Sunday, March 24, 2013

Wounded Warrior Project raises wrong awareness

Wounded Warrior Project raises wrong awareness
by Kathie Costos
Wounded Times Blog
March 24, 2013

I was reading a commentary that caught my eye on Savannah Morning News by John Roberts because he wrote that he was "tired of it. I’m so damn tired of receiving phone calls and emails from family members devastated by the suicide of their loved one." then adding he was almost one of them. Since I have been doing what I do for as long as I've done it with a personal connection as well, I thought this would be a powerful thing to read. Not far into it I discovered who John Roberts was.

On March 29, 2007 – exactly 15 years after the date of his injury – John left the VA to become national service director for Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP). He was later promoted to the position of mental health and family support executive vice president and today served as warrior relations executive vice president. In this role, John works with all WWP program staff to ensure the most effective, beneficial warrior experience possible.
By the third paragraph my blood pressure was up. By that point I had no idea he was connected to Wounded Warrior Project. It was up because yet again I was reading the wrong numbers and beginning to wonder how much more he had wrong.
Commentary: Military suicides reach 'epidemic' level
Savannah Morning News
Posted: March 24, 2013

I’m tired of it. I’m so damn tired of receiving phone calls and emails from family members devastated by the suicide of their loved one. Sons. Daughters. Husbands. I’m tired of it because I was almost one of those suicides.

As a wounded warrior myself and someone who used to believe everyone’s life would be better without me in it, I take this issue personally.

The most recent report from the Department of Veterans Affairs reveals that veterans are taking their own lives at a rate of 22 each day, or one suicide every 65 minutes — a 20-percent increase from 2007. Even more gruesome, last year we saw more suicides than combat deaths (349 to 295, according to the latest Pentagon figures).

The suicide epidemic among active duty service members and veterans does not stem from one area alone, and there is not one simple fix, pill or type of treatment to address all the complex issues the incredible men and women that either wear or have worn the uniform now face.

Part of the blame lies squarely with the media and its portrayal of post-traumatic stress disorder. It seems the only time this issue is given credence is when the story is sensational enough to garner ratings. Yet, close to a half million returning service members struggle every day with the symptoms of combat stress, survivors guilt or PTSD.
read more here
I feel John Roberts pain but honestly, he is wrong. The reason why so many are reaching out to him after someone they love committed suicide is not just because of the media reporting on PTSD. It is more the lack of their reporting on it that causes the most damage. They are not asking questions when someone in the DOD or the VA makes a claim that is not substantiated by evidence. I know because not only do I get the same phone calls and emails when it is too late, I track the reports from across the country. The mainstream media outlets checked out on this a long time ago. When the repeated the number of military suicides most are using, he had no idea how those numbers were not what the DOD released. The truth is they left out Army National Guards and Army Reservists. The total is at least 492 because the DOD stated they are reviewing cause of death and predicted the numbers for 2012 are likely to be higher. It breaks down this way.
Army 182
Army National Guards 96
Army Reservist 47
Marines 48
Air Force 59
Navy 60
total 492 at least because there are other branches not released.

Army Release December 2012 and Calendar Year 2012 Suicide Information For 2012, there have been 182 potential active-duty suicides: 130 have been confirmed as suicides and 52 remain under investigation. For 2012, there have been 143 potential not on active-duty suicides (96 Army National Guard and 47 Army Reserve)

As bad as that was, there is no way to track the data because the DOD releases a monthly Army suicide report with the Army National Guards and Army Reservists but as you can see, they are not releasing the rest on a monthly basis. An example of this is the DOD press releases for January 2013 did not list a single suicide for the Army yet on February 22, 2013 they released the suicide numbers for January, Army Releases January 2013 Suicide Information

The Army released suicide data today for the month of January 2013. During January, among active-duty soldiers, there were 19 potential suicides: two have been confirmed as suicides and 17 remain under investigation. For December 2012, the Army reported seven potential suicides among active-duty soldiers; however, subsequent to the report, another case was added bringing December’s total to eight: five have been confirmed as suicides and three are under investigation.

During January, among reserve component soldiers who were not on active duty, there were 14 potential suicides (six Army National Guard and eight Army Reserve): One has been confirmed and 13 are still under investigation. For December 2012, among that same group, the Army reported 15 potential suicides; since the release of that report, one case has been added for a total of 16 (11 Army National Guard and five Army Reserve): nine have been confirmed and seven cases remain under investigation.

But he would have known all of that if he read all the reports coming out of the media and that is a big issue. If we only read what makes the mega-media sources headlines we miss a lot.  I have no doubt Roberts does care about these veterans and their families but have seen little evidence Wounded Warrior Project has lived up to all the support they have been receiving by all all the publicity. When an executive, especially one who worked for the VA and at Walter Reed writes about such a serious topic,  he needed to get it right.

"We are not simply offering solutions — we are also taking action. Over the next six months, WWP will launch five pilot programs including peer-facilitated support groups, a unique telephone helpline providing non-clinical, emotional support for Wounded Warriors and an insurance program that will provide private mental health services."
I have a problem with this part as well since last year I was reading very close to the same claim. Restore Warriors was announce last year "Wounded Warrior Project Announces Public Launch of Restore Warriors 13 APRIL 2012"
“Restore Warriors offers tools and strategies to help warriors help themselves as they learn from each other,” said Jeremy Chwat, chief program officer, Wounded Warrior Project. “The invisible wounds of war — Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) — in many ways have surpassed the visible as the signature injury in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. By publicly launching this online resource, WWP is providing what will become, for many, the first step in the process to seek out the appropriate means of mental health treatment.”
While he said that the problem is more about the media, it is obvious that he has not been reading all the reports. That is one of the biggest issues I have with a mega-charity for veterans. The mission of Wounded Warrior Project was to raise awareness but while TV and radio commercials are aired all the time across the country other than raising awareness for Wounded Warrior Project itself, what exactly are these guys doing?

I have found no solutions in the WWP programs listed online and very little coming out of the videos that have been produced. This statement was just issued by Roberts but last year they made a similar one as you just read. So what happened?

I have been reading over and over again how WWP is launching this or that but not seeing much evidence of it happening yet WWP has been around long enough to have actually established the programs that are vital to helping our veterans. My other issue is that WWP is not interested in Gulf War veterans, Vietnam Veterans or any other group other than OEF and OIF. Supposedly according to your website these programs were already up and running and indicated on your tax report posted online.

Here is a help wanted ad for Wounded Warrior Project
Online Engagement Coordinator - Chicago, IL
Tracking Code
Generate interest in WWP programs and activities and build relationships with WWP constituents via regular social interactions on such social media venues as Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, YouTube, and various related websites.
Monitor online mentions of WWP and provide/post organization’s response to conversation and issues raises, engaging public interest in WWP activities.
Act as moderator and/or interfacing with website moderators for WWP-hosted communities to ensure appropriate content of posts, answer questions, and make referrals for WWP programs.
Some travel required.
Required Experience
Requires Bachelor’s degree in Marketing, Communications, Public Relations, or Journalism; or 2-3 years equivalent experience in relevant field(s); or 2-3 years volunteer/intern experience in building or managing a social media presence for a nonprofit organization, college group, or similar organization. Must be well-versed and familiar with various online/social media tools (such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, etc.), to include personal use of one or more of these tools with reasonable frequency/regularity. Some travel required.
Why isn't being a veteran a requirement? Why isn't having any experience with PTSD, counseling, support or training in the requirements other than "Marketing, Communications, Public Relations, or Journalism" for a position under the title of Online Engagement Coordinator? This is a report from 2012
Wounded Warrior Project’s unique mission draws in donors Silva said what makes the charity unique is its broad spectrum of programs and services to ensure the mental, physical and economic needs of service members are met, as opposed to focusing on one aspect.
The organization funds weekend retreats for wounded veterans led by licensed counselors, golfing, spa services and horseback riding. And the Warriors to Work program provides career counseling and job placement assistance for wounded service members transitioning into the civilian workforce.
Last year, the Wounded Warrior Project raised $74 million, with at least $1.7 million coming from CFC. That is a sharp jump from only two years earlier, when the charity raised $26.1 million, with $1.1 million coming through CFC.
What exactly does this cost and how many are being treated to a talking trip?
Wounded Warriors Project grows Andrew Coughlan, 27, an Army specialist in Iraq in 2003 and 2004, is among the thousands of veterans of those conflicts who have been diagnosed with PTSD or traumatic brain injuries — or both, as in his case. “I still have nightmares,” he said. “I still have, at times, angry outbursts over little things, but I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t let PTSD control me.” His road to recovery was helped by a four-day trip in upstate New York with other wounded veterans. During the day they were outdoors; at night they talked and talked. Coughlan now works at Wounded Warrior as warrior outreach coordinator. He sets up similar outings and visits injured service members in military hospitals from Puerto Rico to Arkansas.
"This past fiscal year it raised $68 million and has a goal of $91.5 million in the next year."
Since this report came out in 2011, it would have been referring to 2010 fiscal year and a wish for 2011. But considering "In November 2010, Raytheon announced a five-year, $2.5 million grant to support the WWP. The donation has enabled the WWP to expand its Economic Empowerment Initiative, including the Warriors to Work program and Transition Training Academy, which delivers resources that help injured servicemen and women develop skills for a successful shift to the civilian workforce." They were part way there.

But it seems as if the Wounded Warrior Program by the government is doing the same thing. Oh but there again I have huge issues since the DOD has 900 programs on suicide prevention but their answer is doing more of the same even though the reports have been going out for years the approach they are using is producing the opposite result. But I'm getting ahead of myself. This is from Congress and addresses what Wounded Warrior PROGRAM is all about.
US House of Representatives Wounded Warrior Fellowship Program Vacancy Announcement Job Summary: The position is for a caseworker to work in the Congressional Office to facilitate and coordinate responses to a wide range of requests received from constituents. District caseworkers also help constituents interact with administrative and government agencies by acting as facilitators, ombudsmen and, in some cases, advocates.

The Wounded Warrior Program was established to create fellowships that will provide employment opportunities for wounded or disabled veterans within the House of Representatives in Washington, DC and in district offices nationwide. Those selected for the program will be employed by the Office of the Chief Administrative Officer but will be given the opportunity to work in Member, committee and leadership offices and, if a fit is found, transition into full-time employment. However, full time employment is not guaranteed at the conclusion of the two year fellowship.
In the same article this was said,
“They are major players in the world of veteran affairs,” said Bob Buehn, former head of Jacksonville’s military office. “Wounded Warriors is the organization of this generation, of these wars, the post-9/ 11 equivalent of the Disabled American Veterans or the American Legion.”
but clearly it isn't because those other groups are taking care of all generations including OEF and OIF with all the others plus it appears the heads of WWP are not OEF or OIF veterans.
Steven Nardizzi, Esq. executive director
For more than 10 years prior to joining WWP, Steve worked as an attorney representing disabled veterans for several veterans service organizations. He spent nine years with the Eastern Paralyzed Veterans Association (EPVA), rising through successively greater responsibilities to become director of EPVA’s benefits service department and subsequently the organization’s associate executive director of member services.

Adam Silva chief development officer
Prior to his current role, Adam was the director of resource development with accountability for WWP fundraising, grants, giving outreach, major events, annual capital campaigns, corporate partnerships, and regional development. He also previously served as director of people, where he had oversight for the organization's cultural training and preservation program. Additionally, Adam played a central role in establishing the WWP mission, vision, and values.

Before joining WWP, Adam worked as an institutional stockbroker and logged a decade of experience in the music business with Buffet Crampon USA, a manufacturer and distributor of wind instruments. At Buffet Crampon USA, he held various positions of increasing responsibility in the company, including director of sales for its North American business.

Dave Ward mental health and family services executive vice president
Before joining WWP, Dave served as executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters, regional director of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and regional vice president of Best Buddies International. Dave also spent six years with the Wood County Board of Mental Retardation/ Developmental Disabilities and was once a licensed psychotherapist providing home-based counseling to at-risk youth.
Here are some more Ronald Burgess is a Vietnam Veteran, Bruce Nitsche is also a Vietnam Veteran, Albion Giordano is a Gulf War Veteran. For the rest of the executives click the link.  It needed to be pointed out because the veterans of Vietnam and the Gulf war complain about being rejected by WWP.

It also appears that Wounded Warrior Project charges people to raise money for them and they do not want money from religious groups.
“We were heartbroken,” Pastor Wallace Cooley told Fox News.

It wasn’t until after Liberty Baptist Church and Academy had already paid a $100 registration fee to raise funds for Wounded Warrior Project that the they received an email from the non-profit organization.

“We must decline the opportunity to be the beneficiary of your event due to our fundraising event criteria, which doesn’t allow community events to be religious in nature,” WWP’s community events team wrote in an email. “Please note your registration fee will be refunded within the next 7-10 business days.”

Because Wounded Warrior Project considers itself to be a nonpartisan organization, the group says it can’t accept fundraising from companies “in which the product or message is religious in nature.”

Which is another issue that WWP needs to address since apparently they do not have the ability to address the number one cause of PTSD which is more spiritually based as a "moral injury" leaving far too many without hope of healing. Yet from their website they list it under PROBLEMS ASSOCIATED WITH COMBAT/OPERATIONAL STRESS AND TRAUMA
"Moral Injury
A moral injury is a lasting and powerful psychological wound that is caused by doing, failing to prevent, or observing acts that go against deeply held moral beliefs and expectations. Veterans who experience moral injury may experience a reluctance to get close to other people, difficulty trusting others or themselves, and a loss of faith or spirituality."
They then came out with this as part of their statement Wounded Warrior Project Apologizes for Rejecting Church Donation
“The truth is – it was a mistake from a junior staff member,” the spokesperson said. “We register religious events on a regular basis and always have.”
Where can I go for help is another issue. When you go there this is what you find. Links to other sites.

I did not start out to write another piece on Wounded Warrior Project but that is exactly what this turned out to be and as long as they do not raise awareness on what is going on more than they raise awareness for themselves, we will keep reading about parents searching for help when it is too late to save their sons and daughters.

It was stated in this report that Wounded Warrior Project has received donations for suicide prevention programs but I couldn't find any listed under their programs.

This article went on to say that, WWP also has a suicide prevention program. “The IED explosions are causing similar symptoms as multiple concussions — what is happening to retired NFL players,” Sneed said. The medical term is chronic traumatic encephalopathy. CTE is a degenerative neurological disease that appears linked to repeated head trauma. Junior Seau, a 12-time Pro Bowl selection who played for the San Diego Chargers and New England Patriots died due to a self-inflicted gunshot wound that is believed to be linked to CTE.

If this group is serious about raising awareness on what is going on and helping veterans then they need to raise awareness of the real problems they face and that has to start with facts.  Having links to other sites should not be listed as "programs" they do and if they do actually offer programs beyond trips and backpacks, then they need to make sure they have qualified people running them.  So far I haven't seen any evidence that is what they are doing.

When you read anything about support groups being run as peer-to-peer understand what that means.  It is one helping another but does not require training or fact based knowledge or even anyone looking over what they are telling others.  While this approach works with AA even they have guidelines they have to follow.

I think Wounded Warrior Project has the potential to do what they claim they want to do, but not sure how they can get there from here.