The pin on the 6th hole casts a shadow across the green in Augusta, Georgia, U.S. April 4, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Sylvan Olivieri, who suffers from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after serving in the Vietnam War as a U.S. Marine, is among dozens of veterans who have sought therapy on the golf course.
Olivieri, who is completely new to the game, told Reuters he learned of the Professional Golfers' Association's (PGA) Helping Our Patriots Everywhere (HOPE) program through his PTSD group.
"The first time was rough because I was making some minor mistakes but the instructors got me straight," Olivieri said at the West Point Golf Course, just steps from New York's prestigious U.S. Military Academy.
The VA has amended its enrollment regulations to allow veterans to complete applications for enrollment in VA health care by telephone without the need for a signed paper application. The change is effective immediately for combat veterans and will be effective July 5, 2016, for all veterans.
This phased implementation accelerates VA's effort to enroll all combat veterans with pending applications as part of its ongoing Veterans Enrollment Rework Project. The VA is working to complete the review and rework of all pending health enrollment records for living and deceased veterans this summer. Veterans can view the amended regulation on the Federal Register website.
VA takes special care to pay lasting tribute to the memory of Veterans who served and sacrificed and that of their families. VA meticulously maintains 135 VA national cemeteries in 40 states and Puerto Rico and is working to increase access to accommodate Veterans and eligible family members close to home. In a few years, 95 percent of Veterans will have a burial option in an open VA, state or tribal veterans cemetery located within 75 miles of their home. Some benefits are also available for Veterans who choose burial in a private cemetery.
The legacy of the war still shapes America, even if most of us are too young to remember it.
In the early spring of 1967, I was in the middle of a heated 2 a.m. hallway discussion with fellow students at Yale about the Vietnam War. I was from a small town in Oregon, and I had already joined the Marine Corps Reserve. My friends were mostly from East Coast prep schools. One said that Lyndon B. Johnson was lying to us about the war. I blurted out, “But … but an American president wouldn’t lie to Americans!” They all burst out laughing.
When I told that story to my children, they all burst out laughing, too. Of course presidents lie. All politicians lie. God, Dad, what planet are you from?
Before the Vietnam War, most Americans were like me. After the Vietnam War, most Americans are like my children.
America didn’t just lose the war, and the lives of 58,000 young men and women; Vietnam changed us as a country. In many ways, for the worse: It made us cynical and distrustful of our institutions, especially of government. For many people, it eroded the notion, once nearly universal, that part of being an American was serving your country.
Women are disproportionately likely to have experienced sexual harassment and/or assault during their military service. This trauma, referred to by VA as military sexual trauma (MST), can result in conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as well as a cascading impact on all aspects of life. (Click here for more information on military sexual trauma and treatments available for resulting conditions from VA.)
Due to increased awareness of this problem and the challenges of providing corroborating evidence in many cases, VA has taken a number of steps over the years to better serve MST survivors applying for disability compensation for conditions caused by MST, beginning with relaxing evidentiary standards in 2002. Because events involving sexual trauma are not always officially reported, VA looks for “markers” (i.e., signs, events or circumstances) that provide an indication the traumatic event happened, which include but are not limited to records from rape crisis or mental health counseling centers, tests for pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases, statements from family members or roommates, transfer requests, deterioration in work performance, episodes of depression or anxiety without an identifiable cause and relationship issues – a longer list is available here.
In response to an identified gap in the percent of claims granted for PTSD caused by MST compared to other causes, such as combat-related PTSD, additional changes were made. These include conducting special training for VA regional office personnel who process MST-related claims beginning in 2011 and offering specialized training to medical examiners who provide input on these cases in 2012.
How effective have those efforts been? The table below shows the percent of PTSD issues granted for MST-related and non-MST related claims. In FY11, there is a substantial gap: 59.5% of non-MST related PTSD claims were granted, compared to only 35.6% of MST-related PTSD claims, a nearly 24 point gap. Three years later, in FY14, the gap had shrunk to less than six points, with grant rates of 54.1% and 48.5% respectively. So far this fiscal year, the gap is only around one point, with grant rates of 54.6% for non-MST related claims and 53.4% for MST-related claims.
The dramatic narrowing of the gap, from over 20 points six years ago to virtually indistinguishable today, shows the success of those efforts. The Veterans Benefits Administration and the Center for Women Veterans will continue to analyze data to sustain these improvements in equitable decision-making.
WASHINGTON – Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Dr. David J. Shulkin while testifying in a House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing on March 7, 2017, announced his intention to expand provisions for urgent mental health care needs to former service members with other-than-honorable (OTH) administrative discharges. This move marks the first time a VA Secretary has implemented an initiative specifically focused on expanding access to assist former OTH service members who are in mental health distress and may be at risk for suicide or other adverse behaviors.
“The president and I have made it clear that suicide prevention is one of our top priorities," Shulkin said. “We know the rate of death by suicide among Veterans who do not use VA care is increasing at a greater rate than Veterans who use VA care. This is a national emergency that requires bold action. We must and we will do all that we can to help former service members who may be at risk. When we say even one Veteran suicide is one too many, we mean it.”
Ashti Dawson, a member of the Illinois Army National Guard, talks about how she was helped by equine therapy, offered by the Equine Assited Growth and Learning Association.
By Amanda Marrazzo
Special to the Tribune
Emotional issues that veterans might find too big to tackle in a therapist's office can sometimes be worked out with a little help from a friendly horse, experts say.
Offering an alternative aimed at helping active duty and retired veterans and their families cope with such problems, members of the Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association hosted a demonstration Monday in Elgin.
"They are not used to talking about their feelings," Hayley Sumner said of many veterans struggling with emotional and mental health issues. Sumner works with an equine therapy program for veterans in Massachusetts. "They are very hands on."
The following tables show the 2017 VA compensation rates for veterans with a disability rating 10 percent or higher. (Effective Dec. 1, 2016)
In addition veterans entitled to compensation whose disability is rated as 30 percent or more, are entitled to additional compensation for dependents as follows (monthly amounts):
Disability Rating: 30% - 60%
Disability Rating: 70% - 100%
Disability Rating: 30% - 60%
Disability Rating: 70% - 100%