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Ask a Vet
Author: TriSec    Date: 02/05/2019 10:54:32

Good Morning.

It appears to be a remarkably quiet day on the veteran's front. Skimming my sites, not much is catching my eye today....except for one curious headline from the New York Times. It is an Op-Ed piece, so it's opinion instead of news, but nevertheless...

"Donald Trump is getting it right on veteran's care"

I don't know that I agree with a single word of this...but as you are famously aware, I'm not a veteran. So the author does know of what she speaks.

Since President Trump took office, speculation has raged that he intends to privatize major portions of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ sprawling health care system. Last week, the administration took its most definitive step in that direction by releasing rules allowing veterans who live more than a 30-minute drive from a V.A. health care facility to choose to receive private care instead.

Many Democrats and most veterans organizations have opposed such policies, arguing that diverting funds from V.A. hospitals and clinics will damage care for needy veterans. I am anything but a supporter of Mr. Trump, his horrendous treatment of women and his anti-government agenda. But as a former Marine Corps officer who has needed quality health care, I am thrilled by this move.

I’m a survivor of a sexual assault that happened years before I joined the military. But that experience left less of a mark on me than the years of fierce misogyny and sexual harassment I experienced in the Marines. This has shaped much of my perspective as a V.A. patient, and unfortunately I am not alone.

In the last 15 years, I’ve received care from at least seven V.A. medical centers in the Northeast. I also spent several years as a national advocate for women veterans, and for women and men who experienced sexual assault or harassment in uniform. I’ve learned that far too many veterans who have experienced gender-based discrimination or sexual violence in the military also suffer immeasurably by being forced to use V.A. facilities.

On many occasions I have experienced inappropriate behavior by V.A. personnel because I am a woman. I still get mistaken for a wife or caretaker of a male veteran. I still have to remind medical staff to close curtains so I do not have to be subjected to the gaze of male patients — and so they don’t have to be subjected to mine. And just a few months ago, I reported sexual harassment by a male doctor who I felt was inappropriately personal with me in an initial clinical assessment. He then not only walked in on an acupuncture appointment while I was in my underwear but stayed and stared awhile until, aghast, I told him that he needed to leave.

For many veterans who have experienced sexual or gender-based trauma, a simple appointment at a V.A. hospital leads to intensive re-traumatization — for me, hypervigilance, panic attacks and emotional meltdowns are normal. Many of us bring “battle buddies” to our hospital visits so these symptoms won’t crush us. I now bring my certified service dog.

It is an interesting point-of-view.

But no matter what your opinion of military health care is....the fact remains is that there is never enough of it, especially in the mental health areas. Our friends at IAVA have made their name advocating for veterans in need of mental services, but despite decades of effort, the suicide rate remains flat among veterans, and even now the rate among active-duty personnel is on the rise once again.

The Army reported an uptick in active-duty suicides in 2018, according to service statistics, though deaths by suicide were slightly down in the total force.

Out of 303 total reports, 138 came from the active-duty side ― 22 more than in 2017, Defense Department statistics show.

“Like the rest of America, the Army continues to grapple with the loss of too many of our people to suicide," Army spokeswoman Col. Kathleen Turner told Army Times in a statement Friday. “The loss of any soldier or Army family member to suicide is a tragedy.”

The most recent DoD quarterly suicide report goes back to 2012, showing a six-year high of 325 total suicides in the Army. That number dropped to 300 in 2013 and then to a low of 245 in 2014, before ramping back up to 279 in both 2015 and 2016, then jumping again to 303 in 2017.

During that time, active-duty numbers also fluctuated. The Army reported 165 active-duty suicides in 2012, which dropped to 121 in 2013, then 126 in 2014 and 120 in 2015. The past three years, the numbers have swelled and dipped from 120 in 2016 to 116 in 2017, then back up to 138.

“While the Army has made progress, more work needs to be done,” Turner said.

Meanwhile, the Marine Corps reported its highest suicide numbers in a decade, at 75. According to Military.com, total active-duty reports across the four DoD services are the highest they’ve been since 2012, which had been the DoD services' worst year since it began centrally tracking reports in 2001.

“We must continue to ensure commanders have the policies and resources they need to prevent suicides, that all leaders have the tools to identify soldiers who are suffering and to positively intervene, and that all soldiers view seeking mental health care as a sign of strength,” Turner said.

And apropos of nothing, we'll finish up today with an offbeat story from a WWII museum in Alaska. "Cool, an artillery shell from WWII?" Umm, oops.

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Military explosive specialists destroyed a World War II-era mortar round found at an Alaska museum after determining the munition was live.

The device was destroyed by detonating it at a safe place, said Capt. Brandon Browning of the 716th Explosive Ordnance Disposal.

A staff member found the Japanese mortar round last week while sorting through the collections vault at the Sheldon Museum and Cultural Center in Haines, the Anchorage Daily News reported Thursday.

When staff members could not confirm if the shell had been disarmed, the museum temporarily closed.

See you out and about Boston today - there's a parade of some sort that my company partners with, so I'll be at a prime viewing location aboard a trolley during the main event.


21 comments (Latest Comment: 02/06/2019 01:44:59 by livingonli)
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