Iraq war veteran’s issues addressed on West Slope | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Iraq war veteran’s issues addressed on West Slope

Jeff Munson

Two of America’s leading authorities on the Iraq War and veterans readjustment issues will visit the West Slope on Friday to keynote an all-day event spotlighting area Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans making the often difficult transition back to civilian life.

“The Road Home … From Combat to College and Beyond,” will take place on the campus of Sierra College in Rocklin, where more than 350 veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are already enrolled – with that number expected to grow by more than 20 percent in the next year.

According to the Lake Tahoe Community College admissions office there are 14 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans enrolled this semester, and it is expected to climb by next year. Nationally, colleges are now being told to prepare for a 20 percent increase in the enrollment of recent military combat veterans.

Organized by the Sierra College Veterans Club, Friday’s program is designed to highlight the unique set of experiences and challenges facing returning war veterans who are increasingly populating campuses across America, and the vital role that college communities can play in fostering their health and success, both inside and outside of the classroom.

In an interview with the Tahoe Daily Tribune, the college’s veterans counselor, Catherine Morris, said community colleges around the state are addressing similar issues when it comes to combat veterans securing their GI-Bills for higher education.

The problem exists in the amount of paperwork that is involved when veterans enroll in college, often taking up to eight weeks to secure money for tuition, fees and books. The all-day seminar Friday will address this and many other issues facing returning veterans.

“When veterans return, we want to see they are streamlined in the process. That’s not easy, There’s mounds and mounds of paperwork and that is discouraging to them as they are guaranteed their education,” Morris said.

“Our goal is to make the public and the colleges aware of the unique issues facing our veterans. Most colleges don’t have any idea of the hoops our veterans must jump through once they are home. The hope is to bring awareness to these issues to make the transition easier for those coming back to school.”

Patrick Campbell, legislative director for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and Shad Meshad, Founder and President of the National Veterans Foundation are featured speakers at the event.

Campbell served in Baghdad as a combat medic from October 200 to October 2005 with the 256th Infantry Brigade based out of Louisiana. After returning from Iraq in 2005, Campbell drafted a bill to help veterans complete their education. Based on Campbell’s leadership and recommendations The Veterans Education Tuition Support (VETS) Act was introduced in Congress in June 2007. Campbell has testified in front of both the Senate and House Veterans Affairs Committees on veterans’ mental health issues as well as appropriations for the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Meshad is a Licensed Social Worker who served as a psychiatric counselor in Vietnam, founded the VA’s Vet Center Program, and has been one of America’s foremost experts on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and veterans readjustment issues for more than 35 years. His foundation has operated a national toll-free crisis helpline for veterans and their families since 1987.

“The Road Home” will also include panel discussions led by Iraq War veterans at Sierra College, a case Manager from the VA’s Palo Alto Polytrauma Center, and area veteran service providers, college instructors and administrators working on campus-community partnerships to support the readjustment needs of returning student veterans.

More than 300 attendees are expected — including Sierra College faculty, administrators, students, area veterans service providers, VA representatives, military family members, and government officials. The public is invited.

If You Go:

WHAT: “The Road Home…From Combat to College and Beyond”

WHERE: Sierra College, Dietrich Theatre, 5000 Rocklin Rd., Rocklin

WHEN: Friday, Sept. 28, 8:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.

RSVP: cmorris@sierracollege.edu

http://www.nvf.org/road-home-combat-college-rocklin-ca-september-28th

Facts About Veterans:

– There are 30.6 million veterans in America today – the images from the current war are causing many older veterans (WWII, Korea, Vietnam) to experience recurring Post Traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms from their own combat experiences.

– In May of 2005, the Veterans Administration reported that more than 360,000 U.S. Soldiers have already rotated home from combat in Afghanistan and Iraq, with an unprecedented number of civilian soldiers (Guard and Reserve) currently serving in combat theaters.

– A 2003 New England Journal of Medicine Study found that 15-17 percent of US Iraq and Afghanistan veterans were suffering from PTSD, and more than 60 percent of those showing symptoms were unlikely to seek help due to fears of stigmatization or loss of career advancement opportunities.

– In 2005, the VA reported that 18 percent of Afghanistan veterans, and 20 percent of Iraq veterans were suffering from some type of service connected psychological disorder.

– A 2004 U.S. Army Mental Health Advisory Team study showed that more than half of all soldiers in Iraq described their unit morale as low, with the National Guard and Reserve forces struggling the most.

– The VA has seen a tenfold increase in PTSD cases in the last year. According to the VA, more than 23,889 Vets of Iraq and Afghanistan have sought help for mental health disorders.

The Miles Foundation reports that calls to their Domestic Violence Hotline for Military Spouses has increased from 50 to 500 per month since the start of the Iraq War.

According to U.S. Army data, the number of active-duty soldiers getting divorced has been rising sharply with deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq. The trend is severest among officers. Last year, 3,325 Army officers’ marriages ended in divorce – up 78 percent from 2003, the year of the Iraq invasion, and more than 3 1/2 times the number in 2000, before the Afghan operation. For enlisted personnel, the 7,152 divorces last year were 28 percent more than in 2003 and up 53 percent from 2000 (USA Today, June 8, 2005).

– One in three homeless men in America is a veteran.

– Of all homeless veterans, 42 percent are Vietnam veterans.

– Substance abuse rates are twice as high among veterans as among non-veterans.

According to the VA, enlisted men are twice as likely to report PTSD than officers.

– A recent study of inpatients at VA facilities indicates that nearly 85 percent have annual incomes of less than $15,000. Of those, nearly half have incomes that place them below the U.S. poverty line.

– In 2005, the VA forecasted a $2.6 billion shortfall for meeting the growing healthcare needs of U.S. veterans. The VA’s patient to doctor ratio has grown from 335 to 1, to 531 to 1, between 2000 and September 2004.

– Inflation adjusted spending for VA mental health services has declined by 25 percent over the past seven years, and numerous experts have expressed concern about the system’s capabilities to care for the full spectrum of readjustment needs (including mental health) of the newest generation of U.S. veterans.

– As a result, the VA depends increasingly on non-profit, veteran community organizations to care for the large population of veterans who need treatment.

– National Veterans Foundation operates the only toll-free, live crisis management and information and referral hotline for ALL veterans and their families.

– The NVF’s National Crisis Management, Information, and Referral Lifeline has received more than 275,000 calls to date, and more than 15,000 calls from veterans and family members during the past year (an increased of more than 30 percent from the previous year).

To reach the National Veterans Foundation Call 1-888-777-4443; or online at vetsupport@nvf.org

Source: National Veterans Foundation


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