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Aid for Older American Veterans with TBI

Studies on American veterans with TBI – traumatic brain injury – reveal that they may be at greater risk for developing dementia later in life. One such study published in July 2014 issue of Neurology, examined more than 188,000 American Veterans over the age of 55 for nine years. During that time, 16 percent of the vets with a past diagnosis of TBI developed dementia, compared with 10 percent among those with no history of TBI.

That’s a 60 percent increase in the risk of developing dementia for older Veterans with TBI.

Studies on Older American Veterans with TBI

A new study conducted in 2016 in two American veterans retirement homes looked at 75 vets with previous TBI and 71 without.  The veterans with TBI had greater functional impairment and had higher rates of prior depression and substance abuse.  Although composite memory and language scores did not differ between the two groups, participants with TBI performed worse on tests of executive functioning/processing speed.

This study suggests that TBI may have adverse long-term neuro-behavioral consequences. American Veterans with TBI may require careful screening and will probably need more aid as they grow older.

 

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American Veterans Benefits and Incarceration

Some 700 000 American Veterans are incarcerated in jails or prisons.  Many of them are there because of PTSD and substance abuse.  When a vet is found guilty of a crime and sentenced to a penal system, some of the benefits get adjusted.  However, according a Watchdog report found that more than $100 million has been overpaid by the VA since 2008,  because the agency failed to reduce American Veterans Benefits for incarcerated Vets.

VA Payments to Incarcerated American Veterans

Federal law states that The Department of Veterans Affairs is required to adjust payments to incarcerated veterans. But it turns out that in more than 50% of cases, the VA has neglected to properly reduce benefit payments to vets in federal penitentiaries, improperly paying millions in benefits, according to the department’s Office of Inspector General.

Nearly $60 million in over payments was made to federal inmates, and $44 million was made improperly to inmates of state and local penitentiaries. The department has been focused for years on certain types of benefits processing, according to a statement, including first-time claims for benefits that have long been scrutinized by lawmakers and the public because of lengthy backlogs and long wait times.

Inspectors said the VA didn’t prioritize processing what are referred to as “incarceration adjustments” because the department had focused the bulk of its efforts elsewhere.

American Veterans Benefits Adjustment Not a Priority

“In general, Veterans Benefits Administration did not place priority on processing incarceration adjustments because they did not consider these non-rating claims to be part of the disability claims backlog,” the inspector general said in the report, adding that there was a lapse of almost seven years during which the VA didn’t obtain incarceration data from the Bureau of Prisons.

American Veterans benefits is a sensitive topic.  Wasting money that could be spent on other veterans needs should be looked into.

In an official response, the VA said it would review data on federal incarcerations dating back to 2008 and try to recover improper payments and would focus more in the future on incarceration adjustments.  “The Veterans Benefits Administration agrees with findings and recommendations of the Office of Inspector General concerning the need to improve the current process for adjusting compensation and pension payments to Veterans incarcerated due to felony convictions,” said a VA statement.

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American Veterans Benefits Bill Preserves Housing Preference

 

A compromise version of an American Veterans Benefits Bill passed by both branches of the state Legislature recently, ensured that the boards of trustees for soldiers’ homes in Holyoke and Chelsea, Massachusetts, would remain outside the control of a new state office, as would the daily operations of those facilities.

The bill (H 4285) grants veterans protections against employment discrimination and expands access to public housing by giving eligible veterans a preference in elderly and disabled housing in all communities, regardless of residency.  It also requires housing authorities to exclude a disabled veteran’s federal disability compensation over $1,800 from their income level used to calculate eligibility for public housing.

Lawmakers Concern for American Veterans Aid

Rep. Jerald Parisella, who negotiated the bill with his Veterans and Federal Affairs Committee co-chair Sen. Michael Rush, stated that passing the bill would demonstrate lawmakers have taken the concerns of veterans seriously, and helped the state maintain its “number one” status in providing veterans services.

The bills passed by the House in May and Senate in June each created an Office of Veterans’ Homes and Housing within the Department of Veterans Services, but the Senate added in language specifying that both soldiers’ homes’ boards would remain independent and day-to-day operations would remain under control of the facilities’ superintendents instead of the new office.

The Soldiers Home Amendment

Sen. Donald Humason, a Westfield Republican who introduced the soldiers’ home amendment, said the soldiers’ home in Holyoke is a “special place” to people in western Massachusetts.

“We’ve always been worried about — being so far away from Boston — the State House and the government not knowing exactly how to deal with the soldiers’ home,” he said in a statement to Press. “Either they ignore it or they micromanage it, and the concern, at least from my perspective here, was we didn’t want to see a new position created that created another layer between the superintendent of the soldiers’ home and the board of trustees of the soldiers’ home and the governor.”

The new version of the bill requires the executive director of the veterans housing office to meet jointly with the board of trustees of the Soldiers’ Home in Massachusetts, which is located in Chelsea, and the Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke twice per year. The boards will “not be subject to the control of the executive director” and the director “will not have control over the day-to-day operations” of either home.

The bill preserves several measures added in by lawmakers in both branches, including an  amendment exempting active-duty military members serving outside Massachusetts from the excise tax on automobiles.  Also included was a Senate-backed measure expanding the eligibility for Gold Star Families license plates to any next of kin who has a Department of Defense-issued Gold Star lapel button and letter of approval.

Existing regulations allow the Registry of Motor Vehicles to issue Gold Star license plates to parents, children, siblings, grandparents, and grandchildren of soldiers who died while on active duty.

Under the bill, any next of kin who has both a letter of approval and Gold Star lapel button issued by the United States Department of Defense would be eligible for the special plates.

The bill also designates a monument in Fall River’s Bicentennial Park as the state’s official Gold Star Families Memorial Monument.

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American Veterans and Sleep

One of the complaints often heard from American Veterans is that they suffer from sleep disturbances. Hundreds of thousands of vets struggle regularly with insomnia, both falling and staying asleep, as well as nightmares. The high occurrence of depression in returning veterans has also been linked to the inability to get good sleep.

A variety of treatments are available to address these problems. Cognitive-behavioral therapy for insomnia is effective for those who have a difficult time falling asleep.  A high blood pressure medication has shown in numerous research studies that it can eliminate nightmares.  However, if you don’t suffer from high blood pressure this medication could cause other problems.

Unfortunately, the treatment of insomnia and nightmares has historically required multiple treatments, often from multiple providers, and sometimes using highly addictive drugs with serious side effects. The treatments effective for insomnia were not necessarily effective for nightmares. And the treatments effective for nightmares were not necessarily effective for insomnia.

The Natural Approach to Helping American Veterans

One of the safest ways to deal with this American Veterans complaint is to use a natural nutritional approach –  such as vitamin B1.  It’s been shown to be very effective with addressing nightmares. A Calcium and Magnesium combination intake has proved extremely effective in calming the nerves and muscle tension, and helping with a healthy sleep pattern.

A New Therapy

According to Military Times, a relatively new therapy called Exposure, Relaxation, and Rescription Therapy (ERRT) has now emerged. It is a mix of education about insomnia and nightmares, techniques for learning to sleep better, intentional exposure to content of nightmares, and ‘rewriting’ and rehearsing new dreams.

While this approach is still in research and testing phases, it shows a step in the direction of assisting vets with their specific issues that they face upon returning.

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American Veteran Suicides – the True Cost of War

 

According to new data released by the Department of Veterans Affairs the number of veteran suicides is 20 a day – not the much-quoted 22 a day. It is good to have correct data and the new study includes more than 50 million veterans’ records from 1979 to 2014, including every state.

According to the Watson Institute at Brown University, the number of American soldiers killed in the Iraq/Afghanistan wars is just over 6300

So in 15 years the number of soldiers killed in conflict is about not even 2 a day.  But when they come home they commit suicide at a rate of 20 a day.  That’s 109,500 deaths once they return home.

There is obviously something very wrong with American veterans aid.  We are not helping these young soldiers deal with what they experienced over there and how hard it is to reintegrate into society after coming back from the war.

The current treatments for depression and PTSD are not effective – that is obvious by the rate of veteran suicides.  We have to look for other answers to stem this tide of American Veterans taking their own lives.  When we lose 10x as many young soldiers once they come home as we do on the battlefield, something is terribly wrong.

 

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