Secondary PTSD; The Toll of War Injuries on a Veteran’s Caregiver

PTSD, also known as post-traumatic stress disorder, is a common word used in the veteran community. My work with veteran nonprofits has taught me many things about PTSD, one of which being that today is PTSD Awareness Day, a day dedicated to creating awareness around the condition.

I’d like to share with you PTSD from a different perspective- from that of a veteran caregiver.

My wounded veteran husband claims he doesn’t have PTSD. Because he’s not currently depressed, he’s got that “tough Dad” image to keep up, and just simply because he fights through his obstacles every day without the admission.. So, why would he say, “I have PTSD.”

I have Secondary PTSD.

There. I said it. It took me many years to self-diagnose that statement.

Many days feeling like my life would never go back to “normal.” An obscene amount of ignored phone calls and messages from family and friends offering support. More denied outing requests than I’d care to admit from friends that didn’t know how to be there but continuously wanted to show me they cared by inviting me out to dinner, a playdate with their family, birthday parties- anything to take my mind off the chaotic changes taking over my life.

What they didn’t know, couldn’t have known, because I didn’t even know, was that I was suffering and at any point of my life, it can happen again. I won’t know I’m suffering because I’m too busy dealing with the personal stress, anxiety, and sometimes even depression of caring for my husband who also suffers, even when he won’t admit it.

We know how PTSD affects veterans and military persons. Many people don’t realize how indirect exposure with someone’s else firsthand trauma can have lasting effects. In a Veteran Caregiver’s situation, effects that gradually slide him/her into a role where she/he is constantly watching out for other’s well-being, whether that be people OR situations that will trigger the veteran’s traumatic experiences and/or injuries. The caregiver may start avoiding people, situations and places that might bring flashbacks or cause aggravation to the veteran. Soon, it becomes second nature to just isolate ourselves and we don’t even realize we’re doing it.

Basically, my behaviors mimic those of my husband’s post-traumatic stress because ultimately I’m trying to keep every situation calm and under control.

Ways I’ve Found to Cope: Post-traumatic Growth

Everyone’s situation is different and unfortunately even finding ways to overcome secondary PTSD, I know that at any unexpected moment, something could happen to spiral us back into our isolation zone. It’s a fact that I’ve learned to accept as our new “normal.’ On the flip side, there are things that have helped me get through these trying times.
Maybe counselling is the best option- A Doctor once told me that a person who had gone through the trauma that my family had dealt with will always need counselling at some point in their lives.  He was right.  I found it very beneficial to have an unbiased person to talk to. I’d encourage you to try and find a therapist that has experience in dealing with your condition. Finding someone to talk to can be crucial, and sometimes that may just be another caregiver that understands the challenges. I’ve had success with various support chats offered through nonprofits or organizations that support the veteran community.  Lastly, I try to always make time to process the grief or anxiety I am feeling. “Me” time. Whether it is a 5 minute walk alone because that’s all I can fit into my hectic schedule, or a full day getting pampered at the spa, I always make time for my own mental health because I’ve learned that in order for my family to be in a good place, I MUST take care of myself too.

Post-traumatic growth. It’s possible. Everyone has struggles, there will always be setbacks, and sometimes it may feel overbearing. Reaching out for help is not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength that you want to do better, be better, and feel better. If not for you, then for those that care for you.

Caregiver to a U.S. Army Veteran & Heroes Thanking Heroes Representative

Two US servicemembers killed in Afghanistan

Two U.S. servicemembers were killed in Afghanistan on Wednesday, according to a statement from the U.S.-led NATO Resolute Support mission.

No other details were available. Their names are being withheld until 24 hours after next of kin are notified, the statement said.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the deaths Wednesday, saying in a brief statement on Twitter that the Americans were killed in an ambush in Wardak province on the outskirts of Sayad Abad district. The district is located about 60 miles south of Kabul, along the Kabul-Kandahar Highway.

News of the deaths comes about two months after three Marines assigned to 25th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division were killed in a car bombing outside Bagram Air Field. The April 8 incident, which happened only days before they were expected to return home from Afghanistan, wounded three other Americans, an Afghan contractor and five Afghan civilians.

The U.S. war in Afghanistan is now in its 18th year. Some 14,000 American troops are deployed there and are charged with two separate but related missions.

Some 8,500 are training and advising Afghan security forces in stabilizing the country and battling the Taliban insurgency as part of the U.S.-led NATO mission. The remainder are part of a bilateral counterterrorism operation against al-Qaida and Islamic State fighters.

More than 2,400 U.S. military personnel have been killed and more than 20,000 have been wounded since the beginning of the Afghan War in October 2001.

Wednesday’s deaths came one day after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, on a visit to Kabul, said Washington is hopeful a peace agreement that will bring an end to the war in Afghanistan can be reached before Sept. 1.

A fresh round of peace talks is expected to begin Saturday between representatives of the U.S. and the Taliban in Doha, Qatar.

The Taliban have so far refused to hold direct talks with the Kabul government, which they regard as Washington’s puppet regime. Informal Afghan-to-Afghan talks planned for earlier this year in Doha were canceled after both sides disagreed over who should attend.

news@stripes.com

Blue Water Navy Act Now Law!

VFW-championed legislation will benefit tens of thousands of veterans and dependent children

WASHINGTON (June 26, 2019) – The national commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States is saluting the president for signing the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019 into law last night.

“Tens of thousands of Blue Water Navy veterans of the Vietnam War and dependent children born with spina bifida due to a parent’s toxic exposure will now benefit from this new law,” exclaimed VFW National Commander B.J. Lawrence, “and the VFW is proud to have helped lead the charge to return these benefits to these deserving veterans and to expand existing benefits to dependent children. We look forward to the Department of Veterans Affairs publishing implementation guidance on their website very soon.”

The VFW-championed Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019, or H.R. 299, restores VA benefits to thousands of Blue Water Navy Vietnam veterans who had their disability eligibility taken away in 2002 after arbitrary regulatory changes. It benefits veterans exposed to Agent Orange while serving along the Korean DMZ with an earlier start date to encompass the timeframe when various defoliants were tested — to Sept. 1, 1967, instead of April 1, 1968 — and expands benefits to children born with spina bifida due to a parent’s exposure in Thailand, coverage that already exists for the children of Vietnam and Korean DMZ veterans. The new law also requires the VA to report on research being conducted on a broad range of conditions possibly related to service in Southwest Asia, which is important for future legislative efforts to create a list of presumptive conditions for veterans seeking VA health care and benefits.

“The VFW is proud of the 116th Congress for ending this benefits inequity, and we salute President Trump for quickly signing H.R. 299 into law,” said Lawrence.

Though the following VA webpages have yet to updated to reflect the new law, veterans and their families can learn more about benefits associated with Agent Orange exposure here, and about spina bifida birth defects related to exposure here. For assistance in filing claims, find an accredited VFW service officer here.

-VFW-

5 Warning Signs of Mental Health Risk

5-signs.jpg

1. A Change in Personality If someone is acting like a very different person, or not acting or feeling like themself, this is a warning sign.
2. Uncharacteristic Anxiety, Anger, or Moodiness.  Severe changes in emotion are a cause for alarm, especially if they are persistent.
3. Social Withdrawal and Isolation.  If an individual is “closing off” socially, cancelling social engagements, or spending too much time alone, this is a serious warning sign of emotional or mental health issues.
4. Lack of Self-Care or Risky Behaviors.  Persons with mental health issues often lose concern over their own health and well-being, engaging in risky behaviors like drinking and drug use.  In addition, a lack of hygiene, or lack of concern with appearance, may be indicative of a mental health issue.
5. A Sense of Hopelessness or Feeling Overwhelmed.  Mental health difficulties often cause people to give up – to feel like life is just too hard, or that they will never feel “normal” again.

These warning signs, particularly when occurring together, are an indicator that it is time to take action – for yourself or for others.  Realize that you are not alone.  Many Americans suffer from mental health issues at one time or another.  Seek help from a licensed, professional counselor, or contact a physician or your local mental health association.

Transition to a new mission at Northwell Health.

Check out new events at Northwell Health- https://jobs.northwell.edu/events/

http://northwell-veteran-talent-community.ttcportals.com/?pk_vid=78717c51a02daf4c15529400068e7813

Transition to a new mission at Northwell Health.

Our Veterans bring a unique skill set, perspective and values that help drive our mission forward. Join the Northwell Health Veteran Talent Community and see for yourself.

As New York’s largest private employer, we have careers in virtually every area for people who want to redefine how health care is delivered. With a variety of non-clinical careers ranging from clerical, information technology, operations, marketing, finance and human resources. To clinical careers in areas such as nursing, allied health, research and more, we have what you’ve been searching for.

By joining our Veteran Talent Community you will:

  • Be contacted for an exploratory careers conversation
  • Be the first to know about our Military recruitment events and webinars including our Barracks to Business Workshops
  • Receive our monthly Careers Newsletter
  • And more

We take an integrated and comprehensive approach to hiring, training, promoting and supporting veterans and their families — and, whenever possible, we actively seek to hire qualified veterans, National Guard members, reservists and military spouses.

Barracks to Business (B2B) Workshops

As a veteran, you have valuable skills and experience — but you may not know exactly how to translate them to the civilian workplace. We’re here to help. Barracks to Business workshops are designed to help you understand the job search process and create a strategy to pursue civilian employment while also introducing you to career opportunities at Northwell Health.

https://jobs.northwell.edu/events/

Military and Veterans Liaison Services

At Northwell Health, we’re proud to show our respect and gratitude for the service of America’s military members and veterans — as well as for their families. That’s why our Military and Veterans Liaison Services offers a wide range of vital health, wellness and workforce resources. We are committed to making a meaningful difference in the quality of care and service our veterans and their families receive. No service member in our communities should feel forgotten or left behind.

https://www.northwell.edu/find-care/services-we-offer/military-and-veterans-liaison-services

VALOR (Veterans and Allies: Liaisons for Reintegration)

The group, established by Northwell Health’s Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Health Literacy. The goal of VALOR is to give members of the military, veterans, and their families an increased sense of community, and a chance to gain insight from each other and share their experiences. The VALOR Navigator Program pairs veterans newly hired by Northwell with other members of the health system to help transition into civilian employment and offer general career encouragement.

https://www.northwell.edu/find-care/services-we-offer/military-and-veterans-liaison-services/career-services#80751

22 PTSD Awareness Challange

Dear Veterans and Supporters:
 Each year there is a 22 mile PTSD Kayak Event to raise awareness of veteran suicide. In the event teams kayak 22 miles on the Long Island sound to raise awareness.  The event will be held on 08/30/2019  There is approximately 22 veterans a day who commit suicide.  If interested in participating, setting up a table for your organization, or kayaking or being a boat captain please contact the facilitators  Alex Rohman  at cell  917-833-4331 email address 22pacorg@gmail.com  and Frank Lombardi  email address is FLombardi@ighl.org and cell number  631-744-0003.  I apologize if i forgot anyone from sending mass email please share information with others.

Below is a link to our Facebook page. If you do not already follow it we would appreciate it if you followed and shared it with your friends, family, and collegues.

Photos of Service

Dear VFW leaders,

We need your help! We would like to create a slideshow featuring photos of our members during their time in uniform.

Please send your photos for inclusion in this special project to communications@vfw.org by July 9. (Any hard copy photos mailed in to the headquarters will not be accepted or returned.)

Please also share this information with your respective members.

Thank you in advance for your assistance.

Best,

VFW Communications

VFW National Headquarters

406 W. 34th Street

Kansas City, Missouri 64111

816.756.3390

VFW Action Corps

In This Issue:

  1. SCOTUS: Bladensburg Peace Cross Stays
  2. Participate in a Conference Call with President Trump About the VA MISSION Act
  3. VFW Testifies in Support of Medicinal Cannabis Research
  4. TRICARE Catastrophic Cap Reimbursement
  5. National League of POW/MIA Families Turns 50
  6. The GI Bill Turns 75
  7. Defense Leadership Changes
  8. 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force Repeal Gains Traction
  9. VFW-Supported Harmony’s Law
  10. The VFW Needs YOU
  11. MIA Update

 

  1. SCOTUS: Bladensburg Peace Cross Stays: Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court announced its decision that the World War I memorial in the shape of a 40-foot-tall cross can continue to stand on public land in Maryland. The court’s 7-2 decision in favor of allowing the cross to stand, clarifies the fact that the mere shape of a monument does not create an “Establishment” of religion. Therefore, the nearly 100-year-old memorial will be allowed to stay on public land. The VFW’s amicus brief is cited in the opinion. “The Supreme Court made the right call,” said VFW National Commander B.J. Lawrence. “Today’s decision not only protects this memorial outright, but helps to establish a precedent to protect thousands of other veterans’ memorials that currently reside on federal, state or municipal land. “My hat’s off to all of the organizations that joined the VFW in filing amicus briefs concerning this case.” Read the VFW’s amicus brief.
  2. Participate in a Conference Call with President Trump About the VA MISSION Act: Please join President Trump and Secretary of Veterans’ Affairs Wilkie for a conference call on Tuesday, June 25, at 11:45 a.m. EST to discuss the one-year anniversary of the passage of the MISSION Act and the milestones accomplished during this time. To attend the conference call, please fill out the following link and you will receive the dial-in information, upon RSVP’ing. To begin the registration process, please provideConference ID # 469230. RSVP for the call today.

 

  1. VFW Testifies in Support of Medicinal Cannabis Research: On Thursday, VFW National Legislative Service Director Carlos Fuentes testified during a hearing of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs and offered the VFW’s support for legislation to require VA to research the efficacy of medicinal cannabis and other alternatives to high-dose prescriptions VA provides veterans who suffer from chronic pain and other health conditions. Committee members also discussed the need to improve VA Specially Adaptive Housing program by increasing the number of applications VA is able to process per year and expediting the process for veterans with serious illnesses. The VFW also supported legislation to improve the reimbursement of ambulance service costs when veterans are transported to emergency rooms, expand a successful health care seminar during the Transition Assistance Program for servicewomen transitioning out of military service, and others. Read the VFW’s testimony or watch the hearing.

 

  1. TRICARE Catastrophic Cap Reimbursement: On Tuesday, VFW National Legislative Service Director Carlos Fuentes and VFW National Legislative Service Associate Director Kyle Kalman attended the Military Health System MSO/VSO Executive Council meeting with the Defense Health Agency (DHA) Director, Vice Adm. Raquel Bono and senior military medical personnel. DHA is working to correct an error with the implementation of recent TRICARE changes which resulted in retiree enrollment fees not being credited to the family catastrophic cap. To rectify the overpayment, DHA has sent out letters to affected beneficiaries that indicates they can be refunded or credited to future enrollment fees.

 

  1. National League of POW/MIA Families Turns 50: The VFW attended the National League of POW/MIA Families’ 50th annual meeting this week in nearby Arlington, Va. The League originated on the West Coast in the late 1960s as the result of the U.S. government’s policy at the time to maintain a low profile on the POW/MIA issue, which included urging family members to refrain from publicly discussing the problem. The reason the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency exists today is because of the perseverance of this organization to have our government account for their loved ones, a fullest possible accounting mission that has since expanded beyond the Vietnam War to encompass World War II, Korea, Cold War and post-Vietnam losses. Learn more.

 

  1. The GI Bill Turns 75: This week the Service Members Readjustment Act of 1944, also known as the GI Bill, will celebrate its 75thanniversary. The first-ever GI Bill was signed into law on June 22, 1944. Since then, the GI Bill has been a critical tool for veterans during their transition to civilian life. The bill has provided veterans and their families education benefits, financial assistance, and home loan guarantees that have led to the expansion of the American middle class and economic growth and opportunity. Recently, the VFW-supported Forever GI Bill expanded this incredible benefit so future service members will be able to use their education benefits throughout their lives. Learn more about the Forever GI Bill.
  2. Defense Leadership Changes: It was announced this week that Patrick Shanahan will resign as acting defense secretary at midnight, Sunday, and that Secretary of the Army Mark Esper will assume the duties as acting defense secretary at 12:01 a.m., Monday. Esper, a retired Army lieutenant colonel and Life member of the VFW Department of Pennsylvania, is a 1986 West Point graduate who served as an infantry officer with the 101st Airborne Division during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. It is not yet known whether the president intends to nominate him to fill the position permanently. Esper has led the Army since November 2017, and his priorities have focused on rebuilding combat readiness against near-peer competitors.
  3. 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force Repeal Gains Traction: On Wednesday, a provision revoking the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) was included in a $1 trillion minibus appropriations bill that passed the House by a vote of 226-203. The existing AUMF was initially passed in the weeks following the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, and authorized the administration to use military force against those responsible for the attacks, or nations who were complicit in harboring those responsible for the attacks, without expressed congressional approval. In recent years many lawmakers have grown concerned that the AUMF grants the administration too much unilateral power and strips Congress of its responsibility to declare war, and have unsuccessfully fought to repeal the provision. If approved by the Senate, the administration would have eight months to draft a new AUMF or do nothing at all. However, both President Trump and Senate Leader Mitch McConnell have indicated that the repeal is a non-starter.

 

  1. VFW Supports Harmony’s Law: On Monday, the VFW sent a letter of support to the office of Congressman Brian Mast (R-FL) for H.R. 2388, Harmony’s Law. The bill would rightfully clarify the National Defense Authorization Acts of Fiscal Years 1987 and 2006, that sexual assault offenses in the military will have no statute of limitations. Since the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces ruled in U.S. v. Mangahas that the statute of limitations for sexual assaults that occurred before 2006 shall be five years, convicted sexual offenders who committed offenses before 2006 are now able to appeal their convictions and be set free. The bill would hold convicted sexual assault offenders accountable and restore justice to victims. Read the press release.
  2. The VFW Needs YOU: As a grassroots organization, the power of the VFW is in its membership. That means all 1.6 million of our members. We are stronger and more effective together because of what our collective efforts accomplish. Part of being great advocates means renewing your membership and we urge you to do so. We also encourage you to consider becoming a Life member of the VFW as a permanent show of your support. If you are not yet a member, join today. Renew your membership or become a Life MemberJoin as a new member.
  3. MIA Update: The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency has announced the identifications of two American servicemen who had been missing and unaccounted for from WWII. Returning home for burial with full military honors are:

— Navy Reserve Seaman 2nd Class Moyses A. Martinez was stationed aboard the USS Colorado, which was moored approximately 3,200 yards from the shore of Tinian Island. Early in the morning, the USS Colorado came under attack by a concealed Japanese shore battery. From the attack, four crewmen were declared missing in action, and 39 personnel were killed, including Martinez. Interment services are pending. Read about Martinez.

— Army Pvt. Jacob W. Givens was a member of Company K, 3rd Battalion, 60th Infantry Regiment, 9th Infantry Division, which was engaged in battle against enemy forces in the Raffelsbrand sector of the Hürtgen Forest near Germeter, Germany. He was reported missing in action as of Oct. 20, 1944, when his company reorganized after a severe counterattack. Read about Givens.

 

To sign up new veterans’ advocates, visit: http://capwiz.com/vfw/mlm/signup.htm.

 

As always, we want to hear your advocacy stories. To share your stories or photos with us, simply email them directly tovfwac@vfw.org.

 

To view this week’s and previous editions, visit: http://www.vfw.org/actioncorpsweekly.

Legislative Update June 2019

National Priorities

 Blue Water Navy bill passed house May 19 HR 299, push

Senate to approve. Call Senator Schumer, 202-224-6542 and

Senator Gillibrand 202-224-4451 to voice support

Veterans Health Care–to aggressively oversee implementation

of VA Mission Act of 2018- concern over proposal to impose $30

Copay for Emergency service visits even for Service Connected

Issues

  • Resource suicide prevention and outreach
  • Require VA to conduct research on Medical Cannibis
  • Expand peer to peer for MST
  • Remove Copay for preventive medication
  • Pass S514 the Deborah Sampson Act to improve health care for woman vets
  • Expand eligibility for VA nurse homes for all VA enrolled

Burn Pits –  Pass legislation to require better Airborne and open burn pit registry

  • Provide Iraq and Afghanistan vets benefits and care for pulmonary conditions
  • Pass HR 663/s191, Burn pit accountability act
  • Establish and fund research on the impact of burn pits on exposed vets

Concurrent Receipt – Pass HR 303 or S208 to allow disabled vets to receive retirement pay and VA disability compensation

  • Pass HR 553, Military surviving Spouse equity act to allow survivors full retirement pay

Transition – Reopen TAP in the community programs

  • Provide grants for private organizations for jobs
  • Open pathways for vets to connect with community, vet organizations in hometowns while still on AD

State of NY Priorities Budgetary

1.Continue funding of VFW Service Officers $125K per year and add $500K for additional SOs  2019 results-VFW received up to $125K

  1. Dwyer Peer to Peer mentoring $3.5M for upstate counties and add $4M for downstate 2019 Results – Dwyer program funding continues at same level as previously but will be spread out throughout the state
  2. Veterans Defense Program, $500K to cover existing veterans defense and add $400K for Defense Counselors practice manual 2019 Results – VDP funding continues at existing level but $220K added to open a Long Island Office
  3. Continue funding for Office of court administration to support vet mentors in existing 30 VTCs and advance the number of VTCs to all counties 2019 Results – no funding for VTC Mentors at this point but on the legislative side, legislation passed house to have VTC available in all counties. A 5937

Legislative Goals –

  1. Vet peer to peer certification option and add centers for women veterans one upstate and one downstate

Support A2945 Ortiz, in Vet affairs and S4261 Parker in Vet and military affairs as amended by the VFW

  1. Child custody considerations for NY military, Support S 5543 Brooks in children and families, need assembly bill to follow established Federal military standards for Family Care Plan via NY Statute to provide reference for Family Courts
  2. Property Tax reductions for Active Duty Service Members,

 Support S2930A Brooks Passed Senateand A5344A (In Vet Committee) Cusick to allow real property to recognize active duty military so they can apply for property tax reductions (As currently written would only cover those in Combat zone)

  1. Fill Currently allocated civil service jobs for disabled vets, support S3300(Passed Senate) Brooks, 2019 and A6297(Passed House)Barrett to require state agencies to identify when posting jobs that fall under the 55C program as 55C Eligible.
  2. Modernize charitable gaming to better enable self-funding of service organizations, reintroduce A7307 Cusick 2018 in racing and wagering, to allow Charity poker fundraising, S3301 (Passed Senate) Brooks
  3. Modernize bell Jars to enable better self-funding and encourage younger members to join, Support S6284 Addabbo in rules, and support A4697 Pretlow amended and in racing and wagering and continue to work with Governor’s office to overcome recent veto. (After multiple meetings with Governor’s Staff this remains held up so is about to be reintroduced with amendments from the VFW)