Tail of a (Service) Dog

The VA does not subsidize service dogs for vets with psychiatric disorders, but Bill and Janet Austin have trained their own dog, JP. A former medic who remembers all too clearly the carnage of war, Austin relies on the 2-year-old Great Dane to help him socialize with his neighbors, watch his back and wake him from the nightmares that bring back past deployments.

Soaring Vets' Suicide Rates

Eighteen military veterans killed themselves every day in 2007, but that figure increased to 22 suicides a day in 2010, according to new VA estimates. The new information is based on information from 21 state health departments. Unfortunately, it doesn't include data from the rest, including states like California and Texas that have many veterans.

A Moral Injury

Timothy Kudo, a retired Marine Corps captain, recently wrote about the moral injury that occurs when a soldier kills people. He said he has been wrestling with why it's OK to kill in combat, but wrong to kill at home. Ultimately, he said, he's coming to believe that it's wrong to kill any time and that soldiers suffer moral injuries as a result.

Hope Glimmers

Previously, degenerative brain diseases could be diagnosed only after combat vets and NFL players were dead. But scientists now say they've been able to use PET scans to discover CTE symptoms among living patients. It's only a small study and much remains to be done, but it does offer a glimmer of hope.

Skyrocketing Military Suicides Part II

Despite a military anti-suicide initiative, more soldiers killed themselves last year than died in combat. We need to find better ways to identify and help troubled soldiers. Crisis response teams and embedded counselors, at home as well as on the front lines, might be effective ways to get our soldiers the emotional health care they need -- but are afraid to ask for.

Skyrocketing Military Suicides

More American soldiers killed themselves last year than were killed in combat, but the numbers are perplexing. Most died at home. Only 15 percent had ever been in combat, and only 8 percent had multiple deployments. More than half had no history of behavioral health disorders. So what's going on?

Out of the Swamp

About 25 homeless vets in Florida got a special Christmas present this year: shaves and haircuts, two nights lodging in a motel, gifts, banquets and fellowship. It was an emotional couple of days, after which the vets had to go back to their camps in the swamp. However, two civic groups will be working to help them with jobs and housing in the days to come.

Daunting Questions: Part III

Three new pharmaceuticals are being tested to see whether they can prevent a brain injury from progressing into a degenerative brain disease. With FDA approval, the first could be out next year. But there's a long history of failure. At least 30 drugs have been tested previously, and none have been approved.

Daunting Questions: Part II

Why can a concussion lead to degenerative brain disease? Here are four theories based on what researchers know so far.

Horror in Newtown

Survivors of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting -- particularly the children -- are likely to be traumatized, and parents should look for signs of PTSD in the days or even the weeks to come.

Daunting Questions: Part 1

Now a third study links concussions to future degenerative brain diseases, and that raises a couple of daunting questions for vets, athletes and others who suffer from such injuries. First, how do injuries set off long-term brain cell death? And second, what can we do to prevent it?

Up Against the Fiscal Cliff

Veterans aren't likely to see their benefits tossed over the "fiscal cliff" that looms ahead, The problem is that even with today's status quo, vets need more help to undo the damage—disability, mental health. The political posturing is irresponsible, a sad reflection of our egocentric age.

Long Road Back, Part II

An Army Reserve psychologist, Dr. Connie Louie-Handleman, used the "tapping therapy," Emotional Freedom Techniques, on many of her patients in Afghanistan and found it was successful 60 to 70 percent of the time. EFT, however, still needs to be proven scientifically.

Courage After Fire

"Courage under fire" is the phrase we use to describe our military heroes, but it takes courage also to transition into civilian life. Today's a day to help vets who are struggling and to support the organizations dedicated to helping them.

The Long Road Back

An energy therapy called Emotional Freedom Techniques involves tapping the body's acupressure points to ease anxiety and pain. It has helped some people recover from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Remembering George McGovern

George McGovern was an honorable man who lived an honorable life. I admire his courage in taking unpopular stands simply because it was the right thing to do. His death Sunday at the age of 90 reminds me how rare such courage is in American politics.

Battling Bare

Frustrated that their husbands were getting little help with post-traumatic stress disorder, a group of military wives won major media attention with a campaign called "Battling Bare."

A Gene for PTSD?

Researchers in Boston have found a variant of a gene that apparently can increase or decrease the risk of post-traumatic stress disorder in combat vets. If the study can be replicated, it could allow researchers to test soldiers for their sensitivity to stress.

Getting His Bell Rung

Corey Widmer, who played middle linebacker for the New York Giants for eight years, talks about concussions the same way a combat vet does. Now both groups are beginning to realize that they're at higher risk for neurodegenerative diseases later in life.

Vets Getting Old Before Their Time?

Preliminary reports indicate that combat stress may age vets' bodies prematurely. The full report isn't out yet, but we do know that stress takes a heavy toll on the human body. So PTSD and TBI may bring added complications.

New Study: Same Disturbing Conclusions

Backing up the Boston study, federal researchers have found that the more brain damage NFL players endure, the more likely they are to die of degenerative brain disorders years later. In May, neuroscientists in Boston came to similar conclusions examining the brains of professional athletes and military vets.

Disturbing New Study

Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi/Afghan vets who are seeking help for post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury should be concerned about a new study linking even a single brain injury with possible brain degeneration years later.

One PTSD Treatment Tool At Risk

With hundreds of thousands of Iraqi/Afghan vets seeking mental health treatment, the FDA has decided to require rigorous testing of a device that has been calming hyperactive vets for years.

Accepting Alternative PTSD/TBI Therapies

The House version of the National Defense Authorization Act would push the Department of Defense and the Veterans Administration into funding new alternative therapies for PTSD and TBI, but the Senate version doesn't go nearly as far. Vets need to tell their member of Congress to adopt the House language.

Help for Wounded Souls

There’s new hope for combat vets who have what I’ve been calling “wounded souls.”

Recovery Through Acting

Playing the lead role in a movie about a young Marine with post-traumatic stress disorder, Matthew Pennington came to terms with his own case of PTSD. Pennington served three tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq before a roadside bomb removed one leg, shattered the other and scorched his lungs.

PTSD Policy Changes

A new Army policy discourages some types of PTSD treatments, saying they do more harm than good. And in deference to soldiers' concerns, the policy has broadened its range of approved alternative therapies to encourage programs like Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprogramming (EMDR) and neurofeedback.

Struggling Hero

James McCormick, an Iraqi War hero, bought this farm to give vets a place to relax, feel at peace and begin to heal, but was angered to find vandals kicked apart a memorial to his fallen companions.

When Plasticity Poses a Problem

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a neuroplastic disorder par excellence because it completely rewires a victim's brain. But there are some therapies that can layer good memories over the bad ones and alleviate many of the symptoms.

Whitewater Rafting: Therapy for PTSD?

Neuroscientists believe that extreme sports, like whitewater rafting, can help PTSD patients learn to relax after stress. The huge adrenaline rush also leaves them with positive memories. And one neuroscientist says the exercise is as effective an antidepressant as any pharmaceutical.

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