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Burn Pits Legislation Gains Momentum on Capitol Hill

Posted by qmtroy on December 11, 2019 at 7:40 AM Comments comments (63)

ASHINGTON, DC — Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), America’s leading post-9/11 veterans empowerment organization, announced today significant, additional support for its Burn Pits Accountability Act (H.R. 5671/S. 3181) to improve the tracking and reporting of servicemembers’ exposure to burn pits and airborne toxins during their deployments, and the recent passage of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2018. Burn Pits are among IAVA’s 2018 Big 6 Priorities for post 9/11 veterans.


The House Burn Pits Accountability Act picked up an additional 41cosponsors just in July, for a total of 111 including its original sponsors, Reps. and post-9/11 veterans Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) and Brian Mast (R-FL). Further, Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) recently introduced the Senate companion bill and are building support. On top of that, the legislation is backed by 26 Veteran Service Organizations (VSOs).


IAVA stood today with VSO partners and IAVA members to recognize the momentum building behind this important priority. Chief Policy OfficerMelissa Bryant and Legislative Director Tom Porter delivered remarks along with Reserve Officers Association Executive Director Major General (Ret.) Jeffrey Phillips, Dr. Tom Berger from Vietnam Veterans of America, Kathy Moakler from Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, and Colonel (Ret.) Mike Barron from Military Officers Association of America.


“Per our most recent IAVA Member Survey, 80% of IAVA members report being exposed to burn pits and 63% of those exposed report symptoms. I count myself among the 63%,” said IAVA Chief Policy Officer, Melissa Bryant.“According to the VA, about 3.5 million servicemembers and veterans are eligible for enrollment in the VA’s Burn Pit and Toxic Exposures Registry yet only 151,000 are enrolled as of July 23, 2018. This coalition stands before you today to change this. We’ve collectively sounded the alarm, and Congress listened– and today, we can celebrate a quarter of the House who support the Burn Pits Accountability Act. We’re also celebrating the introduction of a Senate companion bill, plus Burn Pits evaluation language included in the NDAA, which will be signed into law by [the President] in the next couple of weeks. This is only the beginning and we’ve already come so far. We will NOT let burn pits and the toxic exposures suffered by the post-9/11 generation become our generation’s Agent Orange.”


“We need to start treating veterans now for their injuries,” said IAVA Legislative Director Tom Porter. “But [to better inform that treatment and related research] we can also do the easy thing like beefing up the data that goes into the VA’s Burn Pit Registry”…We don’t want to wait 40 years after we’ve all come home.”


Video of the full press conference can be viewed here. Photos can be found here.


Members of Congress and thousands of concerned citizens nationwide have now signed on to support this landmark bipartisan piece of legislation via IAVA’s Big 6 Priorities through our Take Action page.


Current Co-Sponsors of the Burn Pits Accountability Act (S. 3181/H.R. 5671) include: Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT).

Representatives Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), Brian Mast (R-FL), James Comer (R-KY), Peter Welch (D-VT), Walter Jones Jr. (R-NC), Madeleine Bordallo (D-GU), Betty McCollum (D-MN), Tom O’Halleran (R-AZ), Filemon Vela (D-TX), Chellie Pingree (D-ME), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Jamie Raskin (D-MD), Seth Moulton (D-MA), Aumua Amata Coleman Radewagen (R-AS), Rodney Davis (R-IL), Nydia M. Velazquez (D-NY), Joe Courtney (D-CT), Morgan Griffith (R-VA), Susan Davis (D-CA), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Jimmy Panetta (D-CA), Denny Heck (D-WA), Rohit Khanna (D-CA), Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM), Peter King (R-NY), Beto O’Rourke (D-TX), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Tim Ryan (D-OH), Jim Banks (R-IN), Darren Soto (D-FL), Ryan Costello (R-PA), Derek Kilmer (D-WA), Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Mark Meadows (R-NC), Jared Polis (D-CO), Don Bacon (R-NE), Ralph Norman (R-SC), Scott Tipton (R-CO), Stevan Pearce (R-NM), George Holding (R-NC), James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-WI), John Katko (R-NY), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Tony Cardenas (D-CA), Vicente Gonzalez (D-TX), Juan Vargas (D-CA), Steve King (R-IA), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Bobby Rush (D-IL), Mike Bishop (R-MI), Jack Bergman (R-MI), Thomas MacArthur (R-NJ), Vicky Hartzler (R-MO), Valdez Demings (D-FL), Keith Ellison (D-MN), Mark Pocan (D-WI), John Ratcliffe (R-TX), Tom Marino (R-PA), David Young (R-IA), John Rutherford (R-FL), Mike Quigley (D-IL), Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), Sean Maloney (D-NY), Frederica Wilson (D-FL), C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD), Mark Takano (D-CA), Gregorio Sablan (D-MP), Raul Ruiz (D-CA), Greg Walden (R-OR), Elise Stefanik (R-NY), Yvette Clarke (D-NY), Alcee Hastings (D-FL), John Yarmuth (D-KY), Bill Shuster (R-PA), Charles J. Fleischmann (R-TN), Jason Smith (R-MO), Keith Rothfus (R-PA), Sanford Bishop (D-GA), Richard Nolan (D-MN), Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), Judy Chu (D-CA), Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), Kurt Schrader (D-OR), James P McGovern (D-MA), Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH), Thomas A Garrett (R-VA), Doug LaMalfa (R-CA), Lee M. Zeldin (R-NY), Dennis A. Ross (R-FL), Brad Sherman (D-CA), Al Green (D-TX), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), Eliot Engel (D-NY), Donald Norcross (D-NJ), Norma Torres (D-CA), Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO), Donald M. Payne Jr. (D-NJ), Gwen Moore (D-WI), Maxine Waters (D-CA), Doris O. Matsui (R-CA), Ted Poe (R-TX), Jackie Walorski (R-IN), Eric A. Crawford (R-AR), Evan H. Jenkins (R-WV), Don Young (R-AK), Glenn Grothman (R-WI), Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ), James Himes (D-CT), Ron Kind (D-WI).


Supporting Organizations: Fleet Reserve Association, Military Officers Association of America, US Coast Guard Chief Petty Officers Association, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Non Commissioned Officers Association, Service Women’s Action Network, US Army Warrant Officer Association, Military Order of the Purple Heart, Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the US, The Retired Enlisted Association, Chief Warrant Officer Association- US Coast Guard, Air Force Sergeants Association, National Military Family Association, Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, Vietnam Veterans of America, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Wounded Warrior Project, Association of the United States Navy, Disabled American Veterans, Air Force Women Officers Associated, AMSUS the Society of Federal Health Professionals, Reserve Officers Association, AMVETS (American Veterans), Burn Pits 360, National Guard Association of the United States, and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.


Note to media: Email or call 212-982-9699 to speak with IAVA CEO and Founder Paul Rieckhoff or IAVA leadership.


Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America ( is the leading post-9/11 veteran empowerment organization (VEO) with the most diverse and rapidly growing membership in America. As a non-profit founded in 2004, IAVA’s mission is to connect, unite and empower post-9/11 veterans. Celebrating its 12th year anniversary, IAVA has connected more than 1.2 million veterans with resources and community, and provided more than 7,300 veterans with personalized support from IAVA’s Master’s level social workers.



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5 Ways Dogs Can Improve Lives

Posted by qmtroy on December 11, 2019 at 7:35 AM Comments comments (0)

MISSION, Kan., Aug. 2, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- (Family Features) Whether playmates or protectors, the human-animal bond is often a powerful connection that goes beyond pure companionship. Dogs typically have many talents and personas – they can be man's best friend, a canine companion during a difficult time or even a service dog helping veterans and others through daily routines. No matter the relationship between dog and human, these animals can improve lives in numerous ways.


Consider these five ways dogs can make a positive impact on your life and those around you, and find more information at


Pets make communities healthyIt's no surprise that dog owners are more likely to get out and take a walk around the neighborhood. In fact, taking a quick walk with your dog a few times each week can increase general health and may help reduce rates of obesity.

Dogs can be great icebreakersIf you're new in town or looking for new friends, use your walks as an opportunity to meet your neighbors and engage with other dogs. Dogs can help make easy introductions to other pet owners and non-pet owners alike, and even potentially help you find your next pet-sitter.

Animals can provide a sense of comfortSome animals are trained to provide therapeutic aid and wellbeing. Therapy and facility dogs help normalize environments, such as hospitals and universities, by alleviating fear and giving comfort during difficult experiences. For example, Mars Petcare's Better Cities For Pets initiative is working to bring the healing power of pets to more children and families nationwide, including a partnership with Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt to support a dedicated facility dog and staff position.

Many pets protect those who servedService dogs can help veterans and others who suffer from post-traumatic stress – yet people may be unprepared to accommodate the unique needs of service dogs. To help educate people on how to interact with an individual who has a service dog, American Humane, which has helped the U.S. military and military animals for 100 years, created a wealth of resources, including these informational videos.

Dogs can de-stress the officeMaking the office a pet-friendly zone has its perks. In fact, a Mars Petcare surveyshows that having furry friends around the office boosts morale and lessens anxiety, giving you even more of a reason to spend all day, every day, with your pet.

Michael French



About Family Features Editorial Syndicate


Established in 1974, Family Features is a leading provider of free food and lifestyle content for print and online publications. Our articles, photos, videos and web content solutions save you time, money and help create advertising opportunities. Registration is fast and free – with absolutely no obligation. Visit for more information.

Air Force veteran uses sports to adapt and overcome

Posted by qmtroy on February 14, 2015 at 5:55 AM Comments comments (2)

Senior Airman David Cooper


JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas - “I suffered a traumatic brain injury and shrapnel hit my ankle.”


Staff Sgt. Melissa Gonzalez, a medically retired veteran, was a member of the 60th Security Forces Squadron at Travis Air Force Base, Calif., and was thrown from her team’s Humvee when they struck an improvised explosive device while deployed to Bagram, Afghanistan, in 2009.


Gonzalez was one of many veterans and service members who had the opportunity to travel to JBSA-Randolph, Texas, for the Air Force Warrior and Survivor Care Division Adaptive Sports and Reconditioning Camp. Service members partook in different sporting events, such as track and field, wheel chair basketball, archery and swimming, to help them recover from injuries or illnesses sustained both on duty and off duty.


“I’m trying to find a new norm,” said Gonzalez. “I’ve never been to a camp like this where I can still participate in almost all of the events, while overcoming my physical disabilities.”


“It’s motivated me to continue reaching out to find places to swim and find more adaptive equipment, so that I can train and do more physical activities,” says Gonzalez." target="_blank">Read entire Article

Ex-Army chaplain spreads awareness of veterans with PTSD

Posted by qmtroy on February 14, 2015 at 5:35 AM Comments comments (0)



More and more people are learning about post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), how to recognize it and how to help its victims, including many Baptist women across America, such as the Woman’s Missionary Union of the Waccamaw Baptist Association

The Rev. Michael BeLue, the WBA’s interim director of missions, has seen it firsthand. It was BeLue’s experience and background that led Peggy Jones, director of the WMU, to ask him to speak to her group at Conway’s Maple Baptist Church last Sunday.


BeLue first served two tours as an infantryman in Vietnam. When he got out of the Army, he went to college and to seminary, then served as pastor of the 6 and 20 Baptist Church near Anderson.


Read Entire Article


Posted by qmtroy on October 10, 2014 at 10:40 AM Comments comments (0)

By:  Bob Berwin

The Department of Veterans Affairs said it processed more than 1.3 million disability compensation and pension claims in fiscal 2014, which ended last week. That’s the highest number in history, surpassing last year’s record-breaking production by more than 150,000 claims.


The quality of claims decisions increased along with the number of claims processed, VA said.


The accuracy of VA decisions rose from 83 percent in 2011 to 90 percent this year, according to the agency. Looking only at medical issues, the accuracy rate rises to 96 percent.


VA said its move to a Web-based electronic claims-processing system has enabled quicker, more accurate and integrated benefits delivery.


VA once processed 5,000 tons of paper annually. Today, it processes 93 percent of veterans’ disability claims electronically.


Undersecretary for Benefits Allison A. Hickey gave a hoorah to the employees of the Veterans Benefits Administration for the record-setting year.


“I am so proud of our employees – more than half of whom are veterans themselves – who continue to work tirelessly to deliver the benefits our veterans have earned through their service to our nation,” Hickey said. “But we all also recognize there is still much more work to do to better serve veterans.”


I wonder how long it will take one or more Congress folks to rain on this bit of good news from VA.

Marines deactivate decorated 'Walking Dead' unit

Posted by qmtroy on September 3, 2014 at 7:20 AM Comments comments (0)

By Jonathan Drew

Associated Press


RALEIGH, N.C. — Decades before the television show, a Marine Corps battalion decorated for extensive combat in World War II and Vietnam earned the nickname the "Walking Dead."


Now the 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, which also saw action in Iraq and Afghanistan, has been deactivated during a ceremony Friday at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. The step comes as top U.S. military and political leaders are moving to trim the size of America's military after more than a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan.


Marine Corps historians say the battalion appears to have gotten the nickname because of its high rate of casualties during the Vietnam War. But the unit also has a reputation for heroism that included Medal of Honor recipients at Guam and Iwo Jima during World War II and two in Vietnam.

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The Four Biggest Challenges the Next VA Secretary Faces

Posted by qmtroy on August 1, 2014 at 7:35 PM Comments comments (0)

By Jordain Carney

National Journal

June 30, 2014


Former Procter and Gamble executive Robert McDonald, President Barack Obama's nominee as the next Veterans Affairs secretary

Charles Dharapak/AP

We now know who will inherit the broken Veterans Affairs Department, but fixing the agency's bureaucratic nightmare will be no easy task.


President Obama on Monday afternoon nominated Robert McDonald, a former CEO at Procter & Gamble who retired from the company in 2013. And though veterans advocates and lawmakers alike hope that McDonald will be able to use the managerial skills he honed in the private sector to whip the department into shape, he must prioritize the VA's many moving parts.


Here are some of the biggest challenges facing McDonald, assuming he is confirmed by the Senate.


Stop the bleeding: Let's not fool ourselves: McDonald is being brought in to clean up a catastrophic mess.


The department has suffered through scandal after scandal as government investigators uncover evidence of nationwide manipulation of data on how long veterans wait to receive medical care at VA facilities as well as allegations of veterans dying while waiting for care.


And, most likely, with investigations still ongoing—including criminal allegations of fraud—there are more revelations to come.


Although the scandal—and the behaviors that caused it—predate McDonald's nomination, veterans advocates argue that the easiest way he could do harm would be to not be honest about how deep the scandal goes.


"Accessibility and accountability are the key," said John Raughter, a spokesperson for the American Legion, when asked how McDonald should balance a scandal he had no part in creating.


But simply making sure things don't get any worse won't be enough.


Fix the VA's "corrosive culture": It's an ill-defined problem with even more ambiguous answers on how to fix it, and it is—without a doubt—McDonald's biggest challenge.


The focus on the VA culture, including a damning report released Friday from White House adviser Rob Nabors and Acting Secretary Sloan Gibson—has spotlighted the manipulation of wait times by hospital staff as well as the widespread problems with personnel accountability.


And though the buck stops with McDonald, he has plenty of people who would like to tell him exactly what to do. This includes lawmakers and a growing number of advocates who want the VA secretary to have greater firing power—particularly over senior officials, who they say have allowed the secret wait lists to exist for years as they faced pressure to meet deadlines handed down from the top.


At the same time, advocates want the VA to hire more doctors and increase veterans' access to private health care. They also want lawmakers to give the department more money, something Rep. Jeff Miller, who heads the Veterans Affairs Committee, has suggested won't solve the deeper crisis at the VA.


The Florida Republican wrote in an op-ed last week that giving the VA more money "is merely a short-term, emergency solution designed to deal with a bona fide ­emergency that VA created."


And though lawmakers have been focused on the recent health care scandal, veterans advocates believe the problems at the department spread far beyond its medical facilities. For example, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel announced earlier this month that it will look into allegations of retaliation against 37 VA whistle-blowers, which could muzzle future complaints.


"The retaliation against whistleblowers—that's a cultural problem that needs to be addressed," Raughter said.


And benefits workers also have to tackle the mountain of frequently overlooked pay and pension claims—namely an increasing number of appeals that can leave veterans in limbo for an average of two and a half years.


Win back veterans' trust: McDonald is a surprise pick by anyone's account. Scan the many lists published on who could be the next VA secretary, and you'll notice one thing pretty quickly: He isn't on any of them.


Veterans service organizations have complained that they have felt they were left out of the loop by the VA as it faces one of its worst scandals in recent history. They hope McDonald will change this.


"He will need to reach [out] to VSOs and other leading advocates for vets. The White House did not reach out to VSOs during their search process, and we hope they will now. The VA cannot do it alone," Paul Rieckhoff, founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said in a statement.


The American Legion was an early backer of the push for Eric Shinkseki to resign, coming out ahead of the wave of lawmakers who would eventually call for him to step down.


While McDonald is himself an Army veteran, he doesn't follow the trend of tapping a top military official to lead the department. McDonald will "have to move quickly to show he is committed to and understands the post-9/11 generation of veterans," Rieckhoff said.


"We think that restoring trust is the No. 1 challenge ahead of him," Raughter said.


In many ways, McDonald will have to practice juggling his priorities to veterans while also keeping the department on track to reach two key department goals next year: Ending the backlog of disability compensation and pension claims and stopping veterans' homelessness.


"They're far, far short of the goal to eliminate veterans homelessness.… We hope to see them continue to make progress," he said.


Don't say anything stupid: Of course to become the lucky person responsible for all of these challenges, McDonald has to get over one crucial hurdle—Senate confirmation.


So far lawmakers are expressing hope that he can cure the VA's many ills. Or they are at least—in the case of Veterans Affairs Chairman Sen. Bernie Sanders—holding off on publicly forming their opinion on McDonald until after they meet with him.


But the VA is currently a political lightning rod, and lawmakers have shown little tolerance for VA officials who they think are trying to downplay how serious the crisis is that is now facing the department.


Combat Vets Last Hope is often Man's Best Friend

Posted by qmtroy on August 1, 2014 at 6:15 PM Comments comments (1)


Wednesday, July 30th, 2014 | Posted by Allen L Roland

service-dogs In my proven heart centered work with combat veterans with PTSD it is obvious that the healing power of unconditional love can facilitate transformative change. Nowhere is that more evident than with Combat Veterans with their special need dogs ~ for only unconditional love can penetrate the dark shadow world of PTSD:

 by Allen L Roland, Ph.D



“The only way love can last a lifetime is if it’s unconditional. The truth is this: love is not determined by the one being loved but rather by the one choosing to love.” ~ Stephen Kendrick, The Love Dare


During the past four years, I have been able to successfully demonstrate in my 11 Healing The Wounded Heart (Band of Brothers) workshops in the San Francisco Bay area with combat veterans with PTSD ~ that reclaiming veterans’ damaged souls through love, acceptance and gratefulness can lead not only to self-healing but also full recovery. These 8 once a week workshops enjoyed an average success rate of approximately 60 % in all symptoms of PTSD ~ especially in the ability to love and accept love as well as achieving a deeper sense of inner joy, peace and well-being. See the Miracle of Heart Centered Counseling is Self-Healing ~


But nowhere is that more obvious than with combat veterans with their special needs dogs ~ for the power of unconditional love can eventually penetrate the dark shadow world of a PTSD victim, whether military or civilian. The reason is that conscious unconditional love begets conscious unconditional love and frozen hearts and maimed souls are often melted in the process.


As Stephen Kendrick wrote ~ Love is not determined by the one being loved, but rather by the one choosing to love. In other words, it is conscious non-possessive love versus emotional need centered love and when we consciously love we enter the sacred space of unconditional love and a Unified Field of love and soul consciousness ~ that is also deepest within each one of us. All of us have the capacity to love that deeply ~ but few of us get beyond the ego’s fear based need to control or possess and are able to access and breath the rarefied air of true unconditional love.


In that regard, our pets (dogs, cats and even horses) are often reservoirs of that love for they quite often have the capacity to unconditionally love us especially when we feel alone and unloved.


As a child, my dogs were very special to me in that regard but especially in college where my dog INKY became our fraternity house pet. But my horse SCOUT was the best example of the healing power of unconditional love and the one choosing to love.


I was going through a painful separation from my second wife and living in a rented room on a horse ranch in Sonoma, California. My horse SCOUT became my connection to source and the healing power of love ~ for every day I cleaned his hoofs, rode him at full gallop in the vineyards and then washed and groomed him and fed him. It was a conscious choice to love and nurture him every day and in the process I healed myself through that love and learned how to unconditionally love.


Soon after that, it came time to let go of SCOUT because of the demands of my work and very quickly the perfect buyer responded to my ad, who had dreamed about SCOUT, agreed on a more than fair price, built a corral for him and allowed me to transition SCOUT into his new family and environment. It was easy for me to let go of SCOUT for in loving him I had reconnected to source and I in turn was now providing the perfect family to love, nurture and ride him during the last years of his life. Letting go of SCOUT, as such, was an act of conscious unconditional love and there was no sense of loss but instead celebration and completion ~ for his future happiness was more important to me than my selfishly holding on to him. We had finished our healing time together and it was time to let go. Great love can both take hold and let go and the same thing can happen in relationship ~ for those who we love deeply become part of us forever and still live in our hearts.


Watch these two Veterans with PTSD, especially David Sharpe and his dog Cheyenne, react with their dogs and how their pet’s unconditional love sets the stage for their own eventual self-healing and ability to love and accept love. 5 Minute Video ~


There are thousands of abused and sheltered dogs who could be paired with emotionally wounded combat veterans with PTSD for a fraction of the cost of the VA over medicating them ~ such as Canines4hope.


When combat veterans with PTSD lovingly relate to their special needs pets ~ they are in essence setting the stage to fully love and forgive themselves as well as to love and allow others to fully love them.


“Dogs are how people would be if the important stuff is all that mattered to us.” ~ A. Lorenzana




VA Offers Dental Insurance Program

Posted by qmtroy on August 1, 2014 at 6:05 PM Comments comments (0)

November 15, 2013


"VA continues to explore innovative ways to help Veterans get access to the care and services they have earned and deserve," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. "This new dental program is another example of VA creating partnerships with the private sector to deliver a range of high-quality care at an affordable cost, for our Nation’s Veterans."


More than 8 million Veterans who are enrolled in VA health care can choose to purchase one of the offered dental plans. This three-year pilot has been designed for Veterans with no dental coverage, or those eligible for VA dental care who would like to purchase additional coverage. Participation will not affect entitlement to VA dental services and treatment.


There are no eligibility limitations based on service-connected disability rating or enrollment priority assignment. People interested in participating may complete an application online through either Delta Dental,, or MetLife, beginning Nov. 15. Coverage for this new dental insurance will begin Jan. 1, 2014, and will be available throughout the United States and its territories.


Also eligible for the new benefits are nearly 400,000 spouses and dependent children who are reimbursed for most medical expenses under VA’s CHAMPVA program. Generally, CHAMPVA participants are spouses, survivors or dependent children of Veterans officially rated as “permanently and totally” disabled by a service-connected condition.


Dental services under the new program vary by plan and include diagnostic, preventive, surgical, emergency and endodontic/restorative treatment. Enrollment in the VA Dental Insurance Plan (VADIP) is voluntary. Participants are responsible for all premiums, which range from $8.65 to $52.90 per month for individual plans. Copayments and other charges may apply.


Historically VA’s free dental services have gone to Veterans with dental problems connected to a medical condition that’s officially certified as “service connected.” Free dental services will continue for those Veterans.


For more information on VADIP, visit, or contact Delta Dental at 1-855-370-33031-855-370-3303 or MetLife at 1-888-310-16811-888-310-1681.


Veterans who are not enrolled in the VA health care system can apply at any time by visiting, calling 1-877-222-VETS1-877-222-VETS (8387) or visiting their local VA health care facility.

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PTSD: Leaving the Past Behind

Posted by qmtroy on July 15, 2014 at 9:55 AM Comments comments (0)

FEATURES, MARINES UNCOVERED // June 10th, 2014 // By Retired Cpl. Michael Egan

Two years ago, Cpl. Michael Egan lost his legs by stepping on an Improvised Explosive Device. Now he is dealing with not only his physical wounds, but his mental ones, too. (Photos courtesy of Michael Egan/Released)


Two years ago, Cpl. Michael Egan stepped on an Improvised Explosive Device during his last foot patrol in Afghanistan before heading back to the United States. He lost both legs above the knee, sustained countless fractures to his pelvis, and lost sensation to 40% of the muscle mass in his left arm. Along with these injuries, Egan suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. Despite his wounds, he keeps a positive outlook on life. “By coming so close to death,” Egan said, “I have learned that every time I fall in life, I have countless reasons to get back up.” This is his outlook on dealing with PTSD.


The Switch

Whether you know it or not, if you’re in the military, you have one. It’s the frame of mind between when you are at work and when you aren’t. When you’re in the U.S., it’s much easier to manage — to turn the switch off and go home to your family, your wife, your kids, and be able to enjoy spending time with them and get joy in return. Whatever your work entails, flipping that switch back on to go to work is almost as routine as putting on your uniform.


Cpl. Michael Egan is presented with his Purple Heart by Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr. at Walter Reed Naval Military Medical Center in 2010. Egan lost both of his legs while deployed in Afghanistan. (Photo courtesy of Michael Egan/Released)


Now you’re in Afghanistan. You’re surrounded by work wherever you go. You eat, you sleep and you breathe work. Work is 24/7, even in the down times of a deployment, and the switch is permanently on — even more so when you’re out in the shit, and you’re getting in firefights every day. You’re watching every step you make, like walking on eggshells, and you’re always on guard. You worry about the safety of the brothers to your left and your right, even more if you’re in a leadership position. It’s a heightened awareness that would drive any normal person crazy. The idea of normalcy is irrelevant in Afghanistan, and there’s no such thing as normal sleep patterns or consistent breaks.


Seven months of this switch being on and then you return to the U.S. You may have a few days of travel to unwind, but that doesn’t matter: You’re back home, in front of your family, your friends and your loved ones. As crazy as it sounds, it’s almost hard to accept love and to have someone embrace you as if they thought they would never see you again because in the back of their mind they didn’t know if they would.


It may be easy for some people to move forward and be able to carry on with their day-to-day routine, leaving the past behind them. But for others with PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), like myself, that switch is still on.


When someone hears you say, “I have PTSD,” most people would automatically think you’re nuts. In reality, you’re just stuck in the mindset of war — that paranoia of being safe and keeping the people around you safe, the feeling of vulnerability because you don’t have an M4 or SAW across your chest and a few grenades on your belt.


We aren’t crazy, we aren’t losing touch with the reality of being back, we’re just lost. We’re unable to cope with the bits and pieces of war that is imbedded into our minds and cut deep in our souls. They shake you to the core of who you are, but you don’t have to let it define you. The flashbacks may come less frequently and become less severe, but they may never go away. We can learn to conquer our demons.


Hopefully in time, we can turn that switch off and rest easily, leaving what was in the past behind and looking forward to a brighter future.