Vets' Aftercare Should be Calculated as a Cost of War

Before going to war, our government should be prepared to provide post-war help for its soldiers. One mom's letter demonstrates the extent of our failure to do so.

Should Someone be Accountable for Acts He Can't Control?

PennLaw Professor Stephen J. Morse suggests a new legal plea to reflect disorders like PTSD in which some vets may have cognitive or control deficits that limit their culpability.

Vets Experiencing Trauma Can't Respond to Reason

One prominent neuroscientist is finding that the rational brain shuts down in traumatic situations, leaving emotions in control. That means a new approach to therapy.

VA Therapists Help Vets Wrestle With Moral Injuries

What a soldier did to his perceived enemies (or failed to do for his buddies) may haunt him for years because moral lapses can't be excused in hindsight.

Facing Trauma May Be Good Therapy

Dr. Edna Foa (left) makes the case for prolonged exposure therapy at a CERL conference on PTSD in Philadelphia, but says she doesn't think moral injury is a useful concept.

Betrayal of Trust Can Result in Moral Injury

Moral injury can occur when a soldier is ordered to do something that violates his moral code. And that may explain the rise in military/veteran suicides.

Honoring Fallen Comrades of War in Indochina

Stuart Allen Beckley, a retired lieutenant colonel, restored his own sense of honor by honoring comrades in arms who died in Indochina. His monument on a remote ridgetop in in Colorado, was largely unknown until a group of bikers found it recently and posted this image on YouTube.

Journalists Can Be Nearly as Prone to PTSD as Combat Vets

Recent studies show that war correspondents and photojournalists covering combat may have five times the normal rate of PTSD. Some national and international news organizations are now offering counseling to employees who are having trouble processing what they've seen on the job.

Foundation Helps Vets "Dress for Success" in Job Interviews

Kewon Potts, a Navy veteran, was one of 25-plus vets being given new suits, dress shirts and ties this month to wear to job interviews. The Save-a-Suit foundation and its founder, Scott Sokolowski, believe it's important to dress for success because it improves the interviewer's critical first impression and builds the vets' confidence.

How Hurricane Katrina Affected One Journalist's Life

My friend and colleague Charlotte Porter finally has written about how devastated she was after living through Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana. It's a reminder that journalists are humans who are affected by natural disasters. News organizations need to provide counseling, as needed, for their war correspondents and journalists covering natural disasters.

Agri-therapy Helps Vets With PTSD

Retired Army Staff Sgt. Eric Grandon still suffers from PTSD, but he's finding that farming keeps him focused. His goal is to use his farm to help other vets find peace after coming home from war.

Prescription Drugs Helped Re-boot My System

From personal experience, I'm learning that prescription drugs can be useful in the short term to allow the body to re-boot itself. And I suspect the same may be true for those suffering from PTSD.

New Research Tools to Test Brain Injury

Scientists at UCLA have been studying the brains of retired football players to determine what types of brain damage are caused by repeated concussions, and new technologies are allowing them to examine living brains. The next step will involve combat vets to see how they differ from NFL players and from Alzheimer's victims.

VA Emails Discuss How to Handle "Problem" Vet

Ever wonder what the VA is saying behind your back? Charles Gatlin did. So he and his wife requested—and received—hundreds of pages of emails that testify to a growing rift between a vet and the agency designated to serve him.

Vet Wins Partial Victory on TBI Rating Challenge

A VA appeals panel has ordered a full neuropsychological workup for a former Army captain, Charles Gatlin, who challenged his TBI disability rating on the grounds that the VA's RBANS screening test wasn't capable of measuring the brain injury he suffered from a car bomb in Iraq. It's a ruling with implications for all vets, but the VA says its policy won't change.

Tai Chi in the VA

Dr. Roger Jahnke has been training instructors throughout the VA in a version of the ancient Asian discipline that he calls Tai Chi Easy. It accommodates all vets, including the disabled, by allowing them to practice it standing, sitting or lying down. Tai Chi promotes relaxation by adjusting body movements, slowing breathing and focusing the mind on the moment.

Veterans Facing the End

Kandyce Powell and her colleagues at the Maine State Prison have put together a remarkable program to help incarcerated vets dump their emotional baggage in their waning days. It validates vets who have been unable to discuss what they did to others in combat. But helping their fellow inmates also turns out to be hugely therapeutic for the inmate hospice volunteers.

He Had Everything to Live for, But...

Alcohol is so powerful that it can lead people down a lonely path to death. Our son-in-law had everything to live for, but chose that lonely path instead. So I've been asking myself why some people choose to snatch defeat from the very jaws of victory. And I'm sorry to say that I don't have a very good answer.

VA to State Regulators: Buzz Off

Former Army Capt. Charles Gatlin and his wife, Ariana Del Negro, have been battling the VA over what they believe to be an arbitrary change in his evaluation for traumatic brain injury. A state licensing board agreed with them two months ago and directed the state-licensed psychologist working for the VA to change his assessment. He did, but the VA refused his change.

PTSD: Post-Terror Soul Distress

At 14 years old, Jack van Vuuren strangled a Nazi soldier, then fled occupied Holland to join the Allied Forces during WWII. But he suffered from untreated PTSD all his adult life. Now his daughter, Karen van Vuuren, explores spiritual injuries post-combat in a new documentary film. She says that PTSD can't be healed without forgiveness and atonement.

State Imposes Its Standards on VA

Former Army Capt. Charles Gatlin has set a precedent with national implications for all vets. A state licensing board in Montana ruled that a psychologist working for the VA had to practice using state standards, not the VA's. It said the psychologist evaluating Gatlin for TBI was not qualified to do so and it directed the VA to have him reassessed by a neurologist.

Why Exercise Is Good Therapy

Two neurologists from Columbia University are finding that new cells in the brain's memory center are critical in helping people distinguish a newer innocuous event from a past traumatic one. Without those new neurons, there's a higher anxiety rate or post-traumatic stress disorder. But exercise helps generate greater production of new brain cells.

Therapy for PTSD in a Kayak

Veterans in North Carolina are finding whitewater kayaking is a fun and effective therapy for post-traumatic stress. Team River Runner was started in Washington, D.C., a decade ago to help disabled vets at the Walter Reed Medical Center, but it's now added about 40 chapters in many states with volunteers helping vets through the rapids of life.

One Vet's Recovery

I don't review books often, but "Souled Out" is an exception. It's the story of Mike Orban, a vet who came home to Wisconsin from Vietnam and discovered he no longer fit in. For decades he tried to present a facade to the world and self-medicate with alcohol, but he finally faced his inner demons ... and found peace.

VA Releases a Damning Report

The VA's acting inspector general has confirmed what most of us already knew: that more than 100,000 vets are waiting far too long for medical appointments or have fallen through the cracks without having seen a doctor. It also found that most facilities aren't reporting wait times correctly and that some schedulers have been instructed to lie about them.

Finally, an Honest Assessment by the VA

Public scandals generally follow predictable patterns with much noise, but little reform. This time, the new acting secretary of the VA promises swift and decisive action to improve the VA's treatment of injured veterans, and I'd like to suggest several major ways to hold him accountable for what generally are only empty words.

VA Finds PTSD Linked to Heart Disease

Researchers at the San Francisco VA Medical Center have found that vets suffering from PTSD have more than twice the risk of also having heart disease. There's no scientific explanation why this occurring, but hyperarousal (reliving past traumas and preparing for futures ones) wears the body down. So treating PTSD may well reduce the risk of heart disease.

Walking Off the War

A dozen vets are currently hiking the Appalachian Trail—a 1,285 mile trek from Georgia to Maine that takes from earliest spring to the chill days of fall. Away from other distractions, it's a time for them to process what they've been through in the company of others who've been there too. Warrior Hike offers an effective, natural therapy for combat vets.

Death of a Homeless Vet

My friend Mel died this morning at age 70. For about nine years, Mel lived in a tent underneath a bridge spanning the Missouri River that I could see from my office in the Great Falls (Mont.) Tribune. He had been deployed to Germany in the early 1960s and came home to find he no longer fit in. Sadly, our country is filled with similar vets and similar stories

Vets' Courts: A Win-Win Situation

Col. Robert Stanley, commander of Malmstrom AFB, addresses one of the nation's newest veterans courts in Great Falls, Mont. There are now more than 130 such courts in communities around the nation that provide help for vets in trouble rather than simply punishing them. Statistics show the compassionate approach is effective.

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