It’s tough being a veteran. You sacrifice everything you have for the greater good. However, the degree to which soldiers suffer is a consistent taboo. Many return to civilian life with a pile of hospital bills, crippling PTSD, a biased family court system, and a world that would rather sweep them under the rug than deal with their problems. Sadly, many servicemen lack the support systems needed to help them through these rough patches, and often with tragic results.
Veteran suicide prevention bill introduced to the House
Last week a bill was proposed to the U.S. House of Representatives that might aid in veteran suicide prevention. The Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act, so named for a soldier who took his own life, would call for major reforms in the way the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) handles veteran mental health.
Of these many reforms, it would expand the kinds of medications that the VA can cover and would place a higher priority on the treatment of soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and head injuries. It would increase the number of VA facilities and make mental health care more readily accessible.
This bill seems to be the answer to the recent VA hospital scandals documenting secret waiting lists, and the men and women who died waiting for care. It’s not the first bill of its kind and it likely will not be the last. One can only hope that the passing of these reforms will bring some peace to the men and women who need this assistance the most.
Michigan legislation could protect military members in custody cases
U.S. Navy Sailor Matthew Hindes was in a heated custody battle with his ex-wife when he was serving overseas. His ex-wife lost custody after she was charged with child abuse and neglect of their six-year-old daughter. Hindes was forced to miss a custody hearing due to his deployment on a nuclear submarine and then faced the loss of his parental rights.
The judge who heard the case had not been informed of Hindes’s deployment status and has since delayed most of these matters until October 22.
A new bill proposed in Michigan promises to protect the rights of parents like Matthew Hindes. The proposed bill would protect the parental rights of active service members. The legislation would prohibit judges from modifying parenting time if a motion is filed to suspend the case while they are away.
As Republican Senator Rick Jones mentioned, this bill shouldn’t “even be necessary.” Matthew Hindes filed all the correct paperwork, and sent in a formal letter explaining his situation. It’s a misstep of the court that should never have happened, and the fact that it did only serves to show the broken nature of the family court system.
Lowe’s employees fix vet’s wheelchair after it breaks in store
Last week at a Lowes in Staten Island, New York, three employees stepped up to assist a disabled Vietnam veteran whose wheelchair broke as he and his wife were shopping. Michael Sulsona lost his legs to a landmine in 1971, and is dependent on the chair for mobility, but wear and tear had made the one he had unreliable. His requests to the Department of Veterans Affairs for a new wheelchair have been denied for the last two years. Told he was ineligible for a “spare,” he was planning to make repairs, but when the chair broke in the store three employees rushed over to help.
He later wrote about the experience in a letter to his local newspaper.
“Three employees, David, Marcus and Souleyman, jumped to my assistance immediately. They placed me in another chair while they went to work.
“They took the wheelchair apart and replaced the broken parts and told me, ‘We’re going to make this chair like new.’
“I left 45 minutes after closing hours in my wheelchair that was like new.
“I kept thanking them and all they could say was, ‘It was our honor.’
“The actions of these three employees at Lowe’s showed me there are some who still believe in stepping up to the plate.”
The letter is accompanied by a photo of Mr. Sulsona holding a sign with the word “Thanks.”
The story was picked up by national news, and Buzzfeed contacted the VA for a comment. Under that spotlight, the department finally got on the case, and Mr. Sulsona now has a new wheelchair. A spokesperson responded to the comment request with the following statement:
“We were very sorry to hear about the reported circumstances surrounding Mr. Sulsona’s request for a new wheelchair. We quickly investigated and can report the Veteran’s new custom wheelchair was delivered to him today and it along with his backup will be serviced by the VA as needed.
“Too many Veterans wait too long to receive their care and benefits, and this has never been acceptable. Providing Veterans like Mr. Sulsona the quality care and benefits they have earned through their service is our most important mission at the Department of Veterans Affairs.”
The spokesperson is absolutely right. This kind of neglect for the welfare of our nation’s veterans is unacceptable. It’s a terrible outrage that this is happening, not as the exception, but often as the rule faced by veterans across the country. It’s heartwarming to hear stories of people like the three Lowes employees who stepped forward to fill in where the government let Mr. Sulsona down. It’s an example other folks can and should follow. We may not all be in a position to directly mitigate the adversity faced by veterans denied care by neglectful VA administrators, but we can and should keep the pressure on our civil servants in Washington for effective, meaningful reform.
Detroit water crisis
Water is undoubtedly essential for all known forms of life. A beautifully simple compound consisting of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom, the importance of water isn’t nearly as clear as its appearance.
Water comprises about 66% of the human body, covers about 70% of the earth’s surface, and less than 1% of that is safe for consumption. Every system in your body requires water to function properly. It removes harmful toxins and carries vital nutrients to every cell within. According to the Mayo Clinic, men should have an average intake of around 3 liters, and women should have an average of 2.2 liters per day.
Access to clean water has been deemed a basic human right by the United Nations in 2010. It is unconscionable to think that in 2014 citizens in the U.S. (or anywhere, for that matter) are being denied this right due to an inability to pay for such access. Recently, the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department shut off water to tens of thousands of residents who are delinquent on their water bills. The People’s Water Board is attempting to prove to the U.S. government that this basic human right has been violated. Currently, protesters are submitting petitions claiming a public health state of emergency. And really, who could blame them? How many more lives do we have to risk before politicians will agree that being poor doesn’t make you any less human?
Mother of 13 attempts to hire a hitman to kill her husband
Wendy Farley of Brownville, Maine, is getting a slap on the wrist after attempting to hire a hitman to kill her husband in 2012. The 48-year-old mother of 13 was arrested after approaching an acquaintance and offering him $3,000 to kill her husband and make it look like a hunting accident. The man she approached worked with law enforcement to obtain a recording of the transaction.
The recording resulted in a mistrial earlier this, leaving the jury unable to decide her fate. But this week she returned to court and submitted a guilty plea. However she will only serve four months in jail for a crime that normally carries a ten-year sentence.
Her husband has supported her throughout the case and did not wish to press charges. He also testified on her behalf, stating that he still loves her. It’s hard to know which of them is crazier. The woman who tries to kill her husband, or the man who’s crazy enough to take her back.
Veteran mental health research links
Suicide is four times more likely among males than females and represents 79% of all suicides.
According to an article in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, divorced men were nearly 9.7 times more likely to kill themselves than comparable divorced women.
The Army’s Medical Health Advisory Team surveyed married junior enlisted officers in 2008 and found that after 15 months of deployment, almost 30 percent were planning divorce or separation.
National alliance on mental health
Nearly 20 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans report symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder or major depression.
Iraq and Afghanistan veterans of America
Rates of divorce for veterans with PTSD are two times greater than for Veterans without PTSD.
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
Male veterans with PTSD are more likely to report marital or relationship problems.
12% of the homeless adult population are veterans.
20% of male homeless population are veterans.
50% of which have serious mental health problems.