Are you stuck in the system also?

RaginRanger will respond to any comment--on any post--asking for help on your situation.
This blog "moderates" posts, meaning that your post will NOT be posted publicly if you request that your question remain private.

I am not a lawyer, but I have been in this fight long enough to at least point you to help in most cases. I'll help write a Memorandum For Record and/or the Commander if needed. Sometimes just getting a new perspective from someone who's been there, but doesn't have personal ties to
you, can make things more clear.

The most important thing is for those of us who have made it through, to be here for those still fighting through ~

07 January 2009

What if this were YOU or YOUR SOLDIER? After combat service, in THIS economy?

MSC's Soldier Advocacy Group is in the process of trying to help Sgt. Boyle (see article below). The Department of Defense recognizes that PTSD (and TBI) causes what it calls "disinhibatory" behavior in combat veterans--which frequently manifests itself as post-deployment misconduct. It further recommends that Commanders refer soldiers exhibiting this behavior be referred to a Medical Evaluation Board for a medical discharge from the Army, if possible (as opposed to being administratively discharged).

Soldiers with PTSD are at a higher risk for suicide, unemployment, drug and alcohol abuse, partner violence, and homelessness. Soldiers who are given a general discharge are not guaranteed VA benefits, particularly those who are discharged for "patterns of misconduct."

Could you imagine if your spouse returned from combat and was suddenly discharged from the military and you and your family were left with no benefits and your soldier was not guaranteed medical and mental health treatment from the VA? And on top of that, he or she had to pay back, potentially, thousands of dollars for a re-enlistment or enlistment bonus?

Congress could direct the DoD to explain why it acknowledges that PTSD (as well as Traumatic Brain Injuries) causes misconduct while simultaneously administratively discharging soldiers diagnosed with PTSD for misconduct. It could direct the DoD to change its regulations to close this loophole. Congress has not.

Please call or email or send this article to your Senator or U.S. Representative and ask them to end the DoD's Misconduct Catch-22. (Find your federal representatives at www.congress.org).


PTSD victim booted for 'misconduct'

By Kelly Kennedy - Staff writer
Posted : Wednesday Jan 7, 2009 12:55:53 EST

After serving two tours in Iraq — tours filled with killing enemy combatants and watching close friends die — Sgt. Adam Boyle, 27, returned home expecting the Army to take care of him.

Instead, service member advocates and Boyle's mother say his chain of command in the 3rd Psychological Operations Battalion at Fort Bragg, N.C., worked to end his military career at the first sign of weakness.

In October, a medical evaluation board physician at Bragg recommended that Boyle go through the military disability retirement process for chronic post-traumatic stress disorder — which is supposed to automatically earn him at least a 50 percent disability retirement rating — as well as for chronic headaches. The doctor also diagnosed Boyle with alcohol abuse and said he was probably missing formations due to the medications doctors put him on to treat his PTSD.

But in December, Lt. Gen. John Mulholland, commanding general of the U.S. Army Special Operations Command, signed an order forcing Boyle out on an administrative discharge for a "pattern of misconduct," and ordering that the soldier pay back his re-enlistment bonus.

Last year, after a number of troops diagnosed with PTSD were administratively forced out for "personality disorders" following combat deployments, the Defense Department changed its rules: The pertinent service surgeon general now must sign off on any personality-disorder discharge if a service member has been diagnosed with PTSD.

"Not even a year later, they're pushing them out administratively for 'pattern of misconduct,' " said Carissa Picard, an attorney and founder of Military Spouses for Change, a group created in response to the personality-disorder cases. "I'm so angry. We're seeing it all the time. And it's for petty stuff."

In Boyle's case, according to Picard and Boyle's mother, Laura Curtiss, the soldier had gotten in trouble for missing morning formations and for alcohol-related incidents such as fighting and public drunkenness.

"The whole thing is absurd to me," Picard said. "They acknowledge that PTSD causes misconduct, and then they boot them out for misconduct."
Please read the rest of the story here: http://www.armytimes.com/news/2009/01/military_ptsd_discharge_010709w/

As always, your ally in change,

Carissa Picard
President
Military Spouses for Change

07 January 2008

The Politics of War

On January 3, 2008, military blogger Major Andrew Olmsted was killed in Iraq. Andrew wrote a blog to be published in the event of his death. While Americans were losing interest in Iraq, Andrew was trying to find the right words to express the peace he had made with the possibility of his death there.

Like many who have written about Andrew Olmsted’s remarkable final words, I did not have the honor of knowing Andrew personally but wish now that I had.Andrew’s blog is replete with self-deprecating humor, which I immediately find endearing. Andrew is also very clear about his reason for being in Iraq--which transcends the politics of war:

“Soldiers cannot have the option of opting out of missions because they don't agree with them: that violates the social contract. The duly-elected American government decided to go to war in Iraq. (Even if you maintain President Bush was not properly elected, Congress voted for war as well.) . . . Whether or not this mission was a good one, my participation in it was an affirmation of something I consider quite necessary to society. So if nothing else, I gave my life for a pretty important principle; I can (ifyou'll pardon the pun) live with that.”

At the same time, he writes that he hopes his death can be a reminder to others about the true costs of war—the costs that Americans, academics, and politicians tend to overlook when calculating the pros and cons of military engagements. The trouble, of course, is that there are no figures for these costs, no meaningful measurements. I believe that numbers alone are insufficient. The value of a human life, and the value of Andrew’s life, cannot be properly expressed by a number, any number.

At the end of his blog, Andrew worries about the suffering his wife will endure and wishes he had been a better husband. It is official. I adore Major Andrew Olmsted. A man I never met and never will. Which brings me to another soldier I posthumously adore: Specialist Justin Rollins.

Justin was part of the 82nd Airborne Division when his team found a litter of motherless puppies. They rescued the puppies and brought them back to their camp. Justin had his picture taken that night holding one of the puppies--a glimpse of the human heart beating beneath all that army-issued gear.

The following day, Justin was killed by a roadside bomb.

My husband asks me why I do things like this: cut Justin’s photo out of the paper and put it on our refrigerator, print out Andrew’s final blog. I do it because I have to. I do it because I don’t want to reduce a human life to a single digit. I do it because it isn’t about what we are losing when a solider dies, it is about who we have lost.

I just wish every other American was doing it too. If they were, maybe Iraq would still be the number one issue on voters’ minds in November and I would have less people to adore after they have died.

"War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself."

John Stuart Mill

04 December 2007

03 December 2007

Blaming the Victim

In 2006, Congress ordered the Secretary of Defense to assess the mental health needs of the Armed Forces and the ability of the DoD to meet those needs. As a result, the DoD created a "Mental Health Task Force" which concluded:

the system of care for the psychological health that has evolved over recent decades is insufficient to meet the needs of today's armed forces and their beneficiaries, and will not be sufficient to meet their needs in the future.


The unmet mental healthcare needs of the men and women we send to wage war in other countries are causing them to wage their own wars, within themselves and with others, in this one.

For example, 1st Lt. Whiteside faces criminal prosecution for trying to kill herself while serving in Iraq. Granted, when she had her psychological breakdown, she waved a gun around at her fellow soldiers to keep them away so she could successfully shoot HERSELF (TWICE) in the stomach. She did not, however, actually harm anyone else.

Research by CBS news revealed that an average of 120 veterans committed suicide every week in 2005. SEVENTEEN VETERANS COMMITTED SUICIDE EVERY DAY THAT YEAR.

I wonder how many service members and veterans attempted to kill themselves the day that Lt. Whiteside tried to kill herself? I wonder how many succeeded?

Iliona Meagher has been compiling data on PTSD-related incidents around the United States since 2005 for ePluribusMedia. PTSD that is undiagnosed, mismanaged, or untreated can, in its most extreme form, manifest itself as violence towards one's self and/or towards others. We don't keep official records of these casualties.

Americans like to keep the ugliness of war contained so as to maintain an illusion of civility. This illusion is hard to maintain when the people we send away to fight these wars actually come back; living testaments to what our country has instructed them to do in its name.

In short, we have evolved enough as a species to feel shame about engaging in acts of war but we haven't evolved enough to avoid these acts in the first place. When we SEE the men and women who have been broken, physically or psychologically, by combat, the degree to which we have failed to be civilized is hard to accept.

In the book, "Just and Unjust Wars," the author wrote, "what we often think of as inhumanity is really just humanity under pressure." Our wounded warriors reflect the side of human nature in general, and America in particular, that Americans do not want to think about.

So rather than take responsibility for sending these men and women to another country to do something that is really quite brutal and inhumane (if necessary), we ignore, minimize, or villify the men and women who, in a very normal fashion, were traumatized by what we told them to do or made them witness. The more our institutions make their problems about THEM, the less uncivilized and inhumane and unreasonable WE are.

Hence the appeal of the refrain, "he volunteered to join the Army." Which is kind of like saying that a woman asked to be ganged raped because she went to a guy's apartment after a movie. Maybe she did go to his apartment thinking about maybe having sex with her date, that doesn't mean that she wanted five of his friends to have sex with her too. She TRUSTED her date to keep the evening between the two of them only.

Well, a service member likewise joins with the very honorable intention of protecting our country and defending our constitution. There is TRUST that you will not be EXPLOITED or ABUSED when you join.

Perhaps you should be thinking that for these men and women, their trust has been violated, and if you feel betrayed, imagine how they (and their families) feel after five years and multiple deployments?

My point is this: our discomfort with our wounded warriors makes us even less civilized, not more. The very people whose wounds make us feel the least amount of pride individually are giving us an opportunity to do something to feel the most pride collectively. By tending to the wounds of those who remind us of our inhumanity, we become more humane. That means we have to do more than just bring our troops home, we have to take care of them when they are here.

Pretending we don't see them, or trying not to think about them, does not make them go away; it just makes it easier not to care.

29 November 2007

Old Problem ~ Freakishly God-awful new twist

Just go to the site.
I can't bear to type it again (not for fingers/time, just makes me too freakin angry) -- a military family is currently being forced:
  • out of their home on post -- weeks before Christmas with no warning & no place to go
  • out of their sole income, out of the military to which they've committed their lives, with three deployments of sacrifice
  • into a fight for their immediate future -- for no reason.

Well, one reason: One bad leader. And one colonel us diagnosis. Proven, confirmed by doctors to be false.

But all it takes is one bad leader. And, in this case, another to stand by and do nothing.

We could use ANY ideas; please check it out.

My extremely amateur page, w/a rundown of the details, is at -
http://military.medicine.issues.googlepages.com/examples

28 November 2007

New blogger here!

Yes, there's a new face on this blog.
Which is a very good thing, because RaginRanger and I are too paranoid after our experiences with the military medical system (and too beat down by current medical messes, story to follow), to write nearly as much as we'd like.
Carissa, on the other hand, is a freakin powerhouse of expression-- a proud military wife whose husband will deploy again in a few short months. She also is a lawyer, mother & gifted organizer-- in the leadership of VMFP (Veterans & Military Families for Progress) and the Founder/President of MSC, Military Spouses for Change, at the link above.
As anyone who's been in the military knows, it's a full-time job just being a supportive spouse alone. The fact that Carissa has been the driving force behind a new, nonprofit organization to empower military wives, along with her family obligations, speaks volumes about her level of passion and devotion to do all she can to do right by troops & the wives who go through everything alongside those troops.

We are thrilled and honored to have her as a contributor.
I also hope her postings will shame my depressed, sorry ass into pushing the "post to blog" button more often instead of stewing in silence :-)
Her postings about her organization, he life as the wife of an Army Blackhawk pilot, and news of interest to military spouses are on her blog:

Why I have a bee in my bonnet...

Yes, I wrote that. I say things like "aren't you the cat's pajama's?" too. It's part of my charm.

Anyway.

I go on and on and on about this Presidential Forum on Veterans, Wounded Warriors, and Military Families. I work tirelessly. I blog. I email people and call people and network and research and write and constantly look for another reason why America should care, the candidates should care, the networks should care...

I believe our service members do the work that needs to be done, that others don't want to do, that others don't want to think needs to be done... the dirty work of war that continues among men today (I use the word man in the general sense). Yet for this work, they are not adequately compensated, nor are they justly rewarded. In fact, we have evolved just enough as a species to feel shame for these acts of war but not enough to avoid engaging in these acts. So now our "warriors" are relegated to the status of "necessary evil" and all that is associated with that is easily demonized or quickly dismissed.

An example, I think, of how the military is marginalized and unappreciated by both parties:

http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2007/11/9/204920/645

First, that broke my heart.

Then it just pissed me off.

So I keep writing. And blogging. And work on helping others find their voices to share their stories. Because the military and veteran community should NOT be marginalized. It should not exist in the shadows of a great nation. It should not be a tool for abuse by a great nation nor should it be abused BY a great nation. It should be a reflection OF a great nation and that is what I plan to make it.

(Cross posted http://www.vetvoice.com/showDiary.do?diaryId=153)

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