October29,2014

Surpassing Your Plateau – Asking Yourself “What’s Next?”

A photograph of Adam Anicich, a national expert in the fields of PolyTrauma and traumatic brain injury.

By Guest Blogger Adam Anicich, Deputy Director for Legislative Affairs at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and PolyTrauma/Blast-Related Injury Executive Committee Member for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

What do you plan to do with your life? Now ask yourself, what do you plan to do with your life after a traumatic injury?

The invisible wounds of Iraq and Afghanistan afflict hundreds of thousands of Service Members. Our veterans are returning home with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and various other injuries. Many times, their lives take a dramatic turn after they are injured in service.

When speaking to Congress, I regularly use this anecdote to describe the lifelong commitment the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has with America’s veterans: When a 20-year-old Service Member is injured in Iraq, he or she may receive acute treatment and rehab at Walter Reed for a year – maybe 18 months – and then, they are transferred into VA’s system of care – for the next 70 years! As VA’s PolyTrauma or counseling teams begin working with the Veteran, there is almost always a noticeable and measurable improvement in patient outcome. This improvement is a combination of patient engagement, the excellent providers at VAs across the country and the vast array of effective tools and research VA has at its disposal.

As the majority of combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan draw to a close, fewer and fewer Service Members are newly entering treatment for traumatic injuries. Many veterans have been involved in their own care and recovery for months or years by now and have made substantial progress; but they may no longer see the noticeable improvement in cognitive function, memory or other outcomes as they once did in the beginning of their treatment. I call this “TBI Plateauing.”

Read More about Surpassing Your Plateau – Asking Yourself “What’s Next?”

July02,2014

Why Did I Become an Amputee Coalition-Certified Peer Visitor?

A photo of Kim Doolan, the clinical coordinator for Allen Orthotics & Prosthetics, Inc.

By Kim Doolan, Clinical Coordinator, Allen Orthotics & Prosthetics, Inc.

The honest answer is because the Amputee Coalition told me I needed to. I was a board member, frequent lecturer and lifelong amputee who had spoken to countless people who had recently undergone amputation surgery. I thought spending a day in an out of town training course was going to be a nuisance.

I was wrong.

The training was excellent. The course helped me better organize my conversations with new amputees and their families, how to recognize elements of recovery and the different phases of emotional adjustment and then, how to respond with helpful suggestions. The course also stressed the power of listening. Often, someone who has had an amputation has also had weeks or months of well-intentioned caregivers telling him or her what to do – he or she has been talked to a lot. I find that during a peer visit, the best thing I can do is hold my words back and let the person I’m visiting have plenty of room for his or her words.

Read More about Why Did I Become an Amputee Coalition-Certified Peer Visitor?

March24,2014

Supporting Family Caregivers of Wounded, Injured and Ill Veterans

A photo of Garry J. Augustine, the executive director of DAV.

By Guest Blogger Garry J. Augustine, Executive Director, DAV

Last month’s special report in the Washington Post highlighted the challenges and opportunities family caregivers face in caring for their loved ones. It included a short but compelling look at the experiences of two parents caring for a veteran severely injured during combat operations in Afghanistan.

The devastating types of injuries that thousands of veterans endure are, in many cases, so severe that family members put their lives on hold and face financial and emotional hardships in order to help their wounded sons, daughters, husbands and wives. Family caregivers provide crucial support to help veterans achieve meaningful and active lives, often at the expense of their own education, job and health.

Five years ago, DAV played an instrumental role in developing the legislation requiring the Department of Veterans Affairs to establish a comprehensive caregiver support program for family caregivers of severely injured veterans. Unfortunately, when lawmakers finally passed the legislation, it limited these benefits only to caregivers of veterans injured during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars; caregivers of veterans from Vietnam, Korea, World War II and other eras were not eligible. DAV believes that family caregivers of all severely ill and injured veterans — regardless of when they served —should be eligible for comprehensive caregiver support.

Read More about Supporting Family Caregivers of Wounded, Injured and Ill Veterans

July02,2013

Celebrating the Bravery of Heroes with Invisible Disabilities

Picture of the American flag and fireworks

By Guest Blogger Wayne Connell, Founder and President, Invisible Disabilities Association

In a few days, our nation will celebrate Independence Day. What an amazing time to honor those who have given so much to ensure our freedom.

To these individuals, I want to say thank you! It always amazes me when men and women believe so strongly in freedom and the American way of life that they are willing to fight for these causes. I am even more astounded when these heroes fight for freedom in areas far from home.

Because of their incredible sacrifices, it is especially sad when the cost of freedom is paid for in lives and injuries. It is also very disheartening when those who return home are abandoned, marginalized or shunned, despite their courage and ability to perform seemingly impossible feats in theaters around the globe. This poor treatment can be exceptionally painful for those who return with mental health conditions and other injuries that are not visible to the naked eye, those whose wounds are hidden. Examples of heroes who have experienced these types of injuries include former Captain Luis Carlos Montalván, former Army Medical Specialist Juliet Madsen and Bob Woodruff, co-anchor of ABC’s World News Tonight.

In The New York Times bestselling book, Until Tuesday, Luis shares his amazing story of the “war after the war” – his battle with invisible disabilities such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) – and how his service dog, Tuesday, has given him hope and healing. Before Tuesday came into Luis’ life, he was overwhelmed by his debilitating injuries and memories of war, and could barely leave the house due to Agoraphobia. Today, Tuesday assists Luis with his balance, retrieves things off of the floor, reminds him to take his medications, wakes him up when he is having flashbacks, gets Luis out of the house, provides him with the unconditional love we all need to give us strength and much more. In 2011, Luis was the first recipient of the Invisible Disabilities Association’s (IDA) Invisible Hero Award.

Read More about Celebrating the Bravery of Heroes with Invisible Disabilities

June21,2013

The Happiest Companies for Veterans

Photograph of a flag and a medal with the words "Career Bliss" on it

By Guest Blogger Reyna Ramli, Writer for CareerBliss.com, an online community dedicated to helping people find happiness in the workplace.

Good news for veterans – the unemployment rate for veterans, ages 18 and older, dropped to 7.3 percent in May (down significantly from 12.7 percent a year before) and is now on par with the overall unemployment rate, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

While there is still much work to do to get the rate even lower, it’s great to see that employers are recognizing the unique skills and qualities that veterans bring to the civilian workforce. In fact, many companies have programs specifically for recruiting former members of the military. BAE Systems is one of them.

“Veterans possess the unmatched skills, expertise, character and determination to get the job done,” said Chris Davison, manager of Military Recruiting and Veterans Programs at BAE Systems, Inc. “It’s our goal to provide an environment where veterans and reservists alike can identify with, contribute to and become passionate about the mission-centered work they do every day.”

Read More about The Happiest Companies for Veterans