THE LATEST GLITCH: VETERANS BEING FORCED TO REPAY SIGNING BONUSES

I read an article today that said that in 2006, when the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were going full swing, apparently the California National Guard came up with an idea to attract individuals to enlist.  They would offer a $20,000 bonus to get people to sign up.  It worked, of course.  Only now, some ten years later, it’s been decided this was illegal to begin with and the government wants its’ money back.  So, they are demanding veterans who received the bonus repay it.

Now those veterans who received the bonus are struggling to pay it back; in some cases the payments are hundreds of dollars per month.  In response to public outrage, the Pentagon has declared they are suspending the debt collection program.  The only problem is, no one seems to know what that means or if they will not look for other ways of reclaiming the funds.

At this point, anything being said by the government is vague at best.  While I understand that the government is caught between its’ obligations to veterans versus those of taxpayers, it is not the fault of the vets that this decision was made in the first place.

I am hoping that the government will come up with a solution that recognizes our veterans are not responsible for repayment of these funds.  I guess at this point, we all need to monitor the progress of the situation and watch to see that our veterans aren’t forced to repay the bonus at the expense of their current standard of living.

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MESOTHELIOMA IN THE VETERAN POPULATION

For years, asbestos was widely used for its’ heat and fire resistant properties.  Unfortunately, as time went on, we learned that asbestos exposure lead to Mesothelioma, an aggressive form of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos.

It has been estimated that veterans account for 30% of all mesothelioma cases.  Ten thousand veterans die annually from asbestos-related deaths.  The peak years of military use were 1935 through 1975 when it was commonly used to insulate pipes.  Engine and boiler rooms of ships were prime locations for asbestos use, but it was used in other areas too, including sleeping quarters and the mess hall.   About 3,000 new cases are diagnosed each year, with symptoms appearing 10 to 15 years after exposure.

Veterans who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma can request benefits from the Veterans Administration if they can prove their disease is asbestos-related and occurred during their military service.  They may qualify for special financial benefits from the VA including disability compensation, special monthly compensation and service-connected death benefits for surviving family members.   They may also be due compensation from asbestos manufacturers.  If you are a veteran who has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, contact your VA Medical Center to determine whether you qualify for benefits.  Also, contact the Mesothelioma Foundation to find out if you qualify for assistance.

PTSD and Nightmares

Nightmares are common when you have PTSD.  According to the Center for the Study of PTSD, 71% to 96% of those suffering with PTSD have nightmares as one of their symptoms.  You may even end up trying to avoid sleeping so you don’t experience the nightmares.  Unfortunately, nightmares are one of the ways we relive or re-experience the trauma, and it can go on for months or years.

The nightmares that PTSD sufferers have often involve are an instant replay of the original trauma.  These nightmares are different in some ways than nightmares people without PTSD experience.  They are more likely to occur earlier in the night and during different stages of sleep.  They are also more likely to involve body movement.

When you receive treatment for PTSD, it is likely your nightmares will begin to get better, or will, at least, occur less often.  One form of treatment involves Imagery Rehearsal Therapy (IRT) where you visualize a different ending for the situation so it is no longer upsetting.  Then you play this new version over and over while you are awake.  When you go to sleep, this type of treatment can reduce how often your nightmares occur.

If you have breathing problems while you sleep, getting treatment may improve your nightmares too.  At this time, more research needs to be done on the use of medications to treat nightmares from trauma, although there are some medications which are showing some promise.

 

REENGAGING

PTSD robs us of normal life experiences; it steals things life has in store for us.  It causes us to disengage and live within ourselves rather than seeking the company of others and enjoying the companionship of family and friends.  That’s sad because we allow it to steal the very best of what life has to offer.  We deserve better than that!

Reengaging is not an easy task to undertake.  It requires challenging our current belief system and stepping outside our comfort zone.  The problem is, if we don’t do just that, PTSD becomes the box we live in, and it’s not a very nice box at all.  We don’t enjoy friends, or getting out to see and experience new things.  We find ourselves estranged from our loved ones.  We don’t allow ourselves the luxury of relaxing and feeling peaceful.  PTSD takes a lot out of us!

So, how do we reengage?  Very slowly and very deliberately.  We have to go slow in order to be able to let go of our delusion of control.  I say delusion because none of us really ever has complete control of any situation.  Things go well in spite of us, most of the time.  If we remember that, then we can let life happen, slowly, trusting that in this moment, at this time, we will survive.  That trust is hard-earned.  We only get there by taking tiny steps at a time.  Slowly moving toward reclaiming our lives.

But when we do take those first steps, then joy begins to seep back in, and contentment begins to grow.  We may actually find a time when we know peace of spirit once again.

PTSD robs us of much of the goodness of life.  Don’t be afraid to take that first step to reclaiming your life.  Don’t let PTSD rule you forever.  It’s taken enough already.