Stress is an interesting animal. A little stress isn’t always bad: it can be an effective motivator, and the adrenaline that stress creates can help improve both mental and physical performance. But too much stress can negatively affect your performance on duty, your relationships, and your physical and mental health. Fortunately, there are many ways to control and reduce stress and increase health and wellness. You can learn and apply stress management techniques to help limit your stress and stay more relaxed in your military and home life.
How to manage your stress:
Take good care of yourself. Get enough sleep and exercise, eat healthfully and be sure to drink water throughout the day.
Build a positive outlook. Try to maintain a “can-do” attitude. Focus your energy on things that make you feel good.
Laugh often. Laughter can help you to stay upbeat. Watch a funny movie, share jokes with friends and look for the humor in everyday life.
Learn how to relax. Take a few deep breaths and envision yourself in a peaceful place. You can also take a walk, listen to soothing music or read a good book.
Make time for activities you enjoy. Schedule “me time” to do something fun.
Learn to recognize when you’re stressed. Excessive stress can cause symptoms like neck or back pain, headaches, upset stomach, trouble sleeping and fatigue. Try to recognize these signals before they become overwhelming.
Focus on the things you can control. When you feel anxious, ask yourself, “Is there anything I can do to change this situation?” If the answer is no, try to let it go.
Simplify your life. Get organized at home. File paperwork, clean out the kids’ rooms and get rid of anything you don’t need or use. Learn to say “no” to obligations and activities that will overload your schedule.
If your efforts to control your stress don’t seem to be working, you might find it helpful to talk to a professional. You can get free confidential, non-medical counseling from Military OneSource via telephone at 800-342-9647. Military and family life counselors are also available through your installation Military and Family Support Center.
I am aware of the challenges associated with transitioning back to civilian life after serving in the military. The daily reality of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) for some veterans can have a profound effect on their lives and relationships, as well as their capacity to find and keep a job.
The unseen scars that trauma (such as sexual assault or combat) leaves behind can be challenging to explain to others, and many employers may not be aware of the signs or know how to make accommodations for PTSD sufferers. “Approximately 6 out of every 100 people (or 6% of the U.S. population) will have PTSD at some point in their lives,” according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. More than 500,000 veterans are thought to experience PTSD.
Regrettably, many organizational leaders are unaware of the difficulties that PTSD-affected veterans encounter. Veterans may have trouble finding and keeping jobs as a result of this ignorance, which may exacerbate their symptoms and make it much harder for them to acclimate to civilian life.
In light of this, it’s critical for employers to become knowledgeable about PTSD and to take active steps to support veterans at work. Yet, we also need to be watchful of the language we employ while discussing the subject. Although, while PTSD is a genuine and serious condition, the word “disorder” maintains a negative connotation and can stigmatize those who experience it.
In particular, the diagnostic needs to be revised to remove the word “disorder.”
This is why:
The Label “Disorder” Is Stigmatizing
The term “disorder” indicates that the person with PTSD has some sort of underlying defect. People may feel ashamed as a result and be reluctant to get the assistance they require. Additionally, it supports the false notion that mental health issues are character flaws or shortcomings rather than treatable medical conditions. This may result in stigmatization and discrimination, both of which may hurt a veteran’s prospects for obtaining and retaining employment.
By excluding the word “disorder,” we may contribute to eradicating this stigma and facilitating open communication between veterans, co-workers and employers about their needs and experiences. This in turn can assist firms in providing better veteran employee support and fostering a more diverse workplace.
It’s a Natural Reaction to Trauma – It Is Not a Disease or Disorder
The term “disorder” should not be used to describe PTSD because it is inaccurate. In the conventional sense of the phrase, PTSD is not a disorder. Rather, it is a typical reaction to an unusual and stressful occurrence.
A person’s brain and body go through a number of physiological changes after experiencing trauma. These modifications are intended to assist the individual in surviving the trauma and defending themselves against further harm. In other circumstances, though, these modifications might continue for a long time after the trauma has passed, resulting in symptoms like hyperarousal, flashbacks and avoidance.
This reaction to trauma is normal and adaptive; it is not a pathology. By eliminating the word “disorder,” we can influence the dialogue around PTSD and frame it as a normal reaction to trauma that calls for assistance and understanding rather than stigma.
It Could Promote Help-Seeking Behavior
And last, removing the word “disorder” from PTSD may help veterans seek out assistance. When a condition is identified, a person may believe that there is an underlying issue with them that cannot be resolved. They may have feelings of helplessness and hopelessness as a result, which may deter them from reaching out for assistance.
We can lessen these feelings of hopelessness and inspire veterans to go for the assistance and resources they require to manage their symptoms and prosper in their personal and professional life by portraying PTSD as a typical reaction to trauma.
Employers have a significant voice in this discussion. They can make it easier for veterans and other workers who have Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS) to disclose their illness and get the assistance they require by fostering an environment of understanding and support.
This can involve offering PTS information and tools, such as instructing managers on how to identify symptoms and provide accommodation, as well as providing employees and team members with private places to turn for assistance. It might also entail fostering an environment at work where mental health is valued, perhaps by providing flexible work schedules or mental health days.
Employers must also appreciate the distinctive skills that warriors with PTS can bring to the workplace. Many veterans may contribute significantly to their organizations because they have acquired abilities like adaptability, resilience and leadership from their military experience. Employers can aid veterans with PTS in feeling strong and valued at work by identifying and respecting their strengths.
Ultimately, the focus of the discussion around veteran PTS awareness should be on dispelling myths and fostering compassion. We can improve the way we communicate about mental health disorders and encourage people to get the care they require by eliminating the word “disorder” from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and concentrating on the normalcy of the symptoms.
Larry Broughton is a former U.S. Army Green Beret, best-selling author, award-winning entrepreneur, keynote speaker and leadership mentor. TheLarryBroughton.com
Starting Jan. 17, Veterans in acute suicidal crisis will be able to go to any VA or non-VA health care facility for emergency health care at no cost – including inpatient or crisis residential care for up to 30 days and outpatient care for up to 90 days. Veterans do not need to be enrolled in the VA system to use this benefit.
This expansion of care will help prevent Veteran suicide by guaranteeing no cost, world-class care to Veterans in times of crisis. It will also increase access to acute suicide care for up to 9 million Veterans who are not currently enrolled in VA.
Preventing Veteran suicide is VA’s top clinical priority and a top priority of the Biden-Harris Administration. This effort is a key part of VA’s 10-year National Strategy for Preventing Veteran Suicide and the Biden-Harris administration’s plan for Reducing Military and Veteran Suicide. In September, VA released the 2022 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report, which showed that Veteran suicides decreased in 2020 for the second year in a row, and that fewer Veterans died by suicide in 2020 than in any year since 2006.
“Veterans in suicidal crisis can now receive the free, world-class emergency health care they deserve – no matter where they need it, when they need it, or whether they’re enrolled in VA care,” said VA Secretary for Veterans Affairs Denis McDonough. “This expansion of care will save Veterans’ lives, and there’s nothing more important than that.”
VA has submitted an interim final rule to the federal register to establish this authority under section 201 of the Veterans Comprehensive Prevention, Access to Care, and Treatment (COMPACT) Act of 2020. The final policy, which takes effect on Jan. 17, will allow VA to:
-Provide, pay for, or reimburse for treatment of eligible individuals’ emergency suicide care, transportation costs, and follow-up care at a VA or non-VA facility for up to 30 days of inpatient care and 90 days of outpatient care.
-Make appropriate referrals for care following the period of emergency suicide care.
-Determine eligibility for other VA services and benefits.
-Refer eligible individuals for appropriate VA programs and benefits following the period of emergency suicide care.
Eligible individuals, regardless of VA enrollment status, are:
-Veterans who were discharged or released from active duty after more than 24 months of active service under conditions other than dishonorable.
-Former members of the armed forces, including reserve service members, who served more than 100 days under a combat exclusion or in support of a contingency operation either directly or by operating an unmanned aerial vehicle from another location who were discharged under conditions other than dishonorable.
-Former members of the armed forces who were the victim of a physical assault of a sexual nature, a battery of a sexual nature, or sexual harassment while serving in the armed forces.
Over the past year, VA has announced or continued several additional efforts to end Veteran suicide, including establishing 988 (then press 1) as a way for Veterans to quickly connect with caring, qualified crisis support 24/7; proposing a new rule that would reduce or eliminate copayments for Veterans at risk of suicide; conducting an ongoing public outreach effort on firearm suicide prevention and lethal means safety; and leveraging a national Veteran suicide prevention awareness campaign, “Don’t Wait. Reach Out.”
If you’re a Veteran in crisis or concerned about one, contact the Veterans Crisis Line to receive 24/7 confidential support. You don’t have to be enrolled in VA benefits or health care to connect. To reach responders, Dial 988 then Press 1, chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat, or text 838255.
Officials detailed the effort in a proposed rule released in the Federal Register on Tuesday. They have not yet released a timeline for exactly when the copayments will be ended, but the final rule is expected to be approved in coming months.
The department has already pledged to reimburse all eligible veterans for any copayments made between Jan. 5, 2022, and the date of that final approval.
“American Indian and Alaska Native Veterans have played a vital role in the defense of the United States as members of the Armed Forces for more than 200 years,” VA Secretary Denis McDonough said in a statement accompanying the announcement. “This rule makes health care more accessible and allows us to better deliver to these veterans the care and health benefits that they have earned through their courageous service.”
VA estimates about 150,000 American Indian and Alaska Native veterans are living in the country today, and Defense Department officials have estimated that roughly 24,000 active duty service members belong to the same groups.
Veterans Affairs officials said they do not have a reliable estimate on how many of those veterans are currently using department health care services.
Hearing-related issues, particularly tinnitus and hearing loss, are the top service-connected disabilities affecting our nation’s veterans of all ages.Today, more than 2.7 million veterans receive benefits or are in treatment for hearing-related issues, according to the Hearing Loss Association of America. Here are some additional compelling statistics:
4% more likely to report little-to-moderate trouble hearing
5% more likely to report a lot of hearing difficulty or deafness
23% more likely to report having balance problems
What’s even more worrisome is these issues are inextricably linked to many other conditions, including social isolation, loneliness, depression and cognitive decline. A study published in the International Journal of Otolaryngology found compelling evidence connecting tinnitus with depression and anxiety for veterans: 72% of veterans with tinnitus had a diagnosis of anxiety, 60% had depression and 58% had both conditions.
The Heroes With Hearing Loss® program, provided by Hamilton® CapTel®, is designed specifically to combat these issues by providing life-changing solutions that can re-establish and even deepen the connections veterans have with family, friends and healthcare professionals. These solutions include captioned telephone for home, work and while on the go.
Hamilton CapTel captioned telephones offer unique features ranging from touch-screen navigation, Bluetooth® connectivity, speakerphone and more – making it possible to read what’s being said while on the phone.
Hamilton®CapTel® for Business, Interconnected by Tenacity™ is available to veterans who experience hearing loss and have difficulty hearing on the phone while in the workplace. Hamilton CapTel displays captions of what’s being said on the screen of a Cisco® phone, allowing clarity and confidence on every business call.
Heroes Mobile™ CapTel®for iOS is available to veterans right now on the Apple App Store for download. The feature-rich app delivers the same Hamilton CapTel experience customers have enjoyed at home and at work for years – now at your fingertips wherever you go. It seamlessly integrates with device contacts and captions are fast and incredibly accurate.
Hamilton CapTel is provided by Hamilton Relay®, a pioneer of telecommunications relay services (TRS). Since 1991, Hamilton Relay has been dedicated to serving individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing, deaf-blind or have difficulty speaking. Hamilton CapTel is dedicated to making phone conversations simple and accessible for individuals with hearing loss.
Do you experience recurring headaches accompanied by intense pain and symptoms such as nausea, vomiting or sensitivity to light and sound? If so, you may suffer from migraine, a debilitating neurological disease that affects nearly 40 million Americans. While everyone experiences migraine differently, the impact can disrupt everyday life with attacks lasting from four to 72 hours.
Unfortunately, veterans are more likely to experience migraine and headaches than civilians, according to the Department of Veteran Affairs*. If you think you have migraine, it might be time to talk with your local Veteran Affairs doctor.
Here are some tips to help you get the most of out of your visit:
Make a list of questions to ask during your appointment
Be prepared to share your medical and headache history, including prior concussions, exposure to blasts, etc. that occurred during a military tour
Talk about potential migraine triggers, such as stress, weather or lack of sleep
Ask about treatment and prevention strategies, including an orally dissolving medication to treat and prevent attacks
Learn more about resources to help manage migraine, including National Headache Foundation’s “Operation Brainstorm”
Since the beginning of Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III’s tenure, he has been adamant about the importance of mental health in the military and prevention of veteran suicide. Secretary Austin has announced the establishment of a new program aimed at tackling one of the greatest issues surrounding mental health and military personnel: suicide prevention.
Secretary Austin’s newly established program, the Suicide Prevention and Response Independent Review Committee (SPRIRC), will address and prevent suicide in the military pursuant to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2022.
“We have the strongest military in the world because we have the strongest team in the world,” Secretary Austin stated upon establishing the program, “It is imperative that we take care of all our teammates and continue to reinforce that mental health and suicide prevention remain a key priority. One death by suicide is one too many. And suicide rates among our service members are still too high. So, clearly, we have more work to do.”
The SPRIRC will be responsible for addressing and preventing suicide in the military, beginning with a comprehensive review of the Department’s efforts to address and prevent suicide. The SPRIRC will review relevant suicide prevention and response activities, immediate actions on addressing sexual assault and recommendations of the Independent Review Commission on Sexual Assault in the Military to ensure SPRIRC recommendations are synchronized with current prevention activities and capabilities. The review will be conducted through visits to numerous military installations, focus groups, individuals and confidential surveys with servicemembers contemplating veteran suicide.
The SPRIRC recently started installation visits to prevent veteran suicide. The installations that will be utilized in this study will be:
Fort Campbell, Ky.
Camp Lejeune, N.C.
North Carolina National Guard
Naval Air Station North Island, Calif.
Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.
Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska
Fort Wainwright, Alaska
Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska
Camp Humphreys, South Korea
By December 20, 2022, the SPRIRC will send an initial report for review in advance of sending a report of findings and recommendations to Congress by February 18, 2023.
“As I have said many times, mental health is health — period,” Secretary Austin additionally stated, “I know that senior leaders throughout the Department share my sense of commitment to this notion and to making sure we do everything possible to heal all wounds, those you can see and those you can’t. We owe it to our people, their families and to honor the memory of those we have lost.”
To view Secretary Austin’s full memorandum on veteran suicide prevention and updates on the SPRIRC, visit the Department of Defense’s website at defense.gov.
The PACT Act is a new law that expands VA health care and benefits for Veterans exposed to burn pits and other toxic substances. This law helps us provide generations of Veterans—and their survivors—with the care and benefits they’ve earned and deserve.
This page will help answer your questions about what the PACT Act means for you or your loved ones. You can also call us at 800-698-2411(TTY: 711).
And you can file a claim for PACT Act-related disability compensation or apply for VA health care now.
What’s the PACT Act and how will it affect my VA benefits and care?
The PACT Act is perhaps the largest health care and benefit expansion in VA history.
The full name of the law is The Sergeant First Class (SFC) Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act.
The PACT Act will bring these changes:
Expands and extends eligibility for VA health care for Veterans with toxic exposures and Veterans of the Vietnam, Gulf War, and post-9/11 eras
Adds more than 20 new presumptive conditions for burn pits and other toxic exposures
Adds more presumptive-exposure locations for Agent Orange and radiation
Requires VA to provide a toxic exposure screening to every Veteran enrolled in VA health care
Helps us improve research, staff education, and treatment related to toxic exposures
If you’re a Veteran or survivor, you can file claims now to apply for PACT Act-related benefits.
What does it mean to have a presumptive condition for toxic exposure?
To get a VA disability rating, your disability must connect to your military service. For many health conditions, you need to prove that your service caused your condition.
But for some conditions, we automatically assume (or “presume”) that your service caused your condition. We call these “presumptive conditions.”
We consider a condition presumptive when it’s established by law or regulation.
If you have a presumptive condition, you don’t need to prove that your service caused the condition. You only need to meet the service requirements for the presumption.
Read more about the PACT Act on the VA’s website here.
Google Cloud announced that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is partnering with Google Cloud to help developers implement new tools and applications that will improve veteran access to VA services and data.
Serving more than 19 million veterans and their families, the VA is the largest healthcare provider in the United States and manages a network of 170 medical centers and 1,000 outpatient sites. In addition to healthcare, the VA administers key veteran services ranging from education opportunities and unemployment assistance to housing aid, pension benefits and more. Ensuring veterans can access these services easily is a top priority for the VA.
Through a $13 million, multi-year contract, the VA will deploy Apigee, Google Cloud’s application programming interface (API) management platform. The implementation is part of the continued evolution of the VA’s Lighthouse API program, providing developers with seamless and secure access to VA APIs in the development of new tools and services. For example, with Apigee, developers can use the VA’s Benefits API to create applications that help veterans submit and track electronic benefits claims and add supplemental documentation. Developers can also easily access the VA’s Health APIs to build new online tools that help veterans manage their health and access their medical records.
“Google Cloud’s Apigee will help the VA to continue scaling the VA Lighthouse API program for third-party developers in a cost-efficient manner, offering veterans more choice in the applications and tools they use to obtain access to their data and services,” said Dave Mazik, director, VA Lighthouse. “This partnership is a logical next step to better connect veterans with VA services, innovate with trusted third parties and continue to offer a high-quality, digital-first customer experience to which they’re accustomed to in other areas of their lives.”
APIs are how software talks to software and how developers leverage data and functionality at scale in a secure fashion. They are products that need to be actively managed so that organizations and developers can execute business strategies and achieve innovation at scale.
“We’re honored to support the VA and our nation’s veterans,” said Mike Daniels, vice president of Global Public Sector, Google Cloud. “By making it easier for developers and partners to build new applications through Apigee, the VA is spurring innovations that will ultimately enable veterans and their families to more easily access important benefits and services.”
The VA’s Apigee deployment — built on Apigee’s FedRAMP-authorized platform — will support the department’s existing efforts to safeguard veteran data, in compliance with standards such as HIPAA regulations and the Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) standard for exchanging healthcare information electronically.
About Google Cloud Google Cloud accelerates organizations’ ability to digitally transform their business with the best infrastructure, platform, industry solutions and expertise. We deliver enterprise-grade solutions that leverage Google’s cutting-edge technology — all on the cleanest cloud in the industry. Customers in more than 200 countries and territories turn to Google Cloud as their trusted partner to enable growth and solve their most critical business problems.
Warrior Ranch Foundation rescues and trains horses — then matches them with veterans and first responders who can benefit from healing therapy.
Eileen Shanahan is the founder and president of the Warrior Ranch Foundation, headquartered in Calverton, N.Y.
She was joined by U.S. Army Ranger veteran Paul Martinez, U.S. Coast Guard veteran Maddie Feaster and Warrior Ranch trainer Gina Lamb — and together they explained how this equine therapy organization helps veterans and first responders heal from PTSD.
“We do horse interaction therapy,” explained Shanahan, who is also an editor with Fox News.
“What we do is we teach our participants about the nature of horses and the way horses communicate with each other — and that’s through body language.”
Warrior Ranch Foundation rescues and trains horses, then pairs them up with veterans and first responders who need their healing energy.
Shanahan explained that they teach simple exercises to learn to communicate with the horses, with a focus on safety.
“Now, think about it: We’re stepping into their herd — so it’s about respect and trust,” she said.
“You have to get the trust of that horse,” Shanahan continued. “When horses are out in the field seeing who the leader is, they’re poking each other, biting each other, kicking each other.”
She explained that they’re not hurting each other, noting that they each weigh about 1,000 pounds, “but when we enter their herd, that’s the only way they know how to communicate” — hence the foundation’s focus on safety.
Chronic pain, one of the most common medical problems, is any pain that persists after your body has healed, usually after three to six months.
Some types of chronic pain include headaches, low back, neck, and other muscle, joint or nerve pains. These problems may be caused by an injury or an ongoing medical problem like arthritis or diabetes. In many other cases, the exact cause of chronic pain is unknown.
How you respond when you hurt is essential for managing any type of chronic pain. Many efforts to reduce pain in the short term create increased pain, suffering, and disability in the long term. This includes taking more medicine, resting or avoiding activities.
There are multiple treatment options available to treat your chronic pain. No single treatment is suitable for everyone. Talk with your healthcare provider to learn more about the possible treatment options and decide which ones are best for you.
Opioids and chronic pain
Opioids are natural or manufactured chemicals that can reduce pain. Healthcare providers prescribe them. Opioids work by changing the way your brain senses pain. Some common opioids are:
Healthcare providers used to think that opioids could safely reduce chronic pain when used for extended periods. New information has taught us that long-term opioid use may not be helpful or safe for treating chronic pain.
New knowledge leads to new practices
We have learned three key things through studying opioids and chronic pain. This new information has changed medical practice.
Opioids will only temporarily “take the edge” off pain no matter the dose. You will not be pain-free over the long term.
There are very significant risks that come with using these medicines. Higher doses carry greater risks with very little evidence of any additional benefit.
There is absolutely no safe dose of opioids. An overdose is possible even when you are using your opioids as prescribed.
Facts about opioids
Opioids have many effects in addition to reducing pain. They slow your mind and body and can cause shortness or loss of breath. Long-term opioid use can cause multiple other problems, including:
Accidental overdose or death
Opioid use disorder or addiction
Problems with sleep, mood, hormones and immune system
Treating pain without opioids
Many treatments can be helpful with chronic pain, including:
Non-opioid pain medicines
Physical therapy and exercise
Nerve blocks or surgery
Acupuncture, yoga, chiropractic
The best long-term treatment for chronic pain requires you to be involved in your own care. Self-management includes taking care of yourself in ways other than taking medicines, having surgery, or using other medical treatments. Cognitive behavior therapy can help you learn to respond differently to your chronic pain and reduce its effects on your daily life.
You should work with your healthcare provider to develop an individual treatment plan based on realistic expectations and goals. For most people, long-term improvements will depend more on what you can do to help yourself in lieu of what medical providers can do for you. Appropriate goals focus on improving your overall quality of life instead of providing urgent and complete pain relief.
Source: Veterans Health Library
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