3/3 RVN Ass’n  Vol  1  Issue 9    05/01/2007
Pages 9-12
(continued from previous page)

Additional Information

PTSD is a very complicated condition and there are several forms of PTSD.  PTSD can be either acute, chronic, or delayed-onset.  Acute PTSD occurs within 3 months after a traumatic event.  Chronic PTSD means that the symptoms that a person is demonstrating have been occurring for at least 3 months or longer.  With delayed-onset PTSD, the symptoms occur anytime later than 6 months after the traumatic event took place.  This can be 1 year, 20 years, or even 40 or 60 years after the traumatic event.  Today, when you visit a PTSD clinic at the Veterans Administration you will find veterans from the WW II era up to and including veterans who have served in the current theaters of operations.  

As stated, PTSD is a complicated condition and research continues into the symptoms and associated symptoms.  There is much to learn about PTSD and there are many things that cannot be explained about PTSD.  The mental health community has yet to explain why two individuals can be in the same place at the same time and experience the same traumatic event but yet, only one experiences the symptoms of PTSD.  But there is one thing that the mental health community has realized.  They know that if you are experiencing the symptoms of PTSD that it is imperative that you seek treatment as quick as possible.  If you are a veteran of WWII, Korea, Vietnam, or one of the current theaters of operations or even still on active duty and are experiencing the symptoms of PTSD seek treatment NOW.   After treatment the memories may remain, but the symptoms can be controlled.  

Treatment Information

 If you are a veteran who served in the theater of operations of Enduring Freedom, or Iraq Freedom you have the right to two free years of healthcare at the Veterans Administration after discharged.  If you were in the Reserves or National Guard and were activated to serve in the same theater of operations or in support of Iraq Freedom or Enduring Freedom you have the right to two free years of healthcare at the Veterans Administration.  This is true even if you never left the states but was activated in direct support.  If you are a veteran of another era there is still the possibility that you can still obtain treatment for PTSD but do not linger.  The VA is becoming very crowded and the doors are starting to close.  And, the VA is the experts concerning combat related PTSD.  Remember, PTSD can occur years after the traumatic event so if you have any symptoms that can relate to PTSD go now, even if the symptoms are slight.  Once there is a file at the VA recording even these slight symptoms this will allow you to possibly obtain treatment at a later date if these symptoms become worse.  

Additional PTSD Resources

VA Benefits 1-800-827-1000
VA Health Care Benefits 1-877-222-8387
Main VA website http://www.va.gov 

Benefit link for Op’s Enduring Freedom and Iraq Freedom http://www.vba.va.gov/EFIF

National Center For PTSD war related link http://www.ptsd.va.gov/ 

Article source:  http://www.vvnw.org/Educational_Material/ptsd.htm 

I responded to an email recently with the following:

As a group, we Nam vets are unique.  Our experiences differed somewhat from previous and subsequent warriors in that due to the political/social clime during the time of our service, we kind of got a short shrift upon coming home.  Of course that's ancient history in a way, yet the fallout from it has affected our lives ever since our return.

We suffer from various maladies, including many aspects of PTSD, with the severity varying from individual to individual, but PTSD is nonetheless pervasive in nearly all of us ... ALL of us.  It has also directly affected our families.

 It is NOT a flaw, or a weakness.  It is a normal reaction to the extended abnormal situation we were thrust into.  We came home very different people than we were before combat.  Our brains were changed forever.

  We react differently than most people to various situations and conditions: 
   We spent 24 hours a day for months on end in a hyper-alert state, and this was ingrained into our very beings.  
 We were programmed with instant response and vigilance. We learned to shut down our emotions in order to survive. 
    We lost much of the capability to trust and love.    We never had the chance to mourn the loss of our comrades. 
  We had no one to talk with and guide us upon our return. We were expected to just forget the horrors and get on with our lives.

We tried ... We are still trying.   We were trained well to be warriors ... we were not retrained on how to become veterans.

We have pictures in our heads that are impossible to describe to anyone who wasn't there.  We are hesitant to discuss much of this even amongst our "brothers" who we served with, although they are the only ones who can truly understand.  

We are angry ... we feel guilty for having survived, and we don't want to admit that we have some serious problems that will never be fully healed.  We have little faith in those who are professionally capable of guiding us through this jungle.  

WE is nearly all of us.  So very few came home and assimilated truly successfully; they are the exception rather than the rule.

There is substantial counseling, treatment, and compensation, available thru the VA system.  It's very difficult, at best, to make those first steps to seeking help... since usually we don't know what the hell is wrong with us, although we know that there is something different with us than in the general populace.
 When I, finally, (nearly 20 years after I first crashed and burned) went to the VA with a claim for PTSD, I found that they were a whole different VA than 20 years ago.  They were compassionate and helpful.  I used an outside Dr. for my initial diagnosis and report, but the VA accepted it and then proceeded to process my claim.  

The compensation I now receive every month is to compensate for income I cannot earn, due to the extent of my disability.  It has been a lifesaver for me, and enables me to do those things which I can still accomplish, without the stress of having to attempt to function in a regular work environment (of which I am no longer capable).

I would ask you to go to this website, and read up on PTSD ... both of you.    www.DrElaineTripi.com

If you are diagnosed with PTSD, and you submit your claim, the VA review board will call you in for a C&P (Compensation and Pension) exam.  This is a 3rd party independent psychiatrist who's job it is to confirm what the report from your Dr. says.  The C&P Dr. will then submit a report to the VA review board, and they can make a determination of the amount of disability rated.  They will then rate you anywhere from 0% to 100% (or deny your claim) and your monthly compensation will be based on the % rating.  You can appeal if you feel the rating is too low.  Also, any wounds/scarring, Diabetes II, prostate cancer, and other maladies are covered by Agent Orange association... these can be filed on too.

That's the "financial" end of it, but again, you should get into the VA system with a regular counselor/Dr. who can help you adjust to and manage the anger and sorrow.  (The VA tends to medicate a lot, however you can discuss medications with your Dr. to determine if they are necessary, or change them if they cause any undue side effects.)

It's not all roses, but the long-term result is the ability to handle the old experiences in a new and healthier fashion, with a lot less stress, and the ability to face the old demons and put them in a better perspective.  The end result is a much better family life, and work life.  It's worth the effort!  I also suggest attending reunions and getting in touch with old buddies.  It helps to smooth out the experiences overall.

Holler any time with any questions.  And if you decide to go forward, I may have a ton of info that can assist you with a "Stressor Letter" that you will need to submit in support of a claim for PTSD.  I'll gladly put the info in a "package" for you.

                             Doc Hoppy


Dumb Squid … ?

Two Marines were standing at the base of a flagpole, looking up.  A Navy Chief walked by and asked what they were doing.

"We're supposed to find the height of the flagpole," they said, "But we don't have a ladder."   The Chief took a wrench from his back pocket, loosened a few bolts, and laid the pole down.

Then he took a tape measure from his pocket, took a measurement and announced, "Eighteen feet, six inches," and walked away.

The Grunts shook their heads and laughed.  "Ain't that just like a dummast Sailor?    We ask for the height, and he gives us the length."


VA Reaches Out to Veterans and Spouses

Release Date: 1/3/2007 1:40:00 PM
By Department of Veterans Affairs

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is reaching out to inform wartime veterans and surviving spouses of deceased wartime veterans about an under-used, special monthly pension benefit called Aid and Attendance. “Veterans have earned this benefit by their service to our nation,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Jim Nicholson. “We want to ensure that every veteran or surviving spouse who qualifies has the chance to apply.” 

Although this is not a new program, not everyone is aware of his or her potential eligibility. The Aid and Attendance pension benefit may be available to wartime veterans and surviving spouses who have in-home care or who live in nursing-homes or assisted-living facilities. 

Many elderly veterans and surviving spouses whose incomes are above the congressionally mandated legal limit for a VA pension may still be eligible for the special monthly Aid and Attendance benefit if they have large medical expenses, including nursing home expenses, for which they do not receive reimbursement. To qualify, claimants must be incapable of self support and in need of regular personal assistance. 

The basic criteria for the Aid and Attendance benefit includes the inability to feed oneself, to dress and undress without assistance, or to take care of one’s own bodily needs. People who are bedridden or need help to adjust special prosthetic or orthopedic devices may also be eligible, as well as those who have a physical or mental injury or illness that requires regular assistance to protect them from hazards or dangers in their daily environment. 

For a wartime veteran or surviving spouse to qualify for this special monthly pension, the veteran must have served at least 90 days of active military service, one day of which was during a period of war, and be discharged under conditions other than dishonorable. 

Wartime veterans who entered active duty on or after September 8, 1980, (October 16, 1981, for officers) must have completed at least 24 continuous months of military service or the period for which they were ordered to active duty. 

If all requirements are met, VA determines eligibility for the Aid and Attendance benefit by adjusting for un-reimbursed medical expenses from the veteran’s or surviving spouse’s total household income. If the remaining income amount falls below the annual income threshold for the Aid and Attendance benefit, VA pays the difference between the claimant’s household income and the Aid and Attendance threshold. 

The Aid and Attendance income threshold for a veteran without dependents is now $18,234 annually. The threshold increases to $21,615 if a veteran has one dependent, and by $1,866 for each additional dependent. The annual Aid and Attendance threshold for a surviving spouse alone is $11,715. This threshold increases to $13,976 if there is one dependent child, and by $1,866 for each additional child. 

Additional information and assistance in applying for the Aid and Attendance benefit may be obtained by calling 1-800-827-1000. Applications may be submitted on-line at www.vabenefits.vba.va.gov/vonapp/main.asp. Information is also available on the at www.va.gov or from any local veterans service organization.

Can you answer yes to the following?

A1. Have you ever been in a war, either as a combatant, a medic, a prisoner of war, or a member of a support team or             graves registration unit?

A2. Were you ever, in any way exposed to combat, enemy or friendly fire, or atrocities?

B1. Do you, on a persistent or recurring basis, find yourself having intrusive or involuntary thoughts of the traumatic event? 

B2. Do you have dreams or nightmares about the event?

B3. Do you have dreams or nightmares that are not replays of the actual event, but contain some of the aspects of the            event    (i.e. location, feelings, people)?

B4. Do you find yourself acting or feeling as if you were back in the original traumatic situation?

B5. Do you become extremely upset around people, places, or events that resemble an aspect of the original trauma?

B6. Do you become distressed around the anniversary date of the trauma?

B7. Do you have physical symptoms when exposed to events that are similar to or symbolize the traumatic event?

C1. Since the traumatic event, are there periods of time when you feel numb or dead inside, or difficulties feeling close to         others?

C2. Do you try to avoid thoughts or discussions about the event?

C3. Since the traumatic event, have you felt alienated and apart from others?

C4. Have you had a sense of doom of foreboding since the event? Do you feel that you will die young or never experience         the rewards of life?

C5. Have you lost interest in activities that you used to enjoy?

C6. Are you unable to remember certain aspects of the trauma?

Do you experience any of the following?

D1. Difficulty falling or staying asleep? 

D2. Outbursts of anger or irritability?

D3. Difficulty concentrating?

D4. Over-protectiveness towards oneself or others, hyper-vigilance?

D5. Overreacting to noises or sudden appearance of a person?

Have these symptoms lasted for more than a month after the traumatic event?

E1. Difficulty concentrating?

E2. Anxiety or panic attacks?

E3. Memory loss (short and long term)?

E4. Flashbacks or intrusive thoughts?

E5. Insomnia or other sleep problems?

E6. Overwhelming feelings of anger or sorrow?

E7. Depression?

E8. Withdrawal – alienation/isolation?

E9. Freezing – being unable to move, speak, or interact?

If you have answered yes to criteria A, and yes to B-F criteria, you may be suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.