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September/October Issue

red star bulletThe Veteran Departments : Featured Stories / Letters / President's Message / VVAF Report / Government Relations / Ask The Parliamentarian / Veterans Benefits Update / Membership Affairs Committee Report / Legislators View / ETABO Committee Report / PTSD Substance Abuse Comittee Report / TAPS / Region 7 Report / AVVA Report / SHAD/Project 112 Task Force Report / Veterans Against Drugs Task Force Report / VetsConnect Report / Homeless Veterans Task Force Report / Women Veterans Committee Report / Arts of War / Book Review / Membership Notes / Chapter of The Year / Locator / Reunions

PAST ISSues
2010: Jan/Feb
2009: Jan/Feb | mar/apr
| may/june | july/Aug | sept/oct | Nov/DeC
2008: Jan/Feb | mar/apr | may/june | july/Aug | sept/oct | Nov/DeC
2007: Jan/Feb | MAR/APR | MAY/JUNE | july/aug | SEPT/OCT | Nov/DeC
2006: July/Aug | SEPT/OCT | nov/dec

PTSD DISCREDITING

Please don’t frown on me because I’m in prison. I’m in here for an offense that revolves around my PTSD. I’ve recently become an associate member of VVA. We hold monthly meetings at this facility, the only prison in the state that has actually conducted meetings for incarcerated veterans. This facility has 1,200 inmates, 170-190 of whom are veterans.

I am writing in response to the in-depth article in the May/June issue about PTSD. I’m an Afghanistan veteran (U.S.M.C.), honorably discharged in February 2004. Within one year of my discharge I was diagnosed with having acquired PTSD from the traumatic events I endured in combat. My father, who served in Vietnam, also suffers from PTSD.

I wouldn’t expect anyone who hasn’t acquired PTSD to fully understand what it is like to have it. But what concerns me greatly is that there are some professionals out there in the mental health field such as Dr. Sally Satel who are waging a campaign to discredit the disorder. Why do they go to such great lengths to try and discredit what they know truly exists? It makes me wonder what the real reason is behind this outrageous skepticism.

When I signed up for the service, I knew that if anything was to happen to me mentally or physically in combat, the VA would take care of me. That’s what encouraged me to join. If, back then, I had caught wind of what people like Dr. Satel are saying and doing to discredit the illness, I would have been reluctant to join.

Wade Taylor
Taylorville, Illinois

WHAT THE VA THINKS

Regarding your article “PTSD Again in the Eye of the Storm” in the May/June issue, the truth is this is only the thin end of the wedge by the Department of Veterans Affairs in reducing and, if possible, eliminating disability compensation for a wide range of disabilities.

Does the VA think that I and others like me enjoy having trouble sleeping due to flashbacks, nightmares, etc., because of what we went through while serving our country? Do they think it’s funny when we “jump out of our skin” due to an unexpected noise? Do they wonder why a lot of us keep to ourselves most of the time and avoid social events? Do they wonder why so many veterans, suffering with PTSD, turn to drink and drugs?

The Department of Veterans Affairs is interested in cutting costs and saving money at the expense of the veteran.

W.G. Handlin
Woy Woy, New South Wales, Australia

ABANDONING A SEGMENT

As president of an incarcerated VVA chapter, and speaking on its behalf,
I take umbrage at the recently announced decision by the Associates of Vietnam Veterans of America to increase incarcerated veteran associate members’ yearly dues to twenty dollars.

The average inmate income for our chapter associates is eight dollars a month, which barely covers the essential personal hygiene products and stationery we need to stay in contact with our families. Add to that the cost of doing legal work, filing fees, copies, case cites, and the like, and most inmates can barely pay the previous one dollar a year dues.

It appears that while we won’t abandon a “generation,” it is acceptable to abandon a segment of it for the sake of increasing revenue to “work for improved benefits for veterans,” benefits that most incarcerated veterans will never be afforded.

Jimmy L. Williams
Cameron, Missouri

IT’S BROKEN: FIX IT

As a Life Member of VVA, I was proud to see that our organization strongly and unreservedly supports S-2694, the Veterans’ Choice of Representation and Benefits Enhancements Act of 2006, sponsored by Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho), the chair of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, and the companion bill sponsored by Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs and by Rep. Lane Evans (D-Ill.), the top Democrat on that committee. Passage of these bills would allow a veteran to hire an attorney at the beginning of the claims process before the VA and not after a claim has been denied.

With more legal options, veterans can make the best decisions. Better legal decisions in favor of the veteran will provide a framework for those seeking justice now and in the future. This is especially important for a country in perpetual war.
Because we are witnessing a system that, in my opinion, has become increasingly aloof to the needs of those who have donned our nation’s uniform, professional legal representation has become a necessity. The VA system is broken. Veterans hiring attorneys will force those responsible to fix it.

Matthew C. Ford, Jr.
Washington Township, New Jersey

DISTURBING

My husband and I were absolutely appalled at the cover for the May/June issue. It was an art piece called “Hands up” by Roland Wolff.

What on earth were you thinking? Do you have any idea how visually disturbing a piece like that is for our veterans who are still dealing with PTSD and other traumas from the horrors of the Vietnam War? I was shocked and could not look at it. We had a suicide in our family with the use of a firearm to the head, and even though it had been years, I became physically ill when I saw this cover.

I think you have been incredibly insensitive to display something so horribly graphic. What purpose is served? VVA needs to be there to support our veterans, and this piece was so spiritually and emotionally damaging.

Please, in the future, you need to ask yourself how veterans will be affected. Stop brutalizing our vets with these horrible images.

Andrea Lemke
Via e-mail

GROUNDBREAKING WORK

When I first saw the cover of the May/June issue, it sent a cold shiver through my spine. In simple terms, it reflects what those of us who endure the pain, suffering, and indignity of PTSD face every day of our lives. What it said to me was, “Put your hands up, shut your mouth, and listen!”

The general community is detached from the everyday horrors of war and the residual effects on those who served. People need to be reminded from time to time that if not for Vietnam veterans forcing the issue of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder nearly three decades ago, children who are the victims of physical and sexual abuse, rape victims, and other survivors of traumatic experiences never would receive care, treatment, or more importantly compassion from their communities, rather than rejection and being labeled “whiners.”

Congratulations to VVA for the courage to provide a visual image of what PTSD is about. Please continue the groundbreaking work that you do.

Jim Doyle
Fresno, California

WEIRD ART

I was not pleased with your cover in the May/June issue and failed to see the point you were trying to make by displaying something so poor. Maybe you were trying to show your lack of taste or some weird form of art.

We got the July/August issue and had more questions as to what you are trying to prove. I do not remember Garry Trudeau being in favor of the military or our government. Why would we, as veterans, want to give honor to anyone who is not funny and lacking in good sense and morals?

I am afraid you folk have forgotten what you are supposed to be about and have jumped into the politically correct arena. I am extremely unhappy about your choices and do not agree with the approach you are taking.

Lonny E. Smith
Via e-mail

DON’T JUMP

My thoughts on Thomas Konieczko’s letter in the May/June issue: He should be entitled to the Vietnam Service Medal as he was in direct support of the Southeast Asia mission. I also agree with him on the Vietnam veteran issue. Like he said, in previous wars, you were considered a veteran of that war whether or not you saw combat. The Vietnam War is an exception: You must be an “in-country vet” to be accepted and considered a Vietnam veteran.

I never left the United States. I served my time at Fort Polk. I helped train troops that were eventually deployed to Vietnam. I did receive the National Defense Ribbon.
I am a founding member of my chapter. I recruited six members for it. Once the chapter received its charter, I was no longer welcome, because I was not an “in-country” vet. So I stopped attending meetings and functions.

Am I still a VVA member? Yes. Will I remain one? Yes, until someone starts a Vietnam Era Veterans Association. Then I will jump ship.

John E. Fischer
Longs, South Carolina

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