Thursday, November 24, 2016

Residual War-Fighting for Justice After Service

The New York Times reported on how many service members were kicked out the military instead of being treated and compensated for the battle they would have to fight for the rest of their lives.
Since 2001, more than 300,000 people, about 13 percent of all troops, have been forced out of the military with less-than-honorable discharges.
Sounds really lousy until you discover that the number of those kicked out had been increasing since 1990. KPPC News reported it happened to 615,000 up until March of 2016. In 2014, a Vietnam veteran had waiting 43 years for justice. In 2015, Vietnam Veterans of America went to court seeking justice for veterans abandoned by the military. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel ordered reviews of these reprehensible actions.

Larry Barnett was among those kicked out. He had two tours in Iraq between 2003 and 2005. His life was spared by two Deputies. But there are so many more of their stories. Far too many, we will never hear about. Some ended up taking their own lives. Some ended up living on the streets with no help at all.

When I wrote Residual War, Something Worth Living For, these were the folks I was thinking about. In 2013, the Army had kicked out 11,000. One of them was Tom Faith. He was found living in the woods in Florida after attempting suicide twice. One of the forgotten veterans, sent away by his family after they thought they had no other choice. Every soldier found themselves facing the same outcome, until a General decided to do something about it. He established a unit at Fort Christmas, where proven heroes could remain in the Army until they could retire with dignity after years of dedicated service to this country. All of them had been diagnosed with PTSD.

While they were helped to heal, the homeless veterans in the clandestine shelter, were used and abused as part of a drug research program to develop a medication to stop them from feeling everything.

Over the years, too many of their stories had gone unnoticed by most, so I had to try something different. I told the truth within the fictional accounts based on real suffering and real peer support that goes on all the time. There are good Generals and bad ones. There are good Chaplains and bad ones. There are good stories as well as horrible endings. In this case, there is all of the above.

Read the story below and remember, he was willing to die for the sake of those he served with, yet betrayed by the same military leaders who sent him there.
Why some who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan can’t get VA medical care
WSAV News 3
JoAnn Merrigan, Reporter
Published: November 23, 2016
Unfortunately, Goldsmith says those worries are well founded. “Those with bad discharges are most likely to die by suicide after fighting the system for so long to get care. And after being denied over and over, they just give up,” he told me.
Since 9-11, tens of thousands of soldiers and marines have seen combat. Now it’s estimated at least 125,000 of them are not eligible to receive any benefits from the Veterans Administration (VA) because they received dishonorable discharges.

“Most people live under the assumption that every veteran is able to get healthcare at the VA. And the truth is that these veterans with less than honorable discharges are prohibited from getting any access,” says Kristofer Goldsmith, a vet who fought in Iraq who now advocates for other veterans.
One of those trying to get healthcare is Michael Coleman. I talked with Michael and his mom Jo awhile back. Michael was in bad shape and had just attempted suicide. He says he was diagnosed with PTSD but drummed out of the Army back in 2004 after serving in Iraq in 2003. “They gave me a bad conduct discharge and released me from the Army,” he told me. “I have tried going to the VA and telling them I have PTSD but they say until my discharge is upgraded, they can’t do anything for me.”

read more here

(Cross posted on Combat PTSD Wounded Times)

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