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Wounded Times

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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Military divorce can be a whole new battleground

When military and matrimony don't mix
By Kristi Tousignant
The (Baltimore, Md.) Daily Record/AP
Published: August 30, 2014

A move is underway to standardize custody rules for military families. The Uniform Law Commission approved language for a model Deployed Parents Custody and Visitation Act in July 2012. Under the model act, past deployment and "possible future" deployment cannot be used against a parent in a custody proceeding, although imminent deployment can be considered.

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — For those in the armed forces, divorce can be a whole new battleground.

"It's ironic because these are trained fighters and they can find themselves in a battle they are not prepared for," said attorney Cynthia Hawkins Clark.

Although military family law cases go through civilian courts, they often present a unique set of challenges with deployments, military pensions and child custody, said Clark and Paula J. Peters, who practice at the Law Offices of Paula J. Peters P.A. in Annapolis.

And with Fort Detrick, Fort Meade, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Andrews Air Force Base, the Naval Academy and other bases in Maryland, there are many military members locally who need legal assistance, Clark and Peters said.

"I can't think of anything more satisfying," Clark said. "It's very hard not be invested in them. They are very good people."

The challenges of representing service members vary depending on whether they are on active duty or retired, attorneys said.

For active service members, the key issues often involve the couple's children. Long deployments mean long absences from that child's life, which can make it hard to get joint or shared custody.
read more here

Texas National Guardsmen Sent to Border Without Paychecks?

Texas National Guard: No evidence that soldiers have gone to food bank for help
Austin American-Statesman
By Jeremy Schwartz
Published: August 30, 2014
“Active duty soldiers being forced to turn to charities to get a meal is heartbreaking,” state Rep. Rene Oliveira, D-Brownsville, said in a statement. “These brave men and women have apparently been sent on a mission without accommodating for their most basic needs. We need to find immediate solutions for these hungry soldiers.”

AUSTIN, Texas (MCT) — The Texas National Guard has identified 50 soldiers deployed to the Rio Grande Valley who might be in need of financial assistance — including food help — because of a gap in receiving their first paycheck since being activated, and Texas Democrats are seizing on the issue.

But neither a local food bank nor National Guard officials said they had evidence that any soldiers have sought food assistance.

“Maybe they come in and they just don’t tell us they’re National Guard,” said Omar Ramirez, Food Bank RGV’s manager of communications and advocacy.

After Rio Grande Valley television station KGBT reported Thursday that needy troops “turned to” the Food Bank of the Rio Grande Valley for help, state Sen. Wendy Davis of Fort Worth, the Democratic nominee for governor, said she would visit the border Saturday to deliver food for the National Guard.

“It’s disgraceful that the men and women of our National Guard deployed to protect our border are forced to go to food banks,” Davis said in a statement.

According to Lt. Col. Joanne MacGregor, a spokeswoman for the Texas National Guard, a “proactive” family assistance coordinator “contacted the Rio Grande Valley food bank to see what resources were potentially available.”

According to Guard officials, the 50 soldiers in question started their deployment to the border around Aug. 11, just after the cutoff for the next pay period, and would have to wait until Sept. 5 to receive their first paycheck. Their first week or so was spent at Camp Swift in Bastrop for training, and they received three meals a day there.
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Philly VA guide to dealing with "Grouchy" Veterans

VA Head Orders Review After Oscar the Grouch Gaffe
Philadelphia Inquirer
by Tricia L. Nadolny
Aug 29, 2014

The head of the Department of Veterans Affairs has ordered a system-wide review of its training programs after a guide comparing veterans to Oscar the Grouch was used at the Philadelphia VA benefits office.

Secretary Robert McDonald apologized for the slideshow training guide and said its use has been discontinued. Unlike Diana Rubens, the director of the Philadelphia office, McDonald did not defend the materials as comparing employees, rather than veterans, to the cranky Sesame Street character who lives in a trash can.

"We apologize for the use of Oscar the Grouch in the presentation used to train employees at the Philadelphia Regional Benefits Office," McDonald said in a statement.

He said the "comparison is clearly contrary" to the VA's mission and the "kind of open culture we want in the new VA."

The training guide, reported by The Inquirer on Wednesday, was titled "What to Say to Oscar the Grouch -- Dealing With Veterans During Town Hall Claims Clinics." About a dozen of the 18 slides include pictures of the misanthropic Muppet in the can he calls home. In one, a sign reading "CRANKY" hangs from the rim.

In another, Oscar's face is flanked by the words "100% GROUCHY, DEAL WITH IT."
read more here

VA Training for "Grouchy" Veterans Using Oscar the Grouch?

Two Star General Retires Less of a Star

Army Knocks 2-Star Down to 1-Star Rank
Associated Press
by Robert Burns
Aug 27, 2014

WASHINGTON — A two-star Army general faulted for failing to properly investigate sexual assault and other accusations against a colonel on his staff will be retired at one-star rank, the Army announced Wednesday.

The decision by Army Secretary John M. McHugh comes more than a year after Maj. Gen. Michael T. Harrison was suspended from his duties as commander of U.S. Army forces in Japan.

His case has been cited as evidence of why sex-crime victims say they don't trust the military to protect them, despite efforts by senior Pentagon officials, including Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, to make commanders accountable.

In March the Pentagon turned back an effort in Congress to strip commanders of the authority to prosecute cases, especially those related to sexual assault, and hand the job to seasoned military lawyers.

An Army inspector general's investigation report released in April said that in March 2013, when a Japanese woman accused the unidentified colonel on Harrison's staff of sexually assaulting her, Harrison waited months to report it to criminal investigators. That was a violation of Army rules.
read more here

Army Strong but Veterans Stronger Together

Veterans Sacrificed and Survived
Wounded Times
Kathie Costos
August 31, 2014

PTSD did not defeat you while you were deployed. You had your brothers right by your side. PTSD doesn't have to defeat you now since your brothers are from all branches of the military family tree and we call them VETERANS! Sacrificed because you loved, lived, survived and stronger together.

Sacrifice : the act of giving up something that you want to keep especially in order to get or do something else or to help someone

The top post on Wounded Times is, For Those I Love I Will Sacrifice

Pfc. Kyle Hockenberry, of 4th Squadron, 4th Cavalry Infantry Regiment, 1st Heavy Combat Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, who was injured in an improvised explosive device attack near Haji Ramuddin, is treated by flight medic Cpl. Amanda Mosher while being transported by medevac helicopter to the Role 3 hospital at Kandahar Air Field in Afghanistan on June 15, 2011. Laura Rauch/Stars and Stripes

There are a lot of current military and veterans with those words tattooed on their bodies but also engraved on their hearts.

PFC Aaron Toppen was killed in Afghanistan on June 9th at the age of 19. His pastor, Dr. Tim Harlow said this at his funeral.
"He had a tattoo on his chest that had a cross with dog tags draped across. It says, 'For those I love, I sacrifice,' an army motto. The dog tags were both his grandparents' dog tags," "I mean, that's who he was."

It is "who" they all are because no matter what some may say, it is the reason you were willing to sacrifice your lives for the sake of someone else.

In the military you are all serving this country however, you served separated by branches. Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force and National Guards. It is as veterans you are stronger because you come together with others from different branches and different wars.

You sacrificed much and were willing sacrifice everything. You survived combat. That may have seemed like the hardest part of your life but all too often it was just the start of the battles you'd have to fight. The hardest one is now.

No one comes home unchanged. For Heaven's sake, you are only human and everyone changes in one way or another.

Sometimes it can make you harder, colder, bitter and quick to get angry over little things. You may think those emotions are forever, but they are not. Sometimes it can make you sadder, depressed and worth less than you were while you were doing something that became a part of you.

It is never the same for anyone and how you feel is not the same as everyone else. The thing is, when all is said and done, when the boots come off and uniform is put away, everyone you served with are a part of your life.

The veterans in your community can be a part of your life as well. Far too often new veterans feel as if they are unable to fit back in with the rest of the population and they are absolutely correct but honestly, if you feel that way, you never really fit in before military service. Thank God you didn't or you would have been like everyone else unable to love so much you were willing to die. That kind of courage and emotional strength is so rare only about 7% of the population knows what the word "veteran" means. The rest can only guess.

By yourself with civilians, it can be lonely. Joining groups with other veterans is where you learn others have walked on the same path and will show you the least dangerous direction to take plus give you some shortcuts to save you years of searching for what they already found.

If you feel that you do not deserve to be happy again, consider this very simple point. Evil people do not grieve or weep for others because all they care about is themselves. They do not suffer emotional pain, they inflict it. For the roughly 66% of veterans living without PTSD, they understand for the most part because it is hard to find anyone not changed at all. A few are total jerks and you need to be aware of that simply because they also represent a fraction of the general population. Don't waste your time with them. You will gain nothing while they rob you of the opportunity to heal.

Everyone has heard the expression "Army Strong" but Veterans are in fact stronger together.

Pensacola News Journal Reporter Blames Veterans for rise in VA claims?

You'd think by now it would be clear that most of the Vietnam veterans finally getting compensated for what military service cost them was a good thing, but then again, along comes another one more attempt to blame veterans for the rise in claims because they are greedy. This is from the Pensacola News Journal article by Tom Phipott titled "Report explains rise in VA claims" but clearly should have included a disclaimer, "interpreted by."
"A greater factor has been liberalized laws and policies on "service connected" ailments, particularly decisions to compensate Vietnam War veterans for medical conditions of aging and lifestyle because of an "association" with possible exposure to herbicides used in that war."
Phipott then added this insult.
"Another factor of growth in VA claims has been a weak labor market, CBO says, which encourages out-of-work or underemployed veterans to apply for disability compensation. Current law allows them to do so at any age and as often as they like.Indeed, laws enacted in 2000 and 2008 required VA to strengthen the help given to veterans to apply for disability benefits and substantiate claims. VA also increased outreach to veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and eased PTSD diagnostic requirements."

The best way to actually address these claims is by keeping it simple. Most veterans do not file claims. 21,973,000 project veteran population but less than 4 million receive VA Compensation

The other ugly truth is that the rest of us have never managed to take care of those we send to fight our battles equal to their pre-paid debit card they carry with the VA logo.

Soldier from Fort Carson Killed Walking Across Freeway

Fort Carson soldier killed while trying to walk across Colorado Springs freeway
The Gazette
By Stephen Hobbs
Published: August 31, 2014

A 23-year-old Fort Carson soldier died after he was struck by two cars on Interstate 25 near midnight Saturday, the Colorado State Patrol said.

The man was trying to cross northbound I-25, from the southbound lane near the South Academy Boulevard exit, troopers said.

A spokesman from Fort Carson confirmed he was a soldier there, but the post declined to give other details.

His name is being withheld until next of kin are notified, troopers said.
read more here

Police searching for North Carolina missing veteran with PTSD

POLICE: USMC Vet from Hampstead missing, suffers from PTSD
WWAY News 3
Submitted by Daniel Seamans

HAMPSTEAD, NC (WWAY) -- Investigators in Pender County are searching for a missing Marine who could be in danger.
Pender County detectives say James Salvatore Kalitz, 31, of Hampstead, is missing. They say he was last seen Wednesday at 6:30 p.m.

Kalitz is a USMC veteran, who suffers from PTSD, seizures, depression and substance abuse. He was last seen wearing gym shorts and sneakers.

According to a family member, Kalitz left a note indicating he may hurt himself.

If seen or located please call the Pender County Sheriff's Office at (910) 259-1515.
go here for updates

Miami VA hospital accused of turning away veterans' PTSD service dogs

Veterans say Miami VA harassed them over service animals
More veterans come forward after Local 10 investigation uncovers allegations of disservice
10 News
Author: Ross Palombo, Reporter
Published On: Aug 29 2014

After a Local 10 investigation first uncovered allegations of disservice at the Miami Veterans Hospital, more veterans have come forward with complaints.

New documents obtained by Local 10 also seem to show an increase in the number of animal-related incidents this year compared to last.

"I drove over an IED," said Afghanistan veteran Dane Silva. "And boom, just like that."

Silva said he had multiple injuries to his ribs and now also suffers from post traumatic stress disorder.

"I have problems in my neck, severe migraines," said veteran Alecia Golden.

Golden said she left the service with those injuries after working on weapons, like torpedoes and missiles, in the first Gulf War.
read more here

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Military Service Dog Still Patrols at Home

From Afghanistan to Anniston, military dogs get retirement fit for a hero
Anniston Star
August 30, 2014

Bill Wilson Anniston Star

When Kyle Cruse takes his German shepherd, Drako, for a walk around Oxford Lake, he has to be quick snapping on the leash. Otherwise, the shaggy, doe-eyed dog begins to methodically inspect each car in the parking lot.

“He thinks he has to sniff all the cars for bombs,” explained Cruse.

Playing in the creek or chasing his ball around the park, Drako might be mistaken for just another family pet. But this pet was trained in explosives detection and deployed to Afghanistan to work under contract for the U.S. military.

Cruse adopted him from Piper’s Rescue in March, one month after the retired working dog returned home, along with 91 of his four-legged co-workers, in an unprecedented mass transport that ended right here in Anniston.

Watching Drako’s transition from working dog to pet has been a joy for the first-time “dog father,” as Cruse calls himself. “When I first got him home, he wouldn’t come out of his kennel,” he said. “But once he understood I was the one taking care of him, he knew he was home.”
read more here

War dogs look for love after tours of duty
Randi Martin
August 30, 2014

WASHINGTON -- After their tour of duty ends and their military lives are over, some war dogs are just looking for love.

"These are working dogs," says Kristen Mauer, president of Mission K9 Rescue. "But some of them come home and they just want to retire. They‘re love bugs and just want to lie on the couch."

Mauer, whose organization works to find homes for military and contractor war dogs, says many families want to adopt these dogs.

"There (are) a lot of people out there that really love what these dogs have done and love what they stand for."

Many, Mauer says, feel that these dogs deserve a wonderful retirement.

The military dogs are owned by the Department of Defense. When their tour of duty is over and they are retired, the DoD offers the dogs to their handlers. Since the relationship is so strong, most are soon adopted and become members of the family.
read more here

Young soldier killed in Afghanistan, forever part of Illinois community

ABC 7 News
August 30, 2014

(Courtesy John Downs, Mokena village administrator)

MOKENA, Ill. (WLS) -- Residents gathered for a ceremony Saturday to officially re-name a portion of a Mokena road for fallen soldier Aaron Toppen.

Mokena and Frankfort townships re-named part of Townline Road "PFC Aaron Toppen Memorial Drive," which leads to the Toppen family's home.

Toppen was one of four service members killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan on June 9. He was 19.
read more here

Senior Pastor Dr. Tim Harlow said the young soldier died doing what he wanted to do.
"He had a tattoo on his chest that had a cross with dog tags draped across. It says, 'For those I love, I sacrifice,' an army motto. The dog tags were both his grandparents' dog tags," Harlow said. "I mean, that's who he was."

Saturday, August 30, 2014

DOD and VA still do not play nice with others

May 8, 2007

Interoperable and bidirectional electronic health data sharing with DOD.
This progress includes the development of one way and bidirectional data exchanges to support service members who are separated and retired from active duty service. In addition, the data exchanges support active duty service members and veterans who receive care from both VA and DOD health care facilities. VA's achievements in the area of electronic health data sharing with DOD directly support the efforts to seamlessly transition our service men and women as they move from DOD facilities to VA facilities and Centers of Excellence to continue their care and rehabilitation. Striving to provide world class health care to the wounded warriors returning from Iraq and Afghanistan remains one of VA's top priorities.

In March 2007, VA added a personal touch to seamless transition by creating 100 new Transition Patient Advocates (TPA). They are dedicated to assisting our most severely injured veterans and their families. The TPA's job is to ensure a smooth transition to VA health care facilities throughout the nation and cut through red tape for other VA benefits. Recruitment to fill the TPA positions began in March, and to date VA medical centers have hired 46 TPAs. Interviews are being conducted to fill the remaining 54 positions. Until these positions are filled, each medical center with a vacant TPA position has detailed an employee to perform that function. We believe these new patient advocates will help VA assure that no severely-injured Iraq or Afghanistan veteran falls through the cracks. VA will continue to adapt its health care system to meet the unique medical issues facing our newest generation of combat veterans while locating services closer to their homes. DOD and VA sharing electronic medical records facilitate this process.

It should be noted that sharing electronic medical records between DOD and VA is a longstanding issue, which has been the subject of several GAO reviews. Developing an electronic interface to exchange computable data between disparate systems is a highly complex undertaking. Let me assure the Committee that VA is fully committed to ongoing collaboration with DOD and the development of interoperable electronic health records. While significant and demonstrable progress has been made in our pilots with DOD, work remains to bring this commitment to system-wide fruition. VA is always mindful of the debt our Nation owes to its veterans, and our health care system is designed to fulfill that debt. To that end VA is committed to seeing through the successful development of interoperable electronic health records.

As part of our commitment to being veteran centric, we recently deployed the Veterans Tracking Application (VTA). It brings data from three sources, DOD, the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) and the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) together for display on one platform creating the beginning of a truly veteran-centric patient tracking record.

Click above to read more of what was
before you read what is now.

Another problem for veterans: VA can’t get medical records from DOD
The Blaze
Pete Kasperowicz
Aug. 29, 2014

The Department of Veterans Affairs’ Office of Inspector General has released a new report saying the VA is having major problems getting medical records from the Department of Defense.

The VA itself has been shown to be a broken agency filled with systemic problems related to delays in getting veterans health care, and attempts to cover up those delays. But the VA’s OIG report indicated at the Defense Department may be contributing to the VA’s inability to deliver care promptly. read more here

Six bullets ended life of Marine Cpl. Allan DeVillena II

Police shot Marine as he drove away, witness says
The Desert Sun
Brett Kelman
August 29, 2014
During a vigil in a Palm Springs parking garage on Nov. 15, 2012, Noah Gaoiran, 9, places a candle for his cousin, Marine Cpl. Allan DeVillena II.
(Photo: Richard Lui, The Desert Sun )

PALM SPRINGS, Calif. — A second witness to the fatal shooting of a Marine in southern California two years ago said that a Palm Springs police officer opened fire on the Marine's vehicle as he tried to flee.

Jawanda Terry, a member of a bachelorette party that witnessed the shooting, said in a sworn deposition that a police officer fired at a Chrysler 300 from behind, shooting three or four bullets through the rear window of the black sedan.

An instant later, Terry saw a second officer, dangling halfway out of the sedan's front-passenger window, struggling with the driver inside. The Chrysler curved to the right, then struck a concrete pillar.

Marine Cpl. Allan DeVillena II, 22, died in the driver's seat of his car, six bullet holes in his upper body. He was killed on the lowest floor of the public parking garage in downtown Palm Springs in the early morning hours of Nov. 10, 2012, the birthday of the Marine Corps. A passenger, Marine Pfc. Clinton Harris, was unhurt.
read more here

Combat PTSD, more veterans live with it than die because of it

Anniversary Dates in the Mind Calendar 
Wounded Times
Kathie Costos
August 30, 2014

We moved to Florida the summer of 2004 right before the area was hit by Hurricane Charley, Francis and Jeanne. Being from New England, these hurricanes freaked out my family and friends back home. It was a great summer up there but not much fun down here.

Ten years ago and I can still remember what it was like while the wind was making my patio doors move in and out waiting for the big wind to take them out. We were lucky. Some of our neighbors were not. The whole area was mess for a long time.

Living in Florida is strange at times. We get a lot of violent thunderstorms too. Years ago a storm came through producing a tornado near my house but far enough away that all I saw was rain. I was working in the area for a church. I was told the tornado crossed over the church, took off a few roof shingles, then passed by to the next neighborhood producing this.
Seminole County, Florida authorities and National Weather Service Meteorologists are surveying the damage after a tornado struck Oviedo, Florida on Election Night. They said it appears four houses were destroyed or severely damaged, eight were moderately damaged and another 32 suffered minor structural damage. (photos courtesy of The Orlando Sentinel) WKMG-TV reports that four people were injured in the tornado. -ERIC

Two years ago in another part of Oviedo tornado warnings sounded the alarm to find a safe place to wait for the danger to pass.

Tornado Sirens: Oviedo, FL
Jeff Rancourt
December 12, 2012

Anniversaries are not always happy ones. The damage gets cleaned up. Houses get fixed or built over the old foundations. Stuff gets replaced. Memories are a different story. Some fade as the bite is softened but as August came this year it was hard to forget. Some anniversaries sneak up on you.

Somewhere in your mind there is a constant calendar running with the days and rewinding your memory.

For veterans, most of the time, they have no clue what causes them to have harder days than most other days especially when they have PTSD. It seems to happen to them at the same time of year, year after year, lasting for days. They try to figure out what set the depression off and made nightmares stronger. They try to blame it on what someone said or did in the present and most of the time they can pull that off without noticing that the next year brings the same feelings.

If they are not aware of this, it is harder and harder to deal with and push to the past.

If you know a veteran with PTSD, you can see the change coming while they cannot explain what is going on with them. If you are a veteran, it is hard for you to explain it especially if you are not aware the date is connected to a time in your life when something tragic happened.

Take a look back at the months that are hardest for you and then think back to your worst nightmares. Nightmares are connected to events even if the events in the dreams do not meet with what you actually experienced.

Your mind calendar sends out the reminder that you have to take care of something and stop trying to repress it. You need to find a way to make peace with it without forgetting people you cared about. Remember the moments before "it" happened and stop letting that last image be frozen in your mind.

Once you make peace with it, then you can clean up the future, rebuild the foundation and replace the bad memories with ones that less painful.

Some think that they should forget their past but in doing so, you would have to let go of friends you lost, lives saved and people you cared about. You mind will only allow a place for those memories to hide until they gain enough strength to pop up when you least expect them to.

There is nothing about you that cannot be healed even if you cannot be cured. The good news is that you can come out on the other side of this storm better than you were before. The better news is that while it is hard to live with Combat PTSD, more veterans live with it than die because of it.