Articles in Category: News

Remarkable Impact of Yoga Breathing for Trauma

on Sunday, 01 April 2018. Posted in News

"Military guys doing yoga and meditation?"

Emma Seppala 

1LCVFSFYogaLogo

I've been asked in disbelief. It's true that when they first arrived to participate in my study (a yoga-based breathing program offered by a small non-profit organization), the young, tattoo-covered, hard-drinking, motorcycle-driving all-American Midwestern men didn't look like your typical yoga devotees. But their words after the study said it all: "Thank you for giving me my life back" and "I feel like I've been dead since I returned from Iraq and I feel like I'm alive again." Our surprisingly positive findings revealed the power that lies in breath for providing relief from even the most deep-seated forms of anxiety.

As many of us know, there is an unspoken epidemic that is taking 20 lives a day in the U.S.

Who is impacted? Those who are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice in protection of others: Veterans.

How? Suicide.

Why? War trauma.

Average age? 25.

Changes to MST-Related PTSD Claims Processing Means More help for Veterans

on Monday, 02 April 2018. Posted in News

Image of Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) poster

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.

Impact of Changes to MST-Related PTSD Claims Processing

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.

For help with disability compensation related to MST, read more here and contact the MST coordinator at your local Veterans Benefits Administration Regional Office.

PTSD in Military Veterans Causes, Symptoms, and Steps to Recovery

on Tuesday, 22 August 2017. Posted in News

Soldier with therapist

For all too many veterans, returning from military service means coping with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). You may be having a hard time readjusting to life out of the military. Or you may constantly be feeling on edge, emotionally numb and disconnected, or close to panicking or exploding. But no matter how long the V.A. wait times, or how isolated or emotionally cut off from others you feel, it’s important to know that you’re not alone and there are plenty of things you can do to start feeling better. These steps can help you learn to deal with nightmares and flashbacks, cope with feelings of depression, anxiety or guilt, and regain your sense of control.

What causes PTSD in veterans? Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), sometimes known as shell shock or combat stress, occurs after you experience severe trauma or a life-threatening event. It’s normal for your mind and body to be in shock after such an event, but this normal response becomes PTSD when your nervous system gets “stuck.”

Your nervous system has two automatic or reflexive ways of responding to stressful events:
Mobilization, or fight-or-flight, occurs when you need to defend yourself or survive the danger of a combat situation. Your heart pounds faster, your blood pressure rises, and your muscles tighten, increasing your strength and reaction speed. Once the danger has passed, your nervous system calms your body, lowering your heart rate and blood pressure, and winding back down to its normal balance.

Immobilization occurs when you’ve experienced too much stress in a situation and even though the danger has passed, you find yourself “stuck.” Your nervous system is unable to return to its normal state of balance and you’re unable to move on from the event. This is PTSD.

Recovering from PTSD involves transitioning out of the mental and emotional war zone you’re still living in and helping your nervous system become "unstuck."

Veterans Aren't PTSD Basketcases; They're Disciplined And Committed

on Monday, 01 December 2014. Posted in News

GUEST POST IN FORBES WRITTEN BY Paul A. Dillon,
President/CEO of Dillon Consulting Services LLC, a U.S. Dpt of Veterans Affairs certified Service Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business

The stories keep coming—relentlessly. Daily in the national media—on TV, radio, online and on the printed page—are heartrending tales of broken young veterans returning from the recent wars, and their heroic caregivers. Young people, burdened by all types of injuries, seen and unseen–blown off limbs, PTSD, traumatic brain injury, substance abuse, and mental illness dominate the national discussion regarding those who most recently have served. The terrible shootings at Ft. Hood and the Washington Navy Yard only reinforce how damaged these veterans must be.

And, surely, without a doubt, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have taken a terrible toll on the 1% of our citizenry who have stepped forward to defend the other 99% of our national population. According to a report published by the McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown University, in the 13 years since the 9/11 attacks our nation's military has been deployed and in a state of war, more than 2.5 million young men and women have volunteered to serve and deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan—and, as of May 2014, more than 6,668 have been killed and over 51,785 have been physically wounded.

Illinois Joining Forces

on Friday, 28 June 2013. Posted in News

Illinois Joining Forces (IJF) is a network of public and not-for-profit organizations working together to improve services to Illinois’ military and veteran communities.  Our goal is to increase awareness and connectivity among our member organizations so that we, and those we serve, can better navigate the system of support.

IJF member organizations collaborate via Working Groups and update their services and events on this online platform.  Illinois veterans, service members, and their families can use IJF to find and connect with the right resource – or use our site support teamprovided by the Illinois Departments of Veterans’ Affairs and Military Affairs to assist in connecting.

Hershel "Woody" Williams Medal of Honor Foundation Gold Star Living Legacy Scholarships

on Thursday, 02 November 2017. Posted in News

ABOUT THE SCHOLARSHIP

One initiative of the Hershel "Woody" Williams Medal of Honor Foundation is to honor the Fallen by helping their children pay for their education through the awarding of Gold Star Living Legacy scholarships.

Our scholarships are provided to Gold Star Children of an underserved group, those whose parent sacrificed their life in the service in the Army National Guard, the Air National Guard, or one of the five Reserve components, (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard).

This underserved group of surviving Gold Star Children are not eligible for the Fry Scholarship and/or Chapter 35 DEA Program (Dependents Educational Assistance). Our Gold Star Living Legacy Scholarships award amount is needs-based with a maximum award amount of $2,500 per academic year.

Veterans Affairs Program Works to Ensure That No Vet Dies Alone

on Wednesday, 17 February 2016. Posted in News

No Veteran Dies Alone

The old Army cook and the injured artilleryman sat shooting the breeze at the Department of Veterans Affairs' Lovell Federal Health Care Center in North Chicago.

Nick Konz spent part of the 1960s in uniform, turning low-grade meat into meals for soldiers stationed in Germany.

Ray O'Brien came home "banged up" from the Korean War, prompting a discharge and a loss of military life that the 86-year-old would lament after until the day he died.

By that November day, O'Brien was suffering from vascular disease and had settled into hospice care. Still, the Libertyville man retained the loquaciousness of someone healthier as he held court from his wheelchair.

"The American Legion has the best bars," he noted, hair gelled up by a nurse for the visitors, his right leg swollen with blood that refused to circulate.

"Depends on who's bartending," Konz said.

 

Stanford Scholar Helps Veterans Recover from War Trauma

on Tuesday, 02 December 2014. Posted in News

Stanford Report 

September 5, 2014

Newly published research by Stanford scholar Emma Seppala shows how meditation and breathing exercises can help military veterans recover from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Adam Burn practicing yoga

Adam Burn, a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, practices yoga techniques to help combat stress. A Stanford scholar has found that breathing-based meditation dramatically reduces PTSD in veterans.

BY CLIFTON B. PARKER

For several years, Emma Seppala, associate director of Stanford's Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education and lead author of the article, has been studying the effects of breathing-based meditation practices on veterans suffering from PTSD.

"This is the first randomized controlled study on a form of meditation or yoga for veterans with PTSD that has shown such long-term, lasting effects," she said in an interview.

PTSD, which affects about one in five veterans, is typically triggered by the experience of a terrifying or life-threatening event. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares, severe anxiety and uncontrollable thoughts and emotions. Returning vets suffering from PTSD have extremely high suicide rates, Seppala said.

VA Weighs PTSD Care that Avoids Traumatic Memories

on Friday, 21 August 2015. Posted in News

 An instructor with Joined Forces Yoga teaches a class for Soldiers with the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) offered by Joined Forces Yoga at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, April 23, 2015. (U.S. Army photo/ Sgt. Sierra A. Fown)

An instructor with Joined Forces Yoga teaches a class for Soldiers with the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) offered by Joined Forces Yoga at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, April 23, 2015. (U.S. Army photo/ Sgt. Sierra A. Fown)

VA Weighs PTSD Care that Avoids Traumatic Memories

NAPLES, Italy — Revisiting a traumatic event in a therapy session can open a door to relief for those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. But confronting bad memories may not be the answer for everyone.

After years of emphasizing trauma-focused psychotherapy as a preferred treatment for PTSD, researchers and clinicians with the Department of Veterans Affairs are considering forms of therapy that steer clear of traumatic memories, including those focusing on mindfulness.

Although relatively new and backed by less research than other therapies, the treatments could expand practitioners’ options and could offer patients a greater say in their care, a top VA clinician said. That, in turn, could lead to better outcomes.

“I think the coming years will be a maturation of the field, the realization that there’s more than one door,” said Harold Kudler, chief consultant for VA Mental Health Services.

Kevlar for the Mind: Helping Professionals for Veterans

on Wednesday, 04 February 2015. Posted in News

Like the decade following the end of World War II, the end of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has been marked by a tremendous influx of veterans into the classroom.

Traditional "brick and mortar" and virtual universities and schools are frantically trying to keep pace with the opportunities afforded to troops through the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

And these opportunities range from technical and scientific fields as found in the Professional Program for Veterans and Military Personnel at California State University to business as exemplified by the Master of Business for Veterans degree at the University of Southern California.