• Featured Image Warfighter Rights Movement

    Thank you for taking this step to join the Warfighter Rights Movement.  We will be separating everyone into groups. As you spread the word start thinking about if you want.

    • Leadership
    • Show up to rallies
    • Contribute resources
    • Provide Legal help (Pro bono)
    • Publicity and Public Relations

    All are required to simply pass the word The next step is to write letters (template provided below) to all of your legislators and every media organization you can find. Make sure you join the group at the bottom for further updates. For now we will have two communication outlets, you will need to have both. We will use this website and the Facebook group below. Here are your orders: Follow the below instructions and send the below letter to your Representative and local news outlets.

    • Copy the text below
    • click on the link  http://www.house.gov/representatives/
    • find your Representative on the list provided (The hyperlink will send you to their page when you click on their name)
    • Find the email link on the page
    • paste the below text
    • REMEMBER to add their name to the top of the letter send it off
    • Click on this link and repeat for your senators. http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm
    • Once you have sent the letter to your Representative it is time to send the letter to your local media station.
    • Do an internet search for the contact information for all your local news outlets and send off the letter to them

    As soon as you complete this mission click the link below and join our group on Facebook for all further updates

    Warfighter Rights Movement Facebook Page
    Warfighter Rights Movement Facebook Group

    ***************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************** SUBJECT: Warfighter Rights Movement

    Dear _______,

    I am contacting to inform you of the Warfighter movement. This is a movement that I am proud to be a part of. We stand here today united to end Warfighter discrimination and stop PTSD phobia. As you have seen, the issues with the Veteran Administration has been substandard for decades. However, this is not the only issue we as Warfighters are facing in America today. Routinely our Warfighter community is discriminated against in the areas of employment, housing and whenever we stand before a judge. As your constituent, I am respectfully bringing this to your attention so you may appropriately support this movement. As part of the plan we will seek to take action in the courts through class action law suits and to propose legislation to end the discrimination of warfighters in America. American Warfighters are comprised of 23 million strong veterans with supports plus the additional numbers of those currently serving on active duty military and their families. In the 1960’s Americans rallied to end discrimination with the Civil Rights movement. During that same timeframe the returning Warfighters were chastised and shamed by the very people they fought for. We continue to see this today as another generation returns from answering the call to arms of this nation. The method of discrimination is different and in some ways more secretive and more underhanded. We will not allow this to continue to happen to the present day Warfighters. This is the era of the Warfighter Rights movement. Rather than complain with excessive rhetoric, we seek your assistance to support our effectiveness. We want all of our representatives at our backs. We don’t care about politics. Politicians that support us must agree to “give no quarter to the corrupt”. Expect to see us protest and rally in large numbers across the country. If you have questions or want to be part of the movement contact this email address. rally@warriorpointe.org rally@asmdss.com rally@boonecutler.com



  • Magic of Life

    Greetings, my warrior class friends! It is that time again, when I give a sneak peek into the insanity that is my life. With some thought and recent events I decided to talk about “Magic” today. According to the Webster dictionary: 1mag•ic
    noun \ˈma-jik\
    : a power that allows people (such as witches and wizards) to do impossible things by saying special words or performing special actions
    However, in day to day life “magic” plays a vital part in our lives. To me it is so much more. “The power that allows people to do impossible things by saying special words or performing special actions.” Who are the people that can say these words or perform these actions? What are the special words and special actions? I want to talk about this, because it is a very simple and relevant answer but first let’s talk about the fun side of magic.
    One night my four year old son had just gone to bed, soon after he laid down he came back in the living room sobbing because of a night mare. A very regular concern with anyone who has small children. I sat with him till he calmed down and then he went back to bed. Being the “weirdo” that I am I recognized that a nightmare was subconscious and that the best way to combat these nightmares was to sooth his subconscious. A plan slowly started to form. The next night when he went to bed there was a stuffed animal on his pillow along with a note. I do not remember exactly what the note said but something to the tune of, “It made me sad to see those bad dreams upset you. So I brought you my friend (insert name). He has special powers that will protect you while you sleep. He chases away bad dreams and if a bad dream sneaks by, he will fight the bad guys for you and he ALWAYS wins.” Signed; the good dream fairy. It worked because he believed, and subconsciously he was convinced that no one or nothing could hurt him. Over time one phase lead to the next, and instead of nightmares he was afraid of the monster under his bed. I went and I bought a bottle of febreeze, a clear spray bottle and I printed off a label for “Monster spray.” Every night I would spray the room and no monsters could cross that barrier. This is just one example of magic in the real world.
    Now… I would really like to talk about real world magic. “The power that allows people to do impossible things by saying special word or performing special actions.” The majority of adults reading this is now envisioning alters, wands, potions and chants. But let’s dissect the that definition and apply it to our everyday life.
    “The power that allows people;” People? Who? Perhaps me, perhaps you.
    “To do impossible things:” Like what? Get/stay organized? Face a stressful event? Lose weight? Face it through another day following a sleepless night?
    “By saying special words;” Hmmm, I can, I will, I know? Could those special words be maintaining a positive attitude and expressing it?
    “Or performing special actions;” Does this have to be waving a wand or could it be as simple as getting out of the bed in the morning? Making a list, and sticking to it? Could the action be obtaining a phrase or item that reminds you that you can achieve your goals?
    Now, what do you think? Is magic something that belongs in a fairy tale? Or is magic something we have the ability to do every day? Is it something that we grow out of believing in as children, or is it something that we lose sight of because our mind becomes closed.
    As I say every week, just because this works for me doesn’t mean it works for you. However if you keep an open mind you can wake up in the morning and see the magical sunrise and use your special words and special actions to achieve the impossible.



  • Last One Standing

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    Plain and simple, we were a band of misfits. We weren’t some terrific trio. We didn’t have this undying bond that you see in the movies. We were three guys in the same unit who ended up living together after deployment. In truth, all three of us had more than a few screws loose. We still do. We were crazy, in one way or another. None of us were perfect. We were flawed in more ways than most. But we were good men, at least I like to think we were. The odd thing is that all of our different kinds of crazy ended up being perfectly fit pieces to a pretty interesting puzzle. Between the pharmaceuticals-handed out like candy by the Army-and the booze-also financed by our Army paychecks-you’d think there was no way any of us should have survived as long as we have. Most of us. But we did, possibly because also thanks to the Army, we were stubborn enough to survive. I cannot say that I’d willingly relive that time in my life. I wouldn’t. However, even if given the chance, I wouldn’t change a damn thing about it. Yes, it was dark. Between the booze, drugs, and our own demons from fighting a war we never should have had to fight, there was a tangible atmosphere of heavy darkness. You could feel it as soon as you stepped into the house. But, even in the midst of the darkness, there was laughter. There was that unspoken knowledge that we understood each other. We bitched about each other constantly. We pissed each other off on a daily basis. But we understood each other. We knew exactly where each other was coming from. Like most things, people, and places in life, we each went our separate ways. We lost touch.
    Angelo had given me the single greatest piece of advice I’ve ever gotten. He had my back when everyone else had written me off. Like us other two, he had his own demons. He is still fighting them. The last couple years, it hasn’t seemed as if he is winning that fight. To be honest, even though I wish there was something I could do, some days, I feel like I am waiting for that phone call, or text, or message telling me he has taken his life. I do pray that day never comes. Behind bars now, I am fairly certain the chances of that are significantly lower. I hope so. I can’t say Kevin and I were best buds, but we understood each other enough. We got along more than I get along with most people. We had the same experiences, agreed on most things, pissed each other off but never fought. Kevin was a great actor. He knew just how to be whatever you wanted him to be. Sometimes now, I think maybe that ability cost him some part of himself. Most of those who had a passing acquaintance with Kevin would give you some humorous and sarcastically negative description. They didn’t live with him. They weren’t deployed with him. I can’t say I knew everything about him, but I was close enough to him and knew him well enough to know the guy he really was. It saddens me that we lost contact. It had been 4 years since we’d talked until I got the message that he’d taken his life four days ago. Kevin and Angelo both were and are good men. Many people can’t see that through the facades they put up and the demons they both had to fight. But me, I’d stake my soul on the goodness at the core of those men. We were unstable and crazy as hell, but it’s ironic that when we were together, our craziness ended up balancing out and providing some sort of reverse stability.
    It’s been a rough couple days trying to wrap my head around the fact that Kevin is gone. With Angelo in jail and Kevin dead, a friend, a firsthand witness to the insanity that was our lives, told me the other day that I’m the last one standing. It took a while for it to sink in, and it’s hit hard. I can’t lie, it’s hard to keep holding on. It’s inexplicably hard to keep living in a world in which you don’t fit. The Army may have made us this way, but it was also the glue that held each of us together. Even though I have accomplished much since then, I still feel like the biggest part of myself, the only part I truly know, is missing.
    Angelo and Kevin’s pain, I have that same pain. Their demons, I have those same ones. I can’t really say how I am any different than them. I don’t feel like I am. But like my friend said, I’m the last one standing. Why, I couldn’t tell you. But I am here. The really shitty part is that those of us that are still standing carry the pain and demons and loss of our brothers who leave us prematurely. They no longer carry that pain, but we do. Most will not understand this, but I think I’m ok with that. We were there. We did what they did, know what they know, saw what they saw. That’s what happens in that brotherhood, if you are no longer able to bear your load, you pass it on to your brother.
    We will carry that load, those demons, that pain. You don’t have to ask us. But we will ask you not to make us. We’ve buried enough. We’ve shed enough tears. We have all lost enough. Don’t make us lose more. I can’t say I have the light for Angelo’s darkness. I wish I’d had a chance to shine a light for Kevin. But as the last one standing, I have to make sure my own light doesn’t go out, dim as it is most times. As long as there is still a spark, it can be fanned into a flame, and the flame can turn back the darkness. I’ve lost brothers to haji and I’ve lost brothers to themselves. I can’t say that I am or will always be strong enough to bear my load, but I can say it’s their loss that keeps me holding on. I can say that the pain we carry when we lose a brother to himself is not something I’d pass on to anyone.
    To those whose watch is ended, I say rest easy now, brothers, and hold the high ground, for the watch is now ours. For those of us still standing, I say stand tall, brothers, and keep the faith. When the darkness floods in, as it certainly will, fan that flame and let your light shine brighter than a thousand suns. Our watch is not over. We swore to stand watch only until properly relieved, and we have not been relieved. When you lose strength, as you certainly will, reach out your hand, and we will lift you up. If you cannot run, walk. If you cannot walk, crawl. If you cannot crawl, we will carry you. Stand strong, keep your heads up, and keep the faith, brothers. Ours is not over until the Valkyries come to take us to drink together once more in the halls of Valhalla.
    To Kevin, rest easy now brother, friend. Your body may be gone but your spirit is with us. There is no goodbye, only till we meet again.



  • Getting (and staying) organized

    I have talked to many spouses of our warfighters. After many conversations I have heard of a lot of struggles and even more strength. I will never compare being a spouse to actually being in the military. Like I talked about last week, all relationships have their trials and hardships, likewise, each relationship has highs and bonuses.

    One trial I have seen in every relationship I have ever discussed, whether military or civilian is the lack of time to accomplish everything that needs to be done. This struggle is especially prominent in relationships involving our injured or disables warfighters. Often the spouse becomes overwhelmed in the effort to be a parent, a spouse, a caregiver and often an employee. Not too long ago I found myself in this very struggle. I have four children of my own that live with us full time, my warfighter has a daughter that stays with us a few weeks a year, I am a college student, and caregiver, business owner and I took on an active role in the Warfighter Rights Movement. I realized that I was always exhausted but never accomplished anything. My house was the most unorganized that it has ever been. My warfighter and children were complaining that they missed me even though I never left the house. I was failing my classes and my tasks within the Warfighter Rights Movement were becoming farther and farther behind. I really couldn’t understand, I was putting in 20-22 hours a day, yet I accomplished nothing.

    I decided it was time to come up with a plan, I sat down and came up with a system. I used index cards, I made one for each day of the week. I knew it wasn’t a long term plan but it was just to get my house organized. For each day I broke it down into three sections, morning, afternoon, and evening. I left Saturday blank for family days. I set a goal of one month to have my house organized. For the morning of each working day I listed one load of laundry, and light cleaning. For the afternoon I listed one room to organize. For the evening I listed one more load of laundry and preparing for the next day. Every day was a struggle to stay on task. Very slowly my house started getting organized. I only had so many hours to work on each task and when that time slot ended I stopped what I was doing and started my next task.

    A couple weeks ago my house had become organized but I still felt like my life was out of control, so I sat down and came up with another plan. School had started again, and since I thrive on schedules, I decided to make myself a schedule. I will describe it in a minute, but first let me tell you about the days that I have appointments or need to make a trip into town. These are the most trying for me. As I mentioned I thrive on schedules, if my schedule gets interrupted, I will literally walk in circles for the rest of the day. So this is a constant struggle, but my goal is that if my schedule gets interrupted and I do not have time for a specific task, then I continue around it. I try to plan ahead if I know that a particular day is going to be different. If I know I am going to be busy on Thursday during the time I should be working on school and I have an assignment due, I will finish my assignment on Wednesday.

    For my schedule, I have a dry erase board on my wall and this is where I write my schedule. For me it looks like this.

    Get the kids on the bus

    Shower

    Clean house

    School

    Warfighter Rights Movement

    Dinner

    Family Time

     

    I intentionally did not add the confines of time. I know what I need to accomplish and that is my confinement. If I do not have time to get to all of the tasks then I just try to breathe through it and convince myself that the work will be there the next day. It isn’t easy but it is working. I know take both Saturday and Sunday off of my usual routine. On Saturday morning the whole family pitches in and we do a quick deep clean of the house. On Sunday we only do light cleaning and spend the day together as a family.

    I know that we are all different and what works for me may not work for you. However, I encourage you to look for what will work for you. Don’t get discouraged if your first plan doesn’t work, heck, don’t get discouraged if your first TEN plans don’t work. If you are consistent you will find what works for you. I can attest to the fact that when you get your house organized and become comfortable in your environment and in your routine it will greatly decrease the stress in your life and you will become more productive.

    I will be back next week with another story of life with a warfighter. Remember, keep your head up, tomorrow is a new day and a new chance to love.



  • LEGAL BRIEFING: Service Animals under Titles II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act

    By: Todd Lezon, O.I.F. Veteran and Warfighter Rights Attorney

    SCOPE AND PURPOSE OF TITLES II AND III OF THE AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT (“ADA”)

    The ADA is a federal law that imposes two legal duties on businesses and state and local government entities that offer admission to the general public (“public entities”): public entities (1) must accommodate disabled persons, and; (2) cannot discriminate against disabled individuals on the basis of their disability.

    PREEMPTION OF STATE LAW

    The ADA must prevail over any conflicting state law, unless the state law provides greater or equivalent protections to those contained in the ADA. The practical effect of preemption is to make the ADA the law of the land that applies everywhere in the United States and its territories.

    PUBLIC ENTITY’S DUTY TO COMPLY WITH THE SERVICE ANIMAL PROVISIONS OF ADA

    Generally, a public entity shall modify its policies, practices, or procedures to permit the use of a service animal by an individual with a disability. 28 CFR § 35.136(a).

    SERVICE ANIMAL DEFINED

    A service animal is any dog trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, psychiatric, sensory, mental or intellectual disability. In some limited circumstances, the definition also encompasses a miniature horse. 28 CFR §§ 35.136, 36.104.

    PERSONS ENTITLED TO USE A SERVICE ANIMAL

    Any person with a disability is entitled to use a service animal. “Disability” is defined under ADA as: “A physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.” 42 USC § 12102(1)(A). “Major life activities” means functions such as caring for one’s self, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working. 28 CFR 36.104

    SCOPE OF WORK FOR WHICH SERVICE ANIMAL IS AUTHORIZED

    The law requires that there be a connection between the specific tasks performed by the service animal and the mitigation of a disability. The federal regulations set forth eight examples of the services that a service animal is authorized to perform: (1) Helping blind persons navigate; (2) alerting deaf or hearing-impaired persons to the presence of sounds; (3) providing non-violent protection; (4) pulling a wheelchair; (5) alerting handlers to the presence of allergens; (6) retrieving items such as the phone or medicine; (7) providing physical support and assistance to person with mobility disabilities, and; (8) helping persons with psychiatric disabilities by preventing or interrupting impulsive or destructive behaviors. 28 CFR §§ 35.104, 36.104.

    The list above is not an exhaustive, or complete, list of authorized tasks for a service animal under the ADA. Rather, the list only provides examples of permissible service animal tasks. Once the connection between the service animal’s tasks performed and the mitigation of a disability is established, virtually any conceivable use of the service animal that alleviates the disability is lawful under the ADA.

    QUESTIONS A PUBLIC ENTITY MAY ASK TO DETERMINE WHETHER THE ANIMAL IS A SERVICE ANIMAL

    Entities may only ask two questions of the handler or disabled person: (1) Whether the animal is required because of a disability, and; (2) What tasks the animal has been trained to perform. 28 CFR §§ 35.136(f), 36.302(6). However, the public entity may not ask either question if it is “readily apparent” that the animal is trained to do work for the person with a disability.

    Finally, a public entity cannot require the handler to produce documentary proof that the animal is a service animal under the ADA. 28 CFR §§ 35.136(f), 36.302(c)(6).

    DUTIES OF THE HANDLER UNDER THE ADA

    A service animal must be under the control of either the disabled individual or a designated handler and have a leash, harness, or similar tether, unless the handler is unable because of a disability that would interfere with the animal’s safe performance. In such cases, the service animal must be under the control of the handler’s voice or signal commands.

    PUBLIC ENTITY DEFENSES TO DENYING ENTRY OF A SERVICE ANIMAL

    1.   Out of Control Animals

    The service animal and the handler can be asked to leave if the service animal is out of control or not house broken. 28 CFR §§ 35.136(b)(1)-(2), 36.302(c). But, If the service animal is properly excluded from the premises, the individual must be permitted to remain on the premises to obtain goods and services. 28 CFR §§ 35.136(c), 36.302(c)(3).

    2.   Fundamental Alteration Defense

    A service animal may be excluded if the entity can show that the presence of the service animal would fundamentally alter the nature of goods, services, facilities and accommodations.

    Example: A museum argued that the presence of a service dog would fundamentally alter the Center’s service to patrons because the dog could make noise and thus deter other patrons and artists from coming to the art museum. The court ruled that the center’s speculation of dog-barking was insufficient to prove operations were fundamentally altered. Lentini v. CA Center of the Arts, 370 F.3d 837 (9th Cir. 2004).

    3.   Service Animal is Direct Threat to Health and Safety

    A “direct threat” is a significant risk to the health and safety of others that cannot be eliminated by a modification of policies, practices and procedures. 28 CFR §§ 35.139(a), 36.208(a).

    Example: A federal court held that a service animal was a direct threat to the health and safety of other hospital patients because the dog’s “putrid smell” had caused nearby patients to request moving to others rooms.

    REMEDIES FOR ADA TITLE III VIOLATIONS

    If a public entity violates either Titles II or III of the ADA, the aggrieved plaintiff can seek an injunction, which is a court order that will require the public entity to follow the ADA, or face harsh, punitive consequences that could include heavy fines or incarceration.



  • Communication.

    When I was asked to write for this blog I was a little confused where I should start. So I decided to start with what I consider to be the most important aspect of any relationship. A relationship with a military veteran is no harder than being in a relationship with a civilian. Every relationship has challenges unique to the persons involved.

    My warfighter and I are together 24/7. Any time two people spend that much time together they will inevitably find that they get annoyed with one another. To combat this unpleasant ”side effect” we have learned to be very open and honest. It is not unusual, in my house, to hear the line, “okay, you are really annoying me.” Usually, this sentence is followed by us going into separate rooms or even one of us leaving the house for a little while. By recognizing that we are getting upset with each other, we can stop the fighting before it begins.

    Another thing we do is to prioritize our fights. Just aside note, I use the word ”fight” lightly. In two and a half years, we have only had three true fights. Back to the point I was getting to, we have learned that our love is stronger than any disagreement we could possibly have. Therefore, if we have any hard feelings, but have important business to address (usually involving the kids) we have learned to place our differences on the back burner until the time is right to hash it out. This simply means that instead of spending hours or days angry or fighting, we are able to get along and actually support each other without a lot of tension between us. However, we always let the other one know how we feel, we might say, “I am hurt, we need to discuss this as soon as we have a chance.” Then we set it to the side.

    We try hard to never speak in anger. I read an article many years ago that discussed our language patterns when we are upset. The use of words such as mad, pissed, hate, or other negative words come freely and hurt both the one saying them and the one receiving them. However if you retrain yourself to use words like, angry, upset, sad, etc, you are forced to think before you speak and they do not cut the other person as harshly.

    I have saved our most effective communication tool for last. This is my favorite, and I have never met anyone else who has used it. When we first started talking on May 14,2012, the thing that we noticed immediately is that we are both very efficient in the language of sarcasm. Yes you read that correctly, our biggest tool in preventing fights and other tension is sarcasm. I have never met another couple who can carry on a full conversation using sarcasm. I am not suggesting that sarcasm is the answer for everyone, I have talked to people who hate sarcasm. In that instance it might cause even more tension in your relationship. My simple point is that you must find what works for you.

    Just to recap, using communication effectively is a process that never ends. Each day brings new challenges and we must approach each situation with an open mind. Don’t dwell on the tension. Feel free to say I am hurt/annoyed/frustrated and we need to talk about it as soon as the time is right. Then go on about life without hating each other. Find a means of communication that is effective for both of you. It might be sarcasm, or email, or text. Whatever it is, use it and improve it. Most importantly, NEVER speak in anger and if you do, apologize immediately.

    I will be back next week to talk about another aspect of loving a warfighter. Until then, remember that you are not alone. Tomorrow is a new day and a new opportunity to love.



  • LEGAL BRIEFING: YOUR RIGHTS UNDER 38 U.S.C. § 1151

    By: Todd Lezon, Esq., O.I.F. Veteran and Warfighter Rights Attorney

    Despite the billions of dollars recently appropriated by Congress for much-needed reform at the VA, any combat veteran will tell you that the VA is so broken that it could take over a decade or more to fundamentally change for the better. It is a fact of life for the Warfighter Community that our healthcare will be challenging and stressful for years to come. Through understaffing and an insatiable appetite to prescribe deadly medication, the VA committed great harm to its veteran-patients in the mid-to-late 2000’s to present day. Therefore, we must, as a Community, assume that more harm will unfortunately be done before we realize the benefits of any VA-reform.

    So, what are you supposed to do when the negligent acts of VA employees cause you harm? The natural inclination may be to file a lawsuit against the VA, but that’s not going to get you very far. The Federal Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”) immunizes the VA from negligence or wrongful death lawsuits. If you or an attorney sued the VA for medical malpractice, the VA would answer that it is totally immune from suit under the FTCA, and your case would summarily be dismissed.

    Luckily, however, Congress gave us 38 U.S.C. § 1151 (“Section 1151”). Section 1151 provides, in pertinent part, that veterans harmed by the VA’s malpractice can recover monetary compensation for the harm in the form of a disability claim. So, for example, if you suffer $1,000,000 worth of physical harm when the VA botches your surgery or prescribes the wrong medication, you cannot sue them for that amount. But Section 1151 authorizes you to file a disability claim for this amount. If you prevail, you will be paid the compensation sought through the normal, service-connected disability payment system.

    It is important not to gloss over the fact that the VA is deciding (internally) whether it committed malpractice and whether it’s going to pay you damages. If this dynamic strikes you as contrary to basic principles of equity and due process, you would be right. You have every right to be skeptical of the VA’s decision-making – whether you file a Section 1151 claim or a regular, service-connected disability claim – because we have all experienced arbitrariness and unfairness at the VA. Luckily, you have the right to appeal your Section 1151 claim – first to the Board of Veterans Appeals (“Board”), and then to the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. The Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims is the forum where you will finally get a fair hearing in front of an impartial judicial officer. I have read several opinions from the Court and I think its judges are smart, practical and fair. So, remember, you do have substantial rights of appeal if your Section 1151 Claim is not initially granted.

    I would be happy to answer any questions that anyone may have. I can be reached at lezonlawfirm@gmail.com.



  • Featured Image Adding to the Legacy of Robin Williams

    robinwilliamstourafghanistan2007

     

    I absolutely hate commenting on the death of anyone so close to the tragic event or even seeming like I am putting words in their mouths or intentions in their actions. I am not doing any of that when I say that Robin Williams is continuing to support the troops even in death as he did in life. His support is just the happenstance of how his death is being perceived and even in something so tragically sad I am glad to see at least something good come from it.
    Surely most have heard the soundbite information that has been endlessly publicized about the 22 veterans we lose every day to suicide.  It has taken quite a bit of work from various veteran organizations to achieve the viral spread of that information. These groups have toiled for years to gain the attention of the masses to educate them on the disabling depression and hopelessness felt by veterans due to stigmatization of their unseen illnesses. The death of Robin Williams received this much attention in mere hours after his death.

    A day after Robin has left us came the outpouring of people finally saying what needs to be said about suicide and depression. People finally coming to the realization that it is a disease, and finally catching up with the latest scientific studies that have shown it to be a very physiological response.

     

    I think these Facebook statuses say it best and so I will share them and they are just examples of the theme I have seen today.

     

    You know, from now on when someone dies from suicide I am going to call it what it is. They died from depression and hopelessness. The things that lead to suicide are brushed off and the people who contemplate it shamed and even after death they are thought of with anger or demeaned. Do you get upset at a person who dies from cancer? Do you get upset with a person who dies from an accident? I know that suicide can be prevented, but only as much as can illness or accidents. We do not take the prevention of suicide seriously.

    Robin Williams was depressed. He may have died from his depression.

    There are also 22 Veterans every day who die from depression and hopelessness.

    We need to change the way we think about people who are depressed because shaming a person who is unhappy is like saying the beatings will continue until morale improves.

    I try my hardest to be a diplomatic person.. BUT I simply have too much empathy for the suffering to see Actor Robin Williams torn up all over the internet like this. He was ill. Sometimes people die of what ails them. In the field of neurology, scientists find that during depressive states the brain is actually physically different therefore does not process things the same way as during a non-depressive state.. or during a manic one for that matter. It’s no different than how I cannot process certain foods because of my Crohn’s. Indeed, if we are to speak up about the stigma of suicide it should not come before considering the stigma of mental illness. Which is why a great many are actually gone.. They did not have or seek proper treatment because we embarrass them TO DEATH about it. Literally. That is all. Thank you.

    These are just two of the many with similar messages. Robin Williams was most definitely not thinking about anything but his incredible pain when died, but even in his death he still gave. This heartbreaking loss of a wonderful person gave our society the push it needed to go down the path of proper treatment of depression and other illnesses that drastically change our brain. His death paved a way for the many Veteran’s organizations to finally get ahead of the stigmatization of depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. In his way he is still giving to our troops as he did in life. And I hope now that he is able to see the vast amount of energy he has put out to all of us and the good it is doing that he can finally smile truly and realize what a wonderful person he has always been.


    I hope you have found peace Robin, and thank you for all of the wonderful memories, laughter, and fun you gave to each and every one of us.

     



  • Ensuring Veterans’ Resiliency Act – Summary

    H.R. 4234 – Ensuring Veterans’ Resiliency Act

    Sponsor:      Rep. Bucshon, Larry [R-IN-8] (37 co-sponsors)
    Committees: House – Veterans’ Affairs

    WHAT IT IS:

    • Bipartisan bill introduced March 3, 2014
    • Directs Secretary of Veterans Affairs to conduct trial program for psychiatrists to work at the VA
    • VA repays educational loans for psychiatrists
    • Trial program is 3 years

    CRITERIA:

    • Psychiatrist must remain in good standing for a specific time (undefined as of now)
    • Psychiatrist must intend a long-term career at the VA
    • Psychiatrists will repay prorated rate of loan if requirement is not fulfilled
    • Secretary of VA must choose at least 10 candidates each year

    AFTER-ACTION REPORT:

    • Secretary of VA will report to Committees on Veterans’ Affairs
      • Overall effectiveness of program
      • Influence on current psychiatric workforce shortage
      • Long-term stability of the new program
      • Overall strategies put into place with program

    SUPPORT FROM MENTAL HEALTH COMMUNITY:

    • American Psychiatric Association (APA)
      • Letter of approval and support
      • Calls on congress to act on bill
    • Dr. Peter Roy-Byrne, Washington State Psychiatric Society president
      • Wrote an article in The Seattle times to support bill
      • Bill will address the shortage of qualified psychiatrists employed at the VA

    —————————————————————————————————————-
    Bill Pros

    • Create desire for psychiatrists to work at VA by paying student loans
    • Increase number of psychiatrists in the VA system
    • More doctors available to treat veterans

    Bill Cons

    • Requires additional funds from the VA that could go toward treating veterans

    —————————————————————————————————————-

    Resources

    APA sends support letter for Ensuring Veterans’ Resiliency Act. (2014). Retrieved July 26, 2014,
    from http://www.psych.org/advocacy–newsroom/advocacy/apa-sends-support-letter-for-ensuring-veterans-resiliency-act

    Roy-Byrne, P. (2014, July 20). How to get veterans psychiatric care they need. The Seattle Times. Retrieved from http://seattletimes.com/html/opinion/2024106802_peterroybyrneopedveterans21xml.html

    United States. Congress. House of Representatives. Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. (2014). Ensuring Veterans’ Resiliency Act. H.R.4234, One Hundred Thirteenth Congress, March 3, 2014. Retrieved from https://beta.congress.gov/bill/113th-congress/house-bill/4234

     



  • Warfighter turns to VA for help, is shunned, dies

    July 25, 2014

    By: W.A. Napper Jr.

     

    TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Rodger O. Kelley was a man of great strength. Life had handed him many challenges over the years, and he conquered them one by one. His friends knew him not only as a loving husband and father, but also as a proud Air Force veteran who loved his country.

    However, Rodger was a tortured soul. Although haunted by nightmares from his 366-day tour of duty in Vietnam, Rodger refused to give up. Even after his first wife committed suicide in 1974, and his oldest son died in a terrible car accident in March 1987, Rodger denied his demons’ demands to quit.

    With 20 years of service under his belt, Rodger retired from the Air Force and poured himself into his civilian job and the family he made with his second wife Cathy. Although the days were bright, the night would frequently resurrect the horrors of the past. As with many warfighters, anniversaries of personal tragedies affected Rodger the most.

    “The nightmares were getting worse,” said Cathy. “They happened every night between (midnight) and 3 (a.m.) that week. I knew it was coming.”

    Rodger’s anxiety and Post Traumatic Stress were triggered by the anniversary of his son’s death, as well as the stress of his daughter needing a hysterectomy.

    “I tried calming him down,” Cathy explained. “He was very anxious and he kept telling me he had to do what he had to do.”

    In an attempt to relax, Cathy took a shower, but when she emerged from the bathroom she discovered Rodger was no longer at home. That’s when the phone calls began.

    “People were calling me and said he was at city hall, which is about a mile and a half from our house,” she said. “I went and got him and he was calm, but a man with him said he needed to get to the nearest air base.”

    Cathy said she took Rodger home and put him to bed for the night, knowing that the following day, March 24, 2014, would revolve around the Veteran’s Administration Mental Health Unit, where Rodger had been getting treatment for nearly 10 years.

    “When I woke up he had written “VC” on the bathroom mirror … in his feces,” said Cathy. “That is when I called the VA.”

    With much dismay Cathy was told by a nurse on duty named Joanna at the Tuscaloosa VA Medical Center the doctor on duty in the MHU was one who had seen Rodger one month earlier, and according to Cathy, had simply refilled Rodger’s prescription for Xanax while dismissing Rodger’s report that his nightmares and PTSD were worsening. Reluctantly, Cathy told the nurse she was bringing Rodger in to be seen. Shortly after hanging up, the phone rang and Cathy was surprised to hear the same nurse on the other end of the line.

    “Joanna called back and instructed me that the Director of the Tuscaloosa VA wanted me to take Rodger to the Northport Emergency Room and to check in for the Civilian Mental Facility at North Harbor,” Cathy said. “I believe with everything I have that the Tuscaloosa VA didn’t want to deal with Rodger. They didn’t want to deal with the old man in the wheel chair cussing them out for help.”

    Cathy said she did as she was told and took Rodger to North Harbor, where he was admitted for treatment for his PTSD. She stated she was not allowed to see him again until 12 days later. When she was finally able to see her husband, Cathy found Rodger highly sedated, hungry and thirsty.

    “I was highly upset and stayed until Rodger was sleeping for the night,” Cathy said. “I informed the nurse on duty that night that I would be back in the morning to feed him, and that I wanted him off all sedation medicines. On April 6, Bertha, the nurse on duty, called and informed me that Rodger was being admitted into the Northport Medical Unit with a high heart rate.”

    Cathy said she rushed to the hospital, only to discover Rodger had been transferred to the Intensive Care Unit. The following day Cathy was told Rodger was not reacting well to the medicine and the prognosis did not look good.

    “In other words, Rodger was dying,” said Cathy. “I made the decision for my husband to come home on hospice and to die at his home.”

    Rodger passed away April 9, 2014 at 10:34 p.m.

    Cathy began to investigate what happened to Rodger, and learned while he was a patient at North Harbor, Rodger was restrained in a chair and given five mood stabilizers “for cussing.” She said Rodger was then placed in a small glass room.

    “When I learned of this treatment I asked the nurse why (they had restrained Rodger and put him in the glass room) she said ‘because he was a soldier with PTSD,’” Cathy recalled. “All I wanted that day I called was to get some meds that would give my husband some peace. They gave him peace all right – the ultimate peace.”

    The Tuscaloosa VA Medical Center did not respond to requests for a comment on this story.

    Retired Air Force Staff Sgt. Rodger O. Kelley, poses with his son Christopher, at Christopher's retirement ceremony, September 2013
    Retired Air Force Staff Sgt. Rodger O. Kelley, poses with his son Christopher, at Christopher’s retirement ceremony, September 2013


  • Soldier Hard releases new album to uplift, inspire Warfighters

    July 17, 2014

    By: W.A. Napper Jr.

    Vallejo, Calif. – For 10 years Jeff Barillaro watched out for his fellow soldiers at home and abroad.

    Serving as an Active Duty M-1 Abrams tank crewman in the U.S Army, Barillaro was sent on multiple deployments, including operations at Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

    Although he was proud of his service to his country, he knew he wanted to reach out and help his fellow warfighters on a massive scale. Now using the moniker Soldier Hard, Barillaro writes, records and produces hip-hop music for his brothers and sisters-in-arms.

    “I felt all the time that no one was really telling our story,” said Soldier Hard. “I thought to myself, why can’t I tell our story through music?”

    Telling the warfighter story through music is exactly what Soldier Hard has done.

    He started rapping at the age of 14 and continued to rap and produce throughout his Army career. In fact, Soldier Hard created 17 albums while on active duty – one while on a deployment to Iraq.

    “It was then I decided to dedicate myself to military topics,” Soldier Hard recalled.

    Soldier Hard pressed on, even after transitioning back to the civilian community in 2010. However, he quickly saw first-hand the struggle his fellow warfighters were going through, as he personally experienced the effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. As a result, his music has placed a focus on combating PTSD and reaching out whenever a “battle buddy” is in need. His new album, Final Session, due out Friday, July 18, focuses not only on battle buddies looking out for each other, but also on not giving up in the face of despair.

    “I wanted to create an album to uplift the warfighter community,” explained Soldier Hard. “A lot of people tell me, ‘your music is doing more for me than the VA.’ I wanted to do my part to continue to lift them up and let them know we can do it! That’s exactly the message – Charlie Mike – we continue the mission. This war is going to be won.”

    Soldier Hard said he is so enthusiastically passionate about this message he’s gotten his fellow music artists with REDCON-1 Music Group to follow suit – making music for the warfighter community. Most of the artists are either veterans or active duty warfighters themselves, and Soldier Hard included them on his Final Session album.

    “I got them all on the same page on this album,” Soldier Hard said. “And now that I got them involved, they all want to do it now – their next album is going to be about the warfighter community.”

    Included on the new album are J-Deuce, an Active Duty Marine Corps Staff Sgt.; Panda, a former Army Staff Sgt.; Stephen Hobbs, an Active Duty Army Sgt.; Shannon Book, a Navy corpsman; and Jack Nasty, a military supporter. With the entire team on the same sheet of music, Soldier Hard said the focus, now more than ever, is to get the word out to as many warfighters as possible and let them know they are not alone; that help is as easy as a phone call away.

    “I want people to go to iTunes and get inspired,” said Soldier Hard. “I can make more money if they buy CDs, but this isn’t about that. I want to get the word out.”

    Soldier Hard stated his last album, Group Therapy, skyrocketed up iTunes’ top 100 chart to 20, holding court with hip-hop “royalty” like Eminem. Soldier Hard said he is very optimistic about this new album, and wants to break that record.

    Featuring songs like “Battle in Distress” and “Warfighter’s Plea,” Final Session is sure to inspire, uplift and shatter records.

     

    -END-