VA adds chat service to suicide prevention plan

Published September 26, 2009 10:53 pm

The Suicide Prevention Campaign of the Department of Veterans Affairs is expanding its outreach to all veterans by piloting an online, one-to-one “chat service” for veterans who prefer reaching out for assistance using the Internet.   Called “Veterans Chat,” the new service enables veterans, their families and friends to go online where they can anonymously chat with a trained VA counselor. If a “chatter” is determined to be in a crisis, the counselor can take immediate steps to transfer the person to the VA Suicide Prevention Hotline, where further counseling and referral services are provided and crisis intervention steps can be taken.  Veterans, family members or friends can access Veterans Chat through the suicide prevention Web site (www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org). There is a veterans tab on the left-hand side of the site that will take them directly to veteran resource information. On this page, they can see the hotline number (800) 273-TALK, and click on the Veterans Chat tab on the right side of the page to enter.  Veterans retain anonymity by entering whatever names they choose once they enter the one-on-one chat. They are then joined by a counselor who is trained to provide information and respond to the requests and concerns of the caller

http://www.muskogeephoenix.com/local/local_story_269235340.html

Too many vets wait a year for claim

By KIMBERLY HEFLING, Associated Press Writer Kimberly Hefling, Associated Press Writer– 2009-09-23

WASHINGTON – Too many veterans’ disability claims take more than a year to process, the Veterans Affairs Department’s inspector general said Wednesday.  An audit released by the VA showed that a year ago, 11,000 veterans had claims pending more than a year. It says the agency awarded retroactive payments totaling about $43 million for about a third of them. Of that total, it says about $14 million was unnecessarily delayed because of deficient. Among the worst cases, one veteran was owed nearly $65,000 for a delayed claim, and another veteran waited more than two years for payment, the IG said.   “These delayed benefit payments have the potential to adversely affect the economic status and quality of life for veterans who are eligible for benefits,” the IG said.   The report said the VA has made progress in reducing lingering claims, but it’s still creating too much of a financial burden for veterans. The VA has hired more claims processors but is struggling with a growing number of claims approaching one million as more veterans file claims who served in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.  It recommended changes such as improving its workload management.  The VA agreed with most of the IG findings and recommendations, the IG said.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090923/ap_on_go_ca_st_pe/us_veterans_claims_backlog

http://www.va.gov/oig/52/reports/2009/VAOIG-08-03156-227.pdf

Too many vets wait a year for claim

By KIMBERLY HEFLING (AP) – 9/24/2009

WASHINGTON — Too many veterans’ disability claims take more than a year to process, the Veterans Affairs Department’s inspector general said Wednesday.  An audit released by the VA showed that a year ago, 11,000 veterans had claims pending more than a year. It says the agency awarded retroactive payments totaling about $43 million for about a third of them. Of that total, it says about $14 million was unnecessarily delayed because of deficient claims processing.   Among the worst cases, one veteran was owed nearly $65,000 for a delayed claim, and another veteran waited more than two years for payment, the IG said.  “These delayed benefit payments have the potential to adversely affect the economic status and quality of life for veterans who are eligible for benefits,” the IG said.

http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5i7FtgmNmo3GlOkqCG3g0S1D9uIUwD9AT81702

U.S. seeing more female homeless veterans

CNN) — When Iraq war veteran Angela Peacock is in the shower, she sometimes closes her eyes and can’t help reliving the day in Baghdad in 2003 that pushed her closer to the edge.  While pulling security detail for an Army convoy stuck in gridlocked traffic, Peacock’s vehicle came alongside a van full of Iraqi men who “began shouting that they were going to kill us,” she said.  One man in the vehicle was particularly threatening. “I can remember his eyes looking at me,” she said. “I put my finger on the trigger and aimed my weapon at the guy, and my driver is screaming at me to stop.”   “I was really close to shooting at them, but I didn’t.”  Now back home in Missouri, Peacock, 30, is unemployed — squatting without a lease in a tiny house in a North St. Louis County neighborhood.  She points to the Baghdad confrontation as a major contributor to her struggles with drug abuse and post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. She says she’s one step away from living on the street.   Shortly after her discharge in 2004, Peacock said, she developed an addiction to pain pills. After her husband left her, she was evicted from her apartment, which she said made it impossible for her to obtain a lease or a mortgage.  She spent the next few years “couch surfing” from friend to friend, relative to relative.   “I could be kicked out of this house at any time,” she said.  Experts say that Peacock’s profile is similar to that of many female veterans returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In fact, the rate of female homeless vets is increasing in the United States, according to the federal government and groups that advocate for homeless people.    The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs defines PTSD as a type of anxiety that affects people who’ve experienced a particularly traumatic event that creates intense fear, helplessness or horror.   “You’re sitting on your couch and you hear a car go down the street, and you think it’s going to come through your house — so you kind of catastrophize things automatically,” Peacock said. “That’s stuff normal people don’t do, but if you’re in a combat zone on convoys all the time, you can’t help but do that.”  People in Peacock’s life “just don’t get it,” she said, “so you just isolate.”

U.S. Just Starting to Deal With War Wounds, Mullen Says

By Fred W. Baker III
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 16, 2009 – The United States is just beginning to deal with the long-term implications of caring for servicemembers and their families whose lives have been changed by the wounds of war, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said here today.    Navy Adm. Mike Mullen told those gathered for a forum on dealing with war injuries that the challenges of providing that care for troops and their families is just now beginning to be understood by the military’s top leaders.    Hundreds of thousands of servicemembers have returned from eight years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan with wounds that range from minor to severely debilitating. Many have left the military and, relatively easily, moved on to college, job training and careers.    Others, though, require much support to help them rebuild their lives. Education, jobs, health care, housing, financial and emotional support are only a few of their needs.    The United States will face the challenge of fulfilling those needs for decades as many young, seriously injured servicemembers return to their communities, Mullen said to a few hundred people gathered at the 2009 Defense Forum Washington.    “When they go home after the parade, … their dreams haven’t changed,” Mullen said. “And their struggles are represented by the requirements and the desires they have to raise their family, go to school, send their kids to school, own a home.”    The chairman said the process of providing long-term care and reintegrating the servicemembers and their families into their communities will take a multifront approach by the military, other government agencies and the private sector.

http://www.defenselink.mil//news/newsarticle.aspx?id=55868

VA let us down, says soldier’s mom

By Rick Maze – Staff writer
Posted : Wednesday Sep 16, 2009 16:35:14 EDT

The mother of a severely wounded Army veteran choked back tears Wednesday as she told attendees of a seminar on veterans’ health care that she believes the government has let her and her son down.   “It is very sad this country has let us down so incredibly,” said Leslie Kammerdiener, mother and caregiver of Army Cpl. Kevin Kammerdiener, a 173rd Airborne Brigade soldier who suffered severe burns and brain injuries in a 2008 roadside bomb explosion in Afghanistan.   A low point came earlier this year, Kammerdiener said, when her son indicated by hand movements that he wanted to hang himself. She said she called the Veterans Affairs Department asking for help because her son was suicidal; she waited days but got no return call.   She got help only after tracking down a doctor at a military event and pleading for help, she said.   Kammerdiener told her story at an Alexandria, Va., conference sponsored by the Military Officers Association of America and the U.S. Naval Institute that focused on what the government is doing and should be doing to help combat veterans with invisible wounds such as post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injuries.  Kammerdiener had high praise for the immediate care her son received for his burns at the Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas. But once her son was transferred, care began to erode, she said.

http://www.airforcetimes.com/news/2009/09/military_wounded_soldiermother_091609w/

Study Examines Combat Stress

Week of September 14, 2009

A recent study of 268 men and women who served in Iraq between 2003 and 2006 found that Soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) had poorer attention at the one-year mark, but this link was not found in Soldiers who recently returned from deployment. The study provides more evidence that the psychological wounds of war may appear in various manifestations over time. The study was performed by researchers at Veterans Affairs Boston Healthcare System and Boston University.