Veterans Roundup: Brain Injuries, Masculinity Effects PTSD, Suicide Fight, and More

Posted by Fred Wellman

Advocates demand apology from Trump for troop concussion comments
Military Times, Leo Shane III (@LeoShane)

Last Friday, the Pentagon reported that 50 service members had been diagnosed with traumatic brain injury (TBI) following the missile strikes by Iran on a military base in Iraq. This number could continue to rise as TBI can manifest over time. On Wednesday, President Trump made remarks that hit a nerve with advocates in the veteran community by stating that he “heard that they had headaches and a couple of other things.” Upon hearing this comment, I definitely furrowed my eyebrows as it is a well-known fact that TBI has been classified as a “signature injury” of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with about 408,000 service members having been diagnosed with it since 2000, according to Pentagon data. Significant investment, more of which is needed, has been allocated to VA poly-trauma medical treatment facilities and rehabilitation programs, research, advocacy and transition assistance programs to help service members and their families living with the realities of TBI. Important to note is that TBI can be a lifelong chronic condition that people have to figure out how to manage, not just in the interim, but long term. TBI is extremely complex and even mild cases can wreak havoc on our delicate brains, causing both short- and long-term quality of life issues like memory loss, confusion, ongoing headaches, vision challenges and even co-occurring conditions like anxiety, depression, issues with sleep and seizures, among other prolonged symptoms and conditions. Regardless of where you might fall on the political spectrum, many people are tired of Trump’s loose lips. Whatever the reason for his off the cuff comment, one would hope he is at least being coached by knowledgeable staff on how to frame responses to questions because, simply put, words matter. – Kiersten Downs, PhD, Research Director at ScoutComms

Strict Adherence to Traditional Masculinity Associated With More Severe PTSD in Vets
American Psychological Association (@APA)

The APA published a fascinating study this week on how the military’s culture of focusing on hyper-masculine traits undermines the ability to diagnose and treat Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in veterans unable to turn off those personal traits. The co-authors analyzed data from 17 studies, comprising more than 3,500 military veterans, conducted in the last 25 years that included research mostly from the U.S., but also from Canada, the UK, Israel and Vietnam.  The studies examined primarily focused on men, but one included both male and female participants. What they found in these by measuring the relationship between adherence to traditional masculine ideals and trauma-related symptoms is that those traits which make you successful in service can undermine your ability to seek, succeed and recover in treatment for PTSD. The need to avoid displaying emotions and especially vulnerability, in both men and women veterans, often kept them from engaging successfully in the traditional forms of therapy used for PTSD. In addition, at least one study identified hyper sexuality as a trait associated with some PTSD sufferers, and especially those who suffered sexual assault. I am not a scientist or a mental health professional, but I am afflicted with PTSD – which I was positive I couldn’t possibly have for two decades. I personally sought therapy for my symptoms several times over those years and never unpacked the central issues of loss and survivors guilt like many cited in these studies. Only after working as a veterans advocate for almost a decade did I accept I might be one of those carrying hidden mental health issues that were actually very serious. My narrative of overcoming devastating deaths and loss through stoic resolve suddenly looked like a person hiding deep trauma by compensating with hyper over achievement and hidden suffering. From there I lowered the barriers to effective treatment and found recovery to be possible. This study hit very close to home and I have heard several veterans express similar feelings when reading its highlights. We have much to learn about PTSD and its sister afflictions like moral injury and survivor’s guilt, but it’s encouraging that there are a host of treatment options coming forward and studies like this to show us the barriers to recovery. I hope we continue to unpack these issues, not just for our fellow veterans, but for anyone who suffers trauma-related mental health obstacles. – Fred Wellman, CEO and Founder of ScoutComms

Plenty of plans on preventing veterans suicide, but no agreement on what comes first
Military Times, Leo Shane III (@LeoShane)

The efforts to address the number of veteran suicides occurring daily have been prolific and varied by lawmakers working to introduce legislation to combat this. Proposals include the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Mark Takano’s, D-Calif, Veterans ACCESS act, requiring the Department of Veterans Affairs to pay for any veterans’ emergency mental health care treatments, regardless of discharge status or location of the visits. Proposals also include Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan, and his measures under the Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans’ Mental Health Care Improvement act, namely allowing for a more efficient hiring of mental health professionals by VA, and Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La, who provided additional measures mandating new research by the VA and the other mandating new clinical guidelines on mental health conditions. The varied legislation faces uncertainty in Congress due to both the limited Senate votes during the ongoing impeachment trial of the President and likely fewer voting days this year because of the primary and general elections.

Pentagon says 34 U.S. troops were diagnosed with brain injuries after Iranian missile attack
The Washington Post, Dan Lamothe (@DanLamothe)

Following the ballistic missile attacks Iran launched in retaliation for the U.S. killing of Iranian Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani in a drone strike in Baghdad, the Pentagon’s chief spokesman, Jonathan Hoffman, said 34 U.S. service members were diagnosed with varying degrees of brain injuries, including concussions and traumatic brain injury (TBI). Eight service members have returned to the U.S. for additional medical care, nine others are at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany and 17 others were diagnosed with concussions and have returned to duty. Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper is leading a review of the processes for tracking those wounded or injured in action, with a goal of being more accurate and transparent with Americans.

Veteran Pathways to Employment: Hurdles and Opportunities
Center for a New American Security, Dr. Jason Dempsey and Amy Schafer (@AESchafer)

A new report from the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) highlights “areas where coordinated efforts from the private sector could create stronger pathways to meaningful employment for veterans.” Researchers traced veteran employment challenges after 9/11, and emphasized high veteran unemployment rates in the aftermath of the Great Recession. However, “underemployment,” or “challenges in finding meaningful post-service employment,” continues to be an issue for the veteran community that the civilian labor market is equipped to address. To read CNAS’s analysis of existing veteran employment efforts, as well as suggestions for future programs, the full working paper can be accessed here.

Two Rangers up for valor awards after using new life-saving battlefield blood donor technique
Army Times, Kyle Rempfer (@Kyle_Rempfer)

The 75th Ranger Regiment has started to use an innovative program called ROLO, or Ranger O-Low Titre protocol, to administer life-saving fresh blood to wounded troops in dire circumstances. The regiment thinks that this program could be implemented in other units as well, as the medics were able to call on a large number of volunteers and succeeded in collecting large quantities of blood for the wounded troops. During a helicopter-borne night raid last summer in Afghanistan, two Ranger medics, Staff Sgt. Charles Bowen and Sgt. Ty Able, were able to save multiple lives due to the technique. Having warm, fresh blood on the battlefield with them, and not having to rely on other IV fluids, has allowed for the medics to lessen the number of possible casualties for the regiment. Due to their heroic efforts and success in saving lives on the battlefield, Bowen and Able are up for valor awards. The Ranger Regiment is hopeful that this technique will be shared and practiced throughout other units with the U.S. military.

How veterans may be overwhelmed by too many programs to help them find jobs
MilitaryTimes, Leo Shane III (@LeoShane)

To help veterans with the transition from the military to civilian life, many programs have launched with the initiative of assisting them on their search for civilian jobs. Though the programs have helped many with the transition, some service members are becoming overwhelmed by the sheer number of programs there are. Surveys have shown that even with all of the help being offered and provided, they are typically being led towards jobs that they are not necessarily interested in. Veterans are having a hard time landing the leadership positions that many of them are striving for. Shockingly, even with the increased number of organizations and programs offered for this transition period, unemployment levels for veterans are still at a historical low. Authors are proposing that community leaders should focus less on employment programs for veterans, and more on tightening the networking for transitioning service members.

Fred Wellman

Fred Wellman, CEO and Founder of ScoutComms, brings us his weekly review of veteran news via The Scout Report. Fred served over twenty years as an Army officer in both aviation and public affairs. Follow Fred on Twitter @ScoutComms

This entry was posted on Monday, February 03, 2020 11:56 am

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