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ARCHIVE FOR PTSD
Most of the Veterans I’ve talked to over the years haven’t been a fan of traditional treatment for PTSD. Many these Vets have issues because doctors simply prescribe medication and send them on their way. Too often a Veteran has told me that this just doesn’t work. Traditional medication that is prescribed for mental health has too many side effects they say. Up until the past few years, I couldn’t really relate. However, I was once prescribed Cymbalta for depression and I couldn’t recognize the person I became either. On that drug my blood pressure spiked to a level that was in the stroke range, I stopped sleeping completely, and I lost about 30 pounds in two weeks because I only ate once every 3-4 days. While that last side effect was pretty awesome, I’m too big a fan of sleep and not having a stroke to keep taking Cymbalta. I eventually found a medicine that worked, but I also realize that medicine isn’t the answer for everyone, or it’s not the only answer. In the past, I’ve found that a lot of Vets benefit from alternative treatment for PTSD. I’ve discussed Yoga, Motorcycle Clubs, and even modern Veteran’s Organizations that focus on community service. However, a new program has entered the Mid-Ohio Valley, and its music to my ears.
I’m not musically inclined. The only instrument I can play is the stereo, and as mine is usually playing something by Katy Perry, most will argue that I don’t play it very well. Regardless of that criticism, I’ve always been jealous of those who can play an instrument. Learning to play something as complex as the guitar takes time, money and resources. Individuals who want to learn this discipline later in life don’t always have access to those resources. However, a national program aimed at helping Veterans with PTSD helps to rid those obstacles for Vets wanting to learn this new skill. Since 2007 Guitars4Vets has helped thousands of Veterans learn to play the guitar.
Guitars4Vets expanded quickly over the past decade. There are now 66 chapters across the nation. Here in West Virginia, we have a chapter in Clarksburg. Recently the program expanded to include a subchapter in Parkersburg, WV. Recently I spoke to one of the instructors, Larry Smith, who gave me a lot of insight about the program. Larry said that the program is 10 weeks long. The Veteran students are provided with teaching guitars. Each instructor works with two students to teach them the basics. After the 10-week program ends, each Veteran is provided with a guitar pack. It includes a new guitar, tuner, strap, picks, extra strings, and much more.
Larry was quick to point out that this program is very hands on, but that even a Veteran with no previous musical experience would be able to join the program and can guitar on their own by the end of the program. You may not be able to open for Guns and Roses, but you’ll know how to play music on your own. The idea is for the Veteran to expand his or her skills after the class ends.
While the program is new to the area, it’s already garnered a lot of attention. Currently, there are 4 Veterans participating here with an additional 10 Veterans waiting to participate. Larry explained that the Parkersburg detachment is currently in need of additional Volunteer Instructors. With the 2 to 1 ratio, the need for instructors is a priority. While Larry is a Veteran, he mentioned to me that a volunteer does not have to be a Veteran to participate. They just need to have an ability to play guitar. In addition to instructors, the Parkersburg chapter is looking for donations to provide the guitar kits to the Veterans at the end of the program.
In the Parkersburg, WV area, CA House Music and Specialty Traders are preferred vendors. Specialty Traders and CA House can accept donations for the program. If you’d like to volunteer, you can contact chapter coordinator Billy Trivett. His phone number is 540-355-5461. For more info about Guitars4Vets, click here. To learn more about PTSD check out our archive.
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Anyone who has read this blog before knows that I am a huge fan of the US Coast Guard. Just last week I returned to Cleveland, Ohio and took just as many pics of the ships at the Coast Guard base as I did at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. My friends who served in other branches of the military give me a hard time for being such a Coast Guard fan. At the end of the day, the Coast Guard is a branch of the military and Coast Guard Veterans are entitled to VA disability compensation just like someone who served in the Navy, Army, Air Force, or the Marines. However, I still hear from Coast Guard Veterans who aren’t aware that they can service connect for PTSD. Today, we will discuss how Coast Guard Veterans can service connect for PTSD in more detail.
As you may already know, the Coast Guard is not a part of the Department of Defense like the other branches. Instead, the Coast Guard is a part of the Department of Homeland Security. Further, except for rare instances, the Coast Guard isn’t deployed into combat zones. Because most Coast Guard Veterans aren’t combat Veterans, many don’t believe they are eligible to service connect for PTSD. It’s not true, though. We actually see this problem across the board. Veterans from every branch feel the same way. Regardless if you served in the Coast Guard, Marines etc., serving in combat is not required pursue a claim for PTSD. The biggest difference for Veterans who served in combat versus those who haven’t involves proving a stressor. For combat Veterans, simply being in combat will serve as the stressor. However, all non-combat Veterans must prove their stressor.
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What are some stressors for Coast Guard Veterans? One of the first instances I think of pertains to any Coast Guard Vet who worked in search and rescue. Often time these individuals are exposed to a lot of death and tragedy. The Coast Guard is often dispatched in cases of missing persons or when ships and boats go missing near our shores or rivers. These search and rescue missions happen quite often, and they don’t always end well. Repeated exposure to the death of civilians can lead to PTSD.
One area that must be considered also is any type of severe physical injury. With the type of work that the Coast Guard does, injuries can occur quite often. A few Coast Guard Veterans I’ve spoken to have described near drowning events in their stressors. Any situation in which you are fearful of your life can result in a traumatic experience.
Another area in which a stressor can exist would be if a member of the Coast Guard was physically or sexually assaulted. This occurs often in all branches of the military, and the Coast Guard is no different. It’s quite common for this type of experience to lead to PTSD symptoms, especially if the Veteran fails to report the assault.
Some individuals in the Coast Guard have to enforce maritime law. They are essentially performing the same duties as police officers, only in a different capacity. These Vets are often exposed to a lot of criminals and can be involved in physical altercations, just like police officers. However, unlike typical police officers, these Veterans often encounter many foreign and domestic terrorists, drug dealers, and criminals.
If you are a Coast Guard Vet and are curious about your PTSD claim, call us today for a free consultation. We’d be happy to talk to you about the services we offer. Our toll-free number is 1-877-526-3457! If you can’t talk now, fill out this form so that we may call you at a better time.
When it comes to Veterans Disability, one of the most important aspects of any case is evidence. For the most part, this pertains to medical evidence. For instance, if you’re pursuing a claim for your shoulder, you would likely have medical records from your time in service and from the VA and private doctors after your time in service. However, there is not always medical evidence of an injury in service. This is especially true for combat injuries. If you’re in the middle of a firefight, you can’t call a “timeout” if you fall and hurt your ankle. Most Vets I’ve talked to just get back up and keep fighting. In other words, there’s not always a perfect medical record for every disability claim.
The same is also true for mental disabilities like PTSD, or neurological conditions like Traumatic Brain Injury. These injuries are not always diagnosed in service. Usually, they manifest later in life. So, the traditional means of establishing service connection is not always able to be obtained. So, what is a Veteran to do? There is actually an option for this situation.
Sometimes, when attempting to establish service connection, a Veteran may make use of a “statement in support of claim.” These are also sometimes referred to as “buddy statements.” For the most part, these statements are supplied by individuals who either served with the Veteran filing for benefits, or a friend/family member who knew the Veteran before and after he/she entered the military. In some cases, the Veteran may also make a statement in support of claim, but for the purposes of today’s blog, we will just focus on the statements made by others.
First, let’s look into buddy statements. These make a lot of sense because they almost act as an eyewitness report of something that occurred. For instance, if you were serving in a combat zone and an RPG blew up, knocking you unconscious, one of your fellow Vets was likely there with you. There may not be an official record of this in any log, but if you can have at least one other person, or even multiple people, write statements about it occurring, it will help your chances of establishing service connection.
Another way in which we’ve seen buddy statements be effective pertains to cases of Military Sexual Trauma. If a Veteran was sexually assaulted and he/she knew another Veteran who was sexually assaulted by the same person, they can write a statement explaining their experience. This is beneficial because so many sexual assaults go unreported in the military. However, it’s not the only way in which a buddy statement can be used to aid an MST case. If a Veteran was sexually assaulted, didn’t report it, but confided in his or her fellow service member, they could then write a statement explaining what happened. This is even true several years after the assault occurred.
Just like buddy statements, a statement from a family member can be beneficial in cases of MST and PTSD. Though in most cases your family and friends didn’t serve with you, they can still speak to how your behavior or mood changed after joining the military. For instance, if you were outgoing before, loved going out and had a lot of friends before you were in the military, but after discharge, you were more withdrawn, alone and rarely left your house, this would be a way a family member could explain how you’ve changed. Even in cases not involving PTSD or MST, statements from family members can be beneficial. We see this often in cases of Sleep Apnea.
Statements are just one of the ways in which we help our clients put together strong cases to help them get the benefits they deserve. If you’d like to know more about what we can do for you, call us today for a free consultation. Our number is 1-877-526-3457. If you can’t talk now, fill out this form so that we can call you at a better time. Since 2008 we’ve helped thousands of Veterans get the benefits they deserve, and we won’t take no for an answer.
One of the great things about working for Jan Dils is that we all love to share stories. When you get a group of people together from our VA Department for a meeting, many members of our staff will share stories about unique cases they came across while doing reviews, or interacting with clients. Recently during a meeting, Kris, one of our Claim File Review Specialists, shared something that really surprised me. With June being PTSD awareness month I thought this would be a great time to share.
Though I have been working with VA Disability for over five years, and I know that PTSD stressors can come from many situations, I’m still guilty of thinking of Boots on Ground Combat when I hear a PTSD stressor. It’s because I encounter so many Veterans who have served in combat in person. It never crossed my mind that a Veteran, who never stepped foot in country, could have a combat stressor. However, that is exactly what was brought up during our most recent meeting.
Technology is changing war constantly. Within the past decade we’ve seen the emergence of drones alter the way our troops fight from the sky. Drones can be armed with bombs, and they can be used to combat enemies from half a world away.
Due to the fact that drones don’t have an onboard pilot, we often forget that an individual is actually piloting that aircraft. These aircraft are operated from remote locations, often stateside, and the operator is aware of what he or she is doing. They have a live video feed that helps them navigate the drone. So, the following question was asked at the meeting: Can a drone pilot, who never stepped foot on ground overseas, service connect for PTSD by way of a combat stressor? The answer is yes, and Kris explained how.
It turns out that Kris actually reviewed a case for an Air Force Veteran who was pursuing a claim for PTSD as a drone pilot. Actually, we didn’t just pursue this case, we were able to get the Air Force Vet service connected with a combat stressor though he never left the United States. If I’m honest, I was a little confused about how this would work.
As I’ve written before, Veterans in the past had to prove stressors, even in combat situations. Just over 6 years ago, this changed. Veterans who served in combat no longer have to prove their stressor. Now, they may have to prove that they were in combat, but combat alone is a stressor that is acceptable for PTSD. The VA is essentially agreeing that serving in combat can cause PTSD. Now, that may make sense to you and me, but the VA has a history of being difficult. And the fact that they did agree to this back in the day is somewhat surprising. But the good news is that they did.
One thig we have to consider now is; what is considered combat? This brings us back to the drone pilot mentioned earlier. There is a lot of detail in the CFR about what is considered combat, but that really will only resonate with VA attorneys, and that is not who this blog is written for. But, you’re still asking how a Veteran who was not in a combat zone, can service connect under the combat stressor.
In the CFR, traditional combat is considered Engaging in Combat with the Enemy, and non-traditional combat is considered Fear of Hostile Military or Terrorist Activity. The fear of combat can be IED blasts, small arms fire, suspected sniper fire, and so on. But this also applies to the drone pilot. While the drone pilot did not experience gunfire, blasts, or a sniper, they were witnessing explosions, and they were aware that their actions led to the death of individuals. This is why the Veteran was having trouble after discharge. That is how he got service connected.
Yes, it turns out that a Veteran who never left the country can service connect for PTSD due to a combat stressor. I think that as time goes on, we will see a lot more drone pilots file claims for PTSD.
If you would like to know more about PTSD stressors, or if you’d like to talk to us about your claim, call us today for a free consultation. Our toll free number is 1-877-526-3457. If you can’t talk right now, fill this form out, and a member of our staff will call you at a better time.
I am actually still surprised sometimes about how many people read this blog each month. Thousands of people view it, click on links, and a few even call the office based on my blog posts. One particular post I wrote recently has gained a lot of traffic and generated a lot of calls. The subject for that blog was examples of non-combat PTSD. I was driven to write that post after speaking to several male Veterans who were sexually assaulted in service and were not aware that they could file for benefits. Further, after speaking with friends of mine who served in different branches of the military, I learned about other things that can occur while not deployed that can be traumatic. That post is easily the most successful writing I’ve completed this year. However, after watching a video posted to YouTube, I thought I should take a moment to clarify a few things about non-combat PTSD.
In my former post I gave four examples of non-combat stressors that I have seen a lot with new clients. Those included: military sexual trauma, physical assault, accidents, and the death of a fellow serviceman. All of these are examples we see on a regular basis and that can be quite traumatic. With that in mind, I also wanted to shed light on what may not be a good stressor for non-combat PTSD.
When it comes to non-combat PTSD a Veteran must prove their stressor. For those of you who may not be aware, a stressor is defined as: an event, experience, etc., which causes stress. In other words, a stressor is something that you experienced or witnessed that was traumatic and is now disrupting your life. Veterans who served in combat no longer have to prove their stressor. You just have to have the proper information on your DD-214 that shows where you were in combat. (And a diagnosis of PTSD.) The four examples I provided before were all examples that I gathered from actual Vets I’ve talked to over the past several years. Some were from my professional life, and others were from friends and other individuals I met outside of the office. I chose those examples because they are good stressors. However, with good there is always bad too. So, I am going to show some examples of bad non-combat stressors for PTSD.
Before we get too far along, I want to mention that in order for PTSD to get service connected, it has to be diagnosed and you should seek treatment from a medical professional. This blog is just for informational purposes to help illustrate the VA process as a whole and to provide a better understanding of how things work.
- Being homesick. Something I have heard a few times in the past few months is a stressor for being away from home. Trust me, culture shock can be intense. I recently went to Dallas for a social media conference. I could not find peperoni rolls or Coke Zero. It was very difficult. However, when it comes to VA Disability, you probably won’t get service connected for PTSD for being homesick. You likely won’t get a diagnosis for PTSD either. This is an example of a weak stressor.
- Mean Drill Instructors. I’ve never served in the military. However, when I was 11 I watched a film called “Full Metal Jacket.” I realized then that if I were to join the military, Drill Instructors in boot camp would not be very pleasant. It’s a part of the culture. It’s one of the ways in which they teach discipline etc. It’s not like dealing with Kate from Human Resources. I know I am making light of this, but there is a big difference between getting yelled at for not having your bunk made properly and getting physically assaulted in the military. Keep that in mind while reading this blog. Having a drill instructor yell at you is one thing, getting beat up by several people is completely different. That is why we ask so many questions when we screen our clients.
- Secondhand information. If REO Speedwagon’s “Take it on the Run” taught us anything, it’s that second or third hand information is not very credible. While it can be upsetting to hear that something bad occurred, unless you experienced a traumatic event first hand, you’re not likely to get service connected for non-combat PTSD.
- Guilt. There is a bond that individuals who serve in military have in which many can’t explain. It’s more than just loyalty or brotherhood. I personally find myself to be envious of relationships. With that in mind, I understand how one would feel guilty if you had to stay home while your brothers and sisters were deployed. We encounter this on a regular basis. Simply, guilt associated with not being deployed is not a strong stressor for non-combat PTSD. I have also encountered individuals experiencing anger because they wanted to be deployed, but they weren’t able to. Once again, this is not a strong stressor.
- Fear of being deployed/Fear of combat. Something I have encountered often with Veterans who served in the late 80’s and early 90’s are claims for PTSD that are a result of anxiety relating to being deployed. In these cases, these individuals were never actually deployed. That is not a good stressor for PTSD.
- Anything that can’t be verified. Overall, any non-combat PTSD stressor has to be verified. Verification takes place by way of reports in your admin records, physical treatment, buddy statements/statements in support of claim, and so on. If there are no records of this, then it will be difficult to prove an incident occurred. For instance, let’s say you claim a physical assault occurred. If the incident was not reported, if you did not seek medical treatment after, or if you don’t have statements in support of your claim from witnesses, you’re not likely to get service connected for PTSD. However, that is not always the case. When it comes to cases involving Military Sexual Trauma things are a little different on how we approach these claims. We realize that many individuals who have been sexually assaulted aren’t able to report it, and don’t have statements or medical records. In those instances we look through your records to find other evidence that may verify an assault occurred.
We aren’t the type of law firm that will take every case and hope for the best. We are very thorough. We don’t think it’s fair to Veterans if we drag a case out for a long period of time if we know we can’t get them a favorable decision. We use a lot of discretion when screening individuals claiming non-combat PTSD. However, we also won’t simply dismiss someone’s claim if they didn’t serve in combat. Some people claim that PTSD is ubiquitous now. While it is very mainstream, there is still a lot of confusion about this disability and a lot of Veterans are suffering because they don’t know where to turn or how to get help.
If you would like to know more about non-combat PTSD, or if you would like to tell me about your case, give me a call today for a free consultation. Our toll free number is 1-877-526-3457. You can also fill out this form if you’d rather someone call you at a more convenient time.
When I realized that Independence Day was only a few weeks away I decided to re-share the blog I wrote last year pertaining to Veterans and fireworks. In that particular post I wrote in detail about how Combat Veterans struggle with this holiday and shared tips for the holiday. As I shared this post to Facebook, two things triggered in my memory. First was the hit 2010 song “Firework” by Katy Perry. While I on occasion do feel like a plastic bag, drifting through the wind, Katy’s soulful lyrics pale in comparison to the other thing this blog triggered in my memory; an organization that is providing yard signs to Veterans on Independence Day this year.
We are 15 months away from our next presidential election and yard signs are already starting to pop up everywhere. However, amongst those signs this year you might also see yard signs explaining that a Combat Veteran lives in the house, and a reminder to be courteous with fireworks.
When you work with Veterans as much as I do, you know that unexpected loud noises can often trigger reactions. Some reactions may be internal, others may be more obvious, but overall, it is an issue for a lot of Vets. This is most prevalent during holidays with fireworks. While New Year’s Eve and Memorial Day will often contain firework celebrations, Independence Day is easily the biggest outdoor celebration involving fireworks.
The issue for most Vets is not with the large public displays. It is easier for them to prepare for those because most communities announce when they are occurring and where they will be ignited. The issues come from the use of personal fireworks that are set off without warning. Its one thing to go to a park and expect to see a big firework display, but it’s completely different to be resting in your home at night and suddenly hear an unexpected explosion. This is especially the case when it involves small fire crackers that sound like gun shots. Also, at personal gatherings, there is not a set day or time for celebrations. This year the 4th of July is on a Saturday. It’s safe to say that a lot of people will celebrate Saturday. But some people might celebrate on Sunday, or Monday if they have the day off from work. Further, if you live in rural West Virginia like I do, these celebrations can last for hours. Imagine how difficult that can be if every explosion reminds you of gunfire from combat, or bombs going off in the distance.
Recently I noticed that a buddy of mine posted a picture of himself with one of the yard signs provided by the organization, “Military with PTSD.” I wrote about this group in the past and the great work they are doing in general, but especially when it comes to the Independence Day holiday. I asked John if he would answer a few questions about the yard sign and some tips for Veterans and civilians on this holiday.
John Smith is a combat Veteran who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom. We’ve bonded a lot over the past few years and he is always open to providing insight for my blogs. He’s also a great fan and supporter of the blog. I asked him how he heard about the signs and he stated that it was from a Facebook post that someone shared recently. I was then curious as to why he requested one and he gave me an interesting response: “I am all about the education of PTSD. The more people know about PTSD the more accepting it will become, at least that is my hope.” Since John is so well versed in PTSD education and is always researching the healing process, I asked him to provide some tips for Veterans with PTSD for July 4th. “Try to enjoy the day. Spend time with those you love. Educate those who do not know why fireworks bother us and just enjoy the day.”
Lastly, I asked John what advice he would give for civilians this holiday season or for people who might be curious about the sign. His advice here is actually quite helpful: “I expect things to go “boom” on the 4th of July. I build myself up to it. No, it is not easy but it is something I do every year. Having young children I usually take them to see the(public) fireworks. The build up is rough but coming down from said build up is even harder. I would just like neighbors to either wait till the 4th of July to set off fireworks or let me know that they are going to set off a few. That way I am expecting something and I’m not having a heart attack as I hear things (explode) close to me as I’m relaxing in my bed.”
Overall this organization is doing great things to help Vets with PTSD. If you would like to know more about what they do, feel free to check out their website. If you would like to know more about service connecting for PTSD feel free to give me a call today for a free consultation. Our toll free number is 1-877-526-3457. Or you can fill out this form so that we may contact you at a better time.
Have a great Independence Day, and take some advice from Ms. Perry: “Just own the night like the 4th of July.”
I’ve spent some time this year looking at alternative forms of treatment for Veterans who are struggling with PTSD. Through my work with Vets over the past few years I’ve encountered a few trends when it comes to those individuals who are the most at risk. The main trend I see is isolation from other Veterans who have similar experiences. Whenever I am talking to a Veteran who is filing for PTSD I ask several questions. The last question I always ask is: “How often do you interact with other Veterans?” The answer is often never.
I of all people know how easy it is to lose touch with people. But, with Veterans, especially those who served in combat, there is a brotherhood that is strong and everlasting. As a civilian I often find myself envious of my friends who are Veterans because of this brotherhood. However, when you join the military you are meeting people from all across the country. You’re not likely to enter with a bunch of people from your same neighborhood. Once you’re discharged, you’re not likely to be geographically close to those who served with you.
This brings us to social media. We live in a time now in which we are more connected to those we know, and those we wish we knew. I am personally on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and I have an awesome YouTube channel. Not to mention one of the top VA Disability blogs in the country. So, we could easily say that Veterans could connect with each other on entities like Facebook, but… Facebook is toxic. I’m being blunt, but in its current form, Facebook is really not helpful for anyone wanting to get help with anything. I won’t go on and on about this, but I think it would be a little difficult for any Veteran to discuss their issues with PTSD in the same arena in which people are posting pictures of their dogs and recipes of food no one intends to make.
Not all social media is bad. Late last year I looked at how Veterans were using the service Whisper to discuss PTSD and the positive outcomes it had. One individual even sent me a message that my blog entry helped him realize he had PTSD. So social media can be used for good. But what we really need is a social media outlet geared for Veterans, by Veterans. Actually, we don’t need that. The reason; one already exists. If you’ve read this blog before then you know that I am a big supporter of a group called the Steel City Vets. Ben Keen, one of their founders, was interviewed by People magazine recently and mentioned a social media outlet called RallyPoint. He informed me that it is a social media site for Veterans and he uses it quite often. I trust Ben as he is a very motivated individual and often provides me great insight for my blogs from a Veteran’s perspective. I decided to see what I could find out.
Honestly, I didn’t expect to get past the metaphoric front door. After all, I haven’t served in the military, and this site is intended for those who are Veterans or currently serving in the Armed Forces. I was surprised though. They actually allow civilian supporters to sign up for the site too. I think it’s safe to say that I fit into that category. In just a few clicks I was able to sign up as a civilian. My first thought when accessing the main part of the site is that this is a lot like LinkedIn. It turns out that my initial thoughts were warranted because my research found that the site is intended to be like LinkedIn for Veterans. So, keen observational skills on my point. Speaking as someone who has studied social media for a long time, I actually found it to be like LinkedIn, but much more interesting. I quickly found a lot of great topics about military issues, current events, and general topics. As we were approaching Memorial Day there were a lot of great topics about remembering fellow servicemen who had been killed in action as well as discussions about the film “American Sniper,” and a lot of other personal posts.
My only annoyance with RallyPoint was that some members were trying to turn it into a Facebook clone. I saw a few instances of the things that annoy me on Facebook showing up on this site too. Examples of this are posts by individuals just trying to troll others, and other random nonsense. But you will have that with any social media site.
Overall though, this is something I’d recommend for the Veterans I speak to on a regular basis. You can search for people by branch, location, and by more specific criteria too. It’s a great way to reconnect with those you served with as well as making new friends from within the military community. Plus it appears to be a great way to make connections in the business world and to find a new job for Vets.
In my mind, the greatest aspect of a site like this is that it can help you find people you served with and possibly open a dialogue about PTSD. Most of us feel better when we know we aren’t going through a tough time alone.
If you’d like to find out more about VA Disability give us a call via our toll free number: 1-877-526-3457. If you aren’t able to talk now, be sure to fill out our contact form so that we can call you at a better time.
Most of the blogs I write are light hearted and informative. However, there is something that has been on my mind a lot lately that I want to discuss. It’s no secret that Military Sexual Trauma affects many individuals who serve in the military. While I have blogged about this subject in the past, I did not have a one on one experience with many Veterans who were sexually assaulted in service. However, nearly a year ago my position in the firm changed. In my new position I do what we refer to as Intake Appointments. In an Intake I ask detailed questions about what a Veteran wants service connected for, their treatment history, and their experience in the service. For a lot of the Vets I talk to, this is their first time talking with someone about their experience outside of medical professionals. We don’t take these conversations lightly, especially when it comes to MST. We know how difficult it can be for anyone to share an experience about sexual assault, especially someone who served in the military.
Normally in a given month I may speak to one or two Veterans with MST claims. In a good month, I will talk with about 100 Vets regarding VA disability claims, so one or two MST cases only account for a very small percentage of my overall case load. March was different. Specifically the last two weeks of March were really surprising. Over a two week period of time I talked to ten Veterans who experienced sexual assault, and thus were filing military sexual trauma claims. In other words, 10% of my clients in March were affected by MST.
I take what I do very seriously. I have fun, but I state that there is no greater feeling in the world than meeting and interacting with Veterans. I honestly enjoy speaking with Vets about every aspect of service. I mostly enjoy hearing about the comradery and brotherhood most people who serve in the military develop with their fellow Soldiers, Marines, and Airmen and so on. I think this is why I am so stunned when I talk to any Veteran who is a victim of sexual assault, rape, or any other form of unwanted sexual attention.
So, why am I writing about my experience with these Vets? The answer is simple. I noticed something…no two stories were the same. I know MST is a big problem facing our military and many more vets are affected by MST who aren’t ready to come forward. So, my plan is to show how MST affects many different types of Veterans.
(I want to preface the rest of this blog by stating that I am not sharing any names, locations, or personal information about any of the Veterans I talked with over the past few weeks.)
There is still a stigma about MST even in 2015. One misconception is that only women get sexually assaulted or raped in service. That is simply not true. The 10 Veterans I talked to were all men. Now, some will state that the reason for this is that there are a lot more men in the military then women, and that skews that statistics, but I’m not here to discuss stats. The bottom line is that men and women are both assaulted far too often.
There is no specific type of Veteran that is affected by MST. I have talked to Veterans who served during peacetime who were assaulted as well as individuals who were deployed when it occurred. Some of the Veterans who file for MST are younger, others are older. Regardless, MST has been an issue for the military for a while. In my time with the firm I’ve talked to men who were assaulted in every era dating back to World War II.
Some may wonder why I am only discussing the men I deal with who are affected by MST. Simply, I do not often talk to women who were sexually assaulted in service. As a courtesy for our clients, I will talk to males who have MST cases, and my fellow Intake Specialist Shawna will speak with any woman filing for MST.
Another misconception about MST is that it has to be reported in order for you to get service connected. That is not true. While reporting the assault will increase your chances of getting service connected for MST, it is not definitive. There are other elements we can search for if we are representing you for your claim. This includes behavior changes, loss of rank, buddy statements, and even statements from your family or friends. Like everything else with VA disability treatment is essential. We strongly encourage you seek at treatment at the VA or civilian doctors for cases involving MST.
Personally I could never imagine what it must be like to be assaulted by another individually. However, I understand that it is difficult to speak with others about this subject. I decided to ask one of the individuals I spoke with over the last few weeks what worked for him. He stated that the two things that helped him the most were group therapy with other male Vets who were sexually assaulted in service, and speaking with his wife about it. This will not work for everyone, but it works for him. I’m no psychologist, but I tend to pick up on a few things. I know that more often than not finding others with shared experiences can be helpful.
I want to end this on a positive note. I’ve been doing social media with the firm for over four years now. In 2015 we have more national media attention on MST, and the military is making big strides to reduce the number of sexual assaults. Last month I saw video produced by the Army National Guard and the USMC regarding this subject and how to report it if it does occur.
If you would like to learn more about service connecting for MST, or if you’d like to set up a free consultation, give me a call today. Our toll free number is 1-877-526-3457. If you are not available now but still want to talk with someone about your case, fill out this form, and we will give you a call back at a more desired time.
When I started this blog back in 2011 I kicked around the idea of writing about PTSD and guns. It was a subject that I steered away from simply because this subject is so polarizing. I would say to myself that this is not really what this blog is about, or, my readers need to learn about other aspects of the process first. Recently I had a conversation with a Veteran though, and after speaking with him, I decided it was time to put this out there. The Veteran I spoke to recently repeated the words I had heard too many times before. He was a very nice man who served in Desert Storm. As I spoke to him about his case I realized that his claims were strong, but I could tell there was something he wasn’t telling me. Since he served in Desert Storm, and was a Marine, I simply asked him if he had ever considered filing for PTSD. He stated that he believed that he had it, but he didn’t want to pursue it because he was afraid that they would take his guns away. Honestly I hadn’t heard that from a Vet in a while and it took me a little by surprise. I decided to simply tell him the facts as I know it, advised him on how to get evaluated for PTSD, and sent him paperwork to become a client of ours. I decided that I need to explain to my readers what I explained to him. However, before I do that, I want to throw in a small disclaimer. This blog post is not a political discussion. I do not care what your political views are, just like I’m sure you don’t care about mine. My goal is to simply educate Veterans on PTSD, and how it may affect their gun ownership. The reason I am writing this post is due to the fact that there is a ton of misinformation circulating the internet, and I don’t want to see any Veteran suffer because someone told them something based off of opinion rather than fact. Simply put, a diagnosis of PTSD alone will not make you lose your gun rights. No, this is not my opinion, but rather information based off research I acquired from several credible sources, a discussion with our lead VA attorney, Heather Vanhoose, and my personal experience from dealing with thousands of Veterans over the past 4 years. The first thing I am likely to hear after putting this out there is the classic: “My friend knew a guy who had his guns taken away because he had PTSD.” Well, if that is true, your friend’s friend likely had something else going on. He was likely found to be mentally incompetent. This is different than being diagnosed with PTSD.
According to lawdictionary.org, In the United States, competency involves the mental capacity of an individual in order to participate in a legal proceeding or his ability to exercise his liberty and pursue his interest. Competence also pertains to the capability of an individual’s state of mind to make decisions that involve his interests.
PTSD is not mental incompetence. Now, it is important to note that an individual who is rated at 100% on PTSD could be found incompetent. That rating is very severe. I don’t often encounter Veterans who are rated that high. However, when you research what the criteria is for a 100% rating for PTSD, you’d likely agree that individual with that rating probably shouldn’t own guns. Those individuals could have homicidal and suicidal tendencies. They also may suffer from hallucinations and delusions, among other symptoms. This is not the same for all of the other ratings of PTSD. In fact, you can be rated for PTSD at 0%, 10%, 30%, 50%, 70% or 100%. Most of the Veterans I encounter with PTSD fall anywhere from 30%-70%. These ratings tend to be in the moderate to heavy range. I’ve been doing this for a while. In my time I’ve never had an issue in which I talked to a Veteran about service connecting for PTSD; they were later connected, and then lost their guns. Once again, I don’t often encounter Veterans who need to be rated at the 100% level for PTSD. Those people aren’t likely to call an attorney for help. I want to be clear on another aspect of this topic. It’s important to check with your individual state laws pertaining to gun ownership, concealed carry laws, and how it pertains to mental incompetency. We represent Veterans from all across the United States, and this blog is viewed by people in every state too. As many gun owners will tell you, there is not universal gun law. Certain things vary from state to state. I live in West Virginia; the laws here will likely be different that they are in most states. An example of this is evident when it comes to concealed handgun laws. According to the website of the West Virginia attorney general, permits issued in West Virginia are not universally recognized. West Virginia has full reciprocity in several states. However, since August of 2014, Nevada no longer recognizes our concealed handgun laws. This is just one example of how gun laws differ from state. So, what are you to do in your state? The simplest thing to do is research your local and state laws. I say this with a word of caution though. Be very careful of where you obtain your information. Anyone can make a website. Anyone can post words as fact, and there is a lot of bad information out there that will show up quickly in search results. Pay close attention to who is posting the information. My bio explains who I am, what my education is, how long I have been working in VA Disability, and even a link to my Twitter profile so that you can read my opinion on such pressing matters as Jennifer Lawrence films and how Brad Keselowski is such a nuanced yet necessary part of the current culture of NASCAR. In the end, PTSD is easily one of the biggest issues facing our Veterans. I have Veterans in my own life that suffer from PTSD, and don’t seek treatment. I want every Vet who is having issues with PTSD to get the help they need. I’d hate to think that any Veteran had to suffer because someone misinformed them about their gun ownership. Thanks for taking some time to read my blog. If you have questions about PTSD, service connecting, or VA Disability, call me toll free. Our Number here is 1-877-526-3457. Just ask for Jon. If this isn’t a great time to talk, fill out this form, and I’ll be happy to call you at a later date.