by Kathie Costos
Wounded Times Blog
December 2, 2012
Don't count me among the people thinking another suicide prevention bill is a good thing. Some people in this country may be really hopeful over this but for me, I've been tracking all of this too long to gain any hope when they show no signs of changing anything.
In 2008 when most people in this country focused on the election of President Obama as the "first black President" in good ways as well as bad ways, I was focused on PTSD and military suicides.
For me that was the issue that matter to me the most.
In May of 2008 I broke my own rule about posting an entire report when I posted U.S. must battle against stigma of mental war wounds because all too often important reports are lost in the archives of newspapers. This one came out of The Billings Gazette. I just checked the link and it is not working, much like the rest of the things I hoped for have not worked.
Senator Max Baucus sponsored another suicide prevention bill along with Senator Tester. In his speech, Senator Baucus mentioned what Montana has been doing to get ahead of military suicides. It made me cry.
Baucus Secures Military Suicide Prevention Program in National Defense Bill
Senator Continues Longstanding Battle Against PTSD
Posted: Thursday, November 29, 2012
(Washington, D.C.) - Montana's senior U.S. Senator Max Baucus secured an amendment to the National Defense Reauthorization bill that will create a comprehensive and standardized suicide prevention program for military service members. This is the latest step in Baucus' longstanding efforts to address Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury. Baucus took to the Senate floor today to raise awareness of the need to provide mental health care and support for troops and veterans. The Amendment was also co-sponsored by Montana Senator Jon Tester.
"When duty calls, Montanans answer proudly. This is about taking care of these men and women, just as they have taken care of us. These people have put their lives on the line in the name of freedom. And we have a responsibility to do everything we can to help them return to their families and lives back home," Baucus said on the Senate floor today.
"Montana's military men and women make tremendous sacrifices on the battlefield, but too often they return home with wounds unseen," Tester said. "This measure makes sure we live up to our responsibilities to them and puts everyone on the same page when it comes to making sure our hard-working men and women get the care they earned."
Baucus also inserted a provision in the 2010 Defense Authorization bill that implemented a successful PTSD screening program at the Montana National Guard nationwide. This year's defense bill builds on that provision and advances Baucus' efforts to get Montana veterans and service members get the mental health care they deserve.
The amendment passed the week is known as the Mental Health ACCESS Act. The provision will:
·Create a comprehensive, standardized suicide prevention program within the Department of Defense;
·Expand eligibility for VA mental health services to family members of veterans;
·Create more peer to peer counseling opportunities; and
·Require the VA to establish accurate and reliable measures for mental health services.
This is who Senator Baucus was talking about.
What They Found in the Wastebasket
Suicide shocks Montana into assessing vets' care
HELENA, Mont. — Chris Dana came home from the war in Iraq in 2005 and slipped into a mental abyss so quietly that neither his family nor the Montana Army National Guard noticed.
He returned to his former life: a job at a Target store, nights in a trailer across the road from his father's house.
When he started to isolate himself, missing family events and football games, his father urged him to get counseling. When the National Guard called his father to say that he'd missed weekend duty, Gary Dana pushed his son to get in touch with his unit.
"I can't go back. I can't do it," Chris Dana responded.
Things went downhill from there. He blew though all his money, and last March 4, he shot himself in the head with a .22-caliber rifle. He was 23 years old.
As Gary Dana was collecting his dead son's belongings, he found a letter indicating that the National Guard was discharging his son under what are known as other-than-honorable conditions. The move was due to his skipping drills, which his family said was brought on by the mental strain of his service in Iraq.
The letter was in the trash, near a Wal-Mart receipt for .22-caliber rifle shells.
All across America, veterans such as Chris Dana are slipping through the cracks, left to languish by their military units and the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The link to the above story still work so you'll be able to read the rest of this report.
Back then they were not reporting military suicide numbers. Think Progress has this military suicide report still up on their site. Take a look at what the numbers turned out to be when the DOD actually had to start reporting the suicides.
Did you see how the numbers went up? I had such high hopes in 2008 when President Obama was elected because unlike McCain, he was paying attention to military suicides and PTSD. I still think he cares but with cold hard facts proving what they have been doing since 2008 have not worked at all, repeating another bill based on the same thing is heartbreaking.
Here are some facts you should know. These reports are from my blog.
Suicide death of Spc. Chris Dana causes change in Montana National Guard
Montana Guard confronts post-combat stress head-on in wake of suicide
By ERIC NEWHOUSE
Tribune Projects Editor
HELENA — Montana's National Guard is becoming a model of how to help service members adjust to post-combat stress.
"Montana has gone beyond the level of other states in the country, and I applaud that," said Capt. Joan Hunter, a U.S. Public Service officer who was recently designated the director of psychological health for the National Guard Bureau in Washington, D.C.
"They saw an emergency need, studied the problems and make some significant improvements," Hunter said Friday.
State Adjutant General Randy Mosley said that the effort stems from a former Montana soldier who didn't get the help he needed and who killed himself a year ago.
"We want to make sure we're doing everything we can to help our people and their families pick up the pieces for the problems that may have begun during their deployment in Iraq," Mosley said last week.
"The Guard has done an unbelievable job in changing," said Matt Kuntz, a Helena attorney and stepbrother of the late Spc. Chris Dana, who killed himself March 4, 2007.
In Billings, Obama blames GOP for veteran troubles
By TOM LUTEY
BILLINGS - Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, speaking Wednesday in Billings, faulted Republican leaders for chronically underfunding veteran services for troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
“I have some significant differences with McCain and George Bush about the war in Iraq,” Obama said. “But one thing I thought we'd agree to is when the troops came home, we'd treat them with the honor and respect they deserve.”
Several trends indicate veterans are not getting the health care and other benefits they need to succeed at home, Obama told a group of around 200 people during an invitation-only morning listening session in Riverfront Park.
Armed services veterans are seven times more likely to be homeless than Americans who don't serve. In Montana, roughly half the veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder go untreated for the psychological condition, Obama said.
Before speaking, the candidate met for several minutes with the family of Spec. Chris Dana, a Montana National Guard veteran suffering from PTSD who committed suicide in March 2007, several months after returning from Iraq. Dana's stepbrother, Matt Kuntz, became a vocal advocate for better treatment of PTSD after Dana's death.
Obama promises to repeat Montana's National Guard PTSD work nation wide
Obama Pledges Nationwide Use of PTSD Program
Great Falls Tribune
Aug 28, 2008
August 28, 2008 - Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama promised Wednesday to expand Montana's pilot program to assess the mental health of combat vets nationwide, if elected.
The Montana National Guard has developed a program to check its soldiers and airmen for signs of post-traumatic stress disorder every six months for the first two years after returning from combat, then once a year thereafter. The program exceeds national standards set by the U.S. Department of Defense.
The pilot program was created in response to the suicide of former Army Spc. Chris Dana of Helena, who shot himself on March 4, 2007, days after being given a less-than-honorable discharge because he could no longer handle attending drills following a tour in Iraq.
Obama win also means PTSD work gets new hero
November 5, 2008
This is one of the biggest reasons I am so delighted that Senator Obama will be President Obama. In August, he visited the Montana National Guard because he heard about the great work they were doing on PTSD. He was so impressed that he promised to take their program nationally.
Up until now, PTSD has only recently become a hot topic. President Bush surrounded himself with people who either had no clue what PTSD was or denied it was real. This prevented years of research not being done and programs that could have been created sooner, to not even be dreamt of. Thousands of our veterans and troops, guardsmen and reservists died as a result, not by enemy hands but because of the enemy within them.
Military families and veteran families have a new hero coming to fight for them and I'm sure when you get to know exactly how much he does care, plans to act, you will feel the same way too. He's been on the Veterans Affairs Committee and has paid attention to all that is going on.
I still think he's paying attention but the problem is the experts the congress has been listening to have not provided the relief these veterans need but instead of doing something differently, they repeat the same thing hoping for different results and leaving more and more families grieving by a graveside and blaming themselves.