Married to PTSD

14 Sep 2017

American Civilians view the return of a veteran as being a happy time. Online videos romanticize the soldier surprising his un-expecting family with the homecoming. But what happens when the cameras quit rolling and the veteran returns to a civilian world as a changed person; one living with PTSD

The Veteran 

A deployed soldier lives a life of high intense emotions. At every second, they are on high alert of enemy forces, staying alive, keeping their fellow soldiers alive, all while completing a mission. This becomes the soldier's new way of living. When the soldier returns home, it is hard for them to turn this mindset off.   

Returning to family/civilian life is completely different from what they have lived for months. Often times, all the burdens of taking care of the family are still left up to the spouse of the veteran. 

The Spouse  

In addition to the soldier suffering from PTSD, the VA is now recognizing the effects of secondary PTSD on family members.   

One of the biggest changes a spouse may endure is caregiver burden.  Although the veteran is home with the family, they are still detached, leaving all the family decisions to the spouse. The spouse not only takes care of the "normal" household burdens but now they have to learn how to adapt to the veteran being a part of the family.  The spouses learn to watch for the PTSD triggers in an attempt to prevent the veteran from disrupting the flow of family living. Sooner or later, the spouse loses a sense of self and becomes like the person they are trying so hard to protect.   

Help is all you need 

It is important to recognize the signs and symptoms of PTSD before things get out of control. While PTSD is not curable, it is treatable.  Life, as it was once known may only be a distant memory, but a new better life is obtainable for those that seek and receive treatment.  For more information about PTSD, please contact us.

Service Dogs for Disabled Vets

10 Aug 2017

The VA recognizes three types of service dogs for disabled veterans. For blind and vision impaired vets, guide dogs are trained to lead in walking and to navigate around hazards. Service dogs are trained to do things regular dogs can't, and specifically to perform a task that the veteran cannot perform because of the disability. Emotional support dogs provide emotional support and companionship for those vets with mental health conditions. 

Guide dogs and service dogs are obtained through a provider's recommendation and from nationally recognized training programs. The VA does not cover the usual costs of dog ownership, such as food, but does pay for vet care and equipment through the Va's prosthetic program.

Emotional support dogs can be regular pets. They provide the companionship and emotional benefits of pet ownership, which can be comforting for people with and without emotional health conditions. The VA does not, at this time, recognize emotional support animals as an evidence-based therapy for PTSD and other mental health conditions. They do not offer any financial support for animals in these roles or allow extended access to areas pets are usually forbidden, such as airplanes and restaurants.

While the evidence-based medical therapies do not support dogs as emotional support animals, particularly for those with PTSD, many veterans groups, animal groups, and lawmakers disagree. State and national organizations that offer support and assistance with emotional support animals continue to grow. With a number of these organizations actively soliciting participation from veterans, it is worth noting that several international and national training programs for service animals exist, but there is not at this time a national training or register for emotional support animals. Veterans groups and individual veterans recommendations may be the safest way to navigate through these new organizations.

Emotional support animals must comply with the rules and restrictions of regular pets. They, for instance, have to live in a pet-approved apartment or housing. Owners have to be able to care for the animals normally, such as affording food and being able to walk dogs. Many multi-family housing areas have breed restrictions; guide and service dogs can qualify for an exemption for breed restrictions and pet fees, but emotional support pets do not.

For more information about psychiatric disability & veterans, please contact us.

This Happened in a Man's World: Female Veterans and Military Sexual Trauma

01 Jun 2017

The rate of suicide for female veterans is six times the rate of their civilian counterparts, and there is a very strong association between PTSD, sexual victimization as children and during military service, and suicide. The majority of efforts through the VA focus on the significantly larger population of male veterans, though recent efforts have been made to reach out to female veterans with women's clinics. But many women still see the VA as a man's world, part of the same man's world as the military. And that world is both a source of pride and betrayal. 

Female veterans are dealing with a great deal of ambivalence about their service, and are suffering the effects of PTSD and other mental and physical health effects of service. With a system that seems steeped in the same male culture that engendered the sexual assault, the VA is not the first place female vets turn to for help. The military is both the system they wanted to serve, and be a part of; it is also the system that, for many women, condoned silence in the name of loyalty.

With a pattern of sexual exploitation as children, and the dangerously high rates of revictimization and sexual assault in the military--a 2013 Rand study showed 26,000 cases of sex abuse across uniformed service--women veterans face challenges coping with their PTSD. President Obama signed the Female Veterans Suicide Prevention Bill in July 2016; the bill calls for concentrated efforts for outreach and collaboration between mental health professionals. However, changing the culture that has engendered this degree of sexual violence against women and children is not going to begin by trying to take care of the victims.

Women veterans are at higher risk of suicide and debilitating mental health, and have less access to healthcare that addresses their particular needs. For more information on PTSD, please contact us.

Orange Essential Oils, Genes and PTSD

25 May 2017

One of the challenges of dealing with PTSD is the difficulty of finding an adequate treatment. There are few medications for PTSD that are FDA-approved. However, relief may soon be easier than you thought.

Scientists at George Washington University have conducted research that found that orange essential oils (essential oils are naturally produced by plants) can reduce the symptoms of fear-related emotional issues, including PTSD.

During the research, it was discovered that mice who were treated with orange essential oils were less likely to display fearful behavior later on. In addition, they had fewer immune cells that were associated with the biochemical pathways linked to PTSD.

Essential oils are much more economically viable than pharmaceutical medications. They can be mixed with food and drink, applied to the skin, or inhaled. Although the full impact of orange essential oils on PTSD still needs to be studied further, this does show a promising start for a possible treatment.

In related news, new studies have shown that PTSD may be linked to DNA and genes. A study by the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium showed that certain genes are possibly linked to PTSD and that European and American women are more genetically likely to develop PTSD. People with a genetic risk for other emotional issues, such as schizophrenia, are also more likely to develop PTSD. The study pooled together data from 20,000 people who were involved in 11 various multi-ethnic studies around the world.

Are you a veteran suffering from PTSD in need of legal help? Contact us today!

Incarcerated Veterans with Service-Connected Disability

30 Mar 2017

Veterans with service-connected disabilities, treated or untreated, are frequently in conflict with the justice system. What services are available to veterans who are under threat of incarceration, and what happens to VA benefits when a veteran is incarcerated?

The VA has a program called Veterans Justice Outreach Program. It is part of the homeless prevention initiatives, but veterans do not have to be homeless to receive services. The goal of the program is to provide mental health and substance abuse services to veterans who are involved with the justice system, to avoid unnecessary criminalization of mental illness.

There is also a program called HCRV, Health Care Re-entry for Veterans. This program is designed to reduce homelessness among veterans leaving prison. This program involves giving veterans information while incarcerated about how to plan for their re-entry.

VA pays disability and pensions. They are treated differently when incarcerated. Disability payments for those at the 20% or higher level are reduced to the 10% level. Those at 10% have their payment reduced by 50%. These reductions occur if a veteran is convicted of a felony and imprisoned for more than 60 days. Pensions are terminated on day 61 of imprisonment for a felony or misdemeanor.

For both programs, veterans have to reapply for benefits upon release and meet eligibility requirements again. There is a program that allows disability payments to be apportioned to a spouse, dependent parent, or child during incarceration. It's not automatic; the eligible family member needs to apply.

The compensation is not stopped for work-release programs, community control, or halfway houses. 

For more information on psychiatric disability & veterans, please contact us.


Mask-Making: An Innovative Art Therapy for Veterans With PTSD and TBI

09 Dec 2016

Melissa Walker, an art therapist working with veterans, recently lead a TED Talk about the use of mask-making as a type of art therapy for veterans suffering from combined PTSD and TBI. Melissa works at the National Intrepid Center for Excellence at Walter Reed, and has found that the symbolic nature of masks, the act of putting a face on trauma, on a piece of art, can begin significant healing.

A combination of physical blast trauma and psychological injury from exposure to the inhumanity of war can lead to a protective response by the brain--it seems to wall off the trauma, to hide it away in a primitive part of the brain. This act of sequestering is an emergency response, but the longer the brain sequesters the trauma, the deeper and more entrenched it becomes.

Talking isn't going to reach into this primitive zone, and medication isn't, either. The brain is unable to process the experience because it's hidden away, and keeping it quiet and hidden and under control takes a huge amount of energy and effort.

The mask-making is a nonverbal way to give a face to this experience, a way color and form can be used to shape an experience and share feelings in a way that is powerful, direct, and healing. With a personal, concrete image taking point, traditional therapies can begin to reintegrate talking and speech to process an experience that has, until then, been out of the realm of speech-based therapies.

The National Intrepid Center for Excellence is an intensive healing therapy program that combines neurology and psychology. National Geographic recently published a photo on its cover of retired Marine Gunnery Sgt. Aaron Tam holding a mask he made in the program. The mask shows his brain exposed, first by blast trauma from combat, and then by the invasive imaging machines of modern medicine. National Geographic has published a documentary called Behind the Mask. It includes photos of vets wearing the masks they made, and short interviews with the veterans and their wives.

If you need more information on PTSD, please contact us.

New Study Reveals Veteran Suicide Rates

06 Oct 2016

Transitioning to life after the military can be difficult, and issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder, physical disabilities, and depression compound the problems. Veterans have a suicide rate that is 50% higher than those who have never served in the military.

In July, the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) in Washington released the results of a study examining over 55 million Veteran records from 1979 to 2014 from every state in the nation. The analysis revealed that an average of 20 Veterans a day died from suicide in 2014.

Other key findings included:

  • Most of those who died are older. 65% of Veterans who died from suicide in 2014 were 50 years of age or older.
  • Veterans accounted for 18% of all deaths from suicide among U.S. adults.
  • The risk of suicide is 21% greater for Veterans.
  • Veterans who receive treatment are better off. Since 2001, the rate of suicide among US Veterans who use VA services increased by 8.8%, while the rate of suicide among Veterans who do not use VA services increased by 38.6%.

The VA is attempting to put in place a number of measures to address the suicide risk in Veterans, including ensuring same-day service for Veterans with urgent mental health needs. Other efforts include:

  • Using predictive modeling to identify Veterans at high risk of suicide and providing early intervention
  • Establishing four new regional telemental health hubs.
  • Hiring over 60 new crisis intervention responders for the Veterans Crisis Line. Responders are trained in crisis intervention, substance use disorders, screening, brief intervention, and treatment referral.
  • Building new collaborations between Veteran programs in VA and those working in community settings, such as Give an Hour, Psych Armor Institute, University of Michigan’s Peer Advisors for Veterans Education Program (PAVE), and the Cohen Veterans Network.
  • Creating stronger inter-agency (e.g. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Department of Defense, National Institutes of Health) and new public-private partnerships (e.g., Johnson & Johnson Healthcare System, Bristol Myers SquibbFoundation, Walgreen’s, and many more) focused on preventing suicide among Veterans.

Trained in a military mindset the eschews any perceived weaknesses, it is often difficult for Veterans who are suffering to ask for help. Anyone who suffers a job loss or struggles with relationship issues and financial worries feels a heavy weight of stress on their shoulders. Unfortunately, Veterans may feel as if they should not need help with these burdens.

If you are suffering from depression or thoughts of suicide, contact us. We can help you get the psychological help you deserve. Immediate help is available at www.VeteransCrisisLine.net or by calling the Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 (press 1) or texting 838255.

13 Sep 2016 at 1:24 PM -- 8 errors

Veterans who are Hospitalized for Mental Illness Have Higher Suicide Risk

02 Nov 2014

Veterans, who have been hospitalized after suffering a mental health disorder, have a much higher risk of committing suicide. That increased suicide risk increases significantly in the year after they have been discharged from hospital.

According to a new study, the suicide rate in the American Army has increased significantly since 2004. Currently, the suicide rate for veterans is higher than the suicide rate for civilians. The researchers were able to identify some factors that were common in the 5% of soldiers that had that have the highest suicide risk. They found that these common factors included being male, criminal offenses, enlistment at a later age, a history of suicide attempts, weapons or firearms possession, and certain treatments for previous disorders including antidepressant prescriptions. According to the researchers, it is important to analyze these factors, and develop an algorithm that can be used to predict a veteran’s risk of suicide after he has been hospitalized for a mental health disorder.

Researchers analyzed more than 40,000 US veterans who were hospitalized after being diagnosed with a mental health disorder between 2004 and 2009. The year after they were discharged from the hospital, 68 of the soldiers who were analyzed in the study committed suicide.

For many veterans, returning home with mental health disorders was part of the experience of returning home combat duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many veterans have returned from these war zones with a high rate of psychiatric illnesses, including PTSD disorder, anxiety-related disorders and chronic depression.

Claiming disability benefits however, can be marked by a much more difficult and frustrating process than many veterans are prepared for. Get in touch with a California veterans’ disability benefits lawyer for help in filing your claim.

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