Army veteran who said prosthetic legs were repossessed to get new pair from VA

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veteran Jerry Holliman pictured whose prosthetic leges repossessd

Last August, two months after doctors amputated his left leg, Holliman received a pair of prosthetic legs from Hanger. He had begun therapy sessions with the company at the Collins State Veterans Home to learn how to properly walk.

That all came to halt on Dec. 23 when a representative from Hanger repossessed his prosthetic legs after learning the VA would not pay for them. It was a huge blow to Holliman’s hopes of being able to return to home in Hattiesburg, Miss., for the holidays.

“It’s like somebody walked up to you and gave you a punch in the gut,” Holliman said. “Why would you come and take a veteran’s legs?’

The set of prosthetic legs were returned to Holliman a few days later. However, Holliman said Hanger would no longer make the needed adjustments that allowed him to properly use the prosthetic legs until someone paid for them.

The VA told Holliman that the prosthetics legs were obtained as a private purchase, which precluded them from paying for them on his behalf. Instead, he said he was told to use Medicare to pay for them. He refused that option because he said using Medicare would have required him to pay a co-pay.

Krisita Burkey, the vice president of public relations and communications at Hanger, told Fox News in a statement that patient privacy laws prevented the company from talking about Holliman’s case specifically. However, she said, “Hanger does not take back prosthetic devices once a patient signs for the delivery.

“A signed verification of delivery is a necessary step in the delivery process due to regulations, but actual payment is not required upon delivery to the patient,” the statement continued. “Payment is typically received from the applicable payer, whether it is a private insurer, Medicare/Medicaid or the VA, at a later date.”

Walker told Fox News that Holliman had come to the VA’s prosthetics department in Jackson shortly after his left leg was amputated. Holliman inquired about the VA making him a pair of prosthetic legs, but Walker said the VA was unable to begin the process at the time.

“We cannot begin a prosthetic evaluation until the skin is completely healed because of the pressure and the things that are required to wear and use a prosthetic device,” he explained.

Walker, who was given permission by Holliman to speak about the case to Fox News, said the 69-year-old never followed up with the VA after that visit. Instead, he said Holliman went to a private clinic and then to Hanger to obtain prosthetic legs.

“We want veterans to use us,” Walker said. “If a veteran chooses to go outside of our system, we cannot, unfortunately, take on the responsibilities for private purchases and that’s the case.”

Holliman denied that he had gone to Hanger on his own to get prosthetic legs. He said he had no authority to make his own appointments and was following directives from medical personnel at the state-run veterans home where he’s resided for the last year.

After the VA’s decision to give him a new set of prosthetic legs, Holliman told Fox News he accepted an appointment for later this month. However, after this ordeal, he remains skeptical.

“I can’t walk on proposals. I need to see it [to] fruition,” Holliman said. “I’m trying to recoup my life. I can’t do it on my own. I need the help of the VA.”

Continue on to FOX News to read the complete article.

Travis Mills: A Profile in True Courage

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Travis Mills seated on couch wearing two prosthetic legs smiling

By Kellie Speed

Eight years ago, Travis Mills’ life was forever changed when he became one of only five servicemen from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan ever to survive his injuries as a quadruple amputee.

Retired United States Army Staff Sergeant Travis Mills of the 82nd Airborne was critically wounded in action on April 10, 2012 by an IED on his third deployment in Afghanistan, but with a positive attitude, he refuses to let his injuries define him.

“In the beginning it was a little difficult not being able to look in the mirror for six months” he told us. “There were times when you wonder why this happened and how can you go back in time. After a while, you just realize that it’s never going to change so you might as well make the best of it.”

Mills said he had wonderful doctors, nurses, and medical staff as well as therapists (occupational, physical, driving rehab) that would get him back on his feet. His wife and his daughter were right there with him, literally every step of the way.

“I learned to walk with my daughter as she was learning how to walk,” he said. “Once you peel back the layers and realize this is the rest of your life, stop dwelling on it, get moving and reminisce about what you had, life gets a lot easier.”

Mills said the mental part was the toughest, and that he struggled with the ‘why?”

“Am I a bad person? Why didn’t I just die? Things like that go through your head,” he said. “I realized for the first five weeks of my injuries that I had to have someone feed me, have someone help me change my clothes, help me use the restroom, things that you wouldn’t think of. It’s like being an adult baby that can’t do anything for themselves. It has taught me patience.”

Today, the motivational speaker, actor, author and advocate for veterans and amputees whose motto “never give up; never quit” continues to inspire everyone he meets, while living “a pretty normal, hectic, crazy all-American dream life” with his wife, Kelsey, and two children.

Mills and his wife founded the Travis Mills Foundation to assist post 9/11 veterans who have been injured in active duty or as a result of their service to our nation. Through the foundation, they have created a Veterans Retreat where veterans and their families receive an all-inclusive, all-expenses paid vacation to Maine to participate in adaptive activities.

“The original vision in creating the foundation was just care packages overseas, because I would see a lot of guys who wouldn’t get care packages,” he said. “I thought, ‘let’s just send them peanut butter M&Ms, beef jerky that’s peppered, of course, because that’s the delicious one, and a few other items.’ So, we started with that idea.”

Then Mills, who could still go kayaking, canoeing, horseback riding and snowboarding, would take these trips with his wife and enjoyed them so much, it sparked his next idea. “I thought how great it would be to bring people out and show them they can do things adaptively with their family?” he said. “It just kind of progressed to a small camp in the woods with little cabins to this huge facility. We don’t even say camp anymore because it’s more of a retreat at a huge estate (the former Elizabeth Arden Estate). We have been able to expand greatly.”

Mills’ advice for veterans who may be struggling with injuries suffered during combat? “I just tell people never be too strong to reach out for help, and understand there are ways to get over post-traumatic stress. And if they are physically injured, every day is a step in the right direction,” he said. “I am always so grateful and thankful when I think about what could have happened. I lost some really, really close friends of mine, and their families would give anything to have them back—their children, parents, spouses, their siblings and friends would give anything. So, when I think about it in that aspect, I know I was given a chance to live, move forward and make the most of every day.”

The $100 Bet That Forever Changed Kaleb Wilson’s Life

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Kaleb Wilson in wheelchair on a pier with his wife in his lap

Seven years ago, Coast Guard veteran and PVA member Kaleb Wilson took a $100 bet that changed his life.

Some friends dared him to jump off a pier. He was 22 years old, and he figured he’d do it—it’s $100, right?

So, he dove in headfirst and hit the bottom, shattering several vertebrae. Instead of celebrating his win with friends, he found himself in a New Orleans Trauma Center, paralyzed.

One Goal

With his sweetheart Brittany by his side, he fought tooth and nail with one goal in mind: He wanted to walk down the aisle on their wedding day. She had been there for him during his recovery and rehab, and now he made it his mission to be there for her, standing across from her at the altar, and dancing at their wedding. With a lot of love, support, and hard work, he made it happen.

Wilson had been interested in joining the military ever since he was a little boy. He was a swimmer in high school, and started looking into programs with the Navy and the Air Force. But it was the Coast Guard that caught his attention. He was drawn to rescue swimming. “I knew it was where I needed to be,” he says.

He was a part of the Coast Guard for three years. After he graduated from boot camp he was assigned to a station in New Orleans, where he worked doing search and rescue missions, intercepting drug shipments, escorting vessels into the Gulf, and patrolling rivers and lakes. He loved his job, and he enjoyed the culture in New Orleans. He was a young man enjoying his career, living in a lively city, in love with a beautiful girl. Wilson was on the list to go to “A” school in November of 2012 when he took that fateful dare that landed him in a wheelchair.

A New Normal

Becoming paralyzed presents a whole host of challenges, of course, not just for the injured, but for those closest to them. Wilson and Brittany had to work together with trust and focus in order to adjust to their new normal. They relied on each other, and became stronger together. He proposed in 2013; they married in 2014, both of them standing for the ceremony.

Kaleb, in wheelchair and Brittany Wilson pose outside with their two young daughters, all smiling
Kaleb and Brittany Wilson with their two daughters

They also relied on Paralyzed Veterans of America. During rehab and recovery, PVA helped Wilson with benefits information, and later on, with vocational rehab benefits allowing him to return to school to pursue a chemical engineering degree. A couple of years ago, Wilson competed in the National Veterans Wheelchair Games in swimming, and was inspired to join the Mountain State chapter of PVA, serving on the Board and as Treasurer.

He has attended two Games so far, most recently in Louisville, where he brought home seven medals in swimming, rugby, and field events. “It’s nice to be around people who are in a similar situation as I am, who understand what you are going through,” he says. “Brittany loves it, too, because she gets to socialize with other wives who know what we’re dealing with, and we get to come together with friends who live around the country.”

Giving Back

He and Brittany are in the process of moving to Illinois, where he will transfer his membership to the Vaughn chapter of PVA and do some volunteering for fellow veteran Noah Currier with his Oscar Mike Foundation.

“It’s not just money that keeps these programs running, it’s volunteers, too. I don’t want to be somebody who just takes, takes, takes. I want to give back.”

Today, Wilson is a loving and happy husband, and delighted father of two little girls, with a third child on the way. He is also a proud veteran of the United States Coast Guard.

“Seven years ago, I sustained my injury that ended my time actively serving in the Coast Guard, but that did not take away the fact that I still am a Coastie. I still feel at home around my fellow Coasties; I still feel connected in the way I always have. I may not serve beside them anymore, but I will always be a part of them!”

Source: https://blog.pva.org & craighospital.org/blog/wilsonwedding

Wounded Army Corporal Inspires Boston’s Wounded Vet Run

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Vincent Mannion-Brodeur in his army uniform on the field

By Kellie Speed

When Jeff and Maura Brodeur received the devastating call that would change their life forever— that their only son had been critically injured in Iraq and may not make it—they never could have imagined how far he would come today.

U.S. Army Private Vincent Mannion-Brodeur was just 19 when he was deployed to Iraq where he served as a Parachute Infantryman in the B-2-505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division and Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, Honor Guard.

On March 11, 2007, the Massachusetts native was checking a house for insurgents when an improvised explosive device detonated, killing his sergeant and leaving him with deep shrapnel wounds that ravaged his upper torso. In addition, his left arm was nearly blown off and he sustained a traumatic brain injury that required the removal of his cranium and part of his frontal lobe.

As a courageous recipient of the Bronze Star and Purple Heart, Vincent, who retired as a corporal, became the inspiration behind Boston’s Wounded Vet Run, a motorcycle run that honors wounded veterans of New England.

“Ten years ago, Vincent was the first recipient of the Boston Wounded Vet Run, which was used to supplement a VA Special Adaptive Housing Grant he earned that took two years of paperwork to complete,” said Jeff Brodeur, Vincent’s father and an Army veteran himself, adding that Vincent will be honored once again this year at the tenth annual Boston’s Wounded Vet Run being held in September.

Vincent Mannion-Brodeur holding an award
Vincent Mannion-Brodeur holding an award

“He was in a wheelchair at the time so we used that money to put in new stairs and a new walkway. We used the funds raised to make modifications for accessibility to the outside of our home. It’s really nice to have him being honored again on the run 10 years later because it all started with Vincent and Andy (Biggio) who is the founder.”

Since Boston’s initial event a decade ago, the motorcycle runs have increased in popularity, now becoming available in major cities nationwide raising money to provide assistance to severely wounded veterans like Vincent to improve their quality of life. All proceeds from the runs go directly to veterans to assist with housing modifications or mobility and transportation needs, including wheelchairs and cars, along with other basic requirements.

After surviving a yearlong coma, lengthy hospital stays, 47 surgeries and years of rehabilitation to relearn the simplest of tasks—from walking and talking to eating and showering—Vincent and his family have become an inspiration. Overcoming all odds after being told he might never be able to walk or talk again, Vincent, who can often be found smiling, saying, “God bless America,” still faces lifelong daily challenges but that hasn’t broken his fun-loving spirit.

His parents, who are both veterans, fought successfully to become the first on the East Coast—and one of the first families in the nation—to have their son transferred to a private medical facility to continue his care, paving the way for many other wounded soldiers.

Vincent Mannion-Brodeur holding an award with his doctor
Vincent Mannion-Brodeur holding an award with his doctor

The Veterans Administration initially wanted to transfer Vincent to its Tampa trauma facility but his parents were concerned over the level of care he would receive. “Boston has some of the best hospitals in the nation and we won approval for Vincent to receive private care for his severe TBI at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital instead of having to go to a Veterans Administration facility,” said Jeff, an Army veteran and also the National President of the Korean War Veteran’s Association. “The polytrauma hospitals back then didn’t offer the specialized care that we knew Boston could provide.”

Their steadfast determination in finding the best care and rehabilitation for their son paved the way for the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010, authorizing the Veterans Administration to, “establish a wide range of new services to support certain caregivers of eligible Post 9/11 Veterans.” The additional benefits offered to families of veterans now include a monthly stipend, health care coverage, and travel expenses (including lodging and per diem) while accompanying veterans undergoing care, respite care and mental health services and counseling.

Wounded Army Chief Gifted Smart Home Through the Gary Sinise Foundation

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Wounded Army Chief Gary Linfoot in wheelchair in doorway of new home arms spread wide palms open and looking up thankfully with wife behind him

The Gary Sinise Foundation was established under the philanthropic direction of actor Gary Sinise, who has been an advocate of our nation’s defenders for nearly forty years.

The mission of the foundation is to serve our nation by honoring our defenders, veterans, first responders, their families, and those in need. One of the Gary Sinise Foundation’s flagship programs is R.I.S.E. (Restoring Independence Supporting Empowerment), which builds specially adapted smart homes for our most severely wounded heroes.

U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 5 Gary Linfoot and his wife, Mari, became the recipient of one of these new smart homes at a dedication ceremony.

Linfoot, a Los Angeles native, initially enlisted in the Army Reserve after graduating high school in the hopes of becoming a helicopter pilot. After attending Flight School and graduating a Warrant Officer in 1990, Linfoot joined the Army’s elite 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) (SOAR(A)) in 1997.

On May 31, 2008, while conducting operations in Iraq, Linfoot’s helicopter suffered a catastrophic mechanical failure. The helicopter crash-landed, injuring Linfoot severely. Medics evacuated him to Germany for a spine stabilization surgery, and treatment took him from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to the Tampa VA Hospital, and finally the Shepherd Center in GA. His broken back paralyzed Linfoot from the waist down.

Gary and his wife Mari have raised three children over their twenty-six-year marriage. As with every other challenge they have confronted, they fight to overcome Gary’s disability together and have had remarkable success. Wearing an exoskeleton suit, Gary walked his oldest daughter Allyssa down the aisle on her wedding day in 2016, and he currently works as a helicopter simulator instructor pilot with the 160th SOAR(A) at Fort Campbell, KY.

Gary Sinise sent the following message to Linfoot that was delivered at the ceremony:

Gary Linfoot coming down the sidewalk in wheelchair with new large home in the distance on a large piece of grassy property
The Gary Sinise Foundation’s RISE program dedicates a specially adapted smart home to US Army CW5 Gary Linfoot in Adams, Tennessee.

“You are an inspiration my friend. What an incredible journey you have had. Seeing the video of you walking your daughter down the aisle in the amazing exoskeleton brought tears to my eyes. I am thrilled that you are finally here today, about to begin this brand-new chapter in your life. … I will look forward to a time in the future when I can come visit, take a tour of your new home, and personally thank you, Mari and your three children, Allyssa, Kylie and Hayden, once again for all you have sacrificed on behalf of this nation.”

“On behalf of everyone at the Gary Sinise Foundation, welcome home Linfoot family. Enjoy this wonderful day. May God bless you always, and may God Bless the United States of America you have so faithfully served. Army Strong! Your ‘Grateful American’ pal, Gary Sinise.”

R.I.S.E. constructs one-of-a-kind houses all across the country, specifically designed to meet the needs of a wounded hero, their caregivers and families, and provide a place to truly call home. These 100% mortgage-free homes ease the daily challenges faced by these heroes and their families who sacrifice alongside them.

To learn more about the R.I.SE. program and the Gary Sinise Foundation please visit: garysinisefoundation.org/rise/

How Wells Fargo is Prioritizing Veterans

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An American Soldier with his wife and young son, smiling for the camera

By Natalie Rodgers

In 2012, Wells Fargo and Company founded its Military Affairs Program, with the goal to connect with current and past military personnel and their families, and provide them with the proper resources to succeed in their day-to-day lives.

Through this program, Wells Fargo has repeatedly reported the importance of connecting and understanding the concerns of our troops to better serve their needs. This past week, Wells Fargo has gone the extra mile in improving its program by hiring a new head of military talent external recruiting and enterprise military and veteran initiatives—Sean Passmore—who will also oversee the Military Affairs Program. Passmore will officially take this title on May 11, 2020.

Passmore’s resume could not be more impressive. He served in the U.S. Army for over 22 years and has an extensive background in helping military veterans to transition from the battlefield to the workforce. Enforcing Wells Fargo’s desire to better connect and understand its military clients, Passmore’s experiences will help to better cater the program to the needs of its participants.

Passmore has also worked as the executive vice president of strategic initiatives and military affairs for the Perfect Technician Academy (PTA) and as the military hiring advisor for United Services Automobile Association (USAA). In these positions, he became an expert in the recruitment and hiring of military personnel into the workforce. Passmore also served at the White House as a senior presidential officer.

“Sean comes to Wells Fargo with exceptional experience,” Indirhia Arrington, Wells Fargo’s head of Targeting Sourcing and Passmore’s point of report, said. “Sean will be a tremendous asset overseeing this program and building a stronger relationship with the military community at large on behalf of the company.”

To learn more about Wells Fargo’s Military Affairs Program, visit wellsfargo.com/military.

Prince Harry, Jon Bon Jovi Team Up for Invictus Games

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Britain's Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex (L) chats with US singer Jon Bon Jovi as he arrives at Abbey Road Studios in London on February 28, 2020, where they met with members of the Invictus Games Choir, who were there to record a special single in aid of the Invictus Games Foundation

Prince Harry is collaborating on a new project with singer Jon Bon Jovi, potentially singing, for the upcoming Invictus Games for wounded soldiers.

Bon Jovi’s new recording of “Unbroken” is set to be released next month and will be on his new album, according to NBC’s “Today.”

“I had written a song that was important for what we’re doing,” Bon Jovi told NBC. “I just sent him a letter. I don’t know Harry, but he embraces my idea.”

The song was written for veterans living with post-traumatic stress syndrome, and Prince Harry’s Invictus Games feature wounded veterans competing in events such as wheelchair basketball, sitting volleyball, and indoor rowing.

The song will feature the Invictus choir made up of participants, and might even include Prince Harry signing – aka, “the artist formerly known as prince,” Bon Jovi told NBC.

Asked “can Harry sing,” Bon Jovi responded: “You’ll have to wait and find out.”

The Invictus Games is where Prince Harry introduced his then-girl friend Meghan Markle three years ago.

Photo Credit: TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images

Continue on to NewsMax to read the complete article.

Service Beyond the Battlefield

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Live to Give bottle of water sitting on a table with blurred image of people in the background

I knew I wanted to join the Army by the time I was 20 years old. In the months leading up to that birthday, I had taken some time to try to discover my career path and what I wanted to do with my life. After some self-reflection and looking inward, I realized that I wanted my life to serve a greater purpose than myself. I wanted my life to have meaning.

Two months after my 20th birthday, I arrived at basic training, ready to start my career and future with the United States Army. I served for 12 years, including seven years in the special forces.

During my time serving, I was deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, and it was there that I lost my leg to sniper fire. The weeks and months that followed the injury were some of the most difficult that I had ever experienced. It was a devastating injury that would impact my life forever, but I was not ready to let it define my life. Following my recovery and rehabilitation, I attended Special Forces Sniper School and became the first amputee to graduate.

I often think about my decision to serve my country, even re-enlisting after losing my leg. The impact that my experiences have had on me is hard to describe, but it is an impact that I feel every single day.

While joining the Army taught me so many lessons, the biggest lesson I learned was how to live a life of selfless service, a life for others. The mentality of focusing on myself was not an option anymore. Instead, it was all about the team and serving a greater good.

I learned so much while in the Army, and leaving it was not easy. Once my time in the Army had come to its conclusion, the transition into civilian life was difficult to say the least. Not only was I transitioning from my career, I was also transitioning with my health. I was not only having to learn how to live my life as an amputee, but now also as a civilian. Throughout this transition, I would consistently question myself with what I was going to do next and how I was going to provide for my family. And for a while, I didn’t know what I was going to do, but I knew that I had to keep moving.

A phrase that I always say is to “lean forward and fight hard” and that is what pushed me through this difficult time.

This mission remains true with the work that I do today. As a veteran and an amputee, I know how important it is to honor those who have put their lives on the line, thank them for their service and of course, give back to them, so that they too can experience the American dream that they fought so selflessly to protect.

Last year, I co-founded a bottled water brand called Live to Give. With every purchase, we donate 50% of our net profits to organizations that support military, first responders and their families.

While I can no longer physically serve my country as I did in the Army, building Live to Give and a team of people who want to give back is my new way of serving my country.

About the Author
John Wayne Walding spent 12 years in the United States Army, including seven years in the Special Forces Group at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina. After losing his leg in battle in 2008, John went on to become the first amputee to graduate Special Forces Sniper School. Today, John serves as co-founder of Live to Give, a beverage company that donates half of its net profits to first responders, military members and their families.

Paralyzed Veterans of America to host Wheelchair Rugby Tournament for wounded heroes and adaptive athletes

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Paralyzed Veterans of America logo

Paralyzed Veterans of America will host 12 wheelchair rugby teams from across the country to compete in its 3rd Annual Code of Honor Quad Rugby Invitational.

The tournament brings together national league wheelchair rugby teams made up of disabled military veterans and civilian adaptive athletes, to compete in a 3-day round-robin style tournament. A wheelchair rugby skills clinic will be held prior to the start of the tournament to introduce novice players to the sport.

The clinic is free and individuals with disabilities as well as rehab health professionals who are interested in learning more about the sport are invited to attend.

The Quad Rugby Invitational is one of many year-round adaptive sports opportunities Paralyzed Veterans of America provides for disabled veterans and other individuals with disabilities.

WHEN:    Friday, February 7, 2020
Wheelchair Rugby Skills Clinic         10:00 a.m. – 11:45 a.m.
Opening Ceremony                          11:45 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Competition begins                          12:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.

                 Saturday, February 8, 2020
Competition                                      8:45 a.m. – 5:45 p.m.

                 Sunday, February 9, 2020
Competition                                      9:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.
                 Championship Game                        10:30 a.m.
Closing Ceremony and Awards        11:45 a.m. (approx.)

  

WHERE:   The St. James
6805 Industrial Road
Springfield, VA 22151

The St. James is a 450,000 square foot sports, wellness and active entertainment destination in the Washington, DC metro area. Paralyzed Veterans of America hosted its 2019 Code of Honor tournament at The St. James, making it the first adaptive sports event to be held at the facility.

WHO:      Paralyzed Veterans of America (host)

Eleven Division II teams from the U.S. Quad Rugby Association (USQRA) and PVA’s at-large team comprised of military veterans:

Northern Virginia Mutiny
Maryland Mayhem
MedStar DC NRH Punishers
PVA at-large team
Brooks Bandits
Philadelphia Magee Eagles
NEP Wildcats
New York Warriors
Oscar Mike Militia
Raleigh Sidewinders
Richmond Sportable Possums
Wounded Warriors Abilities Ranch

For more information or to view the full tournament schedule, please visit pva.org/codeofhonor.

About Paralyzed Veterans of America
Paralyzed Veterans of America is the only congressionally chartered veterans service organization dedicated solely for the benefit and representation of veterans with spinal cord injury or disease. For more than 70 years, the organization has ensured that veterans receive the benefits earned through service to our nation; monitored their care in VA spinal cord injury units; and funded research and education in the search for a cure and improved care for individuals with paralysis.

As a life-long partner and advocate for veterans and all people with disabilities, Paralyzed Veterans of America also develops training and career services, works to ensure accessibility in public buildings and spaces and provides health and rehabilitation opportunities through sports and recreation. With more than 70 offices and 33 chapters, Paralyzed Veterans of America serves veterans, their families and their caregivers in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Learn more at pva.org.

About The St. James
The St. James is the premier sports, wellness and entertainment destination in the country. Our mission is to maximize human potential by designing, developing and operating sports, wellness, entertainment and hospitality programs, services and experiences that engage, inspire and empower people to pursue their passions and be their best at play, at work and in life. The St. James aims to serve as the center of the universe in every community where it is located by delivering the most comprehensive combination of best-in-class sports and wellness venues, developmental and elite coaching, training and competition, five-star lifestyle experiences and family centered active fun all in an environment that engages, inspires and delights everyone that comes through our doors. The St. James, which opened its first location just outside of Washington, DC in the fall of 2018, plans to open its second complex in the Chicago suburb of Lincolnshire in the fall of 2021. For more information, please visit thestjames.com.

New virtual employment service provides support for disabled veterans anywhere, anytime

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disabled veteran in wheelchair looking online for employment

Paralyzed Veterans of America announces a new virtual engagement initiative from its employment program, PAVE (Paving Access for Veterans Employment), that specializes in helping veterans with disabilities find meaningful employment. PAVE Connect bridges a critical gap, reaching those who do not have the time, means, or ability to attend traditional employment or educational events.

In recent years, PVA has observed that traditional hiring and employment fairs are ineffective for many PAVE clients — the overlooked and undervalued veteran workforce. Veterans with disabilities, especially those who are significantly injured or ill, are less likely to attend large public events with crowds or in locations that are not easily accessible.

Through PAVE Connect, members of the veteran community can:

  • Interact with PAVE employment experts through virtual meetings.
  • Meet employers eager to hire from the military and veteran community.
  • Access an online library of timely, relevant career information — on their schedule and from any device.
  • View recorded presentations and access other tools and resources on demand.
  • Discover a wide range of meaningful education, volunteer, and employment opportunities.

“I am thrilled to add PAVE Connect to our list of services,” said Lauren Lobrano, PVA’s director of PAVE. “Virtual technology provides yet another meaningful way to reach and serve our clients. If a veteran is underemployed, they can’t take the time away from their current job to pursue a better one. If a veteran has a significant disability, yet is capable and employable, big events can be a deterrent. PAVE Connect helps level that playing field and maintains our proven one-on-one, high-touch approach.”

PAVE employment analysts and vocational rehabilitation counselors work with clients to overcome barriers to employment at all stages of their life. The unique, no-cost program offers assistance not only to veterans across the country, but also to transitioning service members, spouses, and caregivers and specializes in assisting those with barriers to employment.

“Employment is a vital part of feeling independent, especially if you’ve been injured or have a disability,” said Hack Albertson, national vice president of PVA and a U.S. Marine Corps veteran. “I was introduced to Paralyzed Veterans of America through the PAVE program. The support I received made such an impact, I committed my career to giving back and helping other veterans like myself. Now with PAVE Connect, our reach extends further to meet those who need us most.”

PAVE Connect sessions, led by employment experts, cover topics such as transitioning from military to civilian employment, interview preparation, requesting accommodations in the workplace, effective resume tips, and more. PVA’s employment and educational partners will also participate in select sessions, offering exceptional networking opportunities and insight into the opportunities available within their organizations. The first several PAVE Connect pilot sessions provided clients with informative dialogue and useful resources as they work toward finding meaningful employment.

Watch past PAVE Connect sessions, view the upcoming schedule, and register to participate in a session for free at pva.org/pave.

About Paralyzed Veterans of America

Paralyzed Veterans of America is the only congressionally chartered veterans service organization dedicated solely for the benefit and representation of veterans with spinal cord injury or disease. For more than 70 years, the organization has ensured that veterans receive the benefits earned through service to our nation; monitored their care in VA spinal cord injury units; and funded research and education in the search for a cure and improved care for individuals with paralysis.

As a life-long partner and advocate for veterans and all people with disabilities, Paralyzed Veterans of America also develops training and career services, works to ensure accessibility in public buildings and spaces and provides health and rehabilitation opportunities through sports and recreation. With more than 70 offices and 33 chapters, Paralyzed Veterans of America serves veterans, their families and their caregivers in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Learn more at pva.org.

FDA agrees to expand access to ecstasy for PTS treatment

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Young depressed military man talking about emotional problems with psychotherapist at doctor's office

MDMA, an illegal psychedelic drug commonly known as ecstasy or molly, could be used to treat post-traumatic stress, researchers say. But access to the drug for testing has been difficult, even though the Food and Drug Administration in 2017 designated it as a “breakthrough therapy” for PTS treatment.

Veterans experience PTS at a higher rate than the rest of the population. The Department of Veterans Affairs estimates 11-20 percent of veterans who served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have PTS, compared to about 8 percent of non-veterans.

Clinical tests of the drug are in their third phase, but people whose moderate or severe PTS  is resistant to other treatments could potentially benefit from early access to MDMA, according to the nonprofit research group, Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS).

MAPS plans to allow early access to “potentially beneficial investigational therapies for people facing a serious or life-threatening condition for whom currently available treatments have not worked,” according to a MAPS news release

Phase 3 clinical trials are ongoing for the drug’s use in treating PTS, but the new approval from FDA will allow a select 50 patients at up to 10 sites in the U.S. earlier access to MDMA-assisted psychotherapy. Clinical trials are expected to be completed by 2021, meaning the FDA could approve the drug as soon as 2022.

MDMA is a synthetic drug that acts as a stimulant and hallucinogen, producing an energizing effect, distortions in perception, increased self-awareness and empathy and “enhanced enjoyment from sensory experiences,” according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

“The resurgence of research into using drugs such as MDMA to catalyze psychotherapy is the most promising and exciting development I’ve seen in my psychiatric career,” Dr. Michael Mithoefer, acting medical director for MAPS Public Benefit Corporation, said in a statement.

MAPS hopes FDA will provide additional expanded access once it shows the drug helped its first 35 patients.

Patients who participate in the treatment take a dose of the drug in a controlled clinical environment as part of a course of psychotherapy. They’ll also be responsible for the costs of their treatment, unlike in the clinical trials.

After the drug is approved, patients will still not be able to take MDMA at home, and won’t fill prescriptions at a local pharmacy. The drug will only be available through a certified doctor in a supervised therapeutic setting, MAPS said.

The expanded access or “compassionate use,” requires at least one therapist involved in treatment have a medical or clinical doctorate degree.

Selection of the 10 sites that will offer the treatment is expected to be announced in the coming months. More than 120 sites have applied, according to MAPS. Once the program starts, patients can apply to their preferred site.

Continue on to ConnectingVets.com to read the complete article.

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