Earlier this evening, I arrived home after a long and productive day in DC. I learned a lot about veterans' advocacy while I was there and what direction the discussion indicates we are headed. I want to be able to take the time to address this carefully and here's what I plan to do over the coming days:
After a long day, I am tired and ready for a good night sleep. I will catch everyone tomorrow with the first post: David Gregory: Moderator.
This is a touchy subject for everyone involved. Even family members of veterans with PTSD are stigmatized to some degree. This really needs to change and it needs to change on two fronts:
Later today, I travel down to DC. I will not be posting until after the panel, but be sure to stay tuned to twitter. I will be tweeting the subjects covered by the panel and any major developments. Also, I would love to hear what others think about today's vital issue of advocacy. Please chime in!
Veterans and Service Members have a serious image problem right now. We are seen as dangerous and amoral. We are increasingly becoming viewed and depicted as cold-blooded killers. Who do we have to thank for this wonderful phenomenon? The media - on TV, on the internet, in papers, every medium. Media outlets have this idea that negative press is the only thing that sells. Because of this flawed ideal, the only stories that get passed on are the ones that demonize our service members. In today's world, these horrible images are what everyone associates with our veterans and our service members. Guys posing with the body parts of insurgents, guys posing with tortured prisoners. These are the lasting images of this war that most who are outside of the military community identify our veterans and service members with.
Hey media: Get a Clue. I hear the words 'fair and balanced' and want to laugh. There is nothing fair or balanced about any of the media coverage we get nowadays. Just once, I would love to see a major media story about the loss and suffering that service members experience during their time overseas. A story of compassion and attempted understanding. It's one of the major reasons I am an advocate for 'After the Uniform. Bob Woodruff is one of the panel members. If anyone in today's media understands what service members and veterans feel and experience, it's the guy who almost died in an IED attack. I know he gets it. I can't say the same for most of these other politically-minded sycophants that pander to the party they ardently support.
This problem is not going to go away. The image of military service hasn't been this negative since Vietnam. Are you proud of yourselves, Media Outlets? Are you? I will say it now and I hope others carry the message to you as well. Find your ethics that you stashed somewhere and return to your roots of unbiased reporting.
We have made great strides in making education available to veterans when they return home from overseas. Just a few 'minor' problems:
OK, so maybe they are not 'minor' problems. These are very serious issues that really need to be addressed if we are going to give our returning veteran the best shot at success. Here are my ideas:
I think if we can address these major issues facing returning veterans, we can drastically improve their chances for quality employment and would be bolstering the local economies with solid workers in fields they need. The key has always been working together. Let's see what happens.
In today's day and age, the entire world is connected. We have access to traditional websites, phone apps, social media, and more. Let's take a look at how these are being effectively used to reach veterans and provide service for veterans.
These are the major issues. The general trend is that the average veteran is substantially more tech savvy than the providers of veterans' services. This needs to change. There are so many possibilities out there to reach veterans that wouldn't be reachable otherwise. Maybe it's time to think a little more creatively and crowdsource change. Maybe a VA sponsored hackathon is in order to get folks together, I don't know. I just know we need to get on top of this now, before we allow any more vets to fall through the cracks that don't have to.
Historically, military experience has been viewed positively by employers. Employers knew that candidates with military experience would be mature for their age, responsible, mission/job focused, punctual, efficient, and in possession of strong leadership acumen. If all else was equal, the candidate with military experience invariably received the job offer.
Not any more. I have been on the receiving end of this new discrimination. When I graduated from college in 2007 I had lots of interviews for jobs. I didn't get a single job offer. The most common response I heard from employers: I was overqualified for entry level positions. After a few rejections like this, I looked at mid-level management requirements. I was supremely under-qualified. I realized that the reason for this discrimination was that I was a veteran. I even had one employer tell me that I illustrated a lack of initiative and ambition (I graduated Magna Cum Laude, won the Outstanding Achievement in International Business Award, and was a member of a select group students investing real money on behalf of a local foundation).
This new attitude by many employers that view military service as a negative don't get it. I have had many young people, especially in college say, "You are so intelligent, how did you get stuck in the Army?" The prevailing view of the younger generations of employers is that the only people who go into the service are those that:
WAKE UP FOLKS! There are thousands of vets out of work because of this ignorance! It's time for a change and it's got to start now. If you don't know what the military has to offer, teach yourself. One of the best things you can do for your business is give veterans a fighting chance - we are very loyal to those that afford us an opportunity to pursue the American Dream.
For the first time in US military history, women are combat veterans. With this latest trend, the needs for veterans' care have changed drastically over the past decade of war. What has been done to address this?
Essentially Nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch.
In my area there are hundreds of beds for male homeless veterans. From what I have been able to discover, there are FOUR beds for female homeless veterans. This is disturbing and reprehensible. It's not like this change happened overnight. The first female POW was rescued during the first year of the war in Iraq.
Despite this, there are very few services for female veterans. There is even still a stigma from male combat veterans. We need to provide for female veterans' needs and it needs to start now. Veterans' Organizations need to carry the torch and advocate for their female members and provide resources as well. We all need to do our part. The biggest responsibility falls on the male combat veterans. We need to remember that this war has bred a large number of female combat veterans. The "good 'ol boys" attitude is exclusionary and does not encourage female combat veterans to come forward. We need to understand that this issue affects all warfighters, regardless of gender.
Female Combat Veterans, please come forward and let your voices be heard. We can't do this without you either!
As a whole, whether we realize it or not, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans have it pretty good. We have the respect of our peers. We came home to parades - not empy airports and apathy. We have the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill. We have social media - the ability to find others like us all over the country...
I could keep on going. In a nutshell, we have it really good. I am not saying it's perfect. Far from it. The VA is understaffed, overworked, and underfunded. We have a huge number of veterans seeking aid and not enough resources to help them all. Despite all of this, conditions like PTSD are recognized as serious issues. The focus in Washington (and around the country) is on how we can help the returning warfighters and veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan.
Very little has been said and very little gratitude shown to those who came before us. Vietnam Veterans, Korean War Veterans, and even the children of WWII Vets brought many of these issues to light. It has been their sacrifices, their suffering that originally put the spotlight on a broken system and inadequate support for veterans.
They still need our support and should not be left out of the equation when we consider how veterans' services get shaped moving forward. NONE of our vets should feel forgotten or less than. And that's what is already happening. All of the perks veterans of current wars have that are not available to veterans from other eras has already started to foster resentment from those who came before us. We need to provide services for veterans equally or not at all. All veterans issues should be addressed - not just those who happen to have strong advocacy in Washington. It is our responsibility as veterans and Americans to ensure that all veterans have a voice, especially those who can't speak for themselves.
Let's make sure the people making the decisions never forget that.
On May 8th, there is going to be a very important panel discussion on Veterans' Issues in DC. It's called After the Uniform. As a way of celebrating this initiative, I am going to be counting down the top seven issues facing combat veterans with PTSD according to my readers. I wanted to give people one more chance to be heard before I finalize the list and the topics for the coming days. Please take the time to learn about After the Uniform and its purpose. Think about what challenges are most challenging for us to face and write me about it. You can comment on this blog entry, fill out the comment form on the home page, comment on the Facebook Page, or email me (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Please take this very seriously, folks. This is an opportunity to have your voice be heard on the issues facing veterans and influence how initiatives are prioritized in the coming years. Let's work together to improve the prospects of veterans everywhere!
First let me start off by saying the following: There are no perfect people, just perfect intentions. What do i mean by that? I have talked to people I know who watched Dr. Phil's show, 'From Heroes to Monsters'. Dr. Phil's intentions were pure. He wanted to show that guys who were seen as monsters were human. I get that. I respect that. The goal of his show was to help destigmatize PTSD. I wish more people would get on TV and do that.
It's not the content of the show that I have an issue with. It's the way that it was advertised on TV in the run-up to the show airing. Once again, the media whores who only care about ratings sensationalized the content of the show, thinking it would increase viewership - and I'm sure it did. Here's what they failed to consider and what Dr. Phil should have:
Those are the major points. I could go on a typing rant, but I think the message would get lost. Here it is in a nut shell: YOU SCREWED UP, DR. PHIL. You forgot one of the cardinal rules of being a doctor. As a highly trained psychologist, he should have been aware of the sensitivity and volatility of discussing this issue. With that in mind, you should have done more to protect those who are stigmatized by this stereotype. Your advertising 'specialists' should be fired. The advertisement doesn't accurately depict the content or intent of the show. What I find most disappointing is that I can't imagine this hit the air without you knowing about it, Dr. Phil. If you didn't know about it, you should have.
OK, I'm getting down off my soapbox now. I remind people again - there are no perfect people, just perfect intentions. While I detest how this turned out, I do recognize that his intentions were good. He has done so much to help people over the years that I am willing to forgive this - I just won't forget.
As I continue my life with PTSD, I will share my challenges and discoveries on this blog.