop mental health injuries related to the event, and in cases involving multiple limb amputations or disfigurement, body image issues may create various social and employment barriers. Health care professionals must be able to address these barriers and the emotional health of the veteran. Sensory aids, prostheses, and medical rehabilitation require an interdisciplinary team approach to healing wounded soldiers. Rehabilitation care Many veterans have a hard time reacclimating into society after deployment due to military skills that are not transferrable to civilian life, bodily trauma that renders them individually handicapped, and/or war-related mental disease. Rehabilitation care is aimed at balancing vocational, physical, social, and mental therapies to prepare veterans for re-entry into civilian life. Vocational programs help job-seeking veterans develop the skills and knowledge required for a particular job. Physical rehabilitation focuses on improving veterans' quality of life and independence. Social rehabilitation assists veterans to assimilate to non-military life and establish new ways of life post-deployment. Mental rehabilitation teaches veterans with mental health illness the living skills of community functioning and the ability to deal with their new environment. Hazardous exposures Veterans' past exposure to chemicals (Agent Orange, contaminated water), radiation (nuclear weapons, X-rays), air pollutants (burn pit smoke, dust), occupational hazards (asbestos, lead), warfare agents (chemical and biological weapons), noise, and vibration increase their risk of health problems even years after the initial introduction. For example, long-term health problems have been implicated in association with Agent Orange exposure in Vietnam veterans. For those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, there is insufficient data to identify the long-term health effects of hazardous exposure to pollutants, such as "burn pits" and infectious agents such as rabies, despite the immediate side-effects experienced by most veterans. Obtaining an accurate medical and deployment history is essential in providing accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment. Homelessness It is estimated that approximately 49,933 veterans are homeless (12% of the homeless adult population). Homeless veterans face the same difficulties as non-veterans, such as substance use, unemployment, and mental illness. However, they are troubled with the additional burdens of military-related factors, such as PTSD, TBI, a history of multiple deployments, and military skills that might not be transferable to the civilian work environment. National Coalition for Homeless Veterans found that 51% of homeless veterans have disabilities, 50% suffer from a severe mental illness, and 70% have SUDs. National Coalition for Homeless Veterans believes housing and employment opportunities are a top priority for homeless veterans. Conclusion Currently, there are approximately 22 million US veterans. Preparing future health care providers to meet the needs of this extraordinary number of veterans is essential. Providing faculty development in the area of veteran-specific health issues and how to integrate veteran content into protocols will contribute to improving veteran outcomes and providing excellent care to those who served in this country. Additionally, the total enrollees of veterans who utilize the VA health care system are approximately 10 million, which is less than half the current total veteran population. Furthermore, about 61% of all separated OEF/OIF veterans have used VA health care. This indicates that veterans are primarily using civilian medical care facilities, further stressing the need for health care providers to be well versed in veteran-specific health issues, war eras, and the reintegration issues veterans face so they can provide excellent veteran care and outcomes. Promotion and implementation of veteran health issues and other veteran content relevant to enhancing veteran care and outcomes are essential in health care provider education and vital to the holistic care of veterans across the lifespan and the country. Programs targeted at enhancing veteran-specific knowledge for faculty and students will improve care for diverse veteran populations. We also must educate ourselves and other veterans on the available resources to meet their medical needs. I hope this week's article has helped improve your knowledge of health-related issues that veterans are challenged with daily. If you see or hear of a veteran experiencing any problems, reach out to them and point them in the right direction so they can get the help they need.
51 minutes | Mar 16, 2021
Veteran Doctor - Episode 15 - Veteran Related Mental Health Issues
Good Morning Veterans, Family, and Friends, welcome back to the FIFTEENTH EPISODE of the Veteran Doctor. On this week's podcast, we will discuss Veteran Related Mental Health Issues. We will also continue our fun facts of UBI (Useful Bits of Information) and Veteran News, so stick around for the program! Many military veterans experience a group of mental health conditions that tend to affect military personnel and their families disproportionately. These conditions may include posttraumatic stress (PTSD), depression, anxiety, traumatic brain injury (TBI), and substance abuse, among many other issues. Due to the traumatic environment in which active military combatants serve, veterans are at a significantly higher risk of developing these health concerns. These concerns can often be addressed and resolved with the support of mental health professionals PTSD In Veterans Posttraumatic stress is an anxiety issue that may develop after an individual has been exposed to a traumatic or overwhelming life experience. While the human body tends to return to baseline levels after experiencing a stressful event, people experiencing PTSD continue to release stress-related hormones and chemicals. Four basic types of symptoms characterize posttraumatic stress: Reliving the event: Repeatedly experiencing the event in flashbacks Having intrusive, repeated, and upsetting memories of the event Regularly having nightmares about the event Having intense and discomforting reactions to objects or situations that remind you of the event Avoidance: Staying away from people, places, or even thoughts that remind you of the event Emotional numbness Feelings of detachment Memory problems Loss of interest in everyday activities Being emotionally guarded Feelings of hopelessness Hyperarousal: Continually scanning the surroundings for any signs of danger Problems concentrating Increased irritability Being easily startled Erratic sleep patterns Negative thoughts, moods, or feelings: Feeling guilty about the event Criticizing or blaming other individuals for the event Loss of interest in activities and people Though traumatic incidents - such as participating in combat, experiencing sexual abuse, or having a car accident—must occur for a person to develop PTSD, not all traumatic experiences result in posttraumatic stress. Only a small percentage of people who go through trauma experience PTSD. The lifetime prevalence of PTSD among American women is 10%, while only 4% of American men will experience PTSD at some point during their life. American combat veterans have a much higher prevalence of PTSD than American civilians. Between 11-20% of veterans from Operations Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Enduring Freedom (OEF) experience posttraumatic stress in a given year. Approximately 12% of Gulf War (Desert Storm) veterans and 15% of Vietnam veterans are affected by PTSD annually. The lifetime prevalence of PTSD for Vietnam veterans is 30%. Military personnel are at higher risk for developing posttraumatic stress because service members are intimately involved in wartime incidents that may be frightening, horrifying, and at times, life-threatening. One emotionally overwhelming episode may be enough for PTSD to develop, but combat often facilitates prolonged and repeated exposure to traumatic events. Depression And Anxiety In Veterans Mental health conditions that adversely affect moods, such as depression and anxiety, are also prevalent among military veterans - and veterans may experience these issues for many different reasons. Factors such as reduced health (physical and mental), unemployment, and financial difficulties can contribute to negative thoughts and moods. Upon returning home, some veterans report feeling disconnected from family members and friends. The belief that no one can relate to their experiences or offer meaningful emotional support can prompt service members to bottle up their feelings or even seek social isolation. Such actions, though, may only serve to exacerbate the situation. Other factors may also play a role in developing negative thought patterns. For example, the grief of losing one's friends during combat, coupled with feelings of survivor's guilt, can lead to the development of depression and anxiety if they are not adequately treated. Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) And Veterans Traumatic brain injury is currently one of the most discussed topics in the medical and mental health communities, as many veterans have returned home with the condition's symptoms. It has even been called a "signature injury" of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. Traumatic brain injury may be caused by a blow to the head, the head striking an object, or by an explosion in close proximity. People who experience a brain injury may become confused, disoriented, experience slow or delayed thinking, and even slip into a coma. Memory loss of events preceding and immediately following the injury is also common. Other symptoms associated with TBI are headaches, dizziness, and difficulty paying attention. In some cases, traumatic brain injury can result in physical deficits, behavioral changes, emotional deficiencies, and loss of cognitive ability. In the most recent conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, 78% of all combat injuries are caused by explosive munitions. Mild TBI or concussion is one of the most prevalent combat injuries, affecting roughly 15% of all active military combatants in Iraq and Afghanistan. Due to the devastating effect of roadside bombs in these countries, the ability to effectively treat traumatic brain injury is of great importance in veteran care. Other Mental Health Issues Experienced By Veterans While posttraumatic stress, depression, anxiety, and traumatic brain injury are at the forefront of most people's minds regarding veteran care, there are other mental health conditions that warrant attention. These include: Drug and alcohol abuse Suicidal ideation Anger issues Sleep apnea Dementia An individual who serves in the military will not necessarily develop a mental health condition. Further, a mental health concern experienced by a veteran may have no relation to the veteran's military service. Mental health professionals who work with veterans will typically assess each person individually and consider all symptoms and life experiences before making a diagnosis or starting treatment. Therapy For Military And Veterans Issues The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides a wide range of mental health services and treatments to aid military veterans. Treatments may be given in various settings: short-term inpatient care, outpatient care in a psychosocial rehabilitation and recovery center (PRRC), or residential care. For veterans experiencing post traumatic stress, antidepressant, anti-anxiety, and mood-stabilizing drugs may be prescribed by a doctor or psychiatrist. These medications can address depression and anxiety issues, reduce irritability, improve sleep patterns, and ease nightmares or intrusive thoughts. While the use of mood-influencing medications is particularly common in treating depression and anxiety, talk therapies can also be very beneficial. For example, cognitive behavioral therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), and interpersonal therapy (IPT) can help veterans reduce emotional pain and re-establish positive social relationships. Certain types of treatments--such as cognitive processing therapy (CPT) or prolonged exposure therapy (PE)--may also be used to promote positive thought patterns and behaviors in veterans experiencing mental health issues. Medical guidelines strongly recommend both CBT and PE for the treatment of posttraumatic stress. Mental Health Residential Rehabilitation Treatment Programs (MH RRTPs), established by the VA, provide a 24/7 health care setting for veterans with PTSD. Veterans with traumatic brain injury may experience a variety of mental health issues. Different therapeutic strategies may be applied, depending on which areas of a person's functioning are affected. Conventional treatments for TBIs include rehabilitation therapies (for example, speech-language therapy), medication, assistive devices, and learning strategies to address cognitive, emotional, and behavioral deficits. Support And Therapy For Military Families Military life and deployment can take a toll on each member of the family system. Children and teenagers may become irritable or rebellious, and the parent at home may have to cope with the increased burden of caring for the family alone daily. Deployment can lead family members to feel anxious, alone, or unsupported. Military families also have to face the possibility that the deployed family member may return seriously injured or may not return at all. A family who is out of touch with extended family members of the military community may be more likely to experience increased stress during this period. While happiness and relief may often be experienced when a deployed family member returns home, initial joy might give way to feelings of frustration as issues associated with reintegration increase. The returning parent may experience personality changes or developed mental or physical health concerns, children may have been born or developed to different stages in life, and marital bonds may have been weakened. The need to readjust to new roles within the family system may increase tension between family members. Many resources are available for military families leading up to and during deployment. Family therapy programs help parents explain the deployment process to young children, while support programs are in place to help returning veterans and their family members go through the reintegration process with as few issues as possible. At present, the VA has identified six key ways to assist military families: Increase behavioral health care services Promote awareness that psychological health is as important as physical health Promote housing security for veterans and military families Increase opportunities for federal careers Increase opportunities for private-sector careers Provide more opportunities for educational advancement Unused Resources Available To Veterans Though the United States Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) has expanded its mental health services and integrated supplementary programs for the benefit of veterans who are experiencing mental health issues, a significant proportion of these services remain unused. Of all army veterans who have a mental health concern, approximately 60% do not seek assistance from a mental health professional. Studies indicate that roughly 70% of veterans with posttraumatic stress or depression do not seek help. Surveys conducted among veterans experiencing mental health challenges have highlighted several reasons for the under-utilization of available resources. Common responses include: Fear of being stigmatized within the military community Fear of confronting trauma Constrained access to care (due to location or wait time) Lack of expertise among available mental health care providers The belief that friends and family can provide all needed care Lack of knowledge of available mental health resources Lack of knowledge of how to access possible mental health care Don't allow these reasons to prevent you or a veteran you know from seeking help. So, hopefully, this information has helped improve your knowledge of the mental health issues that veterans face daily. A little knowledge can help a veteran in need. Please keep an eye out for your fellow veterans out there. It can be trauma from the combat zone that causes these issues, and a friend can help them get through them.
51 minutes | Mar 7, 2021
Veteran Doctor - Episode 14 - PTSD and Tough Months.
Good Morning Veterans, Family, and Friends, welcome back to the FOURTEENTH EPISODE of the Veteran Doctor. On this week's podcast, we will discuss PTSD and Tough Months. We will also continue our fun facts of UBI (Useful Bits of Information) and Veteran News, so stick around for the program! Different times of the year become very busy for many people, but for many veterans this can cause tough times when many barriers develop with many different obstacles like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Many people have limited knowledge on this issue, except for what the media portrays it as, which is virtually untrue. Here are some facts to educate you on this disorder that challenges many veterans and can give you some knowledge to help these veterans in many ways. Understanding PTSD in veterans Many veterans have a hard time readjusting to life outside of the military. Many always feel on edge, emotionally numb and disconnected, or close to panicking or exploding. For all too many veterans, these are common experiences—lingering symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It’s hard living with untreated PTSD and, with long Veterans Affairs (VA) wait times, it’s easy to get discouraged. But many can feel better and get started today, even while waiting for professional treatment, by being proactive and educating themselves on the disorder itself and things to help relieve symptoms. What causes PTSD? Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), sometimes known as shell shock or combat stress, occurs after you experience severe trauma or a life-threatening event. It’s normal for a veteran’s mind and body to be in shock after such an event, but this normal response becomes PTSD when their nervous system gets “stuck.” A Veterans nervous system has two automatic or reflexive ways of responding to stressful events: Mobilization, or fight-or-flight, occurs when you need to defend yourself or survive the danger of a combat situation. Your heart pounds faster, your blood pressure rises, and your muscles tighten, increasing your strength and reaction speed. Once the danger has passed, your nervous system calms your body, lowering your heart rate and blood pressure and winding back down to its normal balance. Immobilization occurs when you’ve experienced too much stress in a situation, and even though the danger has passed, you find yourself “stuck.” Your nervous system cannot return to its normal state of balance, and you’re unable to move on from the event. This is PTSD. Recovering from PTSD involves transitioning out of the mental and emotional war zone you’re still living in and helping your nervous system become “unstuck.” Symptoms of PTSD in veterans While veterans develop symptoms of PTSD in the hours or days following a traumatic event, sometimes symptoms don’t surface for months or even years after you return from deployment. While PTSD develops differently in each veteran, there are four symptom clusters: Recurrent, intrusive reminders of the traumatic event, including distressing thoughts, nightmares, and flashbacks, where you feel like the event is happening again. You may experience extreme emotional and physical reactions to reminders of the trauma, such as panic attacks, uncontrollable shaking, and heart palpitations. Extreme avoidance of things that remind you of the traumatic event, including people, places, thoughts, or situations you associate with the bad memories. This includes withdrawing from friends and family and losing interest in everyday activities. Adverse changes in your thoughts and mood, such as exaggerated negative beliefs about yourself or the world and persistent feelings of fear, guilt, or shame. You may notice a diminished ability to experience positive emotions. Being on guard all the time, jumpy, and emotionally reactive, as indicated by irritability, anger, reckless behavior, difficulty sleeping, trouble concentrating, and hypervigilance. Here are some resources or ideas to help veterans experiencing PTSD events or having issues. Help for Veterans Life in the military has taught you to be strong in the face of some of life's most challenging obstacles. It's also taught you to expect the unexpected. As a veteran, you know hardships can happen in every corner of life. If you or someone you know needs support, your military family is committed to helping. Assistance is at hand. Non-medical counseling for veterans When life throws you a curveball, you might need to talk to someone who gets it. Veterans have several options for confidential non-medical counseling. To receive non-medical counseling from Military OneSource as a veteran, you must be within 365 days of separation from the military. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs offers the Vet Center Program that provides quality readjustment counseling. If you have served in any combat zone, you and your family are eligible. Vet Centers can be found all across the U.S. Risk factors and treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder People who live through a traumatic event sometimes suffer its effects long after the danger has passed. Several factors play a role in developing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, so there is no way to know who will or won’t experience it. The good news is treatment is available, and early treatment may help reduce long-term symptoms. Alcohol and substance abuse programs While anyone can be at risk of alcohol and substance abuse, there are several aspects of military life that can trigger it. Understand the signs of a substance abuse problem. If you find yourself or know someone repeatedly engaging in activities that have a negative impact on your life, you might be engaging in addictive behavior. Learn more about the signs. You can also find support through Alcoholics Anonymous and other similar programs. To find a program near you, call SAHMSA's National Helpline at 800-662-4357 or find treatment centers online. The VA provides effective treatment services for all eligible veterans. Options include therapy as well as medications in some cases. To get help, speak with your existing VA healthcare provider or call 800-827-1000. Housing assistance and help for homeless veterans Delinquency and assistance for housing loans Veterans at risk of becoming homeless can always call or visit their local VA medical center or Community Resource and Referral Center for assistance. Veteran homelessness The VA, in collaboration with other government offices and partners, offers programs such as Supportive Housing, Homeless Provider Grants, Enhanced-Used Lease, and Acquired Property Sales for Homeless Providers. Help for suicide prevention If you’re having suicidal thoughts or you're concerned about a loved one, don't hesitate. Have a confidential talk with a professional who knows how to help. The Veterans Crisis Line is always open. Call: 1-800-273-8255 then Press 1. Call for help or chat online 24/7 at no cost. Speak to qualified Veteran Affairs responders who understand the challenges of military life. They know — many are veterans themselves. Since its launch in 2007, the Veterans Crisis Line has answered nearly 2.4 million callers and engaged in almost 294,000 chats. The Defense Suicide Prevention Office is committed to developing suicide prevention efforts among all military services stakeholders. From best practices to resources for family and friends, help is available. Every veteran is valuable and deserves our support. As a military family, we're committed to supporting veterans' strength and resilience. Don't hesitate to reach out and get the care you need or for someone you know. Conclusion There is no bigger gift than the gift of caring for another veteran in need. So, if you see a fellow brother/sister that is a little down on his/her luck, give him/her a helping hand, guidance, knowledge, anything that may just give him/her a boost that will get them through that tough time. I know they will appreciate it more than you know. They would do the same for you if you were in need.
36 minutes | Feb 28, 2021
Veteran Doctor - Episode 13 - Challenges That Veterans Face During Their Transition.
Good Morning Veterans, Family, and Friends, welcome back to the THIRTEENTH EPISODE of the Veteran Doctor. On this week's podcast, we will discuss Challenges that Veterans Face during their Transition. We will also continue our fun facts of UBI (Useful Bits of Information) and Veteran News, so stick around for the program! We have reached another week, survived the weather that has faced us and our daily challenges. Topic selection is always a challenge to ensure diverse and interesting topics are selected, so I have come up with the challenges that veterans face throughout their lives and as they transition into their civilian lives. Here are some of those challenges that veterans are currently experiencing. Unpreparedness for Civilian Employment Veteran employment challenges could be partly attributed to a lack of preparation for finding civilian employment when they left the military. Part of the lack of preparation for civilian job placement included unrealistic employment expectations. Almost all of the service providers interviewed described the Veteran as lacking knowledge in the kind of jobs that would be available to them when they left the military. Veterans also had unrealistic expectations regarding the level they would enter the workforce and what kind of compensation they would receive. Veterans leaving the military thought their military service would allow for job opportunities at a similar rank and pay as what they received during military service. This is not the case. Veteran’s often feel as though they had to start over completely and that their transition out of the military was not the steady progression of career advancement they expected. Despite this, Veterans remain incredibly motivated and willing to work their way up through civilian employment opportunities. But they also described what often happens to their veteran clients when these expectations are not met. Faced with starting from the bottom or in entry-level positions, their clients often became very frustrated. Unaddressed Mental Health and Substance Abuse Issues A common theme for both barriers to employment and risk factors for unemployment for Veterans with unaddressed mental health and substance abuse issues. Every Veteran described these as significant challenges in finding employment. Many described the issues as often inter-connected, with clients using substances as self-medication for lingering mental health issues, most commonly PTSD and/or depression. These problems manifest themselves in several ways concerning employment. First, they are relevant to the motivation to find and keep employment. Veterans have appeared not quite ready to address their mental health and/or substance abuse issues. Also, Veterans with unaddressed mental health or substance abuse issues are challenging to place. One service provider described employers as very reluctant to hire a veteran if an employer even slightly suspects a veteran may be experiencing mental health issues. Although this is most likely true for hiring civilians, the stigma of mental health issues that have come to be associated with military service appeared to make employers mostly concerned when hiring veterans. Continuation of Military Identity One of the most common themes across all Veteran Groups was the indication and expression of how the veteran participants continue to see themselves through a military identity. The impact of their training and military experience was still evident in their actions, behaviors, and thoughts and their ability to relate to civilian friends, family, and employers. Almost every focus group participant described feeling more comfortable around those who had also previously served in the military. The military identity appears to be an additional barrier and challenge inhibiting veterans’ abilities to adapt and transition to civilian life, especially in gaining and maintaining employment. This was evidenced in their difficulty adjusting to the civilian work culture. A clear theme that emerged from the focus groups was that even when veterans had secured work, many found it hard to maintain their employment as they had not settled well into the civilian work ethic and culture. Criminal Background and/or Dishonorable Discharge The most prominent theme from service provider interviews regarding the risk factors for unemployment in their veteran clients was a criminal background and/or dishonorable discharge. These Veterans are most difficult to employ and the most at risk for chronic unemployment. Along with the unique challenges that come with finding veterans employment, criminal background, or dishonorable discharge creates additional barriers, particularly the unwillingness of employers to hire these veterans and lack of available jobs. Stigma Associated with Hiring Veterans An additional theme from Veterans was overcoming the stigma associated with hiring veterans. Service provider participants described reluctance by some employers to hire their veteran clients. This was most often attributed to concerns over mental health issues, long gaps in employment history, and an unwillingness to hire those with a dishonorable discharge and/or criminal background. Veterans were very direct about the stigma they perceived facing while trying to enter the civilian workforce. Veterans felt as though relaying their military service to potential employers automatically put them at a disadvantage. Most relayed employers’ concerns about possible mental health issues. Veteran Client Age When looking at specific risk factors for unemployment, Veterans often brought up age as a significant factor that may make veterans susceptible to unemployment. However, there was a mixture of responses regarding at what age clients were most vulnerable. Some participants felt the older veteran clients were most at risk for unemployment. Reasons provided included older veterans who have outdated skills, have difficulty using technology and are more likely to have been chronically unemployed with long gaps out of the workforce. Veterans felt the younger generation of veterans was more at risk for unemployment. Younger veterans as more likely to have mental health issues, not prepared to focus on gaining employment, not willing to get help, and at risk for creating long gaps out of the workforce that will make them difficult to employ. Availability of Appropriate Jobs Veterans revealed the lack of available jobs appropriate to veteran skills and experience and pay a living wage to be a significant barrier for veteran employment. Veterans discussed a lack of employment, this was particularly relevant for service providers that worked in rural areas. Many of the veterans reported that one of the challenges they face in finding employment is identifying available jobs that are appropriate to their skills and experience but also that pay them a living wage. Both pre-9/11 and post-9/11 veterans said that, in their experience, the only work available to them was as security for private companies, bars or nightclubs, fast food restaurants, or other low-skilled positions. The lack of appropriate and fairly paid work impacted many veterans’ motivations to apply for jobs and maintain work once offered a job. Hopefully, this helps you understand some of the challenges that other veterans are experiencing as they transition back into the civilian world. If we can understand these challenges, it will allow us to help these veterans get through them a little easier and maybe be there for them through their struggles. Anyway, I hope you have a great week! Please take care of yourself and other veterans
36 minutes | Feb 21, 2021
Veteran Doctor - Episode 12 - Three Issues Facing Veterans in Your Community.
Good Morning Veterans, Family, and Friends, welcome back to the TWELFTH EPISODE of the Veteran Doctor. On this week's podcast, we will discuss Three Issues Facing Veterans in Your Community. We will also continue our fun facts of UBI (Useful Bits of Information) and Veteran News, so stick around for the program! There are three primary issues that face veterans in almost every community at one point in their lives; unemployment, homelessness, and suicide. If it doesn’t, then you are one of the lucky ones, but for many, this is their reality. Veterans bring many skills to the table, and many of these skills that have been learned in the military can benefit their communities once they’ve been discharged. Often, a veteran needs a helping hand to get reintegrated into their communities to become a functioning member. While veterans have unique skills, they also possess unique hurdles, including higher rates of unemployment, homelessness, and suicide, but with the help of their communities, they can overcome these obstacles. Many need help at the right time – especially offered by the proper people, organizations, and businesses in their communities. Veteran Unemployment Veteran unemployment is twice the national average. A Veterans’ most significant obstacles in obtaining employment are translating their military background into a work experience that is easily understandable by civilians, that meets the licensing requirements, and finding jobs while being disabled. As veterans become older and the longer, he or she has been separated from military service, the better their prospects are for employment. While eighty percent of military jobs have a civilian counterpart, the licensing requirements usually differ. This requires the veteran to go through civilian education in a field that they have already mastered. Also, the educational and testing requirements may vary from state to state. The Veterans Administration (VA) will help pay for testing, but the cost of education usually will fall on the veteran, which can be very expensive. The 29-percent service-related disability rates are higher among veterans. Most common disabilities include missing limbs, burns, hearing loss, spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Veterans with service-related disabilities had an employment-population ratio of 43.3 percent, which is lower the 49-percent of the non-disabled population. The VA helps veterans by providing a Military Skills Translator, which translates military jobs into easy to read resume-ready information – and imports it to the organization’s Resume Builder. Additionally, there are exclusive unemployment benefits for veterans. The Department of Labor (DOL) partnered with the VA to offer Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment services, helping with training in developing new job skills, starting a business, or receiving education counseling. Another service, The Veterans Opportunity to Work program, can offer to extend additional vocational rehabilitation benefits for those who have completed their initial program. Rally Point provides post-military professional networking opportunities for veterans, along with Jobless Warrior providing employment and job search resources, to include career coaches and information on employers looking to hire veterans. Those veterans with service-connected disabilities have a preference when applying for specific federal jobs or potentially winning individual federal government contacts. Some Disabled veterans also are eligible for Vocational Rehabilitation. Those who hire service-disabled veterans qualify for tax incentives through the Special Employer Incentive program. The VOW program also can assist veterans in receiving disability accommodations. Veteran Homelessness One out of ten of those homeless people are veterans; 50 percent are disabled, and three-quarters of homeless veterans have some sort of mental health issues. Another 1.5 million veterans are at-risk for homelessness because of poverty, lack of support networks, and overcrowded housing. One half a million veterans pay more than one half of their total income on their rent. Many of our nation's homeless veterans, or at-risk for homelessness, have service-connected disabilities, especially mental health issues like PTSD or substance abuse issues. Unemployment can also factor in because of the inability to transition military training to civilian work. The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans stresses a need for housing, nutrition, physical, mental healthcare, and job services for our nation's homeless and at-risk veterans. The coalition reports that community-based programs to serve veterans saw the most significant success rate. The Interagency Council of Homelessness has established a benchmarking guide for communities looking to address veteran homelessness actively. This council also has published a strategy guide, recommending a public commitment to eradicating veteran homelessness; coordination programs with private landlords matching homeless vets with housing; identifying resources at the federal, state, and local levels; and coordinating with job programs to help provide training and services. The Department of Labor’s Veterans Employment and Training Service provided the availability of $12 million in funding to help veterans with job training and sustainable housing to transition them from homelessness. The VA provided housing assistance in conjunction with Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Health Care for Homeless Veterans Program, including exams, treatment, and referrals. The Domiciliary Care for Homeless Veterans program offered mental health and rehabilitation services and job services explicitly targeted toward our homeless veterans to help with assistance. Additionally, Veterans Matter is a nonprofit organization that provides housing to homeless veterans founded by a formerly homeless man. Veterans Matter works directly with other organizations to raise awareness and funding. Veteran Suicide Veterans represent one in five of the total population of those who die from suicide in America. Unfortunately, Twenty-two veterans will die of suicide daily. Many of those lack access to or don’t utilize available VA services that are available. There are many reasons why veterans are suffering from this issue. Many veterans suffer from isolation, have little to no meaningful social connections, and become prone to suicide issues, especially during transitional periods – such as separation from the military or changes in their lives. Unemployment and homelessness are periods that veterans may see themselves as burdens to their communities, which are significant stressors, as viewed by the veteran. The risk of suicide is most notable during the first three years following separation from the military. This isolation can be especially acute in veterans who suffer from PSTD or lost fellow service members, even if they have an adequate support system. In such cases, veterans may feel that others can't understand the trauma they have endured, causing a feeling of disconnection from society. The Center for Disease Control established in a report on suicide prevention that the following recommendations should be implemented to improve a veterans environment: strengthening financial security, encouraging emotional intelligence and identifying and intervening with those most at-risk, improving safe storage practices for firearms and medicines, stabilizing housing, increasing access to mental health care, promoting community engagement, and enhancing communication and problem-solving skills. The VA also has a dedicated suicide crisis line – call 1(800) 273-8255 or text 838255 – including helpful resources for veterans and concerned loved ones to obtain information on suicide warning signs and crisis resources. Additionally, the VA Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention has developed training called; “Signs, Ask, Validate, Encourage and Expedite” to help those who encounter veterans to recognize red-flags of suicide and act. The nonprofit Psych Armor Institute has helped provide this training covering various topics from military culture, myths, supporting veterans, and self-care. Additionally, the VA Strategy for Preventing Veteran Suicide addresses veteran suicide in a multi-pronged approach: visibility and awareness; preventive services; treatment and support; and research. Through knowledge, pro-active, and preventive measures and support, your community can best serve its veterans, reaping the benefits of all they have to offer in return and thanking them for their service. Conclusion Well, hopefully, this information is helpful to you, or you can share it with a fellow veteran who can use it in their life. If there is two things I learned a long time ago, Always Strive to Learn Something New Everyday! and Knowledge is Power! So, Never Stop Learning!
36 minutes | Feb 16, 2021
Veteran Doctor - Episode 11 - Issues Facing The Elderly Veteran Population
Good Morning Veterans, Family, and Friends, welcome back to the ELEVENTH EPISODE of the Veteran Doctor. On this week's podcast, we will discuss Issues Facing The Elderly Veteran Population. We will also continue our fun facts of UBI (Useful Bits of Information) and Veteran News, so stick around for some great stuff! The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (V.A.) is the current American embodiment of an ancient social pact, one that has existed in many forms since antiquity, between a society and those who go to war on its behalf. The agreement is that in return for the soldier risking his (or her) life, society will care for an injured soldier, and sometimes his dependent family members, until death. In the era of Greek city-states and even the Plymouth Colony, the average life expectancy for humans was four decades or less, and the number of individuals affected numbered at most in the hundreds. Now, as expectancy is more than eight decades and military service engages millions of individuals whose ages cover the full adult lifespan, the promise of lifetime care for former warriors has become an enormous, costly, complex, and mostly elderly-focused health and support services enterprise. According to the 2012 United States Census brief, there are more than 12.4 million veterans age 65 or older. This elderly veteran population served in conflicts such as World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Persian Gulf War. Issues affect all veterans as they battle the V.A. for the benefits they deserve, but today, we will look at some of the problems that are commonly faced by elderly veterans in particular. Lack of Evidence To obtain V.A. disability benefits, a veteran must have medical proof showing they have a current disability, medical or lay evidence showing the disability began or was aggravated in service, and medical evidence of a link, or nexus, between their current disability and the in-service event. Additionally, to show the severity of their disability, the veteran will need evidence such as V.A. treatment records, private medical records, and/or statements from family and friends describing how the veteran’s disability affects them. One problem that many elderly veterans may run in to is locating and obtaining their service records. Getting service records for elderly veterans can be especially difficult due to a fire at the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in 1973 that destroyed millions of official military service records. The VA is required to assist veterans in obtaining their service records, but a veteran needs to make sure the V.A. has notified all potential locations of service records. The following is a list of organizations that may have service records: The NPRC The United States Army and Joint Services Records Research Center (JSRRC): The JSRRC works to find military records supporting veterans’ inquiries related to PTSD and Agent Orange VA disability claims. The National Archives and Record Administration (NARA): This is the official location where records for military personnel discharged from the Navy, Army, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard are stored. The Naval Historical Center: This is the official center for historical information related to Navy military records and includes information such as deck logs and ship histories, which can help Agent Orange claims. A veteran does not have to rely solely on service records for evidence of an in-service event; they can also use lay evidence such as buddy statements. However, elderly veterans may find it challenging to obtain this kind of evidence as well. For example, elderly veterans’ fellow service members might no longer be alive or suffer from memory loss. Transportation The process involved with getting V.A. disability benefits often requires a veteran to go to V.A. offices and medical centers. Many times, these visits are mandatory, such as appearing at Compensation and Pension Exams (C&P exams). If a veteran does not show up for a C&P exam, the V.A. can reduce or even take away their benefits. Even worse is the fact that the V.A. doesn’t provide transportation to their facilities. However, some regulations allow for veterans to get a transportation allowance or a reimbursement for transportation costs. For example, 38. C.F.R. § 21.154 that states, “a veteran who because of the effects of disability has transportation expenses in addition to those incurred by persons not so disabled, shall be provided a transportation allowance to defray such additional expenses.” The Slow Process Perhaps one of the most severe issues facing the elderly veteran population is the length of time it takes the V.A. to complete the disability claim appeal process. Some Regional Offices are so backlogged that they’re up to 2 years behind on deciding veterans’ appeals. The Board of Veterans Appeals (B.V.A.) is even more backlogged. Appeals at the B.V.A. are taking up to 3 years to get decided. The problem is, elderly veterans, don’t always have time on their side. A study cited in a research article discussing issues facing the elderly veteran population stated: “approximately 3,000 veterans die each year with their disability compensation claims still mired in some stage of the agency’s adjudication process.” Claims can be expedited, but the V.A.’s regulations state that veterans must be 85 years or older for their claim to receive priority processing. If a veteran is under 85 years old, their claim can still be expedited due to other factors such as financial hardship or being terminally ill. Underutilized Benefits Unfortunately, many elderly veterans might not generalize the extent of V.A. benefits they are entitled to, or they might be completely unaware of benefits they may be eligible for. Elderly veterans may be entitled to receive additional compensation on top of any service-connected compensation they’re already receiving. Also, elderly veterans may be entitled to different health care programs tailored to their needs. The following is a list of some common benefits and health care programs that elderly veterans may be entitled to: Aid and Attendance: available for veterans who require help with performing daily functions, are bedridden, a patient in a nursing home, or are blind. Housebound: available for veterans that are confined to their home because of a permanent disability Adult Day Health Care: this is a day program that provides recreation, companionship, and health care services such as care from nurses, therapists, social workers, etc. Home Based Primary Care: this program is for veterans with complex health care needs that are not being met by routine clinic-based care. A VA doctor will supervise a team that provides health care in the veteran’s home. Homemaker and Home Health Aide: available for veterans who need assistance with activities of daily living. Palliative Care: this involves helping veterans (and their families) manage their illness with a plan of care that focuses on the relief of suffering and control of symptoms. Hospice Care: available for veterans who have terminal conditions with less than six months to live Skilled Home Health Care: this is a short-term service for veterans that are homebound or live far away from the V.A. Care is provided by a local community-based health agency that contracts with the V.A. Respite Care: This service offers a person to come to a veteran’s home while the veteran’s primary caregiver takes a break. Telehealth: allows a veteran’s doctor or nurse to monitor the veteran’s condition remotely using home monitoring equipment. Veteran Directed Care: available for veterans in need of skilled services, case management, or assistance with daily living activities. This program allows a veteran to customize a health care plan that best meets their needs. It should be apparent from the preceding comments that V.A. is a very large, complex, and continuously evolving enterprise. Veterans Affairs’ commitment to serving those who were willing to put their lives at risk for their countrymen has never wavered, but the challenges of a large governmental organization that has to be responsive to changing demography, shifting societal priorities, political forces, and technological improvements are numerous, complex, elusive and daunting. Nevertheless, VA has made an enormous, positive mark on the health and health care of all older Americans through its decades of effort on behalf of aging veterans and undoubtedly will continue to do so for decades to come.
36 minutes | Feb 7, 2021
Veteran Doctor - Episode10 - The Veteran's Perception and Social Stigmas
Good Morning Veterans, Family, and Friends, welcome back to the TENTH EPISODE of the Veteran Doctor. On this week's podcast, we will discuss The Veteran's Perception and Social Stigmas. We will also continue our fun facts of UBI (Useful Bits of Information) and Veteran News, so stick around for some great stuff! Every veteran that transitions from military life into the civilian world has to deal with some judgment during their reintegration. You know what I am talking about. Society has preconceived opinions of veterans based on one percent of the population’s actions or the media. We are dangerous! Uneducated! Crazy! Unstable! All of these are labels that continue to haunt generations of veterans. All of these labels couldn’t be further from the truth. Here we are, after more than 20 years of our nation’s most recent and longest war, as we continue to fight battles at home: the war against stigmas associated with what it means to be a veteran and the war inside ourselves. According to the Veterans Affairs, post 9-11 veterans seek care at the VA more than before. The VA data shows that from 2002 to 2009, one million troops left active duty in Iraq or Afghanistan, becoming eligible for VA care. Of forty-six percent of those soldiers who sought VA services, almost half were diagnosed with mental health conditions. The unfortunate fact is that there are many more veterans out there who have never sought care because of the stigmas associated with our brain. As a veteran of the Army who has been diagnosed with both traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), I understand firsthand why veterans do not seek help. We don’t want to be seen as helpless, soft, different, and we certainly don’t want our families, friends, or colleagues to lose confidence in us. Veterans deal with stigmas every day as they transition into their new civilian lives, whether it is through social judgment or from self-stigmas or negative perceptions. The gap continues to widen between military veterans’ experiences and civilians' understanding. Recent research shows that over seventy percent of veterans feel that civilians do not understand the problems they face, and over seventy percent of civilians report they do not understand the challenges veterans face. Also, research shows that fewer Americans have personal ties to the military, and those who do not are less likely to offer support to families who do. These gaps in understanding can lead to military veterans feeling isolated from their civilian communities, which could interfere with their reintegration. Other studies have found that an anticipated stigma is a significant concern of military veterans. The term "anticipated stigma" refers to the concerns of being mistreated by others, being devalued, and discriminated against for holding a stigmatized attribute. In this case, for being associated with the military or identifying as a military veteran. Research has shown that civilians vastly overestimate the percentage of veterans who are likely to experience PTSD, believing that over fifty percent suffer from it. Actual prevalence rates suggest it is closer to ten to twenty percent. This concerns the documented stigmas associated with PTSD, mainly that those with the disorder are violent or crazy. A recent research study showed how civilians feel towards military members using a measurement of implicit bias. This term is referred to as negative bias without conscious awareness or knowledge affected by feelings, behaviors, and decision-making. It is precisely shaped over a lifetime through firsthand learned experiences and indirect messages from family, culture, and media exposure. This study recruited forty-eight undergraduate students to complete a measure of implicit bias against military veterans using the Implicit Association Task test. Examples can be seen at implicit.harvard.edu. Results indicated that the civilians showed a mild negative bias toward veterans, which were not affected by any other influence like biological sex, political affiliation, or by the family history of military service. It is essential to note this study was the first of its kind, and it used a tiny non-representative sample. However, it did provide evidence that stigmatization occurs implicitly. Stigmas and the fear of stigma are widespread among Veterans with PTSD, and both have damaging effects on a Veterans' well-being and participation in their mental health treatments. The internalized stigma has harmful consequences of societal stigmas and has been associated with feelings of decreased hope, morale, self-esteem, personal motivation, and persistence in regards to illness management among individuals with a wide range of mental illnesses. I encourage my fellow veterans, their friends, and family members to educate themselves about veteran mental health and how it affects both self and societal perceptions of veteran stigmas. Know that through persistence, resourcefulness, and self-discipline—the same qualities taught in the military—we can change our brains physiologically and psychologically with or without a diagnosis of TBI and PTSD. Labels should not place limits on our brain’s health, and they most certainly do not define our brain’s potential. Mental health conditions are not signs of weakness and do not last a lifetime; they are treatable and can be overcome with persistence and perseverance. I am asking fellow veterans to commit to shattering the social stigmata associated with mental health conditions in veterans. I encourage all of you to gain a greater understanding of our greatest asset; the brain. This will allow us to help reduce the stigma of TBI, PTSD, and the old-fashioned notion that the brain can’t improve. We need to begin a new, more hopeful global conversation around veteran mental health, allowing us to honor our patriots today and in the future. We owe this to them and all they have done for our country!
36 minutes | Feb 6, 2021
Veteran Doctor - Episode 9 - Sharing Your Veteran Experiences with Civilians
Good Morning Veterans, Family, and Friends, welcome back to the NINTH EPISODE of the Veteran Doctor. On this week's podcast, we will discuss Sharing Your Veteran Experiences with Civilians. We will also continue our fun facts of UBI (Useful Bits of Information) and Veteran News, so stick around for some great stuff! I keep running into more and more veterans who continually ask me one big question. “What is the one thing you miss the most about the military?” Well, I have to say the most significant thing is the military camaraderie that doesn’t exist in the civilian sector. The military creates a tight-knit group of people that develop bonds, and camaraderie rarely felt anywhere else. Granted, veterans have to wade through some BS to get to it sometimes, but often that camaraderie is what got us through it. There is no mistake that military camaraderie is something unique and special, and it probably ranks as the primary thing veterans miss when they transition out of the military. Certain groups exist that may come close, but the true friendships formed from experiences in military training and combat cannot be compared. I have conflicting emotions and memories as to whether I genuinely miss the military. I guess I miss portions of the military life and camaraderie, however that chapter is behind me, and it is time to create a new chapter. So how can we take this military camaraderie and share it with our civilian counterparts? Here are some ideas and advice on how to keep military camaraderie alive after you’ve transitioned to civilian life. BRING MILITARY CAMARADERIE TO THE CIVILIAN WORLD AND FRIENDS Many civilians you will interact with will not understand or even comprehend the bonds that military brotherhood and sisterhood are like. However, you can attempt to educate them by bringing the value of military kinship to the civilian world. Show them how to look out for other friends/co-workers, offer others help when they need it, and be loyal to each other. Nothing must be expected back, except the chance to change how people interact around you. The attitudes of others will change quickly, and it will become infectious. Additionally, it can help identify individuals who may share similar values, and you can recreate a new form of that camaraderie you miss. TAKE UP A NEW HOBBY AND TALK TO PEOPLE Another way to connect with people is to stop and talk to them. Grab a cup of coffee, take up a hobby, or get outside your social circle. Last month, I decided to play golf. I haven’t played golf in over ten years and have never been that good, but I just wanted to try again. So, I went and met up with three other players that I have never met before. Two players were veterans! We have a blast! We talked about old times, improved our golf, joked, and now have new golf partners. It is amazing what happens when you think outside the box. You can build some unique camaraderie if you try. CREATE AN SUPPORT GROUP Military camaraderie goes beyond active duty. You are not the only one who has transitioned out of the military. Finding success in the transition is different for everyone, so bumps in the road will be experienced and are inevitable. Take care of each other through these challenging times. There may be many barriers like distance and working vastly different careers, but make a real effort to keep in touch. If someone is having trouble, do what you would have done while on active duty: come together and take care of one another. Sometimes this is as simple as sending what you can monetarily spare, arranging meals, listening, or providing a place to stay during difficult times. Too many veterans fall by the wayside during this civilian transition and find themselves homeless or suicidal. Maintain your former community. As veterans, we need to look out for each other. EXTEND YOUR COMMUNITY TO FELLOW VETERANS Military camaraderie is strongest among veterans who have served together; however, it usually exists universally between every veteran. Despite any generational differences, when veterans meet, there is an instant kinship and common ground. Without a doubt, these moments can go a long way for both you and the fellow veterans. It can be enrichening for your soul. You can take it another level by volunteering at a veterans support group. An example of this is at veteran homeless shelters. You can help change the lives of the vulnerable veteran population. Military camaraderie does not have to disappear when you transition and become a civilian. While we must learn how to function in the civilian world, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take our military values with us. The very concept of military kinship is a compelling value we can educate and offer to the civilian society while continuing to give to our fellow veterans through maintaining support networks and establishing new ones. The experience will never be precisely the same, but that military camaraderie can be just as important.
36 minutes | Feb 4, 2021
Veteran Doctor - Episode 8 - Coping - How do you Cope?
Good Morning Veterans, Family, and Friends, welcome back to the EIGHTH EPISODE of the Veteran Doctor. On this week's podcast, we will discuss Coping. How do you Cope?. We will also continue our fun facts of UBI (Useful Bits of Information) and Veteran News, so stick around for some great stuff! As Veterans, we all have some kind of traumatic event that we have had to deal with in our lives. How we deal, or cope, with this trauma is key to our success, or failure, in our daily routines. There are many different ways to cope with these traumas. I want to share many different people’s approaches to coping with trauma and give different perspectives and techniques in how these different ways mitigate stress in their lives. Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle and Exercise All veterans who have had high-stress jobs can benefit from basic stress-reduction techniques. To help reduce stress, there are basic daily things that can be done to help mitigate the effects of stress: Exercise regularly. Cardio and strength training reduces stress levels and keeps your mission ready. Get good sleep. Poor sleep or not enough sleep has a significant negative impact on wellbeing. Eat healthy. A good diet helps keep your body and mind in shape. Participate in relaxing activities. Breathing-based meditation and yoga, for example, can improve symptoms and reduce anxiety. Stay connected. The support of friends and family improves psychological health when facing stress. Get outside! Do not become a hermit and stay inside. Socialize Communication is key to anything, relationships, problems, work, friendships, and stress. Talk to others when stress becomes too high. The more you talk about your stress with people your trust, the most you get off your chest and find solutions to resolve your issue. You will also find that other people are experiencing similar problems in the world and you are not alone. If you feel that you have no one to talk to, there is always the VA crisis hotline, which is strictly anonymous, 1-800-273-8255. This is a great resource to talk to people about anything in a time of need. Hobbies Hobbies have the potential of bringing pleasure into our lives. Hobbies provide an outlet from daily stressors that can keep us from getting burned out in our jobs. They also offer numerous health benefits, from lower blood pressure to better physical function, higher positive psychological states, and less memory loss. Further, hobbies may improve our work performance if they improve our decision-making skills, creativity, and confidence. Taking up a hobby to relax and keep your brain focused provides additional skillsets to enhance future performance. Many hobbies can include Reading, Gardening, Shooting, Models, Woodworking, Cars, Motorcycles, Fishing, Photography, etc. Hobbies also have a social aspect to them by sharing your interests with others with shared pursuits. These social interactions can provide a degree of social support we may need. Video Games In recent wars, research has shown that the younger generation has used video games as a self-directed coping strategy to manage their physical and psychological stressors. This research found that gamers used video games to cope with challenges associated with their military service. Their coping mechanisms included escapism, managing self-diagnosed physical and/or psychological ailments, seeking social support (mainly multiplayer online games), and connecting with civilian life. Those who used video games to cope tended to have served longer, and they reported high escape, fantasy, and skill-development motivations for gameplay. While their favorite game genre was fantasy, military-themed games were a close second. Many of the favorite games involved the military through storylines, gameplay mechanics, or avatar tendencies. While video games were described as vehicles for escape and stress relief, avatars appear to be specific, though uncommon, vehicles for coping related to military identity. Avatars helped gamers negotiate their legitimacy and efficacy, notably after they returned to civilian life. Education Going to school, no matter what the age, gives you the ability to further your education and stimulate those brain cells in your head. It also allows you to educate yourself on anything you do not understand about your injuries or stress. I find that furthering my education has allowed me to control the effects of my PTSD and TBI by understanding my injuries and applying the concepts I have learned to the symptoms I am experiencing. Sort of self-treating myself. Many of my friends who are Psychologists have asked me to help them with some of their clients (who are veterans) because these veterans did not trust their doctors due to a lack of trust. They did not trust the Psychologist because the veteran did not feel the Psychologist did not understand what the veteran had been through since they had never served in the military. That is why I was brought into the picture I have. My education, combat experience, injuries, and education all make it easy for me to relate to the patient. This is why knowledge is essential for everyone to have when it comes to keeping the brain engaged. The old saying “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” is not valid. You can! All of these things are only suggestions. There are many other healthy things out there that are both mental and physically stimulating. You may be already engaging in these activities. Good for you! If you are not, then start today. Start slowly and progressively increase, so you do not overexert yourself. These activities are meant to be fun and relaxing.
32 minutes | Jan 18, 2021
Veteran Doctor - Episode 7 - Make Your New Year's Resolutions Stick!
Good Morning Veterans, Family, and Friends, welcome back to the SEVENTH EPISODE of the Veteran Doctor. On this week's podcast, we will discuss How to make your New Year’s Resolutions Stick. We will also continue our fun facts of UBI (Useful Bits of Information) and Veteran News, so stick around for so great stuff to come. As January begins, people whisper about their "resolutions." Have you ever followed through with these or even taken the time to write them down? This year is the time to make your resolutions count. Sit down and create your schedule for a New You in the New Year. The biggest challenge to making your 2021 resolutions stick is creating practical ones, to begin with. If you're like the rest of America and eat out four times per week, then you may have a goal to save money and your waistline by kicking the fast-food restaurants to the curb. Instead of making bold statements such as, "I will not eat fast food for 2021," opt for "I will eat fast food no more than once every two weeks." As you achieve this goal, and it seems to become easier to avoid the golden arches, you can then refine your resolution to "I will eat fast food no more than once a month" And so on. When you decide to commit and write down your New You Resolutions this year, consider these helpful tips: Write it Down Avoid committing it to memory. Instead, write it out with pride and post it to remind you of the goals you have set. Put a Number to it Decide how many times a day, week, or month you can do something and shun away from saying "every day." Life happens, and you don't want "every day" to be the cause of you throwing in the towel altogether on your goals. Keep it Realistic Although the idea of losing 10 lbs in a week sounds excellent on infomercials, it's neither realistic nor healthy. Weight loss goals should be based on losing 1 - 2 lbs per week. If you want to lose it and keep it off, then choose to keep your goals real. Enlist Help From Others This is the time to call your best friend and convince him or her to make a resolution with you. Use each other for the purpose of accountability. Call up your most energetic and motivated friends and have a Resolution Party. Seek out the Advice of an Expert If it's exercise goals, seek out a certified Exercise Physiologist, nutrition - meet with a Registered Dietitian, and if it's to organize your life - hire a Personal Organizer or Maid. Set Yourself up for Success Think positively when you set your goals. People have greater success adding to their daily life than taking away. Try this, "I will eat at least one cup of berries three times each week." When you add in fruit and vegetables, you often have less room for chips and dip. Don't Forget to Follow-up When you write down your goals, take the time to write down follow-up dates in your calendar. For weekly goals, check on yourself every three months, and for monthly goals, check on yourself in six months. Last, but not Least, Remember to Reward Treat yourself to a massage, a facial, or a new outfit when your resolution has been met, and your goal has become a habit. New Year's Resolutions are a way for us to touch base with ourselves and look for ways to make improvements. Don't stress over them. Instead, make them positive, make them real, and make them stick. Here's to You in the New Year.
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