Roxann Abrams lost her son to military PTSD suicide. She founded Operation: I.V.,Inc to help combat veterans with PTSD. She says, “NBC news reports we have now lost more military to suicides than in combat!
“In order for our Combat Veterans to get the help they need the general public needs to understand WHY they need what they need. The public also needs to understand the Military and VA statistic that 20% of soldiers have PTSD is just not true! 99% of Combat Vets will experience PTSD on some level. Our combat Vets experience the same types of situations as the Newtown CT first responders with the massacred children of the towns they invade and they watch and rescue their friends being maimed and killed. These Combat Soldiers experience those situations over and over again while at war. Bootcamp does expose our Troops to some violence and how to use a gun, but it cannot “train” the normal emotional response of one’s life being threatened, having to kill someone yourself or watching your friend being killed or maimed. Knowing that, it’s ridiculous to think that only 20% of our Combat Veterans are going to suffer from PTSD when they come home! Untreated PTSD is what causes soldier violence, drug addiction, alcoholism, unemployment, homelessness and our Suicide Epidemic. The entire Combat Veteran needs individualized treatment. Operation:I.V. has created that program!
VIP (Veteran Intervention Program)
PTSD service dogs – they keep Combat Veterans from killing themselves
Psychiatric drugs – can be necessary for some people; better on a short term basis to help lower heightened anxiety
Talk therapy – helps in conjunction with other therapies
Vet -2- Vet assistance helps tremendously in conjunction with other therapies
Non pharmaceutical anxiety lowering treatments are vital (acupuncture, yoga, hypnotherapy, EMDR, ect.) is essential and gives Veteran life long benefit; helps to decrease psych meds dramatically
Traumatic Brain Injury treatment is essential – TBI’s interfere with PTSD recovery because it usually causes a person to lose their “executive functioning” the ability to plan and then carry it out. It also as commonly causes a disconnect between thoughts and feelings.
A Spiritual Connection is also vital (most people need this when their lives have been threatened)
Job search/business coaching
Giving Back — coming back into the VIP Squad to help another Combat Vet — this is also a huge part of trauma healing
“…Combat Veterans face a complex problem – PTSD – that requires a multifaceted solution. There are many programs out there that treat only one piece of the problem and therefore are not successful.”
Neven Gibbs, SSG CAV (Ret.) and ordained minister, says, “The first thing Veterans need is to know are where the resources are for their transition back to civilian life and how to reach them. Followed by patience from Civilians and the words “You are never alone. Help is out there if you need it.” One of the best things I got was from Nevada Governor Mike O’Callahan. A letter thanking me for my service during and after the end of the Viet Nam War. This one little letter said someone cared. A thank you letter from the Mayor as part of a welcome home packet with a listing of available government and civilian services would go a long way in reintegrating these people back into society.”
Debra Ann Matthews is a Professional Resume Writer and Certified Job and Career Development Coach. She says, “Veterans need more advocates in every city in the USA. Simply put there is a disconnect between the available services (legal matters, prison issues, mental health, career, job, home ownership, medical services, emotional
support, etc. and etc.) and the information reaching those who are in need of these services. The issues that non-military experiences in these categories are exasperated for the military personnel. Some may feel fear, shame and embarrassment and this may affect their ability to reach out and learn about available resources.”
Tim Graves is a veteran, and a speaker on veterans issues in the city of Chicago. He says, “The idea is to form Public/Private partnerships that identify and promote the strategic competitive advantage of each organization by recognizing no one organization or government agency has all the answers, or the skill set or knowledge to everything to all veterans. Through identifying those non-government organizations (NGOs) and non-profit organizations (NPOs) that are providing the services that veterans need, and are doing it in an effective manner, cities can then provide the space for a clearinghouse and act as referring agencies into those organizations. In this way the city can establish a comprehensive integrated resource network for veterans and provide access to levels of care that can be more nimble and less bloated than government agencies.
“This can be seen on a larger scale by looking at the Illinois Joining Forces initiative that was launched on November 9th, and the Illinois Hires Heroes initiative.”
Deanna Wharwood of The Veterans’ Coach is a US Navy Veteran who successfully transitioned from military life to entrepreneurship as detailed on her blog http://deannawharwood.com/blog. She says, “Cities can help veterans by having, on their Mayoral staff, a veteran service officer. Clearly this wouldn’t be appropriate for smaller cities, but should surely be a requirement for larger cities, any city near a military installation and major metropolitan areas. The Veteran Services Officer should not just be a clearing house for information but also someone who is preferably a military veteran or a military spouse who understands the journey veterans must make if they are to transition back to civilian life. The Veterans Services Officer should also be someone who is well connected and respected within the city with an extensive network of friends that are business owners and industry leaders. It is up to the city’s veterans services officer to be a guide and a leader to help military veterans and their families (this is an important point) transition as well as a the liaison between the veteran community and the hidden job market.
“Currently, there are many organizations and some States that have VSOs. However, the challenge with most of them is that there is no quality control process. A bad VSO can set a veteran back several years in the disability claims process or months in finding a position. And, you don’t know if you have a good one or a bad one until its too late.
“Veterans do not want handouts, they want a hand-up. Please hold the ticker tape parades and the chicken dinners. And, if you really want to “thank a veteran” give them a chance to show you what they can do. Eliminate the false barriers to entry into the job market. We gave up time and opportunity to do a job very few are willing to do. All we are asking is to help us transition and give us a chance to do our best.”
Chad Dion Lassiter, President of Black Men at Penn, University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy & Practice, says, “As a nation our veterans can fight wars, be adequately prepared for rumors of wars, and for some die a noble death all in the name of democracy but receive third class citizenship upon return with our
flawed healh policies and lack of opportunities. Our Federal, State and City entities specifically our therapeutic communities can become better educated by seeking out the vast knowledge about veteran specific issues, that include but are not limited to physical and psychological injuries, such as traumatic brain injury, polytrauma, PTSD, readjustment disorders, financial hardships, estrangement from family and friends and loss of housing and overall hope”. This can afford an opportunity for all stakeholders to engage in social change efforts in support of our veterans along with policy and funding that can alleviate the myriad of deeply rooted and complex issues they are
Jeff Connally is CEO & President of CMIT Solutions, IT service provider. He says, “CMIT Solutions is deeply committed to hiring vets as technicians, as well as awarding business ownership to veterans thru participation in the VetFran initiative Operation Enduring Opportunity.”
Stephen Dixon, Vice President of Franchise Development for Children’s Lighthouse Learning Centers, says, “Children’s Lighthouse Learning Centers are focused on supporting veterans through franchise ownership.” Currenlty 20% of their franchise owners are veterans.
Dr. Harry Croft, a former Army doctor and a psychiatrist who has evaluated more than 7,000 veterans with PTSD, is author of the book I Always Sit With My Back To The Wall. He says, “The problem comes in when no VA facility is in the vicinity of the veteran to help with medical issues and benefits, leaving many men and women feeling like there is no help for them unless local facilities are available to fill the void. There is a need for more non-profits and organizations that help veterans with such items as continuing education, job preparation, financial issues and mental health issues.”
“The unemployment rate for veterans is significantly higher than that of the civilian workforce, and these are men and women who have some of the best leadership training in the world,” continues Croft. “If we had more local organizations that helped veterans transition, and perhaps that also worked with companies to better understand the veteran, we could drastically reduce the veteran unemployment rate and more companies would benefit greatly from having these men and women on their team.
“It’s very important that we educate the community to get behind our veterans to eliminate the misconceptions that can further stigmatize returning vets, especially those with PTSD,” says Croft. “This is all very doable.”