Sorry for the delay in getting this out to everyone. For personal reasons, I was not able to write this in a timely manner. For a good summary of what happened during the panel, click HERE. It's been too long since the panel for my memory to be clear of all that was said and the best I would be able to do is reading the paraphrasing of the live twitter feed. There are a few points that were made that were significant that I do remember and those are the ones that I will discuss in this post.
Veterans as Civic Assets:
One of the panelists, Koby Langley, commented that one of the major problems facing veterans is that they are not viewed as civic assets. I agree 100%. What was nice about him making that comments is that it puts that subject on the national radar. Veterans are volunteering and serving their local communities in record numbers and not much attention is being paid in the national media. Yes, they have articles about veteran volunteerism on websites like CNN and FOXNews. The problem: It's never THE item of news.
Veterans continue their selfless service after they leave the military, making a huge difference wherever they put down roots. This hard work and dedication to their communities, however, has not translated into gratitude and jobs. Serving honorably in the military used to mean stability and a guaranteed job upon separation from service. The communities we live in seem to have forgotten just what it is we sacrifice and how selflessly we serve. I don't say this on my account - my family doesn't live paycheck to paycheck, but too many veterans and their families struggle to make enough to keep a roof over their heads. Many veterans with disabilities that CAN work aren't given equal consideration for employment yet none of us can prove discrimination. I am lucky that I work for a compassionate company that does right by veterans.
Koby obviously understands this struggle that veterans face every day and is working to make sure that our plight is put on the national radar and stays there. Many thanks, Koby, for your efforts and I wish you success in your endeavors.
We were all in for a surprise visit before the panel got under way. Representatives Phil Roe of Tennessee and Tim Walz of Minnesota talked to the audience about all of the struggles facing veterans with PTSD. They vowed that no partisan politics would come into play when it came to doing right by veterans. I was surprised to see a Republican and a Democrat standing side by side voluntarily. The respect each man had for each other was obvious. It was very heartening to see.
With all of the partisan vitriol constantly being spewed from all corners of DC and across the country, more open cooperation is necessary for our country to move forward - especially concerning the long-term care for our nation's veteran population. Representatives Roe and Walz have dedicated themselves to doing what is best for veterans, regardless of constituency or political affiliation. I encourage them to continue on this path of cooperation. I know I will be paying much closer attention to their efforts in DC.
Again, I am sorry that I was unable to follow up on this panel like I did last year. Personal issues, aside, I still believe that the conversations being held at these panels is important and gives us all an idea where policy is headed (as well as what issues will be focused on by non-profits and veterans organizations). I just wish that I could have given this panel discussion the attention it was due. If you are interested in watching the whole panel and the Q&A, you can watch it below. I would love to hear from everyone on what was covered in this panel. Hope everyone has a great week!
Much has been done in recent years to raise awareness of Combat-Related PTSD. The statistics are now well-known: approximately 1 in 5 service members returns home with some degree of PTSD. What is also well-documented is the rate of suicide among veterans of all eras - 22 per day. The truest question remains - has all of this increased awareness decreased or increased the stigma of PTSD? While I feel that the efforts are to be commended, awareness without education has only increased the stigma. I see it and hear it every day online and in the real world. Yes, many more are aware of PTSD. The issue is that the increased awareness has not bred understanding.
People fear what they do not understand.
PTSD is grossly misunderstood. While many feel the best way to battle the stigma is to confront it head-on, it has been proven to do more harm than good. How many times have I heard it: "Yeah I know what PSTD is - it's when soldiers come home from war and their minds are broken." While this isn't always exactly, word for word, what I hear, the meaning is the same. PSTD was not a typo. If people can't even get the acronym right, what hope do we truly have of earning their compassion and understanding?
What is the end result of this stigma? Employers fear hiring veterans, with and without PTSD. Too many think that having PTSD makes us dangerous and a threat to the safety of other employees in the workplace. As a result, the stigma of PTSD hangs like a cloud of ignorance over all veterans - with or without PTSD. If employers believe that PTSD is dangerous, how likely do you think it is that they are going to take a 20% chance that the veteran they hire is going to have PTSD? If PTSD was a legitimate threat to the safety and stability of the work environment, would you, as a hiring manager or HR rep, play Russian Roulette with the efficiency and effectiveness of current employees? I think not. The stigma of PTSD has limited veterans' options for employment and made it even more difficult to live a fulfilling professional life. Like me, many veterans are relegated to positions not befitting their experience or education.
It's time for this trend to stop. As Executive Director of a new non-profit, Support No Stigma, I propose a new method to fighting this stigma - education of the general public on what PTSD actually is and empowering veterans to take charge of their own professional destiny by teaching them about entrepreneurship.
This can't happen in a vacuum. I need people to step up and join the conversation, to join the cause. Learn more about what we are planning to do to change the PTSD landscape for veterans everywhere. Don't shout "PTSD!!" from the rooftops. Enter the conversation with medical professionals, students, HR departments. Help them understand the TRUTH of PTSD and encourage them to empower veterans with or without PTSD.
This issue would appear, on the surface to be cut and dry - the VA is understaffed, underfunded, and overwhelmed. The truth is not that simple and anyone paying attention knows it. There has been a coordinated PR campaign by the IAVA among others to 'motivate' the VA to square themselves away.
Unfortunately, I believe that, while they are making life uncomfortable for politicians and pressuring them to end the claims backlog, the way in which the IAVA has gone about it has caused too many veterans to not trust the VA. This loss of trust is tragic. It keeps many from coming forward to get the help they desperately need. Pushing for reform cannot be done quickly and piecemeal.
Let's examine the issues with the VA more closely:
Needless to say, there are a lot of problems at the VA. Many of them are due to the fact that the majority of our politicians who voted for sending us to war accounted for the enduring costs associated with waging it. Just remember - there's always three sides to every story: Yours, Mine, and somewhere in the middle lies the truth.
We're ten days out from this year's 'After the Uniform' Panel at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. This year's panel is dedicated to addressing PTSD. With this in mind I will be outlining the major issues facing veterans with PTSD. First up:
The State of Behavioral Healthcare
Behavioral healthcare in the United States is a disgrace. Little has been done to truly modernize care and the stigma associated with having a behavioral disorder is damaging and debilitating. Americans with behavioral disorders are treated like second class citizens by many and ignored by others. This is felt even more strongly by our military and veteran populations. The stigma associated with PTSD is such a strong deterrent that thousands never come forward to get the treatment they need out of fear of stigmatization - fearful of either torpedoing their military careers or severely limiting their employment prospects after they transition back to civilian life. Don't get me wrong, there are a lot of groups out there dedicated to educating the general public about behavioral disorders. The real problem is that the stereotypes are so ingrained that people don't want to listen.
The advent of the internet age should have facilitated a fundamental paradigm shift in the way we approach treatment and awareness. The sad truth - nothing has changed. In our country, the internet is not used effectively to reach veterans or facilitate treatment. While this deficiency has been recognized by our Federal Government, little has been done to rectify the situation.
Case and Point: Earlier this month, the Federal Government announced the creation of a new website -
It opened to such huge fanfare that no one I know even knew it existed or that it had launched. Seriously, click on the image and take a look. It's only taken the United States until the middle of 2013 to get these types of basic aspects of facilitating care onto the internet.
Great Britain, Canada and Australia on the other hand...They have online access to anonymous peer-to-peer support, online therapy, and the ability to refer people to 'real world' professional care. One of the major pioneers in this modernization of behavioral healthcare in these countries is The Big White Wall -
Their approach is modern and allows people to come forward and get support without the fear of stigmatization. Their work has been lauded in many circles as the 'proof of concept' for the future of behavioral healthcare. Ever heard of them? No? Did you know they have been trying to gain entry into the US market?
It makes me wonder how many more of our brethren-in-arms would reach out for help if they had this kind of option for support and care accessible to them.
So there you have it. I think I have adequately drawn attention to the state of behavioral healthcare in this country. Up next: The VA
As I continue my life with PTSD, I will share my challenges and discoveries on this blog.