The Gary Sinise Foundation Launches National Network to Combat PTSD

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Gary Sinise headshot looking over to the right smiling

Actor, humanitarian and veteran supporter Gary Sinise and his Foundation have launched The Gary Sinise Foundation Avalon Network — a cognitive health and mental wellness network providing transformative care to veterans and first responders experiencing post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injuries and substance abuse.

The Gary Sinise Foundation Avalon Network builds on the work of the Marcus Institute for Brain Health and the Boulder Crest Foundation’s Warrior PATHH program, and will establish 20 treatment sites nationwide to serve thousands of veterans, first responders and their families.

Both are personally motivated to improve and expand upon the care provided to veterans and first responders, and the Gary Sinise Foundation Avalon Network marks the first time that Marcus and Blank have partnered together since cofounding The Home Depot.

“We’ve lost more veterans to suicide than we have on the battlefields of the Global War on Terror. Our veterans and their families put their lives on the line for us and they deserve the highest level of care available.” said Marcus.

“We’ve found the perfect partner in the Gary Sinise Foundation to scale this idea into a national network that will provide cutting-edge care and improve the quality of life for our nation’s heroes. Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress (PTS) affect nearly 1 out of every 3 military personnel deployed to war zones since 2001. An estimated 30 percent of our nation’s first responders also experience symptoms of depression and post-traumatic stress.

Though dubbed “invisible wounds,” the changes in psychological health that accompany these conditions have very visible manifestations, such as depression, anxiety, suicide and substance abuse, impacting of the most critical times in our history,” added Blank.

Addressing an Epidemic of Invisible Wounds The national network’s name stems from Arthurian legend: Avalon was the sanctuary where King Arthur was taken to heal physically and spiritually after being wounded in battle.

In that spirit, the Gary Sinise Foundation Avalon Network is designed to address and help heal the epidemic of “invisible wounds” that afflict too many of our nation’s veterans and first responders. Traumatic brain injuries not just the veterans and first responders themselves, but their families as well. Unlike physical wounds, invisible wounds can be passed from one generation to the next.

Tragically, these invisible wounds too often can lead to suicide.

“When I formed the Gary Sinise Foundation in 2011, it was rooted in a personal mission to provide support, “This cognitive health and mental wellness network will help heal the invisible wounds afflicting too many of our veterans and first responders, transforming struggle into strength, and lifelong post-traumatic growth.”
– Gary Sinise

The Gary Sinise Foundation Avalon Network will expand on the Marcus Institute for Brain Health’s and Boulder Crest Foundation’s expertise and successes to create a nationwide, integrative traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress treatment and training network. By leveraging the science of  posttraumatic growth — a framework that explains the positive transformation that can occur following trauma— the Gary Sinise Foundation Avalon Network will empower veterans and first responders to cope with and overcome trauma, and in doing so, transform lives.

Veteran Suicide & Focusing on Suicide Prevention in the Military

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A marine sits with his hands in his faceon the ground contemplating veteran suicide

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.”

a military servicemember holds a pistol struggling with veteran suicideThe 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.

Source: Department of Defense

Man’s Best Friend Reduces PTSD Symptoms

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Man Hugging his service dog

According to a new review of evidence-based studies, military veterans who have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) benefit from reduced symptoms and enhanced trauma treatments when they partner with assistance dogs and help with their training.

Seven scientific studies published in peer-reviewed journals found that assistance dog training and partnering produced “moderate-to-significant” lowering of PTSD symptom scores in line with those reported in gold-standard trials of trauma interventions supported by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

The studies, carried out over the past five years, looked at a range of programs, from partnering veterans with fully-trained assistance dogs to teaching veterans how to train assistance dogs. All seven studies found reduced PTSD symptoms after participants completed service dog handling instruction. Two others, which used follow-up measures, found a long-term reduction in symptoms.

Chris Diefenthaler standing with his PTSD service dog
Chris Diefenthaler, executive director of Assistance Dogs International (ADI).

“Assistance dogs improve the lives of countless thousands of veterans around the world by helping with practical tasks, enhancing independence and boosting well-being, dignity and confidence,” said Chris Diefenthaler, executive director of Assistance Dogs International (ADI). “These studies indicate that properly trained assistance dogs are both life-saving and life-changing for veterans suffering from PTSD. They are proof that assistance dogs have a major role to play in the treatment, rehabilitation and support of military veterans with severe combat trauma.”

Eleven assistance dog programs across the U.S. including eight accredited by ADI — participated in the studies carried out by behavioral scientists, military psychologists, public health experts and social workers. Researchers reported that “veterans benefit significantly from dog ownership in combination with a structured dog training program. Not only do they experience significant decreases in stress and post-traumatic stress symptoms, but [they also] experience less isolation and self-judgment while also experiencing significant improvements in self-compassion.”

One study found “a statistically significant decrease in PTSD and depression symptoms…participants reported significant reductions in anger and improvement in perceived social support and quality of life.” In another study, researchers working with veterans being treated for chronic severe combat trauma used eye-tracking technology to measure the psychological effect of training a young assistance dog. The more time veterans spent in close contact with the dog, the less time they spent looking at threatening imagery, and they paid more attention to “pleasant” images.

In four studies that utilized control groups, symptoms of the assistance dog participants were reduced more than those of the control group, and few improvements were found in the treatment-only comparison groups.

“The scientific evidence is conclusive,” said Rick Yount, founder and executive director of ADI member Warrior Canine Connection. “These seven scientific examinations provide the long-awaited evidence that assistance dogs are both popular and effective at reducing trauma symptoms and improving the quality of life for our veterans. They also indicate that partnering with an assistance dog can enhance the perception of standard trauma treatment. PTSD is projected to remain a chronic and debilitating condition for thousands of veterans. It is imperative that assistance dogs for veterans with PTSD be fully integrated into military and veteran trauma care.”

Source: Assistance Dogs International

Mindset: The Secret to Living

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two soldiers standing side by side smiling

When one discharges from the military, veterans are often left with the gigantic task of reintegration. To describe this journey as “daunting” doesn’t even cover half of it.

Not only do these veterans have to deal with an entirely new set of norms and procedures; they also often come with scars of war such as survivor’s guilt, missing limbs, tinnitus, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI) just to name a few. Add on the feeling of a general lack of support from society; it is no wonder why many veterans go into complete isolation, or worse case, commit suicide.

I saw my first Special Forces (SF) person in basic training. I, along with the rest of my company, looked at them with reverence and awe. Like a sort of real-life Rambo. We all thought that there was nothing that these guys couldn’t do; they were the best of the best; they were elite. It wasn’t until recently that I discovered that individuals in the SF community go through the exact same struggles that veterans do. I had the privilege to speak with 27-year Navy SEAL veteran Jason Tuschen, former CMC (Command Master Chief) and current CEO of Sylabs, Inc., about his struggles, lessons learned and mindset.

Paul Peng: Out of your 27-year career as a Navy SEAL, what was your most trying time?

Jason Tuschen: When Dave Tapper was killed in action (KIA) on August 20, 2003 in Eastern Afghanistan. Dave was one of my closet friends. We deployed together at SEAL Team 3 and worked closely at NSWDG. He was a husband and father of four kids. His youngest son and my son were born a month apart. Any death is a tragedy. But when it is someone close, it is gut wrenching. I will never forget carrying his casket at Little Creek, Va. while the bagpipes played “Amazing Grace,” standing at Arlington listening to Taps as he was lowered down; nor the brotherhood we shared. As I progressed up to the rank of CMC, I had to handle several tragedies. The last one that I had to be a part of before retirement was when Chuck Keating IV died. He was KIA in Northern Iraq May 3, 2016. Any death in the Teams is hard, but Chuck’s was especially so because of how much media attention it got. Myself and Capt. Gary Richard had to go to both his parents and his brother (also a SEAL) informing them that he was KIA. The whole process of getting the proverbial 2 a.m. phone call, hauling ass into work then telling the next of kin is the worst task a leader has to do. But it pales in comparison to what the family has to endure.

Peng: To you, what’s the difference between the mindset of a SOF (Special Operations Forces) member versus conventional forces?

Tuschen: Humble confidence. We train with a sense of urgency and to the worst-case scenario. You definitely learn humility by training that way. It is physically and mentally exhausting, but you know that when you deploy you are as well trained as you can be and feel prepared. However, there is always room for improvement. You continuously strive for virtuosity knowing that you will never attain it. That is “humble confidence.”

Teamwork. In SOF, we are very aware of our strengths and weaknesses. As a result, we are able to complement each other, covering for each other’s weaknesses. Making an unstoppable team.

Taking Ownership. Take ownership of your mistakes, that’s how you learn. In SOF, we spend a lot of time going over lessons learned so that we don’t make the same mistake twice.

Mental Toughness. It is the union of discipline and courage. Courage isn’t just running to the sound of gun fire, but doing what is right, regardless of apprehensions or fear. Discipline is doing what you know to be right regardless of any distractions or discomforts.

Peng: How was your transition to the private sector after serving 27 years as a SEAL?

Tuschen: I did not find it too difficult. I retired because I realized I needed to be uncomfortable again. I became comfortable with the problems I faced and my authorities. Heck, I had my own parking spot! I needed to feel like the “new guy” again. I loved every moment of the SEAL teams, but I am not defined entirely by being a SEAL, and I never let it define me.

Peng: Why do you think so many veterans, including the SOF community, have a tough time transitioning?

Tuschen: I think, particularly in the SOF community, it’s very easy to let your job and lifestyle become your identity. The longer you stay in, the more likely you will fall into the identity trap. Once you have achieved such heights, becoming the “new guy” again in a completely foreign environment, can be extremely daunting. The environment you move to next most likely will not share the values and morals that you have grown to respect and love. That can be extremely frustrating if you stay stuck in the past. You have two choices: go forward and be uncomfortable or stay stuck in the past. I call it the “Uncle Rico Syndrome.”

Peng: What advice can you give to transitioning SOF members and veterans that are struggling?

Tuschen: I would tell them to apply the same physical and mental energy that got you through selection or basic training and apply that to your new task at hand, starting as the “new guy.”

Nobody cares that you were in a combat zone, been through life-threatening events or were in Special Forces. Many civilians will think that you are a robot or the “angry veteran,” even though you and every other veteran knows it’s false. Instead, use your experiences to your advantage and GET AFTER IT! Be humble and confident. Be prepared to prove yourself all over again.

The PACT Act and your VA benefits

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Disabled Veteran in wheelchair

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.

Improving Access to Healthcare

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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.

Source: Google Cloud

Looking for a Service Dog?

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labradoodle with guide dog pack on its back

They say that dog is a man’s best friend, which could not be more accurate for veterans. Dogs provide the sense of responsibility and companionship that comes with pet ownership, but they can also act as a source of support both therapeutically and physically.

If you’re a veteran looking for a service dog to aid you in your day-today life, here’s what you need to know:

What Are the Benefits of Service Dogs?
There are approximately 500,000 service dogs on duty in the United States, with 19 percent explicitly trained to help owners with PTSD. Service dogs can be trained to perform numerous activities that are helpful to your specific needs, whether it be to provide mobility assistance, interrupt harmful behaviors, calm panic attacks, retrieve medication and more. Service dogs have also been proven to help veterans recognize and cope with their symptoms, gain sleep, reduce anxiety, strengthen relationships, balance emotions and assist in healthy transitions.

Does the VA Provide Service Dogs?
Until recently, the Department of Veterans Affairs did not provide service dogs. However, in August of 2021, a new piece of legislation known as the Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers (PAWS) for Veterans Therapy Act authorized the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to create a pilot program on dog training therapy based on the promising “train the trainer model.” The program will provide dogtraining mskills and service dogs to veterans with mental illnesses, regardless of whether or not they have mobility issues. However, regardless of how you receive your service dog, you will need to apply for VA Veterinary Health Benefits to get approved for ownership.

How Can a Veteran Apply for VA Veterinary Health Benefits?
■ Hearing, Guide, Mobility: The veteran should meet with their VA clinical care provider to begin the application process for this benefit. The specialist will complete an evaluation and make a clinical determination on the need for assistive devices, including a service dog. Once the assessment is completed and a service dog is determined to be the optimal tool for the veteran’s rehabilitation and treatment plan, the provider will work with the veteran to obtain the necessary information and documents to request the benefit. This includes coordination with the local VA Medical Center Prosthetic and Sensory Aids Service.
■ Mental Health Mobility: The veteran should meet with a VA mental health provider to begin the application process for this benefit. The mental health provider and care team will evaluate and determine whether the mental health condition is the primary cause of the veteran’s substantial mobility limitations. The team will also assess whether a mobility service dog would be the veteran’s optimal intervention or treatment approach. If the team considers a service dog to be the optimal intervention, they will request the benefit on behalf of the veteran through coordination with the local VA Medical Center Prosthetic and Sensory Aids Service.

Each veteran’s case is reviewed and evaluated by a prescribing clinician for the following:
■ Ability and means, including family or caregiver, to care for the dog currently and in the future
■ Goals that are to be accomplished through the use of the dog
■ Goals that are to be achieved through other assistive technology or therapy The veteran will be informed of an approval or disapproval of their service dog request by the VA Prosthetics and Sensory Aid Service. Veterans approved for service dogs are referred to Assistance Dogs International, or International Guide Dog Federation accredited agencies.

Where Can I Find My Service Dog?
For more information on where to find a service dog and connect with a community of other veterans with their own service dogs, the VA will usually coordinate with an organization such as the International Guide Dog Federation or Assistance Dogs International.

To access more information on the service dog process, please visit the International Guide Dog Federation at igdf.org.uk and Assistance Dogs International at assistancedogsinternational.org.

Source: Department of Veterans Affairs, Purina, tillis.senate.gov

Veterans struggling with PTSD find hope and healing by working with horses

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Warrior Ranch Foundation train horses and matches them with veterans who need healing therapy

By Deidre Reilly, Fox News

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.

Click here to read more on foxnews.com

Coping with Chronic Pain as a Veteran

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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:

  • Hydrocodone
  • Morphine
  • Oxycodone

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:

  • Increased pain
  • 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:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • 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

Retired Military Working Dogs Overcoming PTSD

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military working dog posing in a grassy area

The men and women of the United States Armed Forces aren’t the only ones who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after returning from active duty — the dogs who serve so bravely alongside them often do as well.

Mission K9 Rescue, a working dog rescue in Houston, TX rehabilitates and re-homes retired military and contract working dogs. Since 2013, they’ve saved over 1,100 dogs and reunited over 540 dogs with former military handlers.

Often, retired military and contact working dogs have been in situations that have caused them severe anxiety and stress. Many retire with issues such as PTSD. These dogs need time with us to decompress and reintegrate into society, and Mission K9 Rescue works with these dogs to make them suitable for adoption.

Rehabilitating Retired Military Working Dogs Who Have PTSD

Causes — Retired working dogs frequently come to Mission K9 from high-intensity and potentially traumatizing circumstances. Many are trained for dangerous and high-risk tasks such as tracking, search and rescue, explosive detection, patrol, and attack, many of them undergoing explosions, air drops, and heavy-handedness by uncaring handlers. Because of this, many of these dogs exhibit PTSD. Of the dogs brought to Mission K9 Rescue, approximately 30% of military working dogs and 50% of contract working dogs exhibit PTSD. Contract working dogs are a higher percentage, as on top of the training and stressful scenarios, they are more likely to be handled poorly and often aggressively.

Removal From Kennels — After retirement, many military working dogs are stuck in kennels, whether overseas or stateside. The first step for rehabilitation of these dogs is to get them out of these kennels as soon as possible, one of the many reasons being that the kennel environment does not help their PTSD.

Symptoms — Dogs with PTSD may exhibit symptoms such as shaking, crying, and trying to hide. They can also be aggressive around people, including being resource aggressive. They may also not trust, occasionally mistrusting one sex over the other due to handler neglect or abuse. Various triggers from their service cause these behaviors.

Treatment Once Mission K9 Rescue determines a dog to have PTSD, they isolate them in their own play yard so they can get used to their new surroundings and begin to feel a bit more grounded and peaceful. Mission K9 Rescue will also make sure they’re not around any loud noises, which can trigger their condition. “We treat them all the same, giving equal amounts of love and care,” says co-founder, Bob Bryant. “If they cower or show aggression, we’ll take more time with them, working to gain their trust and love. Unfortunately, if dogs with PTSD have continued difficulties, we may have them prescribed Prozac or Trazodone, though we try to keep this at a minimum as there can be nasty side effects.” However, though Mission K9 Rescue can mitigate PTSD with time, love, and patience, “We unfortunately cannot cure it,” says Bob.

Adoption Despite not being able to fully cure PTSD, Mission K9 Rescue has seen many dogs initially exhibiting PTSD eventually decompress, become adoptable, and find happy homes with devoted caretakers. Behavioral changes that show less agitation, return of normal drive, and sociability are some of the signs we look for when evaluating a dog for adoption that initially presented with PTSD.

Awareness is the key for dogs with PTSD. It takes someone with patience, awareness, and compassion to take care of a dog that has any level of trauma. But as that dog begins to find peace in its new home and develops a sense of trust for its new owner, the richness of the bond can be incredibly special.

Chicago fundraiser ‘Ruck March’ supports veterans in need

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Veterans at the Ruck March

By , Fox 32

With Memorial Day around the corner, one Chicago veterans group is preparing for their biggest fundraiser of the year.

The daily average of veterans who die by suicide has dropped, but the pandemic put a huge dent in services.

The big event later this month aims to show veterans they are not alone.

The Chicago Veterans Ruck March is 17 miles and raises money for veterans in need — 17 miles representing how many veterans die each day from suicide.

“The Ruck March is basically bringing awareness and it’s also giving soldiers a therapeutic value that they can wear their lost soldiers picture, they can do it in their honor,” said Carlos Vega, Veteran Outreach and Events Coordinator. “And also bring awareness that PTSD is an issue and it needs to be addressed.”

For eight years, the organization Chicago Veterans has hosted 300 community events in 45 Chicagoland communities.

“This is all about keeping us together as a team. One team, one fight. We’re all fighting one mission. We’re all battling ourselves,” said Army veteran Armando Vega, Organizer of Veterans in Recovery.

Vega has been sober for more than eight years. Through Chicago Veterans, he launched the Veterans in Recovery program. Money from the fundraiser helps keep the program going.

“It’s all about paying it forward, helping others and ain’t nothing better than helping another brother or sister veteran,” Vega said.

Click here to read the full article on Fox 32.

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  1. City Career Fair
    January 19, 2022 - November 4, 2022
  2. The Small Business Expo–Multiple Event Dates
    February 17, 2022 - December 1, 2022
  3. Multiple Hire GI Hiring Events During June-December!
    June 21, 2022 - December 8, 2022
  4. REBOOT WORKSHOP – VIRTUAL
    September 12, 2022 @ 8:00 am - January 20, 2023 @ 5:00 pm
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    October 4, 2022 - October 6, 2022