Category Archives: Air Force

UNDERSERVED: Marines are nearly ten times more likely to be excluded from VA services than their counterparts in the Air Force

“PROSE”: “the ordinary language people use in speaking or writing.” – Merriam Webster

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By far more than anyone else, United States Marines and their supporters have reacted to and commented on this solemn, snow-shrouded image that I posted on Facebook mere hours ago. It’s an anecdotal truth for this author that those in and around the USMC are quick, respectful, and openly compassionate when it comes to honoring the noble dead. Collectively, the kind of fight that our Marines take to America’s enemies is a lot different than that we ask of our airmen. So, WTF? The VA has effectively decided that Marines are more than five times more “Dishonorable” than Airmen.

Here’s an excerpt from the following March 2016 report as accessed online 21 December 2018:
Swords to Plowshares, in conjunction with National Veterans Legal Services Program and the Veterans Legal Clinic at the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School have published Underserved: How the VA Wrongfully Excludes Veterans with Bad Paper.

Complete report available at:

https://www.swords-to-plowshares.org/2016/03/30/underserved/

Not all who have served are “veterans” in the eyes of the Department of Veterans Affairs. If the veteran has less than a General discharge, the VA creates obstacles to getting health care, benefits, homeless resources and other services. Most of these veterans are simply turned away. Congress never meant for eligibility to be so exclusive, it intended that only veterans who served dishonorably be denied access. The VA’s own discretionary policies unnecessarily deny hundreds of thousands veterans benefits, who are often those most in need of the VA’s support. These former service members are more likely to have mental health disabilities and twice as likely to commit suicide. They are more likely to be homeless and to be involved with the criminal justice system.

KEY FINDINGS FROM THE REPORT

  • Marines are nearly ten times more likely to be excluded from VA services than their counterparts in the Air Force
  • Current era service members are excluded at higher rates than other eras– more than twice the rate for Vietnam Era veterans and nearly four times the rate for World War II Era veterans
  • Mental health and combat have little effect on eligibility
  • 3 out of 4 veterans with bad-paper discharges who served in combat and who have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder are denied eligibility by the Board of Veterans’ Appeals

.  .  .

(Excerpted from p. 12 and following)

VA Regulations Result in Unequal Exclusion Rates Between Branches

The historically unprecedented exclusion rate today
is due almost enti rely to the VA’s discretionary choice
to presume ineligibility for veterans who received
administrative Other Than Honorable discharges.
That choice deprives tens of thousands of veterans of
needed care, despite the fact that their service would
not be considered “Dishonorable”—and was not
deemed Dishonorable by the military. What is more, significant disparities exist among the administrative separati on practices of the various service branches. The Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps each has its own separation regulations and policies. Moreover, within each branch, different units and commands may implement those regulations and policies in a different manner. Thus, service members who engage in similar misconduct may receive disparate treatment: one may be retained, another may be discharged under General conditions, another discharged under Other Than Honorable conditions.

This is due to different leadership styles, not differences in degrees of “dishonor.” A report of the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on discharge characterization documented the range of discharge practices and ascribed disparities to differences in leadership and management styles rather than a measurable difference in “honor” or “character.” The GAO compared Marines and Airmen with the same misconduct, service length, and performance history, and found that the Air Force was thirteen times more likely to give a discharge Under Honorable conditions than the Marine Corps.

Because the VA presumptively excludes veterans
with non-punitive Other Than Honorable discharges,
this discrepancy results in significant differences
in VA eligibility. For service members with equivalent conduct histories, Airmen are 13 times more
likely than Marines to be deemed presumptively
eligible—and recognized as a “veteran”—by the VA.
This results in significant differences in aggregate.
Whereas 98% of veterans who have served in the Air
Force since 2001 can access the VA when they leave
the service, only 88% of Marines from the period are
presumptively recognized as “veterans” by the VA.
(See Table K.9). The VA has effectively decided that
Marines are more than five times more “Dishonorable” than Airmen.

This disparity provides a potent reminder for why Congress decided to exclude only veterans who received or should have received a Dishonorable discharge by Court-Martial. Although there are wide discrepancies among services in their administrative discharge practices, the service branches are remarkably similar in how they use punitive discharges. Congress specifically noted that the discretion given to commanders for administrative separations can result in unfair outcomes, and gave veterans the benefit of the doubt by only excluding those who received or deserved a Dishonorable discharge by court-martial. Because the VA’s regulations have presumptively excluded all veterans with administrative Other Than Honorable discharges, the VA is failing to act in accordance with Congress’s decision.
Eligibility Decisions Fail To Adequately Consider Mental Health Conditions that May Have Contributed to Discharge.

Overall, the VA’s COD regulations prevent consideration—except in narrow and specifi c circumstances—of facts that Congress intended the VA to take into account: mitigating factors, extenuating circum-
stances, and positive facts. As one example, the VA’s regulations provide little room for consideration
of whether any mental health condition explains
or mitigates the conduct that led to the veteran’s
bad-paper discharge. It is deeply unfair—and contrary to Congress’s intent—to exclude veterans from basic veteran services for behavior that is symptomatic of mental health conditions that may be related to their service.

It is well established that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), depression, operational stress, and other mental health conditions can lead to behavioral changes. In some cases, military commanders incorrectly attribute those behaviors to bad character, rather than as signs of distress and disease. Indeed, a 2010 study of Marines who deployed to Iraq found that those who were diagnosed with PTSD were eleven times more likely to be discharged for misconduct and eight times more likely to be discharged for substance abuse than Marines without a PTSD diagnosis.

Yet, the VA’s regulati ons contain only one narrow
provision related to mental health: misconduct
leading to discharge may be overlooked if the veteran
was “insane” at the time of the misconduct leading
to discharge. The VA’s definition of “insanity” is
antiquated—out of step with the practices of modern
psychology and psychiatry, which no longer deem
people “insane.” . . .

Eligibility Decisions Do Not Consider Whether the Veteran Served In Combat or Other Hardship Conditions

Another example of the failure of the VA’s regulations is the absence of any generally applicable provision for considering whether the veteran served in hardship conditions, including whether the veteran served in combat. . . .

https://www.swords-to-plowshares.org/2016/03/30/underserved/

Among additional expert analyses of what bad paper discharges do to those who’ve served and their families is:

“Bad Papers”: The Invisible and Increasing Costs of War for Excluded Veterans

Ali R. Tayyeb and Jennifer Greenburg (2017)
Paper (pdf)
https://watson.brown.edu/costsofwar/papers/2017/bad-papers-invisible-and-increasing-costs-war-excluded-veterans

In a forthcoming article, this author points to another problem facing those with bad paper discharges:

“Veterans with bad paper discharges can get screwed all the way around. Not only are they often – but not always – excluded from VA services and healthcare, they “may be excluded from access to community resources also; many community programs follow the eligibility requirements set by the VA.”
Research Review: Underserved, How the VA Wrongfully Excludes Veterans With Bad Paper. Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) iava.org/blog May 3, 2016
https://iava.org/blogs/research-review-underserved-how-the-va-wrongfully-excludes￾veterans-with-bad-paper/

BAD PAPER UPDATE

Veterans may sue over discharges they say were result of untreated mental health problems

http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/veterans_may_sue_over_discharges_they_say_were_result_of_untreated_mental_h

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GI: Owned Lock, Stock, and Barrel

“PROSE”: “the ordinary language people use in speaking or writing.”  – Merriam Webster

 

A former special operator has remarked that his generation suffers from a kind of moral relativism that assumes all purported “truths” are equally valid. He pointed out that it matters little that someone disagrees with the proposition that “2 + 2 = 4.” Mathematicians don’t waste time listening to arguments otherwise. And neither does the military, he explained.

Calculating and acting on the correct answer to complex mathematical equations was the job of, among others, World War II bombardiers. And tens of thousands of Allied navigators and radiomen and pilots and gunners died getting bombardiers to their job sites, so they could do what they’d been trained and tasked to do. More people than anticipated died 20,000 feet below when a bombardier got the math wrong.

Of course, the mathematics of calculating the correct and desired damage to a target – computer assist or not – has never been the only part of the military’s mission that’s nothing more than a car on blocks if alternative, or preferred, truths are given the time of day.

grandad dress and decoration post DPRK. 225 x 300Facts no one in our family ever talked about, truths about where and why and how my grandad was critically wounded in combat, have made me reflect on another non-negotiable fact of military service that is both unknown and unfelt by most of the 92.7% of us in this country who have never served under arms: the fact of being government property to be used as the nation deems necessary.

What I’ve learned by researching the Korean combat experiences of other soldiers from the U.S. Army’s 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division has told me much I never knew about what grandad was made of. It’s given me a narrow space in a fence through which I can see part of why this World War II drill instructor I called “grandad” was never the same after Korea. And what I’ve seen has forever axed the thought that I might one day change my hard-to-spell surname from that of a soldier from Queens with an 8th grade education who adopted two Tennessee boys and then raised my dad and his kid brother as best he knew how.

In a September 13, 2017 Brookings’ blogpost, “Catastrophe on the Yalu: America’s Intelligence Failure in Korea,” Bruce Riedel, the Director of Brookings’ Intelligence Project, suggests that the bloodletting at Unsan – during which U.S. Army Master Sergeant Charles Bloeser was forever wounded – didn’t have to happen. Three days of fighting legions of battle – hardened Communist Chinese troops who weren’t supposed to be there was due to “a catastrophic intelligence failure. . .. the result of terrible intelligence management, not the poor collection or analysis of information.”

Casualty records at the National Archives report that grandad was “[s]eriously wounded in action by missile” on November 2, 1950. In an excerpt in Vanity Fair from The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War, David Halberstam explains what happened one day earlier, when the two-star general commanding grandad’s division asked for permission to pull back:

On the afternoon of November 1, Major General Hobart R. “Hap” Gay, the First Cav division commander, was in his command post with General Charles Palmer, his artillery commander, when a radio report from an observer in an L-5 spotter plane caught their attention: “This is the strangest sight I have ever seen. There are two large columns of enemy infantry moving southeast over the trails in the vicinity of Myongdang-dong and Yonghung-dong. Our shells are landing right in their columns and they keep coming.” Those were two tiny villages five or six air miles from Unsan. Palmer immediately ordered additional artillery units to start firing, and Gay nervously called First Corps, requesting permission to pull the entire Eighth Cav several miles south of Unsan. His request was denied.

honor-guard-w-flag-arlington-natl-cemetary-multi-sourced. 300 x 166

 

The Army’s Military History Center describes what happened next:

“Thousands of Chinese [] attacked from the north, northwest, and west against scattered U.S. and South Korean units moving deep into North Korea. The Chinese seemed to come out of nowhere as they swarmed around the flanks and over the defensive positions of the surprised [] troops.” As the lead to the Halberstam excerpt puts it, “hundreds of Americans got slaughtered at Unsan, one of the worst defeats of the Korean War.”

In “one of the most shameful and little-known incidents in U.S. military history,” writes Charles J. Hanley (quoting Korean War historian Jack J. Gifford), some 600 of the 3rd Battalion’s 800 men” were “[t]rapped by two Chinese divisions,” and “left to die in far northern Korea.”

“The Yalu disaster was completely predictable,” writes Riedel in his Brookings blogpost. “The intelligence failure was the result of a policy maker’s determination that intelligence support his preconceived views, not challenge them. It is a timeless lesson.”

Knowing that men my grandad trained with and fought to keep alive – men from what Sebastian Junger would call his “tribe” – died in or after a battle that looks like it never had to go down the way it did, infuriates me. And I regret that I didn’t know these things when grandma was alive and might have found in this history at least some solace after living through some very dark years with her husband after he came home.

To my way of thinking, the men who fell at Unsan died with honor. But the likelihood that their lives were wasted is disturbing.

And knowing that many of these men would have died on other battlefields on the Korean peninsula before two years of peace talks would bring an armistice is no comfort. Quite the opposite.

The warriors ordered into a Chinese hornets’ nest with grandad were sons and brothers and husbands and fathers – all soldiers who deserved to fight where they could do the most good. Not here. Not this way.

Ms. Elizabeth M. Collins writes in a November 2016 retrospective at Army.Mil that “[a] 1954 Congressional report termed the Korean War “one of the most heinous and barbaric” periods in history, citing some 1,800 cases of war crimes involving thousands of victims: “Virtually every provision of the Geneva Convention governing the treatment of war prisoners was purposely violated or ignored by the North Korean or Chinese forces.”

 

But here’s where grandad has a lesson for those of us who have never served. Had he known earlier what the intel really showed – that Communist China cared a great deal about what happened the other side of the Yalu river – it wouldn’t have mattered. It must not be allowed to matter.

Like all who serve, grandad was owned by the United States lock, stock, and barrel, to be used as his nation deemed necessary. Even if ordered to march into Hell itself.

The thing about that is this. We who are civilians might see such an order as time for a career change without giving notice. U.S. Marines, sailors, soldiers, airmen, and members of the U.S. Coast Guard who refuse to obey lawful orders breach the law and threaten the order, discipline, and unit cohesiveness without which the nation can neither defend itself nor otherwise pursue its interests.

That was true for grandad, who had solemnly sworn, among other duties, that he would “observe and obey the orders of the President of the United States of America, and the orders of the officers appointed over [him].”

It was true for grandad’s commanding general whose request to pull the Army back had been denied.

 

ENDNOTE content supplied in sequence. Links to numbers to be updated.

[1] Author: Charles L.K. Bloeser, M.A., J.D. Member, Bar of the State of Tennessee; member, Bar of the Supreme Court of the United States.

[2] (“. . . what if we told you that 2 +2 = ? has stumped even some of the smartest mathematicians because it doesn’t necessarily have to equal 4?”) Elena Holodny. “Here’s How Your Watch Can Prove that 2 + 2 Doesn’t Equal 4.” Businessinsider.com (June 24, 2014).

[3] Mona Chalabi. “What Percentage of Americans Have Served in the Military?” Fivethirtyeight.com (March 19, 2015).

[4]Sixty years later those fallen soldiers, the lost battalion of Unsan, are stranded anew.

“North Korea is offering fresh clues to their remains. American teams are ready to re-enter the north to dig for them. But for five years the U.S. government has refused to work with North Korea to recover the men of Unsan and others among more than 8,000 U.S. missing in action from the 1950-53 war.

“Now, under pressure from MIA family groups, the Obama administration is said to be moving slowly to reverse the Bush administration’s suspension of the joint recovery program, a step taken in 2005 as the North Korean nuclear crisis dragged on.

“If I had a direct line in to the president, I would say, `Please reinstitute this program. There are families that need closure,'” said Ruth Davis, 61, of Palestine, Texas, whose uncle, Sgt. 1st Class Benny Don Rogers, has been listed as MIA since Chinese attackers overran his company — I Company, 8th Cavalry — at Unsan in late 1950.

It was one of Rogers’ I Company comrades, Pfc. Philip W. Ackley of Hillsboro, New Hampshire, whose identifying dog tag appeared in a photo the North Koreans handed over at Korea’s Panmunjom truce village in January of this 60th year since the war started. The North Koreans also delivered photos of remains, a stark reminder that Unsan’s dead still wait to come home.” Charles J. Hanley, “Lost Korean War battalion awaits US MIA decision,” Associated Press (July 18, 2010).

[5] Sebastian Junger. Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging (London: 4th Estate 2017).

[6] Another soldier from the “First Cav” whose honorable service at Unsan was recognized publicly was Tibor Rubin. Mr. Rubin had survived the Holocaust while his family did not. He thanked the United States for his rescue by enlisting in the Army shortly after he arrived in the States and when he could barely speak English. Mr. Rubin was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his valor in combat at Unsan, but his official citation describes in detail how the soldier single-handedly kept alive as many as 40 of his fellow POWs during 2 years he spent in a Chinese prison camp.

[7] “The first oath under the Constitution was approved by Act of Congress 29 September 1789 (Sec. 3, Ch. 25, 1st Congress). It applied to all commissioned officers, noncommissioned officers and privates in the service of the United States.” Information courtesy history.army.mil, accessed May 28, 2018.

 

 

 

Charles.photo.lawlibrary. 150 x 200Charles Bloeser is a lawyer and the researcher behind the creation of combatresearchandprose.com, a new open-source applied research initiative examining combat and those marked by it. His most recent publication, in August 2018, reports how a cancer-stricken, combat-haunted Vietnam veteran fell between the cracks in a modern jail. It’s an account that, from that warrior’s deathbed, he asked author to share with those best able to keep the same thing from happening to others. STRIFE, at the Department of War Studies, Kings College London, gave him a way to do that.  

http://www.strifeblog.org/2018/08/02/henry-a-wounded-soldier-forgotten-by-all-in-an-american-jail-by-all-except-his-brothers-who-fell-beside-him-in-vietnam

 

 

 

 

 

My husband lost a limb in Afghanistan. Now, as his caregiver, I’m on the front lines.

Today’s opinion column by wounded warrior caregiver and USA Today contributor Ms. Sarah Verardo yanks the cover away from a national tragedy that the Trump Administration is working to fix.

The focus of her essay is those veterans – and their caregivers – who are deemed eligible for VA benefits. It does not extend to the tens of thousands of veterans who’ve been deemed ineligible for VA services due to “bad paper” discharges.

Although by law, Congress denies veterans’ services only to those “discharged under dishonorable conditions,” the VA has interpreted the intent of the law as excluding anyone with Dishonorable discharges as well as all veterans with Bad Conduct or OTH discharges, regardless of whether or not these latter discharges were related to any action understood as ‘dishonorable.’”

Ali R. Tayyeb and Jennifer Greenburg. “Bad Papers”: The Invisible and Increasing Costs of War for Excluded Veterans 6. Watson Institute of International and Public Affairs, Brown University. 20 June 2017 (citations omitted).

The following is excerpted from Ms. Verardo’s opinion piece in USA Today:

“Eight years ago, my husband stepped on an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan. He lost his left leg and much of his left arm, and barely survived. . . .

“As many as 5.5 million caregivers struggle to care for disabled veterans like my husband. These wounded warriors, especially catastrophically disabled, need round-the-clock assistance because they have a hard time completing the tasks associated with daily living — such as going to the bathroom or getting out of bed.

“In our case, my husband needs assistance to complete all his daily tasks, from dressing, to getting cleaned and ready, to planning the day. Every day, I am constantly thinking for two people.

Catastrophically wounded vets also require lots of medical care. In addition to his surgeries [119 of them], my husband has gone through years of speech, visual, physical and occupational therapy.

. . .

“The Department of Veterans Affairs offers caregivers support for coordinating these services as well as a stipend.

“Caregivers could receive $7,800 to $30,000 in any given year. To calculate caregiver stipends, the VA looks at a typical home health aide’s hourly wage in a veteran’s geographic location, as well as the number of hours of care that veteran needs. The VA caps the hours of care at 40 per week.

“That’s almost insulting. I am a caregiver every second of every day. One-fifth of caregivers report caring for their veterans 80 hours a week.

. . .
Fortunately, federal officials are beginning to take action. As part of the recently passed VA MISSION Act, Congress will expand caregiver support to all veterans — not just those injured after 9/11.

https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/voices/2018/12/05/veteran-caregivers-affairs-war-disability-afghanistan-va-column/2154728002/

 

FEATURE IMAGE accompanies this 5 December 2018 featured op-ed in USA Today. Caption: “Mike and Sarah Verardo in Charlotte, North Carolina, in November 2018.”

Veterans’ Treatment Court allows career Army sergeant to include yoga in five-year plan

“PROSE”: “the ordinary language people use in speaking or writing.”  – Merriam Webster

Following is excerpted from Connected Warriors website: https://connectedwarriors.org/warrior-testimonials/

Nikki Prodromos

SERGEANT FIRST CLASS

“My name is Nikki Prodromos and I found Connected Warriors Yoga because drinking to cope with my three combat tours landed me in Veterans’ Treatment Court after having a few too many and getting behind the wheel. I have 21 enlisted years in the Army, serving active duty from ’95-’99 and joining the Reserves after September 11th. After each combat tour, I came home a little more anxious, a little more depressed, and a lot more withdrawn. At my lowest point, I couldn’t leave my apartment to check my mail and would ‘rally’ two days a month to attend battle assemblies and honor my reserve commitment but, I would pick up a 12 pack on the way home.

“Veterans’ Treatment Court required me to write a five-year plan in which I included attending yoga, for several reasons. First, the plan required a physical exercise element and as a 70% disabled veteran, this was one of my few viable options. Second, I tried yoga a few years ago and loved how I felt after my practice. Third, my Veterans’ Treatment Court mentor handed me a CW yoga flier and I found out it was free…which was about all my budget could afford last year. Finally, I’m two semesters shy of my master’s degree in Performance/Sport Psychology and know that the healing power of yoga has been proven time and time again. Boy, did I need some healing!”

Following description of a yoga class at Ft. Campbell is excerpted from Connected Warriors website: https://connectedwarriors.org/warrior-testimonials/

Michael, MSG – U.S. ARMY VETERAN WITH 17 YEARS IN SERVICE

“Three years ago a retired Army Command Sergeant Major invited me to a Connected Warriors yoga class at Fort Campbell. Needless to say, I was apprehensive about going to an unfamiliar activity that I perceived as new age stretching for women. Walking in the room, I was surprised to find such an eclectic group of participants from all different age groups, genders, body types, and fitness levels. Many had some type of knee, shoulder, or back injury – battle wounds from a dedicated life of service. Much to my surprise, the class was an intense workout that challenged my strength, balance, and flexibility. I found myself returning each week to learn new postures and for the challenge of pushing myself to the edge. During that year, I noticed physical changes such as my knee no longer swelling after long runs and ruck marches, increased inner core strength, and an overall improvement in my level of fitness.”

Per Connected Warriors:

“The Connected Warriors mission is to empower Servicemembers, Veterans and their Families worldwide through Trauma-Conscious Yoga.”

“Thanks to our synergistic partnership with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Connected Warriors is at the forefront of clinical studies on yoga’s positive effects. Out of every dollar we raise, 92¢ cents goes into our programs in 9 countries worldwide, 24 states, and Washington D.C.”

 

Two Vietnam veterans talk about the Connected Warriors program in 2011 South Florida article re former sex crimes and homicide prosecutor who left to teach yoga full time:

“I always thought that yoga had something to do with meditation, but I didn’t know it was so strenuous,” said Vietnam veteran Curtis Hodge Jr., 66, a Lauderhill retiree. He said a weekly class with Frankel has helped him sleep through the night for the first time in 40 years.

“This is not a sissy thing, you know,” Hodge said.

Fellow Vietnam veteran Tom Turnberger, 63, a former Marine, praised Frankel’s non-critical manner. “He goes out of his way to make everyone feel welcome,” said Turnberger, of Plantation. “He said he appreciates what we’ve done as veterans, and that is not something those of us who served in Vietnam heard a lot.

“I don’t know how this works, but it gives me a sense of calm,” he added. “I’ve been searching for this.”

https://www.sun-sentinel.com/health/fl-xpm-2011-08-03-fl-yoga-for-vets-20110730-story.html

 

Feature image accessed 4 December 2018 at https://connectedwarriors.org/warrior-testimonials/

 

Charles.photo.lawlibrary. 150 x 200

Charles Bloeser is a lawyer and the researcher behind the creation of combatresearchandprose.com, a new open-source applied research initiative examining combat and those marked by it. His most recent publication, in August 2018, reports how a cancer-stricken, combat-haunted Vietnam veteran fell between the cracks in a modern jail. It’s an account that, from that warrior’s deathbed, he asked author to share with those best able to keep the same thing from happening to others. STRIFE, at the Department of War Studies, Kings College London, gave him a way to do that.  

http://www.strifeblog.org/2018/08/02/henry-a-wounded-soldier-forgotten-by-all-in-an-american-jail-by-all-except-his-brothers-who-fell-beside-him-in-vietnam

Don’t abandon our female veterans to staggering risk of suicide, urge an American Soldier and a U.S. Marine

“PROSE”: “the ordinary language people use in speaking or writing.”  – Merriam Webster

 

allcallsigns.org graphic 263 x 182 accessed google images 4 September 2018A QUICK WORD FROM THE OTHER SIDE OF THE POND RE INFORMATION THAT FOLLOWS THIS POST: “We’re shit at talking. It’s time to change that. All Call Signs is a peer-to-peer communication app for Veterans and serving Military Personnel. Our chat service is manned by volunteers who have served in The Forces and understand the stresses and struggles that come with daily life in and out of uniform. “

 

“Don’t abandon our female veterans to staggering risk of suicide.”

[Please note: since this opinion piece came out last year, the VA has clarified that its reported veteran suicide data include, and have included, active-duty, guard, and reserve in addition to separated veterans (June 2018).]

The following is an excerpt from a 27 September 2017 opinion piece by a couple of veterans who know what they’re talking about:

Paula Broadwell is the director of the Think Broader Foundation, a co-host of On Point Women Warrior Writing Workshops, and an Army veteran.

Dr. Kate Hendricks Thomas is an assistant professor of Public Health at Charleston Southern University and a U.S. Marine Corps veteran

. . .

“Of the 40,000 veteran organizations offering services, a minute number have proposed these programs and even fewer have offered funding for existing initiatives. Even the big national non-profits that are focused on veteran support initiatives have a dearth of programs that are exclusive to women. Corporations who might support these programs seem unmoved by the statistics. We’ve been told frequently and verbatim by corporate funding entities that “they have sponsored their woman’s event for the year.”  Checking the box isn’t going to save female veterans lives any more than simply tweeting about the problem does.

“Improving access to women-specific programming matters for many reasons, not in the least because opening up in group therapy sessions with men who may have dismissed women’s service or even been perpetrators of harassment or assault can be difficult if not impossible, so many women opt out of co-ed programming and therapy altogether.”

“Earlier this year, Paula co-hosted with fellow service women a “women warriors writing workshop” in Tampa, Fla. The published mission was to provide skills training to aspiring female veteran historians, memoirists, novelists, and op-ed writers. Our implied mission, however, was to help create small tribe and provide mental health support for our sisters in need.

“Besides learning of their valor, adventures and inevitable mishaps along the way, several common issues surfaced in our discussions:

  1. Most women said they had never been a room with all female veterans in the past.
  2. Many women, including one of the authors of this column, had experienced depression or suicide ideation following some trauma in life but had avoided seeking VA help.
  3. All of them were eager for support and connectivity but many were challenged to find it in their civilian lives.
  4. Many of us feel our voices don’t matter; just look at the Army Chief of Staff’s recent recommended reading list (one of 115 authors is a woman, despite the plethora of excellent literature by female academics and historians.)”

[end of excerpt]

http://thehill.com/opinion/healthcare/352728-dont-abandon-americas-female-veterans-to-staggering-risk-of-suicide#

These experts urge:

And to our sisters in arms, please reach out if you need help.

“If you or someone you know is at immediate risk for suicide, contact the Veterans Crisis Line: Call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, text to 838255, or chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat.”

https://www.veteranscrisisline.net/get-help/military-crisis-line

https://www.veteranscrisisline.net/education/signs-of-crisis

 

union-jack-with-royal-crest-250 x 147A new military chat service has been launched by two veterans who say “we’re sh*t at talking and it’s killing us.”

 

 

Depression-DNI-SFW_0 image with Forces Radio story re allcallsigns.org 800 x 450

The following is taken verbatim from online content to accompany a 4 September 2018 broadcast on Forces Network BFBS Radio (this image accompanies the story.)

https://www.forces.net/radio/all-call-signs-veterans-fighting-your-mental-health

A new military chat service has been launched by two veterans who say “we’re sh*t at talking and it’s killing us.”

The former soldiers’ battle with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) inspired them to set up a new peer to peer chat support network to help those struggling with mental health.

All Call Signs co-founders Steven James and Dan Arnold both served with The Second Battalion, the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment and created All Call Signs amid concerns over high waiting times for mental health services and a growing number of veteran suicides.

In the audio clip below Forces Radio BFBS Aldershot’s Natasha Reneaux caught up with the friends and first spoke to Steven to find out about the tri-service support network.
“We’ve got 60 plus users at the moment who are all ex-military, have all been in the same shoes as the people that are calling in.

“They understand the language; they’ve been in the same places so they get it.”

The ethos and mission statement of All Call Signs is “camaraderie in the face of adversity, whether in uniform or out.”

All Call Signs isn’t like a call centre. When someone clicks the Chat Now button you’re automatically connected to a volunteer via WhatsApp.

The volunteers have all served so understand what life is really like in the military.
“Once you’ve made that connection, you’ve got someone to chat to whenever you just need a pick me up…

“You can check up on each other and make sure you’re doing OK.”

However, this isn’t just a text service. The initial contact via WhatsApp can develop into a phone or video call, whatever the user feels most comfortable with.

It’s not just a service you can find on WhatsApp.

All Call Signs launched their Beacon, an AI-powered geo-location search assistance app in September which is already being embraced and used by the military community they are here to help.

The aim is for people to subscribe to Beacon on Facebook Messenger so that if a vulnerable member of the military community goes missing they will be sent an alert.
“Getting boots on the ground in response to an at risk person going off the radar can literally mean the difference between life and death.

“Our hope is that Beacon will prevent a lot of the misinformation and confusion that has hindered search efforts in the past.”

All Call Signs is designed to complement and not replace what’s already available for veterans.

Dan and Steve were increasingly becoming aware of suicides within the veteran community and felt like something more needed to be done to support the vulnerable members of their military family.

“There’s fantastic support out there with agencies like Combat Stress, The Royal British Legion and Hague Housing.

If you want to volunteer your time or are interested in looking after your mental health visit http://www.allcallsigns.org

https://allcallsigns.org/

 

 

ckb face indian screen image indirect 150 x 221Charles Bloeser is the creator of combatresearchandprose.com, a new open-source applied research initiative that will continue to contribute to bridging the gap in experience, knowledge, and understanding that divides those who’ve never served under arms from those who have. He’s the civilian son and grandson of veterans and a lawyer who’s spent most years arguing criminal and constitutional issues in America’s state and federal trial and appellate courts. His most recent publication chronicles a tragic story that a former client asked him to tell, from his deathbed:   

http://www.strifeblog.org/2018/08/02/henry-a-wounded-soldier-forgotten-by-all-in-an-american-jail-by-all-except-his-brothers-who-fell-beside-him-in-vietnam

 

A cure for PTSD: swift. efficient. soul stealing.

“PROSE”: “the ordinary language people use in speaking or writing.”  – Merriam Webster

Here’s the second of three excerpts from this author’s draft article mss about the successful effort by a clandestine, multi-national, public-private partnership to rescue from German-occupied Europe the bombardier of a B-17 downed over Holland in 1943.

* * *
“. . .

“Among American airmen forced to undergo lobotomies were “Melbert Peters, a bomber crewman given two lobotomies—one most likely performed with an ice pick inserted through his eye sockets. And Mr. Tritz, the son of a Wisconsin dairy farmer who flew a B-17 Flying Fortress on 34 combat missions over Germany and Nazi-occupied Europe.”

“But like a friend who drinks naively from a cocktail of radiator fluid and rat poison and then tells his friend, “Try it, you’ll like it,” American doctors encouraged British psychiatrists to take up the practice. As Hugh Levinson writes in his 2011 BBC News Magazine article The Strange and Curious History of Lobotomy, “From the early 1940s, it began to be seen as a miracle cure here in the UK, where surgeons performed proportionately more lobotomies than even in the US.”

“Naming the procedure for the sharp instrument that’s thrust into the brain, practitioners in Britain performed more than 1,000 leucotomies a year at its peak. “It was used to treat a range of illnesses, from schizophrenia to depression and compulsive disorders.” As recently deceased historian Ben Shephard pointed out in poignant detail, the Crown’s heroes from World War II were not spared the irreversible procedure.

“It’s disturbing to watch a combat veteran who beat terrible odds to make it home alive only to have his brain benevolently “stirred” with a sharp spike. And history has already begun to judge the procedure and its proponents with a declarative “WTF?”

“But if we’re to be honest with science and with history we might at least consider what Mr. Levinson says about why the procedure became so favored in Britain:

“’The reason for its popularity was simple – the alternative was worse.

‘When I visited mental hospitals . . . you saw straightjackets, padded cells, and it was patently apparent that some of the patients were, I’m sorry to say, subjected to physical violence,” recalls retired neurosurgeon Jason Brice.

‘The chance of a cure through lobotomy seemed preferable to the life sentence of incarceration in an institution.

‘We hoped it would offer a way out,’ says Mr. Brice. ‘We hoped it would help.’”

“. . . .”

(end of excerpt)

* * * 
The following information is from the endnotes that accompany the above text (content originally appeared on Facebook, which did not include foot/endnote numbering. However, sequence and content are the same as in the original draft mss):

Lobotomy Practitioners in the United States proselytized psychiatric communities elsewhere, including in Mandatory Palestine and Israel. Rakefet Zalashik and Nadav Davidovitch. Last resort? Lobotomy operations in Israel, 1946-60, History of Psychiatry 17(1) 91-106. Sage Publications 2006.

Hugh Levinson. The strange and curious history of lobotomy. BBC News Magazine, 8 November 2011; http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-15629160

See Ben Shephard, A War of Nerves: Soldiers and Psychiatrists in the 20th Century (Jonathan Cape 2000). See review by Philip Hoare in The Guardian: “And they called them cowards.” https://www.theguardian.com/…/nov/12/historybooks.firstworl…

One of the more intuitive reviews of War of Nerves appeared in The Village Voice: 
“Shephard didn’t write A War of Nerves with Iraq in mind; the bulk of it focuses on the two world wars and Vietnam, with a short section on the Falklands and the 1991 Gulf War at the end. But its unflinching look at the awkward intersection of psychiatry and the military offers a fascinating left-field perspective on war and its hidden costs. Weaving together a panoramic array of source materials (official reports, soldiers’ diaries, interviews with doctors, Pentagon memos, snatches from novels and academic treatises), he catalogs 20th-century attempts to lessen the agony of war, at least for the troops—an unenviable task.”—Joy Press, The Village Voice

* * *

Author Link:

https://combatresearchandprose.com/about-this-researcher/

 

(B-17F Flying Fortress and Crew 8th Air Force. Image attribution:  https://www.worldwarphotos.info/gallery/usa/aircrafts-2-3/b-17/b-17f-flying-fortress-and-crew-8th-air-force/ )